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 …
Dec 05, 2006
“Ye cannot live for yourselves; a thousand fibres connect you with your fellow-men, and along those fibres, as along sympathetic threads, run your actions as causes, and return to you as effects.” -Henry Melvill (1798–1871), influential British priest
Earlier this week, I watched an episode of NOVA, a public television series in the U.S. about current issues in science. The topic was climate change — and specifically how particulate pollution reduces the sun’s warming effects on the earth, and what this phenomenon implies about global warming.
One segment of the show in particular struck me quite deeply. According to one theory, the industrialized nations of Europe and North America threw enough pollutants into the atmosphere to …
Nov 05, 2006
Chogyam Trungpa: “In the practice of sitting meditation you relate to your daily life all the time. Meditation practice brings our neuroses to the surface rather than hiding them at the bottom of our minds. It enables us to relate to our lives as something workable.”
Meditation is not escapism. In fact one could argue that burying ourselves in daily activities with no time set aside for reflection is a classic escapist activity. When we meditate we’re thrust into an awareness — often a very challenging awareness — of exactly what’s going on in our lives. There’s no escaping who we are: as we sit, thought after thought, emotion after emotion, wells up inside of us.
When we’re busy rushing from one task to the next there simply isn’t time to process our thoughts and emotions, to put things into perspective, to think things through. Our hopes and fears end up being, as Trungpa puts it, hidden at the bottom of our …
Oct 05, 2006
Robert Collier: “Any thought that is passed on to the subconscious often enough and convincingly enough is finally accepted”
All too often thoughts set thoughts in motion with little or no conscious intervention on our part, creating an inner avalanche of ideation. Helplessly caught up in this endless cascade, we are swept away by the stories generated by our hopes and fears.
To change the metaphor, each thought sends forth an echoing cry, like an animal calling for its mate, and this cry penetrates the heart, evoking an emotional response. The end result is suffering, stress, depression, anxiety.
Our thoughts form consistent story lines: “Nobody likes me,” “If only such-and-such a thing would happen, then I’d be happy,” “I just know this is going to go wrong,”
Sep 05, 2006
There are some things in life we can change. There are some things in life we cannot change. Knowing which is which is the key to our wellbeing.
Dr. Johnson was not a man to mince his words, and offers us one of his typically bracing edicts. It may strike us at first as being somewhat of an overstatement to suggest that desiring to change something other than ourselves will bring unhappiness rather than the happiness we seek, but the good Doctor, as usual, is very astute.
When we begin by assuming that the cause of happiness or unhappiness lies outside of the mind, we make a fundamental and tragic error. This is a viewpoint that has …
Aug 05, 2006
Milarepa: “When you run after your thoughts, you are like a dog chasing a stick: every time a stick is thrown, you run after it. Instead, be like a lion who, rather than chasing after the stick, turns to face the thrower. One only throws a stick at a lion once.”
Milarepa (1052-1135) was a great Tibetan Yogi who lived an austere life on the bare hillsides of the Himalayas, eking out an existence on donations and the few plants — principally nettles — that grow in that harsh environment. His name means “The Cotton-Clad One,” and he generally wore just a thin sheet, using the heat generated by meditation practices to keep the fierce Tibetan cold at bay.
Despite his remote living situation he attracted many disciples and visitors, and although he belonged to no school he is particularly venerated by the Tibetan Kagyus, who trace their lineage back through him.