Bodhipaksa

Support our next guided meditation CD!

harnessing the power of kindness CD cover

I teach meditation because nothing makes me happier than seeing other people become happier through practicing.

My life’s mission is to promote compassion and mindfulness by teaching meditation. “Harnessing the Power of Kindness,” my next CD/MP3 album, represents the latest evolution in my 30 or so years of teaching lovingkindness meditation. It contains practices that I’ve found particularly useful in developing empathy and kindness.

To help us bring these teachings to the world, we’re asking that you help sponsor their production by purchasing the CD (or MP3s) in advance. The $2,500 we’re seeking will go to cover the recording studio, graphic design, and CD publication costs.

Kindness and compassion have been shown in studies to bring increased happiness, improved relationships, enhanced health, and a greater sense of meaning in life. Fortunately kindness and compassion are skills that can be learned.

Making our CDs available helps people have access to powerful tools for self-transformation. By supporting this project not only do you get access to my latest teachings, but you help make them available to others as well.

We have perks for all donors! The most basic perk, for a $10 donation, is that you’ll be mailed a copy of the CD when it’s published. Your CD will be on its way to you by August at the latest!

For a donation of $15, you’ll receive a downloadable version of the album in addition to the CD.

For $25, you’ll receive all the above, plus alternative, abridged and extended versions of the tracks, so that you can choose to meditate for a longer or shorter time.

To learn more about our fundraising project, or to contribute, visit our Indiegogo page.

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Our latest meditation CD: How to Stop Beating Yourself Up!

Wildmind’s newest guided meditation CD (and MP3) has just been published and it’s all about self compassion.

Most of us are far too hard on ourselves. We doubt our own worthiness. We talk to ourselves unkindly and often sacrifice our own well-being in order to “get things done.” Often we fear that if we stop criticizing ourselves we’ll cease to perform well.

Paradoxically, though, it’s people who lack self compassion who are more prone to stress and burnout, while self-compassionate individuals are more emotionally resilient, better able to face challenges, and overall more effective.

Self-compassion can be learned. It arises from developing four skills:

  • Mindful awareness, which helps us to recognize our mental habits, including that of giving ourselves a hard time
  • Acceptance, which allows us be with our suffering without reacting to it or seeing it as a sign of failure
  • Self-kindness, which helps us, in the face of difficulties, to give support, encouragement, and compassion to ourselves
  • Realistic perspective on life, which help us to see our problems in a balanced and mature way

Each of those skills—which are woven into the four guided meditations on this CD—can be learned through practice.

Self-compassion helps us to relearn our own intrinsic worth as human beings, and is an essential step toward having true compassion for others.

This CD includes 4 tracks:

  1. Kindfulness of Breathing 12:08
  2. Empathizing With Ourselves and Others 25:39
  3. Being With Difficult Experiences 19:56
  4. Four Steps to Self-Compassion 12:35

Total Running Time: 69:38

Listen to these two-minute MP3 samples:

Track 1: Kindfulness of Breathing

Track 2: Empathizing With Ourselves and Others

Track 3: Being With Difficult Experiences

Track 4: Four Steps to Self-Compassion

Purchase How to Stop Beating Yourself Up now as an MP3 download!

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“Meditation Freedom” podcast

The other week I was interviewed by Sicco Rood for the Meditation Freedom podcast. He’s interviewed a number of well-known teachers, including Lama Surya Das and Ven Pannavati, both of whom I was honored to meet at this year’s Western Dharma Teachers’ Conference. If I sound a little flat, it’s because just before the recording took place I’d heard that a beloved aunt had passed away.

meditation freedom podcast

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Two events in NYC

NYC

I’m appearing in two events at the New York Insight center on Oct 9 and Oct 10.

Dharma in Dialogue: Mythbusting the Dharma

The first of these is a conversation and Q&A with James Shaheen, editor and publisher of Tricycle magazine. James and I both have an interest in clearing up misconceptions about the Dharma. James has been running a series of articles by teachers such as Bhikkhu Bodhi, Thanissaro Bhikkhu, and myself, “mythbusting” some common misunderstandings of Buddhist teachings. I run a site called Fake Buddha Quotes (“I can’t believe it’s not Buddha!”) that examines the many supposed Buddha quotes that circulate on Facebook, Twitter, etc., and that often have nothing to do with the Buddha at all.

“Mythbusting the Dharma” runs from 7PM to 9PM on Oct 9. No registration is required. There’s no fixed charge for the event”—make a donation at the door.

From Me to We—And Beyond

The second event is an all-day workshop exploring our interconnectedness with each other and with the elements, with planet earth and with the universe. We’ll be delving into the Buddha’s Six Element Practice in order to expand our sense of who we are, breaking down the boundaries that make us feel separate from one another and from our world.

