Posts by Rick Hanson PhD

“Let these three expressions: I do not have, I do not understand, I do not know, be repeated over and over again.” — Padmasambhava

One time, when I was rereading a massive Tibetan Buddhist text called the Life and Liberation of Padmasambhava, I was struck once again by the spiritual power of one particular quote: “Let these three expressions: I do not have, I do not understand, I do not know, be repeated over and over again. That is the heart of my advice.”

I quoted these words to a friend, and she was completely puzzled. “Isn’t your spiritual path all about knowing and understanding things?”

In a way it is. In a way it isn’t. I’ll say more about that in a minute. But first some background.

Padmasambhava was an Indian teacher who travelled to Tibet at the invitation of King Trisong Detsen. His name means “Born from a lotus” and is shortened just to “Padma.” That’s how I’ll refer to him from now on. The king wanted to convert his nation to Buddhism, and in fact had previously invited a noted scholar-monk, Shantarakshita, for that very reason. (Shantarakshita means “Protected by peace.”)

Shantarakshita had been the abbot of a major monastery in India, and his approach to practice emphasized the study of philosophy. This was how one tamed the mind. In the support of this, he had large bodies of Buddhist texts—sutras and commentaries—translated into Tibetan. But this approach failed to resonate with the fiercely devotional and pagan Tibetan people, and definitely not with the king’s ministers, who followed a form of paganism and were fiercely opposed to Buddhism. In a symbolic representation of this mismatch, it’s said that as fast as the walls of Shantarakshita’s monastery could be built up during the day, the demons of Tibet would dismantle them at night. Hence Padma’s invitation.

Padma was a different kind of teacher. He was steeped in the teaching of Tantra, where the aim was not to eliminate potentially destructive energies such as craving and ill-will, but to harness and redirect them toward positive ends. He was a sort of shamanic teacher, who tackled the demons of Tibet, battling with them until they promised loyalty to the teachings.

Shantarakshita and Padma both taught meditation, but they had different approaches. If craving and hatred are mental poisons, then Shantarakshita’s approach was to use antidotes to eliminate those poisons. Padma’s was to see how these poisons could be used medicinally.

Padma’s instructions for meditation often deal with “allowing the mind to rest in its natural state.” The mind, resting in awareness, is naturally clear, blissful, and wise. Ultimately we don’t “effort” our way to enlightenment. It’s already there.We let ourselves settle into it. We let go into it.

To make some sense of that, let’s turn to a simile, or series of similes, that the Buddha used. He talked about various disturbances of the mind being like water whipped up by the wind (worry and restlessness), water that’s stagnant (laziness), boiling water (ill will), water that’s been dyed (craving), and water that’s had mud stirred into it (doubt). In all these similes, something pure, clear, and natural has been altered in ways that make it unwholesome or dangerous. In all of these similes, if the water is allowed to be at rest, it returns to a pure state. Boiling water, left alone, cools. Water that isn’t stirred up by the wind becomes still. When it’s still, it reflects clearly, and we can also see into its depths. Mud stirred into water settles, and the water becomes pure. And so on.

How do the expressions, I do not have, I do not understand, and I do not know fit in with this? How can they be spiritually useful?

The idea that we “have” something, whether we’re talking about a physical possession or the belief that we possess some kind of truth, leads to disturbance in the mind. When a possession is threatened we get anxious, or depressed, or angry. Think about how you feel when a physical possession is lost, or broken, or is compared to something “better.”

And our understandings and what we think we “know” are just other ways of having or owning. What I think Padma is referring to here is when we cling to particular ways of seeing things. We do this in order to feel secure. Pretty much all of us say “But I don’t do that! I’m open-minded!” And yet it usually bothers us if someone actively challenges our views on things like politics and religion. It even bothers us even if we just learn that someone has different views!

Having, understanding, and knowing disturb the mind. They also limit it. They stop us from being open and curious. They’re forms of holding on, that prevent us from letting go, which is what we need to learn to do.

So back to that question, “Isn’t your spiritual path all about knowing and understanding things?” I said earlier that the answer was both no and yes. It’s no in that it’s not, ultimately, about developing an encyclopedic understanding of the Buddha’s teachings or of later teachings. It’s not about mastering the map. It’s about traveling the territory that the map is describing. The kind of understanding and knowing that comes from studying maps is fundamentally different from the kind we get from traveling the territory.

