celebrities

Moby on meditation

Moby has spoken out in favour of Transcendental Meditation, or TM, as it’s often abbreviated to. He explained that he had avoided it for a long time because it “scared the shit” out of him, saying “I thought that TM involved ritual animal sacrifice and moving to some country and renouncing wealth and materialism”.

He continued: “One of the things that impressed me so much about TM when I finally learned it was its simplicity. It’s a simple practice that calms the mind… and the thing that won me over about TM, apart from having my hero David Lynch as its vocal practitioner, was its effectiveness. Nothing else helped me quiet my mind and go to a calm, centred place. The thing that makes it effective is you don’t have to do all that much, and, as a profoundly lazy person, I appreciate that”.

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Zen and success at work

London Evening Standard: If you have ever watched Tiger Woods play golf, you know the look. Brim pulled down over the eyes, which are locked on some point far down the fairway.

Despite all the hubbub, he is locked into the moment.

His opponent stands off to one side gnawing his knuckles, knowing another defeat is just a few holes away. Credit meditation for Woods’ extraordinary focus.

An essential part of Tiger Woods’ success is what he calls “staying in the present” and not letting his mind wander off to hoisting a trophy or depositing another million-dollar cheque.

While other golfers may live in the future, at the moment Woods plays his shots, he is apparently free of the conscious worry which plagues the weekend duffer.

And he puts much of this down to meditation and the Eastern philosophy, mostly Buddhist, he learned from his Thai mother.

In addition to his early morning workouts and hours on the driving range, he also meditates daily.

The value of meditation has long been known to those who practise it. David Lynch, the director of Blue Velvet and Wild at Heart, established a foundation for “consciousness-based education and world peace” inspired by his 30 years’ practising transcendental meditation.

Lynch’s ambition is for children to spend one class a day “diving within”, so they can better deal with stress and be more creative throughout their lives.

In the United Kingdom, William Hague has credited his meditative practice with helping him ride the roller coaster of politics.

With so much stress in the economy, meditation is also gaining popularity with business executives.

After the past couple of years, who couldn’t use half an hour a day to tame what Buddhists call “the wild horses” of the mind?

Read the rest of this article…

One of the most prominent advocates of meditation is William George, a Harvard Business School professor and board member at Goldman Sachs. George started to meditate 35 years ago while running the medical devices firm Medtronic.

He calls meditation “the single best thing that happened to me in terms of my leadership”. He says that it “enables one to focus on what is really important; and I haven’t had high blood pressure since the Seventies”.

Pointing to the recent financial crisis, George told Bloomberg News: “I think meditation in these times has an important role to play.

“If you take Wall Street versus Warren Buffett, he has made much wiser decisions than Wall Street has.

Now, I don’t know if he’s a meditator, but he’s calm, thoughtful and he stays clear. Wall Street’s trading floor is exactly the opposite.”

Firms ranging from Apple to Google and organisations such as Nasa offer free meditation classes to their employees these days.

It is regarded by these firms as far more than Eastern quackery or a luxury like free cappuccinos.

Meditation not only helps focus but it is also an effective preventative treatment of stress-related illnesses that cost businesses billions every year.

Google has held regular meditation sessions at its offices around the world for the past two years.

The firm believes that it helps employees develop their “emotional intelligence”, which in turn benefits the company.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, the head of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts and one of meditation’s greatest champions, calls meditation an act of love, towards oneself and others.

He is a particular favourite at technology firms.

During his talks, he often brings a tennis ball and drops it to signify the act of dropping into the moment.

He argues that greater knowledge of the mind, attained through meditation, helps business people sweep away the tacit assumptions which so often lead to problems.

In a modern society where so many people suffer from attention deficit disorders, he says, it is all about doing, with little recognition of being. The consequence is that people struggle to rest their minds.

Three years ago, the Dalai Lama supplied 12 Buddhist monks to a team of American neuroscientists so they could study the neurological effect of meditation.

The scientists found that by meditating for tens of thousands of hours, the monks had altered the structure and function of their brains.

It appeared that the monks’ brain waves oscillated at a different rate from those in people who never meditated. They were capable of much more focused thought.

The research was called into question by other scientists but it did prompt a wave of interest in how humans might be able to use meditation to change the function of their brains for the better.

One of the most popular forms of meditation for corporate types is Vipassana, which translates as “insight”.

There are Vipassana centres all over the world, founded by SN Goenka, a Burmese entrepreneur. An introductory retreat involves 10 days of “noble silence”.

Days begin at 4am followed by 11 hours of private and group meditation interspersed with meals and lectures. Once they leave, students are advised to meditate twice a day.

Keith Ferrazzi, an expert on networking and author of the best-selling book Never Eat Lunch Alone, says that the 10-day Vipassana meditation is the one time of year when he stops networking and clears his mind.

The key to networking, after all, he says, is “not being an asshole”.

People are more likely to want to know you if you exude the calm and confidence of the seasoned meditator.

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Ten most popular posts on Wildmind this year

Top TenJust to help you keep track of what’s hot on Wildmind at the moment, we’ve put together this list of the ten blog posts that have received the most visitors this year. Enjoy!

