Good afternoon friends and members of the OBS,

As March begins, monastics at Tisarana and Sati Saraniya Hermitage are entering their third month of retreat. As the monks and nuns turn their contemplation inwards, we lay people have the chance to consider our own practice in the context of our secular society.

Lay teachers such as Jack Kornfield, Sharon Salzberg, and Joseph Goldstein have been tremendously influential in bringing Buddhist practices to secular Western audiences. The Buddha’s emphasis on empirical knowledge dovetails with Western psychology’s scientist-practitioner model, resulting in considerable research “proving” the benefits of meditation.  Vipassana and metta practices have been shown to influence our physiology in ways that improve emotional regulation, decrease anxiety, and help those processing trauma. Practices some view as sacred are often framed as “mental hygiene”, and apps like Headspace and Insight Timer make it easier than ever to incorporate meditation into a daily routine.

While these developments offer great opportunities, they also present challenges. In an ends-oriented culture, we can forget that Buddhist meditation practice is ultimately about freedom the process of relating mindfully and wisely to “what is”, rather than altering “what is”. Striving for a result, whether it be enlightenment or a reduction in stress, can prevent us from meeting and accepting where we are in the present.

This striving can also lead us to view suffering as an enemy to overcome, rather than an inevitable part of life. I recently saw an ad for a meditation class promising to help students “conquer anger”. Viewing practice in this light can make it difficult to sustain practice during the challenging times that will inevitably come.

The tendency to strive and wrestle with meditation is not unique to our cultural moment; these themes are found within classical Buddhists texts as well. Moreover, we can mitigate these tendencies by discussing and sharing our practice with others. While these winter months distance us from the monastics’ teachings, they can also be an opportunity for the lay community to grow closer. The non-residential retreat next weekend, led by Jim Bedard and Randy Baker, is one such opportunity.

Sati, the Pali word for mindfulness, comes from the verb (sarati) “to remember”. Sharing our practice and thoughts with one another in lay settings reminds us of the Buddhist teachings, and reconnects us with the wisdom and beauty of our shared journey.

Upcoming Events

March 5 – Waxing (half) moon

March 10Friday Evening Meeting with Jim Bedard and Randy Baker. 7:30 pm at Quaker House, 91A Fourth Ave, Ottawa (click here)

In 1980, Jim began practicing Zen meditation and became a student of Roshi Philip Kapleau of the Rochester Zen Center. Jim practiced with Roshi Kapleau and his dharma heirs for the next 20 years. After completing his formal training in Zen, he spent several years practicing with senior Vipassana teachers in the Theravada tradition. Today, Jim offers a balanced, direct approach to practices that point directly to the heart of the Buddha’s teachings.




Randy Baker began practicing Zen meditation in 1977 as a student of Roshi Philip Kapleau. His Zen training included 10 years on staff at the Rochester Zen Center. After practicing Zen for 20 years, Randy took up the practice of Vipassana. He has since worked with a number of well known Western Vipassana teachers.




March 11-12 – Full Moon and Non-Residential Retreat with Jim Bedard and Randy Baker. Ron Kolbus Lakeside Centre, Britannia Beach, Ottawa (map ) 8:45 am to 4 pm. See below for details.

Location: Ron Kolbus Lakeside Centre, Britannia Beach, Ottawa

Theme: Deepening our Practice

This two-day retreat will offer teachings that support the cultivation of mindfulness and concentration, and encourage the development of insight. The retreat is held in silence focusing on sitting and walking meditation. There will be talks by the teachers and guided meditation instruction.

Private interviews with Jim and Randy will be available during the retreat. Both teachers have over 35 years of experience in Zen Buddhist and Vipassana meditation.

Cost: $50 for OBS members, $60 for non-members. Those interesting in becoming members can apply online ( ; the cost is $30.



March 20 – Waning (half) moon

March 27 – New moon


Upcoming Conference

April 20th is the First Annual Meeting of the University of Ottawa Academy of Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies. This conference will interest those curious about clinical applications of mindfulness, spiritual perspectives on mindfulness, and the role of mindfulness in promoting social justice. The keynote speaker will be Dr. Zindel Segal of the University of Toronto, who specializes in treating people with mood disorders and co-founded Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy. For more information please visit The University of Ottawa’s Calendar of Events


Featured Podcast and Interview

CBC Quirks and Quarks: The Science of Mindfulness

Interview with Zen teachers Robert Rosenbaum and Barry Magid on their book, What’s Wrong With Mindfulness (And What Isn’t)


Submissions to the next OBS Newsletter are always welcome. Please send submissions by April 1, 2017 to Krista Shackleford-Lye,