Sep 16, 2014
You know that feeling when you’re with another person, and there’s an awkwardness — a sense that there’s something missing? And you find yourself scrambling around thinking of something interesting to say that’ll bring your connection back to life?
Sometimes this does in fact kick-start a conversation in which we can both become absorbed, but sometimes our anxiety prevents that from happening.
I realized recently that I’ve had that a lot in my life.
Now when I’m on my own, I know what to do with unpleasant feelings of awkwardness. I’ll simply pay attention to them mindfully, until they pass. And often, even as I’m in the act of noticing my discomfort, I’ll …
Sep 09, 2014
Harshaprabha is making the second of his twice yearly visits to Ontario. The events, in Guelph and Goderich, are suitable for those with an understanding of, or even just a curiosity about, Buddhism.
Harshaprabha’s dream is to see the Triratna Buddhist Community established in the Province.
To realize this dream he makes bi-annual trips and leads events for newcomers and others. These give people an opportunity to experience being with other like-minded people in meditation and in discussing Buddhism as interpreted by the founder Urgyen Sangharakshita and his disciples.
In between his visits Harshaprabha keeps up his connections via e-mail, Skype, telephone, and Facebook. His dream …
Sep 02, 2014
Jhāna — a progressive series of meditative states of absorption — is a controversial topic in Buddhism. This should be rather amazing given that the Buddhist scriptures emphasize jhāna so strongly. In the Eightfold Path, Right Concentration is consistently defined as the four jhānas. The Buddha said things like “There is no jhāna for him who lacks insight, and no insight for him who lacks jhāna.” The jhānas are enumerated over and over again in the Pāli scriptures. They’re also implicit in teachings like the Seven Bojjhaṅgas, the 12 positive nidānas, and the Ānāpānasati Sutta, which mention various of the jhāna factors.
Despite the scriptural importance of jhāna, some teachers, like …
Aug 29, 2014
On the Boston Review, Paul Bloom has a provocative article titled “Against Empathy.” It’s not advocating an uncompassionate approach to life, and in fact central to his thesis is that there is a distinction between empathy, which he says can limit and exhaust us, and compassion, which he points out is more sustainable.
There’s one particular section where there are several references to Buddhism and to Buddhist practitioners:
It is worth expanding on the difference between empathy and compassion, because some of empathy’s biggest fans are confused on this point and think that the only force that can motivate kindness is empathetic arousal. But this is mistaken. Imagine that the child of a
Aug 27, 2014
I found this sweet hymn in a book by Paul Carus, called Sacred Tunes for the Consecration of Life: Hymns of the Religion of Science. Carus (18 July 1852 – 11 February 1919) was an early German-American translator, compiler, and popularizer of Buddhist texts.
Carus seems to have been fond of hymns, since he published an entire book of settings of Buddhist texts. This is available online, courtesy of archive.org.
Unfortunately my sight-reading skills have atrophied through decades of disuse, and I’m only able to guess at what the tune is.
Here is the rest of the song.
Rupture sweeter than all pleasures,
Jul 24, 2014
Wildmind needs to raise at least $3000 before the end of July, and preferably a bit more since $3000 would just allow us to scrape by.
Right now we have a financial crisis. The end of the month is coming and we don’t have enough in the bank to pay our staff. That’s rather worrying for all of us on a personal level, for obvious reasons.
(This has been an unusual month for Wildmind, financially. I’ll put a note with more details below.)
Anything you can contribute would be most welcome. You’d not just be helping those of us who work at Wildmind (Mark, Amy, and myself), …
Jul 18, 2014
What kinds of things do we get up to when we are meant to be meditating, but have become distracted? Most people will say they “think” or “fantasize,” but that’s not very specific. What kind of thinking is going on? What kinds of desires drive our fantasies?
There are five traditional hindrances to meditation. Speaking very non-technically, what we tend to do when we’re distracted is one of the following:
- Getting annoyed about things we dislike
- Fantasizing about things we like
- Worrying and fidgeting
- Snoozing and avoiding challenges
- Undermining ourselves with stories about what we can’t do
These are the five hindrances in very non-technical language. Each of them is a form of …
Jul 03, 2014
Rohan Dixit is a former neuroscience researcher who studied meditation and the brain at Harvard and Stanford University. He also spent a year measuring the brainwaves of meditating monks in the Himayalas, which is nice work if you can get it.
Rohan has a fascinating project that he’s Kickstarting at the moment. It’s called the Lotus and it’s essentially a hand-made brass flower that blooms with your mind.
The Lotus responds to your brainwaves through a supported brain-sensing headset, which is hooked up to a smartphone app. When the headset detects that you’re calm and relaxed, the flower blooms and begins cycling through colors.
The Lotus gradually closes and slowly changes colors when it’s time …
Jun 14, 2014
Not many people like their bodies. The typical reaction from looking at oneself naked in the mirror lies somewhere on a spectrum from mild disappointment to outright revulsion, with a bit of disbelief thrown in (how did I get so old? where did those wrinkles come from? where’s my hair gone?)
I had a little epiphany the other day, though. I’d been talking with my girlfriend, who I adore. She’s beautiful. Really beautiful. And she’s also afflicted by doubts about her attractiveness. So when we were talking she was going over some of the things she didn’t like about her appearance (wrinkles, etc) …
Jun 13, 2014
Last month I was honored to be a guest of Leo Babauta of Zen Habits, who had asked me to talk about and to answer questions on self-compassion.
It was supposed to be a video, but unfortunately my camera decided to stop talking to my computer just as the webinar began. But Leo kindly send me the audio of the conversation, and I invite you to listen to it below.
I discuss the practice of self-compassion in terms of a very useful Buddhist teaching extracted from the 12 nidanas (links) that illustrate dependent origination, or paticca-samuppada. These are (in a slightly adapted form):
- Contact: the mind’s filtered and interpreted contact with