Sep 17, 2014
In the mid-1970s I worked as a tenants’ rights activist with poor families in Worcester, Massachusetts. Through organizing tenants’ unions we would try to pressure landlords into assuring fair rents and decent living conditions.
One of these unions was comprised of families renting from one of the most notoriously callous slumlords in the city. The union’s leader, Denise, was a forceful and articulate woman who worked hard to galvanize the group into action to fight a steep rent increase that no one could afford.
Over the many months it took to build the union, I had become friends with Denise and her family. I joined …
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 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 …
Sep 02, 2014
In light of the machinery of survival-based, emotional reactivity, let’s look more narrowly at what Daniel Goleman has called “emotional hijacking.”
The emotional circuits of your brain – which are relatively primitive from an evolutionary standpoint, originally developed when dinosaurs ruled the earth – exert great influence over the more modern layers of the brain in the cerebral cortex. They do this in large part by continually “packaging” incoming sensory information in two hugely influential ways:
- Labeling it with a subjective feeling tone: pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. This is primarily accomplished by the amygdala, in close concert with the hippocampus; this circuit is probably the specific structure of the brain responsible
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 28, 2014
How firmly do you pursue your intentions? Neither too tight nor too loose a rein.
As with the balance of the capital city and the provinces, it’s worth considering what your tendencies are and if there is an imbalance. For example, some of us hold onto our goals to a fault (myself, ahem) going down with the ship – pull up! It’s a trap!! – while others give up way too soon or don’t take their own needs and wants seriously enough.
From the Buddhist perspective, the path that leads to the greatest well-being and goodness for oneself and others steers clear of over-striving on the one …
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,
Aug 22, 2014
Intimacy and autonomy are independent dimensions, and it is their combination that counts.
The qualities in each category, imperfectly summarized by a single word, characterize both types of individuals and, more importantly, states of mind we all transit:
- Integrated – Comfortable and skillful with both closeness and agency; able both to carry others in her heart while pursuing her own aims, and to be completely authentic in the most intimate moments; symbolically, “you” and “I” are about the same size.
- Engulfed – Highly connected, but not free to act or express himself fully; giving up “me” is price to be “we;” unnecessarily dependent; clutching, beseeching, placating; could resist encouragement to be
Aug 15, 2014
Do you want to be calmer, happier, and experience more freedom from stress? Mindfulness has been clinically proven to reduce stress, promote feelings of wellbeing, and improve mental and physical health.
The next Power of Mindfulness online course starts September 2, 2014. It’s a four-week meditation course that’s accessible 24 hours a day, every day of the week, wherever you are. All you need is an internet browser. You can even participate on an iPad or other mobile device.
The convenience makes this perfect for people who don’t have meditation classes nearby, or who work irregular hours or who can’t travel because of illness, childcare arrangements, etc.
The course is web-based, and …
Aug 13, 2014
The Buddha taught the Six Element Practice as a way of challenging our assumptions of our own separateness and permanence. In this practice we reflect on the various “elements” that compose our being (solid matter, liquid, energy, gas, space, and consciousness itself) and see how each is a flow, rather than something static. Through this practice we come to see that every aspect of our being is in a permanent state of flux, and that we are nothing more or less than the universe become conscious of itself.
The practices on this CD will help you to:
- let go of limited views of yourself
- feel a greater sense of awe and wonder
- experience a