Wildmind https://www.wildmind.org Learn Meditation Online Thu, 05 Dec 2019 18:30:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://static.wildmind.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/cropped-favicon-32x32.jpg Wildmind https://www.wildmind.org 32 32 Pivot toward the skillful (the Social Media Sutra, part 2) https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/on-practice/the-social-media-sutra-2-pivot-toward-the-skillful https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/on-practice/the-social-media-sutra-2-pivot-toward-the-skillful#comments Thu, 05 Dec 2019 16:42:12 +0000 https://www.wildmind.org/?p=41381

In a series of posts (here’s a link to Part 1) I’m explaining, using teachings from the early Buddhist teachings, how we can free ourselves from our addiction to social media. These teachings are found in the Vitakkasanthana Sutta, which outlines five strategies for overcoming compelling trains of thought and the urges that accompany them.

“Vitakkasanthana Sutta” literally means “the Discourse on Quieting Thinking,” but I’m going to call it “the Social Media Sutra.” I do this mainly because it’s a more convenient and catchy monicker than a literal translation is, but also because it reminds us that these teachings can be directly applied in this important aspect of our lives.

By …

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In a series of posts (here’s a link to Part 1) I’m explaining, using teachings from the early Buddhist teachings, how we can free ourselves from our addiction to social media. These teachings are found in the Vitakkasanthana Sutta, which outlines five strategies for overcoming compelling trains of thought and the urges that accompany them.

“Vitakkasanthana Sutta” literally means “the Discourse on Quieting Thinking,” but I’m going to call it “the Social Media Sutra.” I do this mainly because it’s a more convenient and catchy monicker than a literal translation is, but also because it reminds us that these teachings can be directly applied in this important aspect of our lives.

By our being “addicted” to social media, I mean that we use them compulsively despite their having harmful consequences for ourselves and others. That’s the classic definition of an addiction. When we’re addicted we repeatedly do something that harms us, but feel out of control and have great difficulty stopping ourselves from giving in to our urges.

Often there are secondary consequences of addictions: for example, we may feel ashamed of our “weakness” and become secretive about our activities. Attempting to cut back on social media use may lead to strong anxiety. And we might, in indulging in social media, also become addicted to anger and outrage. This can, for many people, be the most important and troubling part of social media addiction.

The Social Media Sutra offers us five tools to overcome compelling urges. This first of these is described in the following way:

Take a practitioner who is focusing on some object in meditation that gives rise to bad, unskillful thoughts connected with desire, hate, and delusion. That practitioner should focus on some other object in meditation connected with the skillful. As they do so, those bad thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion, or delusion — are given up and come to an end.

And then the Buddha offers an illustration: “It’s like a deft carpenter or their apprentice who’d knock out or extract a large peg with a finer peg.”

Although this is talking about meditation it directly relates to our online activities as well.

It’s not that social media and so on are inherently bad, but that our minds often turn to them in an addictive way. And we could include here not just Facebook, Twitter, and so on, but other online activities that can be compelling, from reading news articles to playing games.

What’s being suggested is that we switch from an unhelpful (“unskillful”) urge to some more helpful (“skillful”) way of behaving. This is based on a basic principle of Dharma practice, which is that mindfulness gives us choice. Mindfulness allows us stand back and observe what’s going on within us. It allows us to see that some choices we make will make us happier and others unhappier.

It isn’t always comfortable when we become mindful. We see things going on — like addiction or anger — that make our lives miserable. And we can end up blaming ourselves. But one of the first things we need to do is to stop blaming ourselves in response to our addictions. Blaming ourselves is just us responding to unskillfulness with further unskillfulness.

Having a tendency to be addicted isn’t something to take personally. It’s not weakness. It’s just causes and conditions unfolding in our lives. So we drop the blame.

To apply the teaching of pivoting to the skillful, first, with mindfulness, recognize that you’re doing something that’s making you unhappy. You’re causing yourself to suffer.

Now, become aware of what kind of unhelpful mental habit has arisen. What’s the unskillful activity that you need to switch from?

Three forms of unskillful activity

In my experience the three most common forms are: craving stimulation, craving attention, and becoming angry. Let’s deal with those one at a time.

1. Craving Stimulation

Our addiction might take the form of craving continual input. We just don’t want to stop browsing. We feel anxious if there isn’t a constant flow of information coming at us.

