The Three Poisons: Aggression

The three poisons of passion, aggression and ignorance are inextricably linked and interdependent and are the causes of the conditioned and habitual whirl of what is referred to, in eastern traditions, as samsara. When these habits of thinking and being are explored it becomes apparent that they are the primary causes of mental and emotional suffering. When inquiring into the nature of each one, individually, there is an awareness of how they arise from and give rise to the other two in an endless cycle. Noticing this, an understanding becomes apparent that, because they rely solely on each other for activation and sustainment, they are empty of independent, inherent substance and when one of them dissolves as a result of this understanding, the whole conditioned, habitual, cycle of suffering dissolves with it. 


When I was first introduced to the teachings of the three poisons in Shambhala Warrior* training, it seemed obvious that aggression was a poison; unlike passion and ignorance, which I thought could be seen as either a gift or blameless (respectively) and therefore not really poisonous. I associated aggression with intentional violence, hatred, meanness, anger, rage etc. I was ignorant of the more subtle expressions of aggression that arise out of aversion. Aversion is a more insidious form of aggression and violence that I have often cloaked with spiritual, social or political, superiority. Whereas passion, as a poison, is any action, feeling or thought that tries to attract, grasp and cling, aversion is any action, feeling or thought that tries to push away or avoid. (It is understood here that there are some of these movements that are necessary in moments when our existence is threatened.)

Aversion is the surreptitious form of aggression that is seeded in the grasping of, and clinging to what is thought of as the good and the beautiful and pushing away everything else. Aversion often shows up as micro aggressions in speech and action. It is mostly unconscious until it is pointed out to us by someone who has been on the receiving end of it, or we discover it in the contemplation of suffering. For me these aversions are so deeply rooted and pervasive, that the process of uncovering them and weeding them out has been filled with shame and pain and I found myself redirecting  the aggression and aversion, that I had manifested toward the other, back on myself. And as a result perpetuating the cycle of violence.

With careful and gentle guidance from teachers, spiritual friends and the sangha of compassionate beings, as well as faith in universal goodness, I have been able to sit with this aggression in gentle observation. Like a guardian sitting with a young child who is in the heart of an emotional explosion; present, allowing, and soothing but not stopping or changing the experience. Working in this way, I began to see the conditioned nature of aversion and aggression. I began to understand that most of the aggression and aversion manifested as a result of habitual and conditioned responses that were imprinted in childhood and cultivated over time in the search for pleasure and avoidance of displeasure. With aversion it was less the outward expression of aggression that I recalled but the subtle looks, gestures and speech filled with hidden meaning. Like the times when, driving to baseball games, my mom insisting that we not go through the part of town where black folk lived to get there because “it’s dangerous”.  Or the unwillingness of adults to talk openly about sexuality while giving the impression that it was evil. 

In perceiving the conditionality of aggression, aversion and all the reactivity that manifests out of them, I began to understand that they were void of their own substance or form and only existed as a result of my unconscious habits of clinging, grasping and attachment. My anger, aversion, fear and aggression were a result of a fear of loss, or of a memory of the past, or anxiety about the future. i.e not really real in this moment.

Over time and through persistent practice of presencing, and insight into the nature of my aggressions and aversions as well as my passions, the incessant cycle of elevation and diminishment of self and others has begun to dissolve. As a result, little by little, I have been more able to respond to situations out of the experience and awareness of the present reality, instead of reacting out of an unconscious habitual thought stream. Awareness of the causes and conditions of the suffering that occurs because of these poisons an important step on the path to freedom from that suffering. This capacity also supports the skill  to be able to see through the aggression and aversion of others and into the heart of their suffering, so that we can respond out of compassion instead of passion.

This description of the process sounds a lot more complicated than it is. Begin by looking closely at the most obvious expressions of aversion or aggression and asking a simple question like “Where did that come from?” or noticing how the body changes in the midst of the expression. This slows the reaction time down enough that the connections to memory, fear or habits of thought can be observed.  In the moment that the aggressions happen it may not be possible to do this, so when there is time to reflect, in a safe environment, one can recreate the experience  in the imagination and begin the inquiry. This leads to a clearer understanding of the origins of the poisons and our suffering. The more that we understand our own suffering and how it develops, the more skill we have when we engage with others who are suffering and expressing that suffering through aggression or aversion.

Ultimately we begin to see that all passion and aggression and the resulting suffering is seeded in the ignorance of how these things work. We might also begin to notice that at the core of these passions is the deep longing for the expression and experience of our inherent goodness and the inherent goodness of all beings.

May it be so.

– William

* A system of practice and insight developed by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche to whom I dedicate all these words and this practice.


The Sangha of the Pandemic offers several opportunities for a safe, inclusive, free, virtual community contemplative practice. Everyone is welcome regardless of meditation experience or spiritual lineage.

