Jun 18, 2014
Linking of mind and brain has three important implications.
First, as your mind changes, your brain changes. Your brain changes both temporarily, millisecond by millisecond, AND it changes in lasting ways because – in the famous saying of the Canadian psychologist, Donald Hebb – “neurons that fire together, wire together.”
The fleeting flow of experience leaves behind lasting marks on your brain, much like a spring shower leaves little tracks on a hillside.
For example, the fine motor areas of pianists are measurably thicker than those of non-pianists. Similarly, the portions of the hippocampus that are responsible for spatial memory are discernibly thicker in experienced London taxi drivers compared to when they started their training. …
Jun 14, 2014
Not many people like their bodies. The typical reaction from looking at oneself naked in the mirror lies somewhere on a spectrum from mild disappointment to outright revulsion, with a bit of disbelief thrown in (how did I get so old? where did those wrinkles come from? where’s my hair gone?)
I had a little epiphany the other day, though. I’d been talking with my girlfriend, who I adore. She’s beautiful. Really beautiful. And she’s also afflicted by doubts about her attractiveness. So when we were talking she was going over some of the things she didn’t like about her appearance (wrinkles, etc) …
Jun 13, 2014
Last month I was honored to be a guest of Leo Babauta of Zen Habits, who had asked me to talk about and to answer questions on self-compassion.
It was supposed to be a video, but unfortunately my camera decided to stop talking to my computer just as the webinar began. But Leo kindly send me the audio of the conversation, and I invite you to listen to it below.
I discuss the practice of self-compassion in terms of a very useful Buddhist teaching extracted from the 12 nidanas (links) that illustrate dependent origination, or paticca-samuppada. These are (in a slightly adapted form):
- Contact: the mind’s filtered and interpreted contact with
Jun 11, 2014
I usually describe a practice as something to do: get on your own side, see the being behind the eyes, take in the good, etc. This practice is different: it’s something to recognize. From this recognition, appropriate action will follow. Let me explain.
Some years ago I was invited to give a keynote at a conference with the largest audience I’d ever faced. It was a big step up for me. Legendary psychologists were giving the other talks, and I feared I wouldn’t measure up. I was nervous. Real nervous.
I sat in the back waiting my turn, worrying about how people would see me. I thought about how to look impressive and get …
Jun 09, 2014
I remember one day, thirty years ago, when I was living in Glasgow, Scotland, and was depressed. I can’t remember what I was feeling down about, exactly, although it definitely wasn’t a clinical depression. There were just things in my life that weren’t going well, and I was taking things too seriously. But there I was, in a state of self-pity, heading home on the bus. It was a rainy night, and being on a bus in Glasgow when it’s dark and raining, and the windows are running with condensation, is not a cheery experience. I guess I spent much of the bus-ride mulling over my woes and talking myself deeper into …
Jun 05, 2014
Renunciation is founded on a disenchantment with the world and with experience, based on right view. You see through all the possibilities of experience: you see their ephemeral, insubstantial, empty qualities, no matter how alluring or seemingly gratifying. You see the suffering embedded in the experience, the “trap,” as the Buddha put it. And you see the happiness, peace, and love available in not chasing after pleasure or resisting pain.
Based on this clear seeing, you align yourself with the wisdom perspective and with the innate, prior, always already existing wakeful, pure, peaceful, and radiant awareness within yourself. In so doing, you renounce worldly things and worldly pleasures. …
May 29, 2014
Last year we had an amazing response to our Free Bodhi campaign. Until last year I was up to my eyeballs in administrative tasks, like publicity, financial planning, and even buying office supplies. The Free Bodhi campaign was to raise funds so that we could take on Mark Tillotson as my business manager, and to free me up to teach and to write.
That’s worked out wonderfully! We reached our target, and now I spend my time writing and teaching. This has allowed Wildmind to run massive events as part of our Year of Going Deeper, like our Sit Breathe Love meditation challenge …
May 27, 2014
The difficulty of getting our heads around “non-self”
A lot of people have trouble understanding the Buddhist teaching of anatta (non-self). It’s hard to get the head around. They assume that “someone” has to be in control. They assume that they have a self that they somehow have to lose. And the thought of losing this self brings up problems: sometimes they fear that if they lose this self, then there will be no control (because someone has to be running the show). Sometimes they think that if there were not this “someone” in control, there would be no possibility of making choices: they assume there has to be “someone” who …
May 19, 2014
Today we don’t gather our own food, fight off wild animals, or live in caves. And yet we’re equipped with stone-aged brains. With practice, however, we can change our brains, and our lives, for the better. Here’s why it’s important to take in positive experiences:
- Negative experience is registered immediately: helps survival.
- Positive experiences generally have to be held in awareness for 5 – 10 – 20 seconds for them to register in emotional memory.
- Negative experiences trump positive ones: A single bad event with a dog is more memorable than a 1000 good times.
- Therefore, it is SO IMPORTANT to consciously, deliberately help the brain register positive experiences so they sink into the
May 16, 2014
The truth is: without a genuine willingness to let in the suffering of others, our spiritual practice remains empty.
Father Theophane, a Christian mystic, writes about an incident that happened when he took some time off from his secular duties for spiritual renewal at a remote monastery. Having heard of a monk there who was widely respected for his wisdom, he sought him out. Theophane had been forewarned that this wise man gave advice only in the form of questions. Eager to receive his own special contemplation, Theophane approached the monk: “I am a parish priest and am here on retreat. Could you give me a question to …