How to deal with anger

December 12, 2011

I don’t know if anger, rage, and frustration are getting more common, but it certainly seems like they are.

As we find ourselves snarled in impossibly heavy traffic, overloaded with life’s complexities, dealing with technology that we think should work but sometimes doesn’t, and struggling to survive in a precarious and heartless economic system, it seems a lot of people live with hot coals of irritability burning inside them, and that these hot coals have more than ample opportunity to burst into the flames of anger, or to erupt as emotional explosions of rage.

Techniques from meditation can help us to damp down the flames of our ill will.

Stop, drop, and love

If you … Read more »

Waking up from the hindrance of sloth and torpor

December 6, 2011

Have you noticed that half the time when you ask people how they are, they answer with “tired”? We all seem to be tired, and when we sit down to meditate we may find that we nod off or sit there in a rather dreamy and unfocused state.

This is sloth and torpor — one of the states of distraction that we call the Five Hindrances. The schema of the Five Hindrances is a diagnostic tool that, combined with traditional “antidotes,” can help us to engage creatively with our experience in order to become more joyful, calm, and focused.

Most of the specific antidotes to the hindrances that I’m learned have been shared by other … Read more »

Saying adios to doubt

July 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 tell ourselves … Read more »

How to get into jhana

June 17, 2011

A lot of the time in meditation our experience is of distractions relentlessly colonizing our attention. We set off to follow the sensations of the breathing, but after some time we come to realize that we haven’t been paying attention to the breath at all. We realize that we’ve been caught up in some inner drama, or that we’ve been turning over thoughts in the mind. What were we thinking about, exactly? Often it’s hard to say. Our distractions are often dream-like, and as we “awaken” into a more mindful state they often slip away from us, as do our dreams when we wake in the morning. We commit ourselves once more to mindfully observing … Read more »

Becoming doubtful of doubt

May 20, 2011

Some recent and ongoing research sheds light on how the experience of depression arises, and also squares with the Buddhist teaching on the hindrance of doubt (vicikicchā).

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 seek … Read more »

The Guardian newspaper’s guide to meditation

January 25, 2011

Last weekend the British Guardian newspaper published a guide to meditation. Here are extracts, as well as links to the full articles…

1. How to meditate: An introduction

Rates of depression and anxiety are rising in the modern world. Andrew Oswald, a professor at Warwick University who studies wellbeing, recently told me that mental health indicators nearly always point down. “Things are not going completely well in western society,” he said. Proposed remedies are numerous. And one that is garnering growing attention is meditation, and mindfulness meditation in particular.

The aim is simple: to pay attention – be “mindful”. Typically, a teacher will ask you to sit upright, in an alert position. Then, they will … Read more »

Faith and discipline

August 28, 2009

tree growing in rockLong-time meditation practitioner and teacher Vajradaka gives practical suggestions about how we can rekindle faith in our meditation practice.

Many people struggle to keep up a regular meditation practice, even when they really want to. Here are a few practical guidelines.

Most of those who have difficulties are not disciplined enough in the way they work in meditation, and a measured amount of discipline each day can make the process easier and more enjoyable. For example, you can set yourself the task of shortening the time it takes you to notice when your mind wanders off. At the start of each practice form an intention to catch yourself as soon as possible each time your … Read more »

Anxiety, depression, anger… Paths to purification?

March 27, 2008

Contrary to what you might think, negative emotions are not “bad” things we need to get rid of. Sunada sees them as gold mines – opportunities to learn more about ourselves and walk the path toward uncovering our innate purity.

Meditation is supposed to help us become calm, peaceful, and happy, right? But then when we sit, all this other stuff seems to get in our way – anxiety, worry, depression, irritation, hateful thoughts … So we try harder to get rid of them because, after all, meditation is supposed be about freeing ourselves of all these ugly states of mind, right?

Well, let me stop you right there. Meditation isn’t about willfully fighting and … Read more »