guided meditation recordings

“Soft eyes, kind eyes”

close-up of a stone buddha head, focusing on its soft, half-open eyes.

The Buddha said that it was possible to dislodge unhelpful thoughts (those that make us suffer unnecessarily) with the use of more helpful thoughts. He compared this to the way a carpenter could dislodge wooden peg out of a hole by hammering a smaller peg against it.

This principle is incredibly useful in meditation, and it can be employed in a large number of ways. One popular application of this is the use of mantras, which can be chanted out loud or repeated in the mind. A mantra such as Om Mani Padme Hum, when repeated in this way, leaves less mental space for thinking. The mantra is a thought that, like a small pin applied skillfully, dislodges the larger pin of thoughts that are unhelpful because they’re expressions of worry, resentment, self-doubt, and so on.

Also see:

While you’re chanting a mantra you might not notice much happening, but afterward you feel calmer and more relaxed because you’ve given your brain and body a break from habitual patterns of thought that chip away at your sense of well-being.

Sometimes the pegs we use as tools are not traditional Sanskrit mantras, but are phrases in English. I find that these are most effective when they point us toward our experience.

A set of phrases I use a lot is “Soft Eyes, Open Field of Attention; Kind Eyes, Meeting Everything With Tenderness.” I’d like to explain why and how I use those four particular phrases.

First, the Why

“Soft Eyes”: If you know anything at all about my teaching from the last ten years or more, you’ll be aware that I almost always start a guided meditation by reminding people to soften the eyes.

“Soft eyes” means letting the muscles around the eyes be at ease, and letting the focus in the eyes be soft. You can try that right now, although you might want to look away from the screen. You’ll probably find that this is almost instantly relaxing, and that your mind becomes calmer very quickly.

Our minds are often on edge, roaming restlessly, looking for some problem that we need to pay attention to. In other words they’re controlled much of the time by the sympathetic nervous system, responsible for the so-called “fight or flight” reflex. Much of this problem-seeking involves the eyes, which stay narrowly focused and which are in constant motion.

Softening the eyes (soft focus) and letting them be still (the muscles around them being at rest) triggers the parasympathetic nervous system, which brings our system back to calm, rest, and relaxation.

With tight eyes, and the sympathetic nervous system active, we find that even in meditation the mind is still problem-solving. It’s restlessly picking through various aspects of our lives, looking for those things we’re worried about, angry about, depressed about, and so on. There’s lots of distraction.

With soft eyes, and the parasympathetic nervous system activated, the mind feels safer and loses its restlessness. It no longer needs to find problems to solve. And so it does less thinking. There’s less distraction.

So this is why I say, “Soft Eyes.” It’s a reminder for us to let the eyes be soft.


(The video above introduces the practice of “soft eyes.”)

“Open Field of Attention”: The habitual tightness we carry around in the eyes, with its narrows focus, leads to us fixating on a very narrow part of our visual field. When we close the eyes in meditation, we maintain this narrow focus in our inner field of attention.

I’ve often asked meditators to “draw” over the surface of the body what it is they’re observing when they’re doing “mindfulness of the breathing.” Because they have tight eyes and a narrow focus. most indicate a very small area, which doesn’t offer enough sensation for the mind to become fascinated by and absorbed in. And so they find they get distracted a lot.

When the eyes are soft, our inner field of attention is gentler and more open. Our attention is more expansive and receptive. We find that we’re able to sense many sensations of the breathing at once. We may even find that we can be aware of the whole body breathing. This is a very rich experience. it’s fascinating and we find it absorbing. It’s easier for us to keep observing the breathing without getting distracted all the time.

“Soft eyes” triggers an “open field of attention.” One follow naturally from the other. Nevertheless, it’s good to remind ourselves to notice what’s in our open field of attention.

Saying “Open field of attention” is a reminder to let our inner field of attention be expansive and receptive, and for us to notice the incredible richness that’s arising there.

“Kind Eyes”: Saying “kind eyes” is a way of bringing kindness into our present-moment experience. We can recall a time we looked with love — at a child, a lover, a friend, a pet — and let the eyes become kind now, as they were then. After a while we no longer need to access that kind of memory. We can simply remember what it’s like to have kind eyes, and drop back into that experience.

In saying “kind eyes” we’re directing our attention back to the eyes, reminding ourselves to connect with kindness.

