Sunday Talks

Each Sunday from 6-7 PM, a free talk on Nyingma teachings or related topics is presented by a Nyingma Institute faculty member or guest lecturer.

Fall 2017 Talks

Sunday, December 3, Elizabeth Davis on “Space, Body, Light: An Exploration of Buddhist Art,” 6 -7 PM

Art historian and professor of art history at Diablo Valley College, Elizabeth Davis will examine historically significant artworks in photographic reproductions and relate them to their historical worlds, while discovering the power of art to support the transmission of the Buddha’s teachings.


Sunday, December 10, Pauline Yu on “Transcendent Wisdom and the Six Perfections,” 6 -7 PM

The 6 Perfections are a set of qualities that, when put into action, constitute a path directing our energies towards enlightenment. Nyingma Institute instructor, Pauline Yu, will reflect on the efficacy and appeal of the 6 Perfections, particularly in relation to the Prajnaparamita Sutras and their message of wisdom beyond concept.


Sunday, December 31, Hugh Joswick on “What Time is it Now?” 6-7 PM

This day of turning from old year to new is an opportunity to reflect on the nature of time. Often perplexing, yet ever moving, time is always changing. At the same time, it seems that there is only the present. Our time is always “now,” even if that now is illusive. Nyingma Institute instructor, Hugh Joswick, will explore some ways Tarthang Tulku approaches time and how he suggests that we can live in time more abundantly.

Previous Talks

May 7: Barr Rosenberg on “Routing Thought through the Senses”

Much of the time our thoughts do not help us to live our lives. By contrast, our eyes and ears and sense of movement constantly bring us useful information. We can receive significant benefit from thinking when we route our thoughts through our senses. Innovative techniques blend the creative potential of our thought process with the disciplined awareness of our senses, while taking advantage of our mind’s high level responsiveness to sensory inputs. We can readily retrain our thinking for more effective problem solving.

May 14: Donna Morton on “Supporting Brain Health”

We can take steps now to maintain the resilience and health of our mental functions. Donna Morton, Tibetan Yoga instructor, physical therapist, and nutritional consultant will share ways from each of these disciplines that can help you to slow the aging process of the brain.

May 21: Olivia Hurd on “Meditation as Gesture of Balance”

Seeking balance is a process of trying to gain stability through exploring the edges of what is not balance. Meditation can be such a process. If obstacles arise in meditation, we can learn to touch them gently, feeling our way, rather than reacting to them with discouragement. Olivia Hurd, Nyingma Institute meditation instructor will discuss ways we can use obstacles to expand our capabilities, moving beyond them to enjoy more freedom and openness in the process. A short practice will be included.

May 28: Santosh Philip on “Opening to Natural Beauty”

We can cultivate seeing and sensing natural beauty. Even in the midst of a city the color of the sky, the touch of the wind, a glimpse of a tree can awaken our sense of wonder and joy. Nyingma Institute instructor Santosh Philip will present ways to expand your experience of the beauty of the natural world. He will also lead you in awareness exercises that show how meditation can further deepen enjoyment of the world around us.

June 4: Pauline Yu on “The Cobbler, the King and Other Yogis: Stories of the 84 Siddhas”

The 84 Siddhas are a remarkable and incredibly varied array of Vajrayana practitioners who attained realization. Nyingma Institute instructor, Pauline Yu, draws from Buddha’s Lions: The Lives of the 84 Siddhas, and speaks to the inspiration and insights offered to us by these fantastical stories.

June 11: Hugh Joswick on “Meditation and Mind”

How does meditation affect the mind? Nyingma Institute instructor Hugh Joswick will approach this subject experientially, exploring how our perceptions of ‘mind,’ ‘self’ and even “meditation” change as we practice being with whatever we are experiencing. The talk will include a short meditation practice.

June 18: Peggy Kincaid on “Kum Nye Dancing”

Nyingma Institute instructor, Peggy Kincaid, will describe some of the fundamental principals of Tarthang Tulku’s Kum Nye Dancing and demonstrate ways to engage and activate the energies of the body through movement and dance.

June 25: Pauline Yu on “Thoughts”

How does the Nyingma tradition approach thoughts, particularly as they surface in meditation? What is their nature, and how does one work with them? Nyingma Institute instructor, Pauline Yu, leads meditative practices to relax the mind and gently investigate thinking, based on the chapter titled “Thoughts” from Openness Mind.

July 2:  Olivia Hurd on “Meditation as a process of Developing Self-Confidence through Self-Discovery”

How can meditation practice strengthen our inner confidence?  It is possible, through looking at mind free from judgments, and with openness, to discover qualities of mind that we can rely on: peacefulness, insight, and satisfaction.  Beneath the divisive concepts of who we think we are, we can find a trustworthy resource that inspires us from within.  This talk by meditation instructor Olivia Hurd will include practices to encourage mind’s flexibility and balance through expanding awareness.

July 9:  Ken McKeon on “TSK, Right from the Start!”