The Buddha talked about this, when he was asked whether what we taught was something he had memorized. He said,

When clever aristocrats, brahmins, householders, or ascetics come to see me with a question already planned, the answer just appears to me on the spot. Why is that? Because the Realized One has clearly comprehended the principle of the teachings, so that the answer just appears to him on the spot.

Just before saying this he gave the example of knowing how a chariot is built and how it works. When you understand this from experience, when you’re asked about the topic you don’t have a bunch of pre-prepared, memorized statements to make. You just speak spontaneously.

I think what Padma is getting at is that we maintain an attitude of skepticism about our having, our understanding, and our knowing. That we hold all these things provisionally and lightly. That we be open to learning. That we be curious about what we might learn. That we don’t confuse what we have heard with what we know from experience. And that when we talk to others we distinguish between whether we’re talking about our knowledge of the map, or our knowledge of the territory.

If you would like to support Wildmind in producing articles like this, AND get access to dozens of online meditation courses, please look into becoming a sponsor for as little as $6 a month.

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At times I thought I was crazy…

It’s Bodhipaksa here, and I want to tell you (more) about…

My Big Idea!

A few months ago, realizing that offering our online meditation courses by donation was no longer viable, I came up with the idea of turning Wildmind into a Community-Supported Meditation Initiative.

The idea was that we’d have 1,500 shares available for sponsorship. When people like you sponsored these shares, for just $6 a month, they’d get access to the body of online meditation courses that I’d created over the years, along with some other perks. This would also give me the financial stability to continue to teach meditation. It’s a win/win proposition!

The Big Question: Would It Work?

I have to say that early on, I wondered if I was insane. I really started to doubt whether there were enough people who would step up and take advantage of this initiative. Fortunately it turns out that I wasn’t crazy after all!

We’ve had incredibly steady growth. I’d feared that we might have some initial rapid growth, followed by a plateau, but so far, three months in, that hasn’t happened.

How You Benefit

We’re now approaching 600 sponsors, because the benefits are so great! More about those in a moment.

On average each subscriber is sponsoring two shares, even though they’d get the same benefits for sponsoring just one, at $6 a month. Why are they doing that? Because they appreciate what’s going on here, and want to support it. So there’s the benefit of knowing you’re supporting something that changes lives.

But there are, of course, other benefits as well.

As a sponsor, you’ll receive a monthly community newsletter. In that newsletter is a link to an exclusive article. There’s also a link to a free guided meditation download.

Here’s the biggest benefit: In each newsletter there’s a link to at least one meditation course that you can enroll in at no extra charge. These are the same courses that we used to offer in the range of $40 to $120. Plus I’m adding new courses. In fact the next new course starts later this month. More about that in a second.

And of course there’s an online community you can join, where you can discuss your practice and, if you’re participating in one of the online courses, chat with me and other participants about how it’s going, and have your questions answered.

Sitting With Bodhi Course: Launches July 15

Soon I’m launching a brand new meditation course. It offers meditation guidance in the form of 28 guided meditations that you can work your way through at your own pace. The meditations, which you can stream or download, are delivered by email.

The only way to participate in this course is to become a sponsor.

Now Is the Time

At the time of writing, over 70% of the shares have already been sponsored.

Once the other shares have been taken up, this opportunity may not again come for a while, and we’ll certainly be increasing the cost of shares—perhaps quite soon.

This really is an amazing opportunity, and I hope you want to join us. If you want to find out more, please use the form below!

Bodhipaksa you’d prefer not to use PayPal, you can download a credit card billing authorization form. You can complete this on-screen, then print, sign, and return it to us by mail or email.

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Sitting With Bodhi: Appreciating Change

Sitting With Bodhi is a unique form of meditation course where you have the opportunity to receive guidance from Bodhipaksa—daily, if you want.

Often change and impermanence are things we think we should reflect on. But Bodhipaksa has recorded 28 meditation sessions that will point you toward a specific aspect of change that you can observe in your direct experience. This helps to liberate us from that all-too-common sense we can have that there is something “fixed” or even “stuck” about us. It also helps us to notice the richness and fascination of ordinary experiences.

The emails begin to go out on July 15. You can enroll anytime between now and August 11. How long the course takes is up to you, since you control the pace of the emails.

How Sitting With Bodhi Works

You’ll be sent 28 emails, each of which contains a link to a new guided meditation, especially recorded for this event.

