Posts by Wildmind Meditation News

Two Tibetan monks set themselves on fire in protest

news
No Comments

Edward Wong: Two young Tibetan monks set themselves on fire on Monday at an embattled monastery in western China to protest Chinese policies in the area, according to a Tibet advocacy group. The monks were apparently taken to a hospital, and it was unclear what condition they were in on Monday night.

The monastery, Kirti, in a remote area of Sichuan Province, has been the site of at least four recent self-immolations, including the two on Monday.

The latest monks to set themselves on fire were Lobsang Kalsang and Lobsang Konchok, both estimated to be 18 or 19, according to Free Tibet, the advocacy group, which…

Click to read more »

Read More

Online meditation courses start Oct 3

news
No Comments

Feeling ready to invest in your own health and well-being? Want to make the effort to grow in a new direction? And begin feeling more at ease with yourself and your world?

You can learn how with Wildmind’s meditation courses. They’re all personally guided by Sunada, an experienced meditation teacher who provides ongoing feedback and support.

Beginning October 3, 2011:

Read more about our courses here.

Read More

Where to experience Buddhist hell in Thailand

news
2 Comments

Richard S. Ehrlich: Come to Thailand and go straight to hell.

Hieronymus Bosch’s medieval Garden of Earthly Delights and other paintings include sinners in a Christian hell, but if the Dutch artist is ever reincarnated as a Buddhist, he might be intrigued by Thailand’s temple murals and larger-than-life statues of horrific karmic punishments.

Want to copulate in an immoral tryst? Murder someone? Or violate some other important Buddhist precept?

You will soon find yourself in the midst of fiendish demons gleefully boiling wide-eyed sinners in hot, bubbling cauldrons. You’ll be screaming among men and women who have been stripped naked to maximize…

Read the rest of this article…

Read More

Drop the tart tone

on practice
1 Comment

Tone matters.

I remember times I felt frazzled or aggravated and then said something with an edge to it that just wasn’t necessary or useful. Sometimes it was the words themselves: such as absolutes like “never” or always,” or over-the-top phrases like “you’re such a flake” or “that was stupid.” More often it was the intonation in my voice, a harsh vibe or look, interrupting, or a certain intensity in my body. However I did it, the people on the receiving end usually looked like they’d just sucked a lemon. This is what I mean by tart tone.

People are more sensitive to tone than to the explicit content of spoken or written language. To paraphrase the poet Maya Angelou, people will forget what you said, but they’ll remember how you made them feel. And we are particularly reactive to negative tone.

Consequently, tart tone hurts others. This is bad enough, but it also often triggers others to react in ways that harm you and others.

On the other hand, paying attention to tone puts you more in touch with yourself, because you have to be aware of what’s building inside – which also promotes mindfulness and builds up its neural substrates. Containing negative tone prompts you to open to and deal with any underlying stress, hurt, or anger. It reduces the chance that the other person will avoid dealing with what you say by shifting attention to how you say it. Cleaning up your style of expression puts you in a stronger position to ask people to do the same, or to act better toward you in other ways.

As the Buddha said long ago, “Getting angry with others is like throwing hot coals with bare hands: both people get burned.” Much the same could be said about throwing tart tone.

How do we change our tone?

Shifting your tone doesn’t mean becoming sugary, saccharine, or phony. Nor does it mean walking on eggshells, becoming a doormat, or muzzling yourself. Actually, when people shift away from being snippy, curt, snarky, derisive, or contentious, they usually become stronger communicators. They’re now more grounded, more dignified when they bring up something. They haven’t squandered interpersonal capital on the short-term gratifications of harsh tone.

Sometimes people are tart with each other in playful ways, and that’s OK. But keep watching to see how it’s landing on the other person.

Be mindful of what’s called “priming”: feeling already mistreated or annoyed irritated – or already in a critical frame of mind. Little things can land on this priming like a match on a pile of firecrackers, setting them off. Maybe simply take a break (e.g., bathroom, meal, shower, run, gardening, TV) to clear away some or all of the priming. And or try to deal with hurt, anger, or stress in a straightforward way (if possible), rather than blowing off steam with your tone.

Then, if you do in fact get triggered, notice what comes up to say. If it’s critical, acerbic, cutting, etc., then slow down, say nothing, or say something truly useful. Watch those eye rolls or the sharp sigh that means “Duh-oh, that was kind of dumb” (my wife has called me on both of these). Give a little thought to your choice of words: could there be a way to say what you want to say without pouring gasoline on the fire? Look for words that are accurate, constructive, self-respecting, and get to the heart of the matter. Be especially careful with an email; once you push the “send” button, there is no getting it back, and the receiver can read your message over and over again, plus share it with others.

If you do slip, clean it up as soon as possible – which could be a minute after you say it. Sometimes it works to explain – not justify or defend – the underlying reasons for your tart tone (e.g., you’re fried and hungry and it’s been a tough day) to put it in context. Take responsibility for your tone and its impacts, and recommit to a clearer, cleaner, more direct way of expressing yourself.

At the end of an interaction, you may not get the result you want from the other person – but you can get the result of self-respect and feeling that you did the best you could.