The Zoom link is:

Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays: 6 AM PacificTime

Monday: calm abiding, Samatha, Tuesday: body awareness, Thursday: Tonglen

Sunday at 8 AM Pacific Time: Four Brahmaviharas


Monday and Thursday evenings at 4:30 PM Pacific Time : Practice and Inquiry                                                   

The website for the sangha is:

Please feel free to share this or any post from the Sangha

The Three Poisons: Passion,  Aggression, Ignorance

When I study the laws, practices, commandments, and aspirations of wisdom traditions, they all seem to dedicate a good deal or time to the causes and conditions of suffering and what to avoid or what to cultivate in order to prevent or bring and end to that suffering. 

In the buddhist teachings these are refined down to three primary causes and conditions for suffering; passion (attachment, grasping, clinging, greed), aggression (hatred, aversion, anger) and ignorance (bewilderment, delusion, folly). Over the next few weeks the sangha will be exploring how these three are present in our lives and how they contribute to our suffering and the suffering of others. We will also explore how , in the same way that poisons can be helpful on the path to healing, these three point to the path of freedom from suffering.


When I first heard that passion was a poison according to buddhist teaching, I was in my mid thirties, filled with a passion for acting, sexual exploration, and finding the perfect relationship. I had bottled up my passion for living free of my family history, religious oppression, and societal pressures for most of my life and I scoffed at the idea that passion was a poison. It was the fire of a fully engaged life! I thought the other two causes made sense but was resistant to looking at my understanding and experience of passion as a detriment to an awakened life. 

As I delved more deeply into the buddhist dharma, I understood that what it was pointing to was not the belly fire of loving and fully engaging in life, but the activity of searching and moving out of my centered, present experience of life, toward something other, in an attempt to get it and own it. I began to see that passion in this sense is any thought, feeling or action that prevents the experience, perception, or understanding of things as they are, and a grasping for something other than that. Or a clinging to something to prevent an experience from disappearing or changing. This passion moves my awareness out of present time and tries to draw in or attract something that exists only in my thought stream. This is something that is derived from a construct of “good” memories or ideas, and experiences that I have been conditioned to believe are better than my experience now. In the ten commandments this would be covetousness. In the buddhist teaching, it goes beyond the “inordinate desire for another’s possessions” (def. Mer. Webster) to include the craving for or attachment to any physical, emotional or mental experience that arises out of conditioned or habitual patterns. i.e I Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda had it or I Wanna, Gotta have it. 

The key words for me are “habitual” and “conditioned”. As The practice of meditation or any other form of contemplation, develops, it allows for on objective perspective on the thought stream (or what was a torrential waterfall in my case.). When inquiring, during the relative stillness of contemplation, into what drives or motivates any action, feeling or thought, there is an opportunity to see how most dissatisfaction and resulting covetousness or greed has its origin in a memory or a promise. This is a memory that gives rise to an habitual idea of happiness or pleasure that seems better than what is being experienced in the moment. Dissatisfaction might also be observed as a conditioned state of being that has been imprinted in our unconscious while seeking and achieving a promised result, or gaining approval from childhood guardians, peers or teachers. 

At the core of this inquiry I become more aware that this passion for getting and keeping something, is a striving for freedom from suffering and  a grasping for the experience and knowledge of true nature as easeful and good. I see that my passionate activity is looking for my true nature everywhere other than where it is, here and now. In other words the passionate search for peace outside of myself is a primary cause of my suffering and ultimately the suffering of those around me.

When we spend hours scrolling screens, or self medicating, or pushing our physical body to extremes, or endlessly spending resources on trying to mold ourselves into a better looking person, habitually looking for that experience of something more than this, it seems that we are just looking for that which is already present in our essential being.

In these times of polarization, paranoia, addiction, and the barrage of input that is always reminding us that what we are and what we possess is not good enough, it seems impossible to find that place of ease and goodness that we know, in the core of our being, is here already. In the quiet of contemplation and the still open space that arises, even if just for a second, there is an opportunity to know and experience reality as it is. From this place we are more able to respond to what is from the true belly fire of passion for an engaged life rather than reacting from a conditioned, habitual, thought stream. From a quiet place of self awareness we are able to know and experience that the spark of that fire is our inherent goodness. In these moments, striving for otherness diminishes and we, very naturally and without effort, stop the search and experience a respite from suffering, resting at ease in our truest nature.

May all beings throughout all times and in all directions know and experience their true goodness and an end to suffering.

I would enjoy and appreciate hearing your insights and questions. Feel free to respond to this email. –William


The Sangha of the Pandemic offers several opportunities for a safe, inclusive, free, virtual community contemplative practice. Everyone is welcome regardless of meditation experience or spiritual lineage.

