Wildmind Buddhist Meditation https://www.wildmind.org Explore Meditation Online Mon, 15 Jan 2018 00:23:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://static.wildmind.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/cropped-favicon-32x32.jpg Wildmind Buddhist Meditation https://www.wildmind.org 32 32 The key to a happier life is learning how to suffer better https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/on-practice/the-key-to-a-happier-life-is-learning-how-to-suffer-better https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/on-practice/the-key-to-a-happier-life-is-learning-how-to-suffer-better#comments Sun, 14 Jan 2018 23:00:27 +0000 https://www.wildmind.org/?p=37632

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

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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 suffering, but that when it comes we can learn to respond to it in a way that doesn’t cause us further suffering.

So I have a few suggestions here to help you suffer better.

1. Accept that suffering is just a part of life

If we think that we can somehow go through life on a blissful cloud, we’re going to end up disappointed. And disappointment is just another form of suffering. Thinking we can avoid suffering makes us think we’re failing when suffering inevitably happens.

2. Know that suffering is not a personal failure

It’s very easy for us to form the impression that other people are a lot happier than we are. Social media doesn’t help here, since a lot of people present only the highlights of their lives online. And there are messages like “happiness is a choice” which make us think that if we’re unhappy we must be failing somehow. After all, if we could just choose to be happy we wouldn’t experience a lot of suffering, would we? But suffering is a universal. It’s something we are all going to experience — not just once in a while but every day. It’s not a sign of personal failure when we’re unhappy, but just a sign we’re alive.

3. Recognize when you are suffering

When people hear about suffering they often think of major things like cancer, bereavement, or starvation. Those are weighty forms of suffering, but fortunately they’re relatively rare in our lives. Most of our suffering is on a smaller scale: frustration, worry, anger, disappointment, loneliness, desire, and so on. These kinds of suffering are woven into the fabric of our days. Overlooking that these experiences are painful allows our suffering to run on unchecked. So when you’re frustrated, worried, etc., acknowledge that suffering is present.

4. Turn toward suffering so that you can learn from it

It’s natural to want to turn away from suffering, and to try to replace it with a more pleasant experience. Sometimes this even seems to work, but in the long term it builds up an unhelpful habit of aversion which itself creates more suffering. Ultimately the way out of suffering is through suffering. This means that we have to courageously turn to face painful experiences so that we can observe them with mindfulness and equanimity. Only that way can we learn the deeper lessons of suffering, such as, you are not your suffering.

5. Recognize that you are not your suffering

We often experience suffering “conjoined” with it, as the Buddha put it. We identify with our suffering, as if it’s ourselves. But experiences of suffering are like the reflections of clouds in a lake; they’re just passing through, and aren’t part of the lake itself. When we experience suffering mindfully, we step back from it and observe it as a separate phenomenon. We recognize that it’s not us. And so the suffering feels lighter and more bearable.

While you’re here, why not download Bodhi Mind, our FREE meditation iPhone app?

6. Take the drama out of your suffering

Painful experiences evolved as a means to motivate us to avoid potential threats, and so they usually catch our attention very effectively. But often our assessment is overblown and we react as if a situation is life-threatening even when there’s no real danger. For example if we were abandoned or ignored a lot in our childhood we may react strongly to the merest hint of someone not responding to us. I’ve found it helps to remember that feelings are simply a warning mechanism, and that it’s ultimately just the firing of neurons in the nervous system. An unpleasant feeling is not the end of the world; it’s just information that you can choose to act on or not.

7. See how your thinking affects your feelings

A lot of the time we just think, think, think, think, think — and the whole time we’re making ourselves miserable. We get so caught up in our stories, and are so convinced that our stories are true and helpful, that we don’t recognize that we’re making ourselves suffer. Once you start noticing how your thoughts affect how you feel, you start finding yourself going, “Whoa! What am I doing to myself right now?” And you have an opportunity to relate in a different way to whatever’s troubling you.

8. See how your feelings affect your thinking

Not only do our thoughts affect how we feel, but our feelings affect how we think. For example, when we’re anxious, we look for things to worry about. When we find we’re in a mood we can choose to observe our unpleasant feelings rather than let them dominate the mind. The mind actively observes, rather than being passively pushed around.

9. Learn to reframe

When we practice mindfulness of our suffering — those messages produced by the mind in order to motivate us to avoid potential threats — we start to see how we construct those messages in the first place. We have internal “rules” about what constitutes a threat. For example, we can have a rule that says “My partner forgetting something I’ve asked them to remember means that they don’t care about me.” When the partner forgets, we feel hurt or afraid, and then perhaps angry or resentful. Realizing we have such rules allows us to rewrite them, and to reframe situations in our lives. For example we can counter the rule above by recognizing that it takes time to learn new habits (the partner remembering that thing) and that people are often preoccupied and distracted, and forget things. The new rules we create should attempt to be realistic and compassionate, otherwise they too will end up causing us to suffer.

