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May 14, 2015

What is mindfulness?

Closeup an eyeConsidering that I’ve been practicing meditation for over 30 years, I’m rather embarrassed about how hard I find it to define mindfulness.

I’ve described it elsewhere as “the gentle effort to be continuously present with experience.”

Jon Kabat-Zinn’s has described it as “Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”

The other day I thought of a useful way to describe or define mindfulness:

“Mindfulness is when we observe our experience rather than merely participate in our experience.”

Unmindfulness is an almost hypnotic state. We’ve lost our perspective on our experience, and we’re swept along by it. We may be caught up in an … Read more »

May 12, 2015

Every moment is a new chance

You Are Not Your Pain Vidyamala BurchYou Are Not Your Pain by Vidyamala Burch Pain always seems worse at night. Something about the silence amplifies the suffering. Even after you’ve taken the maximum dose of painkillers, the aching soon returns with a vengeance. You want to do something, anything, to stop the pain, but whatever you try seems to fail. Moving hurts. Doing nothing hurts. Ignoring it hurts. But it’s not just the pain that hurts; your mind can start to suffer as you desperately try to find a way of escaping. Pointed and bitter questions can begin nagging at your soul: What will happen if I don’t recover? What if it gets worse? I can’t … Read more »

May 11, 2015

Raw Voices podcast

1587The other week I was interviewed by Olivier Larvor and Tim Brownson of the Raw Voices podcast. You can listen to the podcast here.

Olivier seems to be a fan of mine:

A truly enlightening podcast with Buddhist and meditation teacher Bodhipaksa Dharmacari, author of the book ”Living as a river: finding fearlessness in the face of change”

Prepare to be transported by Bodhipaksa’s stories, wisdom and soft-creamy voice.

Such a cool and humourous guy!

And his voice…

Damn!

Silky.

Ok fine, I am jealous!

The interview was rather rambling, since I was responding to questions and points that Olivier and Tim were bringing up. It’s partly about meditation … Read more »

May 08, 2015

Buddhism poised to shrink globally

PF_15.04.02_ProjectionsOverview_populationChange_310pxA new report by the Pew Research Center suggests that of all the world’s major religions, Buddhism is the only one destined to lose ground between now and 2050.

The total number of adherents to Buddhism will remain virtually unchanged, with a slight decline from approximately 187 to 186 thousand people. But since the global population will have risen, the percentage of the world population that practices Buddhism will have declined sharply from 7.1% to 5.2%.

In the meantime, the percentage of the world practicing Christianity will be roughly static, while Islam will go from being embraced by 23.2% to 29.7% of the world.

This strikes me as ironic, since … Read more »

May 04, 2015

Get over it

Vimalasara-790955So I have survived one month of mentorship through my own programme of ‘Eight Step Recovery.’ I’ve relapsed twice, and am back on track with three days of abstinence. I tried harm reduction and it didn’t work for me. Told myself I will eat a handful of raw cashews a day. I even left them out on the kitchen counter so my hosts could share them with me too. But once they were finished, I went out bought a 500 gram packet and proceeded to eat them for my lunch, during a period of three hours. Now you may think: ‘Get over it, you don’t have an addiction. … Read more »

Apr 23, 2015

Forgive Yourself

SONY DSCMeditation MP3 – The Heart’s Wisdom: Development of Compassion Everyone messes up. Me, you, the neighbors, Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, King David, the Buddha, everybody.

It’s important to acknowledge mistakes, feel appropriate remorse, and learn from them so they don’t happen again. But most people keep beating themselves up way past the point of usefulness: they’re unfairly self-critical.

Inside the mind are many sub-personalities. For example, one part of me might set the alarm clock for 6 am to get up and exercise . . . and then when it goes off, another part of me could grumble: “Who set the darn clock?” More broadly, there is a kind of … Read more »

Apr 23, 2015

You are the child of all beings

kuan yin and childA well-known Buddhist teaching explains that all (or at least most) beings have, at one time or another in the inconceivable past, been close family members:

From an inconstruable beginning comes transmigration [saṃsāra]. A beginning point is not evident, though beings hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving are transmigrating and wandering on [literally “saṃsāra-ing”]. A being who has not been your mother at one time in the past is not easy to find… A being who has not been your father… your brother… your sister… your son… your daughter at one time in the past is not easy to find. [Māta sutta]

A millennium or so later … Read more »

Apr 22, 2015

Facing the demon of self-doubt

KrampusSomeone wrote to me the other day, asking for advice:

I just started regularly meditating about a month ago. I’m scared to continue now though. I had a sudden feeling of self resentment and I felt it so deeply. I remembered the bad choices I have made in my life and felt so unworthy of love and compassion. I felt unworthy of the meditation itself. I felt like I was the most selfish person in the world. I can’t even begin to describe how painful it was.

What she’d described is what we call the “hindrance of doubt.” There are five of these hindrances, which are mental patterns that stop … Read more »

Apr 20, 2015

Why develop mindful presence?

Sunset Stone PileMeditations for Happiness by Rick Hanson (3 CDs) This is the second post in the series on mindful presence. You can view Part One here.

So why should we go out of our way to develop mindfulness?

Mindful presence feels good in its own right: relaxed, alert, and peaceful. Not contending with anything. No struggle.

In addition to the inherent, experiential rewards of mindful presence, studies have shown that it lowers stress, makes discomfort and pain more bearable, reduces depression, and increases self-knowledge and self-acceptance.

To quote the father of American psychology, William James: “The faculty of voluntarily bringing back a wandering attention, over and over again, is the very … Read more »

Apr 20, 2015

Meditation in Ontario

harshaprabhaI just wanted to flag up that in late May and June my friend Harshaprabha of the Triratna Buddhist Order will be offering the opportunity to meet with like-minded people in Goderich, Guelph and Sudbury, Ontario.

He has planned a diverse set of events, ones which he believes will meet the expectations of those living in those places.
This is the first of his 2015 visits and one he is particularly looking forward to; not just meeting old and potentially new friends but the first time he has put on events in Sudbury.

Harshaprabha lives in the UK but has family ties to Ontario. He’s visited the province many times … Read more »