Read More

Listening to our children

on practice
1 Comment

Listening helps children feel important, appreciated, and respected. A conversation that could have just touched the surface, deepens dramatically when we really listen to our children.

Parents who listen to their children help them to know what that have to say matters.,

Active listening is a skill that goes beyond just hearing words. It takes energy and understanding what feelings are beneath the words — the emotions and context within which the words are framed.

Here are some tips for active listening:

1. Give your child your entire attention. Don’t be thinking of what you will say when it is your turn to speak.

2. Maintain eye contact and make sure your body language shows you are listening by leaning forward.

3. Don’t multitask when you are listening – just listen to what is being said.

4. Do not get distracted by noises, people or your own thoughts.

5. Keep open to what your child is saying. If you don’t agree, take in what your child says and wait until he or she is finished before responding.

6. Ask clarifying questions without interrupting your child.

You will know you have actively listened when your child seems more at ease after your conversation. Listening to our children validates their experience.

Each evening when you put your child to sleep, ask them what was the best or hardest part of their day and really listen. Your child will know that he or she is important to you.

Read More

The Closing Circle

on practice
No Comments

Writer and meditator Mandy Sutter views the reporting-in process at the end of silent retreats with a mixture of dread and excitement.

Many Buddhist retreat centres embrace the custom of the ‘Closing Circle’.

This doesn’t mean sitting in the middle of a razor toothed torture ring that gradually closes in and squeezes the life out of you, like something out of a James Bond movie.

No. It’s worse than that.

It means that after spending, say, a fortnight in silence with thirty strangers, the group sits in a large circle on the last evening to share their experience.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not against hearing how everyone else got on. Quite the contrary: who wouldn’t long for sensible talk after being marooned with the egotistical maniac who inhabits the inside of my head? I’ve had to listen to her deluded ravings more or less non-stop, unable to drown them out with the radio or a good novel.

But I find the Closing Circle a bit of a nightmare, made proportionately worse by the number of people in it.

Some Closing Circles are uncomfortable in anyone’s money. Those, for example, where everyone thanks everyone else so much, it’s like being at a Bafta Awards night. Or those where the emotional intensity builds so much on the way round the circle that the poor person who goes last has no option other than to say it has been the best fortnight of their life, and collapse in a sobbing heap on the floor.

But even a sober Closing Circle can be tricky to negotiate.

After a fortnight of very low stimulus, the richness of a diverse group of human beings is like a gourmet banquet after a strict diet. The body and mind rebel.

And the false impressions you’ve formed about your co-retreatants in the silence get blown to smithereens. For example, the bloke who did everything in a slow, absorbed way, never smiling or making eye contact (obviously a veteran Buddhist) turns out to be on his first retreat ever. The woman with the radiant smile and calm aura (an obvious bliss-bunny) was in fact freaking out and drove twenty miles to the nearest town on day five before thinking the better of it and turning back.

Such reality checks are definitely a Good Thing. But thirty at once is a shock.

Then there’s the disorientation factor. While you’ve been sobbing quietly through most of the meditations and hit depths of existential despair you didn’t know existed, someone else was loving the imaginative vegan food and enjoying tranquil walks down by the stream.

I often feel a deep sense of community with others when living in silence together. As soon as we’re on speaking terms again, this sense vanishes like a whisper in a wind tunnel. I feel adrift. I wonder: was it just another of my delusions?

In the Closing Circle, we are brought up against the impossibility of doing justice to a wordless experience using words. People go on and on (self included) in their efforts to articulate what can’t be said.

But perhaps I’m alone in finding the Closing Circle hard to handle. How do you go about it?

Read More

Ten days in silence at a meditation retreat changed my life

news
No Comments

Lena Vazifdar: The day I signed up for a silent meditation retreat, I had no idea what I was getting into. The first day, I piled into a red sedan in San Francisco with a 40-year-old hippie in a Hawaiian shirt, a 20-something product developer from India and a straight-faced, vegetarian Indian woman who had been meditating for years. I thought I was about to embark on a great adventure, but little did I know I was beginning the hardest ten days of my life.

I went into the experience with an open heart and mind. My knowledge of Vipassana meditation was…

Read the rest of this article…

Read More

Eat, smoke, meditate: Why your brain cares how you cope

news
No Comments

Alice G. Walton: Most people do what they have to do to get through the day. Though this may sound dire, let’s face it, it’s the human condition. Given the number of people who are depressed or anxious, it’s not surprising that big pharma is doing as well as it is. But for millennia before we turned to government-approved drugs, humans devised clever ways of coping: Taking a walk, eating psychedelic mushrooms, breathing deeply, snorting things, praying, running, smoking, and meditating are just some of the inventive ways humans have found to deal with the unhappy rovings of their minds.

But which…

Read the rest of this article…

Read More

Using mindfulness to reduce the pressure

on practice
6 Comments

Things come at us with so much urgency and demand these days. Phones ring, texts buzz, emails pile up, new balls have to be juggled, work days lengthen and move into evenings and weekends, traffic gets denser, financial demands feel like a knife at the neck, ads and news clamor for attention, push push push PUSH.