10. Relate compassionately to your pain

When a friend’s unhappy you probably treat them with empathy, support, kindness, and compassion, because these are the most appropriate response to pain. Your suffering is just a part of you that’s in pain. Relate to it the same way. Talk to it kindly. Look at it compassionately. Touch it (or the place where it’s manifesting most strongly in the body) with reassurance.

11. Observe the impermanence of your suffering

Think about something in the past that caused you suffering but which now doesn’t bother you. I can think, for example, of a time in my 20s when I got into a small amount of debt and got rally anxious about it. Now, however, I can think about it without feeling the slightest bit bothered. The panic I experienced at that time has just gone. One of our fears about feelings is that we’ll get stuck in them, that we’ll feel depressed or anxious or whatever forever. But our feelings never last. As we observe that fact over and over again it starts to sink in, and we learn to take our feelings less seriously and not overreact to them: OK, I’m feeling sad today. Tomorrow I’ll feel different.

12. Observe the transparency of your feelings

I’ve said that feelings are internally generated sensations arising in the body, and that they act as signals, warning us of potential threats. We tend to respond to painful feelings as if they were actual threats, and so we overreact. It’s as if every time the smoke detector went off while you were cooking you ran out into the street in a panic, rather than looking at the situation and realizing that it was your sizzling veggieburger that was triggering the alarm. If we train ourselves to look very closely at feelings of suffering, we can notice something astonishing; there’s nothing real there. There are just twinkling pinpoints of sensation suspended in space. They’re like holographic projections. It’s a trick of the mind that makes them seem real, and observing the trick closely allows us to see through it.

I believe that when the Buddha talks about ending suffering, he’s not talking about arranging life so that nothing bad happens to us, or even of learning to relate to our experience so skillfully that suffering doesn’t arise. I think he’s talking about the fact that suffering fundamentally doesn’t exist, and that it’s an illusion created by the mind. The mind creates suffering. The mind believes it. But the mind also wants to be free from it. And it can be, if we just look at our experience closely enough, with compassion and with an awareness of impermanence.

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Seven ways to collect and concentrate your mind and energy https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/on-practice/seven-ways-to-collect-and-concentrate-your-mind-and-energy https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/on-practice/seven-ways-to-collect-and-concentrate-your-mind-and-energy#respond Mon, 08 Jan 2018 16:06:50 +0000 https://www.wildmind.org/?p=37626

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

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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 Western and especially American culture of busyness. If you’re not busy, you must not be important. If you don’t have a lot on your mind, you must be under-performing. If your kids aren’t busy with homework and after school activities, they won’t get ahead. If you don’t look busy, someone will ask you to work harder. Etc.

Enough already. Instead of being scattered to the four winds, collect and concentrate your mind and energy. Besides feeling a lot better, it’s more effective in the long run. For example, what does an Olympic gymnast do before launching into a run or a rocket before heading into space? Come to center.

1. Savor Pleasure
As the brain evolved, pleasure and its underlying endorphins and other natural opioids developed to pull our ancestors out of disturbed fight-flight-freeze bursts of stress and return them and keep them in a sustainable equilibrium of recover-replenish-repair. Let physical or mental pleasure really land; give yourself over to it fully rather than looking for the next thing.

2. Move
Dance, exercise, yoga, walks, lovemaking, play, and athletics reset the body-mind. For me personally, movement at either end of the intensity spectrum – very subtle or very vigorous – has the most impact.

3. Get Wild
We evolved in nature, and multiple studies are showing that natural settings – the beach, wilderness, sitting under a tree in your back yard – are restorative.

4. Enjoy Art
By this I mean making or experiencing anything aesthetic, such as doing crafts, listening to music, watching a play, trying a new recipe, playing your guitar, building a fence, or taking a pottery class.

5. Feel the Core
Most of the inputs into your brain originate within your own body, and most if not all of those signals are like night watchmen calling, “All is well. All is well. All is well . . .” Feeling into your breathing, sensing into your innards, and noticing that you are alright right now are endlessly renewing opportunities to settle into the physical center of your being.

6. Be Now
The center of time is always this moment. A primary difference between humans and other species (with the possible exception of cetaceans) is our capacity for “mental time travel.” But this blessing is also in some ways a curse in that the mind keeps dispersing itself into the past and the future; it proliferates worries, plans, rehashings, and fantasies like manic vines in a speeded-up jungle. Instead, right now be now. And again.

7. Get Disenchanted
This means waking up from the spell, from the enchantments woven by the wanting mind in concert with culture and commerce. We normally pursue hundreds of little goals each day – return this call, organize that event, produce these emails, get across those points – associated with presumed rewards produced by ancient brain centers to motivate our reptilian and mammalian ancestors. Let the truth land that these rewards are rarely as good as promised.