Ken McKeon, Nyingma Institute teacher, writer, and TSK practitioner since 1980, introduces Time, Space, and Knowledge: a new vision of reality. His talk will include instruction in TSK introspective practices. Based on Tarthang Tulku’s Time, Space, and Knowledge.

July 16:  Santosh Philip on  “Advanced Kum Nye: The Joy of Being.”

Tarthang Tulku has written that “The physical exercises of Kum Nye are only the outward forms of a holistic vision of human being. Their true value lies in their ability to stimulate energy that joins body and mind in a continuum of joy and appreciation.” In this talk, Kum Nye instructor Santosh Philip will discuss how to deepen Kum Nye practice, and invite joy and appreciation more fully into your life.

July 23:  Mark Henderson on “Training for Freedom”

Classic Buddhist education employs three trainings—shila (ethics), samadhi (meditation), and prajna (wisdom)—to develop wholesome knowledge and power. Nyingma Institute instructor Mark Henderson will introduce these traditional methods for clearing away the network of confusion and karmic patterns.

July 30:  Barr Rosenberg on  “You and I can be We”

When we invest our care in others, our positive feelings grow and spread; others respond with their love, and the richness of this shared experience uplifts the quality of life everywhere. Tarthang Tulku, Skillful Means

When we come together as ‘We,’ mutual trust frees us from the narrow self-protective and contentious concerns that are so common when relating as ‘You and I’. ‘We’ can share love, and the love we share can extend to others. However, ‘We’ is not stable, and when contention separates us we revert to ‘You and I.’ The usual mode for stabilizing ‘We’ is ‘We against they:’ we unite in opposition to outsiders, and coalesce through our shared purposes. The contention among us has faded, but contention against outsiders has taken its place.  Nyingma Institute Instructor and former dean, Barr Rosenberg, shows that ‘We’ is readily accessible without requiring ‘We against they,’ and that the simple joy of We’ can serve as the stabilizing force.

August 6: Traveling the Buddhist Path—Aging and Overcoming the Fear of Death

It has been said that we die as we have lived. Recognizing the truth of this statement can wake us up to the fact that preparing for death can make our lives more meaningful.

Elissa Slanger, a Nyingma Institute instructor and student of Buddhism for over fifty years, will address key teachings on impermanence and recount how her own near-death experience reinforced her Buddhist practice.

August 13: Expanding Vision: Seeing Mind in Operation

We often rely on limited ways of viewing and embrace narrow focal settings as “obvious” and “clear.” Can we open the aperture of mind more widely to see the operations of mind and find more freedom?

Nyingma Institute instructor, Hugh Joswick, presents practices and exercises to open the faculty of seeing in order to allow objects to simply be in your field of awareness.

August 20: When you say ‘Me,’ who do you mean?

We use the words “me” and “I” so readily, but when we think about it, where is that entity to be found? If we analyze the components of “I”, which of them are what makes me “me”? And where is it that “I” ends and “other” begins?

Drawing from Buddhist teachings, longtime Nyingma student and clinical psychologist, Elissa Slanger, explores answers to these questions. This will be a participatory talk, with exercises helping participants gain fresh perspective on “selfhood.”

August 27: Tarthang Tulku Rinpoche’s Writings


Guest lecturer Betty Cook is a longtime student of Tarthang Tulku Rinpoche. She has edited and compiled books on Buddhist history, served as editor for Dharma Publishing, and presented workshops on Buddhism in Europe and Brazil.

September 3: Space, Body, Light: An Exploration of Buddhist Art Across Time & Space (Part 1)

Buddhist art is an immense topic. From its inception in India around 250 BCE, it has grown into a vast web of traditions spreading throughout South & Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Himalayas, East Asia – and now the west in the era of global modernism.

In this talk, Art History Professor Elizabeth Davis will investigate, discuss, and enjoy a handful of extraordinary artworks that represent pivotal moments within the magnificent history of Buddhist visual culture. Going back to the beginnings of Buddhist art in ancient South & Southeast Asia, we will explore some of the earliest monumental sacred spaces constructed two millennia ago. As we move forward in time, we will survey figurative images of the Buddha, considering how the vision of the Buddha developed in India, Tibet, China, Korea, and Japan. We will end by considering contemporary artists whose work responds to both modernist art and the ancient teachings of the Buddha.

This is Part 1 of a 2 part lecture series. Part 2 will be on Sunday, September 17.

September 10:  Finding Well-being by Connecting with Nature

The natural world can be a profound source of healing and insight. It is often easier to focus and relax the mind while connecting with nature – nature can support our meditative awareness, and we can use our meditative skills to deepen our
connection with nature. In this talk, we will examine recent psychological research on nature and human well-being, and will work with practices that help us to engage deeply with our natural surroundings. Some of this talk will take place in the
Nyingma garden.

Mary Gomes is a Professor of Psychology at Sonoma State University, where she teaches meditation and practices of nature connection. She is a co-editor of the anthology “Ecopsychology: Restoring the Earth, Healing the Mind.”

