www.wildmind.org Wildmind

Also available online at http://www.wildmind.org/newsletter/200502.html

February 2005

Our Online Meditation Courses

A student writes...

"If this was one of those college course evaluation forms I would be filling in all 5's for 'excellent' on course materials, format and the like." Rori Lockman, Maine.

Life member program

  "The Path of Mindfulness and Love" ($75)

  "Change Your Mind" ($75)

  "Awakening the Heart" ($75)

  "Entering the Path of Insight" ($75)

  Life Member Program ($175)

Course Schedule for early 2005

Remember to plan ahead if you're interested in taking one of our courses. You can sign up for any course at any time.

Courses start on the following dates:

  Feb 01, 2005 (Tue)
  Mar 01, 2005 (Tue)
  Apr 04, 2005 (Mon)

Seven Great Reasons to take a meditation course online:

  1. Personal attention: In your online journal you'll have an ongoing practice discussion with your teacher, who will give you encouragement and personal feedback based on many years' experience of meditation.
  2. Depth: As you reflect in your journal, get feedback, and gain insights from learning new practices, you'll take your meditation practice to a new level of effectiveness.
  3. Quality: Access to outstanding written and audiovisual materials online.
  4. Support: You'll benefit from the discipline of a structured four-week course.
  5. Convenience: Log on when you want, fitting classes into your schedule when it's convenient.
  6. Flexibility: Download audio files that will guide you through meditation at any time.
  7. Availability: There are many opportunities each year to take a course. See the dates above for details.


Help Survivors of the Tsunami

Recent news has been dominated by the aftereffects of the south Asian tsunami, and we encourage you to give to the Red Cross and other aid organizations. Although the tsunami happened a few weeks ago, there will be a continuing need for financial aid for a long time to come.

Dear Wildmind Subscriber,

According to a recent Washington Post article, "Brain research is beginning to produce concrete evidence for something that Buddhist practitioners of meditation have maintained for centuries: Mental discipline and meditative practice can change the workings of the brain and allow people to achieve different levels of awareness."

Not only does meditating bring lasting benefits, but anyone can have access to the greater peace of mind, contentment, wellbeing, and improved relationships that come from the practice of meditation.

If you've ever wanted to learn powerful techniques for reducing stress, staying healthy, and for learning conscious relaxation, sign up for one of our convenient online meditation courses. These courses offer a rich experience, with online readings, guided meditations in MP3 and RealAudio format that you can download to your computer, a discussion forum, and personal attention in your online journal. And you have access to all these things 24/7.

Our courses are suitable for anyone from complete beginners to more experienced practitioners. You'll learn powerful techniques for reducing stress and developing patience, relaxation, and calmness in a friendly and supportive environment.

Our courses are currently taught by Subhadramati, who taught meditation at the London Buddhist Centre until she moved to Dublin, Ireland, in 1999 to help establish the Dublin Buddhist Centre.


Our next online meditation courses -- from all levels from beginners onwards -- start Tuesday, February 2. Make sure you book your place now.

In this issue:

  • Meditation in the news
  • Support our translation project
  • Quote of the month
  • Book of the month

Meditation in the news

Many articles this month dealt with the recent Tsunami in south Asia, showing how meditation is helping monks to deal with the emotional effects of cremating thousands of tsunami victims, and how meditation is being used to help survivors to deal with their emotional traumas.

We at Wildmind were delighted to be featured in an article by Microsoft Magazine on the topic of learning meditation online. Look out for the article entitled "Ommm-line Zen," dated January 3.

Please note that some of the news sources require a subscription. We recommend using BugMeNot to bypass registration and to preserve your privacy. We also recommend the free Firefox browser for a safer surfing experience. (We're not associated with Firefox or BugMeNot in any way. We just think these are cool products that you might find useful).

Jan 26 Ayurveda combines exercise, diet, meditation (News-Leader, Missouri)
The system of wellness places people into one of three basic metabolic types, known as doshas.

Jan 25 Resetting your racing mind, to calm down (Newsday)
Lisa Dolan calls it "brain freeze." I see it as "mosquito mind." Kathleen Brown describes it as "a hummingbird on crack." Names aside, we all know just what it is - it's that fracturing that occurs when, despite starting out the day with an excellent plan and well-focused brain, we flip into racing-mind mode.

Jan 23 Meditation quiets the mind and calms the body (Free Lance-Star, Virginia)
But doing it takes patience and practice.

