Crystal Springs Sangha
  Russian River Zendo
  Suffering & Delight



Darlene Cohen has had extensive experience as a public speaker, both as a keynote speaker at conferences, as a dharma teacher, and as a seminar leader. Her recent credits include:

• Dharma lectures 2-3 times a month at various places in the U.S: San Francisco, Palo Alto, CA, Carmel, CA, Burlingame, CA, Berkeley, CA, Sausalito, CA, Evanston, IL, Spokane, WA, Rye, NY on many topics of interest to people trying to make a spiritual practice of their daily lives. For examples of the topics, see Quotes from Dharma Talks.

• Keynote speaker at a continuing education workshop sponsored by the Multiple Sclerosis Society March, 2000, on the subject of "Becoming Whole Again". Contact Carol Figueiredo at 510-268-0572. (Please see quotation from this talk below.)

• Keynote speaker at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society conference in November, 2000, for doctors and mental health professionals, on living with chronic pain and disability. The title of her talk was "The Skills Needed to Live with Chronic Pain and Catastrophe." Contact Stuart Ferry at 1-800-FIGHT MS.

• In October, 2000, presentation of a paper called "Meditations on Delight," instruction in the skills needed to live with chronic pain, at a conference on Women, Spirituality and Health sponsored by the Graduate Theological Union in the East Bay.

• Upon the publication of her second book, Finding A Joyful Life in the Heart of Pain, in May, she embarked upon a book and workshop tour which took her to New York City, Chicago, Columbus, Ohio, Kalamazoo, MI, Spokane, WA, and various cities in the local Bay Area to present and demonstrate both still and moving meditation practices for people in pain.

• Presentation/demonstration to a class of medical students at the invitation of Alan Steinbach M.D. at University of California Medical School, Berkeley in 1999.

The following is a quotation from a talk given at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in March, 2000.

"Whenever new clients come to me I tell them if they're going to work with me they have to devote the rest of their lives to the relentless pursuit of pleasure. Ecstacy, for instance. Now there's a healer. Having the feeling of ecstasy from time to time is very important for our general health and well-being. I define ecstasy very precisely: I mean that timeless, boundless feeling you have whenever you lose your ability to make comparisons between this and that, to rate one thing or person or experience higher than another. That critical mind that oppresses you all the time is gone. Everything you encounter is just itself, not more worthwhile than anything else. Your taking in every wondrous detail of your activity and your surroundings. Now as you look around you, everything you sense and feel is just as fascinating and beautiful as every other thing you sense and feel. Everything has equal value. That's ecstasy. We all need to get out from under our critical, judgmental thoughts from time to time and enjoy the freedom of being able to look at things with fresh eyes, with a view unencumbered by our usual opinions. What a flush of relief and refreshment! So it becomes important to notice this experience when it happens to us spontaneously but also to actively cultivate it, that is, to set up situations in which it may occur.

My favorite, most reliable, form of ecstasy is whitewater river rafting. No matter how bound up I am in my arthritic pain, or preoccupied I am in my work, I am taken out of my ordinary plodding and anxiety-ridden consciousness by river rafting.

The enjoyment, if not the loss of my critical mind, starts right away while I'm loading the car. I'm already light-hearted just from the anticipation of connecting with the boundless. By the time I reach the Motherlode put-in place, I'm very mellow indeed. Not quite nonjudgmental, however. I greet my fellow rafters as they arrive. I have a strong, unvoiced opinion about every one: how attractive, how bright, how friendly, how appropriate or absurd I find their attire. How ridiculous they look in those shorts, or how I envy their silouette in a wetsuit. Oh, God, I'm thinking, please don't let me get that person in my boat. What was she thinking, dressing like that with that body? Or what a droll wit that person has; I hope we're in the same boat! The guides meander among us, checking our life jackets. I have my favorites among them, too, and I'm chatting them up, angling to be chosen by this one, hoping my admiration is returned sufficiently to be included in their raft for the day. I'm doing my usual social thing, meting out judgments and preferences right and left.

Eventually the rafts are ready, and the guides assign us to various ones. I'm either happy or petulant about my assigned raft mates. We push off from the bank, and I'm grumbling to myself, "Stuck with this dimwit! I have to look at that stupid tee shirt for hours!" I notice a beercan in the water. "What idiot left that there in such a beautiful place as this! People are pigs!" And so on down the river.

But then we hit that first rapid. All my mental talk stops as the adrenaline hits my bloodstream. We get through it and drift again in calm water. After the splashing and the yelling and the fear and the delight, I'm free. No more judgments, no more oppressive criticism. My raftmate is the perfect companion for this adventure. If I see any more beercans or plastic in the water, I see it as part of the scenery: beautiful the way the sun glints off the metal! My whole world is sun and cold water and the stretch of spandex across my belly. The peanut butter sandwiches at lunch are the most welcome, delicious nourishment I have ever taken. My companions are the pinnacle of wit and courage. No more comparisons. These moments are the only moments that have ever existed. Such experiences have put my rheumatoid arthritis into remission for as long as several months. More than a refreshment to me, though that would certainly be enough reward, ecstasy is an essential part of my healing.

You can take an ecstatic experience like this back into your ordinary life. Even after it's gone and your boundaries and judgments have come back, just the fact that you had such an experience frees you up. You may never again be so oppressed by your critical, negative mind in exacly the same way. What ecstasy offers you is the chance to have a tiny little bit of detachment from your usual separate-making mind. Maybe you'll never believe that mind totally, completely, again." -- Darlene Cohen

Return to top

Home | About | Schedule | Quotes from Dharma Talks | Books & Tapes | Site Map | Contact

©2005 Darlene Cohen. All rights reserved.