One City

Hi Guys.

My “sleep hygiene” has been terrible this week – the equivalent of brushing my teeth with dirt.  The computer is changing colors on me and my head is bobbing like a blind man at a piano.  I can’t even tell if that last simile is PC or not, that’s how tired I am.

So rather than offer my perspective on some Big Human Issue I thought I’d just let you in on what I’ve been into lately.  Or rather – who I’ve been into.

Who, you might ask? Well (smile, look 45 degrees to the left and down, flick eyes up, lift head dramatically) his name is Daniel. 

What does he do?  He’s a doctor.  I know.  But more importantly he’s also a – listen I don’t know how to say this, so I’m just going to say it.  He’s an arahat.  He is one who has attained enlightenment.  But even more important than that – he. is. awesome.

I’m talking about Daniel Ingram (to be clear, I’ve never met him), a Buddhist practitioner who claims to have achieved enlightenment and talks about a goal-based system or map of meditation for people to follow so that they can also wake up.

I don’t care whether Daniel Ingram is enlightened or not.  I don’t care whether he claims to be or not.  That is essentially the least interesting thing (to me) about his teachings, which are extremely down to earth and address, very frankly, many of the issues that I’ve been having in the past six months of my meditation practice.  That seems to be very interesting to certain groups of people, which is fine – I’m just not advanced enough in my practice to really care about the verity of his attainments. 

I first found out about him from interviews with Vince Horn and Buddhist Geeks (who I’m always plugging but that’s just because the podcasts are great and they are so cute.  I mean to look at.  Cute to describe personality I’ve decided is pretty undermining.  Personality-wise, they are smart and serious.)  At Vince’s introduction I was a little wary: A man who claims to be enlightened?  This guy is definitely going to be irritating.  But Daniel Ingram is incredibly cogent, intelligent, down to earth, incisive, big-hearted, principled and inspiring.  Hearing him speak is a delight.  He’s also real active.  Dharma Overground is an excellent discussion forum on the web to visit and get humbled by that he started with Vince Horn and participates on actively.  Then of course there is his book, Mastering The Core Teachings of the Buddha, which is available online for free (!!) or can be bought bound. 

I will resist devaluing his teachings by describing them, but I appreciate how clear and direct they are.  My meditation practice has noticeably improved.  Statements like, “if remorse is really interfering in your concentration practice, then you probably should do some training in morality” (that’s a paraphrase) really hit me where it hurt.  And he has brought to light for me, unlike any teacher, the difference between insight meditation and concentration practices.  Similarly, his warning against interpretation has been very helpful for my practice, as interpretation usually leads me down the rabbit hold of distraction – i.e. Recognize Thought. Let go of thought. Think about how letting go of thoughts is useful. Think about nature of mind. Think about nature. Think about childhood memory of sitting on a log and ripping my pants and how I was so embarrassed. Feel embarrassed.  Recognize Thought. Let go of thought.  Etc.

Anyway, I recommend you check him out.  And for those of you who already have – what are your thoughts?  How do you like his teachings?  We’re studying his book in the ID Project’s Hardcore Dharma class for our summer session and I’m really excited to hear more people’s opinions. 

Writing from New York City, currently auditioning for the role of “underwater metropolis”, I remain, yours, 

Julia May 


*Daniel Ingram did not agree to be my homeboy.  I think of him as my mental homeboy.  But I wouldn’t call him “homeboy”, because I think it would be a little disrespectful.

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