“Meeting Everything With Tenderness”: Just as the eyes being soft changes our inner field of attention, causing it to be more open, expansive, and receptive, so letting the eyes become kind changes the way we pay attention internally. In this case it brings warmth, patience, kindness, compassion, and acceptance into our experience. We can find that we meet our distractions, our feelings, and even painful sensations with warmth.

Saying “meeting everything with tenderness” reminds us to bring kindness deeply into our being.


(The video above uses slightly different phrasing. More about that below.)

The How

I use the breathing to pace how quickly or slowly I drop these phrases into the mind, and to help keep my mind on track.

Pacing means balancing saying and listening.

Saying the phrases directs our attention to these various parts of our experience: softening the eyes, noticing the richness that’s arising in our open field of attention, letting kindness arise, and and bringing kindness into our whole being.

But if we’re speaking all the time, we might not be allowing ourselves to actually be with those experiences. We might not really notice them. We might not be allowing ourselves to go deeply into them.

We’re basically just talking to ourselves, and not letting ourselves have a chance to feel.

So generally I’ll say one of the phrases on an out-breath, and then leave two or three cycles of the breathing where I say nothing, and instead simply observe the experience that the phrase is pointing to.

Then I’ll drop in the next phrase, and so exactly the same thing. And I’ll continue like that through all four phrases, and then repeat.

However, if I’m particularly distractible I’ll tighten up the pacing. If I’ve been dropping in a phrase every third breath and keep getting distracted, I’ll start dropping in the phrases every two breaths. If I’m really distractible, then I might say a phrase on every breath. As I said above, this has the drawback that it doesn’t leave much time for being with our actual experience. But it’s better to do that than to get continually distracted.

Conversely, if things are going well then I might drop in the phrases less often. I might get to the point where I don’t even say the phrases; I just do what they’re describing (noticing soft eyes, noticing the body, noticing kindness in the eyes, bringing that kindness to meet every experience).

So there’s scope in this practice for fine-tuning as you go, adapting to changing conditions.

I also sometimes change the phrases. Sometimes instead of “soft eyes, open field of attention” I’ll say “soft eyes, body alive.” It’s basically the same thing, except that in the second case I’m more explicitly directing my attention toward the contents of the open field of attention. And sometimes instead of “meeting everything with tenderness” it’ll be “meeting everything with love” or “meeting everything with love.”

Although people sometimes assume that all thinking in meditation is to be avoided, thinking can be used consciously as a tool. Thoughts can direct our attention toward our immediate sensory experience. Thought can help drive out thoughts and quiet the mind.

You can play around with this tool as well. Make it your own. Find out what works for you.

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A meditation for accepting aging

A man's hand reaching out to touch its reflection in a mirror.

An elderly friend of mine once said to me, “Aging isn’t for sissies.” She was talking mainly about the physical difficulties of getting older, and especially the aches, pains, and difficulty in doing things that were formerly easy.

To add insult to injury, though, we often feel critical about our appearance as we age, as if it were a sign of weakness instead of an inevitable part of living. Getting older is not a personality defect; it’s an inherent part of being human.

The Buddha talked about aging a lot. He listed it as one of the descriptions of dukkha, which means suffering or unsatisfactoriness.

See also:

He also talked about youth as something we get intoxicated with. We become convinced when we’re young that we’re of a different nature from those who are old, forgetting that we’re all on a continuum. But because of this intoxication, which becomes a kind of addiction, we have difficulty accepting the fact of aging.

Today I led a meditation from in front of my bathroom mirror. I’m going to explain what i did, so that you can practice it as well.

To do this meditation you’ll have to be in a place where you can see yourself in a mirror. You should be able to see at least your face, but preferably your whole upper body. My bathroom mirror was ideal.

One thing that’s important but not obvious is that the place where you do this should be brightly illuminated. You don’t want to do this meditation in dim light, because looking for a prolonged period of time at your own face in a dark place can confuse your brain’s visual circuitry, leading to odd illusions. Let’s avoid that.

You could be sitting or standing depending on what’s convenient for you.

We’ll be meditating with the eyes open. And let the eyes be a little soft, by allowing the muscles supporting the eyes to be at rest.

You also shouldn’t stare, but should let there be a gentleness in your focus.

Also, don’t keep your eyes fixed on one spot. The image is your object of mindfulness, so let your eyes gently explore it.