If you’re craving stimulation, take a mindful break. Notice physical sensations in the body, feelings, sensory reality of your surroundings. This is a different kind of stimulation — a more wholesome and grounding kind of input for the mind. And while online stimulation can never truly satisfy us, being mindfully aware of the richness of our experience does leave us feeling more fulfilled.

So here you’re switching your mind from mindless stimulation to mindful appreciation of your direct experience.

You can learn to trust that this moment is enough. You can be content right now.

2. Craving Attention

Another component of addiction is the craving for acknowledgement. We might crave the reassurance we get when people “like” or comment on our posts. If people don’t do those things, we’re hurt or disappointed.

Now, if you’re craving attention, then you probably aren’t feeling good about yourself. There’s probably an underlying sense that you don’t matter, which is why you’re dependent on seeking reassurance from other people. You’re probably not valuing yourself, or giving yourself appreciation. You may even be putting yourself down.

So to switch to a skillful alternative to craving attention, you can give yourself some love, compassion, and appreciation. You can place your hand on your heart and say to yourself, “It’s OK. I’m here for you. You matter, and I care about you. I will take care of you. Let yourself feel this love.”

You can learn to trust that you are enough.

3. Getting Angry

And yet another common form of unskillfulness bound up with social media is “outrage addiction.” We become dependent on the feelings we get from being self-righteously angry.

We might, out of anger, say things calculated to hurt people, or block them so that we don’t have to face up to our own reactions to them.

When you get angry,  you probably don’t have enough kindness and empathy toward others. When you’re seeing others acting or speaking in ways that disturb you, you react with ill will. Maybe you speak or write unkindly. Maybe you hurl insults.

Switching to a more skillful way of relating means bringing more empathy and compassion into the present moment. So, first, recognize that if you’re angry or outraged, you’re suffering. So once again, place a hand on your heart and offer yourself some kindness. “May you be well. May you be happy. May you be at peace.” Breathe.

And then remind yourself that the person you’re angry with is a feeling being, just as you are. They feel happiness, just as you do. They suffer, just as you do. They prefer happiness rather than suffering, just as you do. And then, having connected empathetically in this way, perhaps you’ll find that you naturally relate and communicate in a more empathetic, kinder way.

You can learn to trust the power of connection, empathy, and kindness.

The Image

Just a word about the image the Buddha used to illustrate this tool or pivoting to the skillful. He said that switching our focus to a skillful object is like using a small peg to knock out a larger peg. I remember doing this to remove a pedal from my bike, using a hammer and a nail punch to remove the cotter pin holding the pedal onto the crankshaft.

Note that you’re using a small pin to knock out a larger one. Although you might think that the forces of addiction and anger are powerful, and your mindfulness and compassion are weak, it’s good to remember that your mindfulness or compassion, even though they may seem feeble, just need to be used in a directed way.

And remember that when a carpenter uses one pin to remove another, it doesn’t take just one blow of the hammer. It takes repetition. So don’t be discouraged if it takes time to change your habits. Just keep working at it.

Summary

So what we’ve learned here is that the first tool for dealing with unhelpful behaviors and mental habits around social media is to switch our attention to an object connected with the skillful — bringing skillfulness into our present moment experience.

When you’re craving stimulation, you can learn to trust the present moment.

When you’re craving attention, you can learn to trust that you are enough. That you matter. That you can support yourself.

When you’re angry, you can learn to trust in the power of connecting empathetically first with yourself, and then with others.

And in this kind of way, you can switch from unhealthy ways of relating to social media, to having a healthier relationship with them.

One last thing. I’ve said a lot about trust. Trusting the present moment. Trusting that you matter. Trusting in the power of empathetic connection.

Trust the Dharma

Another thing you can trust is the Dharma: trust your practice. Sometimes when I catch myself tempted to mindlessly pick up my phone so that I can check Twitter or read some news articles online, I say to myself “Trust the Dharma.”

So I’ll pick up my phone in order to mindlessly go online, I’ll remind myself, “Trust the Dharma,” and then I can gently put the phone back down again.

This phrase is just a reminder to myself of everything I’ve said above about the potential and the power of making mindful choices. “Trust the Dharma” means trust that there is a something better than craving. It means trusting in your ability to let go of painful habits. It means trusting that true contentment is possible, and that we don’t need any special conditions for contentment to arise: just be present with your experience, and everything will sort itself out.