10. Naming negative emotions makes them weaker Wired Magazine reports on research that’s of relevance to meditators — especially those that use the vipassana technique of “noting,” where we name the most prominent aspect of our experience, saying inwardly, for example, “anger, anger” when we recognize that that emotion is present.

9. Top 10 Myths About Meditation Bodhipaksa debunks the ten most common meditation myths.

8. The Buddha as Warrior It might seem strange to think of the Buddha as a “warrior” when he is rightly seen as above all a figure of peace. Lieutenant (jg) Jeanette Shin, the US military’s first Buddhist chaplain, looks at the Buddha’s martial background.

7. Infinity in the palm of your hand Would you like to see the world in a new way? A way that’s more authentic and satisfying? A way that taps into your infinite potential and helps others to realize theirs?

6. “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society” (Krishnamurti) Bodhipaksa explores the uncomfortable notion that we are all trapped in a world of delusions.

5. “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom” (Anaïs Nin) Bodhipaksa explores a quote by Anaïs Nin.

4. The joys of Zen Coffee There are many paths to Awakening, including the path of Zen Coffee, Gloria Chadwick’s hip new take on Zen mindfulness.

3. Love, Sex, and Non-Attachment Is it possible to be in a committed sexual relationship and follow the Buddha’s teaching on non-attachment? Does loving someone deeply by definition mean we’re attached to them? Sunada doesn’t see these ideas as contradictory, and explores what an enlightened relationship might look like.

2. The 12-Step Buddhist Alcoholics Anonymous’ 12-Step Program offers a path of escape from the cycle of dependency, but it’s a path that’s heavily reliant on belief in a deity. Can Buddhism provide an alternative approach to addiction? Buddhist and incarcerated drug-offender Rich Cormier investigates “12-Step Buddhism” as outlined in a new book by Darren Littlejohn.

1. Top 10 celebrity Buddhists When we started putting this list together it seemed like it was going to be nothing more than a shallow, trivial — although perhaps welcome — distraction from all the news about disastrous wars and sordid political scandals, but as we dug deeper into the web we found that we felt at times inspired by reading about the practice of famous Buddhists, some of whom have had their trials. We hope that you too will be inspired — and entertained — by Wildmind’s Top Ten List of Celebrity Buddhists.

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Meditating with one million children

Huffington Post: Today, I had the absolute pleasure to join David Lynch, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Donovan, Mike Love and many others in joining in the visionary work of the David Lynch Foundation who are hard at work chasing the dream of bringing meditation to a million students worldwide. Read more here.

The daily practice of meditation is precious to me. It’s in the stillness and the silence that I am able to make sense of the world and the creative possibilities that help me do better in all aspects of my life.

Young people are our most precious natural resource, and we must do all we can to give them tools that will help them stay focused and positive. Stress is everywhere, in the streets and the classroom. There’s a mountain of scientific data that supports the fact that consciousness-based education and having quiet time at the beginning and end of the school day improves academic performance and spills over to happier and healthier young people at home.

I wish I could be at the concert tomorrow night at Radio City Music Hall, but I will be at the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame, where Run DMC will inducted. However, my thoughts and meditations will be with the David Lynch Foundation as they continue their incredible work.

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They get by with a little help from TM

National Catholic Reporter: More than 40 years after they traveled to India to study transcendental meditation, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr will reunite for the cause. The only two surviving Beatles, who rarely appear in public together, will perform at “Paul McCartney and Friends: Change Begins Within,” an April 4 benefit at New York’s Radio City Music Hall. Proceeds will go to the meditation-promoting David Lynch Foundation, with the goal of teaching a million at-risk children to meditate. Read more here.

McCartney said in a news release he has benefited from practicing meditation over the last four decades.

“In moments of madness, it has helped me find moments of serenity,” he said. Of the goal to help children learn to meditate, he added, “I would like to think that it would help provide them a quiet haven in a not-so-quiet world.”

In the same news release, Starr called the aims of the charity “wonderful.”

It is not known to what extent McCartney and Starr will perform together. Other performers will include Sheryl Crow, Donovan, Eddie Vedder, Ben Harper, Moby, Paul Horn, Bettye LaVette and Jim James (of the band My Morning Jacket).

Donovan and Horn studied transcendental meditation along with the Beatles in India, in 1968. Their instructor, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, died last year.

Filmmaker Lynch (“Blue Velvet,” “Mulholland Drive,” “The Elephant Man”) will serve as a presenter at the event, as will other celebrities including Russell Simmons and Laura Dern.

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Top 10 Buddhist teachers living in America

Coffee-stain ensoWaylon Lewis at the Huffington Post has compiled a list of what he considers to the the top ten teachers “you can study with,” excluding “charlatans,” “promising youngsters,” “those who you can’t really study with because they’re too famous,” or “in private meditation retreat all the time.”

1. Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche ~ he’s young but not too young, experienced, thoroughly Westernized (though exotically Tibetan, heritage-wise), a great teacher and frequently accessible at programs around the US, Europe, Canada, even South America. But because he’s a rising star, you’ve got to make an effort if you want personal training.