Again and again I’ve had to remind myself to quit chasing the brass ring. While staying engaged with life, return to the reliable rewards of feeling already full – the undoing of the craving, broadly defined, that creates suffering and harm. Try a little practice on first waking or at other times in which you take a few seconds or longer to feel already peaceful, already contented, and already loved. This is the home base of body, brain, and mind.

Come home to center.

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“It Came From Beyond Zen,” by Brad Warner https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/book-reviews/it-came-from-beyond-zen-by-brad-warner https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/book-reviews/it-came-from-beyond-zen-by-brad-warner#respond Fri, 05 Jan 2018 23:37:51 +0000 https://www.wildmind.org/?p=37608
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

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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 philosophy. (Actually I think he ranks higher.)

Dōgen lived from 1200 to 1253, and founded the Sōtō school of Zen in Japan. His teachings are often couched in a paradoxical, dense, and obscure style that is often hard to translate, as evidenced by the wide variety of ways one passage can be rendered by different translators. It’s these characteristics — plus the great length of the Shōbōgenzō, that make books like “Don’t Be a Jerk” and “It Came From Beyond Zen” necessary.

Each chapter is in the same format: an introduction by Warner, a paraphrased and summarized chapter from the Shōbōgenzō, and then some explanation from the author, in which he tells us what the original text said, as compared to his paraphrases and pop culture references, and gives us his take on the teachings. Warner’s explanations about his paraphrases are a bit like a magician doing a trick and then telling you how it was done; it adds to the entertainment, makes you appreciate the skill involved, and is also informative. For example, he paraphrases “Has the disciple arrived at the state without doubt?” as the more approachable “Are you sure about that?” and “tea and rice” (medieval Japanese shorthand for something seemingly mundane) becomes “eating cornflakes and doing the dishes.”

Warner is mostly working from a number of translations, but he also knows at least some (I’m not clear how much) Japanese and sometimes takes us under the hood to show us the inner workings of the Shōbōgenzō — something I find fascinating.

The actual contents of the book are varied, because the essays the Shōbōgenzō comprises are varied as well. Some were presumably aimed at an audience with a very basic understanding of — well, just about anything. As Warner points out, many of the monks would have been uneducated young monks straight from the farm. Others teachings are among the most profound Buddhist texts ever written.

I was particularly interested in the chapters on ethics and compassion, since I haven’t seen much discussion of these topics from a traditional Zen perspective (as opposed to what modern Zen teachers have contributed, which is considerable). I found myself comparing teachings like Zen’s 10 Grave Precepts with the 10 precepts I follow, which come from the early Buddhist tradition. There’s some evolution evident in these teachings, as where abstention from slanderous speech becomes “No praising or blaming” and abstention from false views becomes “No abusing the Triple Treasure: Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.” It’s kind of refreshing to see a familiar old teaching presented in new words, but also a bit disorienting, which is not necessarily a bad thing, of course.

I can’t leave without pointing out that the book’s title is actually very clever. For a number of years Warner worked in the Japanese film industry, with a company that made cheesy monster movies. “It Came From Beyond Zen” obviously refers to science fiction monster movies “It Came From Outer Space” (in which an alien spaceship crashes in the Arizona desert) or Stephen King’s “It.” The “it” in these movie titles refers to something so beyond our experience that it’s unnameable.

Buddhism too deals with the unnameable: reality, which can’t be adequately expressed in words. This reality defies description. As Warner very neatly puts it, “Any description of anything involves … mental measurement. But no possible description of this something — this it — will ever suffice, because there’s literally nothing else to compare it to.” This “it” (in Dōgen’s text it’s the Japanese inmo) is beyond Buddhism. It’s beyond Zen. It’s beyond any attempt to conceptualize it.

If you’ve never heard of Dōgen, read this book. If you’ve heard of him and want to learn more, read this book. If you’ve a Dōgen expert, you probably won’t learn anything about the original essays, but might (I’m just guessing here) enjoy the book for its entertainment value and for Warner’s perspectives.

Buy “It Came From Beyond Zen” from Amazon or Indiebound.

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Our 10 most popular meditation articles of 2017 https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/on-practice/10-most-popular-articles https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/on-practice/10-most-popular-articles#comments Tue, 02 Jan 2018 21:59:55 +0000 https://www.wildmind.org/?p=37594

We missed the anniversary, but Wildmind’s blog is now ten years old. Perhaps we should provide a list of the 10 most popular posts of the last decade, but that’s kind of unfair to our more recent work, since something written several years ago has had much more time to garner page views. So instead here, in reverse order, are the most popular articles on meditation that have been posted in the last 12 months.