Each meditation provides a 10-minute lead-in to a particular way of approaching our experience. This series will focus on meditations that allow us to develop radical calmness, peace, and tranquillity.

  • Set a timer and for as long as you want to sit — for example 15, 20, or 30 minutes (12 minutes minimum is recommended).
  • Start playing the meditation on your computer or mobile device.
  • At the end of the recording you are invited to continue with the practice until the end of your chosen time period.
  • The next email won’t be sent out to you until you’ve clicked a special link in the current one. So if you have a busy day and aren’t able to listen to the guided meditation, or if you want to stick with one meditation for a while, there’s no pressure! The next email will only arrive when you are ready for it!

Questions I’ve Been Asked

Q. Am I able to return and revisit a meditation after I complete it?
A. Yes. You can download the meditations and listen to them as often as you want. The Youtube versions will probably be left up forever as well.

Q. Do the meditations have to be completed within the course dates?
A. No. It doesn’t matter how long you take to complete the series. You really can go at your own pace.

Q. Do I have to do previous series of Sitting With Bodhi before I do later ones?
A. No. Like the previous series of Sitting with Bodhi, this is a stand-alone series and there are no prerequisites.

How to Enroll

To enroll in this course, you have to be a sponsor of our community-based meditation initiative. This means sponsoring at least one Community Share. Each community share costs only $6 a month, and membership of the community offers many benefits. We’re sure that you’ll want to keep sponsoring Community Shares long beyond the end of this course.

Membership of the community gives you:

  • Access to all Bodhipaksa’s meditation courses (at no extra charge!)
  • Membership of an online community
  • A special newsletter with monthly meditation downloads (again, no extra charge)
  • Exclusive articles that are only for sponsors.
  • None of these promotional emails!

With almost 500 sponsors so far, we’re making fantastic progress toward turning Wildmind into a Community-Supported Meditation Initiative.

Enroll here

Choose your number of shares
Your preferred email address for this subscription.

If you’d prefer not to use PayPal, you can download a credit card billing authorization form. You can complete this on-screen, then print, sign, and return it to us by mail or email.

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The self-compassionate way to get things done

A parent shaming us by comparing us unflatteringly with a sibling; a boss humiliating us in front of colleagues when a task isn’t up to their expectations; a partner repeatedly complaining about some household task we haven’t done yet: these are all attempts to “light a fire under our ass” in order to get us to achieve more. Most of us have had this ploy used against us so many times over the course of our lives that we’ve internalized this motivational strategy.

Our inner critic punishes us verbally when it thinks we’ve under-performed. It castigates us for being lazy when we haven’t gotten around to starting some task. Yet despite all this internal criticism, most of us still have a hard time motivating ourselves to do things. When self-criticism fails, the answer is usually more self-criticism. “How,” we might wonder, “would I get anything done if I didn’t give myself a hard time?”

Self-Compassion = Less Procrastination

Yet many studies have shown self-compassionate individuals to be more effective than people who are self-critical. They are also less prone to procrastination. Psychologists at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, compared college students who preferred to begin their assignments early to those who tended to leave them to the last minute. By now you may not be surprised to learn that those with high levels of self-compassion had much less of a tendency to procrastinate.

Procrastination is, in fact, not really a problem of time management but a problem of emotional management. Think about what it’s like just to contemplate a challenging task. Often we’ll find that feelings of anxiety, restlessness, or dread arise. When we’re unable to handle those feelings we try to avoid them by avoiding the task itself. Learning to support and encourage ourselves in the face of discomfort allows us to face challenging tasks rather than avoid them.

Developing Self-Compassion for Your Future Self

One fascinating way that self-compassion helps us to be more motivated is when we develop compassion for our future self, treating it as a friend. I stumbled across this practice while trying to motivate myself to deal with household tasks. Often I would be about to head to bed when I would realize that there were still dirty dishes on the kitchen counter. I was simply too tired to deal with them, so I’d shrug and leave them until the morning. But it was very unpleasant to wake up to the mess I’d left myself.

Faced with my resistance to do late-night cleaning, I started thinking about how Morning Bodhi (I gave him a name to make him more real to me) would feel about waking up to this messy kitchen. From past experience I knew he’d find the mess dispiriting. I also knew that Morning Bodhi would feel happy and grateful waking up to a clean kitchen. So I would wash the dishes, feeling good knowing I was helping Morning Bodhi. Morning Bodhi, of course, was grateful to Evening Bodhi. Having empathy for our future self makes self-discipline easier, turning it into an act of self-care.

