meditation and compassion

How to love: Legendary Zen Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh on mastering the art of “interbeing”

Maria Popova, Brain Pickings: “To love without knowing how to love wounds the person we love.”

What does love mean, exactly? We have applied to it our finest definitions; we have examined its psychology and outlined it in philosophical frameworks; we have even devised a mathematical formula for attaining it. And yet anyone who has ever taken this wholehearted leap of faith knows that love remains a mystery — perhaps the mystery of the human experience.

Learning to meet this mystery with the full realness of our being — to show up for …

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On having lovingkindness for hackers

Two days ago I got an email message from a friend, saying that Wildmind had been hacked. Uh, oh. It was about 12:25PM, and the timing sucked, since I was just meeting with a couple of friends who were helping me move the last of my stuff out of the house I’ve been living in for the last nine years. As soon as that was over, it would be time to pick up my kids from school, feed them, and then take them back to school for an ice cream social and art show.

In the email my friend had sent me a screen shot, showing a screed criticizing Israel and the US. The night before, on Google Plus, my social network of choice, a western Buddhist monk living in Burma, Bhikkhu Subhuti, had posted that his site, and 60 other Buddhist sites, had been hacked by Muslim activists. I didn’t know if the group that attacked our site was involved in those attacks, but it seemed possible.

Our web hosts contacted me moments after my friend did, telling me that they’d locked down the site, preventing any public access.

When I had a chance to look behind the scenes, devastation awaited me. The hackers weren’t just trying to publicize their message, but were out to do damage. They’d deleted almost all the files and images needed to run the site, and had destroyed the database containing the thousands of articles that have been posted here over the years. But I wasn’t too upset, since I was aware that our web hosts keep backups.

It took 24 hours to restore the site, and to add new security features that will, I hope, stop a repeat of that incident.

Am I angry at the hackers? To my surprise, I’m not. One of the Buddha’s teachings has been my guide through this time:

In this way, monks, you should train yourselves: ‘Neither shall our minds be affected by this, nor for this matter shall we give vent to evil words, but we shall remain full of concern and pity, with a mind of love, and we shall not give in to hatred. On the contrary, we shall live projecting thoughts of universal love to that very person, making him as well as the whole world the object of our thoughts of universal love — thoughts that have grown great, exalted and measureless. We shall dwell radiating these thoughts which are void of hostility and ill will.’ It is in this way, monks, that you should train yourselves.

Bhikkhu Subhuti shared a similar sentiment:

The only thing one can do is be loving towards them and let them know that fighting is useless, counterproductive and loving-kindness prevails!

And of course change passwords too!

There’s one other thing that’s been in my mind, which is connected with the fact that the hackers were Muslim. This incident has been a good opportunity to remember that Buddhists in Burma have been persecuting the Rohingya Muslim population. This persecution has included rioting, murder, and arson. Monks in Burma have instigated these attacks, which are of course entirely the opposite of what the Buddha taught, since in the Buddha’s teaching there is no room for “righteous anger,” and the Buddha pointed out that any moment of anger or hatred is a moment in which you are not following his teaching.

Yes, it’s a pain to have your work vandalized. It’s a pain to have to spend many hours fixing things. It’s a pain to have those niggling worries that it might happen again.

But compared to the pain of having a family member murdered, or of being driven from your home, or of having your business burned down, the inconvenience I’ve experienced has been of little significance.

Of course it’s ironic that Bhikkhu Subhuti’s site was attacked despite him being a positive force for reconciliation between Buddhists and Muslims in Burma, and that our site was attacked despite us being vocal in condemning the acts of Buddhists who perpetrate hatred and violence. But this is just an illustration of the fact that hate is blind.

So I’m not going to join in with the cycle of hatred this time. It would just cause me more pain, and make the world a more hateful place. My response to these hackers is to accept difficulties with equanimity, think of them with kindness, and, of course, to change my password.

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The realm of giving and generosity

The specific meaning of “dana” is giving, which is related to the quality of “caga” (in Pali), or generosity. The one involves doing, while the other involves being.

