Sep 25, 2007
One of the great paradoxes of spiritual practice is that when we empathize with others — sharing their happiness but also their pain — we feel more fulfilled. We’re more alive. We’re happier.
You’d think it would be the other way around: that if we shared another’s pain we’d be more unhappy, and that if we were to steer clear of getting involved in other’s difficulties then we would be happier.
But we don’t seem to be built like that. Humans are inherently social beings, and need one another in order to be fully human.
Aug 27, 2007
Often beginners to meditation think of thought as “the enemy.” They want to stop thinking altogether, to “have their minds go blank” (as if the mind would be blank without words running through it). This is a misunderstanding, but it’s a reasonable one. After all, who isn’t oppressed by the sheer quantity and the nature of their thoughts?
Thought runs wild. It’s relentless, seemingly tireless. Trying to suppress thought is like a crazy game of whack-a-mole. If you try to force a thought out of your mind it pops up behind you.
Thought is obsessive. It grabs hold of a topic and gnaws away at it like a dog worrying a …
Jul 31, 2007
Lorne Ladner, PhD. “When we ask what makes a happy and meaningful life, one problem that can arise is the tendency to respond with an answer that doesn’t really come from the heart.”
“When we ask what makes a happy and meaningful life, one problem that can arise is the tendency to respond with an answer that doesn’t really come from the heart. At such times the conscious mind has one answer and the unconscious has another, so we become conflicted.”
Lorne Ladner, Ph.D., The Lost Art of Compassion
Ladner brings up, in a particularly clear and articulate way, a central problem in living a life centered on the principles of mindfulness and compassion, which is that we are unintegrated beings who often have not yet become aware even of our own lack of awareness.
Being unintegrated means that we are not whole beings, but rather are composed of …
Jun 21, 2007
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time.”
“Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time: the need for man to overcome oppression and violence. Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation for such method is love.” — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I feel it when driving — that desire to get back at the person who cuts me off, or who tailgates, or who nearly hits my car while talking on a cellphone — that surge of fear and anger that causes the heart to beat faster and the hands to tighten around the steering wheel and the thoughts to turn to revenge. If …
May 16, 2007
The Dalai Lama: “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
While it’s quite clear that others may benefit from our compassionate activity, the second part of His Holiness’s observation flies in the face of an assumption that is, for most of us, extremely deep-rooted: that is, the assumption that my individual welfare is best served if I primarily focus on my interests.
But recent scientific research on happiness and brain function suggests that we do help ourselves — by becoming happier — when we help others.
Time magazine recently named Professor Davidson of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, as one of the world’s 100 most influential thinkers. For years Davidson has been researching happiness, sometimes studying Buddhist monks in his lab, …
Apr 10, 2007
Once when I was listening to the Dalai Lama talk in Edinburgh, he was asked a question that went something like this: “You keep talking about changing the world through meditation and compassion, but isn’t anger faster?” His Holiness answered to the effect that it’s precisely because anger acts so swiftly that we have to be wary of it.
His Holiness’s reply reveals Buddhism’s ambivalent attitude to the emotion of anger. Anger’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact it can accomplish a lot of good in the world. Anger can simply be a passionate response to something that we know in our hearts is wrong. His Holiness has himself admitted that he frequently feels …
Mar 25, 2007
Thich Nhat Hanh: “The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.”
When I first started consciously practicing mindfulness in my day-to-day activities, this was one of the first areas I explored. I watched what was running though my head one day as I chatted over lunch with a work colleague. I was dismayed to realize how often I was not really paying attention to him. As he talked about a project we worked on together, I discovered I was busy formulating my own ideas about it. When he continued talking for a long while, I found myself wandering off and planning my afternoon …
Mar 01, 2007
Albert Einstein: “The leader is one who, out of the clutter, brings simplicity .. out of discord, harmony … and out of difficulty, opportunity”
Work life is messy – not just the untidiness of papers stacked in an in-tray or equipment that hasn’t been put back in its place – the whole thing is incredibly messy because life itself is complex. There’s so much choice, so many decisions to make. There are so many things you could be doing, so much information you could be paying attention to, so many people who you could be networking with.
In our working lives we have to make a conscious effort to stay on track. This job is fun but neither urgent nor important. That job is a chore but it’s crucial. And this other thing isn’t even work!
And this sifting …
Feb 23, 2007
Many years ago when I was in college, I performed a solo piano recital. Even though I prepared for months, on the day of the recital I was a nervous wreck. I still had several passages that I hadn’t been able to master, and that was just enough to shake up my confidence. I was all too familiar with every spot in those pieces that could trip me up. I remember taking a deep breath and walking out on stage with a smile plastered on my face, but behind it I was carrying a huge sense of dread.
To make a long story short, the recital worked out fine. I got a big round of applause, …
Feb 23, 2007
Lou Holtz is revered as one of the premier NCAA football coaches of our time. Among his many notable achievements, he led six college teams to championship games within two years of his taking the helm. In the case of the University of South Carolina, it was his leadership that engineered an amazing turnaround from the nation’s longest losing streak to a winning level unprecedented in the school’s 107-year history of competitive sports. In his “retirement,” he has translated his positive attitude and philosophy from football to the larger game of life, and is highly sought after as a motivational speaker who continues to inspire people well beyond the realm of …