Skip to content

Wise Talk Blog

The Art of Suffering

Handling our suffering is an art. If we know how to suffer, we suffer much less, and we’re no longer afraid of being overwhelmed by the suffering inside. Instead, we should fear not knowing how to handle suffering. ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Happy New Year Dear Ones!

The new year is a time when we tend to reflect on our lives, and like you, in 2017, I’ve had many joys and sorrows. The political climate has been painfully charged and divisive for the nation, mirroring the crippling environmental devastations experienced throughout the world. I’ve lost two sisters, married my beloved on our tenth year anniversary, partnered in launching the 6th Dedicated Practitioners Program at Spirit Rock Meditation Center, became an active member of the Sounds True family, taught the dharma and Mindful of Race program across the nation, and completed my second book. I’m grateful for good health, dear friends, a deepening practice, and a global sangha.

In mindfulness practice, we discover that happiness and suffering are two sides of the same feather, blown by the winds of change. Neither is our enemy or our savior. Each helps us know the depth of the other. We ripen our capacity to humbly experience the nature of complexity, chaos, and uncertainty, and we recognize that nothing in life is personal, permanent, or perfect.

Collectively we are sacred geometry, extensions of each other. What we do or don’t do has impact—this is the interrelated truth of our existence. Understanding the basic laws of our existence affords us a beautiful opportunity to examine our experience from a wider and wiser lens and to respond with an understanding of our responsibility and impact on others and future generations. Imagine that our only job is to mirror each other’s goodness.

There is never time in the future in which we will work out our salvation. The challenge is in the moment; the time is always now. ~ James Baldwin

The freedom we seek is not dependent on whether we can control external circumstances. The freedom we seek is subtler and more in our control. This freedom can be known even in a sea of ignorance and suffering. This freedom depends on us cultivating the mind and heart so that we bring wise awareness and compassion to the certainty of suffering and put an end to it from the inside out.

If you are irritated by every rub, how can you be polished. ~ Rumi

For 2018, don’t be afraid of getting your heart broken. Do your work, say your prayers, then do your best. Grieve, rest, keep hate at bay, and join with others for refuge and resistance. Don’t get too far ahead of now! This moment is enough to digest. Sit, breathe, open, and don’t be a stranger to moments of freedom that may be flirting with you. Allow suffering to teach you how to be more human. Sit in the heat of it until your heart is both warmed and informed, then make a conscious choice to be a light. ~ Ruth King

Tricycle’s Meditation Month – Ungripping Heart & Mind

Tricycle’s 2017 Meditation Month with Ruth King –

Ungripping the Heart & Mind

Week 1 Transcript:  Cultivating Calm 

Week 2 Transcript: Intimacy with Impulses 

Week 3 Transcript: Nothing is Personal, Permanent or Perfect

Week 4 Transcript: Practicing Kindness – Without Exceptions


Watch the complete Meditation Month 2017 Video Series with Ruth King

Meditation Month 2017: Ungripping the Heart and Mind

Racism is a Heart Disease, And It’s Curable!

Transcript from Tricycle’s Video Series Teachings for Uncertain Times. My Talk: Racism is a Heart Disease, And It’s Curable, was offered on February 17, 2017 

Uncertain times are all we have. We never know what’s going to happen—and added to that is this time of racial inflammation in our social system. I’d like to talk about that a bit. For many of us our hearts are shaky and heavy. Some of us are outraged. Some of us can afford to distract ourselves through comforts and other privileges or distractions. But so many of us are afraid, afraid of what’s happening or what might happen to ourselves, to our loved ones, and to other people in the world that are suffering from racial distress, injury, separation, and fundamental hatred that’s really pervasive right now in the world.

I think it’s good to feel our fear, because it wakes us up. Our discomfort is pointing to how tightly woven we are as a human race. What we do next is crucial to us as a society that is Continued…

These “Presidential” Times

Devastated, heavy hearted, weary, bruised. A taste of what our Native and African ancestors must have felt. How did they endure? How do we? Standing Rock ~ today, standing for all of us. The trauma many of us feel may be difficult to metabolize, but it is possible. What is happening requires that we look, feel, understand, and respond. History offers perspective, and maybe a splash of hope, but don’t count on hope. Count on doing what must be done. Grieve and rest. Don’t get too far ahead of now! Now is enough to digest. Stay in the heart and heat of it. Let grief transform you, then make a conscious choice to be a light. ~ ruth king

Being Mindful of Race

This article was published in BuddhaDharma Magazine, Summer 2016, under the title: Healing the Broken Body of Sangha by Ruth King

As Buddhist and mindfulness practitioners, we have an opportunity to understand the dynamics of racial suffering and the flesh we put on its bones. Honoring our relatedness, our belonging, and our impact is a necessity for awakening in general and for transforming racial suffering in particular—in our own hearts, and in our communities and institutions.

As an African American Western Buddhist practitioner and teacher, I have sat on my meditation cushion in silence, with hundreds of other yogis, ripening my capacity to live in gentle and wise awareness. I’ve done this, sometimes for months at a time, without ever speaking to the yogi who sat beside me, and within me there was great comfort in knowing that despite our differing paths, we had somehow landed on our cushions and were opening our hearts together. This, in my mind, is a miracle.