No Self-Empathy, No Self-Control

This compassionate approach to self-control is supported by neuroscience. When Alexander Soutschek of the University of Zurich in Switzerland used magnetic fields to shut down a part of the brain long known to be involved in empathy—the rear part of the right temporoparietal junction—he found that he’d also disrupted his subjects’ ability to exert self-control. Impulsiveness, or lack of self-discipline, arises when we’re unable to relate compassionately to our future self.

Self-Compassion Looks At What Benefits You Long-Term

Self-compassion involves considering whether or not your actions will contribute to your long-term happiness and well-being.

Short-term thinking leads to us letting ourselves off the hook and giving up easily; this feels unpleasant now, so I’ll stop doing it. Self-compassion, on the other hand, is about what will benefit you in the long term: this feels unpleasant now, but how will I feel later

It’s a myth that self-compassion reduces our motivation. In fact the opposite is the case. Self-compassion is one of the most effective ways to motivate ourselves.

If you would like to support Wildmind in producing articles like this, and get access to dozens of online meditation courses, please look into becoming a sponsor for as little as $6 a month.

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We’re building something amazing, and we’d love to have you on board

I’m Bodhipaksa, the founder of Wildmind, and I want to share news of a very special meditation project we’ve launched.

Wildmind is transforming into a Community-Supported Meditation Initiative.

Here’s what that means for you. By sponsoring Community Shares that start at only $6 a month, you’ll become a member of our community. As a community member you’ll get:

  • Access to all of my existing meditation courses (of which there are around 30).
  • Access to any new courses I run through Wildmind (there’s one in the works right now).
  • Membership of an international online community where you can discuss your practice and receive personal support.
  • A monthly newsletter with meditation downloads, and articles that are exclusively for sponsors.

More than 700 sponsors have already become a part of this unique project.

Membership of this community is now the ONLY way to participate in new courses I develop. Once the remaining shares in our initiative have been sponsored, this opportunity may not come again for a while, so I’d suggest acting now.


Choose your number of shares
Your preferred email address for this subscription.

If you’d prefer not to use PayPal, you can download a credit card billing authorization form. You can complete this on-screen and then print, sign, and return it to us by mail or email.

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Overcoming resistance to meditation (a self-compassionate guide)

There can be lots of reasons for why we avoid meditating. We might not want to experience particular feelings. We might have built up a sense of failure around our meditation practice. We might worry that doing something for ourselves is selfish. We might be concerned that if we meditate we won’t get things done. Or we might be afraid of change.

And so we find excuses not to meditate. We know it’s good for us. We’ve read news article about it. We know that we’re happier when we meditate. We intend to meditate. But we find that we avoid it. We get busy. We just can’t bring ourselves to go sit on that meditation cushion.

I used to think it would help to understand why I resisted meditation. But that rarely achieved anything.

Ultimately, I found that the most important thing was not to analyze my resistance or to get into a debate with it, but to turn toward and embrace it. This is an important practice in mindful self-compassion.

So when resistance to meditation arises, try becoming mindful of the feelings that accompany this experience. Where are they situated in the body? What shape do they form? What “texture” do they have? What kinds of thoughts do they give rise to? Notice those things, and just be with the resistance. Let the resistance be an object of mindfulness. Resistance is a state of conflict, and may also include fear. These are forms of pain. Notice this pain and regard it kindly. Offer it some reassuring words: “It’s OK. You’re going to be OK. I’ll take good care of you.”

Now here’s the thing: as soon as you become mindful of your resistance, you’re already meditating. Your resistance is no longer a hindrance to developing mindfulness but an opportunity to do so. And so, wherever you are, you can just let your eyes close. Breathing in, experience the resistance. Breathing out, experience the resistance.

Continue to talk to the fearful part of you, perhaps saying things like: “Hi there. I accept you as part of my experience. I care about you and I want you to be at ease. You’re free to stay for as long as you like, and you’re welcome to meditate with me.” Do this for as long as necessary, until you feel settled in your practice.

In this approach the specific content of your resistance isn’t important, because you’re not meeting your rationalizations on their own level. And that’s a good thing, because your resistance is sly.

Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, your doubt can run circles around you, and arguing with it makes things worse. Your doubt knows exactly what you’re going to say and knows how to make you feel small and incapable. It’s had lots of practice doing this. The one thing your doubt doesn’t understand is how to resist being seen and accepted.

