“Everyone rushes elsewhere, and into the future, for no one has reached his own self.” Montaigne

September 3, 2015


Montaigne’s words (it’s “Chacun court ailleurs et à l’advenir, d’autant que nul n’est arrivé à soy” in the original French) are a striking reminder of how unsettled and restless we can be.

All too often we do things halfheartedly. The other half of our heart is leaning into the future, anticipating what we’ll be doing next. So we’ll be loading the dishwasher, wishing we were watching TV. But when we’re watching TV, we wish we were on Facebook. Even when having sex, people spend ten percent of their time thinking about something else. We’re so often leaning forward — rushing on to the next activity.

When Montaigne says that “no one has reached his own … Read more »

“But right now … right now”

December 22, 2014

te' versato in tazza ceramica biancaYou know the standard advice: when you notice during meditation that the mind has been caught up in thinking rather than with paying attention to your present-moment experience, just let go of the thoughts, without judgement, and just come back to the object of the meditation practice. And do that over and over.

But sometimes the thoughts are very persistent, especially if there’s something that’s preoccupying you emotionally. If you’ve been involved in an unresolved conflict, or have unfinished business, or if you’re looking forward to some big event, then it’s natural that your mind is going to turn to that over and over.

Over the years I’ve found a “trick” that helps me to … Read more »

“Being in the moment”

March 21, 2014

chain_clock_blur_10(403).jpgOver and over again, you’ll hear Buddhist teachers talking about the need to “be in the present moment,” but interestingly this wasn’t something the Buddha emphasized much. There are one or two scattered references that are similar to the concept of being in the moment, like this one:

They don’t sorrow over the past,
don’t long for the future.
They survive on the present.
That’s why their faces
are bright and serene.

In many ways the language of “being in the moment” is useful, because so much of the time we’re unmindfully caught up in thinking about things from the past, or things that might happen in the future. But actually we only have … Read more »

Taking care of the present moment

August 9, 2013

zen meditation gardenI’ve been having a well-earned rest from blogging after completing our 100 Days of Lovingkindness, during which time I managed to contribute a blog post every day, despite also, for the last month, having an intensive schedule of teaching and family responsibilities.

But practice goes on.

In the Wildmind community on Google Plus we’re working through a book called How to Train a Wild Elephant, which is an excellent book of mindfulness practices written by Jan Chozen Bays.

Week 2’s exercise is as follows:

Leave No Trace

Choose one room of your house and for one week try leaving no trace that you’ve used that space. The bathroom or kitchen works best for

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Mindfulness means keeping things simple

March 7, 2013


Most of us have no end of things to keep up with and sort out. In fact, life sometimes feels bitty, complicated and confusing, and we don’t know how to manage all the demands. Past a certain point we experience stress, feeling that we’ve lost the initiative. Here are some tips on finding an alternative with the help of mindfulness

1.     Come back to present moment experience

Mindfulness means coming back to our experience in this moment, starting with simple, observable sensations. That means letting go, for now, of thoughts about the past and the future that can easily feel confusing. Instead, we ask, what’s happening right now in my body, my thoughts and my … Read more »

Matt Killingsworth: Want to be happier? Stay in the moment

November 12, 2012

While doing his PhD research with Dan Gilbert at Harvard, Matt Killingsworth invented a nifty tool for investigating happiness: an iPhone app called Track Your Happiness that captured feelings in real time. (Basically, it pings you at random times and asks: How are you feeling right now, and what are you doing?) Data captured from the study became the landmark paper “A Wandering Mind Is an Unhappy Mind.”

Here’s an extract of Killingsworth’s fascinating talk (see the video below), which backs up what Buddhists have been saying about mindfulness for centuries: being in the present moment brings happiness.

People are substantially less happy when their minds are wandering than when they’re not. Now you might

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A symbol for mindfulness

November 11, 2012

A graphic designer called Giedrius recently wrote to me from Lithuania, telling me that he had created the symbol above to represent “being here and now – the idea of mindfulness.” He said:

This is an open source symbol that can universally represent mindfulness. It can also work as a reminder that can help people to be aware of the present moment.

His website gives more background information on the symbol:

When you see this symbol, anywhere – in public, personal or virtual spaces – it will work as a reminder for you to become aware of this present moment.

Firstly, this symbol is presented like a physical representation of present moment.

Vertical forms represent

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Relax, you’ve arrived

June 26, 2012

We spend so much of our time trying to get somewhere.

Part of this comes from our biological nature. To survive, animals – including us – have to be goal-directed, leaning into the future.

It’s certainly healthy to pursue wholesome aims, like paying the rent on time, raising children well, healing old pain, or improving education.

But it’s also important to see how this focus on the future – on endless striving, on getting the next task done, on climbing the next mountain – can get confused and stressful.

It’s confused because the brain:

  • Overestimates both the pleasure of future gains and the pain of future losses. (This evolved to motivate our ancient ancestors to
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Five ways to slow down and stop rushing

April 20, 2012

As I was meditating this morning, our cat hopped up in my lap. It felt sweet to sit there with him. And yet – even though I was feeling fine and had plenty of time, there was this internal pressure to start zipping along with emails and calls and all the other clamoring minutiae of the day.

You see the irony. We rush about as a means to an end: as a method for getting results in the form of good experiences, such as relaxation and happiness. Hanging out with our cat, I was afloat in good experiences. But the autopilot inside the coconut still kept trying to suck me back into methods for getting … Read more »

“As a parent raises a child with deep love, care for water and rice as though they were your own children.” Dogen

March 27, 2012

So I was walking to the office the other day, when something rather lovely happened.

Before I say what that was, I have to explain that walking to the office is a new thing for me — or the rediscovery of an old thing. Now before I entered a spell of working from home, I often used to make my morning “walking commute” into a walking meditation. Then, for several years, I did almost all of my work out of the house, and my daily walking meditation died away. But a couple of months ago I rented an office in town, only a 15 minute walk away, and I’m getting back into the habit of … Read more »