The Zoom link is:

Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays: 7 AM CR Time

Monday: calm abiding, Samatha, Tuesday: body awareness, Thursday: Tonglen

Sunday at 7 AM CR Time: Four Brahmaviharas


Monday and Wednesday evenings at 5:30 PM CR Time : Practice and Inquiry                                                   

The website for the sangha is:

Please feel free to share this or any post from the Sangha

Suffering and the Causes

When Siddhartha Gautama left the sheltered garden of his father’s palace, he was ignorant of the day-to-day realities of life and the myriad ways of human suffering. Having seen, for the first time, the pain of the body expressed in birth, sickness, old age and death, he made a decision to leave his life of royal privilege and wander in search of answers. There are many theories about what the exact motivation that spurred Siddhartha  to leave his life of infinite privilege. I wonder if it was because of the inner turmoil that he experienced for the first time in his young life. All of his life he had experienced  and had been led to believe that life was only easeful, joyful and revolved totally around promoting his own happiness. He had been conditioned to believe that there were no obstacles to his happiness or anyone else’s. Imagine the experience of seeing the pain of a mother giving birth, the sore covered body of a leper, an aged one stumbling along in pain or the grey rotting corpse of a dead person, for the first time and all in one day! The feelings of shock, dismay, doubt perhaps even mistrust of his beloved family and community must have shattered reality for him. For me, I think it would have been deeply, wrenchingly painful. Experiencing an inner anguish and torment never experienced before, I imagine that I would have rushed back to the royal compound, run up to my rooms and begged for some distraction to take away the overwhelming feelings. I am afraid that I would have spent the rest of my days trying to suppress the memories and recreate the ignorance that allowed me to live a life of mindless ease.

I experienced a small taste of what that might have been like in the fall of 2019 when I saw the film “The Color of Fear” by Lee Mun Wah. I had a realization that I had been living life believing that I was beyond racism as a liberal, well educated man and that being gay gave me insight to the suffering of non-white folk. For the first time I heard my liberal cliches about racism as a person of color might hear them and I was literally nauseous with shame. Soon after, George Floyd was murdered.

Siddhartha left his royal privileges in search of the cause of the experiences of inner conflict and dis-ease that he was experiencing as a result of seeing suffering for the first time. In the beginning of his journey I wonder if it was not an altruistic seeking for the causes and relief of suffering for all beings, but for an understanding and relief from his own personal anguish and deep shame for having lived a life in ignorance.

In the months after George Floyd’s murder and the subsequent revelations of the hundreds or thousands of murders and incarcerations of innocent people of color just in my lifetime, not to mention the centuries of enslavement and oppression of non-white, folk that came before, I could no longer listen to the progressive white leaders talk about working to fix racism in America. I left my royal family of liberal white male theorists and sought out teachers and authors of color who could help me delve into the habits of racist thought and actions that were ingrained in the marrow of my being. James Baldwin led the way with his eloquent, true mirroring of white privilege. In the following autumn, I began a six month road journey to bow before and give thanks to teachers that pointed me to the way out of ignorance. The beginning of that journey was set in the reddest of red country in the Western USA. And once again I was brought to shame and nausea in seeing the ignorance I was holding onto about rural, predominately white Americans, whose depth of suffering due to the  broken promises, lies and abandonment by the political, religious and social elites, was heart rending.

Siddhartha traveled in search of teachers from his own lineage as well as those of the traditional spiritual lineages of his land, and only found teachings that always, in some way, mirrored the narrowness of understanding of his royal upbringing. There was always someone left out, someone better than, someone judged and someone elevated in these lineages. He saw how these ways of spiritual endeavor only perpetuated people’s suffering and as long as he knew that there was someone suffering he would re-experience his own anguish that resulted from his conditioned ignorance. 

Time after time throughout my road and wilderness journey, my conditioned habitual ideas and perceptions were shaken till I felt unmoored. Nothing was solid or definitive, even the daily routine of practice, movement and study changed moment to moment, in quality and depth. The expansiveness of awakened experiences would be contracted into self doubt from one day to the next. White men with with full MAGA gear would offer unconditional help when I was in need and share with me a wilderness sunset with exuberance for life, while a long life liberal friend would claim that all those folks deserved to die. Suffering was universal and any attempt to weigh and judge who deserved compassion was impossible.  The only thing that was reliable was that there was no reliability and that everyone was experiencing a suffering that seemed almost congenital and few would sit still long enough to inquire into the cause.

Siddhartha is said to have found a place to sit and inquire. I wonder if the inquiry was something like what was missing in all of these lineages, or in his own blessed life that, no matter how gratifying, easeful, mind-blowing, they still allowed suffering to exist. He was a scientist of human reality and could not stop until he experienced the truth of things first hand. In the sutras it is said that the Buddha of this Land of Endurance, Siddhartha, while sitting under the body tree, saw that suffering is the obstacle to the knowledge of the true nature of all things, including the truth of all beings’ inherent goodness. That our ignorance of this inherency is perpetuated by habitual conditioned thoughts, feelings and actions and that the fuel for this perpetual engine of ignorance is unquenchable passion and unrelenting aggression, that there is experience without suffering, and that there is a way to realize that experience and live life without suffering or causing suffering.