So instead of arguing with your resistance, outsmart it. Surround it with mindful awareness and with kindness.

If you find that the resistance goes on day after day, then set yourself a low bar for what counts as “a day in which you meditate.” Five minutes is fine. That may not sound like much, but regularity is ultimately far more important than the number of minutes you do each day. If you sit for just five minutes a day, you’re meditating regularly. You’ve outwitted your resistance.

One more tip: The only “bad meditation” is the one you don’t do. All the others are fine. So don’t worry about the quality. Just do the practice.

Wildmind is a community-supported meditation initiative. Hundreds of people chip in monthly to cover our running costs, and in return receive access to amazing resources. Click here to find out more.

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Seven meditative techniques to help you fall asleep

I used to have great difficulty getting to sleep at night. Sometimes my mind would be racing, usually about something that was troubling me. Sometimes there was nothing much going on in my mind at all, but sleep would simply refuse to arrive. The worst times were when I craved sleep, but as I began to drift and dream imagery started to arise, I’d get excited and wake up again.

But that was then. Nowadays I’m usually asleep within minutes—even seconds—of my head hitting the pillow.

Along the way I built up a toolkit of techniques to help me disengage from the kind of mental activity that gets in the way of sleep and that causes insomnia.

1. Mindfulness of the body

Mindfulness reduces mind-wandering. It helps us spot when our thoughts are unhelpful, so that we can disengage from them. That includes things like recognizing that anxious thinking is stirring up our emotions and keeping us awake. So we recognize unhelpful thinking and let go of it. But the mind has to be engaged with something else instead, so we turn our attention to the body.

Being mindful of the body has a calming effect. Because the mind is engaged with being attentive to the physical sensations arising in the body, it has less bandwidth available for engaging in the kind of anxious thinking that keeps us awake. And the rhythms of the breathing can help soothe us.

So we can scan the entire body, right down to the toes, simply being aware of all the sensations arising there.

Even if there are unpleasant sensations in the body, such as a twisting knot of anxiety in the gut, mindfulness helps us learn to accept them without reacting. Without mindfulness what normally happens is that the unpleasant symptoms of anxiety cause the mind to go into overdrive, which perpetuates our anxiety. Mindfulness of the body helps to break that cycle, allowing us to come back to a state of rest and relaxation, which promotes sleep.

2. Mindfulness of the breathing

The breathing is of course part of the body, but I single it out here because another approach to mindfulness is to be aware of the sensations of the breathing in particular.

Anxiety tends to bring our attention up into our heads, and to the thoughts we’re having there. Often when we’re anxious we almost forget that we have bodies! Anxiety also tends to cause our breathing to be rapid and shallow, and to take place more in the chest than in the belly.

So it’s particularly helpful for us to take our attention to the rise and fall of the belly. As well as taking our attention further away from the head, and from our thoughts, this has a soothing effect. It promotes activity in the parasympathetic nervous system, which again brings us back to rest and balance—and therefore to sleep.

3. Mindfulness of weight

Particularly if you have physical restlessness, it can be very helpful to pay attention to the weight of your body pressing down into your mattress. I’ve found that it’s particularly helpful to imagine that my body is becoming heavier and heavier, as if gravity is gradually increasing up to perhaps two G, at which point it’s as if I’m pinned to the bed..

This sense of weightedness promotes a sense of surrender, which helps with letting go into sleep. It promotes physical stillness, which also helps. And it’s a form of body awareness, which itself helps with going to sleep.

4. Imagery

Sometimes when we’re sleepless we have a lot of stimulating mental imagery running through our minds, and a useful way to divert attention from that is to visualize something soothing and even a little boring. I often imagine that I’m watching rain pattering on woodland leaves on an overcast day. This has the advantage of involving nature, which is soothing. The emphasis is on the color green, which is one of the most calming colors there is. The imagery is beautiful, so it holds my attention, but it’s not stimulating in any way.

This is one of the quickest ways I know to get to sleep. Usually when I fall asleep, what happens is that nonsensical dream imagery arises, and my attention switches to that. That’s the point at which sleep happens. If I’m paying attention to the body, then sometimes the arising of dream imagery jolts me back to awakeness. However, if I’m already immersed in the world of imagery, then what happens is that the forest scene is seamlessly replaced by my dreams, and sleep happens very easily.