With the eyes soft, notice the sensations of the breathing. And perhaps also seeing the rise and fall of the breath in the mirror.

And let your eyes be kind as well, remembering what it’s like to look with kindness, and reconnecting with that experience. And you might be able to see that kindness in your own eyes as you’re regarding your reflection.

Now, most of us judge our own appearance more harshly than we do the appearance of others. So we focus on blemishes, wrinkles, gray hair, and flesh that’s no longer as firm as it used to be. And we tend to judge those things.

When you see them in another person, they’re just part of that person’s appearance. They could have exactly the same blemishes and wrinkles and gray hairs and saggy parts as we have and we think they’re a beautiful person. We might love those features that they have.

So just see if you can appreciate the texture and the detail of your own appearance, without judgment, in the same kind and appreciative way that you would if this was another person you were seeing.

You can even drop in some words of appreciation. So seeing a wrinkle, a grey hair, or some other feature of the face, you can say to yourself:

“How beautiful that is! How beautiful is this sign of humanness!”

Repeat this a few times.

And you can say to yourself, to yourself as a whole now, not just talking to a feature as you did a little while ago:

“Aging is inherent in human life. May I meet aging with grace and dignity.”

Repeat this a few times.

“Aging is inherent in human life. May I meet aging with grace and dignity.

“Aging is inherent in human life. May I meet aging with grace and dignity.”

And there’s one more phrase I’d like to suggest, that we can say to ourselves. It’s

“May I support myself with kindness as I age.”

So repeat that a few times as well:

“May I support myself with kindness as I age. May I support myself with kindness as I age.”

And so you can just continue in this way for the rest of this period of practice, however long you’ve chosen to meditate for. Just keep regarding yourself with kind eyes, and be accepting and appreciative of signs of aging and other imperfections.

Guided Meditation

The following meditation is “Sitting With Bodhi”-style. This means that although the recording is ten minutes in length, you’re invited to continue for longer. I’d suggest that before you begin you set a timer for at least 15 minutes.

This recording is one of those I’ve recorded for Wildmind’s sponsors. If you’d like to find out more about what that means, click here.

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Chatting with an Artificial Intelligence about meditation

A robot

Could a computer write a convincing and accurate article about meditation? Could it even teach meditation?

I decided to find out.

I keep hearing a lot about ChatGPT (the last part stands for “Generative Pre-trained Transformer “). Apparently some websites are using it to write articles, which is something most readers won’t notice, especially if the websites in question don’t tell you that the author was a computer, recombining information it’s found elsewhere on the internet.

See also:

I thought it would be interesting to have a conversation with ChatGPT and see what it “knows” about meditation. It took me a while before I got anything but a message saying that the server was too busy to talk to me, but eventually the Artificial Intelligence and I sat down together for a nice chat.

Bodhipaksa: Hello. What are you called?

I am called OpenAI’s GPT-3, or simply ChatGPT for short. I am a state-of-the-art language model developed by OpenAI, designed to generate human-like text based on the input provided to me. I have been trained on a large corpus of text data and can respond to a wide range of questions and topics with informative and accurate answers.

Bodhipaksa: Where do you get your information?

I was trained on a massive corpus of text data from the internet and other sources, using machine learning algorithms developed by OpenAI. This training allows me to generate human-like responses to a wide range of questions and topics based on patterns in the data I was trained on. However, it’s important to note that while I have access to a vast amount of information, my responses are generated based on patterns in that data, and my knowledge is limited to the information available in my training data. My training data had a cutoff in 2021, so any information or events that have occurred since that time are not reflected in my responses.

Bodhipaksa: What are the benefits of Buddhist meditation?

Buddhist meditation practices offer various physical, mental and spiritual benefits, including:

  1. Reduced stress and anxiety
  2. Improved concentration and focus
  3. Increased self-awareness and mindfulness
  4. Better emotional regulation and reduced negative emotions
  5. Increased compassion and empathy
  6. Enhanced physical and mental well-being
  7. Greater sense of inner peace and calmness
  8. Deepened spiritual connection and understanding.

Note: These benefits may vary based on the individual and the specific meditation practice they are using.

Bodhipaksa: Are there different kinds of meditation in Buddhism?