10. Self-compassion is not self-indulgent

We might imagine that when faced with doing something difficult, being “kind” to ourselves means that we’ll let ourselves off the hook. But that’s the opposite of what actually happens. Self-compassion means giving yourself support,

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We missed the anniversary, but Wildmind’s blog is now ten years old. Perhaps we should provide a list of the 10 most popular posts of the last decade, but that’s kind of unfair to our more recent work, since something written several years ago has had much more time to garner page views. So instead here, in reverse order, are the most popular articles on meditation that have been posted in the last 12 months.

10. Self-compassion is not self-indulgent

We might imagine that when faced with doing something difficult, being “kind” to ourselves means that we’ll let ourselves off the hook. But that’s the opposite of what actually happens. Self-compassion means giving yourself support, understanding, and encouragement when you face difficult experiences. It helps you to face your difficulties.

Read more

9. The body-wide wave of breathing

Focusing on just a small area of the breathing just doesn’t give the mind enough to do, and because the mind doesn’t like being under-occupied it invents distractions for itself. When we pay attention to many different sensations the mind has plenty to do, is less likely to go wandering, and is more engaged and absorbed.

Read more…

8. Fully embracing this present moment

Our mental reactions are attempts to escape or fix unpleasant situations. It seems counter-intuitive to turn toward painful feelings. But turning toward our suffering reduces our suffering.

Read more

7. The eyes have it

When the eyes are more relaxed in meditation, we’re able to take in the whole “scene” of our breathing. This is a far richer experience, not just because there are more sensations to pay attention to, but because we can see the connections between various sensations. For example we can see how sensations in the abdomen relate to sensations in the nostrils, and how those relate to the sensations in the back. Our experience is revealed as dynamic, interconnected, and even sensual.

Read more

6. Happy new breath

A whole lifetime passes in each breathing moment. What we do in each moment impacts the next. With every inhale there is an exhale until the last breathing moment. The past connects to the present, and the present connects to the future. Just like the inhale and exhale. By having awareness of every breathing moment we can impact this flow of reality.

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5. When in doubt, breathe out – the power of breathing properly

Make a fist with one hand. Notice what’s happened to your breathing. You’ll probably notice you’re holding it. Now imagine breathing into the fist. What does it want to do? You’ll probably find it wants to release a little. The fist in this exercise is a metaphor for any kind of discomfort or stress. When we are not aware, we automatically tense against the stresses of life with associated breath holding.

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4. Let the breathing observe you

You can be aware of the body as a living, breathing, animal presence — a presence that has its own intelligence and awareness. And just as you are aware of the body, the body is aware of you. Allow yourself to be seen.

Read more

3. The power of gratitude

When we start to notice, acknowledge, and appreciate what’s going right in our lives we feel much happier. In fact psychologists say that being grateful and appreciative is one of the main things we can do to be happier in life. I read about one study in which participants were asked to spend 30 minutes writing a letter of appreciation to someone who had benefited them. The scientists conducting the study found that people who did this exercise were measurably happier a month later.

Read more

2. How to calm your mind, quickly and easily

We can use our attention in two ways: either as a flashlight or as a candle. Which we choose makes a radical difference to the quality of our experience, both in meditation and in daily life.

Read more

1. The most important thing you need to know about life, according to Buddhism

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.

Read more


So there you have it: the ten most popular articles published on Wildmind in 2017. I hope you enjoy these highlights, and that you’ll benefit from what we bring you in 2018. Thanks for reading!

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Interview: hear Vidyamala discuss “Mindfulness for Women” https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/on-practice/interview-vidyamala-discusses-mindfulness-for-women https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/on-practice/interview-vidyamala-discusses-mindfulness-for-women#respond Mon, 01 Jan 2018 05:01:08 +0000 https://www.wildmind.org/?p=36818

Vidyamala’s online course — Mindfulness for Women: Declutter Your Mind, Simplify Your Life, Find Time to ‘Be’ — starts today on Wildmind. This course will help you to:

  • Dwell in your body with more peace, self-love and ease
  • Relate to your thoughts and emotions in a more creative and helpful way
  • Love yourself and others with compassion and a sense of deep connection
  • Transform your relationships with others and the world around you
  • Become a force for good in the world breath by breath, moment by moment.
  • Change your mind to change your world.

Vidyamala learned to meditate in 1985 and has been a dedicated practitioner since that time. In 1995 she was ordained into

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Vidyamala’s online course — Mindfulness for Women: Declutter Your Mind, Simplify Your Life, Find Time to ‘Be’ — starts today on Wildmind. This course will help you to:

  • Dwell in your body with more peace, self-love and ease
  • Relate to your thoughts and emotions in a more creative and helpful way
  • Love yourself and others with compassion and a sense of deep connection
  • Transform your relationships with others and the world around you
  • Become a force for good in the world breath by breath, moment by moment.
  • Change your mind to change your world.

