Stepping out of compulsive thoughts, and into freedom

May 19, 2016

Gold Fish Jumping to Empty Bowl

The moment when we realize that we’ve been caught up in a distracted train of thought is a valuable opportunity to bring skillful qualities into the mind, and to cultivate insight.

This is something that’s very familiar to anyone who’s meditated. We’ll start by following the breathing, or some other object of attention, but then without our making any conscious choice to shift our focus we slip into a dream-like state in which we’re rehashing a dispute, or fantasizing about something pleasant, or worrying about some situation in our lives.

These periods of distraction can be so intense that they are like hypnotic states. They’re like dreams. They’re like mental bubbles of an internal virtual … Read more »

What is insight practice?

December 1, 2015


What is insight practice? Before answering that question, let’s back up a little and ask, “What is the Buddha’s teaching, or Dharma, essentially about?”

Dharma is about attaining freedom from suffering. All Buddhist practice has this aim.

There are of course many different kinds of Dharma practice. To use a classical model, there is 1) ethical practice, 2) meditative practice, and 3) wisdom practice. These all work in different ways to reduce our suffering.

Ethical practice makes us look at what we do and say, with an eye to whether, in the long term, we are causing ourselves and others suffering. So we train ourselves not to cause physical harm, not to deprive others of … Read more »

“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” — St. Julian of Norwich

December 23, 2014

julianThis was revealed to St. Julian by Jesus in a vision, and recorded by her in her Revelations of Divine Love: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” These words have been of great comfort to me in times of stress and anxiety.

Meditation practice can reduce, but doesn’t erase, anxiety. In fact meditating makes us more sensitive to what’s going on within us, both emotionally and physically. When we meditate we feel more. Meditating can also lead to us being more present with those feelings, so rather than than avoid or bury them we experience them full-on. In these ways, meditation can cause … Read more »

The holographic dinosaur; or, How fear is an illusion

December 20, 2014


You’re walking down a busy shopping street, and you hear panicked screaming. You turn to see what the fuss is, and behind a fleeing crowd you see something impossible: a velociraptor. It’s snarling and roaring, turning its head from side to side as it follows the hysterical populace, almost as if it’s herding them. Perhaps it is.

You panic. Before you even realize you’re doing it, you’re sprinting to the doorway of the nearest shop. Fortunately velociraptors, as is well known, are not good with door handles. As long as you get through that doorway you’ll be all right.

Safe behind the protection of the shop window, you watch people on the street fleeing the … Read more »

The Third Noble Truth – the Noble Truth of the end of suffering

December 15, 2014

buddaThe Third Noble Truth comes directly from the Second one: The end of suffering comes with the end of clinging.

As Achaan Chah said, “If you let go a little, you’ll have a little happiness. If you let go a lot, you’ll have a lot of happiness. If you let go completely . . . you’ll be completely happy.”

You can do this at the macro level, in letting go regarding lights turning green, or payments arriving, or your teenage children giving you a hug. Sure, you’d like things to turn out well, and that’s fine. You take practical steps toward them turning out well, and that’s also fine. But you can simultaneously have a … Read more »

The path to insight: a retreat with Bodhipaksa

October 15, 2014

german retreatBodhipaksa is leading a retreat about the path to insight at the Vimaladhatu Meditation House, Germany, from Saturday, August 1st thru Saturday, August 8, 2015.

The Buddha’s teachings offer a pathway to inner peace, freedom, and compassion. But we can only go so far on this path unless we challenge our deeply held assumptions of our own permanence and separateness. Through understanding the eternally changing nature of our being, we can let go of self-grasping and awaken to a natural, spontaneous joy and freedom.

The retreat will be led in English. For those who wish, simultaneous translation into German will be available using headphones.

Click here for more information or to register.

Meditation experts discuss the real secrets to mindfulness at work

March 13, 2014

wildmind meditation newsThe Huffington Post: Once a niche activity for the spiritual set, meditation and mindfulness have made their way into the corporate world, with numerous CEOs opening up about their meditation practices, and more and more companies offering mindfulness training programs for their employees.

So what do the leaders of the mindfulness movement have to say about these shifts occurring in the workplace? During a panel discussion at the Rubin Museum on Monday co-hosted by the Garrison Institute, meditation expert Sharon Salzberg, Focus author Daniel Goleman and Janice Marturano, founder of the Mindful Leadership Institute, discussed the mindfulness at work phenomenon with host David …

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Stroke, meditation and insight

March 12, 2014

wildmind meditation newsMartin LeFevre, Costa Rican Times: “Thoughts That Can’t Be Spoken” is a fascinating piece about a writer’s experience of a stroke. Alberto Manguel describes what happened after “a blood clot in one of the arteries that feeds my brain had blocked for a few minutes the passage of oxygen.” The essay offers much unintended insight into the neurological basis of the meditative state.

During and after his stroke, the Manguel said that it was as if “thought had become demagnetized and was no longer capable of attracting the words supposed to define it.” Declaring that “thought forms itself in the mind by means …

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Cultivate only the path to peace

July 19, 2013

BuddhaThe Buddha was a man on a mission, and very single-minded. He said over and over again that his only interest was in addressing suffering:

Both formerly and now, it is only dukkha that I describe, and the cessation of dukkha.

This word “dukkha” is often rendered as “suffering.” I have no real problem with that translation. It’s accurate. But many people have problems with the word “suffering.” As a friend and I were discussing just the other night, many people don’t recognize the suffering they experience as suffering, and so they don’t think that dukkha applies to them. Often people think of suffering as actual physical pain, or severe deprivation such as starvation, homelessness, … Read more »

Acting with equanimity (Day 86)

July 7, 2013

100 Days of LovingkindnessI’ve always suspected that the Buddha had a hard time expressing himself, not because of any lack of ability of his part, but because the language that he had available to him was very limited. Actually all language is limited, but the Buddha was trying to express teachings that were very profound and subtle. He said he’d doubted whether it was possible to communicate the insights that he’d realized:

This Dhamma that I have attained is deep, hard to see, hard to realize, peaceful, refined, beyond the scope of conjecture, subtle, to-be-experienced by the wise.

Fortunately “he saw beings with little dust in their eyes” and decided it was worth trying.

And he was trying … Read more »