What is suffering? It’s traditionally described as an ill fitting wheel on a chariot. I tend to think of a buckled wheel on my bicycle. It’s a bumpy unsatisfactory journey from A to B. However suffering can be an invitation for us to do the work.
The Buddha has done the work for us. All we need to do is practise. When the Prince became distressed at the sight of aging, sickness and death, he stepped onto the path. He was inspired by a mendicant who was radiating peace and begging for alms. With great energy, faith, meditation, concentration and wisdom, he found an end to suffering and … Read more »
Two days ago I got an email message from a friend, saying that Wildmind had been hacked. Uh, oh. It was about 12:25PM, and the timing sucked, since I was just meeting with a couple of friends who were helping me move the last of my stuff out of the house I’ve been living in for the last nine years. As soon as that was over, it would be time to pick up my kids from school, feed them, and then take them back to school for an ice cream social and art show.
In the email my friend had sent me a screen shot, showing a screed criticizing Israel and the US. The night … Read more »
Studies have found that smiling makes people happier. Normally of course we think of things working the other way around: being happy puts a smile on our face. But the reverse is true as well. Feelings of happiness are triggered even when we don’t realize we’re smiling—for example when we’re clenching a pencil with the teeth, which causes the face to use the same muscles that are used when we smile. So the emotional impact of smiling is obviously not just the power of association, and it seems that it’s the activation of our “smiling muscles” that triggers the happiness response. But maybe it doesn’t matter why it works, as long as it does.
So … Read more »
One of the most attractive things about Buddhism is that it considers ethics to be based on the intentions behind our actions. This perspective is radical in its simplicity, clarity, and practicality.
When our actions are based on greed, hatred, or delusion, they’re said to be “unskillful” (akusala), which is the term Buddhism prefers over the more judgmental terms “bad” or “evil” — although those terms are used too, albeit mostly in the context of poetry. By contrast, when our intentions are based on mindfulness, compassion, and wisdom, they’re said to be skillful (kusala).
For many people accustomed to systems of morality based on commandments, rewards and punishments, the Buddhist ethical perspective is liberating and … Read more »
The first arrow: Think of a time someone said something hurtful to you, and let’s try to break down what happened. A comment was made, and you probably experienced actual physical pain, most likely in the solar plexus or heart. (When the hurt is particularly strong, we sometimes say it feels like we’ve been punched in the gut, don’t we?)
What went on was that some fast-acting part of your brain believed you were being criticized or marginalized, and so identified the comment as a threat to your wellbeing. That part of your brain then attempted to alert the rest of the mind to this threat by sending signals to pain receptors in the body. … Read more »
By day I’m a peace-loving Buddhist; by night a fearless zombie slayer.
That second part isn’t entirely true. Last night I didn’t actually slay any zombies, and I certainly wasn’t fearless. In fact I was terrified as I cowered inside my car as a ravening undead creature tried to force its head through the half-open window, growling and gnashing with its fearful, gaping maw. I tried to stab at it with a pointed stick, but never quite made contact. (Pointed sticks are for vampires, I know, but you have to use the tools available to you, and that’s what I had at hand.)
As it happens, this was just one of the very realistic zombie … Read more »
Karma is one of the most misunderstood Buddhist teachings. Often people think of karma as some kind of external, impersonal force that “rewards” us for our good deeds and punishes us for our bad. Consequently, even some people with an otherwise good understanding of Buddhism reject karma (usually along with rebirth) as being non-rational.
But karma is not external, nor is it about rewards and punishments. Karma simply means “action.” As an ethical term, it refers to the intentions underlying our actions, understood very broadly as anything we might think, say, or do. As the Buddha said, “I declare, intention is karma” (Cetanāhaṃ kammaṃ vadāmi).
What this means is three-fold:
First, ethically speaking our intentions … Read more »
What kinds of things do we get up to when we are meant to be meditating, but have become distracted? Most people will say they “think” or “fantasize,” but that’s not very specific. What kind of thinking is going on? What kinds of desires drive our fantasies?
There are five traditional hindrances to meditation. Speaking very non-technically, what we tend to do when we’re distracted is one of the following:
These are the five hindrances in very non-technical language. Each of them is a form of mental turbulence … Read more »
We know that before Shakyamuni became a Buddha (waking up to the truth of reality) that he tried extreme self-discipline that included abstaining from all forms of indulgence, which was called the practice of asceticism. His self-mortification included eating just one grain of rice a day, and sometimes walking around with one arm in the air for weeks. In his search for an end to suffering, Gautama became like an addict to asceticism. Like today’s addicts, he had learned how to master pain, or so he thought. He grew as thin as a skeleton, and did not budge from his addiction. Still he did not find an end to suffering. Until one day he realized … Read more »
Linking of mind and brain has three important implications.
First, as your mind changes, your brain changes. Your brain changes both temporarily, millisecond by millisecond, AND it changes in lasting ways because – in the famous saying of the Canadian psychologist, Donald Hebb – “neurons that fire together, wire together.”
The fleeting flow of experience leaves behind lasting marks on your brain, much like a spring shower leaves little tracks on a hillside.
For example, the fine motor areas of pianists are measurably thicker than those of non-pianists. Similarly, the portions of the hippocampus that are responsible for spatial memory are discernibly thicker in experienced London taxi drivers compared to when they started their training. … Read more »