Vidyamala learned to meditate in 1985 and has been a dedicated practitioner since that time. In 1995 she was ordained into the Triratna Buddhist Order and in 2001 founded Breathworks, an organization offering mindfulness and compassion to people suffering from pain, illness and stress.

Last year she was interviewed on Breakfast with Brian Kelly on New Zealand’s The Coast Radio station. You can listen to the interview below.

If you’re interested in the Mindfulness for Women online course, you can read more or enroll here.

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New Year Ramblings https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/recovery-monday/new-year-ramblings https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/recovery-monday/new-year-ramblings#respond Sun, 31 Dec 2017 18:58:09 +0000 https://www.wildmind.org/?p=37553
Everything changes including our thoughts
What I’m up to
On January 1st I launch the online Mindfulness-Based Addiction Recovery course for 28 days. Mindfulness Based Addiction Recovery course during the month of January 2018. For people in recovery and people working in the field of recovery

Join me – and free your mind from addictive behaviours and substances. It takes 21 days to change a habit, and a lifetime to maintain the change. You lose the past and gain a new freedom. All addictive behaviours begin in the body. Sensations in the body drive our habits. And the breath can put a break on our habits. By breathing fully into the body and out with

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Everything changes including our thoughts
What I’m up to
On January 1st I launch the online Mindfulness-Based Addiction Recovery course for 28 days. Mindfulness Based Addiction Recovery course during the month of January 2018. For people in recovery and people working in the field of recovery

Join me – and free your mind from addictive behaviours and substances. It takes 21 days to change a habit, and a lifetime to maintain the change. You lose the past and gain a new freedom. All addictive behaviours begin in the body. Sensations in the body drive our habits. And the breath can put a break on our habits. By breathing fully into the body and out with awareness. Sounds simple but not easy. And Guess what. You have me to coach you daily for 28 days.

What I’m Thinking
I need to pay attention to my personal recovery. It’s so easy to be out there in the world writing books, giving talks, coaching people and changing lives. And it’s so easy for me to neglect myself and not be walking my talk. The Buddha was inspired by a mendicant begging for alms. He thought that this beggar may have the answer, and why? This beggar was not clothed as a Saddhu, a Deva, or an Asura. He was not on top of a mountain giving great sermons. He was simply radiating stillness, simplicity and contentment. This is what I’m thinking about by right now. Can I simply live recovery breath by breath, and let the teachings that flow from me just be icing on the cake.

Inspiring Quote
“Consider the eight-part program laid down in Buddhism: Right view, right aim, right speech, right action, right living, right effort, right-mindedness and right contemplation. The Buddhist philosophy, as exemplified by these eight points, could be literally adopted by AA as a substitute for or addition to the Twelve Steps. Generosity, universal love and welfare of others rather than considerations of self-care basic to Buddhism”.
This was written by the co-founder of AA Dr Bob in a pamphlet called Spiritual Milestones. This is a priceless gem because many people often question how does Buddhist Recovery fit in with their 12 step Recovery? Or wonder if Buddhist Recovery will contradict their 12 step program?

What I’m Watching
The Dhamma Brothers
Unfortunately, this is a documentary you have to pay for. And it’s worth every cent. This documentary follows the lives of several men in a maximum security prison in the USA, with one of them on death row. Donaldson correction centre in Massachusetts was the first prison in the West to introduce ten-day Vipassana retreats as taught by SN Goenka. Two of Goenka’s assistant teachers moved into prison for ten days and slept in a prison cell for the duration of the course. The impact on the men is moving to the extent it changes some of their lives forever. Ten hours a day of focussing on the bodily sensations and 10 days of noble silence, transformed a whole prison culture. The course was such a success that the people who taught it couldn’t wait to go back to prison and teach it again.

What I’m Obsessing about
I have a year of travel, retreats, public speaking, and professional training. I’ve been thinking about how to take good care of myself. Because for anyone who is in recovery from addictive behaviours and substances this can be a time of picking up and relapsing. So it’s a time for me to work my recovery program.

What I noticed
When we help others we help ourselves. And when we help ourselves we help others. On Christmas day I travelled by ferry to the city and opened up the doors of my Buddhist centre for our weekly session Recovery Mondays. Five people turned up, and we meditated on forgiveness and spoke about the family members we needed to make peace with, in our thoughts. I noticed that I still have some resentment towards my mother. I’m angry because she wants to re-write my story and tell me what she thinks she did, rather than what she did. Laughable, so what if she wants to re-write my story. I can rewrite mine too. It was a delightful evening getting in touch with this awareness and sharing the evening with others. I see more clearly that making peace with my mother does not mean I have to be in physical contact with her, it means I have to cultivate positivity every time she comes to mind and wish her unconditional loving-kindness.

