Mindfulness: what it’s not

October 16, 2015

old padlock with key on a green wooden wallWhat is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is when we observe our experience rather than merely participate in our experience. When we’re unmindful, we’re certainly experiencing, but we’re “merely participating” in that experience, swept along in the flow of our thoughts and fantasies, caught up in thinking without being aware of what we’re doing and what effect it’s having on us, and not realizing that we have the choice to do anything else.

When we’re mindful, we observe our experience. We know that we’re thinking. We’re aware of what effect our thinking is having (for example that it’s making us or others unhappy). We’re aware we have choices about what we do and what we think.

And that’s … Read more »

Separating feelings and thoughts

January 6, 2014

White isolated zipperOne of the participants in our current 28 Day meditation challenge reported that she was experiencing stress because of a new job.

New jobs can be very challenging and bring up a lot of self doubt. I remember that well.

She talked about “feelings of inadequacy and uselessness,” and I could instantly see a practice that would help her deal with the challenges of her new job. The practice is to distinguish between feelings and thoughts.

From the perspective of Buddhist psychology, inadequacy and uselessness are not feelings. Actual feelings that we might experience in a challenging new job include anxiety, or fear, or confusion. “I am inadequate” and “I am useless” are thoughts. … Read more »

“Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final.” Rainer Maria Rilke

November 18, 2013

rilke_33A woman on the Triratna Buddhist Community’s Urban Retreat, which this year focused on the theme of cultivating lovingkindness, or metta, asked a question about how to deal with “strong emotion” — especially grief — that may arise during lovingkindness practice. For this person, grief tended to arise particularly while she was cultivating lovingkindness toward herself, and she wondered how to be honest with her experience but not dissolve into and become lost in it.

I offered her a few suggestions, which I’ll enlarge on here:

1. Stop considering grief as an emotion.

Is grief an emotion? Is “emotion” even a meaningful term, in the context of Buddhist practice?

Increasingly I find the word … Read more »

Body image booster: loving-kindness meditation

October 28, 2013

Margarita Tartakovsky, PsychCentral: In her book The Need to Please: Mindfulness Skills to Gain Freedom from People Pleasing & Approval Seeking, psychotherapist and mindfulness teacher Micki Fine, MEd, LPC, explains that each of us is made of love.

And as we water the seeds of love within us, we can learn to accept ourselves precisely as we are. When you have a negative body image, this can be incredibly hard to do.

That’s when having a daily practice is important. We can start creating new ways of thinking and feeling about our bodies and ourselves.

A daily practice that can be really helpful…

Read the original article »

Even-mindedness and the two arrows (Day 79)

June 30, 2013

100 Days of LovingkindnessUpekkha, or even-minded love, is the fourth of the series of meditations we’re looking at in our 100 Days of Lovingkindness series.

As I discussed in the first post on upekkha, this word has several different meanings, although they’re all related.


  1. Even-mindedness where we are able to accept ups and downs (specifically, pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral feelings) without being thrown off-balance.
  2. Even-mindedness in the deep states of meditative absorption called jhana, where the mind is very stable and focused.
  3. Even-mindedness as one of the four immeasurables (brahmaviharas), where we have even-minded love.
  4. Even-mindedness as a synonym for the awakened state, or enlightenment, where greed, hatred, and delusion have been unrooted, and so the mind
Read more »

Trusting your feelings leads to more accurate predictions of the future

February 25, 2012

A forthcoming article in the Journal of Consumer Research by Professor Michel Tuan Pham and Leonard Lee of Columbia Business School, and Andrew Stephen of the University of Pittsburgh, finds that a higher trust in feelings may result in more accurate predictions about a variety of future events. The research will also be featured in Columbia Business School’s Ideas at Work in late February 2012. In the research, the researchers conducted a series of eight studies in which their participants were asked to predict various future outcomes, including the 2008 U.S. Democratic presidential nominee, the box-office success of different movies, the winner of American Idol, movements of the Dow Jones Index, the winner of a … Read more »

Be the body

December 13, 2011

As a kid, I was really out of touch with my body. I hardly noticed it most of the time, and when I did, I prodded it like a mule to do a better job of hauling “me” – the head – around.

This approach helped me soldier through some tough times. But there were costs. Many pleasures were numbed, or they flew over – actually, under – my head. I didn’t feel deeply engaged with life, like I was peering at the world through a hole in a fence. I pushed my body hard and didn’t take good care of it. When I spoke, I sounded out of touch to others, emotionally distant, even … Read more »

For better sex, meditate!

November 16, 2011

Maureen Salamon: “Am I pretty enough? Am I doing this right? Should I be going to yoga?”

These kinds of anxious, self-judgmental thoughts often run through some women’s minds as they have sex, experts say.

But a new study says “mindfulness meditation” training — which teaches how to bring one’s thoughts into the present moment — can quiet the mental chatter that prevents these women from fully feeling sexual stimuli.

“Rather than feeling it, they get caught up in their heads,” said the study’s lead author, Gina Silverstein, who was a student at Brown University in Rhode Island at the time of the study …

Click to read more »

Four life lessons that bring happiness

January 23, 2011

apples against old stained paperWe all want to be happy. Book stores have aisles and aisles of self-help books, many of which include chapters on how to be happy.

Here is a list of four lessons I have learned that bring happiness:

1. Assume the best.

Recently I had a difference of opinion with a friend and was concerned that she would tell mutual friends that she was wronged by me. I was feeling defensive, but the truth was I did not know whether she had said anything to anyone about the disagreement. When I assumed the best, that she kept our interaction confidential, I felt at ease and open-hearted to her and my other friends.

2. Seek first … Read more »