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Shell Fischer's Podcast

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Insight Meditation teacher, Shell Fischer, founder of Mindful Shenandoah Valley, offers her 25+ years of study and experience in these weekly talks about meditation practice, and how it can help us nurture more compassion, kindness, joy, and calm in our lives.

Insight Meditation teacher, Shell Fischer, founder of Mindful Shenandoah Valley, offers her 25+ years of study and experience in these weekly talks about meditation practice, and how it can help us nurture more compassion, kindness, joy, and calm in our lives.
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Insight Meditation teacher, Shell Fischer, founder of Mindful Shenandoah Valley, offers her 25+ years of study and experience in these weekly talks about meditation practice, and how it can help us nurture more compassion, kindness, joy, and calm in our lives.




The Heart of Humility

In this talk, Shell dives into the idea of "humility" - a word fraught with shame in the English language - and explores how, through the teachings and the practice, we can start to view humility more and more as a pathway to love, genuineness, reverence, and connection.


Right Concentration - The 8th Spoke in the Wheel of Dharma

Traditionally, realms and states of deep consciousness have been described in mystical and spiritual literature as having been achieved through the art of concentration – which is exactly what we’re trying to cultivate in our Vipassana practice. As we develop a more refined and skilled awareness, this in turn offers us access to even deeper levels of understanding and insight. This talk explores how we can use our practice to train our minds to become more focused, steady, and clear.


Right Mindfulness - The 7th Spoke on the Wheel of Dharma

Mindfulness is whole-body-and-mind awareness of the present moment. When we are mindful, we are fully present, without judgment, with exactly what’s happening, right now. We’re not lost in the past or future … not tangled up in daydreams, anticipation, indulgences, or worry. We are right here, witnessing our bodies and minds and whatever is present. During this talk, Shell explores this essential component of our practice and path.


Right Effort - The 6th Spoke in the Wheel of Dharma

In his teachings about how we should go about investigating the nature of our minds and hearts, the Buddha continually emphasized the words diligent, ardent, and resolute. If we really want to experience more joy and freedom in our lives, we need to apply a more sustained and wise effort to our practice in order to discover more clarity - or insight - into which mind states lead us to happiness, and which ones lead us towards more suffering. In this talk, Shell dives into what this “wise...


What Does It Mean to Take Refuge?

In anticipation of an annual Refuge Ceremony, Shell offers this talk on what it means to Take Refuge (find sanctuary) in what are called the 3 Jewels of Practice: 1. Buddha: (who we are not worshiping in any way, but honoring as an example of what is possible within ourselves.) 2. Dharma: Here we are agreeing to take a deep look within ourselves, through the teachings, and discover for ourselves what is true, and what leads us towards freedom. 3. Sangha: Here we are honoring the...


The Mighty Force of Mudita

As the great Zen master Thich Nhat Hahn tells us, “Suffering is not enough.” In order for us to not be pulled under by the great forces of greed, hatred, and delusion in our world, the teachings urge us to continually and consciously nurture the heart and mind states of kindness, compassion, peace, and joy (mudita), which includes a deep wish or aspiration for all beings to be happy and to know the causes of happiness – including ourselves. During this talk, Shell dives into the rich...


Right Livelihood - The 5th Spoke in the Wheel of Dharma

When we are practicing this step on our path, we’re being asked to consciously, and very honestly reflect on the question: How am I living my life? along with considering, “What am I really offering?” In essence, we are being asked to contemplate our deepest intention for ourselves, and whether this aspiration is arising from a sense of “what’s in it for me?” or from a more compassionate response of “how can I help?” During this talk, we dive into this rich practice of investigation.


Right Action - The 4th Spoke of the Wheel

In the Buddha’s teachings on Right Action (samma kammanta) we are being asked to be mindful of the harm we’re capable of causing with - and to - our physical bodies, and in our expression of our bodies and how we use them – and to consciously avoid or abstain from those things by following the 5 Ethical Precepts, which Shell explores in this talk.


Right Speech - The 3rd Spoke of the Wheel of Dharma

During this talk Shell begins to explore the sila (or virtue, moral conduct) section of the Noble 8-Fold Path, which is considered the foundation of the whole path, what it’s built upon. Without an essential grounding in sila, our practice can easily morph into a kind of self-improvement project … or, a type of self-serving practice that might help us to feel a little more calm or peaceful, but lacks the transformational aspects of ethical speech, action, and livelihood. And this 3rd spoke -...


Right Intention: The 2nd Spoke of the Wheel of Dharma

According to the Buddhist teachings, every single moment of our lives involves an intention, and a choice -- and we can either make these decisions consciously, or unconsciously. The Buddha is urging us to make them consciously, to “intentionally” plant and cultivate 3 main seeds of thought and action (renunciation, goodwill, and non-harm). These 3 more refined and conscious intentions are meant to counter the more base and toxic choices of greed, aversion, and ill-will … with the...