5. Slow down your inner chatter

Sometimes when I was unable to sleep, my mind would be chattering away to itself. Sometimes this would be because of anxiety and sometimes it would be because I was excited about something.

I found that if I slowed the pace of my inner speech, and also deepened it, then sleep would happen much more quickly. My own self-talk developed a soothing, droning quality. I’d literally bore myself to sleep!

6. Relax the eyes

One thing I’ve discovered is that there’s a correspondence between our physiological states and how we relate to our eyes. Think about the experience of daydreaming, when your mind is gently and aimlessly drifting in a relaxed way. Usually you’re staring into space, and not focusing on anything in particular, right?

When the eyes are narrowly focused, and the muscles around them tense, then we tend to be in a state of alertness, and even anxiety. On the other hand, when we allow our focus to be soft, and the muscles around the eyes to be relaxed, this promotes relaxation.

It’s very easy to do this. With the eyes closed, just let the eyes be at rest, so that you become aware of everything in your visual field. You’ll probably notice that your breathing very quickly begins to slow and deepen.

7. To unwind, be kind

Lastly, general negativity can keep us awake, whether that’s worrying, judging, irritability, blaming, craving, despondency, or whatever.

And this can become cyclical, so that we start to worry or judge ourselves for still being awake. If we become more emotionally at ease with ourselves, then we break this cycle and it becomes easier to fall asleep.

One of the simplest things to become more at ease is to remember what it feels like when we are kind. In particular, recall an experience of looking with kindness and affection. It can be a memory of looking at a baby or a pet. It doesn’t much matter. Just notice the emotional qualities of caring, kindness, appreciation, and so on, that arise as you recall a memory of this sort. And particularly notice how those qualities permeate the way you are looking.

Next, turn your inner gaze upon yourself, bringing those same qualities to bear upon yourself. Be kind. Be patient. Be forgiving. If you’re sleepless because there’s someone you’re upset with, then regard them with the same kindness.


You can of course combine two or more of these techniques together. For example you might adopt a loving gaze while also being aware of the body, and imagining that gravity has increased. Or you might relax the eyes as you pay attention to the breathing in the belly. Play around and see what works best for you at any given time.

Also, do persist when it comes to experimenting with these approaches. At first there may be times they may not appear to do much, but I’ve found that if you persist with them you train the mind to fall asleep quickly.

If you enjoyed this post, and would like to support Wildmind—a Community-Supported Meditation Project—check out the benefits of becoming a sponsor for as little as $6 a month.

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Keep on keeping on!

You might have heard of community-supported agriculture, where people buy a share of the farm’s output, which is delivered to them as the crops become ready.

Wildmind is doing something similar, and is in the process of becoming a Community-Supported Meditation Initiative.

I’m pleased to announce that thanks to over 370 supporters we’re now over half-way to our goal of having 1,500 shares sponsored. And you are warmly invited to join this very special initiative.

By supporting us, which you can do for as little as $6 a month, you’ll have access to:

  • All of my existing meditation courses at no extra charge
  • Access to all new meditation courses that I run through Wildmind.
  • An online community
  • A monthly newsletter with meditation downloads, and articles that are only for sponsors.

This will give Wildmind the financial stability to be able to focus on teaching meditation, rather than on trying to stay afloat. Already this has made a big difference. Much of the anxiety of the last few years—will there be enough in the bank to cover our bills?—is beginning to evaporate.

Here’s a graph showing the current position. This is updated as new sponsors step up:

In the future, membership of the community will be the ONLY way to participate in new courses I develop. Once the remaining shares in our initiative have been sponsored this opportunity may not come again for a while, so I’d suggest acting now.

You can choose any number of shares to sponsor. The average person has sponsored a little over two shares. There are no extra benefits (besides good karma) for sponsoring more shares, but that’s an option open to you if you want to show extra appreciation and if you can afford it. I’d certainly be very grateful if you sponsor more than one share.


Choose your number of shares
Your preferred email address for this subscription.

If you’d prefer not to use PayPal, you can download a credit card billing authorization form. You can complete this on-screen, then print, sign, and return it to us by mail or email.

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Mindfulness, step by step

Almost anything we do can offer us an opportunity to practice mindfulness. The most mundane activities, such as unloading the dishwasher, driving, or grocery shopping, can become part of our spiritual practice.