So, inspired by Siddhartha, Jesus, LaoTzu and all of the teachers who have pointed to the moon’s silent light of wisdom that there will always be suffering as long as there is suffering, I sit and practice, in hopes of seeing how I contribute to this suffering and how I unconsciously set up obstacles for sentient beings and myself to the realization of inherent goodness. I sit and practice and study in hopes of realizing ways that I might be able to contribute to the end of suffering and the universal realization of goodness. I sit and inquire and practice and study and be human and do human things and fall down and get back up and pray and pray and pray for the end of suffering for all beings throughout all times and in all directions.


There are as many ways to the inevitable awakening to the true nature of reality and experiencing things just as they are, as there are atoms in the entire cosmos. Ways that bring about an end to suffering. In the Sangha of the Pandemic we practice and explore by meditating together and sharing insights from our unique paths. We invite you to join us whenever you can.


The Sangha of the Pandemic offers several opportunities for safe, inclusive, free, virtual community contemplative practice. Everyone is welcome regardless of meditation experience or spiritual lineage.

The Zoom link is:

Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays: 6 AM Pacific Time

Sunday at 7 AM Pacific Time


Monday and Wednesday evenings at 4:30 PM Pacific Time                                                    

We look forward to sitting with you!     

Please feel free to share this or any post from the Sangha

Unconditioned Insight

This week in the sangha we have been inquiring into Insight in relationship to the practice of concentration. 

Damien Quartz shared the process of finding the bug in a computer program as a simile for the process of concentration/observation and insight:

When thinking about what it means to have insight, I thought about one of the processes I use when trying to determine why a computer program that I’ve written isn’t working the way I intended it to. We’re used to experiencing programs as interactive graphical interfaces, but what they actually are is a set of instructions for manipulating the state of a bunch of bits of memory. When a program has a “bug,” where it produces an incorrect result, or behaves strangely, or stops working entirely, I use another program called a debugger to freeze the buggy program at the place where I think the error might be occurring. The debugger allows me to inspect the state of all the bits of memory relevant to that portion of the program, which can give me insight into why the program is behaving incorrectly. I might see that a number in memory is negative that should never be negative, or that a piece of important text has become garbled, and I can begin to reason about how that might have happened. I can run the program again and freeze it at an earlier point in time, stepping through the instructions one by one until I discover what’s causing the error. Without a debugger it can be extremely difficult to reason about the internal state of a program because so much of the inner workings are hidden by the interface. Programs are opaque in this way, unknowable almost. A debugger allows for close, careful inspection. And, sometimes, in the course of investigating a bug, I discover that while the behavior may be unexpected, it may be that it is a legitimate outcome I did not foresee when writing the program. In these cases, it’s often OK to stop debugging and say, “Ah, it’s a feature, not a bug!”

(From William)

Folks are often drawn to meditation practice because of the experience of suffering or when a thought or action “produces an incorrect result”, or our emotional body, thinking or physical body “behaves strangely, or stops working entirely”. Meditation practice is like having a “debugger” to “freeze” the habit stream and conditioned thoughts so that we can closely observe the causes and conditions that lead to the habitual behavior or thinking causing suffering. In the stillness of open ended concentration/observation, there is an opportunity to see and experience the reality of the present moment without the interference of the “bug” of conditioned habits. This is a rich culture for unconditioned insight that leads to healing and clarity. It may even lead to the understanding that what we assumed was an aberration or obstacle is rather, a doorway to freedom from suffering. “In these cases, it’s often OK to stop debugging and say, “Ah, it’s a feature, not a bug!”


The Sangha of the Pandemic offers several opportunities for safe, inclusive, free, virtual community contemplative practice. Everyone is welcome regardless of meditation experience or spiritual lineage.

The Zoom link is:

Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays: 6 AM Pacific Time

Sunday at 7 AM Pacific Time


Monday and Wednesday evenings at 4:30 PM Pacific Time                                                    

We look forward to sitting with you!     

Please feel free to share this or any post from the Sangha

The Sangha of the Pandemic site For more information about virtual meetings throughout the week, both mornings and evenings see:

Concentration/Observation and Insight/Wisdom

During the practice sessions this week the sangha has been reflecting on the meditative practice of Concentration or focused Observation that, when practiced without desire for attainment, clears a space for Insight and Wisdom as revelations of essential nature.

Mark Demmel shares his own experience of this unfolding.