Yes, there are various forms of meditation in Buddhism. Some of the most commonly practiced include:

  1. Mindfulness Meditation: The practice of bringing one’s attention to the present moment and becoming aware of one’s thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations.
  2. Loving-Kindness Meditation: A practice of generating feelings of kindness, compassion, and love towards oneself and others.
  3. Vipassana Meditation: A type of introspective meditation aimed at gaining insight into the nature of reality and the self.
  4. Zen Meditation: Also known as Zazen, this form of meditation involves focusing on the breath and maintaining a posture of stillness and alertness.
  5. Metta Meditation: A practice of cultivating loving-kindness and sending well wishes to all beings, including oneself and others.

These are just a few examples of the many forms of meditation found in Buddhism, each with its own unique focus, techniques, and benefits.

Bodhipaksa: What’s the difference between loving-kindness meditation and metta meditation?

Loving-kindness meditation and Metta meditation refer to the same practice in Buddhism. “Metta” is a Pali word that translates to “loving-kindness” in English.

In this meditation, one focuses on developing feelings of kindness, compassion, and love towards oneself and others. This can be done by repeating phrases such as “may I be happy, may I be healthy, may I be at peace” while focusing on oneself, and then extending those wishes to others, including friends, family, acquaintances, and eventually all beings.

The goal of Metta meditation is to cultivate positive emotions and reduce feelings of ill-will, anger, and hatred. Over time, practitioners aim to develop a more compassionate and loving outlook on life, and to extend these feelings of kindness towards all beings.

Bodhipaksa: I was a bit confused, because you listed those two forms of meditation separately.

I apologize for the confusion. You are correct, Loving-kindness Meditation and Metta Meditation are the same practice, and I should not have listed them separately. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.

Bodhipaksa: Are there any downsides to practicing meditation?

While meditation offers many potential benefits, there are some potential downsides to keep in mind, including:

  1. Difficulty staying focused: For beginners, it can be difficult to maintain focus during meditation, especially if one is prone to distractions.
  2. Physical discomfort: Certain meditation postures, especially when maintained for long periods, can lead to physical discomfort, such as sore muscles or pain.
  3. Intense emotions: Meditation can sometimes bring up intense emotions, particularly past traumas or repressed feelings. This can be difficult to deal with and may require professional help.
  4. Unpleasant experiences: In rare cases, some individuals may have experiences during meditation that are frightening or unpleasant, such as vivid hallucinations or intense feelings of fear.
  5. Cultural appropriation: In some cases, the practice of meditation can be seen as cultural appropriation when individuals from outside the culture adopt it without understanding its cultural context and history.

It is important to approach meditation with caution and to seek guidance from a qualified teacher, especially if you have any concerns about your mental or physical health.

Bodhipaksa: How does one find a qualified teacher?

Finding a qualified teacher for meditation can be done in several ways:

  1. Look for local meditation centers or groups: Many cities have meditation centers or community groups that offer classes and workshops. You can search online for groups near you or check for listings in local directories or community centers.
  2. Find an online teacher: There are many online courses, websites, and videos that offer guidance for practicing meditation. You can also find online teachers who offer one-on-one instruction and support.
  3. Ask for recommendations: Reach out to friends, family, or colleagues who practice meditation and ask for recommendations for a qualified teacher.
  4. Check credentials and background: When looking for a teacher, be sure to check their credentials, experience, and background. Ask about their training and how long they have been teaching. Look for a teacher who is transparent about their qualifications and experience.

It is also important to feel comfortable with your teacher and to trust that they have your best interests in mind. You can try attending a few classes or workshops before committing to a particular teacher to ensure that their approach and style align with your needs and goals.

Bodhipaksa: Can you give me some simple meditation instructions?

Sure, here are some simple instructions for mindfulness meditation:

  1. Find a quiet and comfortable place to sit: You can sit on a chair, cushion, or mat. Make sure your back is straight and your feet are flat on the floor.
  2. Close your eyes: This can help reduce distractions and allow you to focus inward.
  3. Take a few deep breaths: Inhale deeply and exhale slowly, allowing yourself to relax and release any tension.
  4. Focus on your breath: Pay attention to the sensation of breathing, feeling the air as it moves in and out of your nose or mouth. If your mind starts to wander, simply notice the thought and gently redirect your attention back to your breath.
  5. Allow thoughts to come and go: Try not to judge or become attached to your thoughts. Simply acknowledge them and return your focus to your breath.
  6. Continue for 5-10 minutes: Start with a short meditation, perhaps 5-10 minutes, and gradually increase the length of your practice as you become more comfortable.
  7. End with a few deep breaths: Take a few deep breaths, open your eyes, and take a moment to reorient yourself before standing up and returning to your day.