2. Pema Chodron ~ though Pema is a best selling, accessible, wise, safe teacher, and Oprah loves her…I nearly disqualified her because she’s no longer frequently accessible. But she’s just too good to overlook. So check out her teaching schedule, and connect with her before she retires or goes into retreat.

3. Sharon Salzberg ~ like Pema, she’s a best-selling author, beloved by Oprah, and an immediately accessible teacher to Buddhists and never-gonna-be-Buddhists alike. While less feisty than Pema, she‘s deeply experienced and warm-hearted. With her partners-in-crime Joseph Goldstein and Jack Kornfield, she teaches mostly out of the Insight Meditation Centre in Barre, Mass.

4. Ponlop Rinpoche ~ like Mipham Rinpoche and Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche (below), a young, well-trained teacher who belongs to the first generation of Tibetan Buddhist raised and trained in the West. He’s got an avid, small-but-fast-growing community–perfect if you want personal attention and training.

5. Joan Halifax Roshi ~ a strikingly-lovely, wise and venerable American Zen teacher, she‘s based out of her Upaya Zen Center in New Mexico, and works with the yoga community extensively. A superstar.

6. Dr. Reggie Ray ~ while he’s been caught in that “I’m American yet folks treat me like a guru vortex” that’s chewed up and spit out Osel Tendzin and Richard Baker Roshi before him, Reggie is like Pema a magnetic, accessible teacher. Unlike Pema, he’s got a small community with whom he works closely. Perfect if you want personal attention and training.

7. Columbia professor, Free Tibet activist and co-founder of The Tibet House, righthand man to the Dalai Lama, one of TIME’s most Influential People and father of Uma, Robert Thurman is charismatic, wild and wise–perfect for those who want to connect with the Dalai Lama’s teachings.

8. Norman Fischer ~ I don’t know him at all, being mostly a Tibetan Buddhist trained boy myself, but he’s got a stellar reputation for integrity.

9. Dr. Judith Simmer-Brown, Dale Asrael, Frank Berliner ~ alright, I’m cheating–combining three in one–but if you’re college-age, you can find ’em all (and other gems, too) at little Naropa University. Dr. Simmer-Brown is an expert in feminism, or the feminine principle in Buddhism, Ms. Asrael is wise and kind, Mr. Berliner is deeply serious, knowledgeable, caring, and impossibly good looking–the Marlboro man of Buddhism.

10. Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche ~ like Ponlop Rinpoche, if you’re looking for a small community, personal attention and deep study, he’s perfect for you. Same goes for the remarkable, crazy-wisdomish Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche–an artist, filmmaker and incredible teacher–who has a strong, committed community. If however, you’re looking to simply inject a little mindfulness and awake-ness and peace and sanity into your daily life, you may want to stick with the superstars listed above.

Lewis insists that the list isn’t final and invites comments.


BodhipaksaBodhipaksa is a Buddhist practitioner, writer, and teacher, and is also the founder of Wildmind. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife and daughter, and has a particular interest in teaching prison inmates.

As well as teaching behind bars, Bodhipaksa also conducts classes at Aryaloka Buddhist Center in Newmarket, New Hampshire. He muses, rants, and shares random aspects of his life on his blog at bodhipaksa.com. You can follow Bodhipaksa’s Twitter feed at https://twitter.com/bodhipaksa or join him on Facebook.


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Bid for freedom

man playing poker

Is it possible to combine spiritual practice with professional poker, to remain detached and equanimous in the midst of a game full of bluffing, where the aim is to take away other people’s money? In 2005 Vishvapani talked this over with Andrew Black, one of the world’s finest poker players — and a devout Buddhist.

The World Series of Poker at Binions Casino in Las Vegas is down to its last five players. After eleven days at the table, little sleep, and ferocious competition, they are the last survivors of the five thousand people who each paid $10,000 to enter this no-limit hold ’em tournament. The winner will walk away with $7.5 million.

Behind designer shades and $21 million in chips sits Irishman Andy Black, nicknamed The Monk following his five years out of the game living a Buddhist life in the U.K. with the Triratna Buddhist Community. With a million in chips already bet on this hand, Steve Dannenmann, another of the five players, pushes forward his entire stock: “All in,” he says. Black lifts his sunglasses and studies the board. “I call.” He matches the huge bet on the table and the players reveal their cards.

Black has a pair of nines, which gives him the edge over Dannenmann’s pair of sixes and ace high, but there are two more cards to be played. The next card helps nobody. Now only an ace or a six on the last card can beat him. The dealer turns the card… and it’s another ace; Black loses the hand and his position is destroyed. A few hours later he finally exits the tournament to a standing ovation from the crowd, who have been captivated by his skill and demeanor. Black has won $1.75 million, but he has lost a tournament that was almost in his grasp, and, visibly upset, he refuses all media interviews.

 Andrew’s karma has given him an incredible talent for poker, but he also has a genuine calling for spiritual practice.   

A few weeks after his Vegas exit, I traveled to Dublin to discover why he has returned to the game he had left behind, and how he squares it with his dharma practice. What about the manipulative mind games, the lives ruined by gambling, and the focus on winning money and defeating your opponents? What about the sheer, unabashed vulgarity at the end of the tournament, when millions of dollars were emptied onto the table and gleefully clutched by the whooping victor?