Historically, the idea of Concentration has led to painful thoughts and feelings for me because I was concentrating on what I was not that I needed to become. To focus & work toward a goal, to increase one’s resilience, to grow, to build, to become better, to do it the way a leader/parent/guide does it, to allow shifts in direction & motivation, to not miss the moment when it comes to you. The ways I looked at concentration often led me to be thinking about a better, future state of my life, which took hard work and great effort to arrive in this future me. I found myself often not embodied, unable to connect deeply & healthfully to the people and life around me in ways I craved nourishment. Concentrating on that which I wasn’t yet, led me to believe the state I currently found myself in was not good enough, or wrong, or bad. This left a door to shame open and that door let all kinds of things in. How could I ever become that which I wanted to be and feel?

The future state of me which could never come into the present reality efforted and worked so hard to become that which it thought it needed to be….to be okay, again. A scared little kid, who had gotten some slams (of various kinds) became that which it deeply resented. I recently took a morning walk in nature on a beautiful land painted with oaks, pines, valleys holding signs of deer and coyotes, and a refreshing morning joy that had me moving slowly and feeling open to the day. On my return, I sensed my 4 year old self high upon my shoulders, taking in the hike with an elder, parent, and trusted friend. I physically put my arms around the 4 year old’s legs straddling my neck. It felt really good. I was a bit surprised by the experience as much as I was over-joyed. Why was my 4 year old trusting me? I wasn’t concentrating on fixing anything, healing my broken parts, working hard to glean some great wisdom from nature. I was just present, enjoying the moment, giving the least amount of effort to the effortlessness of a simple morning walk.

Later that night, caught up in some emotions of sadness and grief to be leaving good friends and the land I was enjoying, I forgot about my 4 year old and I pushed my body in places it did not want to be pushed. I took my hammock high in a tree and tried to sleep with the many coyotes howling every 15-20 minutes. Trying to milk every last drop of “growth” out of the day & night, even at the cost of losing sleep, with a long drive the next day. My body did not settle. My goal to sleep in a tree failed. I even felt the skin itch, which I had not experienced for several months. The coyotes were loud, yipping, hollering, going all night. Finally at 3am, I climbed down the tree and went back to the place that invited me to sleep before setting off into the dark night. My body immediately settled and a peaceful rest fell upon me.

The next morning I remembered my 4 year old. I apologized. I acknowledged the pattern of pushing myself hard, working to be better, urgent to get to that improved future state, at all costs. I’m grateful for the gift from my younger self, inviting me into the present moment, where everything is as I should be, no heavy effort needed, trusting myself, all the parts, working together to allow a needed sense of ease back into the way I concentrate. The serious one was invited to be kind. The strong handed & stubborn adult was invited back to gentleness. I invited myself (all parts) to the conversation where I listen more than I speak. Patience, real honoring and tender patience is returning. The 4 year old enjoys adventures, but they are trusting me to honor their voice in the matter, for me to trust a renewed idea of Concentration. All of us will be “better” for it.

Click here for more Perceptions from the Sangha


The Sangha of the Pandemic offers several opportunities for safe, inclusive, virtual community contemplative practice.

The Zoom link is: 

Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays: 6 AM Pacific Time

Sunday at 7 AM Pacific Time


Monday and Wednesday evenings at 4:30 PM Pacific Time                                                    

We look forward to sitting with you!     

Please feel free to share this or any post from the Sangha blog with other folks.


Catholicism was the air that I breathed in early childhood. My mother was basically raised by nuns. My father was agnostic but converted to Catholicism so that he could marry my mother. We went to mass every Sunday and all holy days, said grace at every meal and prayed on our knees before going to bed. Catholicism, the Church, Mary, God and Jesus (in that order) were what we were taught to put our faith in. As I reflect on that time, I realize I had two experiences of faith. This exoteric one was centered around obedience to the Church and  the Ten Commandments, the promise of heaven and the threat of hell. These were all thoughts imprinted on my consciousness and reinforced by fear and reward. That faith was based on fear and loss and was purely conceptual. The other faith was more magical and esoteric, like praying for and receiving guidance for very specific ways to stop my father’s rage, or to relieve my parents’ fear of having no food to put on the table, or dreams about who I should be when I grew up. While the first, which was learned faith, feels now like it was following orders in order to get something that I was told that I needed, the second was spontaneous and always about practical, real life situations that were causing suffering or fear and my exercise of faith resulted in actual results or knowledge that eased the suffering or relieved the fear. The religious faith had a type of deductive logic to it that made sense if you believed in the initial premise that there was a god rewards and punishes and the church was the adjudicator of that process. This second, more personal faith, and the its manifestations, had no logic to it and lived in a realm of experience that was ungraspable and inexplicable. It was an interior experience that had no discernible origin or direction. The faithful prayers that led to the results often rose up in me out of desperation about my suffering or the suffering of those close to me. The results were magical and nonlinear; a roast falling off the back of a delivery truck after my parents told us we wouldn’t have supper that night, a voice telling me  a precise way to stop the beatings from my father, deja vu as a warning that he was about to rage. Other times and over this lifetime there were experiences of soothing without a source and spontaneous experiences of fearlessness that eradicated all doubt and stabilized the knowledge that goodness was the inherent nature of every human being. 

