Taking the self out of self-compassion

October 29, 2015

man looking at universe

One of the most interesting studies I’ve ever seen was by James Pennebaker, a University of Texas psychology professor, and Shannon Wiltsey Stirman, who is now associate professor of psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine.

Poets are particularly prone to taking their own lives, and Pennebaker and Stirman were interested to see if the writings of poets who had killed themselves contained linguistic clues that could have predicted their fate. They matched together, by age, era, nationality, educational background, and sex, poets who had and had not killed themselves, and ran their works through a computer program that looked for patterns in the language they used.

What they found was that the poets who … Read more »

Mindfulness: what it’s not

October 16, 2015

old padlock with key on a green wooden wallWhat is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is when we observe our experience rather than merely participate in our experience. When we’re unmindful, we’re certainly experiencing, but we’re “merely participating” in that experience, swept along in the flow of our thoughts and fantasies, caught up in thinking without being aware of what we’re doing and what effect it’s having on us, and not realizing that we have the choice to do anything else.

When we’re mindful, we observe our experience. We know that we’re thinking. We’re aware of what effect our thinking is having (for example that it’s making us or others unhappy). We’re aware we have choices about what we do and what we think.

And that’s … Read more »

Two events in NYC

October 1, 2015

NYC

I’m appearing in two events at the New York Insight center on Oct 9 and Oct 10.

Dharma in Dialogue: Mythbusting the Dharma

The first of these is a conversation and Q&A with James Shaheen, editor and publisher of Tricycle magazine. James and I both have an interest in clearing up misconceptions about the Dharma. James has been running a series of articles by teachers such as Bhikkhu Bodhi, Thanissaro Bhikkhu, and myself, “mythbusting” some common misunderstandings of Buddhist teachings. I run a site called Fake Buddha Quotes (“I can’t believe it’s not Buddha!”) that examines the many supposed Buddha quotes that circulate on Facebook, Twitter, etc., and that often have nothing to do with … Read more »

On becoming disconnected from oneself in meditation

September 24, 2015

depression conceptI often receive questions by email. Although I’ll sometimes reply directly to them, it strikes me that the best use of my time is to share my responses publicly, so that others might benefit.

Here’s the question, which came from someone who I’ll call Josh.

For a while now, I have been meditating and my body has remained tense – as I am usually quite tense – but my mind relaxes, but in a negative way; it is as if I begin to mentally and emotionally feel numbed out and lost. I would like to be able to meditate on the tension, on emotions, on really anything that’s going on within me, but I end

Read more »

Experience the radically healing practice of self-compassion

September 23, 2015

self-compassion 2Developing Self-Compassion is a 28-day online event starting October 5th.

Self-compassion is the radically healing practice of treating ourselves with the kindness, respect, and gentleness that we would ideally offer to those we love.

We’ll be developing self-compassion and bringing it into our everyday lives.

In this 28-day event you’ll learn how to:

  • Cultivate compassion for yourself (and others)
  • Identify the habits of self-blame that hold you back and cause you pain
  • Distinguish sorrow, pity, and genuine compassion
  • Learn how to appreciate your strengths and relate healthily to “mistakes”
  • Avoid creating unnecessary pain for yourself through reacting to pain
  • Embrace perspectives that help you develop emotional resilience

This event is suitable for people of all … Read more »

The bud dreaming the flower

September 22, 2015

fotolia_63983416Last weekend I taught meditation on a workshop along with another teacher who talked about the importance of goals as part of one’s spiritual path. This is something I often talked about in the past, although it hasn’t been a prominent part of my teaching recently. I think the last time I wrote about it was in my 2010 book, Living as a River.

My own presentation at the weekend was on mindfulness, appreciation, and gratitude: being in and valuing the present moment.

These two themes might seem contradictory, and it was interesting to explore how they’re actually not, but are (or can be) complementary.

One exercise I’ve done myself and which I recommend … Read more »

Listening to the Buddha within

September 20, 2015

Expedient_Means_Lotus_Sutra_2

The history of Buddhist scriptures has, to simplify a little, two main phases. There were the initial teachings, recorded in a number of languages and passed on first orally and then in written form. The sole complete version of these that we have is called the Pali canon.

Then there are the Mahayana (“Greater Vehicle”) scriptures, which often claim to be the word of the Buddha, but which were clearly composed much later. The style of these indicates that they were composed as written works, and didn’t go through a phase of oral transmission.

The fact that the Mahayana scriptures don’t literally come from the Buddha doesn’t invalidate them as sources of wisdom, of course. … Read more »

Connection before kindness

September 17, 2015

love and relationships concept - closeup of woman and man holding handsI’ve had a lot of opportunity to teach metta, or “lovingkindness,” over the last two years. One thing I’m doing differently as a result is referring to metta as “kindness,” rather than “lovingkindness. The “loving” part of “lovingkindness” doesn’t, to my mind, add anything, but rather takes what’s a concrete experience and makes it seem rather abstract. It’s easy to picture what it’s like when someone is kind to you, but it’s harder to imagine someone relating to you in a way that demonstrates lovingkindness.

The simple word “kindness” seems to be an ideal term to translate “metta.” Kindness, after all, is simply relating to another being in a way that respects their desire to … Read more »

Self-consciousness versus self-awareness

September 12, 2015

flow

In meditation we can slip into a flow state — that is, one where we’re un-selfconsciously and happily absorbed in an activity. What we’re focused on in a state of meditative flow are the experiences that are arising in meditation itself. So in a meditative flow state we’re focused on the experience of flow itself.

This is puzzling if we assume that “un-selfconsciously” means “unmindfully.” After all, isn’t meditation supposed to make us more self-aware? The thing is that self-awareness and selfconsciousness aren’t the same thing — at least not in the way those words are being used here.

When we’re selfconscious, and therefore unable to be in a state of flow, what happens is … Read more »

Becoming a hand of the bodhisattva of compassion

September 11, 2015

MULTITUDE OF HANDS 2

The short version is that we’re raising funds to help cover the cost of our recent site redesign.

Not only is the new design more attractive, but it’s designed to be easy to use on a small screen. If you’re on a computer right now, go grab your phone, navigate to www.wildmind.org, and then explore the site. Isn’t it cool?

We’re already seeing the benefits of the change—or rather our visitors are. The number of pages viewed per day have gone up 32%! The amount of time people are spending on the site has gone up 52%! This is fantastic! More people are learning meditation.

The benefit isn’t just for mobile users. To our surprise, … Read more »