Jan 22 Bridging eastern and western Buddhism (San Francisco Chronicle)
Book reviews.

Jan 20 Recommended for weekend editions (Newsday)
Deepak Chopra's new book, "Peace Is the Way," offers seven daily practices that he says will create inner peace and, by extension, a more placid world.

Jan 18 Doc says meditation may be hazardous to mind, body, spirit (Agape Christian News Service)
Christian physician and author says transcendental meditation may be harmful.

Jan 17 Walking meditation (Express Newsline, Mohali, India)
Meditation is the best way to reduce stress and tensions, increase feelings of well-being, and improve concentration.

Jan 16 Lynch: 'Bliss is our nature'(Chicago Sun-Times)
Director David Lynch explains what motivates him spiritually.

Jan 14 Meditation can be key component of stress management (Pioneer Press, Minnesota)
There are several reasons to add meditation to your stress management toolbox. Practiced correctly, it induces deep relaxation. Practiced regularly, it becomes a therapeutic process that reduces habituated stress.

Jan 9 C'mon, get happy, but the calm will take some cash (NY Times)
Americans working longer hours and carrying larger workloads are a big force driving a lucrative new market centered on relaxation.

Jan 8 Yoga, meditation to detraumatise tsunami-hit kids (Hindu News, India)
"Yoga and meditation will be put to good use as mental health experts try to detraumatise thousands of tsunami-struck children in Andaman and Nicobar Islands who panicked even after 12 days at the thought of a wall of water chasing them."

Jan 6 'Everyone Has His Vietnam' (Beliefnet)
A Vietnam vet-turned-Buddhist monk and peace activist on how mindfulness can heal even the deepest spiritual wounds.

Jan 5 Thai Buddhists bury tsunami victims (NPR Audio)
In Thailand many Buddhist monks have trained in meditation as a way to focus on the transitory nature of life. That training is proving to be critical at this time as Buddhist temples cremate many of the tsunami victims.

Jan 4 North Texans pray for tsunami victims (Dallas Morning News, Texas)
Many in North Texas are turning to their faith in an effort to reconcile devastation previously off the scale of human imagination. They went to their temples, churches and mosques, offering and receiving comfort.

Jan 4 Meditation gives brain a charge, study finds (Washington Post)
Brain research is beginning to produce concrete evidence for something that Buddhist practitioners of meditation have maintained for centuries: Mental discipline and meditative practice can change the workings of the brain and allow people to achieve different levels of awareness.

Jan 4 Years of 'corpse meditation' now serving monks well (Washington Times)
The grim task of cremating thousands of tsunami victims has fallen to Thailand's saffron-robed monks, whose training requires them to stare at photos of decomposing bodies to better understand the transitory nature of life.

Jan 3 Ommm-line Zen: Meditate with your computer (Microsoft Home Magazine)
"When nurse Jerry Meadows needed stress relief, he turned to meditation. And when he needed a way to learn meditation while working 12-hour night shifts in Royal Oak, Mich., he enrolled in an online course with Wildmind, a Buddhist meditation site."

Jan 3 A moment's peace (Portsmouth Herald, New Hampshire)
While some start the new year hoping to lose 10 pounds or save more money, those at the Aryaloka Buddhist Retreat Center on Sunday had a loftier goal in mind - to spread peace.

Jan 2 300 mourn Orbach at star-studded funeral (Indianapolis Star, Indiana)
Jerry Orbach was mourned with music, memories and meditation Friday during a funeral in which he was eulogized as the quintessential New Yorker on the long-running police drama "Law & Order."

Jan 1 Set achievable resolutions to see immediate results (Lansing State Journal, Michigan)
At the top of New Year's goal lists: better organization of time and clutter, and personal growth issues such as improving attitude or state of mind.

Jan 1 Pause and reflect (Bangkok Post)
Looking back on the past year and forward to the next while staying in the moment

begging bowl

Support our translation project

Our mission is to benefit the world by promoting awareness and compassion through the practice of meditation.

Join our list of benefactors! If you've benefited from our site and would like to give something back, then making a donation can help us enormously. You can give as little as a dollar, but of course feel free to give as much as you want!