Such high-minded criticisms are a sore point for Black. The day before we met, he received a letter from the man who was to have ordained him into the Western Buddhist Order. It said that he couldn’t get behind Black’s ordination request while he was playing poker. Sitting down to talk in a Dublin restaurant, Black is upset. The thirty-eight-year-old is far from the image of reserved, poker-faced cool: his open, expressive face and expansive manner are set off by sharp eyes and a diabolic goatee. He opens a book to a quote from the ancient Buddhist scripture describing the lay bodhisattva Vimalakirti: “He lived at home but remained aloof from the realm of desire. He made his appearance at the fields of sports and the casinos, but his aim was always to mature those people who were addicted to games and gambling.”

Black looks at me with a flash of defiance. “I used to think, ‘I can’t do that because I am not an enlightened master.’ But look at the mahasiddhas. We like to tell stories about these wild, aggressive tantric masters who do crazy things. Well, they’re dead! If someone tries to do that today, you get this reaction!”

I haven’t come here to judge Black or to determine the ethics of poker: I know that competition poker is a sport, though it connects with a wider world of gambling. I can see its appeal as a contest that demands no athletic prowess and sets people against one another in a battle of minds plus chance. But I am fascinated to know, in the face of Black’s protests, how a dharma practitioner can survive in that world. I can’t help but wonder if he is simply succumbing to attachments and encouraging them in others.

One day I looked around a poker table and thought, We’re all hungry ghosts.

Black has had a long journey to get here. Growing up as a Catholic in a Protestant area of Belfast at the height of the Troubles, he had few friends, worked hard, and went to Trinity College, Dublin, to study law. Then he discovered poker. “I was submerged in poker: I would bring conversations around to it and hone my skills by trying to outwit people in daily interactions.” His early career culminated at the 1997 World Championship, where he got down to the last fourteen and was sitting at the table with Stu “The Kid” Ungar, reputedly the greatest-ever card player. Ungar lavished Black with attention — and then took his chips. Black had fallen for the oldest trick in the book. He was devastated. Four months later, he made his way to the Dublin Meditation Center. Initially he hoped that meditation would improve his game, but the teachings he encountered began to resonate on a deeper level for him.

Still haunted by his defeat, Black realized that poker was making him unhappy. “One day I looked around a poker table and thought, ‘We’re all hungry ghosts'” — the craving-filled beings from Buddhist mythology whose grasping is perpetually frustrated. In 1999, Black moved to the U.K. to live with other Buddhists from Triratna and work in Windhorse Trading, a large Triratna-run “Right Livelihood” business that offers supportive, shared working conditions for dharma practitioners. Then he spent two years going door to door asking for regular donations to the Karuna Trust, a charity supporting projects in India that help people considered “untouchables,” many of whom are now Buddhist converts. Rather than manipulating prospective donors, he found he attracted contributions by being straightforward and making a connection with them.

Black sees this as a training period in which he learned about the dharma, meditation, and teamwork. But the pull of poker remained: “I learned a lot about myself, and I was happy to be away from it. But something in me was unmet. Returning to poker, I feel that this is really my life. I’ll be honest: I’m obsessed by it, but that obsession brings a lot of focus, which you need in order to excel at anything. If I bring in my spiritual training, I believe this can be a powerful arena for practice.”

Black’s Buddhist sensibility clearly comes into play in his response to abusive players.

Some poker players use math, some use psychology, but Black operates on gut feeling. “I intensively prepare tactics and analysis before a game, but when I’m playing I just try to be in the present moment. All poker is about making good decisions. I find I make wrong decisions when I act out of tune with my gut sense of how things are: what this person is like, their situation at this moment, and the element of chance. My experience of Buddhist practice means that I also include how I am, how I am treating the other players, and how I respond to both winning and losing. You can disregard that feeling, just like in life, but in poker you get immediate payback. It’s always the same lesson: when your actions are not in accordance with how things are, you suffer.”

Losing is one of poker’s hard lessons. As well as being highly intelligent, Black is a clearly a very emotional man. “Because of the element of chance, you can do everything right and still lose. You get hit by unbelievable body blows, which are dictated by statistical probabilities. I work with this by saying, ‘This will happen.'”

I ask what it was like to lose that hand at the World Championship. Black’s face creases: “It was so painful, you have no idea. Afterward, while I was playing, I was trying to hold the pain without being overwhelmed; to remind myself that what had happened is now the past and I am in the present. Even now, I’ll be sitting in meditation turning over the same six or seven hands. That’s my practice.”

Black saw his return to the tables in summer 2005 as a one-year experiment in combining dharma practice and poker. But his unexpected success at the World Championships has made this a high-profile adventure.

Some poker players use math, some use psychology, but Black operates on gut feeling.

In the years since Black left, the game’s popularity has exploded on the Internet and TV, turning it into a multibillion-dollar industry. His exploits were followed around the world, and in Dublin he’s a local celebrity.