On top of these external pressures, we deal with internal ones as well. These include all the inner “shoulds,” “musts,” and “have-tos,” like: “I gotta get this done today or my boss’ll get mad.” Or: “I must not look bad.” Or: “I can’t leave the house with dishes in the sink.” A pushy sub-personality prods us to be better, do better, and have more. Harsh, often unfair self-criticism cracks the whip to keep us going and avoid its lash. Also, we form rigid ideas – often unconscious – of what we just have to have to be successful, look good, own the right car, etc. We develop similar kinds of insistence about how it needs to be for others or the world (e.g., how one’s children must do in school, how the country has to be run).

Whether the pressure comes from outside or inside us, it activates ancient motivational circuits that use the neurotransmitter, dopamine. In a nutshell, dopamine tracks expected results (e.g., emails finished, sales goals attained). If the result actually occurs, dopamine rises, which helps us feel relieved while other neurotransmitter systems such as natural opioids give us a sense of pleasure. But here’s the catch: on the way to that desired result, dopamine levels sink some, which brings an unpleasant sense of stress, unease, pushing, and pressure . . . and if we meet delays or roadblocks or flat-out failure, then dopamine plummets, which feels like disappointment, frustration, even despair. To avoid the pain of dopamine dropping, we drive hard toward our goals, caught up in wanting and desire.

This dopamine system – and related but more evolutionarily recent and sophisticated emotions and thoughts layered upon it – was very effective in keeping our ancestors alive in the wild. And it works well today to keep us motivated during emergencies or necessary marathons of effort, from finals week in college to long runs of advocacy on behalf of a loved one.

But even at best, there is an inherent collateral damage in being motivated by need, urgency, and pressure. It narrows focus to a particular goal in the cross-hairs of tunnel vision. It feels tense, contracted, and uncomfortable – and usually triggers the stress-response system, whose chronic activation has many negative consequences for long-tem health and well-being. Many goals are just not reachable – so we feel bad if we are fixed on attaining them – and even if we do get the desired result, its gratifications are often less than promised, and in any case they fade eventually from awareness like sand slipping through the fingers of consciousness.

And at worst, inner and outer pressures drive us to pursue goals and desires that are bad for us and others. There we are: trying to live up to unrealistic standards, comparing ourselves to others, feeling like we’re falling short, putting the work-life balance on tilt, looking for love in all the wrong places, being hard on oneself or others, pushing to the edge of capacity, and sooner or later running on empty.

Whew. Enough already. Time to ease off the pressure!

There are lots of ways below to take the pressure off. Just find one or two that you like – there’s no pressure in dropping the pressure!

Remind yourself that you can act in competent, honorable, and successful ways even when there is no sense of pressure. You can give yourself over to wholesome aspirations, letting them carry you along with resolve and passion, staying true to your own North Star without straining and stressing along the way. You can be prudent, love others, rise in your chosen work, and nurture our planet without feeling like there’s a stick at your back.

When things come at you – phone calls, wants from others, a fevered pace – try to get a sense of a buffer between you and them, a kind of shock absorber, like you are seeing them through the wrong end of a telescope. Slow things down a beat, a breath, a day. Offer yourself the gift of time – time to figure out if this is really a priority, and when it really needs to get done.

Listen to your body. Are you getting that pressed/squeezed/driven feeling again? Listen to your heart, like it’s a wise sweet being who loves you: what’s it saying?

Be aware of the “shoulds” and “musts” muttering – or shouting – in your mind. Are they really true? And are they really you rather than an internalized parent or other authority figure. What would happen if you dialed back one bit, slowed down by one step, or got one less thing done each day? Let it sink in that there’d be no disaster at all. In fact, probably no one but you would ever notice!

Be easier on yourself. Lower your standards a smidge – unless you’re doing brain surgery or something similar, you can likely afford to lighten up a little.

Be realistic about how long things really take, and how often there’s a slip ‘twixt cup and lip in the affairs of mice and men. Try not to make commitments that will be hard to fulfill; don’t write checks with your mouth that your body can’t cash.

Remember that you are a fundamentally good person. Even if you lower the pressure and a few things get done more slowly or not at all, you are still a good person.

Keep coming back to this moment – in which things are probably usually basically all right. Not perfect, but consider the Third Zen Patriarch’s teaching that enlightenment means (among other things) no anxiety about imperfection. In this moment, you are likely safe enough, fed enough, and loved enough.

You can lower the pressure.

Read More

Ex-convict teaches yoga to help calm violence in Mexico’s prisons

news
No Comments

Lauren Villagran: Teenage boys shuffle into a cramped room. Wearing the same navy blue sweatpants and white undershirts, they sit cross-legged on yoga mats laid out on the floor. Thick scars on forearms and biceps are apparent as they stretch their hands to their knees and shut their eyes.

Yoga instructor – and ex-convict – Fredy Díaz Arista begins guiding a meditation aimed at relaxing the group of 10 young offenders. Among them and their peers, about 300 youth in this Mexico City jail, the crimes range from drug abuse to robbery, assault, and murder.

“How long can you stand yourselves with your…

Read the rest of this article…

Read More
Menu