“As a parent raises a child with deep love, care for water and rice as though they were your own children.” Dogen

March 27, 2012

So I was walking to the office the other day, when something rather lovely happened.

Before I say what that was, I have to explain that walking to the office is a new thing for me — or the rediscovery of an old thing. Now before I entered a spell of working from home, I often used to make my morning “walking commute” into a walking meditation. Then, for several years, I did almost all of my work out of the house, and my daily walking meditation died away. But a couple of months ago I rented an office in town, only a 15 minute walk away, and I’m getting back into the habit of … Read more »

“When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over.” Thich Nhat Hanh

February 1, 2012

I grew up in a family dominated by alcoholism, narcissism, illness and dysfunction. There were four of us, my mother, my father, my older brother and myself.

From a young age, I had a lot of responsibility. I was a parentified child, caring for my older brother who was epileptic and also caring for my parents whose main focus of concentration was on themselves.

Growing up I was filled with confusion, dissatisfaction, and suppressed anger.

As a child, I did not know other children were busy playing and being cared for. For me it was all about caring for others. I was left alone while my father worked, my mother shopped, and my brother was … Read more »

“To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.” George Orwell

January 3, 2012

Metaphors can be traps. We can end up taking them too literally. The point of a metaphor is to help us see things more clearly (“time slips through our hands like sand” helps us connect something intangible and abstract, like time, to a physical experience, like sand trickling through our fingers). But sometimes metaphors mislead, and make it harder to see things clearly. The image of the path is one of those metaphors that can potentially trap and mislead us.

The Buddha himself used the image of his teaching being a path. One of his key teachings is the Eightfold Path (aṭṭhaṅgika magga), and in a famous teaching he explained that he was like an … Read more »

“Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.” Martin Luther King Jr.

January 17, 2011

MLKKing intended these words as a comment on the Vietnam War specifically, and on war generally, but when I hear them I think of more day-to-day concerns, and of the way in which our ideals—the way we want to live our lives—become separated from how we actually live, moment by moment. We may want peace in our lives, but we more often end up with strife.

It seems every close relationship we enter is begun in the future hope of continued shared happiness, intimacy, and joy. And yet if we’re not careful we end up with distance, bitterness, and blame. We’d like to get from point A to point B, but end up at point … Read more »

“Thought is gazing onto the face of life, and reading what can be read.”

December 29, 2010

buddha faceAt the climax of the 2001 movie Vanilla Sky, Tom Cruise’s character, playboy David Aames, comes to realize that he’s been in suspended animation for 150 years and is trapped in a dream. He makes this discovery on top of an improbably tall building, apparently miles high, with the guidance of Edmund Ventura, a “Support Technician” who is trying to guide him back to waking reality.

Before he entered suspended animation, David had made the decision to awaken from this dream by facing his fear of heights. In order to wake up, he must now leap from the top of the building. Also on the rooftop is someone who has been a father figure … Read more »

Paul Klee: “Everything vanishes around me, and works are born as if out of the void”

November 11, 2010

paul kleePaul Klee, the famous Swiss/German expressionist painter, may seem to be making an almost mystical claim here — that creativity comes from beyond the conscious mind. I think you’d be right in assuming that creative impulses come from unconscious parts of the mind, but not that this is an exclusively mystical state. In fact, all action ultimately has this quality of coming from “beyond,” but we simply fail to notice this most of the time, because we’re in the grip of the illusion that the conscious mind is “us,” that it owns our actions, and that it’s in control.

When I speak, I’m often aware that my words come from what Klee calls “the void.” … Read more »

“All the elements of nature are interwoven and united with each other.” Gospel of Mary Magdalene

October 20, 2010

four elementsIn this extract from his new book, Living as a River, Bodhipaksa discusses how we have mistaken views that limit our sense of who we are.

In 1911, a 32-year-old sportsman and daredevil called Calbraith Perry Rodgers, with a scant 60 hours of airtime in his logbook, set off to cross the United States from coast to coast in his specially modified Wright airplane—the first in private ownership. His dream was to win the $50,000 that tycoon publisher William Randolph Hearst was offering to the first person to fly across the continent within 30 days, but Rodgers, as much a canny businessman as an adventurous pioneer, had a financial backup plan in case … Read more »

Rainer Maria Rilke: “Go into yourself and see how deep the place is from which your life flows.”

April 19, 2010

CaveTo many people, the word “mindfulness” excludes the imagination, but, as Bodhipaksa explains, there are powerful insight practices that involve mindfully imagining our connection to the wider world.

For many years I’ve been practicing a meditation known as the Six Element Practice.

The Six Element Practice is an insight meditation involving reflection on our impermanence and interconnectedness.

For some practitioners of the most common form of “insight meditation” — that taught by S. N. Goenka, and by various teachers of the Insight Meditation Society — the notion of reflecting on our experience in the way that we do in the Six Element practice can seem odd, and even contradictory to what they understand of meditation … Read more »

P.G. Wodehouse: “If you come to think of it, what a queer thing Life is!”

February 23, 2010

PG WodehouseWe spend much of our time and energy trying to pretend impermanence isn’t real, but the strange thing is that when we embrace impermanence we become happier, Bodhipaksa argues.

Here’s a very “queer thing” about life: sometimes the things that we think will make us miserable actually make us happier. When Professor Eric D. Miller of Kent State University’s Department of Psychology asked people to imagine the death of their partner they reported that they felt more positive about their relationships and less troubled by their significant others’ annoying quirks.

 I spent the afternoon musing on Life. If you come to think of it, what a queer thing Life is! So unlike anything else, don’t

Read more »

Marcus Aurelius: “If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself…”

December 29, 2009

Rock in ocean wavesWe can’t choose what happens to us in life, but we can choose how to respond to it. This piece of practical wisdom is found in the Buddhist tradition, but was also a cornerstone of Stoic philosophy. Bodhipaksa explains how we can untangle ourselves from the stories we tell ourselves about our experience.

Marcus Aurelius is my favorite Stoic philosopher. The Stoics, if you’re not familiar with them, were a school of philosophy who started about 300 BCE and who continued teaching until 529 CE, when the Christian emperor Justinian I banned pagan philosophies.

Although we use the word “stoicism” to mean something like to “grin and bear it” or to “suck it up,” Stoicism … Read more »