While this distinction is useful in its comprehensiveness, in actuality generosity and giving, being and doing, are intertwined and inextricable. Being is itself a kind of doing, as you cannot help but radiate certain qualities out into the world. And every doing – at each endlessly disappearing and regenerating instant of NOW – is a microscopic slice of being.

Giving and generosity can be expressive or restrained. For example, we might give to our child or someone else we love fondness and affection (expressive), and we might also give the holding of our temper or our hand in anger (restrained).

The essence of generosity is that we give outside the framework of a tight, reciprocal exchange. Yes, we may give the coffee guy $2.50 for a latte, and we may trade back rubs with our partner, but neither is particularly generous in its own right. On the other hand, tossing the change from $3 into the tip jar is indeed generous, as would be doing an extra great job on that back rub when it’s your turn.

While “dana” often means something fairly narrow and specific – alms for a monk or nun, or donation to a teacher – in the broadest sense, we are generous and giving whenever we be or do in the territory these words point to:

Serve
Contribute
Donate, grant, award, bestow, make a gift of, bequeath Praise, acknowledge
Love, care, like
Sacrifice, relinquish
Devote, dedicate
Be altruistic
Forgive
Forbear, restrain yourself for the sake of others

Let’s consider some concrete examples; you give whenever you:

Pat an arm in friendship, sympathy, or encouragement
Put money – or a banana or chocolate – in the donation bowl
Relax your position and open up to the viewpoint of another person
Offer anything out upon the internet or in a newsletter, etc.
Try to help someone
Wave someone ahead of you in line
Try to cheer someone up
Make a gift
Write a thank you note
Love
Listen patiently when you’d rather be doing something else
Cultivate qualities in yourself that will benefit others
Change a diaper – at either end of the lifespan
Give some money to a homeless person
Express gratitude or appreciation
Vote
Volunteer your time
Tell somebody about something great

In particular, you are generous whenever you “give no man or woman cause to fear you” – in other words, when you live in a virtuous, moral way. In Buddhism, the Five Precepts are the common, practical guide to ethical conduct: do not kill, steal, lie, intoxicate yourself, or cause harm through your sexuality. Quoting Bhikkhu Bodhi, referring to the Anguttara Nikaya: “By [the meticulous observance of the Five Precepts], one gives fearlessness, love and benevolence to all beings. If one human being can give security and freedom from fear to others by his behavior, that is the highest form of dana one can give, not only to mankind, but to all living beings.

Last, perhaps as an antidote to the too-common practice of treating those closest to us the worst of all, the Buddha stressed the importance of honoring and caring for one’s parents, one’s spouse and children, and one’s employees and dependents. For example, in one sutta (discourse), offering hospitality to one’s relatives is one of the great auspicious deeds a layperson can perform.

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Buddha seems to bring tranquility to Oakland neighborhood

Chip Johnson, SFGate: Dan Stevenson is neither a Buddhist nor a follower of any organized religion.

The 11th Avenue resident in Oakland’s Eastlake neighborhood was simply feeling hopeful in 2009 when he went to an Ace hardware store, purchased a 2-foot-high stone Buddha and installed it on a median strip in a residential area at 11th Avenue and 19th Street.

He hoped that just maybe his small gesture would bring tranquillity to a neighborhood marred by crime: dumping, graffiti, drug dealing, prostitution, robberies, aggravated …

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Let the mind take over

Ayesha Singh, The New Indian Express: When you are in the moment, any moment for that matter, are you really in that moment? Ask yourself. Surrounded by 50,000 thoughts per day, that is about 48 thoughts per minute—positive, negative and neutral—we wonder how this state of constant distraction impacts our brain functioning. And it sure does, sometimes quite adversely. Mindfulness meditation, a profound but underrated approach, has now found its due place in the sun. According to a new report by Harvard University scientists, mindfulness meditation, a version of Buddhist Vipassana, helps …

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How stress kills our ability to feel compassion

Carolyn Gregoire, Huffington Post: Stress isn’t just bad for our physical and mental health — it may also inhibit our ability to empathize with others, according to new McGill University research.

The study, recently published in the journal Current Biology, found that a drug that blocks stress hormones can increase the ability of both humans and mice to “feel” others’ pain.