Black attracted some attention during the World Championships with an unexpected display of principles. A break in play was called, and when the players returned, one was missing. The announcement of the break had been unclear, and everyone realized that the missing player had simply misunderstood when to return. But the organizers insisted that play recommence and the missing player be eliminated. Incensed, Black protested and tried to enlist the other players’ support. They shifted uncomfortably but kept quiet. Black was in tears — visible to the TV audience — as he stalled for time until the player returned.

The incident prompted admiration and discussion about sportsmanship in poker. The game includes bluffing and deception, but does that mean that, within the rules, anything goes? Black believes that ethics still apply, but not simplistically. “There’s a line, and you know when you step over it. You have to look at each case individually, examine your own motivation, and you still need dialogue and communication to help you understand. I assume that even so I am still making mistakes and engaging in all sorts of rationalizations, but I think that’s a realistic model for trying to act well. It’s different from the view that you should withdraw from the world and purify your motivations before engaging.”

Black’s Buddhist sensibility clearly comes into play in his response to abusive players. “Sometimes people try to upset you by being aggressive and insulting. I will say, ‘There’s no need for that.’ The next stage is to say, ‘Is this doing you any good?’ If there is the slightest element of judgment in me, it doesn’t work. I have to connect with the person, and not come from a higher position. I have to genuinely feel ‘I’m concerned that this is doing you no good.’ When I do connect with people in that way, I see their relief that they don’t have to be like this.”

Central to Black’s plan for maintaining the practice dimension during poker tournaments is sharing the experience with his friend Donal Quirke, whom he knows through the Triratna Buddhist Community’s Dublin center. “I want to succeed at poker, but most important is the spiritual journey. I can’t do that on my own. I respond to the image of the Buddha’s disciples heading off two at a time, connecting intensively with each other and going through things together.” In Vegas, Black and Quirke meditated together in the mornings and sometimes read dharma texts during breaks in the tournament.

I want to succeed at poker, but most important is the spiritual journey.

Where Black is an exuberant, commanding personality, Quirke is steady and quiet. He was with Black in Vegas, acting as coach and confidant, discussing the day’s play and how Black’s game could improve. He plans to accompany Black on the World Poker Tour, that will culminate in the 2006 World Championship. As a man clearly steeped in dharma practice, what does Quirke make of the world he is entering? “Vegas is a challenging realm, suffused with ego and greed, and I found those aspects of me were heightened. In the breaks, reading dharma aloud with Andrew, just hearing the words, ‘Thus have I heard,’ was like diving into a pool for both of us. I know it had an orienting effect on Andrew as well. But poker’s fascinating: coming back from Las Vegas, I was watching it on latenight TV. Though of course, you could ask, is anything gained by a group of people sitting around trying to take money off each other?”

I wonder if Quirke thinks Black will be able to sustain his attempt to make poker a practice? His answer is surprising. “There’s my friend Andrew Black, who I’ve known over the years. But in the poker world there’s another person called Andy Black. I think dharma practice is about not trying to control and manipulate, but that isn’t how you win poker tournaments. You need to want to win, and Andy Black is a master of control. But it’s complex. Andrew’s karma has given him an incredible talent for poker — on his day he’s one of the best in the world — but he also has a genuine calling for spiritual practice. I don’t think he can just forget Andy Black. He needs to meet this guy, honor him, play the best poker he can, achieve what he can, and then let it go.”

You can’t help liking Black, and I found myself envying him — not so much the money or success, but the intensity of his engagement. As he told me: “One approach to the spiritual life is that you renounce things. Another is to place yourself in the middle of attachments and purify yourself there. We’re all imperfect beings struggling along the path, learning as we go. At some point I’ll find I’ve gone as far as I can in the poker world, but at the moment it’s incredibly exciting. Lets see how I’m doing in a year.”

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Top 10 celebrity Buddhists

Tina Turner

When we started putting this list together it seemed like it was going to be nothing more than a shallow, trivial — although perhaps welcome — distraction from all the news about disastrous wars and sordid political scandals, but as we dug deeper into the web we found that we felt at times inspired by reading about the practice of famous Buddhists, some of whom have had their trials. We hope that you too will be inspired — and entertained — by Wildmind’s Top Ten List of Celebrity Buddhists.

Our criteria were simple. To be a celebrity Buddhist a nominee had to be alive, a celebrity, and — wait for it — a Buddhist (more on that later). And our voting process was simplicity itself; we counted the hits returned for an exact search on each name on Google. Well, that’s not too unscientific.

But to give ourselves some credit for our hard work and research abilities, it’s not always that easy to work out if a celebrity Buddhist is actually a Buddhist. Lots of websites may say that Keanu or JLo are practicing Buddhists, but the truth is far harder to pin down. We didn’t accept that a celebrity was a Buddhist unless we could find they’d said so themselves. And we discovered that in fact some much lauded “celebrity Buddhists” have explicitly said that they are not Buddhist practitioners (e.g. Uma Thurman: “When asked if I consider myself Buddhist, the answer is, Not really,” and Keanu Reeves: “I’m not Buddhist.”)

