Wildmind Buddhist Meditation

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Blog

Aug 29, 2014

Empathy versus compassion

Avalokitesvara_BodhisattvaOn 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

Sweet Nirvāna!

Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 7.26.08 PM

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.

Sweet Nirvāna,
Highest Jhāna!
Rupture sweeter than all pleasures,
Thou the

Jul 24, 2014

Urgent appeal for donations

woman hands with wooden bowl of water with petals,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

Getting the dead dog off of your shoulders

Lady in furs.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

A lotus that blooms with your meditating mind?

lotus2Rohan 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

For people who hate their bodies

Image adapted from a Creative Commons licensed photograph by reway2007Not 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

Self-compassion webinar

hands holding a heart-shaped stoneLast 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):

  1. Contact: the mind’s filtered and interpreted contact with

Jun 12, 2014

Self-compassion for writers (and other tortured souls)

WriterI was talking to a Buddhist friend recently who’s a wonderful writer. She creates amazing blog posts that usually start off deeply personal but go on to teach important and universal lessons about life. I have a lot to learn from her about combining the personal and the instructional, and in many ways I regard her as the better writer. The thing is, she told me she hasn’t been able to write for two years now, because she’s a perfectionist.

And that’s the problem with perfectionism. Perfectionism makes us anything but perfect, because, for one thing, it makes it harder for us to create. Perfectionism is like teaching an animal to do a …

Jun 09, 2014

Turning problems into spiritual opportunities

treesI remember one day, thirty years ago, when I was living in Glasgow, Scotland, and was depressed. I can’t remember what I was feeling down about, exactly, although it definitely wasn’t a clinical depression. There were just things in my life that weren’t going well, and I was taking things too seriously. But there I was, in a state of self-pity, heading home on the bus. It was a rainy night, and being on a bus in Glasgow when it’s dark and raining, and the windows are running with condensation, is not a cheery experience. I guess I spent much of the bus-ride mulling over my woes and talking myself deeper into …

May 30, 2014

ZenFriend: A new meditation timer for iPhone

zenfriend1I’ve recently been trying out a new meditation timer app for iPhone. It’s very nicely designed and has a lot of promise. And it’s free today, and for the next two days.

The app is called ZenFriend, and it has a very clean and, well, friendly design scheme. The other app I use for timing meditations is the well-known Insight Timer, which I enjoy using, although I don’t like the faux-wood design. Skeuomorphism is so iOS6!

As you’ll see from the first screenshot, there’s a nice blurred-out background image, beautiful typography, and nice clean “buttons” for pausing or ending your sit.

website_02The interface …