This event runs from 10AM until 5PM, and the registration fee is $70. (Scholarships are available). Click here to reserve a place.

New York Insight is at the heart of New York City, between Broadway & 6th Avenue, at 28 West 27th Street (10th Floor), New York, NY 10001.

If you’re in the area, I’d love to see you.

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The Six Elements CD

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The Buddha taught the Six Element Practice as a way of challenging our assumptions of our own separateness and permanence. In this practice we reflect on the various “elements” that compose our being (solid matter, liquid, energy, gas, space, and consciousness itself) and see how each is a flow, rather than something static. Through this practice we come to see that every aspect of our being is in a permanent state of flux, and that we are nothing more or less than the universe become conscious of itself.

The practices on this CD will help you to:

  • let go of limited views of yourself
  • feel a greater sense of awe and wonder
  • experience a greater sense of connectedness
  • find a sense of peace and stability in an ever-changing world

Bodhipaksa, who leads these meditations, has been practicing the reflection on the Six Elements for over 20 years. His gentle guidance will help you to access deeper levels of tranquillity and calm.

This CD contains two tracks:

1. The Development of Lovingkindness (15:36)
The Six Element Practice should be entered into from a state of healthy appreciation, and it’s traditional to begin with a short period of metta bhavana, or development of lovingkindness.

2. The Six Element Practice (46:16)
In this insight meditation practice we reflect in turn on the elements Earth, Water, Fire, Air, Space, and Consciousness, noting how each is an ever-changing process flowing through us. The practice helps us to see and appreciate the reality of our interconnectedness with the universe. It liberates us from a limited view of ourselves and helps us to see that we are nothing less than the universe become conscious of itself.

Total Running Time 61:52

The 6 Elements can be purchased as an MP3 download.

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A year of going deeper

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A year of going deeperWe have exciting plans for next year. We kicked off 2013 with a 100 Day Meditation Challenge, and then continued with 100 Days of Lovingkindness. Lots of work went into these, and for the second event I managed, somehow (mainly by sleeping very little) to produce a blog post for every one of the 100 days.

I loved the focus that this gave to the blog and to our practice. Many, many people participated in these challenges and experienced big breakthroughs with their practice.

I also loved the fact that over the course of 100 days I managed to write 90,000 words on lovingkindness practice. That material is going to evolve into a book, for which I already have a publisher lined up. And that book, once it’s published, is going to end up reaching even more people. I love synergy!

Inspired by the good that came from these two events, I want to run even more special events in 2014. We’re calling this our Year of Going Deeper. So we’re running even more events, and this will give a wonderful focus to our practice. It will also lead to me developing a large body of blog posts and guided meditations that will be freely available as a gift to the world. And we’ll also end up with more books, CDs, etc.

Soon we’ll be announcing how these events will work, and how you can sign up for them (they’ll all be free, although donations are encouraged), but I want to give you a sneak peek at what’s coming up. Here’s the program we’ve put together:

  • Jan 1 – 28 Sit : Breathe : Love (A 28 Day Meditation Challenge)
  • Jan 31 – May 10 100 Days of Lovingkindness
  • May 13 – Jun 9 Sit : Breathe : Love (A 28 Day Meditation Challenge)
  • Jun 6 – Aug 10 60 Days to Jhana
  • Aug 13 – Sep 9 Sit : Breathe : Love (A 28 Day Meditation Challenge)
  • Sep 12 – Oct 23 42 Days: 6 Elements (An exploration of the 6 Element Practice)
  • Oct 27 – Nov 23 Sit : Breathe : Love (A 28 Day Meditation Challenge)
  • Nov 28 – Dec 25 4 Weeks of Insight

We decided that although a 100 day meditation challenge at the start of the year was a wonderful thing for those who participated, it was also daunting for many people, which meant that they didn’t even try. So we decided to start with a 28 day challenge in 2014 instead. The aim is to help people develop a habit of daily sitting.

And so that people don’t feel that they’ve “missed the boat” if they can’t get on board for the first challenge, we’re repeating the challenge throughout the year. The 28 day challenges will focus on mindfulness practice.

The program follows the traditional approach of exploring samatha approaches to meditation, which help us develop calm, concentration, and emotional positivity, before exploring vipassana (insight) approaches to meditating.

In the end what we’ll have is a whole program that gives you everything you need, meditatively speaking, to reach awakening.

I hope you find this program as exciting as I do.

But here’s the thing: I have way too much on my plate as it is. This program can only happen if I’m freed up from some of my administrative responsibilities so that I can concentrate on writing and teaching.