Joining Keanu, Uma, and Jenny on the not-really-a-Buddhist list were martial arts actor Jackie Chan, and rocker/poet Patti Smith. And although they’re serious practitioners, not quite making the top ten because of lack of hits of Google were avant-garde musician Laurie Anderson (1,110,000 hits), jazzman Wayne Shorter (1,100,000 hits), and REM frontman Michael Stipe (with a mere 813,000 hits). Guys, better luck next time.

Anyway, we know you’re dying to know who’s in and who’s not, so without further ado let’s introduce the top ten in reverse order.

10. Aung San Suu Kyi (1,170,000 hits)

With impeccably non-frivolous credentials we start with nonviolent pro-democracy activist, leader of the National League for Democracy in Myanmar (Burma), and noted prisoner of conscience, Aung San Suu Kyi.

Heavily influenced by Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence, Suu Kyi campaigned for the democratization of Burma, which was (and is) under a military dictatorship, and in 1989 she was placed under house arrest. In 1991 Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her peaceful and non-violent struggle under a military dictatorship. She has been in and out of house arrest since then and has been sustained in her long confinement, during which she was not allowed to meet her dying husband, by her vipassana meditation practice. Commenting on her long isolation, she said “Isolation is not difficult for me. Maybe it’s because of my Buddhist upbringing.”

9. Steven Seagal (1,340,000 hits)

The Buddhist world was, to put it mildly, in a state of deep, deep bemusement when Hollywood star Steven Seagal announced in 1997 that he had been recognized as a Tibetan incarnate lama, or tulku. “Wait,” we said. “That Steven Segal? The action-movie hero who specializes in toting powerful guns and blowing stuff up?” It seemed as bizarre as it would today if the Pope were to appoint Paris Hilton as a bishop, and many of us checked the calendar to make sure it wasn’t the first of April. And yet the other shoe failed, resoundingly, to drop. In fact His Holiness Penor Rinpoche, a respected Lama, indeed publicly confirmed that he had recognized Seagal’s tulku-hood.

It turns out that Segal has a long history of practice. Hemoved to Japan at age 17 to study martial arts, acupuncture, and Zen, and he spent 15 years there before returning to the US. While in Asia he had significant contact with Tibetan lamas escaping China, whose torture-induced traumas he treated with acupuncture. Seagal himself tends to be a little coy about his practice: “I have been doing serious meditation in my own pitiful way for probably twenty-seven years.”

8. Kate Bosworth (1,390,000 hits)

At last we hit some real frivolity, with the delightful Ms. Bosworth of Blue Crush and Superman Returns fame. Or do we? Are we being harsh in thinking Bosworth only started practicing because then-boyfriend, Orlando Bloom, was into Nichiren Buddhism? Perhaps. And yet we’re happy to welcome Bosworth into the top ten, even though she and Orlando broke up (“He snores and is cheap”) and she may well have moved onto romantic and spiritual pastures new.

Still, while it lasted Bosworth’s affair with the Buddhadharma really seemed to mean something: “It’s just a really incredible state of mind. It’s just a beautiful place to try and be at. It’s basically about constantly growing and making yourself a better person and focusing on what you want for yourself and the world and really putting it out there. It’s amazing.” To which we can only say, “Awesome!”

7. Richard Gere (1,560,000 hits)

For many he’ll be the first celeb Buddhist to spring to mind, but Pretty Woman and Chicago heart-throb Richard Gere isn’t even in the top five — and that’s despite a friendship with the Dalai Lama.

Gere is a passionate advocate for human rights in Tibet; he is a co-founder of the Tibet House, creator of The Gere Foundation, and he is Chairman of the Board of Directors for the International Campaign for Tibet. Because of his support for the Tibetan cause he’s banned from the People’s Republic of China — and he’s also banned as an Academy Award presenter because of using the podium to denounce the Chinese government. Richard, you’re always welcome here.

Gere scores high marks for sincerity of practice, and meditates daily. “It helps me set my motivation for the day,” he says.

6. Herbie Hancock (1,590,000 hits)

One of the most revered contributors to modern jazz and former collaborator with Miles Davis, Hancock is a longstanding practitioner of Nichiren Buddhism, which has a heavy emphasis on chanting as a form of meditation. Hancock is a member of the Japanese Buddhist movement, Soka Gakkai International, which also counts Tina Turner and Wayne Shorter among its members.

Hancock became a Buddhist after seeing the effect it had on the performing abilities on bassist Buster Williams, and reckons that his own practice has been integral to his artistic development: “Buddhism opened me up to being out of my comfort zone — to exploring things and being courageous enough to try new things.”

5. Leonard Cohen (1,620,000 hits)

Doyen of despair, godfather of gloom, master of misery, Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen’s oeuvre could be seen as an ongoing exploration of the Buddhist teaching that life is inherently suffering. But there’s much more to Cohen’s practice than that.

Following an interest in Buddhism that started in the early 1970’s, Cohen was ordained in 1996 as a Zen monk at the Mount Baldy Zen Center, on a mountain-top overlooking San Bernadino, California, and was given the Dharma name, “Jikan.” Because his teacher doesn’t know much English Cohen is a bit vague about what the name means. Apparently it’s something to do with silence — “ordinary silence, normal silence” — something like that anyway.

