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One thing that’s changed my life more than any other is the practice of self-empathy. Simply hearing the term for the first time was a revelation for me, since I immediately recognized that I wasn’t in fact empathetic toward myself. It had never even occurred to me to have empathy for myself. And this was despite the fact that I’d been, at that point, practicing lovingkindness meditation for more than two decades.
My lack of self-empathy showed itself in the way I could be down on myself when I was struggling. I took being unhappy as a sign of failure, as if I was meant to be happy all the time. At one point my …
While Buddhism teaches that all beings have the potential for awakening, and that we should endeavor to relate with kindness and compassion to everyone, I admit that this is especially difficult for me on social media.
We live in particularly challenging times. Society is becoming more polarized and tribal, and I’m shocked to see a resurgence of racism and of desire for authoritarian rule, for example. Those things really stir me up emotionally when I see them online.
I’d like to offer just a few suggestions that I’ve found helpful when dealing with people I disagree with online. None of this is rocket science, and I’m not presenting myself as an expert. This is all …
My favorite meditation practice from the Buddhist tradition is also one of the least well-known. It’s a reflection on the interconnected nature of our being, and it’s called the Six Element Practice.
It’s my favorite for a number of reasons. For one thing, it’s deeply poetic, evoking our nature as intrinsically part of the universe. For another, it aligns closely with contemporary science, which is a subject I love, and which gives the practice added richness. Lastly, it’s very effective: I and many people I’ve taught this meditation practice to have found that it radically changes our sense of who we are. It gives us a sense of connectedness, of lightness of being, and of …
There’s an unfortunate tendency these days to see mindfulness as being the only quality we need to develop in meditation, and that everything else follows automatically. But that’s not how practice works, or how it’s traditionally been taught.
Just the other week I had a conversation with someone who seemed rather proud that the only form of meditation practice he did was mindfulness of breathing. He saw this as being a complete and sufficient practice unto itself.
The problem was that his personality seemed very lopsided. He was very austere and emotionally dry. In our conversation there was no emotional give and take, and when I talked about a personal matter that was troubling me …
Jack Kornfield, in Buddha’s Little Instruction Book, says, “The trouble is, you think you have time.” In other words, we put off important things, assuming that we can do them later. But there may not be any “later.” Life is short; make good use of it.
Recognizing that our time here is brief can help us appreciate life and see what the important things are. One of the things the Buddha encouraged us to do was to reflect on our own impermanence, and how, in the light of that, it’s important that we take responsibility for our lives.
Life is short; make good use of it. When people hear this they sometimes think it …
Someone wrote to me recently about realizing that she has an underlying feeling of anxiety around the solar plexus that’s there much of the time.
I have that too. It’s not always there, but it is a lot of the time. It doesn’t ruin my life. It doesn’t stop me from being happy. But it’s there. It’s not something that I can “fix” or make go away. And in fact it isn’t helpful even to try. This anxiety is something to be lived with, not banished. And the best way to live with it, I’ve found, is to love it.
Before you can love it, though, necessary to become aware of it. It can be …
I invite you to join a new format of course that I pioneered a few weeks ago. It’s a different kind of meditation course with a new format.
It’s called Sitting With Bodhi.
The second series starts tomorrow, and the focus is on lovingkindness — although I prefer to call it simply “kindness.” It’s all about being more accepting and less harsh toward yourself and others.
It consists of 28 guided meditations which are 10 minutes long but open-ended; they get you started and then invite you to continue with the practice for as long as you want.
And you can work through these entirely at your own pace. Thanks to some kind of …
Recently I’ve been reading The Buddha Before Buddhism, by Gil Fronsdal, which is a translation of what is believed to be one of the oldest Buddhist teachings. It’s had a powerful effect on the way I practice.
It’s interesting how simple this text is. There are no lists: no elaborate eightfold path, no detailed exposition of four noble truths. Rebirth comes up mainly when discussing the beliefs of other teachers; the effects of our actions are mainly discussed in terms of this life, here and now.
There’s nothing about Nirvana, or some future state of spiritual breakthrough. Bliss or happiness are not the main goals; peace is.
And that is the part I find …
I’m going to say something about the arising of insight that I’ve never heard any teacher say before, yet which I think is crucially important if you’re at all interested in where Buddhist meditation can take you.
But first I’ll have to offer you just a little background.
Traditionally, Buddhist meditation has been seen in terms of two different approaches: tranquility (or concentration) and insight.
Tranquility involves calming the mind, steadying the mind, and cultivating peace joy. The experience that arises is called jhana, or absorption. The vast majority of references to meditation in the Buddhist scriptures are about this approach to meditation. The Buddha in fact described it as “the path to Awakening.”