book club final

Book club – Final post!

Week 15, with Eva Tsoureka

First of all, I would like to thank you all so much for this wonderful journey. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Dhamma Mahavana (Pali for “Great Forest of Dhamma”) Sierra Nevada foothills, North Fork, California, 01/28/2012.

I slowly open my eyes. Feels strange to see outward. “How long have I been sitting here, with my eyes closed?” I wonder. “ Where is everyone?”

I am all by myself, on top of a small cliff, sitting cross legged on the ground, surrounded by nature. A few meters away from the door of the temple, I exit together with around 200 people with whom I experienced the meditation of love. The final sitting meditation after myriads during my 10 day silent vipassana retreat. The most powerful of all.

I still remember in every little detail the vibrational energy of the room. Feeling so thankful for every single soul. Together, we spread a glimpse of peace to the world.

For me that specific moment, on top of this small cliff in the middle of a Californian forest, 235 miles northeast of Los Angeles, became a foundational moment. An experience I revisit whenever I feel in doubt or in worry. It is my “God Anchor”. (In NLP -Neuro Linguistic Programming- we call these foundational moments “anchors” since their remembrance brings back instantly those same feelings we experienced during those moments.)

I loved how Nepo explained it, “You don’t have to name these foundational moments, or explain them, or fit them onto some theological box. You simply have to experience them and locate them, so you have a chance to return to them or to moments like them, when you need to.” p.259

And by naming it “God”, trust me, I am not putting it in a theological box. “Ultimately, names are only useful as doorways to what can’t be named”. It’s more important to experience the unnamed mystery as it moves through us and about us than to argue if that enormous presence is God, nature, physics or the bareness of being that Buddhists speak of. Ultimately , names are only useful as doorways to what can’t be named.” p.260

I want to share with you a part of the speech of S. N. Goenka, founder of the Vipassana research institute, during the Millennium World Peace Summit. His words are echoing in my mind creating another “foundational” moment for me.

Religion is religion only when it unites. Religion is not religion when it divides. Religion is not for dividing people, it is for uniting people. So much I have said about conversion. For conversion and against conversion. I’m for conversation, I am not against conversion. But conversion not from one organized religion to another organized religion, no.

Conversion from misery to happiness. Conversion from bondage to liberation. Conversion from cruelty to compassion. That is the conversion needed today.

Thinking of peace in human society, we cannot ignore individuals. If there is no peace in the mind of the individual, I can’t understand how there can be real peace in the human world. If I have an agitated mind, if I have a mind full of anger, hatred, ill-will, animosity, how can I give peace to the world?

Because I have no peace within myself, I am an agitated person. The great enlightened persons have said, “First have peace within yourself”.

So one has to observe whether there is really peace in me or not.

All the sages, saints and seers of the world have this advice, “Know thyself.”

Not merely at an intellectual level, not merely accepting at the emotional devotional level, at the actual level.

When you start experiencing the truth about yourself within yourself, at the experience level, many of the problems get solved. You start understanding the universal law. The Universal law of the nature, or Universal law of the God. The universal law which is applicable to one and all.

When I start observing within myself and I find that I am generating anger, hatred, ill-will, animosity, I immediately realize that I am the first victim of my anger.

I’m the victim of the hatred, ill-will, animosity that I’m generating within myself.

Then only I start harming others. This is the law of nature.

My body starts burning, heated up, palpitation, tension, I am a miserable person.

And when I generate negativity in me and become miserable, I don’t keep this misery limited to myself, I keep on throwing this misery on others. I make the entire atmosphere around me so tense, that anybody who comes in contact with me becomes miserable.

And I talk of peace, I talk of Happiness, keep on talking of happiness and peace, what is happening in me is more important to me than anything else. The law of nature.

And if I’m free from these negativities, if my mind is free from negativity, mind is pure again.

Law of nature starts working. I observe within myself at this moment there’s no negativity in the mind and look how the nature of God starts rewarding me.

I feel so peaceful.

Conversion should be from the impurity of the mind to purity of the mind.

When people get changed, such wonderful changes come. No magic, no miracle, is a pure science. Observing the interaction of mind and matter within ourselves.

How the mind keeps influencing the matter, the body. How the body keeps on influencing the mind. If you keep on, keep on observing, we understand the law of nature so clearly.”

For 10 days S. N. Goenka teachings, every night at 9pm, were the only words I was listening to, that were not generated from me. Every single night, I was so looking forward to them so I could escape from my own voices. No books, no phones, no notepads, no pencils, no nothing just a flashlight so you don’t get lost in the woods at 5am when trying to locate the pagoda for the morning practice.

Miraculously his words would put an end to my sufferings. To the endless questions that I was trying to answer during and between my practices throughout the day. And every day was more compassionate and the connection grew stronger. And slowly I could clearly see it.

As Nepo says, “The Truth of our pain and despair will transform itself if we dare to give voice to it”. p268

“We simply need to devote ourselves to being students of Truth and Beauty, letting love stitch them into a rope we can climb or a blanket that can keep us warm.” p269

I would definitely come back to these chapters, there is so much to reflect.

Once again thank you all and looking forward to seeing you on zoom next week.

What struck you about this week’s reading?

