Oct 28, 2013
When I was teaching meditation at the University of Montana I had a student called Connie who was very concerned about her smoking habit. In my youth I sometimes used to smoke roll-ups at parties and I sometimes even bought tobacco so I could make my own and not be cadging from other people all the time, but I never got addicted and so I had no experience I could share about giving up the evil weed. But I do encourage people to be mindful, and so I suggested that she really pay attention to the sensations and mental patterns that arose each time she was smoking a cigarette. It seemed …
Oct 15, 2013
Last month I wrote about how sometimes your meditation practice may seem to be going nowhere, and how that’s OK. It’s the “seems” that’s important, because sometimes you just can’t see the change that’s taking place, slowly and gradually, in your brain and mind. Connections can be growing, or strengthening in the brain, and you can be completely unaware of that until perhaps some tipping point is reached and you notice that you act differently, or feel differently, or see things differently.
But there are also times that you might want to shake things up. Here are four things you can do to stop your …
Oct 10, 2013
A lot of people have difficulty practicing self-compassion, but some people have difficulty with the concept of self-compassion. I’ve had very experienced Buddhist practitioners tell me that while they think it’s good to have compassion for others it’s not desirable or even possible to have self-compassion, or that self-compassion is just self-pity. It’s a shame there’s so much confusion over such a crucial practice.
But in some ways it’s not surprising that this confusion exists. The Buddha just took it for granted that we love ourselves — he said we should love others as we love ourselves, which for self-loathing westerners seems the wrong way around — and as far as …
Oct 09, 2013
I picked up Google Glass, which is essentially a smartphone that you wear on your head, on July 6. I’d made a pitch to Google in order to get Glass, saying that I wanted to explore it as a tool for teaching meditation and mindfulness.
The timing in some ways wasn’t great, because I was working a second job at the University of New Hampshire over the summer, teaching personal development and study skills to teens from low income families. And when that seven-week stint was up I had a heck of a lot of catching up to do back at Wildmind.
But one of the things I did do with …
Oct 03, 2013
I’m always very happy to encourage Buddhist creators, and Adam Kō Shin Tebbe‘s project to document the history of Zen in North America seems well worth supporting. Please head on over to his Kickstarter page and support this excellent documentary.
Zen in America is a multi-part series which will cover the history and practices of Zen in North America. Funding is the first major obstacle in getting any documentary off the ground and a detail every filmmaker wishes they could hop right over. The reality of fundraising is quite real, however, leaving many independent filmmakers like Tebbe to turn to sites like Kickstarter.com.
“Zen in America” tells its story through a patchwork …
Sep 21, 2013
Room to Breathe is a documentary about teaching mindfulness to students of the troubled Marina Middle School in San Francisco, which tops its district for disciplinary suspensions, and has overcrowded classrooms creating an environment in which it’s almost impossible for learning to take place. As assistant principal Anthony Braxton explains near the opening of the film, a significant number of students at Marina “don’t do school” — they don’t see school as being for them.
In the class of Seventh Grade teacher Tom Ehnle, we see kids who are unable to stay on task or to pay attention. They seem to be in a constant state of fidgeting, wrestling with …
Sep 20, 2013
I wanted to let you know about a new book by Rick Hanson that I think you’ll like. Rick, a neuropsychologist and bestselling author, is a contributor to this blog, and his teaching has had a profound influence on my understanding of what’s actually going on when we meditate.
I haven’t read the book yet (I hope to do so soon), so this isn’t a review. It’s just a heads-up that a brilliant author who is always worth reading has a new book coming out. I’m clearing my reading schedule to make sure that I have time to read my review copy when it arrives.
The book’s called Hardwiring Happiness: The …
Sep 19, 2013
I often hear from people who are worried because their meditation practice doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. I think it’s good to be aware of the different ways that change happens when we meditate since your practice hitting a plateau may not be a problem, but just part of a natural process.
Sometimes change happens rapidly. This may happen early on, or at any point in your practice. One striking example was told to me by a friend who owns a health club. One of his employees was very prickly and hard to work with, but my friend realize that this woman had really mellowed out, almost overnight. She was now …
Sep 17, 2013
It’s been reported that Aaron Alexis, the former U.S. Navy reservist who went on a shooting spree on a naval base, leaving 13 people dead, including him, was a Buddhist.
This isn’t of course the first time a Buddhist has acted violently. While Buddhism generally has a peaceful history, Buddhist institutions have persecuted non-Buddhists and those from other Buddhist traditions and have sometimes supported war (Japan in the Second World War is a notable example). And Buddhist individuals have committed pretty much every violent act you can imagine, for their own personal reasons, whether that’s greed, hatred, or, in Alexis’ case apparently, mental illness.
Is it possible, in the face of all this, …
Sep 16, 2013
Well, Cookie Monster doesn’t quite say that, but he comes close. In this Sesame Street video promoting self-control (which psychologists call “executive function” these days) he says:
When me lose control, when me have no doubt
Me have strategies, that can calm me down
Me can talk to self, me can stand up straight
Me can take deep breath, me can self-regulate!
When me lose control, when me on the brink,
Need to just calm down, me need to stop and think
Me need control me self, yeah that’s the way to live
And then me functioning, like an executive.
Check out Cookie Monster’s excellent message, which is as applicable to many adults as it is to children:…