And that’s why we’ve set up the Free Bodhi project, where we’re raising seed money so that I can employ a business manager. We’re trying to raise enough to employ a business manager for six months. What about after that? Well, having a business manager (actually he has a name — Mark), will help Wildmind become more financially stable. Our publicity will be better, so that more people will attend the events I’ve been telling you about. And with more people, we’ll receive more donations. I’ll also be freer to develop books and CDs, which we’ll sell through our store and through Amazon. So within six months we project that we’ll bring in enough extra revenue to support Mark indefinitely.

There’s more I could say. I’ve been thinking much more long-term about Wildmind, and what we’re doing. But I’ll save that for another blog post.

In the meantime, I invite you to contribute to our Free Bodhi project so that the program above can become a reality.

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Why meditation isn’t the main thing in my life

Given that I’m a meditation teacher and the author of a good number of books and audiobooks on meditation, you might think that meditation should be the central thing in my life. But — and this is something I only just realized — it’s not.

I’ve carried around, not very consciously, the idea that meditation should be the most important, the most central, thing in my life. And I suspect that this mostly unconscious idea has led to inner conflict and resistance. Certainly, when I realized just the other day that meditation wasn’t and shouldn’t be the central thing in my life, I felt unburdened. I felt lighter, freer, and clearer. The notion that meditation should be the central thing in my life was something that had been weighing me down.

It’s not that I don’t take meditation seriously. I meditate every day. It’s just what I do. It’s part of who I am. To use a common, but useful, analogy, brushing my teeth isn’t the most important part of my life, but I make sure I do it at least twice each day.

What is the most important thing in my life? What brings me the most happiness and gives me the sense that my life is being spent in a meaningful way is seeing people grow and become happier. Having a hand in that process is deeply fulfilling. So basically helping people is the central thing in my life.

But even that’s a bit of a simplification. I have a drive to become awakened, or enlightened. Or at least I have a drive to seek a meaningful way of living that maximizes my sense of happiness and peace and that minimizes the amount of unnecessary suffering I experience. That’s my quest. And it just so happens that the Buddhist goal of spiritual awakening and the Buddhist path to awakening match up with my own goal. That’s not surprising, since the whole Buddhist path is about ending suffering and finding peace.

I sometimes talk about my quest (and always think about it) as wanting to know the mind of the Buddha. Now that might sound a little selfish, or self-centered, but there’s another factor. It turns out that if I want to maximize my happiness, minimize the amount of unnecessary suffering I experience, experience more peace, and feel that I’m living life meaningfully, then I need to help others.

I can’t exactly explain why. You can call it “interconnectedness” if you want. You can talk about it in terms of non-duality. But fundamentally, helping others to move toward awakening (whether or not they’re aware that’s where they’re headed) seems to be inseparable from my own movement toward enlightenment. This is what the Mahāyāna called mahākaruṇā, or great compassion, in which we aim to guide all beings to the happiness of awakening. I believe this is what the earlier Buddhist tradition also called upekkhā, the fourth brahmavihāra. Everyone else is going to tell you that upekkhā is “equanimity,” but the root of the word upekkhā suggests that it originally meant “to watch over closely” and its place as the pinnacle of the brahmavihāras convinces me that upekkhā and mahākaruṇā are the same thing.

There’s another way you can express all this, which is to say that the Buddha (enlightenment, awakening, living an awakened life) is at the center of my life. And if I think of my life as a maṇṇḍ ala — a symbolic arrangement of values — then the Buddha is at the center of my maṇṇḍ ala.

Ideally, I’d like everything else in my life to relate to and be supportive of the center. That’s far from being the case: I have anger and craving and any number of bad habits that represent movements away from the center. But that’s what practice is about. It helps us to “want one thing.”

Meditation is just a support — albeit a crucial one — to the goal of getting myself and all beings to awakening: my “one thing.” It can never be, never has been, and never should be the most important thing in my life, even though it’s a crucial practice.

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Exploring Self Compassion: A retreat in Washington, Sep 26–29, 2013

self-compassionI’m leading a retreat September 26th to September 29th at Camp Delaney, Sun Lakes State Park, Washington, on the theme of Exploring Self Compassion.

Self compassion is essential if we are to have compassion for others. It is also a powerful tool for transforming our lives, freeing us from fear and resentment and unleashing a more joyful and creative approach to life

On this retreat we’ll explore, step-by-step, how to cultivate self-compassion. We’ll learn to become more mindful of our own suffering, and to accept it without reacting. We’ll explore how to hold our suffering in mind compassionately, and how to imbue our minds with a compassionate awareness.