Book Club Schedule:

  • Week #16 FINAL book club round up Zoom, Saturday, December 18, 10am-11am pacific (link to come via email)


  1. What a beautiful post, Eva! I love how you addressed conversation and conversion, and that you can delve into your foundational moment whenever you want to. I love how you point out that when we feel anger or hatred, we ourselves are the first victim of that mindset. Of course it’s important to feel our feelings, and let them guide us on what to do moving forward, yet holding onto these difficult feelings interferes with our ability to enjoy life and be as capable as we can be.

    I have often thought of how if there is ill-will in anyone’s mind, how can we ever expect the world to be peaceful. It seems like a status we will never achieve. However, I do say, when asked whether I think humans are inherently good or evil, that I believe we are inherently good. This is because when we are kind and loving, we feel good about our words and/or actions. And I think most people who do something wrong, whether they know it at the time or not, right away or eventually feel regret. So it seems to me that we are inately striving to do good in this world.

  2. Eva,

    Thank you for sharing your vipassana experience. It sounds amazing. It is beautiful to read that you can go right back to that foundational moment. I also loved how Nepo guides us to return to these moments when we’re full of doubt or pain or worry. I need to remember this. I have foundational moments during meditation when I find myself in another realm, and that is lovely. I also have several foundational moments remembering when I was walking across Spain on my “camino”. I return there almost daily and it grounds me.

    I agree with you on returning to these chapters. I think I will return to many chapters or more likely, I will just remain in this book. I really love The Wind Phone.

    Sue – I believe we are all inherently good too. I think everybody is doing the best they can most of the time.

    Thank you again Tracey and all of you! ❤️. See you next week. – Joan

    1. You know..I actually got to use the wind phone that Mark references at his friend, Gail’s, retreat house called Pine Minor. I was there to see HIM in person. It was quite an experience. I felt very connected to many of the people I met there, felt like I’d remain in close contact with them for, maybe, forever because of the type of event Mark “produces.” All of us there, like in this group, are digging deeper. This closeness did not come to pass, but I am so glad to have experienced Mark’s presence in a group setting. So many different people and so many experiences..a little like this book club. Everyone sharing having come from different lives and regions! It’s a beautiful alchemy. Thank you for this lovely comment, Joan. I so appreciate your reminder, too, that we can return to those foundational moments whenever we want to or need to. xo

  3. What a beautiful post, Eva. Thank you. This is all so important…I think we can’t hear “Be the change you wish to see” enough or in enough different ways. And I love this line of Mark’s that you included, “The Truth of our pain and despair will transform itself if we dare to give voice to it”. p268 I have experienced this in my life. I think it’s near impossible to explain to other people..or, maybe it’s easy to explain but, like all things, until you’ve actually lived it yourself it’s only so understandable. But, the point is to share anyway, and then sometime, when someone needs the wisdom, that planted seed inside of them, the one that has been germinating, begins to grow. I’d like to think that knowing alone is the sun and fertilizer that makes that seed grow when it is needed. I hope so anyway.

    What an experience you had Eva!! Wow. Maybe we can hear more about your time Dhamma Mahavana when we’re on our call. I know a couple of other people who have done silent retreats of different varieties and it calls to me. I would like to know how it feels to be in silence to all the external noise that meets us every day. Difficult? I’m sure. Inspiring and surprising? I have no doubt. It was Mark who wrote in The Book of Awakening that softness and silence unravel to gratitude.

    In The Empty Saddle, I love Mark’s story of the cyclist and the idea that he didn’t lose the race, but chose to leave it. That is how I now feel, though it easy for my privileged white self to have this experience, the choosing I mean. It reminded me of a recent conversation I had with my daughter who was lamenting the state of affairs of our world, particularly, at that moment, the competition inherent in being American–to have more, to have the most, to engage in consumerism, the “fight” to be on top, and all the rest that our society teaches us. True..I said to her. But I reminded her that she has a choice. I didn’t understand that when I was her age. “It’s so hard to go against all that,” she said. It sure as hell is!! I’m not sure that I would have done anything differently at her age if someone had told me I had a choice, but it would have been nice to know!

    “This is why we write. Not to be accomplished or excellent but to free ourselves from the chambers of our growth, in order to enter the same world transformed.”

    I can’t think of a better line to end on to sum up why we engage in this way over the course of time and with this material. Again I say, the “quality” of the writing is not what matters here; rather, it is the engagement with Mark’s words, with each other, and with the page that shepherds transformation out of us. Thank you all, again, for being part of this journey.

  4. Eva,
    Thank you for sharing your beautiful experiences and insights. I also loved his writing on foundational moments. I wanted to share on stumbling into a place of truth and beauty. It is everywhere should we choose to show up and attend to what is there. It is also true that we very often overlook truth and beauty because we are caught up in the past or the future. Of course not every moment of truth or beauty is a foundational moment, but oh when it is and you can hold onto it… I do still go back to mine those moments of peace.
    I am thinking about meditative journey I initially took on my yoga mat and often went back to in times of meditation. I still go back to it honestly. It is a true snapshot of what connects me to myself, love and God. I won’t share the whole story but my first daughter began to appear in that meditation over time and I thought how appropriate. Then all of a sudden a second little girl began to come into my meditation and I thought it was odd and that I had misread the significance of the little girl in my meditation. I thought this because at that time I did not have a 2nd daughter. Well, one year later, I had a second daughter and it all made sense to me. It was a foundation moment I go back to often and it gives me peace that my children are with me before and after this current life experience.

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