One of the biggest myths about meditation is that it involves experiencing blissful or “spiritual” states of mind. It doesn’t. It’s about experiencing and accepting the very ordinary states that present themselves to us, and working with them, gently and kindly.
Now it is possible to experience beautiful, calm, joyful states of mind in meditation. There are delineated lists of these, complete with traditional accounts of the various factors that constitute those experiences. Those traditional lists correspond closely to the actual experience of contemporary meditators of many spiritual traditions—not just Buddhism. They’re real. They’re attainable.
But if we think that this is what meditation essentially is, then we probably won’t meditate, because most of the … Read more »
The above photograph has apparently been going viral in the last few days. I’ve seen it described as “Canadian police meditating before starting their day,” and also seen doubt being cast upon its authenticity, which isn’t surprising considering how much fake news circulates on the web these days.
The photograph is genuine, and the police officers are Canadian, but the description “meditating before starting their day” is potentially misleading since it suggests that this is a regular part of the police day in Canada.
The photograph is actually one of many taken at the West End Buddhist Temple and Meditation Centre in Mississauga, Ontario, as a a guest lecture to police officers of Peel Region … Read more »
This animated gif of a dog saluting his human is just beautiful. Technically neither of them is doing a “namaste” since that’s a verbal greeting—hence the scare quotes in the subject line of this post. They’re performing the añjali mudrā, which is the respectful putting together of hands, accompanied by a bow. Just thought you’d want to know :)
I was teaching a class the other night and after a guided meditation one woman said she’d found it hard because lots of thoughts came up, and she’d get absorbed in them. Then she had to keep letting go of the thoughts and returning to the breathing. Of course I reassured her that that’s absolutely normal. In fact, noticing that we’ve been caught up in the mind’s stories and returning to our present-moment experience (whether of the breathing or something else) is what meditation is about.
Once you accept that fact, you’re less likely to think of yourself as being a “bad meditator” or to think that your meditation practice isn’t going well just … Read more »
In the field of education it’s common to assume that self-esteem and academic performance are closely linked, and that if you want to maximize students’ potential you need to boost their self-esteem.
Its also common to hear that bullies are people with low self-esteem, and that if you want them to be more respectful of others then their self-esteem needs to be boosted.
Most of this received wisdom has been shown to be highly questionable, or even untrue. It seems that people who do well academically have high self-esteem as a result—not the other way around.
And I’m sure almost every student can think of times they were convinced they were going to fail an … Read more »
Most of us are far too hard on ourselves. We doubt our own worthiness. We talk to ourselves unkindly and often sacrifice our own well-being in order to “get things done.” Often we fear that if we stop criticizing ourselves we’ll cease to perform well.
Paradoxically, though, it’s people who lack self compassion who are more prone to stress and burnout, while self-compassionate individuals are more emotionally resilient, better able to face challenges, and overall more effective.
Self-compassion can be learned. It arises from developing four skills:
Someone recently asked me about how to deal with useful distractions:
As a creative writer, I think I get some of my best ideas while in a meditative state such as when showering or shaving. My question is what I should do when a ‘useful’ or ‘epiphany moment’ happens while meditating. My instinct is to get up and write my idea down and my fear is that if I go back to my breathing I will lose this idea which has bubbled up from my subconscious. I don’t really see my wandering mind as a thing to avoid but a thing to embrace – which confuses me regarding the practice of meditation.
Mind-wandering is partly … Read more »
My experience has been that although mindfulness meditation helps me to feel more joyful, an equivalent amount of lovingkindness meditation has an even greater effect on my sense of well-being.
Imbuing the mind with kindness insulates us from negativity, so that unskillful thoughts and emotions can’t easily take hold. It improves our emotional resiliency, so that challenging circumstances are less likely to drag us down. And it also helps us to feel greater contentment and happiness.
It’s not just formal sitting meditation practice that has this effect, though. Many other activities in daily life can become opportunities to cultivate metta. Here are a few suggestions to help you increase the amount of kindness in your … Read more »
For several years, around the time I first learned to meditate, I lived in an apartment above Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow—one of the city’s main shopping streets. Sometimes it was acutely noisy, with newspaper hawkers advertising their wares, workmen digging up the roads, drunks singing as they staggered home from the pub, or couples having loud—and very public—fights. But even at the best of times there was a chronic, ongoing hum from the thousands of surrounding vehicles, and the quieter babble of pedestrians’ voices. This was something I had to get used to when I was meditating.
At first I would battle to shut out the noise, and try to force myself to focus inward … Read more »
We all long for someone who will love us unconditionally. But what if that person is us?
Most us us have the habit of being hard on ourselves. We talk unkindly to ourselves and often we sacrifice our own well-being in order to “get things done.” We blame ourselves when things go wrong, and often fear that if we stop doing so we’ll cease to perform well.
On this weekend retreat, Bodhipaksa will introduce a step-by-step guide to self-compassion, so that we can learn to be more gentle with and understanding of ourselves.
On this weekend we’ll have a gentle program … Read more »