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MF 010 Vipassana Meditation Dori Langevin Teacher Interview
Sicco Rood interviews meditation teachers of various wisdom traditions
Mar 02 2015
Interview with Dori Langevin, practitioner and teacher of Vipassana Buddhism. Dori works with groups and individuals using experiential mind-body-spirit approaches for healing and creating ceremonies for life passages including mindfulness, loving-kindness and compassion practices; guided imagery; artwork; ritual; psychodrama; emotional release work; and Holotropic Breathwork™. One special interest is the interface between mindfulness practice, addiction recovery and emotional healing. Dori has been in recovery from alcohol and drug addiction since August 1980. She serves as an Advisory Council Member for Buddhist Recovery Network.
This is a summary (not a full transcript) of the interview
What brought you to a meditation practice?
Dori was a recovering alcoholic, so her practice to start with was with the 12 steps. That was her baseline for practice. It was a very "in vivo" (the marketplace, life, where it is practiced), instead of "in vitro" (in the lab, the formal practice, the inward focus).
There are all of those ways in which life creates opportunities for practice. She went to a month long at Esalen. Stan and Christina Graf were there as teachers, and so was Jack Kornfield. Jack's description of the four noble truths (in Buddhism) really resonated with her personal experience with recovery of addiction. It made sense, addiction recovery, suffering, freedom from suffering. It was like a frame of reference.
Jack taught specific practices, Vipassana, mindfulness, and Loving-kindness or Metta. What she had not been able to find in the recovery community, was not enough instruction around meditation. Jack is a good salesman, he teaches the Dharma in a way that you want to "buy it".
She started to practice without a teacher or community, so she was winging it. It took years for her to find a formal community. Not formally until 1997, again with Jack as the centerpiece of that.
She decided to go to Spirit Rock, and then to Tara Brach, as that was closer. She immediately resonated with Tara. She got very involved with Spirit Rock, with her husband as well, who also practiced. They got very involved, with all the stimulation and support.
What do folks do who don't have a local meditation community?
Dori talks about how it is no longer needed to have a physical community. The virtual reality is now an option for support and ask questions. But she still prefers the "embodied presence" of sitting together physically.
Was this a practice for life?
Dori thinks of it as a tapestry. Those practices that weave in, that feels alive for her stay. This is like being home. I feel alivened by them, they're onward leading. She can't imagine that this can't be part of her life. She hopes it will be like a shepherding, so that when those moments of difficulty arrive, she will be able to stay present.
So in a way you're priming yourself for those moments, so that when a difficult moment comes up, you have this practice that automatically kicks into gear. Do you have an example of something like that?
Dori had a situation in 2013, when she was on the back of their Harley Davidson's motorcycle. They were on a long trip in the summer. They wanted to take a hike, so they moved through morning traffic. They started swaying on the back of the motor cycle. The only thought that arose in her mind, was "we're going down, there's no other way out of this". Her husband couldn't stop this from happening. This is how it is.
She was very grateful (not at that moment), that she had purity of mind and an absence of fear. It was very quick. What proceeded from there, lots of trauma to the body, broken bones, etc.
And then there was the whole way the practice helped her stay connected to her body, notice pain, mental anguish, and knowing that was optional. Second noble truth, pain is going to happen, but suffering was optional. The practice helped with the recovery. She couldn't do sitting practice, so did walking and laying down practice.
Dori pulled on all of the resources over the years of developing practice, to work with illness, without personalizing it. And it created tremendous gratitude for being alive.
So you still had the pain, but not all the mental baggage, the mental weather?
Yes, the whole adding on, "why this happen? this shouldn't have happened", etc, all the way s you can fight with reality. That would just add extra mental anguish. She was very aware of all the support and love they received from the people at the scene, but also through social media. Every day people brought food etc.
It is like "this is it". Her overarching questions are, What is happening, and what is needed now? Instead of how is it supposed to be, that is Dhukka. To be able to know, she has the mental capacity to be able to The freedom to chose.
As soon as I notice I'm on that mental train, now I can just get off.
So there is an element of accepting that everything is uncertain, and not being attached to outcomes, do you have an example?
The practice with setting intention. Dori can set her intention to have the inner qualities to think what she may need, of what the day will need, and then to realize there is a letting go of what is actually going to happen. You don't know what the next thing that is going to break. Getting comfortable with uncertainty.
It's coming back again and again to, "How do I recognize when I'm not in alignment with that?" Because then I just get frustrated. A kind of atunement with the 3 characteristics, or three marks of existence.
