Thoughts without a sTinker

February 22, 2018

What I’m Thinking
Thinking can get us into trouble. Thoughts without a sTinker is the way of the liberated. When the thought arises, I want a drink, or a line of coke, a cream cake, some porn, another video game, we don’t have to identify with it, we let it arise without a sTinker. When there is nobody to identify with the thought, there is no thinker, no acting out of the thought. This is the awakened path to recovery.

Inspiring Jargon
Do Not Suppress Addictive Thoughts Is the title of an article by Lance Dodes M.D where he explores the Heart of Addiction. This is such wise advice. If we don’t suppress the thought, … Read more »

What living as a Buddhist means for me

February 15, 2018

Photo by Cristian Escobar on UnsplashA while back I head from a woman who seemed concerned that my life as a Buddhist must be very dull — just meditating and “being good” all the time, I guess. I think she thought I’d be a very boring person to hang out with, and maybe she was expressing her own fears about getting drawn in to Buddhist practice.

Tonight I just came back from a comedy improv show, where I was blown away by the humor and good humor of the performers. I had a blast: not perhaps what this woman had in mind.

I wrote and told her that for me, Buddhism is a set of principles and guidelines for living … Read more »

Can Buddhist practice make you more of a dick?

February 8, 2018

A quick thought experiment for you. You can take a pill to extend your own life by six months. Alternatively you can give the pill to a stranger who is similar to you and add five years to their life.

Which would you choose in this hypothetical test of generosity?

This question was posed to a number of groups, including Tibetan Buddhist monks, non-religious Americans, American Christians, ordinary Buddhists in Bhutan, and Hindus in India.

You’d think that becoming a Buddhist monk would make people particularly compassionate and generous, but it turned out that this wasn’t the case, and that the monastic Buddhists were less willing than any of the other groups to give the … Read more »

Emily Dickinson: “The brain is wider than the sky…”

February 7, 2018

The brain is wider than the sky,
For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include
With ease, and you beside.
— Emily Dickinson

Dickinson’s poem, “The Brain is Wider Than the Sky” suggests that because the brain contains the perception of the sky (and more besides) it must in some sense be larger than the sky. This might seem like no more than an interesting thought — the kind of thing you momentarily appreciate as a quote on Facebook before forwarding it to your friends and moving on to the next cute cat video.

But this is the kind of thing that becomes very profound when you choose to sit with … Read more »

This simple tweak to the way you write emails might change your entire day

February 2, 2018

How many emails do you write in the average day? I just did a quick count and yesterday alone it was 64! Many of the messages I write are business emails and don’t have a salutation or valediction, plunging straight into the message. But some of them start with “Dear (whoever)” or “Hi!” and end with a sign-off.

I usually end those kinds of emails with “Metta, Bodhipaksa.” Metta is the Buddhist word for kindness. It’s often translated as “lovingkindness,” although I think the word kindness works much better, mainly because it’s familiar and experiential.

So I was responding to someone who said he couldn’t attend a gathering today because of work, and I was … Read more »

To be a better person, stop trying to be a good person

January 30, 2018

Recently I’ve been realizing more and more that it’s unhelpful to want to see yourself as a good person.

That might seem odd, since you might think that of course we’d want to see ourselves as good people, so let me explain the problem I see.

If you think of yourself as a good person, what happens when someone points out that you’ve done something that’s kinda crappy — such as being dishonest about something or having been inconsiderate? It’s important for you to see yourself as a good person, and so you defend yourself. Maybe you even attack or undermine the other person. You want to preserve your view of yourself, because thinking of … Read more »

“Looking In, Looking Out: Exploring Art, World, and Self”

January 27, 2018
Paintings by Lena Levin

I’m really looking forward to co-leading “Looking In, Looking Out: Exploring Art, World, and Self” — a course on art and meditation — with the very talented artist and teacher, Lena Levin. The course starts Feb 1.

A couple of years ago I took an online course with Lena and was impressed by how skillfully she was able to teach us to see in new ways. It was quite mind-blowing to see the extent to which what we see isn’t what’s there, but our mind’s approximation of what’s there. I felt, in some ways, that I was seeing for the first time. Also I was struck by the … Read more »

The key to a happier life is learning how to suffer better

January 14, 2018

Photo by Dawid Zawi?a on Unsplash

One of the Buddha’s key teachings — arguably the key teaching — is the four noble truths, which tell us 1) that suffering happens, 2) that it happens for a reason, which is that we cling, 3) that it’s possible for us to reach a state where we don’t suffer (nirvana), and 4) that there are practices that help us to attain that state.

Although these four truths, or facts, might suggest that we can somehow learn to avoid suffering, what’s really required is that we learn to deal better with life’s sufferings, because they are inevitable. In other words, we need to learn to get better at suffering. It’s not that we should seek … Read more »

Seven ways to collect and concentrate your mind and energy

January 8, 2018

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

I’m old enough to remember a time when people usually answered “good” when you asked them the standard, “How are you?” (often said “harya?”). These days the answer is commonly “busy.”

In the last few months I’ve been very busy myself and starting to feel dispersed: juggling a dozen priorities at any moment, attention skittering from one thing to another, body revved up, feeling stretched thin and spread out like an octopus squished between two sheets of glass.

You know the feeling? Besides being both unpleasant and a spigot of stress hormones, it’s weirdly contagious. Spreading from one person to another and fueled in part by the underlying economics of consumerism, we now have a … Read more »

“It Came From Beyond Zen,” by Brad Warner

January 5, 2018
Buy from Amazon or Indiebound.
“It Came From Beyond Zen” is Brad Warner’s follow-up to “Don’t Be a Jerk.” Both books are commentaries and paraphrases of the Shōbōgenzō, by the Zen master Dōgen, delivered in Warner’s characteristically irreverent, witty, pop culture–infused style.

Dōgen, if you haven’t heard of him, is a big deal. At the time “Don’t Be a Jerk” came out, NPR had recently published an article by Adam Frank, an astrophysics professor at the University of Rochester and self-described “evangelist of science,” who described Dōgen as “the greatest philosopher you’ve never heard of,” arguing that he deserved to be ranked alongside Heidegger and Husserl in terms of his contributions to … Read more »