All contributions (which are tax deductible) go to our translation fund, which aims to help us translate Wildmind into other languages in order to help people around the world develop mindfulness and compassion. We now have French and Spanish versions of the site online, and Chinese, Polish, and Russian versions are in preparation.


amy tan

Quote of the month

"Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire; you will what you imagine; and at last you create what you will."
-- George Bernard Shaw

Imagination can play an important role in meditation, and in spiritual practice generally, but we have to be clear what we mean by imagination. I don't simply mean the mind in its normal, distracted state in which we fantasize, seemingly nonstop. Rather I mean the ability to either spontaneously or purposely and mindfully call an object of concentration to mind.

When we first begin to meditate we often use a physical object to focus on, such as the breath. Later, a more subtle object may spontaneously arise as the mind begins to develop greater calmness and stability. Such a subtle object is known as a nimitta, which may take various forms, including a pleasing sense of rhythm, a silk-like sensation that accompanies the breath but is not a part of the normal sensations of the breath, or a very clear, pleasing, and stable mental image of some sort.

When a nimitta arises spontaneously in this way what seems to be happening is that the imagination, having reached a calmer, more concentrated, and clearer state than usual, of its own accord finds an object that is suited to that level of calmness. And as the mind continues to focus on that object it becomes more concentrated still.

This principle of finding a mental object of concentration that leads us into new and more refined mental and emotional states can also be used purposely in meditation. For example there are visualization practices that involve calling to mind an Enlightened figure, with whom we then experience a connection. This connection, in the form of blessings and light flowing from the figure to us, helps us to develop the qualities of compassion and wisdom that the figure embodies.

Even in the metta bhavana (development of lovingkindness) practice the use of the imagination can help us "re-create" ourselves in a more positive way. We may, for example, consciously visualize ourselves behaving in a caring and compassionate way towards someone that we normally get into conflict with. We imagine this, and then in the future we find that our will (our wish) is actually to behave in a more friendly way to this former enemy, and then from that action follows.

So as George Bernard Shaw said, we can imagine what we desire, and our will and actions follow, so that we create a new way of being for ourselves. An initial, mental, creation provides the template for a new way of being into which we grow.


book cover -- the power of now

Book of the month

The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, by Ekhart Tolle ($10.50, paperback)

By the age of 29 Ekhart Tolle had been depressed for many years and was in a suicidal state, unable to see the point of living but without enough energy to end it. And then something remarkable happened. He had a powerful experience of spiritual awakening, in which he had no thoughts although he was fully conscious, and in which he lost his fear. After that he found himself with a heightened sense of the miraculousness of everyday life, and with a deep sense of peace that has abided to this day. Tolle is now a spiritual teacher, and this book -- his first -- is a distillation of his teachings, much of it drawn from transcripts and including questions from students.

Much of what he teaches is very recognizable to a Buddhist practitioner (from study, if not always from experience). Tolle emphasizes the importance of being in the moment, which is familiar to practitioners of mindfulness meditation. He draws a distinction between mind (mental processes including thoughts, ego identification, and reactive emotions), and consciousness (the luminous and aware space in which mind takes place) and encourages us to identify with consciousness rather than mind. This will be familiar to Vipassana practitioners and even more so to those familiar with the Dzogchen and Mahamudra traditions.

Tolle presents a spiritual path (although he probably wouldn't use that expression) which is completely secular and accessible to all Westerners. He uses the term "God" but makes it clear that he is not referring to an anthropomorphic deity. He also quotes widely from many religious traditions without identifying himself with any of them. He makes it abundantly clear that he is not teaching a "religion." This makes his work particularly interesting to Western Buddhists seeking ways to communicate the essence of the Buddhist spiritual path to their fellow Westerners without the baggage of Eastern cultural trappings.

He is largely successful in this endeavor, which makes his book particularly interesting, but tends to lapse into New Age jargon about "energy frequencies," "activating the pain body," and the like, and to my mind this pseudoscientific language detracts from the underlying clarity and simplicity of his message and sows doubt as to the depth of his realization. I find it hard to believe that Tolle know from personal experience, for example, that as one spiritually develops the body's "molecular structure actually becomes less dense."

But such lapses into what Time called "mumbo jumbo" aside, this book does contain valuable lessons about embracing the present moment, realizing that past and future are merely ideas, and about the fact that we become more peaceful when we cease to identify with the every-changing contents of "mind" and relax back into the luminous space of consciousness. It's very apt that the title contains the word "Power" since Tolle's message, in its essence and (ironically) stripped of its New Age ideological baggage is very powerful indeed.


Copyright © 2005, Bodhipaksa.
Wildmind Meditation Services Inc., PO Box 212., Newmarket NH 03857, USA.

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