Statement by the President on the Celebration of Vesak

On May 20, 2016, Bill Aiken, Office of Public Affairs, Soka Gakkai International-USA, shared that The White House had offered a formal statement on the Celebration of Vessak which should be posted on the White House website soon and is copied below. Very exciting!


Office of the Press Secretary
May 20, 2016

Statement by the President on the Celebration of Vesak

Michelle and I extend our warmest wishes to Buddhists in the United States and around the world in their celebration of Vesak, a day honoring the birth, enlightenment, and passing of Buddha. During this season, we reflect on Buddha’s universal teachings of peace, service, and recognition of common humanity — shared values that also bind us all as Americans. This occasion gives us an opportunity to commemorate the many contributions of Buddhists to our progress and to recommit ourselves to building a brighter future for all communities, cultures, and religions. As we come together in hope for wisdom, courage, and compassion, our family sends our best wishes during this season.

Belonging: Polishing the Third Jewel – Sangha

[This article was originally published in Spirit Rock Meditation Center’s May 2016 Newsletter.]

Prior to devoting myself to the Dharma and to teaching the Dharma, I had a corporate job as a training and organizational development consultant working in the Silicon Valley and San Francisco. I specialized in executive coaching and supported leaders in understanding the power dynamics and behavioral implications of mergers and acquisitions — what happens and can happen when you bring diverse cultures together. As I have experienced Western convert Buddhism, especially Theravada Buddhism, two of the three jewels are commonly emphasized — the Buddha and the Dharma — but less care is given to the third jewel, Sangha — the training ground for the embodiment of spiritual values through practice and kinship. My experience has taught me that there are predictable dynamics we can glean when we turn our attention towards the relational quality of culture and of sangha.  Continued…

Buddhists for Racial Justice

An Open Letter to Buddhist Teachers, Monastics, Priests, Leaders, Ministers, Practitioners, and Clergy

As Buddhist teachers and leaders we are deeply shaken and saddened by the intentional and premeditated murder of nine worshippers at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17, 2015. We send our heart-filled condolences to the families, loved ones, church, and communities, who have experienced this grievous loss.

While this terrorist act was apparently perpetrated by a single individual consumed by racial hatred and a desire to ignite a race war, the soil in which this massacre took root is the legacy of slavery, white supremacy, Jim Crow laws, lynchings, and the resulting racial inequalities and injustices that persist in our individual and collective consciousness and institutions. The daily experience of violence against people of color has become more recently visible through highlighted media coverage of the ongoing brutal treatment and killings of unarmed African-Americans by law enforcement agents across the country.

As Buddhists we realize the interdependence of all of our experiences—and that violence towards one community is violence perpetrated upon us all. As spiritual leaders, we must be committed to healing the wounds of racism that are such a primary and toxic part of the landscape of our country. This calls on those of dominant white communities to inquire deeply into and transform patterns of exclusion to power, inequity in resources, unseen bias, and unexamined disparities in privilege. There is an urgency to affirm that Black Lives Matter and work with religious and secular communities to respond to racial injustice.  Continued…

Racism & The Cost of Truth

Did any of you see Meet the Press this morning (June 21, 2015)? On the tails of hearing from one grieving family of the Charleston mass murder espousing love and forgiveness (who, understandably, chose not to discuss race at this time), we also hear republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee justify the confederate flag, the non-racist community of South Carolina (Charleston being one of the original places of slave trade), and minimize a need to address climate change, we also must see a video clip of black men in jail apologizing for killing someone. This constellation of media is disturbing. After Twitter gives Chuck Todd an immediate kick in the head, which he attempts to justify by explaining his intent but ignoring his impact, he then shifts the conversation to gun control and poverty. We then hear two African Americans on his panel evade the core issue of the mass killing as racism by focusing on Obama and race and how we should, in general, keep the conversation going. No one seemed able to hold the point that the choice to show a video of black incarcerated men apologizing for using guns shifts the conversation away from a white man killing mass numbers of black people in the context of national and generational killings of unarmed black people. I wonder who paid (figuratively) Chuck to show that video at this time? And who paid the two African American national commentators to avoid making this point clear? What do we lose in having an honest dialogue on racism? What do we gain by avoiding it?

White House US Buddhist Leaders Conference

WH Buddhist Conf 05_15_14_1064 lo-res

Thursday, May 14, 2015
South Court Auditorium, Eisenhower Executive Office Building

Just back from an historical event – the first White House US Buddhist Leaders Conference where over 100 monastics, leaders, teachers, activists and scholars from throughout the US Buddhist Community engaged with each other in the morning and with Obama Administration Officials in the afternoon on climate change, racial injustice, and other pressing issues of our time. Morning highlights included Bhikkhu Bodhi’s excellent presentation on Climate Change and Rev. Angel Kyodo Williams more expansive offering on a Climate of Justice which brilliantly drew connections between climate change and racial injustice. We were informed of many local and global initiatives that are supporting these topics. In the afternoon we heard from several White House officials on policies and initiatives mostly related to climate change and global social injustice. It was clear to me that while there was much talk about policy, culture is what changes hearts.  Jack Kornfield closed the day with a tender and inspiring message to all that while there is much to be done, our practice has much to offer in these challenging times. This historical day is the beginning of what I hope will be an ongoing conversation and collaboration of wise and heartfelt actions towards a Climate of Justice.