The faith that was imprinted by the church and society through threat and reward and all of the objects of the faith that it promoted, became baseless, senseless, and brittle, eventually fading into an empty, useless thought. The faith that was grounded in experience, though illogical and ungraspable by thought or desire, metastasized into a systemic way of being that flowed like an underground river bubbling up into consciousness periodically, and shaking loose the false idols of conceptual faith. ( money, sex, the perfect relationship, approval, authority, and other gods) This faith manifested whenever I was still enough and awake enough to recognize and experience it. Often when these bubbling-ups occur, I’d pull out my flask of grasping and try to bottle-up the experience. I’d look for the steps that got me there and try to construct a damn of clinging to keep it in a safe reservoir for the future. These attempts to cling to the experience lead to the inevitable dissipation of the presence of faith as such. (See Failure for a humorous rendition of this.) But I noticed and still notice now when springs of faith come to the surface and retreat, that as the experience slowly dissolves and the ache of “losing” something precious eases, there remains a knowing that resonates throughout my being, and like the sound of the bell at Cloud Mountain, that rings throughout the day, calling practitioners to practice, it is reliantly there/here but ungraspable, non conceptual, unreproducible by will or thought, yet not separate from, not other than just this-ness. 

The invitation, in the practices with the Sangha of the Pandemic this week, was to explore faith and inquire into its nature and expression in our lives and practice. I experienced, in the practices and wisdom sharings, a sense that no matter what we have faith in, whether material, relational, spiritual or anything else, the essential quality that is labeled “Faith”, is an inherent quality that is discernible but not definable, experiential but not conceptual. It is ever-mutable, not containable, bubbling up into consciousness in times of suffering and stillness. Its roots are in our inherent knowledge of truth, and like Earth’s network of mycelia that break down matter to be used for promoting life, this faith patiently and persistently breaks down the obstacles to experiencing our true nature. And like the mycelia, it is active and ever-present, carrying knowledge and sustenance surreptitiously from one being to another; a reliant web of interconnectedness and interdependence.

It seems to me that all forms of contemplative practice, scientific inquiry, justice action, and acts of goodness, are drawn into being by the essential human quality of faith. Faith in the truth that goodness is the intrinsic nature of all beings, the ineffable faith in the capacity of all beings to be good, and that all beings deserve to be free from suffering.

I hope that these words and anything that arises as a result of reading them do not cause distress or doubt and that they might contribute to the awakening to goodness and the end of suffering for all beings, throughout all times and in all directions. – William


The Sangha of the Pandemic offers several opportunities for safe, inclusive, virtual community contemplative practice.

The Zoom link is: 

Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays: 6 AM Pacific Time

Sunday at 7 AM Pacific Time


Monday and Wednesday evenings at 4:30 PM Pacific Time                                                    

We look forward to sitting with you!     

Retreat Return

Dear Friends,

I returned from a four week solo retreat last Friday. During that time several folks stepped up to facilitate and keep the virtual practices going. Thank you all for keeping the sangha meetings going while I was gone and thank you Chuck, Mike and Randall for taking on the facilitation of the sits that I am responsible for. It is good to know that the sangha is its own being now and thrives independent of any one individual.

The three months at Cloud Mountain and the retreat allowed me time to practice and study with teachers and in silence in a way that I had not experienced before. These experiences guided me to a broader understanding of the practice of being human and a strong affirmation of the numerous teachings that have presented themselves in our practices in the sangha. In the next weeks, I would like to share with you some of the insights and teachings that I experienced in the past few months.

All of these meetings will be accessible to everyone regardless of experience in the sangha or otherwise. Although the sessions will have a focus of study or inquiry, they will not differ in format from our approach since the sangha formed 2 1/2 years ago. We will gather, check-in, there will be a short talk that may provide some direction for a 20 – 30 minute practice and then a space for sharing, for folks who would like to, before closing. Usually about one hour, though when the group is larger it may be longer.

At the end of this note there are brief summaries of the areas of practice and study that I would like to explore with the sangha. I hope this focus doesn’t deter anyone from joining, because just the experience of sitting in this community of good folk is a gift of tremendous goodness and will make a positive difference in your life and your community. Everyone’s presence, regardless of approach or experience contributes to the practice.

We meet:

Monday, Tuesday, and Thursdays: 6 AM Pacific Time

Sunday at 7 AM Pacific Time


Monday and Wednesday evenings at 4:30 PM Pacific Time    

I look forward to practicing with you!