Remember, mindfulness meditation is a practice and it can take time and patience to develop the skills necessary to maintain focus and mindfulness. With regular practice, however, it can be a valuable tool for reducing stress and improving overall well-being.

Bodhipaksa: Sometimes when I meditate, I see swirling colored lights. What does that mean?

Seeing swirling colored lights during meditation is not uncommon and can be a result of various factors, including:

  1. Relaxation: As you relax your body and mind during meditation, it can cause changes in brain activity and blood flow, which may result in visual experiences such as swirling lights.
  2. Visual cortex stimulation: Meditation can increase activity in the visual cortex, which is the part of the brain responsible for processing visual information. This increased activity can result in visual experiences such as patterns or lights.
  3. Mental imagery: Sometimes, during meditation, the mind can create mental images or visualizations, which may include swirling lights or colors.
  4. Eye pressure: If you are applying pressure to your eyes during meditation, such as by rubbing them or pressing them closed, it can cause changes in vision, including the perception of swirling lights.

It is important to remember that these experiences are normal and are not cause for concern. However, if you experience persistent changes in vision or other symptoms, it is recommended that you speak with a healthcare professional.

Bodhipaksa: Have you ever meditated?

As an AI language model, I do not have a physical body, emotions, or experiences. I was trained to respond to text-based inputs and to generate text-based outputs based on patterns in the data I was trained on. I cannot meditate in the traditional sense, as I do not have a physical body or consciousness.

Bodhipaksa: If you were able to meditate, which type of practice do you think you would choose?

As an AI language model, I do not have personal preferences, opinions, or the ability to experience emotions or physical sensations. I was designed to respond to text-based inputs and to generate text-based outputs based on patterns in the data I was trained on. However, different forms of meditation can be useful for different individuals and can depend on their personal goals and experiences. For example, someone looking to cultivate compassion and kindness may find that a loving-kindness or metta meditation practice is beneficial, while someone looking to reduce stress and improve focus may find that mindfulness meditation is a good fit.

Bodhipaksa: What can you tell me about the meditation teacher, Bodhipaksa?

Bodhipaksa is a Buddhist teacher and author who has been teaching meditation for over 30 years. He is the founder of the Buddhist meditation website, Wildmind, and has written several books on mindfulness and meditation. Bodhipaksa has been influenced by both traditional Buddhist teachings and contemporary mindfulness practices and is known for his approachable and accessible style of teaching. He offers teachings, workshops, and retreats on mindfulness and meditation, and his work has been widely recognized and respected in the Buddhist community. He is also the creator of several guided meditation CDs and podcasts. Bodhipaksa’s teachings emphasize the importance of developing a personal meditation practice and incorporating mindfulness into daily life to cultivate well-being, compassion, and wisdom.

Bodhipaksa: Thank you. This has been an interesting conversation.

You’re welcome! I’m glad I could assist with your questions. If you have any other questions or topics you’d like to know more about, feel free to ask. I’m here to help.

Verdict

Overall, the AI did a good job of scraping together information from various sources and combining it into a coherent and meaningful series of statements. What it had to say about meditation must have been drawn from reliable sources, since it all makes sense and is the kind of thing I would tend to write. It slipped up in listing loving-kindness meditation and metta meditation as being various forms of practice. My interaction with it might have taught it not to make that mistake again.

The first two responses to “How does one find a qualified teacher?” aren’t actually helpful. They explained how to find a teacher, but not how to find if a teacher is qualified. The last two suggestions were helpful, though.

I don’t really experience colored lights when I meditate, but lots of people do and have questions about it. The answer ChatGPT gave to that question was actually rich and informative. It did better than I would have!

So yes, I think this AI could certainly write a decent article on meditation. Of course it will be very superficial lack any personal anecdotes, but the information above is pretty solid. (Of course it’s just recycled information from elsewhere.)

I was pleased to see its very kind description of me, and how my work is “widely recognized and respected in the Buddhist community.” Nice!

Could an AI lead a meditation? It gave some instructions above, but there’s a big difference between giving written instructions and actually leading someone though a meditation.

