Oct 27, 2014
Karma is one of the most misunderstood Buddhist teachings. Often people think of karma as some kind of external, impersonal force that “rewards” us for our good deeds and punishes us for our bad. Consequently, even some people with an otherwise good understanding of Buddhism reject karma (usually along with rebirth) as being non-rational.
But karma is not external, nor is it about rewards and punishments. Karma simply means “action.” As an ethical term, it refers to the intentions underlying our actions, understood very broadly as anything we might think, say, or do. As the Buddha said, “I declare, intention is karma” (Cetanāhaṃ kammaṃ vadāmi).
What this means is three-fold:
First, ethically speaking our …
Oct 24, 2014
I recently wrote a post about how we can use listening as a way to quiet the mind, and how the arising of thoughts can become a “mindfulness bell,” calling us back to mindful attentiveness of the sounds around us. (The post was specifically about persistent thoughts that take the form of music, but the same approach works for all thoughts.)
A commenter on that post directed me to a video featuring the Canadian composer, writer, music educator and environmentalist R. Murray Schafer. In the video, Schafer very cleverly leads us into a form of listening meditation, in which he guides us from being mindful of recorded sounds to …
Oct 22, 2014
Recently I offered a mantra that can accompany the out-breathing: Relax, Rest, Reveal. These words encourage us, respectively, to let go of unnecessary tensions in the body, to let go of unnecessary mental effort, and to be open and receptive to whatever is arising in our experience.
I’d like now to offer a corresponding mantra for the in-breathing: Energize, Inspire, Enjoy. As with the previous mantra, each of the words has a specific function.
“Energize” connects us with the natural energy of the in-breath. Inhalation is dominated by the sympathetic nervous system, which isn’t always about “fight or flight” but is involved in any physical or emotional …
Oct 15, 2014
There’s an unusual connection between Ebola and Buddhism.
Ashoka Mukpo, one of a handful of Americans who have contracted Ebola, was identified soon after his birth as a reincarnated lama, or Tulku.
Mukpo is the son of Diana Mukpo, who married Tibetan lama Chogyam Tungpa in Scotland. Ashoka is not Trungpa’s biological son, but was raised as his child after his mother became pregnant while romantically involved with another of Trungpa’s followers, Dr. Mitchell Levy.
As a child, Ashoka was identified as the reincarnation of Khamyon Rinpoche, and he was enthroned as a tulku in Tibet.
Although Mukpo regards himself as a practicing Buddhist, he decided not to pursue a monastic life, and he …
Oct 15, 2014
Earworms are those tunes that get stuck in your head. Sometimes you’ll be meditating and have a favorite song stuck on replay. Sometimes it’s a song you hate. Either way, earworms aren’t very helpful to our meditation practice. In fact they can be so persistent that they drive us nuts!
Over the years I’ve tried a whole bunch of techniques to try to get rid of ear-worms. I’ve tried just listening to the song, accepting its presence and using it as an object of meditation, but songs can be intoxicating and I’ve found that I don’t develop much mindfulness and end up rocking out.
Sometimes I’ve listened to the lyrics closely to …
Oct 11, 2014
What you need to do to become a stream entrant
There are certain things you need to do, and attitudes that you need to cultivate, if you’re going to set up the conditions for insight to arise.
You’ll need periods of intensive practice, such as going on retreat. And I don’t mean just getting away for the odd weekend, which is all some people say they can manage. You need to have intensive spells of meditation for a week, ten days, two weeks, preferably longer.
Sometimes we find it hard to have the time. I heard someone say that when you say you don’t have time to do something it’s not …
Oct 11, 2014
(Thanks to a href="https://plus.google.com/u/0/100169818109287058390/posts" target=_blank">Caroline Hagerman
(Thanks to a href="https://plus.google.com/u/0/100169818109287058390/posts" target=_blank">Caroline Hagermanon Google+ for bringing this image to my attention!)
Oct 10, 2014
Here’s a meditation tip for you to try. It came to me when I was on retreat a couple of weeks ago. One morning, on the first meditation of the day, I found that my mind was all over the place.
I really needed to calm down my racing thoughts, but I had a hunch that the more I “tried” to do something about them, the more I was going to create more disturbance. In Buddhism we sometimes talk about this as being the task of “catching a feather on a fan,” because more effort equals more disturbance, while a gentle and sensitive effort …
Oct 03, 2014
Someone asked me:
I keep hearing about mindfulness where ones needs to pay attention to everything. But I am a bit confused and hoping someone can explain it to me in details. Am I supposed to be mindful of everything all at the same time? For example, every time I talk, I automatically remember to be careful about what words I should use. But how can one be mindful of everything all at the same time?
Actually, it’s not necessary, and usually not possible or desirable, to pay attention to everything at once. Right now I’m typing these words, and so I’m not paying attention to the sounds coming from outside the …
Oct 01, 2014
I was asked, “If Buddhism teaches non-self (anatta), then who is doing all this that happens in my life; who meditates?”
There is meditation taking place. There is stuff happening in life. There is the thought, “Someone is doing this.” But that thought is a bit like the idea primitive man may have felt, looking at nature. The wind blows, the leaves rustle, the rain falls. There must be “someone” making this all happen! And so they imagined a god or gods who were doing these things.
Nowadays we talk about all this being an “ecosystem.” But we don’t think of “Ecosystem” as a god who hides behind the scenes, making everything …