September 17: Space, Body, Light: An Exploration of Buddhist Art Across Time & Space (Part 2)

Led by an art historian, this talk will include both lecture and discussion, as we examine historically significant artworks in photographic reproduction. We will spend time looking deeply, relating artworks to their original historical worlds, and discovering the power of art to support the transmission of the Buddha’s teachings.

Elizabeth Davis earned her PhD in art history at UC Berkeley. A curator and writer as well as a professor of art history, she has produced exhibitions & written for SFMOMA, the Cantor Arts Center, Fort Lewis College, and Diablo Valley College, where she currently teaches.

September 24, Abbe Blum on “Can Body and Mind be Friends?”

Integrating body and mind has been an aim of yogic practices in the West for some time; yet the pressures of modern life force us to separate conceptual awareness from a groundedness in the body.

Nyingma Institute instructor, Abbe Blum, discusses how Kum Nye Tibetan yoga cultivates our ability to know and feel  “within,” establishing communication, even friendship, between body and mind.

October 1, Olivia Hurd on “Understanding Emotions”

“We can be grateful for our emotions, for our frustrations, fears, and sorrows; they can help us wake up… As we penetrate the powerful energies of our emotions, we understand that our obstacles and our spiritual path are one.” Tarthang Tulku, Openness Mind.

Emotions can be binding and painful, but they can also be great teachers.

Nyingma Institute instructor, Olivia Hurd, will discuss how mindfulness practices can help us appreciate the transient nature of emotions, freeing us from their compelling grip.

October 8, Donna Morton on “Relaxation and Resilience”

What conditions do we need to cultivate to truly flourish? What can we do to express our full potential?

Nyingma Institute instructor and Wellness Coach, Donna Morton, will introduce practices and exercises that promote deep relaxation and physical and mental resilience. This talk highlights topics in the upcoming Wellness Weekend workshop.

October 15, Mark Henderson on “Exploring the Nature of the Self”

We create images of ourselves, which we project outward to the world, as well as inwardly.  Do these self-images serve us, or do they restrict our ability to respond spontaneously and openly to life?

Nyingma Institute instructor, Mark Henderson, will discuss several ways the Buddhist tradition examines the nature of self and expands the range of our responsiveness to enjoy greater freedom.

October 22, Betty Cook on “The History of Tibetan Yoga in the West”

In 1972 Tibetan Lama Tarthang Tulku developed the practice of Tibetan Yoga (Kum Nye) for students at the Nyingma Institute. It has proven to be powerful vehicle for people throughout the Western world to find inner peace and well-being.

Betty Cook, Buddhist teacher and the editor for Tarthang Tulku’s book, The Joy of Being, will trace the roots of Tibetan Yoga from the time of the Buddha to the present.

October 29, Barr Rosenberg on “Mental Rhythms in Harmony”

“By refining awareness and developing sensitivity and thoughtfulness, we can learn to respond perceptively to the subtle inner rhythms that govern our own emotions and thought processes and more easily tune in to others as well.” Tarthang Tulku, Mastering Successful Work.

Nyingma Institute instructor and former dean, Barr Rosenberg will examine different rhythms of  mental time that underlie our experience and mental functions. Once we become aware of these different rhythms we can attend to them and bring them into harmony. The talk will focus on the rhythm of the breath; the rhythm derived from the physical world; the rhythm of useful thought; the rhythm of empathy; and the rhythm of protectiveness.

Sunday, November 5, Santosh Philip on “Inner Alchemy,” 6 -7 PM

An alchemist was one who could transform the mundane (“base materials”) into that which was precious. In this talk, Tibetan Yoga instructor Santosh Philip will describe the remarkable transformation that can take place in body and mind by consciously integrating breath, awareness, and movement.

Sunday, November 12, Dave Abercrombie on “Embodying Kum Nye,” 6 -7 PM

“To embody Kum Nye is to manifest the quality of being – a vibrant aliveness fully attuned to the present moment” Tarthang Tulku, Joy of Being.

Through practice and discussion, Kum Nye instructor, Dave Abercrombie, will show how Kum Nye can help us embody a knowledge that empowers growth and change, and that can come alive in every gesture of our being.

Sunday, November 19, Erika Rosenberg on “Compassion as the Key to Happiness,” 6 -7 PM

Compassion arises when we are confronted with another’s suffering and feel motivated to help it end.

Nyingma Institute instructor, Erika Rosenberg, Scientist at the University of California Davis Center for Mind and Brain, Senior Teacher at Stanford’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, and Director of Research at The Compassion Institute, will draw on psychological science and meditation practice to explain how connecting with others around difficult experiences makes us happier and can lead to profound personal transformation.

Sunday, November 26, Bob Byrne on “Gratitude,” 6 -7 PM

Nyingma Institute instructor, Bob Byrne, will explore the sense and meaning of gratitude from the perspective of the Dharma. Through discussion and practice, Bob will illustrate that sharing and expanding the feeling of gratitude can open new dimensions in our experience.