1. Impermanence (annica)
2. Dukkha (as in suffering, unsatisfactoryness, dissatisfaction, everything changes, and if I'm trying to hold on, if I let go, I may not like it, but that is just a preference)
3. Non-self (anatta)
Have you noticed that your relationship with the world changed from when you were an addict to now?
In a broad way, everyone has the desire to be of service, to be happy, to be able to give, and we have so many ways things get in the way. She admits she still has the capacity to "otherise" sometimes. And other people have this too. How can I serve, and also savor the world? She looks at other people as well, linking herself, looking at how they enjoy the world, and how they suffer.
She's trying to link herself to the whole human condition, knowing that we all have our measure of sorrow, our measure of suffering, and we all have gifts to bring to the world.
You are now a teacher right?
Yes, she had no inclination to teach. When she finished her clinical doctoral degree in clinical psychology. Tara Brach asked her if she had any interest in teaching? Initially too busy, but a year later when Tara asked again, she had more time available. So then she started teaching, and joined IMS (insight meditaiton society), 4 year teacher training program with Joseph Goldstein.
What struggles do you see with your students in their meditation practice?
She teaches locally, as well as in other places, like Spirit Rock, Cloud Mountain. So some students she sees all the time, so that there is deepening. And some she sees remotely for shorter periods of time.
For the local students, everyone is struggling to one degree or another is struggling with "what is practice", or what is their relationship with practice. Really practice, and see for yourself if your practice leads to either well-being, or whether they lead to more harm. And if it leads to harm, don't do it!
Dori asks them, what is it that you really want? What is your north star, what is your motivation? She can then help them with various forms of practice, to help them activate that within themselves. And then find out what are the obstacles?
She asks challenging questions of her students. As well as support and encouragement for her students.
Does it help the students to stick to their practice to be in touch with their why?
What is true happiness for you? Maybe the student is not resonating with the word "happiness", maybe contentment is what works for them. So then she asks the student how these practices can support the wholesome mind-states. So it's about what's happening today, and what is needed now? Start again now, today.
Initially, keep it simple.
In time, you will be able to select the right skillful practice appropriate to the moment.
If she's worried about something that is going to happen that day, she may use a particular practice that works well for that particular mood she's in. Like turning a "demon" into an aly. That energy gets unbounded.
It is letting the students articulate their own questions and what they are seeking through their own words.
Do you have tips for meditation practitioners to bring their mindfulness into their day?
Yes, this is what she calls "in vivo" practice. Which is inviting people to pick for a week, a specific daily activity that they pick. For example walking to the car, entering, and starting, and driving their car (not with the radio and other distractions). Then notice when you leave. It's a bit of an, "embodied Samadhi practice".
Notice when you leave, when you're already at work, and then use the physical sensations of driving the car. To bring you back to the now.
This is strengthening the muscle of presence.
"Keep in mind that you're driving".
And then bring the ardency and alertness that is necessary, a stick-to-itness. It could be anything, just pick some-thing, doing the dishes, brushing teeth. As a way of knowing what your're doing "right now". Driving is great, because we get so lost in thoughts.
And then notice the transition between things, notice and bring mindfulness to the transitions. How do I feel in my body. As well as when something big erupts internally.
She also encourages a form of Tonglen. So that you can let the vicissitudes of the day be something that connects you to the web of life as opposed to shutting you down. Or needing to hoard what is pleasant, or to push away, or personalizing some arising of unpleasantness.
Embodied presence does not come easy for some folks. Coming into the body does not come easy for everyone. Do it in steps. Being aware of the body and the breath wherever you are. What is my body feeling now, checking back in. For others, notice your moods.
For example if you're trying to work with the loss of someone. Notice what sorrow feels like. Notice when it arises, and then can you offer what is needed, a hand on the heart. Can you realize what is happening, pause and see if you can sit with that.
What is happening, and what is needed right now?
How can I be in this life, with open-heartedness, compassion, wisdom within our circumstances. Even when someone has done something to hurt us.
Using the practices under all kinds of circumstances. Dori then talks about her various retreats and web sites and other ways she works with.
Dori talks about the issue with coming out of a patriarchal age, female equality in Buddhist monastic life still being an issue. She talks about the sacred feminine that honors a variance of vision, of exclusivity. Reverence for life. The Sila aspect of Buddhism is paramount, we may not be as brilliant as we can be. But the energy with which we bring ourselves to relationship. The sacred masculine. There is no barrier to who can be enlightened. Which was radical then, 2500 years ago, and still is today!
She hopes we are all willing to be radically responsive to what is needed.
Lives in the Anza Borrego desert.Click here to see the full author's profile
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