Gratefully yours, -William


There are areas of practice and study that we will be focusing on for the next several weeks.

a) Faith. Faith in this buddhist tradition is the persistent return to practice because of firsthand experiences of essential qualities of being human like ease, joy, and freedom. It is faith in the non conceptual knowledge of universal goodness that consistently presents itself when we gather in sangha.

b) Concentration and Insight. These are the foundational practices of buddhism and most of the Eastern wisdom traditions. The meetings and retreats of Sangha of the Pandemic have been based on these with an emphasis on insight. I am hoping to bring more concentration practice into the mix that will guide us to the experiences of more open space for clarity and deeper insight into what we already have been experiencing in our practices whether in the sangha or other spiritual lineages.

c) The Three Poisons. I was introduced to these at the beginning of my practice journey as passion, aggression, and ignorance. Other terms that may be more helpful in approaching these are greed, hatred and ambivalence or attachment, aversion and delusion. These seem to be the primary manifestations resulting from forgetting our true nature and the true nature of all beings as Goodness and contribute to the obscurations of our awareness of the true nature of reality.

d) Habit Energy or Karma. This is the persistent and seemingly unending stream of thinking and resulting reactivity that we are generally unaware of. As we shine the light of concentration and insight and the understanding of the three poisons on this habitual and unconscious way of being, there is more space for kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity for ourselves and all beings.

No matter what are focus in the sittings, our aspiration is always to bring about the end of suffering for ourselves and all beings, throughout all times and in all directions.

Body Wisdom

Randall Mullins

These words 

are to help me arrive 

and stay home 

where I am 

inside this body, 


wlth the many 


that belong to its nature. 

It is made 

of millions of miracles, 

cell communities, 


water of the planet 

flowing as blood 

in channels 

beyond comprehension. 

It is like an old mansion, 

beyond repair, 

yet with flaws 

made more beautiful with age.

Its wisdom is out in the open, 

sacred signs that it is mortal, 

not designed 

to keep this form forever. 

Blood vessels in the legs 

leak predictably, 

giving a blue hue 

to the ankles.

It offers voice, 



and other ways 

of touch and love.


the changes continue. 

Cancer lives here, 

an uninvited guest 

that could be here 

three more years. 

It settles in 

as a good teacher.

This is my home, 

always has been, 

and will be until 

it mingles again 

with the soil 

and the eternal life 

to which it belongs.

Randall Mullins 

June, 2022

Each Tuesday morning at 6:00 AM PST the Sangha gathers virtually in a practice dedicated to body awareness. This poem from Randall blossomed from this week’s practice.

If you would like to plant some seeds through community contemplation-meditation practice you are always welcome to join us.

The Zoom link is: 

You are also invited to join other practices:

Mondays and Thursdays: 6 AM Pacific Time

Sunday at 7 AM Pacific Time


Monday and Wednesday evenings at 4:30 PM Pacific Time                                                    

We look forward to sitting with you!     

The Sangha of the Pandemic. Randall, Linda, Chuck, Brian, Mark, Richard, Paul, Jeff, Timmer, Tom, Damien, Mike, Ginny, David, Angie, and William

Beginnings –

Embarking on a new journey, a new relationship, a new job, a new practice has always felt a bit like stepping into a cloud of unknowing. It is a moment that seems to allow space for a full spectrum of feelings and thoughts to arise. It is an experience of spaciousness that I have often tried to fill with things to do that would occupy my mind and hands in the absence of things that needed to be done. There was some of that in the preparation for the Gratefulroadwarrior journey when I began thinking about it three years ago, and more when I began choosing the vehicle and rigging them for the journey. But once I hit the road, I drove into that cloud of unknowing with the experience of the “beginner’s mind” that is so eloquently spoken of by Shunryu Suzuki Roshi: “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”

I knew that I wanted to find a way to express gratitude to teachers throughout my life who had nurtured the mustard seed of aspiration for peace, so that it sprouted and grew enough that I could begin to maintain and cultivate it with my own hands, heart and mind. What I didn’t know was that how my idea of “teacher” was narrow and that the time on the road, from the torrents of rain, the poverty of rural communities, the benevolent rivers, the nights of fear, the mornings of relinquished awe, the desolation of deserts, the weather, the thiefs, the camp stove, the empty skies, the Civil Rights Trail, would not only teach me, but teach me that everything, every thought, breath, fear, love, doubt, rock, mountain, blade in glades, is a teacher, and that the gratitude that I felt for my embodied teachers of the past was only a dust mote in the vast sky of self annihilating gratitude that I experienced on the road and that still resonates in every present moment.

I was able to walk and drive and still remain on this road of unknowing and beginner’s mind because of the practice of meditation and inquiry, and the members of Sangha of the Pandemic that rode along with me and are riding still.


