What to do when you feel unloved

May 27, 2016

lonely tree

Someone recently wrote to me, saying that she was lonely and felt unloved, and wondering whether the metta bhavana practice (the meditation for developing kindness) would help. I thought I’d paraphrase and expand on what I’d said to her.

The metta bhavana practice can certainly help with feelings of loneliness. In particular, self-metta and self-compassion — showing ourselves the same kindness, support, and encouragement that we show to others that we care about — would be helpful.

Think about that thought, “No one loves me.” You might say things like that to yourself, but would you tell a friend who was lonely, “No one loves you”? How would that make her feel? Would … Read more »

Stepping out of compulsive thoughts, and into freedom

May 19, 2016

Gold Fish Jumping to Empty Bowl

The moment when we realize that we’ve been caught up in a distracted train of thought is a valuable opportunity to bring skillful qualities into the mind, and to cultivate insight.

This is something that’s very familiar to anyone who’s meditated. We’ll start by following the breathing, or some other object of attention, but then without our making any conscious choice to shift our focus we slip into a dream-like state in which we’re rehashing a dispute, or fantasizing about something pleasant, or worrying about some situation in our lives.

These periods of distraction can be so intense that they are like hypnotic states. They’re like dreams. They’re like mental bubbles of an internal virtual … Read more »

“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” — St. Julian of Norwich

December 23, 2014

julianThis was revealed to St. Julian by Jesus in a vision, and recorded by her in her Revelations of Divine Love: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” These words have been of great comfort to me in times of stress and anxiety.

Meditation practice can reduce, but doesn’t erase, anxiety. In fact meditating makes us more sensitive to what’s going on within us, both emotionally and physically. When we meditate we feel more. Meditating can also lead to us being more present with those feelings, so rather than than avoid or bury them we experience them full-on. In these ways, meditation can cause … Read more »

The holographic dinosaur; or, How fear is an illusion

December 20, 2014


You’re walking down a busy shopping street, and you hear panicked screaming. You turn to see what the fuss is, and behind a fleeing crowd you see something impossible: a velociraptor. It’s snarling and roaring, turning its head from side to side as it follows the hysterical populace, almost as if it’s herding them. Perhaps it is.

You panic. Before you even realize you’re doing it, you’re sprinting to the doorway of the nearest shop. Fortunately velociraptors, as is well known, are not good with door handles. As long as you get through that doorway you’ll be all right.

Safe behind the protection of the shop window, you watch people on the street fleeing the … Read more »

The Buddha’s radical path of jhāna

September 2, 2014

Stone Buddha statueJhāna — a progressive series of meditative states of absorption — is a controversial topic in Buddhism. This should be rather amazing given that the Buddhist scriptures emphasize jhāna so strongly. In the Eightfold Path, Right Concentration is consistently defined as the four jhānas. The Buddha said things like “There is no jhāna for him who lacks insight, and no insight for him who lacks jhāna.” The jhānas are enumerated over and over again in the Pāli scriptures. They’re also implicit in teachings like the Seven Bojjhaṅgas, the 12 positive nidānas, and the Ānāpānasati Sutta, which mention various of the jhāna factors.

Despite the scriptural importance of jhāna, some teachers, like Thich Nhat Hanh, have … Read more »

On doing a variety of practices

August 20, 2013

Sometimes I have meditation students who have problems learning a particular meditation technique because it appears to be fundamentally different — even contradictory — to other approaches to meditating that they’ve learned.

In fact, I’ve had experiences myself that are similar in some ways to this. I once went on a retreat run by teachers who have a different approach to me in order to learn more about their techniques and perspectives, and I found that some of the things they said plunged me into doubt and confusion — and aversion.

I found myself in my meditation continually arguing about things that they had said and about how I thought they made no sense. There … Read more »

Meditation as rehabilitation

K. Sharp, toledofreepress.com: How many of you have stepped completely outside your normal comfort zone to try something new and challenging? I recently completed a mentally and physically intense ten-day course in Vipassana meditation technique. This technique has been in practice since the time of The Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama. In short, its aim is to focus the mind on the true cause of suffering in order to properly understand our responses to the joys and miseries we encounter. It seeks to teach how we associate outside sensory objects as the cause of our joy or misery and so we transfer the power…

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Should Buddhist meditation make you happy?

December 30, 2012

Robert Wright, The Atlantic: In Early December, right before I headed off for a one-week silent meditation retreat, I encouraged readers to leave comments or questions about meditation that I could respond to upon returning.

A commenter named Jon Johanning obliged: “If you’re talking about Buddhist meditation, I’m sorry to say that you’re missing the whole point,” he wrote. He was referring to my having noted that on a previous meditation retreat I felt lousy after the first few days but great later on. He continued, “Whether you feel ‘good’ or ‘bad’ or ‘bored’ or ‘fuzzy’ or ‘ecstatic’ or anything else in particular …

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The sound of silence

October 18, 2012

Sarah Berry, The Age (Australia): What’s the point of being completely silent for three days? You could just be drinking cocktails by the pool.

“You’re doing this for fun?” confused friends ask before I leave. After spending three days in ‘noble silence’ and meditating for 11 hours a day, several people with me on the silent retreat are asking the same question.

At the end of the final day, when the silence is finally broken, one woman admits she spent a fair bit of the time wondering why she hadn’t just “booked into a resort and spent the weekend by the pool, sipping cocktails …

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Happy 85th birthday, Bhante Gunaratana

October 9, 2012

The Venerable Henepola Gunaratana Nayake Thera — often known as “Bhante Gunaratana” or just as “Bhante G” — is 85 years old this week. He’s a well-known writer and a highly respected teacher, who has now lived in the US for 50 years. This tribute comes from the Sri Lankan monk and former parliamentarian, Ven. Udawatte Nanda Nayake Thera. (Wikipedia says Bhante G’s birthday is in December, but he’s such a noted figure that he can have two birthdays if he wishes!)

Born to Ekanayake Mudiyanselage Punchi Bandara Nilame and Herath Mudiyanselage Lokumenike on October 07, 1927 in a family of seven in Thumpane of Galagedara, the Ven Henepola Gunaratana Nayake Thera at his young

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