I suppose it’s only a matter of time before someone feeds it (or one of it’s AI buddies) a bunch of guided meditation recordings, and it learns to mix and match them into some kind of guidance. I have doubts about whether it would be able to learn to do that well. Anything’s possible, though.

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Twelve free meditation MP3s!

2021 is the 21st anniversary of the launch of the Wildmind website. To celebrate, we’re giving away two albums of guided meditation MP3’s.

  • One album is Guided Meditations for Calmness, Awareness, and Love, which was the first CD I ever recorded. This particular album was the best-selling meditation title on Amazon for several years running. It contains three guided meditations: mindfulness of breathing, lovingkindness, and walking meditations.
  • The other album is from our online course, Get Your Sit Together. It contains nine guided meditations.

DOWNLOAD THE FREE GUIDED MEDITATION ALBUMS HERE.

Please enjoy these meditations!

If You Like These Guided Meditations…

If you enjoy and, more importantly, benefit from these meditations, remember that we have two other options available:

Share the Love!

I’d be very appreciative if you’d share the news about these two free albums as widely as possible. Please hit up your social media friends!

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Tonglen: a practice of compassion for self and other

In response to the coronavirus crisis, I put together a free course on how we can find calmness and balance when things around us are falling apart. It consisted of 28 guided meditations, accompanied by just a few written words for context. The materials were delivered by email.

I also recorded a compassion practice to help us remain open to the suffering within and around us.

This practice of “Tonglen” — “giving and receiving” — is a form of lovingkindness or compassion meditation from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. It includes a reminder for us to bring compassion to our own suffering, and so it’s also a self-compassion practice.

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Get daily meditation guidance on your iPhone

Version 2 of the Bodhi Mind app includes a unique feature called Sitting With Bodhi. Each day you have the opportunity to be guided in your meditation practice by Bodhipaksa, who has been meditating for 36 years.

Before you Sit With Bodhi, first choose how long you want to meditate. You can sit for 12 minutes, or 20, or 40. It’s your choice. Bodhipaksa will then guide you for the first ten minutes, leaving you with a suggestion that you can put into practice in the remainder of the time you chose. The meditation concludes with a gentle bell.

The next day, there will be another guided meditation, and another opportunity to Sit With Bodhi. If you don’t want to follow that meditation on that particular day, that’s no problem. The meditation will stay on your phone until you’re ready.

The Bodhi Mind app was launched just over a year ago, bringing you a library of Bodhipaksa’s guided meditations. At the moment there are 300 meditations, covering basic mindfulness of the breathing, lovingkindness and compassion meditations, and practices for awakening insight.

As you listen to the Sitting With Bodhi meditations they’ll be added to your library so that you can return to them later. The Bodhi Mind app also allows you to add meditations to a favorite list, and to download tracks for offline listening.

The app is free to download, so you can test it our to see if it’s for you. There will always be content available to you even if you want to stick with the free version. And if you want continued access to Sitting With Bodhi and the entire library, there are inexpensive options to subscribe monthly, annually, or for a lifetime.

Click here to download the app now

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Sitting With Bodhi II

I invite you to join a new format of course that I pioneered a few weeks ago. It’s a different kind of meditation course with a new format.

It’s called Sitting With Bodhi.

The second series starts tomorrow, and the focus is on lovingkindness — although I prefer to call it simply “kindness.” It’s all about being more accepting and less harsh toward yourself and others.

It consists of 28 guided meditations which are 10 minutes long but open-ended; they get you started and then invite you to continue with the practice for as long as you want.

And you can work through these entirely at your own pace. Thanks to some kind of internet magic that I don’t pretend to understand, the next email isn’t sent out until the day after you’ve played the meditation in the previous one. So you don’t end up in that situation where you miss a couple of days and then despair because you realize you can’t catch up. Here the material is delivered completely at your pace.

And there are no readings at all! It’s just pure meditation.

I did a survey during the first course and 92% of respondents said they’d want to continue. And they offered comments like these:

  • “I learned more in the first 10 meditations than in the last 6 months. So many new ways to explore. My sitting is now so much interesting, with focus…i am excited about each sitting….i have one comment….Thank you Bodhi!”
  • “Starting with an intention of at least 10mins a day makes it easy to sit, and then sit for longer.”
  • “The meditations have helped my practice become more consistent, thank you.”
  • “I’m really enjoying the meditations. Thank you Bodhi for all your gentle guidance.”
  • “Thank you!! For all the work you’ve put into this. This course and knowing a new meditation will arrive each day has got me to my cushion again daily, which is such a relief and a joy.”

