One of the Buddha’s key teachings — arguably the key teaching — is the four noble truths, which tell us 1) that suffering happens, 2) that it happens for a reason, which is that we cling, 3) that it’s possible for us to reach a state where we don’t suffer (nirvana), and 4) that there are practices that help us to attain that state.
Although these four truths, or facts, might suggest that we can somehow learn to avoid suffering, what’s really required is that we learn to deal better with life’s sufferings, because they are inevitable. In other words, we need to learn to get better at suffering. It’s not that we should seek … Read more »
Someone wrote to me yesterday, saying that as she was getting into her spiritual practice, anger was starting to arise:
I have very recently started my journey towards freedom of suffering at the hands of myself or others. It would seem as though it has turned into an anger issue with me. So I am looking forward to any suggestions that may help me get to my centered, grounded, healing, happy place.
This can happen. As we’re leaving our comfort zone, fear can be triggered. We can also become more sensitive to the body as we practice meditation, and so we feel our feelings more strongly.
My own experience is that anger is a response … Read more »
It was late in the evening when my son told me he’d left his backpack in the car. That’s not a huge deal, but there were things in it that he needed for camp tomorrow, and because of where I live my car’s parked a few minutes’ walk away from my apartment. Again, not a huge deal, but I was tired and I was in the middle of getting both kids together for bed, and would have to wait until they were asleep before I went to retrieve the backpack.
So, with the kids asleep, and my energy failing, I trudged downstairs to fetch the forgotten backpack. I was grouchy and a little resentful — … Read more »
Apologies for not blogging these past three months, I’ve been at the home of my teacher, Sangharakshita, living in community and taking part in study and retreats for ordained members of the Triratna Buddhist Community.
I’ve been doing a lot of turning towards my direct experience. It has been a challenging practice. When I turn towards my experience, it’s all in the body: just pleasant, unpleasant, neutral (vagueness) or a mixture of all three feeling tone in the body.
Sometimes I like it and I want more, I cling to it, and begin to crave. Sometimes I dislike it and I push it way, and move into aversion. And sometimes, I just move into a … Read more »
The saying that “happiness is a choice” is extremely common. There’s a book by that title, as well as a gazillion articles. They all say that you can choose to be happy.
It’s not true. Happiness is not a choice.
Or at least it’s not strictly true that happiness is a choice. There’s a grain of truth here; we can influence our happiness. But happiness is a feeling, and we can’t directly choose our feelings.
What is true is that happiness is the result of our choices.
We can choose actions that will bring long-term happiness. We can choose what we say. We can choose our attitudes. We can choose to have thoughts that increase … Read more »
Someone recently wrote to me, saying that she was lonely and felt unloved, and wondering whether the metta bhavana practice (the meditation for developing kindness) would help. I thought I’d paraphrase and expand on what I’d said to her.
The metta bhavana practice can certainly help with feelings of loneliness. In particular, self-metta and self-compassion — showing ourselves the same kindness, support, and encouragement that we show to others that we care about — would be helpful.
Think about that thought, “No one loves me.” You might say things like that to yourself, but would you tell a friend who was lonely, “No one loves you”? How would that make her feel? Would … Read more »
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is when we observe our experience rather than merely participate in our experience. When we’re unmindful, we’re certainly experiencing, but we’re “merely participating” in that experience, swept along in the flow of our thoughts and fantasies, caught up in thinking without being aware of what we’re doing and what effect it’s having on us, and not realizing that we have the choice to do anything else.
When we’re mindful, we observe our experience. We know that we’re thinking. We’re aware of what effect our thinking is having (for example that it’s making us or others unhappy). We’re aware we have choices about what we do and what we think.
And that’s … Read more »
One of the participants in our current 28 Day meditation challenge reported that she was experiencing stress because of a new job.
New jobs can be very challenging and bring up a lot of self doubt. I remember that well.
She talked about “feelings of inadequacy and uselessness,” and I could instantly see a practice that would help her deal with the challenges of her new job. The practice is to distinguish between feelings and thoughts.
From the perspective of Buddhist psychology, inadequacy and uselessness are not feelings. Actual feelings that we might experience in a challenging new job include anxiety, or fear, or confusion. “I am inadequate” and “I am useless” are thoughts. … Read more »
A woman on the Triratna Buddhist Community’s Urban Retreat, which this year focused on the theme of cultivating lovingkindness, or metta, asked a question about how to deal with “strong emotion” — especially grief — that may arise during lovingkindness practice. For this person, grief tended to arise particularly while she was cultivating lovingkindness toward herself, and she wondered how to be honest with her experience but not dissolve into and become lost in it.
I offered her a few suggestions, which I’ll enlarge on here:
1. Stop considering grief as an emotion.
Is grief an emotion? Is “emotion” even a meaningful term, in the context of Buddhist practice?
Increasingly I find the word … Read more »
As I discussed in the first post on upekkha, this word has several different meanings, although they’re all related.