Right View - The 1st Spoke on the Wheel of Dharma

If you can imagine that the Noble Eightfold Path is a kind of ancient spiritual GPS that the Buddha mapped out for us … then the first spoke in the wheel – Right View (samma dhitti) is like being able to zoom our inner screen all the way out to its fullest so that we can see the vast scope of the terrain, and therefore gain a clearer understanding of the path we’re walking on, where we’re headed, and why. (This is talk #2 in a series of talks on the Buddha's Noble Eightfold Path; the 1st...


The Noble 8-Fold Path: A Summary Talk

The Buddha taught us that, happily, there is a way out of suffering, and that way is the Noble Eightfold Path. Yet, the path itself is often illustrated as a wheel … the Dhammachakra (chakra = wheel) … and each of the 8 parts of this wheel is represented as a spoke - which means that our practice of them should flow seamlessly together. In this talk, Shell offers a summary talk on the Dhammachakra in anticipation of a series of talks on these 8 essential practices.


Equanimity: The Fruit of Our Practice

This talk explore what is often considered the “fruit” of our practice - equanimity (upekkha) - or balanced awareness - in the face of the so-called 10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows that make up all the days and moments of our lives. This primary quality of mind and heart is the essence of what the monk and scholar Bhikkhu Analayo was pointing to when he summed up the entire practice in just four words: Keep Calmly Knowing Change. (And, as equanimity is the last of the 10 paramis, this will...


The 9th Parami (Metta): Living With Loving-Kindness

Metta, a sense of unconditional friendliness, is said to be the very ground of our spiritual life, and also the most powerful practice, in that it can overcome all the states that accompany the biggest delusion and source of our suffering – that of separateness. Metta is also the 9th of the 10 paramis, or perfections – qualities of mind and heart that the Buddha taught us were essential to nurture in order to reduce our suffering, and discover more joy and ease in our lives. This talk...


Adhitthana - The Sacred Vow to Yourself

In the Thai language, the word for ‘vow’ is also translated as determination. And, in a very real sense, when we become even more “determined” to honor our practice and all that this entails, we are making a vow - like a marriage vow - to ourselves, and to the continuation of our spiritual practice and development. In this talk, Shell explores the importance of this 8th parami (determination), and how honoring it can not only deepen our resolve, but strengthen our practice. (*This is talk...


Sacca: Living In Your Truth

As the teacher Gil Fronsdal has said, without a commitment to truth, there is no spiritual path. This is so important that we can safely say - as a kind of absolute truth in practice - that deceiving oneself or others is never acceptable. Yet, so often, we tend to either ignore or suppress our own truth, or are fearful about expressing it. During this talk, Shell explores this 7th parami (truthfulness) and how courageously allowing and nurturing this quality of heart – as well as living in...


Khanti: The Blessings of the Sacred Pause

In the Buddhist practice, patience (khanti) involves three essential aspects: gentle forbearance, calm endurance of hardship, and acceptance of the truth. As the teachings tell us, the more and more we practice and really get to know and understand the vast blessings of patience, the more effortless it becomes, and the more we can live from a mind and heart that is calm, kind, and filled with ease. During this talk, Shell explores this 6th parami (patience). (*This is the 7th talk in a...


Viriya: Embodying the Energy of a Warrior

The root word for the Pali word ‘viriya’ is “hero” … and in the Buddhist tradition, when we start walking on the path of meditation, we are considered warriors. This is because what we are doing as we practice is acting as ‘warriors’ against the great forces of greed, hatred, and fear in ourselves. We are also courageously facing and confronting our natural tendencies … which are to run away from ourselves and our problems, or to fight them, or to completely ignore them, drown them out, or...


Wisdom: The Antidote to Suffering

Along with being one of the 10 paramis (or primary qualities of mind and heart that we are urged to practice), wisdom (prajna) holds a special place in the teachings because it is also one of the three main major pillars of practice. (The other two are virtue, and meditative depthor absorption.) Of these three, wisdom is seen as most central, since this is exactly what we are cultivating during meditation to counter it’s opposites: delusion, confusion, and self-deception. During this talk,...


Renunciation: The Freedom of Release

There is often a mistaken belief that the practice of “renunciation” involves a type of strict repression, denial, or even punishment. But in the Buddhist tradition, it is none of these things. In fact, the words most often used to describe the result of practicing renunciation (nekkhamma) are: release, freedom, and liberation. The idea is that when we practice letting go, instead of something being lost, something is actually gained. And, our continued practice of renunciation can lead us...