Jun 26, 2013
I learned meditation from many people, the first of whom was a man called Susiddhi, another Scot, who was teaching at the Glasgow Buddhist Centre in Scotland. And now that I think about it, I am very grateful for what he taught me, and I’m grateful to the many other teachers I learned from, who often taught each other. This process of teachings being passed on isn’t a linear process of teacher to student. Teachers are also students of each other. …
Jun 25, 2013
The Buddha, in Bhikkhu Thanissaro’s translation at least, said, “A person of integrity is grateful and thankful.” This is one of those thoughts that I’m profoundly grateful for because I don’t think it would ever have occurred to me. Yet searching the web for the terms “gratitude” and “integrity” brought me to an interesting book, The Gratitude Factor: Enhancing Your Life Through Grateful Living, by Charles M. Shelton.
Shelton explores this theme of integrity and gratitude. He distinguishes between thankfulness (which involves being appreciative of some specific person or thing) and gratitude (which is a deeper and more pervasive attitude to life consisting of being grateful not just …
Jun 24, 2013
Jack Kornfield, in his lovely Buddha’s Little Instruction Book, says “The trouble is, you think you have time.” He doesn’t say what we don’t have time for, but presumably he means that we put off important things because we assume that we can do them later. The trouble is, there may not be any “later.”
Recognizing that our time here is short can help us appreciate life more. I opened my book, Living as a River, by discussing how an awareness of impermanence can enhance our appreciation of our loved ones. When married people were asked to reflect on the death of their (still living) spouse, they …
Jun 23, 2013
As we get toward the end of our period of exploring mudita, or joyful appreciation, I wanted to share this clip from Luc Besson’s “Angel-A” (2005). “Angel-A” is about an angel, played by Danish actress Rie Rasmussen, who intervenes to rescue André (Jamel Debbouze), a self-loathing scam artist on the verge of killing himself, and teaches him to love himself.
“Look at your body, battered by the lack of love and trust. Don’t you see it deserves a little care from you? Don’t reject this injured body which has supported you so long, never complaining. Tell it that it’s important, that it has its place. Give it what it …
Jun 22, 2013
I remember precisely the first moment I noticed this in the context of cultivating lovingkindness, which is of course related to joyful appreciation, since both qualities are part of the “four immeasurables.”
At the time, I was having the New York Times delivered to my house every morning. It was one of my great pleasures to have a leisurely breakfast with a cup of tea, toast, and some intelligent analysis from the Op-Ed pages. But first I had to get the …
Jun 21, 2013
“Since my adversary assists me in my Bodhisattva way of life, I should long for him like a treasure discovered in the house and acquired without effort.
“…patience arises only in dependence on that malicious intention, so he alone is a cause of my patience. I should respect him just like the sublime Dharma.”
From the Bodhicaryavatara, by Santideva
The 8th century Indian teacher Shantideva gives us a rationale for feeling grateful to those who wish us harm: our enemies give us an amazing opportunity to practice patience.
This can actually work! This morning on a social network something I’d said attracted the attention of a guy whose communication started off …
Jun 20, 2013
One of my favorite lines in a movie is where a Freudian analyst (complete with thick Viennese accent) asks a man about his childhood.
“I had a normal childhood,” the man replies.
“Ah, so you vanted to kill your fazzer and sleep with your muzzer!” the analyst declares.
I sometimes wonder if Sigmund Freud was an incarnation of Mara, the Buddhist personification of doubt. I’ve lost count of the number of people who have had experiences of happiness undermined because they suspect that they must be repressing something, somehow believing that happiness must be delusional. And many people carry around the notion that there is something fearful and unknown (incest! death wish! penis envy!) lurking …
Jun 19, 2013
At first glance, and maybe at the second or third glances as well, it might seem odd that in the mudita bhavana meditation, where we’re developing joyful appreciation, we’re asked to rejoice in the good qualities of a “neutral person,” who is usually someone we don’t really know. Mostly my neutral people are people who work in shops or post offices, so I have very limited contact with them and don’t know them personally. Yours may have similar roles in your life. So how can we rejoice in qualities when we don’t know the person and may not know what their good qualities are?
Well, one approach to this …
Jun 18, 2013
Appreciation of others’ good qualities improves our lives and makes us happier. But it’s great for them, too, and it can also save our intimate relationships.
I remember one time my wife saying, just after I’d made a critical comment, that I criticized her a lot, which surprised me, because I didn’t think I did. I asked her as gently as I could when the last time was that I’d said something critical, and she couldn’t remember. I asked if it was within the last two weeks. No, it was longer ago than that. The last month? She was pretty sure it was longer ago than that.
So this is indicative of the way …
Jun 17, 2013
In Full Catastrophe Living, Jon Kabat-Zinn writes, “As long as you are breathing, there is more right with you than there is wrong, no matter how ill or how hopeless you may feel.”
From the moment you are conceived, right up until the moment you take your last breath, there is more right with you than wrong with you.
It’s very easy to lose sight of this. When something good happens to us, we often don’t celebrate much and so don’t take it in. And when we do celebrate it’s often almost momentary. And yet we obsess about things that bother us.
Imagine a friend has said an …