Buddhism

The surprising benefits of compassion meditation

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Stacey Colino, USNews: In recent years, mindfulness meditation has garnered loads of attention for its beneficial effects on the body and mind. Now, there’s a new star on the block: compassion meditation, a less well-known but increasingly popular contemplative practice that aims to strengthen feelings of compassion and empathy toward different people (both those you care about and those who are difficult).

“It’s deeply rooted in Buddhist philosophy, which has taught us a lot about how people are connected and what is the purpose of our existence,” explains Stefan G. Hofmann, a professor of psychology in the department of psychological and brain sciences at Boston University. “Compassion is the fundamental idea at the root of Buddhist philosophy – if life is suffering and we can’t avoid it, we need to embrace it and be compassionate toward the suffering of others. It brings us closer to others.”

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More than just a feel-good practice, compassion meditation leads to improved mood, more altruistic behavior, less anger, reduced stress and decreased maladaptive mind wandering, according to recent research. A 2013 study at the VA Puget Sound Health Care System in Seattle found that practicing loving-kindness meditation (a form of compassion meditation) for 12 weeks reduced symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, as well as anger and depression among veterans with PTSD. A 2005 study from Duke University Medical Center found that practicing loving-kindness meditation for eight weeks reduced pain and psychological distress among patients with chronic low back pain. And a 2015 study from Brazil found that practicing yoga along with compassion meditation three times a week for eight weeks improved quality of life, vitality, attention and self-compassion among family caregivers of patients with Alzheimer’s disease. …

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How meditation went mainstream

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Ashley Ross, Time: The idea of meditation seems simple: Sit still, focus on breath, reflect. But the practice of meditating is rooted in a deep cultural history that has seen the practice grow from a religious idea to something that can now seem more stylish than spiritual.

Though plenty of people still meditate for religious reasons, these days, the practice has joined yoga as a secular and chic trend, as dedicated meditation studios open in cities like New York and Los Angeles. Even Equinox, a fitness company with gyms across North America and in London, is launching a class called HeadStrong in April, which will combine high intensity interval training with meditation. The trend has also caught up with technology, with apps like Headpsace and OMG. I Can Meditate!, both of which have partnered with airlines (Virgin Atlantic and Delta, respectively) to offer in-flight meditation options. Headspace also debuted specially designed meditation pods that co-founder Rich Pierson says hopes people will use “like Superman used phonebooths, only instead of emerging in tights intent on fighting crime, they’ll come out with a clearer, calmer outlook.”

“It used to be that if you wanted to try Tibetan Buddhism and meditation, you had to travel all the way to Tibet, and if you wanted to try Korean meditation, you had to travel all the way to Korea. But now you can go to neighborhoods in New York and do both in an hour,” says Lodro Rinzler, author and ‘Chief Spiritual Officer’ at the Manhattan studio MNDFL, which opened in late 2015. “All of a sudden people are saying this can help you, but Buddhists have been saying…

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It’s time for Buddhists to address ableism and accessibility

Vidyamala Burch, Lion’s Roar: Following two accidents in my teens and twenties, I live with a serious spinal injury, getting around with the help of a wheelchair or crutches and with pain as a constant companion. When I am on retreat, I need to change position regularly, either by lying down or standing up. I need to do this. And at the places where I teach and practice, I can do this. Taraloka, a U.K. retreat center for women where I often teach, has a dedicated living space for disabled retreatants …

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Meditation: what can and can’t be taught

Steven Schwartzberg, Huffington Post: By most standards, I’m a fairly experienced meditator. I meditate daily, and have for years. I’ve spent months at a time immersed in silent practice. I study it, teach it, and write about it.

I can still wonder if I’m doing it wrong.

