There’s a crack in everything (Day 55)

June 6, 2013

100 Days of LovingkindnessThis morning I was heading to work and I became aware that I wasn’t letting the world in.

Right now in New Hampshire, where I live, it’s late spring or early summer, and the trees, of which there are many on my route to work, are resplendent. Last night’s rains have left the greens and purples of the leaves rich and saturated, and the world is alive and vibrant. And yet for a few minutes it was as if I was seeing this through a filter that stripped out all the beauty. And in a way I was; the filter was my mind, clouded by preoccupations. With this filter of self in place, I saw … Read more »

“May good qualities and happiness continue and increase” (Day 54)

June 5, 2013

100 Days of LovingkindnessYesterday I wrote about how mudita — joyful appreciation — can help us overcome our inherited tendency to pay more attention to the negative than to the positive.

This is important because in the karuna bhavana meditation (developing compassion) we’re inherently focusing on things that are, for want of a better word, “wrong” in life. We’re focusing on pain and suffering, and the difficult side of life, and this can feed in to our negativity bias. We can, in consciously cultivating compassion, end up over-emphasizing the suffering that’s in the world. Now there’s no shortage of suffering in the world, but it’s not all that there is to existence. In any given day, much goes … Read more »

The conscious evolution of appreciation (Day 53)

June 4, 2013

100 Days of LovingkindnessThe neuropsychologist (and Wildmind contributor) Rick Hanson, Ph.D., is very good at pointing out that our brains have a negativity bias. Our brains, as he puts it, are like velcro for painful experiences and teflon for pleasant experiences. And this bias has arisen because of our evolutionary history: hominins and early humans who ignored potential threats didn’t leave many ancestors, and so we’re descended from rather “twitchy” forebears who were good at thinking about things that might go wrong.

But now that, for most of us reading this article, our basic needs are largely covered, and so we find ourselves in the situation not of struggling to live, but of trying to live happily … Read more »

“To believe in the heroic makes heroes” Benjamin Disraeli

June 3, 2013

Benjamin_Disraeli_by_Cornelius_Jabez_Hughes,_1878In the Path of Freedom, a 1st century meditation manual that I’ve mentioned a few times because it’s the earliest source I know of for the cultivation of lovingkindness etc. in stages, we’re asked first of all to connect with mudita (appreciation) in the following way:

When one sees or hears that some person’s qualities are esteemed by others, and that he is at peace and is joyful, one thinks thus: “Sadhu! Sadhu! May he continue joyful for a long time!”

So this brings up the question of who we know (or know of) who is like that. And it also brings up the question of whether we actually want there to be people … Read more »

Cultivating appreciative joy (Day 51)

June 2, 2013

100 Days of LovingkindnessThe third of the Brahmaviharas, or “immeasurables,” after lovingkindness and compassion, is muditā. Muditā is sometimes translated as sympathetic joy, or empathetic joy, or as appreciative joy.

Our old friend, the first century text, the Path to Freedom, describes it like this:

As parents, who, on seeing the happiness of their dear and only child are glad, and say, “sadhu!” so, one develops appreciative joy for all beings. Thus should appreciative joy be known. The undisturbed dwelling of the mind in appreciative joy — this is called the practising of it. Gladness is its salient characteristic. Non-fear is its function. Destruction of dislike is its manifestation. Its benefits are equal to those of loving-kindness.

So … Read more »

The pursuit of happiness (Day 50)

June 1, 2013

100 Days of LovingkindnessWe all want happiness, but much joy do you experience in your life? And I mean real “heart welling up,” “spring in the step,” “full of the joys of spring joy,” “happy for no reason” joy, rather than the dull sense of pleasure that we often experience.

Most people, when they’re asked this question, will say “not much.” Many may go entire days, or even weeks, without any significant joy. Life can often seem like an endless round of chasing deadlines and striving to stay on top of an ever-growing to-do list, and so be imbued with a sense of stress.

Do we even expect to be happy? It strikes me that many of us … Read more »

What animal trainers can teach you about establishing a daily meditation practice

March 27, 2013

Sea lion with ballYesterday someone posted a comment about their “failure” regarding a 100 Day Challenge (not Wildmind’s 100 Day Meditation Challenge, however):

I’ve stuck to my challenge only once — ONCE! — in the past 12 days. MASSIVE failure.

Sorry. It wasn’t a “failure.” It was a “MASSIVE failure.” Yikes!

My immediate thought was that this labeling is very, very counter-productive. This particular person wasn’t trying to set up a daily meditation practice, but the principle is the same. If you aim to do something like meditate every day, and only manage to do it one day out of 12, why not regard that as a small success, rather than as a failure (massive, or otherwise)? After … Read more »

What kind of life would it be, never to rain on a parade?

October 26, 2012

Let’s say you’ve had an interesting idea or moment of inspiration, or thought of a new project, or felt some enthusiasm bubbling up inside you. Your notions are not fully formed and you’re not really committed to them yet, but they have promise and you like them and are trying them on for size. Then what?

If a family member or friend responds in a neutral or positive way, even if they also raise some practical questions, you likely feel good, supported, energized. But if that same person were to lead with a mainly negative response, focusing on problems, constraints, and risks – no matter how valid they are – you’d probably feel at least … Read more »

Mindfulness of good intentions

October 15, 2012

Hustling through an airport, I stopped to buy some water. At the shop’s refrigerator, a man was bent over, loading bottles into it. I reached past him and pulled out one he’d put in. He looked up, stopped working, got a bottle from another shelf, and held it out to me, saying “This one is cold.” I said thanks and took the one he offered.

He didn’t know me and would never see me again. His job was stocking, not customer service. He was busy and looked tired. But he took the time to register that I’d gotten a warm bottle, and he cared enough to shift gears and get me a cold one. He … Read more »

Know you’re a good person

October 29, 2011

For many of us, perhaps the hardest thing of all is to believe that “I am a good person.” We can climb mountains, work hard, acquire many skills, act ethically – but truly feel that one is good deep down? Nah!

We end up not feeling like a good person in a number of ways. For example, I once knew a little girl who’d been displaced by her baby brother and fended off and scolded by her mother who was worn down and busy caring for an infant. This girl was angry at her brother and parents, plus lost and disheartened and feeling cast out and unloved. She’d been watching cartoons in which the soldiers … Read more »