Self-compassion is something that’s been absolutely transformative in my own life. It’s taught me how to deal with things like recurring shame and guilt, and with feelings of hurt, resentment, and anger.

My teaching is rooted in a long-term project passion I have for exploring a sequence of mental events — contact-feeling-volition-action — found in the Buddhist teaching of conditionality. The material I’ll be presenting, and the guided meditations we’ll be doing, arise from years of reflection and personal experience.

The retreat itself is hosted by the Seattle Buddhist Center (one of the centers of the Triratna Buddhist Community), and they’re the people to contact regarding booking a place, or for practical information about how to get there. Click here for more information.

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Guided meditation: mindfulness of breathing

Bodhipaksa

The video below is another recording from one of the Google Plus Hangout meditations that I lead from time to time.

This one is a form of mindful breathing meditation. It follows the traditional form that’s taught on this site, but with more of an emphasis on setting up conditions for the jhana factors to arise.

I incorporate a few elements which have become distinctive in my teaching: the principle of paying attention to a broad band of experiences connected with the breathing, so that we use up as much mental bandwidth as possible in order to reduce distracted thinking. This week I add a little twist, which is paying attention to the three-dimensionality of the breathing: something I find really calms the mind, probably because it moves activity from the left to the right hemisphere of the brain.

Enjoy! And remember that we have a thriving online meditation community, where we share what’s going on in our practice and give each other support and encouragement. Please join us!

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Meditation, technology, and Google Glass

glass buddha projectNew Hampshire magazine had a nice piece on some of the meditation facilities and teachers available in the state, and part of the article was about my work.

The Future of Meditation?
You’d think not much has changed about meditation in the two and a half millennia since Siddhārtha Gautama sat beneath the Bodhi tree and attained enlightenment. After all, it’s hard to modernize a practice that involves little more than sitting down and shutting up.

But according to Bodhipaksa, the founder of wildmind.org, an online meditation resource, meditators have been early adopters of technology ever since the invention of the book. “The world’s oldest printed text was a Buddhist book.” He explains that they understood the potential. “Buddhists were on it, ‘Oh, this is a way to reach people.'”

Bodhipaksa (pronounced bo-dee-pack-sha) started Wildmind as a grad student in Montana when he realized meditators were falling behind the curve in the Internet age. Now from his offices in Newmarket he publishes guided meditations online and via CD and mp3. He leads live Google + hangouts where meditators chat (and meditate) together. People from as many as six different countries have attended online sessions.

“For some people the sun was just rising and for some people it was kind of late in the evening and for some it was right in the afternoon,” he says. “It was fascinating.” On the other hand he has at least one student who attends classes online from just up the road in Newmarket.

The wildmind.org website gets about a million and a half visitors a year, he says.

“Whenever new tools come out, my first thought is ‘how can I use this to reach more people?'”

He’s currently experimenting with Google Glass (pictured) and has found that it can be a tool for teaching good meditation posture and perhaps offer a view of a serene landscape to someone actually surrounded by a bustling environment.

With various apps and social media, it’s possible to find support and fellowship online. “Someone who is geographically isolated can feel the power of being involved in this community,” says Bodhipaksa.

“How can I use this to reach more people?” pretty much sums up my attitude to technology and meditation, although “How can this be used to teach meditation better?” is an equally important question.

I’ve had Google Glass for a month now, but for most of that time I’ve been involved in a rather intensive project to teach study skills and personal development skills (including meditation) to teens from low income families, in order to boost their chances of getting into college, and that’s slowed down my explorations of Glass as a teaching tool.

But I have found Glass to be very useful as a recording device. I recorded several of the guided meditations I led for my summer teens, and although for reasons of confidentiality I probably won’t be posting the video on Youtube, I plan to extract the audio and make that available.

I’ve also made a couple of initial explorations of the potential for using Glass to show how mindfulness can be practiced in daily life. For example I might be driving while wearing Glass (yes, it’s safe) and get stuck behind a garbage truck doing its pickup, and record just a 30 second video explaining the situation and showing how rather than getting impatient you can use the time to connect with your body and your breathing, and to experience gratitude that there are people who help make our environment a better place to live in. It’s very early days with these explorations, but I hope to post some videos along those lines before long.

Lastly, I’d like to express my gratitude to the many people who contributed to our Glass Buddha Project in order to help me buy Glass so that I could experiment with it. In particular I’d like to acknowledge the exceptional support of Adrian Lucas of Sassakala Microfarm. Sassakala promotes “urban homesteading” — creating vertical microfarms in tiny spaces. Earlier this year I visited Sassakala’s microfarm in Florida and was blown away by the amount of food that could be produced in a truly minuscule space. Please visit Sassakala’s site. You never know, it may bring out the farmer in you!

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