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Overcoming social media addiction (the Social Media Sutra, part 1) https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/on-practice/the-social-media-sutra-1 https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/on-practice/the-social-media-sutra-1#respond Wed, 06 Nov 2019 19:14:56 +0000 https://www.wildmind.org/?p=41321 Photo by Marc Schaefer on Unsplash

Recently I recorded a series of four talks for “Tricycle” magazine, discussing how tools from the Buddhist tradition can help us to overcome our addiction to social media. The talks won’t appear online until January next year but in the meantime I thought I’d turn my notes into a series of articles — probably six in total. I’ll go beyond what I said in those talks because of course as soon as you give a talk you realize all the things you could have said but didn’t!

First, though, what do I mean by social media addiction? I don’t mean simply enjoying using social media. I mean addiction in the sense of the compulsive use …

The post Overcoming social media addiction (the Social Media Sutra, part 1) appeared first on Wildmind.

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Photo by Marc Schaefer on Unsplash

Recently I recorded a series of four talks for “Tricycle” magazine, discussing how tools from the Buddhist tradition can help us to overcome our addiction to social media. The talks won’t appear online until January next year but in the meantime I thought I’d turn my notes into a series of articles — probably six in total. I’ll go beyond what I said in those talks because of course as soon as you give a talk you realize all the things you could have said but didn’t!

First, though, what do I mean by social media addiction? I don’t mean simply enjoying using social media. I mean addiction in the sense of the compulsive use of social media despite it having harmful consequences for ourselves and others. Compulsion means that we feel out of control: have great difficulty stopping ourselves. Compulsion means that the thought of quitting may lead to powerfully unpleasant feelings. Usually compulsion leads to shame, and we become dishonest about just how addicted we are.

I’m going to use the term “social media” in a rather broad way. I don’t just mean social media sites like Facebook or Twitter. What I say may well have relevance for those who find themselves hooked on online games, or even who find themselves compulsively checking the news.

I put my hand up as being a social media addict. Because of the way I teach, I spend a lot of time online, and so I’ve had to deal with getting sucked into social media. And of course like most people I carry a so-called “phone” around with me, although it’s a device that I hardly ever use for making phone calls on. Instead it’s a kind of glass doorway that leads to a world of endless distraction.

So, spending a lot of time online, and carrying around a device that allowed me to do that any time I wanted, I’d often find myself spending way too much time on the internet. My work would suffer, and sometimes I’d stay up too late, reading fascinating articles, usually about science and psychology. What I was reading was good, but I just couldn’t stop, and I’d end up depriving myself of sleep.

Sometimes there were “bonus” problems—for example when I’d get involved in online disputes. Those would not only give rise to anger, but would sometimes leave me feeling quite anxious, so that my heart would pound when I was logging in to my social media accounts. Or I’d find that I would crave attention. I found myself logging in, anxious about whether my posts had been “liked” or shared. All of these are, of course, forms of suffering.

I don’t much like suffering, so the question naturally arose for me, “How can my Buddhist practice help me with addiction to online activities?”

I’d like to share some of the tools I’ve found useful, in case you have similar patterns of getting hooked online.

The Buddha of course didn’t say anything about the internet or social media, but he did have a lot to say about dealing with and overcoming compelling patterns of thought and behavior. There’s one discourse, or sutta, in particular that I think gives a good overview of the richness of the tools that he offered us. It’s called the Vitakkasanthana Sutta, which could literally be translated as the “Discourse on Quieting Thinking.”

Vitakka means “thinking” and santhana literally means a resting place, and by extension means “end, stopping, cessation.”

Thinking here doesn’t mean just the inner sound of us talking to ourselves, or even imagined imagery. It includes the urges that are entangled with those thoughts. In fact, sometimes you’ll find yourself acting on an urge without having any verbal thought at all. You just find yourself picking up your phone and opening a social media app. There isn’t necessarily any inner talk accompanying those actions.

So, fundamentally, this discourse is about letting go of unhelpful urges, or unhelpful habits.

The Vitakkasanthana talks about quieting these urges in the context of meditation, but the principles it outlines can be used in any context in our lives, including when we’re on social media. In a way you could think of the Vitakkasanthana Sutta as the Social Media Sutra.

The discourse offers five tools, and it’s suggested that you start with the first one, and then if that doesn’t work you give the next one a try, and so on. To give you an overview of the five tools, they are:

  1. Switching our attention from unskillful or unhelpful patterns or activity to more skillful or helpful patterns.
  2. Examining the drawbacks of your unhealthy urges, especially as contrasted with healthier ones.
  3. Simply ignoring or turning away from our unskillful urges, not making any effort to get rid of them, but also not acting on them or allowing our attention to be drawn into them.
  4. Becoming aware of the causes and conditions that are bringing our unhelpful urges into being, so that we can prevent them arising in the first place.
  5. Using sheer willpower to overcome our addictive urges. This can actually be much more subtle than it sounds!

For each tool there’s an illustration. Some of those are engaging and instructive, although some others aren’t so immediately helpful.

I didn’t sit down with the Vitakkasanthana Sutta in hand and try to figure out how to apply it to social media; instead I needed to talk about the various ways that I’ve worked with addictive behaviors, and it occurred to me that the five tools the Buddha offered provided a handy framework for doing so.

The five approaches above provide us with an impressive collection of tools for overcoming addictive behaviors, as well as the anger, anxiety, and so on that accompany them. I’ll be going through each in turn, telling you what the Buddha said (including the illustrations he gave), and making the tools practical.

That’s it for today. I hope you’ll enjoy this series of blog posts. If you want to make sure you don’t miss any, I’d suggest subscribing to Wildmind’s newsletter.

In the meantime, I’d suggest that you notice any addictive patterns of behavior around your social media use. In what ways does it lead to suffering? In what ways does your compulsion manifest? What happens if you give up social media for a day, or two days, or a week?

 

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Everything you ever wanted to know about Wildmind’s initiative, but were afraid to ask https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/news/everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/news/everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know#comments Thu, 19 Sep 2019 14:43:48 +0000 https://www.wildmind.org/?p=41286

I’ve been asked the same questions over and over again about Wildmind’s new meditation initiative, and so I thought I’d put all the questions and answers in one place.

What is the Initiative?

Wildmind is a community-supported meditation initiative. Almost 750 supporters sponsor our “community shares,” which gives Wildmind financial stability so that we can focus on teaching. In return, our initiative gives our sponsors access to a wide range of meditation materials and membership of a community of practitioners.

What are the benefits?

As a sponsor, you’ll receive:

  • Access to my online courses. This includes those I’ve developed in the past and any new courses I develop in the future through Wildmind.
  • A monthly

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I’ve been asked the same questions over and over again about Wildmind’s new meditation initiative, and so I thought I’d put all the questions and answers in one place.

What is the Initiative?

Wildmind is a community-supported meditation initiative. Almost 750 supporters sponsor our “community shares,” which gives Wildmind financial stability so that we can focus on teaching. In return, our initiative gives our sponsors access to a wide range of meditation materials and membership of a community of practitioners.

What are the benefits?

As a sponsor, you’ll receive:

  • Access to my online courses. This includes those I’ve developed in the past and any new courses I develop in the future through Wildmind.
  • A monthly newsletter that’s just for sponsors.
  • A monthly guided meditation download.
  • An exclusive monthly article on our blog that isn’t accessible to regular blog visitors.
  • Membership of an online community of meditation practitioners from around the world, in a special community website.
  • Coming shortly: Access to community meditation sessions on Zoom.
  • If you’re on our mailing list, no more of promotional emails about the Initiative! ?

What’s a Community Share?

By sponsoring a share you’re making a monthly contribution to Wildmind. It’s not the same as buying a share in a company, where you own part of the company. It’s a share in Wildmind’s output, similar to how with community-supported agriculture you purchase a share of a farm’s output.

How much are community shares?

One share is just $4 a month. For as long as you continue to sponsor at least one share, you’ll benefit from our initiative.

Is there any benefit to sponsoring more than one share?

Yes and no! The average person sponsors two shares, but several people have sponsored five or ten, and one person sponsors 20 shares.

We don’t offer different levels of benefits to people who sponsor multiple shares. But knowing that you’re helping to support your meditation teacher is something that will, I hope, bring you some happiness. Karma (depending on your definition of that word) is real!

How do I pay?

Most sponsors use PayPal, which is very simple to use. You can subscribe here.

Can I use a credit or debit card instead?

Yes! We prefer PayPal, but if you’d rather use a card we’re happy to accommodate you. Just download this form, complete it, and return it to us.

How do I access the benefits?

As a sponsor, you’ll receive a monthly Community Newsletter. That newsletter contains links to meditation courses, a guided meditation download, and an exclusive article, which is on our blog but only available to subscribers.

Is there any extra cost for the courses?

No, there aren’t any extra charges for the courses or anything else.

How can you make all those benefits available for as little as $4 a month?

We’ve chosen to be supported by lots of people paying a relatively small amount each month. This provides us enough to cover our costs, while making our meditation teaching available to as many people as possible.

Do I get access to all the courses as soon as I sign up?

What we do is make two to three courses available each month. You can do more than once course at a time, but I’d recommend doing only one. Meditation is about quality, not quantity. It’s not possible to make all the courses available at the same time because each includes an element of personal guidance.

Can I cancel anytime I want?

Of course! If you subscribe using PayPal you can simply log in to your account and cancel any time you want. Or you can write to us and we’ll take care of that for you.

I live outside the US. Are there foreign currency conversion fees?

With a credit or debit card there may be a foreign transaction fee. Check with your bank! With PayPal there are no extra fees.

Is the Bodhi Mind App included?

The Bodhi Mind app, which is for iPhone only, gives access to a large library of my guided meditations. It’s only available through the iTunes app store, and at the moment it isn’t included in the initiative. If you’re interested in this app, you can download it here.

How do I become a sponsor?

You can subscribe by PayPal using this form:


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.

Love,
Bodhipaksa

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Poison in the sugar-bowl https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/on-practice/poison-in-the-sugar-bowl https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/on-practice/poison-in-the-sugar-bowl#comments Thu, 05 Sep 2019 13:58:50 +0000 https://www.wildmind.org/?p=41248

Many, many years ago, when I was in my twenties, I was at the apartment of a newly divorced woman I’d just started dating when her ex dropped by unexpectedly. Awkward! Especially since she had just popped out of the house and wouldn’t be back for a few minutes!

Trying to be a good host, I offered him a cup of coffee. He accepted. I imagine he was grateful that we could diffuse this tense situation through a little social ritual.

He asked for sugar with his coffee, and I wasn’t familiar with where it was kept. But after a little searching I found a sugar-bowl and, as requested, measured out two heaped spoonfuls into …

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Many, many years ago, when I was in my twenties, I was at the apartment of a newly divorced woman I’d just started dating when her ex dropped by unexpectedly. Awkward! Especially since she had just popped out of the house and wouldn’t be back for a few minutes!

Trying to be a good host, I offered him a cup of coffee. He accepted. I imagine he was grateful that we could diffuse this tense situation through a little social ritual.

He asked for sugar with his coffee, and I wasn’t familiar with where it was kept. But after a little searching I found a sugar-bowl and, as requested, measured out two heaped spoonfuls into his mug. He took one sip and his face contorted into a look us disgust. It turned out that the “sugar” I’d given him was actually salt! Now, having apparently tried to poison my girlfriend’s ex, I felt really awkward! I was convinced he’d think I’d done this deliberately.

Anyway, the moral of the story is that it’s possible to confuse two things in a way that has unpleasant results. And this happens with spiritual practice even more than it does with unlabelled bowls of white granular substances.

The Buddha once talked about wrongly understanding the teachings as being like grabbing a snake by the wrong end. If you need to pick up a snake, you want to take a firm hold of it just behind the head. Grab it by the tail and it’s going to loop around and bite you.

So what kinds of snake do people grab by the wrong end? (Or to put it another way, what kinds of salt are people putting in their coffee thinking it’s sugar?) Here are just four.

1. Misapplied Non-Attachment

Non-attachment means being aware of your own clinging and desires (e.g. wanting to have things your own way) and letting go of them. In our daily lives we can practice non-attachment in many ways: for example letting go of your compulsion to speak about yourself and choosing instead to listen empathetically to another person.

Non-attachment doesn’t mean “not caring,” or emotional detachment, which is how some people think about it. Equating non-attachment with not caring is usually self-serving. The environment? Well, everything’s impermanent anyway, so what does it matter if species go extinct and people’s crops are ruined by drought?

True non-attachment helps us to see our emotional avoidance strategies, and to set them aside so that we can truly care. Genuine compassion, caring about others’ suffering just as we care about out own, is a form of non-attachment.

2. Fake Patience

Maybe you stay with a partner who’s unsupportive, or you have a friend who talks nonstop and won’t let you get a word in sideways. And you never challenge them, because you’re practicing “patience.” After all, haven’t we had it drummed into us that we can’t make the world into a perfect place, and that it’s up to us to change.

But the thing is that that partner’s unsupportiveness isn’t making them happy, and neither is the friend’s logorrhea. Quite possibly neither of them wants to be asked to change (generally we don’t like change), but both of them would be more fulfilled if they did.

Sometimes you’re doing both yourself and others a favor if you’re more demanding and less “accepting” and “patient.”

3. Spurious Kindness

Lots of people are caring and compassionate when it comes to others, but are harsh and critical when it comes to themselves. And yet Buddhist teachings say that we can’t really have kindness and compassion for others unless we relate to ourselves kindly and compassionately first. What’s going on?

At one time I assumed that the Buddhist tradition was wrong on this point, but as I learned more about practicing empathy I realized that the traditional teaching fits my experience. I realized that a lot of the time when I thought I was being compassionate toward others I was either being “nice” to them because I wanted them to like me, or I was being “good” so that I could feel good about myself. And both of those things arose out of me not liking myself and not being kind to myself.

As I learned to have more self-empathy, I found that this empathy, and the compassion that arose from it, naturally flowed toward others. What do you know? The tradition seems to be right, and a lot of what I had thought to be kindness wasn’t really kindness at all.

4. Misunderstood Karma

The teaching of karma (which, incidentally, is not as large a part of the Buddha’s overall teaching as most people seem to think) was really meant as something we applied to ourselves. You want to be happy? Look at what you’re doing, since it can either create ease or suffering, peace or turmoil.

Later Buddhists were less interested in Buddhist as a form of practical psychology and more interested in Buddhism as a theory that explained everything — something that the Buddha himself would have found utterly alien.

One of the consequences of this is that Buddhists often misuse the teaching of karma in order to validate their judgements of others: People are suffering? Well, they must have done something to deserve it. And so why should I feel compassion for them? If we really understood karma in this situation we’d be looking at our own reaction to others’ suffering, would realize that judging others is something that creates pain for us, and would find instead a more compassionate way to relate.

These are just a few of the ways that we misuse Buddhist teachings in ways that cause suffering for ourselves and others. It’s important to grab a snake at the right end. It’s important to make sure that what you’re putting in your mug is really sugar.

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 $4 a month.

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“Let these three expressions: I do not have, I do not understand, I do not know, be repeated over and over again.” — Padmasambhava https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/quote-of-the-month/let-these-three-expressions https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/quote-of-the-month/let-these-three-expressions#comments Fri, 12 Jul 2019 14:52:13 +0000 https://www.wildmind.org/?p=41147

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 …

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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 $4 a month.

The post “Let these three expressions: I do not have, I do not understand, I do not know, be repeated over and over again.” — Padmasambhava appeared first on Wildmind.

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At times I thought I was crazy… https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/on-practice/at-times-i-thought-i-was-crazy https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/on-practice/at-times-i-thought-i-was-crazy#comments Thu, 11 Jul 2019 12:46:48 +0000 https://www.wildmind.org/?p=41151

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 $4 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 …

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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 $4 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!

Take a look and see what I mean.

As you can see, 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 $4 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!

Love,
Bodhipaksa


Choose your number of shares from the dropdown list below. The average person sponsors two.



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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Sitting With Bodhi: Appreciating Change https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/on-practice/swb-appreciating-change https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/on-practice/swb-appreciating-change#comments Thu, 27 Jun 2019 21:39:30 +0000 https://www.wildmind.org/?p=41131

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 …

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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 $4 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

Using the drop-down list below, choose the number of shares you’d like to sponsor. The average person sponsors two.



Looking to sponsor more than 10 shares? Click here.

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 https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/on-practice/the-self-compassionate-way https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/on-practice/the-self-compassionate-way#comments Thu, 27 Jun 2019 17:44:41 +0000 https://www.wildmind.org/?p=41125

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,

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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 $4 a month.

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We’re building something amazing, and we’d love to have you on board https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/on-practice/building-something-amazing https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/on-practice/building-something-amazing#respond Fri, 21 Jun 2019 16:04:04 +0000 https://www.wildmind.org/?p=41107

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 $4 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

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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 $4 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.

Love,
Bodhipaksa


Choose your number of shares. The average person sponsors two.



Looking to sponsor more than 10 shares? Click here.

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.

The post We’re building something amazing, and we’d love to have you on board appeared first on Wildmind.

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Overcoming resistance to meditation (a self-compassionate guide) https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/on-practice/overcoming-resistance https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/on-practice/overcoming-resistance#comments Fri, 14 Jun 2019 17:31:11 +0000 https://www.wildmind.org/?p=41079

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 …

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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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