Zen practice helped steer Cohen away from a long-term drug problem and, to his great surprise, helped dispel the gloom that had pervaded his life: “When you stop thinking about yourself all the time, a certain sense of repose overtakes you. It happened to me by imperceptible degrees and I could not really believe it; I could not really claim it for some time. I thought there must be something wrong.” Yes, being happy can be so unsettling.

4. The Dalai Lama (1,640,000 hits)

Uniquely on our list of Buddhist celebs, His Holiness is a Buddhist first and celebrity second. He may not croon into a mike or emote on a sound-set, but the Dalai Lama can certainly pack (and wow) an auditorium, and stars like Richard Gere and Keanu Reeves are eager to share the stage with the supreme head of Tibetan Buddhism, leader of the Tibetan Government in Exile, and incarnation of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara.

And top marks for length of practice: His Holiness is currently in his 14th documented incarnation as a lama, easily beating our other celebs who have at best only one lifetime of practice each — although admittedly in His Holiness’s sixth incarnation he refused to become a monk and spent much of his time chasing the ladies (ah, those youthful indiscretions!). The Dalai Lama also gets top marks for modesty: His Holiness describes himself as being “a simple Buddhist monk.”

His Holiness says, “Many of our problems stem from attitudes like putting ourselves first at all costs. I know from my own experience that it is possible to change these attitudes and improve the human mind.”

Well, we can only say that we’re sure that in his next lifetime His Holiness will at least make the top three.

3. Tina Turner (1,710,000 hits)

The “Queen of Rock and Roll” has an instantly recognizable voice, a career dating back to 1960, unbelievable legs, and a serious Buddhist practice. As shown in the biopic What’s Love Got to Do With It, it was Turner’s Buddhist practice that gave her the strength to leave her abusive marriage to Ike Turner in the 70’s, which in turn made her an icon for abused women everywhere. Turner is another practitioner of Nichiren Buddhism and famously chanted Nam Moho Rengye Kyo on Larry King Live (see video, below).

Turner said: “I had to teach myself because I didn’t have the freedom to go to actually go to meetings or for people to come to me … and it changed my life.”

2. Orlando Bloom (3,710,000 hits)

The dashing star of The Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean turned to Buddhist practice because “The philosophies behind it are very current today and are a way of finding some sort of peace,” but also because it helped keep him from the self-destructive path he was always in danger of carving out for himself.

Bloom stresses that his Nichiren practice is very practical: “The philosophy that I’ve embraced isn’t about sitting under a tree and studying my navel, it’s about studying what is going on in my daily life and using that as fuel to go and live a bigger life.”

We wish Orlando well as he swashbuckles his way to Full and Perfect Enlightenment.

1. Tiger Woods (5,850,000 hits)

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Yes, with close to six million hits on Google he’s bigger than Richard Gere, more popular even than the Dalai Lama. Maybe even God. But then one prophet did foretell, “Tiger will do more than any other man in history to change the course of humanity … He is the Chosen One.” (That was Earl, Tiger’s dad). And another seer spake thus: “He can hold everyone together. He is the Universal Child.” (Yes, that was Koltida, his mom).

And in case you think that quasi-religious adoration of Tiger is limited to his doting parents, here’s Michael Jordan’s take: “I really do believe he was put here for a bigger reason than just to play golf. I don’t think that he is a god, but I do believe that he was sent by one.”

Despite these accolades, we’re not entirely sure whether to regard Tiger as a Buddhist. He’s said, “I believe in Buddhism … not every aspect, but most of it. So I take bits and pieces,” which could make him sounds like a dilettante, but then even the Dalai Lama has expressed similar sentiments so we’re giving Tiger the benefit of the doubt.

Woods has also said, “I don’t practice Buddhism on a day-to-day basis, just when I feel like it.” So on the bad side he’s not a consistent practitioner, while on the good side he does practice. Again, that counts him in. That practice and background (mom Koltida is a Thai Buddhist) have helped Tiger become the almost inscrutably equanimous player he’s become: “Buddhism has been a major role in my life. It has given me an inner peace and calmness that I think I wouldn’t have achieved at such an early age.”

In 1996 Tiger and his father launched the Tiger Woods Foundation, which through personal enrichment programs, scholarships, direct grants, junior golf teams and the new Tiger Woods Learning Center, is helping millions of children reach their dreams. Tiger takes his status as a youth role model seriously: “I am not trying to preach to them that this is ‘a sport for you.’ I’m saying, ‘This is an opportunity for you to grow as a person.’ I think that is what really matters.”

So there we have it. Tiger Woods — Guru of Golf, Zen master of the fairway, first prophet of putting, dare we say even “demigod of the green” — is the world’s most famous celebrity Buddhist. More power to your putting, Tiger — and to your practice.

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Why chilling out is the new cool Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, Australia)

Sydney Morning Herald: A decade ago it was boozing and sex. Then came drugs and bingeing. Later, dieting and hard-core gym workouts. Lately though, Hollywood stars have been slowing down and waxing lyrical in interviews about stopping to smell the roses. Clearly a bit of calm is needed to cope with a celebrity pace of life.