Something I’m doing
I’ve asked someone to mentor me through my own 8 Step Recovery Program. I figure that if I expect others to be mentored through the program I could at least see what it’s like to be mentored. More about this next month.

New Updated Edition of Detox Your Heart – Meditations on Emotional Trauma 2017

For a free sample of the first chapter, book study and 21 meditations of “Eight Step Recovery – Using The Buddha’s Teachings To Overcome Addiction,” please email: eightstepsrecovery@gmail.com

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Spend mindful time in nature to relax and reduce stress https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/on-practice/spend-mindful-time-in-nature-to-relax-and-reduce-stress https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/on-practice/spend-mindful-time-in-nature-to-relax-and-reduce-stress#respond Sun, 31 Dec 2017 11:00:02 +0000 https://www.wildmind.org/?p=37454

The natural world is a powerful stress reliever and mood booster. It puts things in perspective and can right wrongs, calm anger and soothe frayed nerves. Spend a little time each day with nature, aware of the different feelings and sensations of the breath in your body, as well as all your other senses, and you can give yourself a little of this natural healing – for free. Just nip out into the garden, find a pretty local park or open space or, if you have time, head off to the coast or the moors. If you can’t get outside for any reason – maybe it’s horrible weather or you haven’t got much time –

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The natural world is a powerful stress reliever and mood booster. It puts things in perspective and can right wrongs, calm anger and soothe frayed nerves. Spend a little time each day with nature, aware of the different feelings and sensations of the breath in your body, as well as all your other senses, and you can give yourself a little of this natural healing – for free. Just nip out into the garden, find a pretty local park or open space or, if you have time, head off to the coast or the moors. If you can’t get outside for any reason – maybe it’s horrible weather or you haven’t got much time – then you could sit quietly and look out of the window, or you could spend time looking at an indoor plant and really notice all the colours and textures. Wherever you are, your aim is simply to take in the natural surroundings as mindfully as you can.

Start by spending a few minutes absorbing the scene. What can you see, hear and smell? Does the air have a taste? How do the earth, grass and tree bark feel? Are they rough, smooth, soft or slippery? Close your eyes and focus on the sounds. Soak up the different ones. Can you hear the wind? Or perhaps cars in the distance? Can you hear insects, birdsong or the scampering of small animals? Notice the rise and fall of each individual sound. Mentally flick between them.

Now sit down. Can you feel the weight of your body settling onto the seat, park bench or whatever you’re sitting on? Can you give your weight up to gravity, so that you feel a sense of rest? Can you feel the movement of the breath in your whole body – the front, the back and the sides? Can you feel how the breath is always changing, just as the sounds do? Can you let any sensations of discomfort in the body also come and go as the moments pass? See if you can have a more fluid experience of both your body and the world around you.

Now stand and take a short walk. Feel the sensations underfoot and notice the movement of your muscles and joints. Feel the gentle swaying of your limbs. Experiment with walking at different speeds and notice how this feels. Let your breath flow as naturally as you can while you move.

As you do this exercise, notice the relationship between direct sensory awareness and thinking: when you’re immersed in savoring your senses, do you find you think less? And if you ‘come to’ at some stage and notice you’ve been lost in thinking – say, rehearsing an argument or worrying about something – can you see how your direct sensory experience faded into the background while you were lost in thought?

If you’re interested in Vidyamala’s “Mindfulness for Women” online course, which starts Jan 1, 2018, you can read more or enroll here.

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This simple tweak to your self-view can get you meditating daily https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/on-practice/self-view-meditating-daily https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/on-practice/self-view-meditating-daily#comments Sat, 30 Dec 2017 19:38:04 +0000 https://www.wildmind.org/?p=37561

Ashim D’Silva, https://unsplash.com/@randomlies

Meditation is a powerful practice, making us healthier, happier, and more compassionate. But even if you know this — even if you’ve experienced this — it can be hard to meditate regularly.

If you’ve had trouble establishing a daily meditation practice this may have seriously affected your self view. You may have come to believe that you are not the kind of person who can meditate daily. And that belief discourages you from meditating, becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So let’s do something about that.

I’m going to share the tool that finally helped me to establish a rock-solid daily meditation practice!

Despite all the benefits of meditation that I’d learned about from science studies (it

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Ashim D’Silva, https://unsplash.com/@randomlies

Meditation is a powerful practice, making us healthier, happier, and more compassionate. But even if you know this — even if you’ve experienced this — it can be hard to meditate regularly.

If you’ve had trouble establishing a daily meditation practice this may have seriously affected your self view. You may have come to believe that you are not the kind of person who can meditate daily. And that belief discourages you from meditating, becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So let’s do something about that.

I’m going to share the tool that finally helped me to establish a rock-solid daily meditation practice!