Walking as a Practice

Walking is one ordinary activity that we can transform into a vehicle for being more mindful. One of the benefits of mindful walking is that the body is easier to sense when it’s in movement. In sitting meditation a lot of people initially find it difficult to be aware of physical sensations. When we’re walking, the sensations are far more obvious. This means that walking can be a powerful anchor for our attention.

The Irish poet John O’Donahue wrote:

It is a strange and magical fact to be here, walking around in a body, to have a whole world within you and a world at your fingertips outside you. It is an immense privilege, and it is incredible that humans manage to forget the miracle of being here.

Walking is something we take for granted, and we may assume that although we can walk to interesting places, the act of walking itself is inherently uninteresting. Yet the simple act of walking can be a rich and fulfilling experience. In relating to ordinary activities with mindfulness, we may find that they’re not so mundane after all. We begin to see everyday existence as a miracle. Ordinary movements can become a dance, everyday sounds become music, the uninteresting can become fascinating.

Mindful Walking Versus Walking Meditation

In many traditions there is a walking meditation practice in which we pace back and forth at an incredibly slow pace. In this form of meditation it might take several minutes to cover a distance that we would normally traverse in a few seconds. What I’m suggesting here is something different: focusing mindfully on the physical sensations that arise as we’re walking to the mailbox, or to the bus stop, or train station, or taking a stroll in the park, or in fact any other time we’re walking in daily life.

The practice

You can pause for a moment before you start walking, and simply experience what it’s like to stand, noticing the weight of the body pressing into the earth.

The Eyes

Let the eyes be soft and be attentive to the whole of your visual field.

In order to maintain your mindfulness as you walk, I’d suggest not letting your gaze wander any more than is necessary for safety. So avoid things like looking in shop windows or letting your gaze track people’s movements. Just let your eyes look straight ahead, and perhaps slightly downward.

The Pace

Your walk itself should be natural, although perhaps just a little slower than usual. When you walk at the same pace as you usually do, your mind will do the same things it usually does. In other words you’ll get distracted. Slowing your walk a fraction helps you to be less habitual.

The Anchor

The core of mindful walking practice is observing the sensations in the body. A good place to start is with the alternating pattern of the feet making and breaking contact with the earth. This is simple, concrete, and easy to notice. Those rhythmic sensations can be your anchor—they’re what you turn your attention back toward whenever you realize you’ve become distracted.

Walking Into Mindfulness

From there, you can start to become aware of the rest of the body. Start with the lower legs, where you can notice the tightening and release of the muscles. Notice also sensations such as the touch of your clothing against your skin and the vibration of the feet touching the ground rippling up through your flesh, bones, and joints.

You can notice sensations and movements in the thighs, the hips, and the pelvis. You can notice the spine, the belly, the chest. Notice all the movements of the breathing, and how it naturally fits in with the rhythm of the walking. You can notice the shoulders moving, the arms swinging, the way the head moves, and so on.

You’ll find that with the eyes soft and your field of attention open and receptive it’s possible to notice how each sensation of the walking is coordinated with all the others. The whole of our walking, from our breathing to the sensation of air flowing over the hands as they swing at the end of our arms, form one process—an elegant and fascinating dance, as we walk into mindfulness, step by step.

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Our Community-Supported Meditation Initiative: An Update

We’re making excellent progress toward the goal of Wildmind becoming a Community-Supported Meditation Initiative. In this new model Wildmind’s teaching will be supported by sponsors contributing as little as $6 each month.

Sponsors will of course gain a number of benefits. All of the new courses I develop will be available only for them. They’ll also have exclusive access to a monthly article and meditation download, as well as an online forum.

There are 1,500 shares available. Right now almost 40% of them have been sponsored. It’s taken only three weeks to get to that point, which is wonderful! Initially I thought it might take up to a year to reach our goal. Now it looks like it’ll be more like three months.

Here’s a graph showing the current position:

At the current rate of growth, we’ll be fully funded by the middle of July. So if you want to be a part of this project, I’d suggest taking action now.

On a personal note, I’m excited about the possibility of being supported by the community of Wildmind’s supporters. It’ll be liberating for me not to have to focus on marketing, and to be able to focus my attention 100% on teaching. It’ll also be a relief to be able, for the first time in years, not to have to constantly be concerned about finances. I can tell you, it’s been hard sometimes!

The transition from the model where we charge for classes to being community-supported is going to be challenging financially, so I’m asking you to contribute so that we can make this change quickly. (If you’re already a sponsor, please help by spreading the word!)

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