Insight is not enough

October 12, 2017

These days there’s an increasing interest in gaining insight — accepting the loaded word “gaining” for now.

On the whole this is a good thing. For a long time many in the West have been doubtful about whether awakening is a realistic goal. “Maybe we’re too messed up,” and “Maybe the modern world isn’t conducive to awakening,” were common doubts. As the years have gone by, however, more and more practitioners have had insight experiences, and this has been very encouraging for others. More people now think not just that awakening is possible, but that they personally are capable of it. This is great! How can there be a downside to this?

One thing I’ve … Read more »

Four cast-iron benefits of mindfulness

October 11, 2017

Many thousands of studies demonstrating the benefits of mindfulness have now been published, to the point where mindfulness can almost seem like a miracle cure. The problem is that not all of these studies were conducted well enough to be taken seriously.

Daniel Goleman (author of “Emotional Intelligence”) and University of Wisconsin neuroscientist Richard Davidson combed through thousands of studies and found that only one percent of them match the current gold standards for medical research. While we could rightly despair at the poor methodology of the 99 percent, we could instead focus on the four strongly confirmed findings that Goleman and Davidson have identified in the studies conducted using the soundest protocols.

In an … Read more »

The body-wide wave of breathing

October 4, 2017

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

When I’m teaching a refresher course on meditation, I’ll often ask people first of all just to meditate for a few minutes to arrive, paying attention to the breathing as they normally do. After letting them settle in to their meditation practice for a few minutes I’ll ask that they take one hand and — as they continue to pay attention to the breathing — “draw” in the air over the body the outline of whatever it is they identify as “the breathing.” You might want to try that right now, before reading further.

I wonder what kind of shape you drew on the body, and where? Most people end up inscribing a very small … Read more »

The power of gratitude

September 5, 2017

Happiness is the single most repressed emotion. If that surprises you, just consider what happens in meditation: we simply notice whenever the mind has started wandering down the pathways of rumination (and sometimes it gets quite far before we realize what it’s doing), and then we let go of the thinking we’re doing and come back to our breathing, or to our other immediate sensory experience. After just a few minutes of this we feel calmer and happier — or at least less troubled and less unhappy, which amounts to the same thing.

There’s nothing magical about the breathing that makes us happier. What’s going on here is just that much of our thinking makes … Read more »

The mind knows its own way home

August 21, 2017

cat looking through hole in wooden door

When we’re first learning to meditate, one of the things we have to get used to is that the mind wanders much more than we might expect.

We discover, perhaps, that we can’t go more than two or three breaths without the mind latching on to some thought that’s appeared and going for a long trek through our memories, fantasies, expectations about the future, and so on.

At first this might be frustrating. We get annoyed with ourselves, or with our minds, for being so distractible. We perhaps blame ourselves, and suspect that we’re not cut out for meditation, or worse at it than other people. Meditation seems a bit like hard work.

We learn, … Read more »

Testers wanted for meditation app

August 20, 2017

You’re invited to test out a stellar new iPhone app I’ve been partnering with, called OpenSit. It’s still in the development and testing stage at the moment, so this is an opportunity to try out the app before it goes public.

It’s different from other meditation apps because it offers daily guided meditations to help you sustain and deepen your practice. A variety of teachers are providing regular meditation sessions that you can use to give your meditation practice more of a sense of clarity and direction.

So far the feedback has been really stellar!

If you’re interested in testing out the app, you can request to become a tester by clicking on this linkRead more »

Fully embracing this present moment

August 1, 2017

It was late in the evening when my son told me he’d left his backpack in the car. That’s not a huge deal, but there were things in it that he needed for camp tomorrow, and because of where I live my car’s parked a few minutes’ walk away from my apartment. Again, not a huge deal, but I was tired and I was in the middle of getting both kids together for bed, and would have to wait until they were asleep before I went to retrieve the backpack.

So, with the kids asleep, and my energy failing, I trudged downstairs to fetch the forgotten backpack. I was grouchy and a little resentful — … Read more »

How to calm your mind, quickly and easily

June 30, 2017

We can use our attention in two ways: either as a flashlight or as a candle.

Flashlight attention is where we have a narrow, focused beam of awareness. We observe one aspect of our experience, and because our focus is narrow, we don’t notice much else. This is how we tend to use our attention during the day. You’re almost certainly using your attention like a flashlight right now as you focus on these words. You’re mostly aware of one word flowing after another, building up a pattern of meaning in your mind. You’re probably not aware (until I mention it) of the feeling of your bottom on your seat, or your shirt touching your … Read more »

New course formats on Wildmind, coming Monday

June 17, 2017

Believe it or not, I’ve been running online courses through Wildmind since 2001! I believe in fact that I may have been the first person to offer meditation courses online.

A lot’s changed since I started this. Although we’ve offered courses in various formats, for the entire time I’ve been teaching online I’ve provided a mixture of background reading material and guided meditations in audio format, supported by discussion.

That’s worked pretty well, but more and more people are accessing our courses on mobile devices, on which reading is less enjoyable. I think many of us are finding it harder to stay focused while reading on electronic devices.

So we’re trying an experiment with courses … Read more »

The most important thing you need to know about life, according to Buddhism

June 4, 2017

Arguably the central teaching of Buddhism, without which the others make no sense, is that things change.

While “things change” may seem like a commonplace observation, made by dozens (at least) of philosophers and religious teachers over the last few millennia, the Buddha wasn’t content simply to pay lip-service to the concept of impermanence, but followed through the implications of this fact as far as he possibly could.

He saw our resistance to change as the source of our suffering. He talked about this resistance in terms of clinging — a desperate attempt to hold onto stability in the flowing river of time.

Clinging sometimes manifests as expectation — we want something to happen in … Read more »