Initially, yoga was the answer to celebrity wellness. Christy Turlington and Madonna were the first to strike a pose, followed by Gwyneth Paltrow, Sting, Ricky Martin and Meg Ryan.

Now Tinseltown is talking a different tune. “Om” is being chanted in private studios, from mountain tops and on movie sets.

“It’s like entering this blissful feeling of nothingness,” said Heather Graham, who meditates twice a day. Halle Berry began practising while filming Gothika “to get rid of nightmares” and Goldie Hawn got her daughter Kate Hudson addicted to the stress-relieving practice.

“There is no question that meditation has recently become more popular,” said Thom Knoles, a Hollywood meditation guru who was based in Sydney for more than 30 years, and lists Graham, film director David Lynch and Australian actress Natalie Mendoza “a very enthused student” among his clients. “Kate Fischer is a great supporter and is planning to train under me to become an instructor in the New Year,” he said.

Lynch says meditation is about fostering bliss, creativity and intelligence: “Garbage goes out, gold comes in. Everything becomes easier. And you start understanding more.”

Even ad guru Siimon Reynolds told S he got his greatest ideas in a 30-minute meditation he took in his office each day.

Regular meditation, say the experts, will reverse ageing, increase energy and improve your health, with a number of different styles and techniques available to help achieve inner peace by calming the mind.

Transcendental Meditation is one of the most popular forms due to its accessibility and measurability. “It’s an effortless technique and it can be practised by anybody, anywhere,” said Knoles. “You don’t have to change into weird clothes, you don’t have to denounce your parents, you don’t have to eat strange food or anything. You learn a technique and you do it twice a day for 20 minutes.”

Buddhism is similar in its philosophy of spiritual enlightenment and encourages students to learn more about the theory behind the practice. “We teach a series of meditations based on virtues that will benefit you and others,” said Lisa Merrill from the Khandakapala Buddhist Centre in Los Angeles. Richard Gere is a strong supporter of Buddhism and has designed a space in his private garden to practise daily. He makes regular trips to Tibet to “relax, meditate and release”, booking into a basic room with limited water supply, shared bathroom and no TV, air-conditioning or newspapers.

Closer to home, the Blue Mountains Insight Meditation Centre has weekend workshops and month-long retreats that provide an escape from the city pace. The centre also teaches ways to incorporate meditation into your lifestyle once you leave.

“We use a systematic training method of attention to develop wisdom and purity of the mind,” said Tara MacLachlan, adding that alternative therapies had become more acceptable. “Meditation can be integrated into anyone’s life. It’s no longer confined to the minority.”

Sounds like it’s worth making time for.

BLISS BENEFITS

* Experience deep levels of rest and eliminate stress and fatigue.

* Increase energy and vitality.

* Experience clarity of mind and increased creativity.

* Feel rejuvenated.

* Improve your health naturally.

* Reduce anxiety.

* Expand your awareness.

* Experience your full mental potential.

* Increase self-confidence.

* Improve ability to concentrate.

* Reverse ageing.

WHERE TO MEDITATE

* Tim Brown is a Sydney-based meditation teacher recommended by Hollywood guru Thom Knoles. 80 Paddington Street, Paddington. Phone 9327 7825.

* The Mahasiddha Buddhist Centre offers chanted meditations, study classes and day courses, with weekly sessions in Paddington, Bondi Beach, Glebe, Manly, Chatswood, Cronulla and Miranda. 85 Old South Head Road, Bondi Junction. Phone 9387 7717 or see http://www.meditateinsydney.org.

* The Buddhist Library and Meditation Centre has a wealth of information and teachings of Buddhism techniques, with regular talks and courses. 90 Church Street, Camperdown. Phone 9519 6054 or see http://www.buddhistlibrary.org.au.
OUT OF TOWN

The Blue Mountains is a hot spot for silent retreats, chanting meditation, courses and more.

* The Brahma Kumaris Centre for Spiritual Learning hosts meditation courses all year, mostly in group sessions. 186 Mount Hay Road, Leura. Phone 4784 2500.

* The Blue Mountains Insight Meditation Centre has everything from weekend workshops to month-long retreats. 25 Rutland Road, Medlow Bath. Phone 4788 1024 or see http://www.meditation.asn.au.

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Buddha has cure for Colly (The Mirror, UK)

Bill Daniels, The Mirror: Stan Collymore has found a new weapon in his battle against depression, aggression and bad behaviour… Buddhism.

The ex-England striker, who recently appeared in Five’s The Farm, spent two days at a retreat.

Stan rose at 5am, then took part in chanting, meditation and discussion for up to 12 hours.

He found the techniques so useful he is considering using them every day.

Abbott Ajan Mahalaow said: “Once someone knows themselves inside, they are better equipped to deal with anything.”

Stan, 33, said of his stay in Birmingham: “I won’t be hurrying back for hours of meditation, but I will start in five-minute chunks and see how I go.”

His troubled past includes publicly hitting ex-Ulrika Jonsson and “dogging” where he watched and took part in sex with strangers.

Original article no longer available.

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