Aug 20, 2013
Sometimes I have meditation students who have problems learning a particular meditation technique because it appears to be fundamentally different — even contradictory — to other approaches to meditating that they’ve learned.
In fact, I’ve had experiences myself that are similar in some ways to this. I once went on a retreat run by teachers who have a different approach to me in order to learn more about their techniques and perspectives, and I found that some of the things they said plunged me into doubt and confusion — and aversion.
I found myself in my meditation continually arguing about things that they had said and about how I thought they made no sense. There was …
Jun 13, 2012
Sometimes, when our carefully constructed lives seem to be falling apart – when we get a divorce, lose a business, or are laid off, for example – we can torture and berate ourselves with stories about how we’re failures, what we could have done better, how no one cares about us. Yet, this response of course only digs us deeper into what I call “the trance of unworthiness.”
Distracted by our judgments, we are unable to recognize the raw pain of our emotions. In order to begin the process of waking up, we need to deepen our attention and touch our real experience.
One tool of mindfulness that can cut through our numbing …
Dec 17, 2011
I remember my first weekend retreat at Aryaloka Buddhist Center in the summer of 1993. I took the weekend “off” from family and work obligations to learn how to meditate and take an Introduction to Buddhism class. My first meditation experience in the Meditation Hall at Aryaloka was blissful – even the outdoor birdsong quieted and the stillness was palpable.
During that first meditation class, I was excited to learn the list of hindrances to meditation: sensual desire, ill will, sloth and torpor, restlessness and anxiety and skeptical doubt. I could relate to that list because I experienced those hindrances off the cushion too, to varying degrees, and regularly.
Having the …
Jul 26, 2011
In traditional Buddhist teaching, doubt is a hindrance to progress. Now the English word doubt can also mean something positive — the kind of skeptical enquiry upon when rational thought, science, and even true spiritual practice are based — but the hindrance of doubt is not a helpful thing. While healthy skepticism is an essential part of a search for truth, the hindrance of doubt (vicikiccha) is an avoidance or even denial of the truth.
Doubt is a form of storytelling. It’s the lies we tell ourselves. So when we hit an obstacle and tell ourselves “I can’t do this” or “this is a stupid task anyway,” that’s doubt. When we …
May 20, 2011
Buddhist meditation traditions speak of five hindrances to meditation. No, this isn’t things like throbbing knees or the neighbor playing his stereo too loud. The hindrances are five mental states or activities that “hijack” the mind and make it hard, if not impossible, for us to stay focused in meditation. The central one of these hindrances is doubt.
In English we use the word doubt to mean many things. We can talk about doubt in terms of a willingness to question, and a desire to …
Sep 26, 2010
‘I know how you feel,’ I say. I’m not thinking about running, though, but meditation. I’ve been meditating for some years now, but when I sit down sometimes it feels impossible. My head itches and the items on my ‘to-do’ list compete for attention. There are odd bodily sensations that could be illnesses in the making. And if all else fails, there’s my good old tinnitus.
Outside responsibilities of …
Aug 22, 2010
Have you ever driven away from your house and found yourself wondering whether you’d remembered to close the garage door? Probably.
Have you ever gone back, checked to make sure that the door was closed, driven away, and then had to come back yet again to make doubly sure? And then repeated the entire exercise again? Probably not, but if you have, then you may be one of the millions of people who struggle with obsessive compulsive disorder, or OCD.
Jeff Bell is a well-known author, speaker, and radio news anchor. He’s found himself checking the garage …
Nov 16, 2009
Jeff Bell is a nationally recognized author, speaker, and radio news anchor. His first book, Rewind, Replay, Repeat: A Memoir of OCD, was published in 2007 and quickly established Bell as a leading voice in the mental health community. In this interview he talks about his new book: When in Doubt, Make Belief.
You describe this book as “an OCD-inspired approach to living with uncertainty.” What do you mean by OCD-inspired?
As I recount in my first book (“Rewind, Replay, Repeat”), I spent years battling severe obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), learning firsthand what the extremes of uncertainty can do to one’s life — in my case, leading me …
Nov 10, 2009
In When in Doubt, Make Belief, author Jeff Bell uses his personal experience living with severe OCD to offer a practical guide for the uncertainty that has become an inherent part of life in the 21st century, whether we have OCD or not. In this excerpt, he shares step number 10 from the book’s “10 Steps Out When Stuck in Doubt.”
So here we are at the edge of the Shadow, just one step shy of breaking out, one step away from the freedom we’ve been seeking. Are you ready to take this final step?
Before you answer, let’s look back at the nine steps we’ve already taken. And if …
Jun 17, 2009
Bodhipaksa points out that you “don’t have to believe everything you think.”
I was talking to a friend the other day who’d found that recently he just wasn’t interested in his meditation practice. He’d found that he was watching the breath, but his mind was constantly telling him there were other, more interesting, things that he could be doing — that the breath was boring. The mind is always doing things like this: making up plausible stories that “make sense” of our experience. But the trouble is that these stories often are neither true, nor helpful.
An illustration of how arbitrary and untrue our mind’s stories are can be found in some fascinating brain …