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5 Science-backed ways to boost your happiness

wildmind meditation newsStephany Tlalka, Mindful.org: Happiness is hot right now. You can’t visit major blogs like The Huffington Post and MindBodyGreen without running into tips and tricks for harnessing well-being.

That’s uplifting, says Emma Seppala, associate director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University. But she says these blogs are missing one key ingredient. Facts.

“A lot of those articles are intuitively true, but because of my science background, I always look at an article like that and think, ground this in some data!” says Seppala, laughing. “I can’t take it as seriously.”

Seppala has engaged her science background …

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Health and fitness: Mindfulness matters for health

wildmind meditation newsBrian Parr, Ph.D., Aiken Standard: Mindfulness can be described as an awareness of thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and the surrounding environment. This is most commonly explored through mindful meditation, a practice that is credited with improving physical and mental health.

Beyond meditation, being mindful can help to improve attention and focus in nearly every aspect of life.

Thinking about your actions and the effect they have on your health and the health of others can be good for you and those around you.

It turns out that we engage in many health behaviors that are driven more by habit than conscious decision-making. This …

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Sep 02, 2014

The Buddha’s radical path of jhāna

Stone Buddha statueJhāna — 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

Emotional hijacking

Young woman cryingIn 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

Mindfulness training can improve quality of life for memory impaired and their caregivers

wildmind meditation newsMedical News Today: Mindfulness training for individuals with early-stage dementia and their caregivers together in the same class was beneficial for both groups, easing depression and improving sleep and quality of life, reports new Northwestern Medicine study.

“The disease is challenging for the affected person, family members and caregivers,” said study lead author Ken Paller, professor of psychology at Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern and a fellow of the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “Although they know things will likely get worse, they can learn to focus on the present, deriving enjoyment in the moment with acceptance and without …

Sep 01, 2014

Step two – seeing how we can create extra suffering in our lives

Stick with the first dartThe Buddha was asked, what is the difference between how an ordinary person and a wise person responds to pain? He replied with the analogy of the two darts. All of us experience pain – whether that is physical pain like catching your finger in the door or mental pain such as when someone rejects you. This is the first dart, which we could call primary suffering.

An ordinary person then gets caught up in trying to push away or avoid the pain; in blaming themselves or others, or feeling self-pity. This has the effect of making matters worse: the second dart, which we can call secondary suffering. …

Meditation is fine, but what about the Buddhism behind it?

wildmind meditation newsJessica Brown, The Independent: Closing your eyes and being mindful isn’t the only way to achieve inner wellbeing.

Just when you thought it was safe to close your eyes, there has been recent warnings from psychiatrists on the adverse effects of mindfulness meditation. As well as evidence of underqualified teachers, there have been rare cases of depersonalisation, where people feel an out-of-body experience.
There has also been questions raised over the vulnerability of some of those who seek meditation as a form of treatment, regarding the increase in awareness and the emotions this can conjure.

Meditation has fast become synonymous with the improvement …

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Aug 29, 2014

Empathy versus compassion

Avalokitesvara_BodhisattvaOn the Boston Review, Paul Bloom has a provocative article titled “Against Empathy.” It’s not advocating an uncompassionate approach to life, and in fact central to his thesis is that there is a distinction between empathy, which he says can limit and exhaust us, and compassion, which he points out is more sustainable.

There’s one particular section where there are several references to Buddhism and to Buddhist practitioners:

It is worth expanding on the difference between empathy and compassion, because some of empathy’s biggest fans are confused on this point and think that the only force that can motivate kindness is empathetic arousal. But this is mistaken. Imagine that the child of a

Aug 28, 2014

How firmly should you pursue your intentions?

Rural road through the field in the mountainsHow firmly do you pursue your intentions? Neither too tight nor too loose a rein.

As with the balance of the capital city and the provinces, it’s worth considering what your tendencies are and if there is an imbalance. For example, some of us hold onto our goals to a fault (myself, ahem) going down with the ship – pull up! It’s a trap!! – while others give up way too soon or don’t take their own needs and wants seriously enough.

From the Buddhist perspective, the path that leads to the greatest well-being and goodness for oneself and others steers clear of over-striving on the one …

Mindfulness meditation improved quality of life in adolescents with cancer

wildmind meditation newsChristine A. Zawistowski, MD, HemOnc Today: A diagnosis of cancer is accompanied by a high degree of emotional stress.

Consequently, psychological interventions have become a vital and integral component of cancer care.

One example is mindfulness meditation, a form of meditation derived from the Buddhist practice of insight meditation. It is designed to develop the skill of paying attention to both inner and outer experiences with acceptance, patience and compassion. It focuses on experiencing life in a nonjudgmental way, in the moment.

The practice strives to help patients develop stability, inner calmness and non-reactivity of the mind. In essence, it tries to train …

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