Christmas gift ideas for meditators

December 8, 2016

“Do Buddhists celebrate Christmas?” is a question I’m often asked. My answer is usually along the lines that most Western Buddhists do, although not as a religious holiday.

It seems fair enough that a lot of Buddhists do Christmassy things in December, like giving and receiving gifts, and gathering together on the 25th to feast with friends and family. After all, Christianity itself “borrowed” the holiday from European Paganism, where it was known as Yule — a word that’s still in use in Northern Europe. Most of the things that we think of as “Christmassy” — trees, mistletoe, feasting — are in fact “Yule-y,” and nothing to do with the Bible. No religion has a … Read more »

The power of mindfulness — in schools

December 5, 2016

Mindfulness is increasingly being used in schools to help children deal with stress and to improve their ability to manage their emotions. It also helps with focus, attention, and memory. In some schools where mindfulness has been taught, detention rates have decreased dramatically — even dropping to zero.

One school in Baltimore, Robert W. Coleman elementary, has replaced detention with meditation and is seeing astonishing results. In this video, Ali Smith, founder of the Holistic Life Foundation, joins the Emmy award-winning daytime talk show, The Doctors, to discuss the program he helped set up.

This CBS This Morning clip also discusses how mindfulness is being brought into the school. Twice a day, more than 300 … Read more »

Meditation tips for surviving holiday stress

December 5, 2016

meditating santa

The holiday season can be a perfect storm of stressors: financial strain, crowded malls, striving for perfection when we’re entertaining or buying gifts, travel, over-indulgence in food and alcohol, dealing with seldom-seen relatives, and for some of us being on our own while it seems everyone else is merrymaking.

This is where meditation comes in really handy! It’s been shown to reduce stress, so that we can feel at least a little calmer when the world around us is going into a consumeristic frenzy. It helps to reduce depression, too, for those who find that the holiday season is a downer. It promotes joy and other positive emotions. And it helps boost … Read more »

Meet the New Year mindfully!

December 1, 2016

mwhklqgvzck-juskteez-vu

2016 is coming to a close — thank goodness! It’s been a challenging year, with political upsets that the pundits hadn’t predicted — from Brexit to Donald Trump’s election as US president — leading to fears of rising nationalism and racism and deepening rancorous splits in our already polarized societies. And that’s not to mention the loss of beloved celebrities such as David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Harper Lee, Florence Henderson, and Leonard Cohen, to name but a few.

I don’t know what 2017 will be like, but I think we should prepare for further potentially traumatizing events.

A major tool for keeping your head when all around are losing theirs is meditation. My own … Read more »

Insight is not enough

November 12, 2016

flower

These days there’s an increasing interest in gaining insight. (Let’s just accept the loaded word “gaining” for now.) On the whole this is a good thing. For a long time many in the West have been doubtful about whether awakening is a realistic goal. “Maybe we’re too messed up,” and “Maybe the modern world isn’t conducive to awakening,” were common doubts.

As the years have gone by, however, more and more practitioners have had insight experiences, and this has been very encouraging for others. More people now think not just that awakening is possible, but that they personally are capable of it. This is great! How can there be a downside to this?

One thing … Read more »

Ask yourself, “Am I showing love right now?”

November 10, 2016

loving touch

A little while ago, while I was in the shower, I had a series of realizations.

I was unmindfully mulling over a financial problem, because my bank had messed and moved all my money into someone else’s account, and then I became aware that I was caught up in unhelpful and distracted thinking.

My initial thought was that I was being blown around by one of the “four worldly winds” that Buddhism talks about: gain and loss. We often end up thinking that getting and having stuff is one of the most important things in life, and therefore think that losing stuff is important too.

As long as I’m not starving, loss isn’t really a … Read more »

Keep calm and cultivate compassion

November 9, 2016

keep-calm-compassion“Hatred is never appeased by hatred in this world. By non-hatred alone is hatred appeased.” — The Dhammapada

The weeks leading up to the US presidential election were a real emotional roller coaster for me. I’m still a “Resident Alien” rather than a citizen, and so I couldn’t vote. But of course I had opinions and feelings about the outcome of the election, which directly affects my life in many ways.

The election is of course now over, and it didn’t go the way I’d hoped. It was unthinkable to me that Donald Trump could possibly be elected. Even though polls have been wrong in the past, the fact that a large majority of people … Read more »

Finding peace in every moment

October 31, 2016

53682718_mHere is the first email from our Stress Reduction Through Mindfulness event which starts Tuesday, Nov 1!

Often people assume that as a meditation teacher I must be immune to stress. But life can be challenging for anyone! In the last four or five years I’ve gone through a number of very stressful experiences, including the discovery that my tax accountant had covered up the fact that she hadn’t submitted my business tax returns two years in a row, leading to the Internal Revenue Service pursuing me for tens of thousands of dollars in penalties (which I ended up not having to pay any of, fortunately), a painful divorce, moving house several times, surgery for … Read more »

The most important thing right now, is right now

October 18, 2016

tree blossoms

The problem with distractions is that they’re compelling. They make us think that they’re important. They draw us into their stories. It’s as if they’re saying, “This is what you need to be thinking about right now.”

And so, over and over, we end up immersed in stories driven by anxiety, anger, desire, and self-doubt.

These distractions come from relatively primitive parts of our programming, which evolved as protective mechanisms. As mammals who suffered from predation, we needed to be anxious and alert for potential physical threats to our wellbeing. When such threats became actual—a stranger approaching our camp, for example—we might respond with displays of anger in order to invoke respect or fear … Read more »

The components of self-compassion

September 30, 2016

sunflower like the sun in hands isolatedThis post is taken from one of the emails from our online course, How to Stop Beating Yourself Up: Learning the Art of Self-Compassion, which starts tomorrow, October 1. Click here for more information.

Self-compassion is treating ourselves with the kindness, respect, and gentleness that we would offer to those we most love.

There are four components of self-compassion.

There’s mindfulness, which is the ability to observe our experience rather than merely participating in it and being swept along in it. Mindfulness requires that we stand back from our thoughts, feelings, and sensations, and see them as objects separate from ourselves, rather than as what we are.

There’s equanimity, which involves … Read more »