In these times of so much “knowing” that cuts off potentiality and inquiry; In these times of planning and filling every moment of our life with doing that undermines freedom; In these times of fear and clinging, and the cultivation of ignorance of the suffering of others; In these times it is Urgent!, as Pema Chodron likes to say, to step into the cloud of unknowing that is experienced through the simple practice of meditation and inquiry. It is time to dedicate ourselves to understanding the causes and conditions of our personal suffering which then allows us to understand and have compassion for the suffering of others. As we relinquish our attachments to rigid knowing through the easing that is the result of the practice, we begin to cultivate the possibility of seeing and experiencing reality from the perspective of beginner’s mind.

So we begin;

The Practice

EveryMonday, The Sangha of the Pandemic will offer “beginning” meditation. This will be an opportunity for new meditators to join a group sit, to learn different methods of practice, and to ask questions about the practice. It is also an opportunity for folks who have practiced to reset the practice with the mind of a beginner; relinquishing all of the habits of practice and walking into the cloud of unknowing.

The practice will begin with a brief check-in and questions, followed by some instructions then meditation practice. We will close with sharing for folks who would like and then time for more questions. We’ll plan on an hour but it may go past that. You are welcome to step out of the group anytime after the sit, though we encourage you to tay as long as possible to gain the benefit of other’s experience.

Everyone is welcome and please feel free to share this with others.

Every Monday, we will gather on ZOOM 

at 4:30 PM, Pacific Time, every Monday. (7:30 PM Eastern)

You are also invited to join other practices:

Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays: 9 AM Eastern Time

Sunday at 10 AM Eastern Time


Wednesday evening at 7:30 PM Eastern Time                                                    

We look forward to sitting with you!                                                                                                                             

Sangha of the Pandemic: William, Linda, Brian, Chuck, Paul, Mike, David, Jeff, Ginny, Tom, Randall, Angie, Damien, Paul, Richard, Christo, Timmer                                                                           

–  May all beings throughout all directions and all times be free from suffering. 

Everything Contributes

Beneficial action is action that contributes to any path that leads to understanding the inherent nature of reality. Through contemplation there is the realization that inherent nature is reality and reality is inherent nature. That the absolute manifests as the relative and the relative reveals the absolute. 

When contemplating action (or non-action) that is seeded in clinging, attachment, expectation, fear, anger, conceit or thoughtlessness, it is revealed that the result or reaction points back to the causes of those seeds. The suffering that arises from actions sprouted from the seeds of self-fullness, are like gutter rails in bowling, they guide the path back to the middle. In this same way, global environmental catastrophes, wars of greed and anger, and all the subsequent suffering point us back to seeking and end to suffering and actions that will lead to an end to suffering. When contemplating even the smallest of sufferings this understanding is revealed. In some cases the ball is so wildly thrown down the lane that it ricochets from on rail to the other, all the way down the lane until it ends in the gutter without striking a pin. Then the ball is sent back to try again.

When contemplating action that is seeded in the desire to end suffering through generosity, loving kindness, compassion, unconditioned joy and equanimity, it is revealed that the result or re-action, is ease of being, openness, clarity and goodness; the songs of the inherent nature of reality. This beingness in balance is like finding the sweet spot just to the side of the head pin, yielding a strike. And the ball is sent back to go again.

And like bowling (with repeated practice and observation of the causes of the gutterballs and the strikes), repeated contemplative practice, and beneficial actions seeded in kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity will, in a moment or over time, yield the understanding of the causes and conditions of suffering, the liberation from suffering and the manifestation of goodness, for oneself and for all our relations. 

May all beings throughout all times and all directions be free from suffering.


Through regular practice of attending to our breathing and inquiring into the causes of our suffering and the suffering of others, we may begin to experience a growing ease of being.  As Thich Nhat Hanh explains, this first hand experience may lead to an arising of spontaneous compassion and a motivation to act in a way that brings this ease to all beings who experience suffering. 

According to many wisdom teachings, in order to be of help to others, we are advised to realize our interdependence and interconnectedness with all beings and then to act out of that understanding. How can we do this in a way that recognizes the infinite experiences that have led to suffering, and honor the infinite ways that point to or offer relief from suffering, without judgment, recrimination or any other type of diminishment of those who may be suffering. 

Please feel free to join us in practice once, intermittently or as often as the inspiration arises! Your presence and insights contribute to this practice and the end of suffering for all beings in all directions and in all times.

We practice on ZOOM:

Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays: 9 AM Eastern Time

Sunday at 10 AM Eastern Time


Wednesday evening at 7:30 PM Eastern Time

ZOOM Link:

Sangha of the Pandemic

Brian, Linda, Chuck, Paul, Paul, Ginny, Jeff, Ned, Richard, Timmer, David, Christo, Angie, Damien, Mike, William