Mar 16, 2013
This week one of my students described how she tends to talk to herself in a very harsh tone of voice — much harsher than she’d ever use with other people. And that’s a very common experience. In our own minds we often describe ourself as “an idiot,” tell ourselves that our actions were “stupid,” or limit ourselves by telling cruel stories about how people don’t like us and how we’ll never be good at the things we do.
We tend not to talk this way to others, or at least to a much lesser extent. Of course if we do there tends to be a backlash. We cause hurt, anger, …
Feb 13, 2013
At the weekend I read a great article by Tony Schwartz in the New York Times. It was exactly what I needed at that moment to address the problem of being overly busy. The article was about the importance of taking breaks in order to maintain productivity, and it started like this:
Think for a moment about your typical workday. Do you wake up tired? Check your e-mail before you get out of bed? Skip breakfast or grab something on the run that’s not particularly nutritious? Rarely get away from your desk for lunch? Run from meeting to meeting with no time in between? Find it nearly impossible to keep up with
Jan 19, 2013
There’s a lot of sickness going on at the moment, this being cold and flu season, so the question arises, what should you do about your meditation practice if you’re sick?
It’s tempting to “take the day off.” After all, that’s what we often do with work when we’re feeling under the weather.
But that’s not the approach that the Tibetans take. When they’re sick they do more, not less, meditation. The reason is that they assume, rightly or wrongly, that the illness is the result of previous bad karma, and they want to offset that with karmically healthy activities. So they meditate more. And actually meditating has been …
Jan 12, 2013
Almost everyone is going around making judgments all the time, about others — and about themselves. It’s hard to remember to be compassionate, or to actually be compassionate if we remember. Here’s one perspective that helps me.
Behind every negative emotion, there’s a positive intent or valid need. So when we’re grumpy and unpleasant to people, for example, there’s a need and an intent to defend ourselves (our feelings being fragile and easily provoked at that time). When we crave something it’s because we’re short on happiness, and see the object of our craving as a source of the happiness we need. When we’re worrying about something we’re looking …
Dec 14, 2012
Marge, a woman in our meditation community, was in a painful standoff with her teenage son. At fifteen, Micky was in a downward spiral of skipping classes and using drugs, and had just been suspended for smoking marijuana on school grounds. While Marge blamed herself — she was the parent, after all — she was also furious at him.
The piercings she hadn’t approved, the lies, stale smell of cigarettes, and earphones that kept him in his own removed world — every interaction with Micky left her feeling powerless, angry, and afraid. The more she tried to take control with her criticism, with “groundings” and other ways of setting limits, …
Sep 21, 2012
During the years right after college, I was the director of a yoga studio at the ashram where I was living near Boston. One day, at a time when we were behind in promoting our major event of the year, which featured a number of well-known teachers, the head of our local community arrived late to our weekly staff meeting, visibly upset. I asked him what was wrong.
In a barely controlled voice, he thrust in front of me a flyer I’d created for the event. “Just take a look at this.” Immediately, I saw the typo in bold print—it was the wrong date. My heart sank: …
Sep 12, 2012
Most – perhaps all – of what we human beings do, say and think is associated with our attempt to escape from dissatisfaction or suffering, or, to put it the other way around, to find satisfaction and happiness.
I can actually remember when and where I had this insight myself. It was a real eye-opener for me to realize that everyone just wants to be happy, and that everything they do is an attempt to find happiness. Even the cruel and …
Rick Hanson PhD
May 15, 2012
Can you remember a time when you offered a gift to someone? Perhaps a holiday present, or a treat to a child, or taking time for a friend – or anything at all. How did this feel? Researchers have found that giving stimulates the same neural networks that light up when we feel physical pleasure, such eating a cookie or running warm water over cold hands. Long ago, the Buddha said that generosity makes one happy before, during, and after the giving.
Then there is receiving. Can you remember a different time, when someone was giving toward you? Maybe it was a tangible, something you could hold in …
Rick Hanson PhD
Jan 19, 2012
Rick Hanson, author of Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom and Just One Thing: Developing A Buddha Brain One Simple Practice at a Time, talks about how to develop compassion for yourself.
Rick Hanson PhD
Oct 20, 2011
I once heard a Native American teaching story in which an elder, a grandmother, was asked what she had done to become so happy, so wise, so loved and respected. She replied: “It’s because I know that there are two wolves in my heart, a wolf of love and a wolf of hate. And I know that everything depends on which one I feed each day.”
This story always gives me the shivers when I think of it. Who among us does not have both a wolf of love and a wolf of hate in their heart?
I know I do, including the wolf of hate, which shows up in small …