The researchers studied the phenomenon known as “emotional contagion of pain,” a key component of empathy which has to do with our ability to experience the pain of strangers.

Previous research by …

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Managing pain with the power of the mind

Emma Tracey, BBC: Vidyamala Burch is helping people in pain through the practice of “mindfulness”, the act of paying more attention to the present moment. But it took her many years to discover it for herself first.

When people are having serious difficulties, it can bring out the extreme sides of people’s personalities, says Vidyamala Burch, a 55-year-old pain management practitioner based in Manchester. “One is the denial, pushy, driven side and the other is the more passive, overwhelmed, depressive side.”

Burch lives with chronic …

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You want to help the world? Meditate! Lessons from a college classroom

Dr. Fran Grace, Huffington Post: It’s 20 minutes before class starts, and the students arrive early.

This is no ordinary college classroom. The posted guidelines ask students to remove their shoes, turn off their mobile devices, and place all belongings into the cubbyholes for the 80-minute class session. There are no desks or chairs. No computers or projector screens. Arriving in silence, they choose a cushion and sit down on the floor.

It’s common for college students to do a “semester abroad.” What about a “semester within?” This classroom …

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Step four: Being willing to step onto the path of recovery and discover freedom

Eight Step Recovery

In this 8 step recovery program – we speak about being willing. We use this word because if one wants recovery, they have to be willing to step onto the path. Too many of us bargain with our recovery. We want it, but we don’t want to do the work it takes to get the recovery. It’s my way or the high way. There is only one path in the Buddhist tradition to recovery, and that is the direct path of the four noble truths and the noble eightfold path. Of course this path comes in many different formulations and lists.

Last month, I heard the The Dalai Lama say: ‘The Mahayana teachings are an extrapolation of the four noble truths’. First we must understand the first truth of suffering. The second truth, a path that leads to more suffering, is the understanding of the three lakshanas, suffering, impermanence, and self view. The third truth, the cessation of suffering, is the understanding of the emptiness teachings, and the fourth truth, a path leading us away from suffering, is the illumination of all the teachings.

The Eight Steps

The good news is, that we could focus on just one of the teachings, and one teaching alone will help us discover a new freedom. It could be as simple as cultivating loving kindness and compassion for oneself. Cultivating compassion inevitably includes the five traditional training principles, of non harm, not taking the not given, sexual misconduct, false speech and abstaining from intoxicants. We need kindness and community to help us step onto the path of recovery.

But we can have all of this and still continue to relapse. Why? Because we have not wholeheartedly connected to the vision of recovery. We have not connected to something that we want more than our addiction, more than the thing we turn to ease our suffering. We have to want recovery more than our choice of drug in that split second before picking up.

‘The moment we decide to pick up our drug of choice, we are blocking out what is at stake. That choice may mean losing our families, our jobs, our relationships……This can be uncomfortable to accept. But every time we reach for our addiction we are making a choice. To recover, we must find or be inspired by something that we want more than our addiction. We need vision.’ Eight Step Recovery – Using The Buddha’s Teachings to Overcome Addiction

You may still be saying I have vision. But are you willing to transform and change? Vision becomes redundant if we are not willing to step onto the path of transformation. Our vision of recovery will be realized when we have the courage to step on to the path and transform ourselves.

  • What is there in life that you would like more than your addiction?
  • What path do you need to be on to bring about this thing in life that you want more than your addiction?
  • Is it my way? The Highway? Or the direct path to the four noble truths, the noble eightfold path?
[Eight Step Recovery, pages 95-115.]

For a free sample chapter of Eight Step Recovery – Using The Buddha’s Teachings To Overcome Addiction please email: eightstepsrecovery@gmail.com

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Mind over matter

wildmind meditation newsLinda and Charlie Bloom, Psych Central: “Mindfulness is not something that is only done in the meditation hall, it is also done in the kitchen, in the garden, when we’re on the telephone, when we are driving a car, when we are doing the dishes.” Thich Nhat Hanh

Mindfulness, a term that until fairly recently has not been very much in the current parlance has recently become a popular subject. There’s even a magazine, actually named Mindful that claims to “celebrate the basic human ability to be fully present and aware of where we are and what we’re doing.” And not long ago, …

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