Despite all the benefits of meditation that I’d learned about from science studies (it keeps you healthier, reduces stress, promotes happiness, slows the aging in your brain, reduces pain) and from my personal experience (life is much easier when I meditate regularly) I used to find it very hard to get myself onto the cushion every single day. I’d miss a day, or two, or three — and then find it was harder and harder to get back into the habit.

Then I discovered a technique that worked for me. And it seems to work for other people as well. It’s very simple: Just keep repeating to yourself the following mantra: “I meditate every day; It’s just what I do; It’s part of who I am.”

What repeating this mantra does is to reprogram your sense of who you are. You start to overwrite the belief that you can’t meditate daily (unlike other, “better,” meditators). In time, the belief that you meditate daily starts to take root and grow.

Now a few things about this:

You may be thinking, “It’s not true. I don’t meditate every day.” And you might not want to repeat something that’s not true. But regard this mantra as a statement of intention. You’re talking about your life from this point onwards, not about the past.

So it’s true now. As a statement about today, or however many consecutive days you’ve meditated, it’s completely factual! So choose not to believe those “Yes, but…” thoughts. Acknowledge them, but say to them “I hear you, but I’m choosing not to believe you.”

You need to repeat the phrases a lot. Say them to yourself when you first wake up in the morning. Say them in the shower. Say them while you’re driving or sitting on public transport. Say them while you’re washing the dishes; in the gym; while walking; while you’re lying in bed waiting to fall asleep. Say them while you’re meditating!

It’s not enough just to repeat the mantra and hope that it’s going to do all the work for you. The mantra will make meditating easier, but you still have to make an effort to sit daily. So commit to meditating for a minimum of five minutes sometime every day between waking up in the morning and going to sleep again.

In time you will realize that the mantra describes you. You do meditate every day. It is just what you do. Your daily practice is part of who you are. You don’t even think about it, or have to make a decision to do it, any more than you have to make a decision to brush your teeth every day. You just do it.

It really works. Try it.

My online course, “Get Your Sit Together: 28 Days to Develop a Rock-Solid Daily Meditation Habit,” starts January 1, and contains many other tips for establishing a daily meditation practice. Check it out!

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Engage. Connect. Act. https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/on-practice/engage-connect-act https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/on-practice/engage-connect-act#respond Sat, 30 Dec 2017 15:00:19 +0000 https://www.wildmind.org/?p=37457

Vidyamala’s online course, Mindfulness for Women: Declutter Your Mind, Simplify Your Life, Find Time to ‘Be’, starts Jan 1. Click here now to enroll!

After the inauguration of Donald Trump in 2017, we saw the emergence of a phenomenal up-rising culminating in the ‘Women’s March’ on Washington and the partner ‘Sister Marches’ that happened all around the world attracting millions of peaceful marchers.

As I watched these extraordinary gatherings unfold on the news and media I was astounded and moved to tears. Social media can be used for ill – think ‘fake news’, bullying, irrational tweets from Trump; but it can also be used for good – which is what we are seeing with the

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Vidyamala’s online course, Mindfulness for Women: Declutter Your Mind, Simplify Your Life, Find Time to ‘Be’, starts Jan 1. Click here now to enroll!

After the inauguration of Donald Trump in 2017, we saw the emergence of a phenomenal up-rising culminating in the ‘Women’s March’ on Washington and the partner ‘Sister Marches’ that happened all around the world attracting millions of peaceful marchers.

As I watched these extraordinary gatherings unfold on the news and media I was astounded and moved to tears. Social media can be used for ill – think ‘fake news’, bullying, irrational tweets from Trump; but it can also be used for good – which is what we are seeing with the rise of the Women’s Marches.

It started with one woman, Teresa Shook of Hawaii. On the night after Donald Trump’s election she went on facebook and posted a message. She wrote the first thing that came to mind: “I think we should march”. After getting a response to her post from a single woman in the chatroom, Shook created a private Facebook event page for the march and invited a few dozen online friends to join before going to sleep. Overnight, a link to Shook’s event page was posted in Pantsuit Nation and other groups.

“When I woke, up it had gone ballistic,” Shook said. Women from across the United States contacted Shook and began to guide the effort. Now organizers credit Shook’s quiet plea with igniting what was the largest demonstration in the nation’s capital related to a presidential election.

Out of such small beginnings has come this global phenomenon, which would be unlikely to have occurred without social media. This is something to truly celebrate – the remarkable women behind the Women’s Marches harnessed the tools at their fingertips – I take this as inspiration to never be silent in the face of violence, bullying and pain.

