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 »
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 »
Wildmind’s online course, The Great Mystery of Being: A Practical Introduction to the Experience of Non-Self, begins on Wednesday, September 20th.
The greatest insights that the Buddha had are that our sense of self is a burden that we drag around with us, and that it’s possible to lay down that burden.
The six element practice is a beautiful and poetic reflection on impermanence, interconnectedness — and especially non-self.
The practice encourages us to examine everything that we take to be “us” and “ours” and teaches us to see that nothing in the mind or body truly belongs to us.
In fact the concept of there being an “us” that anything can belong to … Read more »
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 »
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 »
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 link… Read more »
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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »