Oct 01, 2014
I was asked, “If Buddhism teaches non-self (anatta), then who is doing all this that happens in my life; who meditates?”
There is meditation taking place. There is stuff happening in life. There is the thought, “Someone is doing this.” But that thought is a bit like the idea primitive man may have felt, looking at nature. The wind blows, the leaves rustle, the rain falls. There must be “someone” making this all happen! And so they imagined a god or gods who were doing these things.
Nowadays we talk about all this being an “ecosystem.” But we don’t think of “Ecosystem” as a god who hides behind the scenes, making everything …
Sep 30, 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 October 6, 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 involves …
Sep 30, 2014
Recently a meditation student who’s only just begun practicing wrote to say that she’d experienced a bereavement. She wondered if I had any suggestions to help her through the grieving process.
I have to say first of all that I’m not a grief counsellor. I’m just a meditator who has ended up sharing what he’s learned about working with pain. And I also would like to add that I’m hesitant to give advice in such situations because I know how feeble words can be in the face of powerful emotions. I long ago gave up on the notion I once held that there is some magical …
Sep 26, 2014
Unfortunately we’re struggling financially again this month, and we need to raise at least $4000 before the end of September so that we can cover our payroll expenses as well as the rent and other bills that are due at the start of October. Despite the meditation we do, we find that our position is still rather alarming!
Two months ago Wildmind hit a financial crisis, and you, our supporters, responded magnificently. We were deeply grateful to be helped out of a very scary situation. I apologize for having to approach you again so soon. I’ll say a little about what’s going on so that you understand our situation.
Last year …
Sep 24, 2014
A mountaineering friend of mine used to remark that when he’d meet a rock or other obstruction while coming down a mountain, and was faced with choices — go left, or right? — each choice would lead to other, different, choices. In this way, two different decisions early on — although seemingly insignificant — could result in profoundly different outcomes.
Views we hold can be like that as well. A view like “personalities are fixed” leads to very different results compared to a view like “personalities are fluid.”
A new study illustrates how easily views about our personalities can be changed, and how powerful the effect of …
Sep 19, 2014
Can you stay open to the pain of others?
Humans are an empathic, compassionate, and loving species, so it is natural to feel sad, worried, or fiery about the troubles and pain of other people. (And about those of cats and dogs and other animals, but I’ll focus on human beings here.)
Long ago, the Buddha spoke of the “first dart” of unavoidable physical pain. Given our hardwired nature as social beings, when those we care about are threatened or suffer, there is another kind of first dart: unavoidable emotional pain.
For example, if you heard about people who go to bed hungry – as a billion of us …
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