Women have gained an enormous amount in the West over recent decades but there is still so much more to do. And women in the developing world are still often painfully discriminated against. In my book ‘Mindfulness for Women’ I list some scary stats:

  • Women account for two-thirds of all working hours and produce half the world’s food, but earn only 10 per cent of global income and own just 1 per cent of the world’s property.
  • Though women make up half the global population, they represent 70 per cent of the world’s poor.
  • Women and girls aged fifteen to forty-four are more at risk from rape and domestic violence than they are from war, cancer, malaria and traffic accidents.
  • At least one in three women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex or abused in her lifetime.
  • Between 1.5 million and 3 million girls and women die each year because of gender-based violence.
  • Between 700,000 and 4 million girls and women are sold into prostitution each year.
  • Ninety-nine per cent of maternal deaths occur in developing countries, with women dying of pregnancy-related causes at a rate of one every minute.
  • Women account for nearly two-thirds of the world’s 780million people who cannot read.
  • Forty-one million girls worldwide are still denied a primary education.
  • Globally, only one in five parliamentarians is a woman*

Many people are campaigning brilliantly on behalf of women and girls – think Michelle Obama and her work with ‘Let Girls Learn’; and Malala Yousafzai. We may not think we are as talented or brilliant as they are – indeed they are remarkable. But we can all play a part and use our voice in whatever way we can.

History shows us time and again that huge change comes about through millions of tiny acts. The achievements of mass movements such as the Civil Rights movement in the USA in the 1960s were the result of millions of tiny, almost imperceptible acts that led to society becoming convulsed by change. Similarly, the suffragettes campaigned together to get women the vote. They succeeded in the UK in 1918, and now, less than 100 years later, women lead nations.

When asked, ‘How does social change happen?’ the South African social rights activist Desmond Tutu replied: ‘It is because individuals are connected – you and you and you – this becomes a coalition, which becomes a movement. This is how apartheid was overcome.’

This is what we are seeing with the rising of such movements as the ‘Women’s and Sister Marches’ all over the world. And let’s make sure the momentum is maintained.

Engage. Connect. Act. Such a great thing to celebrate. Let’s keep it up.

Click here to learn about Vidyamala’s online course, Mindfulness for Women: Declutter Your Mind, Simplify Your Life, Find Time to ‘Be’, which starts Jan 1.

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To be happier, think beyond yourself https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/on-practice/to-be-happier-think-beyond-yourself https://www.wildmind.org/blogs/on-practice/to-be-happier-think-beyond-yourself#comments Thu, 28 Dec 2017 13:00:04 +0000 https://www.wildmind.org/?p=37540

Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

It’s natural to assume that the more we focus on ourselves and our own problems, the happier we’ll be. But consider this: in a study of language used by poets, it was found that those who used the words I, me, my, and mine were much more likely to commit suicide than those who used we, us, our, and ours.

In fact, poets who killed themselves used I-words more and more often as they approached their premature deaths, while those who lived long lives used we-words more and more often.

This relates to the problem of rumination, where our own thinking acts to amplify our suffering. Many of our thoughts containing I, me, my,

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Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

It’s natural to assume that the more we focus on ourselves and our own problems, the happier we’ll be. But consider this: in a study of language used by poets, it was found that those who used the words I, me, my, and mine were much more likely to commit suicide than those who used we, us, our, and ours.

In fact, poets who killed themselves used I-words more and more often as they approached their premature deaths, while those who lived long lives used we-words more and more often.

This relates to the problem of rumination, where our own thinking acts to amplify our suffering. Many of our thoughts containing I, me, my, and mine are connected with feelings of distress: I’m worried about this, I don’t like that. No one cares about me or considers my feelings. And so on.

“I” thoughts reinforce our sense of aloneness. We see ourselves as broken, as worse than others, and therefore separate from them.

Thoughts of “we” connect us, reminding us of our common humanity. Our individual sufferings are seen as being shared by others, and as being part of the difficulties we all have in being human. Our sufferings are not a sign of us being broken, but of us belonging to a greater whole. Our sufferings connect us with others, rather than pushing us into a sense of separateness.

While you’re here, why not download Bodhi Mind, our FREE meditation iPhone app?
Cultivating compassion is one way of moving from I-thinking to we-thinking, and research in fact shows that compassionately considering and responding to the sufferings of others brings us many benefits, including becoming happier, healthier, more self-confident, less self-critical, and more emotionally resilient.

If it seems paradoxical that taking on board other’s sufferings can make us healthier and happier, this is simply a reflection of the fact that we forget that we are intrinsically social beings, that we are therefore more fulfilled when we connect with others, and that we also gain a sense of meaning and purpose from helping others.

Compassion can be cultivated. And it’s a simple thing: compassion is simply kindness meeting suffering. In compassion meditation we first connect in a kindly way with ourselves, and then extend our concern to others.

Practicing in this way trains us to take into account not just our own wellbeing, but that of others, too. This has the effect of reducing the amount of self-focused rumination we do, decreasing our tendency to freak out, and increasing our happiness.

The guided meditation recording above is from one of our online courses. A recording of this is available for download here.

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