Meditation is deeply personal. Except with the broadest brushstrokes, this intricate journey into one’s most intimate inner experience can not be translated or taught. Teachers may of course share their intuition and expertise, but it is not possible to get inside …

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Kindness and compassion to all? Show some goodwill to yourself first

wildmind meditation newsVidyamala Burch, Kindness Blog: There is no doubt that ‘Giving Tuesday’ is a great way to bring us back to the true sense of charity and empathy towards others, but this is a one off seasonal donation. How is it possible to maintain kindness and compassion to others in our daily lives throughout the whole year, when we have so many demands from family, friends and live in a world where we witness others, and the environment, lurch from crisis to despair and back again?

To complicate matters, compassion and kindness can sometimes be viewed as ‘soft’, possibly even a bit weak? But nothing …

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Kindness changes everything

wildmind meditation newsNoah Levine, Lion’s Roar: The Buddha first taught loving-kindness to a group of monks who had been practicing meditation in a forest. The monks were fearful that the spirits of the forest did not want them there and that the spirits were going to attack them. Although the monks were probably just afraid of the dark, their fear became anger toward the forest, and their anger became hatred. And, of course, when one is feeling angry, unsafe, and resentful it becomes more and more difficult to meditate. So the group of monks went to the Buddha, asking for advice on how to deal with …

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A Buddhist guide to surviving the holidays: four practices

wildmind meditation newsEthan Nichtern: Let’s face it, sometimes the holidays just…suck. Maybe that’s not the most Buddhist way of saying it, but it is how it feels. Even more than in past years, friends and students are reporting feeling stress and foreboding right now. To be honest, I’m feeling a sense of burden and anxiety, too, that strange feeling when there’s too much to do and not any clear sense of intention behind the doing of it. This holiday season has given me reason to pause and think about what really matters. And guess what, it’s neither black Friday nor cyber Monday.

Why are we so …

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Five realities of becoming a hardcore meditator

wildmind meditation newsBrent R. Oliver, Tricycle: At the beginning of this year I made a vow. If you’ve read my other columns here you’ll no doubt be aware of the fact that I’ve had trouble picking—and then sticking with—a specific Buddhist modality. There’s so much available, especially with the advent of teaching via Internet, that my attention has always been divided among the glut of Buddhist approaches that have flooded the West. I’ve snatched up every shiny object out there and fiddled with it only to become entranced by another sparkly thing close by. The sentence that best sums up my journey is probably …

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Briton jailed in Burma for ‘insulting’ Buddha image named prisoner of conscience by Amnesty

wildmind meditation newsPhilip Sherwell, The Telegraph: A British bar manager jailed in a notorious Rangoon prison for insulting Buddhism is to be named as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International as his family and human rights activists campaign for his release.

Philip Blackwood’s case has become embroiled in the political ascendancy of radical Buddhist nationalist monks in the run-up to landmark elections in Burma next month.

His supporters have argued that his prosecution for religious defamation for uploading an image of Buddha wearing headphones to advertise his bar was a maneuver by the military-backed government to court nationalist support in the former British colony also …

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Cuddly robot monk is here to answer your questions on Buddhism!

Robot monk

Daniel Paul, Shanghaiist: The future has landed in the form of a chubby robot monk unveiled at Beijing’s Dragon Spring Temple earlier this week. Developed with the help of artificial intelligence experts, “Xian’er” is able to sense his surroundings and answer deep questions about Buddhism.

He is already known as the young and affable main protagonist of an animated cartoon series developed by Longquan Comic and Animation Group. The short stories he stars in are created by monks and volunteers and dispense little nuggets of Buddhist wisdom in an easy to understand and relatable way.

Their aim is to engage with new and contemporary audiences, continuing a trend by the Longquan Temple to take a modern approach to promoting Buddhism, including through social media. The temple’s Master Xuecheng was the first monk on the Chinese mainland to start a blog, and in a similar fashion the tech savvy Xian’er has done away with traditional educational materials, clutching a snazzy iPad-like device instead (albeit with a slightly bewildered expression).

Already in China, robots are being used to serve customers at restaurants and apologize for Japan’s misdeeds, it was only a matter of time before they began to ponder human religion and meaning.

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