There’s an online discussion group for support, and I’ll also be doing two live online meditation sessions. If you can’t make it to those they’ll be recorded and archived for you.

Click here to find out a bit more or enroll.

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To be happier, think beyond yourself

It’s natural to assume that the more we focus on ourselves and our own problems, the happier we’ll be. But consider this: in a study of language used by poets, it was found that those who used the words I, me, my, and mine were much more likely to commit suicide than those who used we, us, our, and ours.

In fact, poets who killed themselves used self-referential words more and more often as they approached their premature deaths, while those who lived long lives used we-words more and more often.

This relates to the problem of rumination, where our own thinking acts to amplify our suffering. Many of our thoughts containing I, me, my, and mine are connected with feelings of distress: I’m worried about this, I don’t like that. No one cares about me or considers my feelings. And so on.

“I” thoughts reinforce our sense of aloneness. We see ourselves as broken, as worse than others, and therefore separate from them.

Thoughts of “we” connect us, reminding us of our common humanity. Our individual sufferings are seen as being shared by others, and as being part of the difficulties we all have in being human. Our sufferings are not a sign of us being broken, but of us belonging to a greater whole. Our sufferings connect us with others, rather than pushing us into a sense of separateness.

Cultivating compassion is one way of moving from I-thinking to we-thinking, and research in fact shows that compassionately considering and responding to the sufferings of others brings us many benefits, including becoming happier, healthier, more self-confident, less self-critical, and more emotionally resilient.

If it seems paradoxical that taking on board others’ sufferings can make us healthier and happier, this is simply a reflection of the fact that we forget that we are intrinsically social beings, that we are therefore more fulfilled when we connect with others, and that we also gain a sense of meaning and purpose from helping others.

Compassion can be cultivated. And it’s a simple thing: compassion is simply kindness meeting suffering. In compassion meditation we first connect in a kindly way with ourselves, and then extend our concern to others.

Practicing in this way trains us to take into account not just our own well-being, but that of others, too. This has the effect of reducing the amount of self-focused rumination we do, decreasing our tendency to freak out, and increasing our happiness.

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How I brought mindfulness into my life

Elle Taylor, Popsugar: Mindfulness is certainly having a moment, but it’s not a contemporary fad — it’s an ancient practice that’s been around for millennia. In simple terms, being mindful involves being in the present. It’s about focusing your awareness on the current moment, while acknowledging your thoughts, sensations, and feelings in a calm manner. It’s about connecting your body and mind and experiencing each moment fully. There are various ways to practice mindfulness, from meditating to working on colouring books, and I’ve tried a lot of them. Here’s how I’m attempting to …

Read the original article »

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Mindfulness for Women: Claire’s diary

Vidyamala Burch

Vidyamala’s course, “Mindfulness for Women,” starts March 1, 2017

The Mindfulness for Women online course, starting March 1 on Wildmind, is based on the book I co-wrote with Journalist Claire Irvin. Claire hadn’t meditated before we worked on this project so she gamely kept a diary of her efforts which are accessible, often hilarious, and moving. Here’s her diary of her first attempt to meditate:

Claire’s Diary Week One: Body Scan

It’s 9.30 on a dark early-spring evening. My husband Stuart is away and I’ve finally got Amelie, six, to go to bed (she will take any opportunity to delay bedtime, and an absent parent is as good an excuse as any). On a normal weekday I’d be starting to think about bed myself (early bedtimes are the only way I cope with the hectic pace of my life), but tonight I’m a bit wired, and also secretly relishing the quiet in the house. I think guiltily of my promise to Vidyamala to start my mindfulness journey, but quickly push the thought away. I sit down in front of the TV and am suddenly filled with resolve (plus, I won’t lie, there’s nothing on telly and the idea of lying down is very appealing). I decamp upstairs to my bed and press play on my meditation recording, and Vidyamala’s calm, gently lilting voice fills the room.

 

I immediately feel myself relax. This isn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be . . . I listen for a few more seconds and then get distracted by a noise in the garden. It’s a cat, by the sounds of it, climbing up the side of the shed. I resist the urge to get up and look. But it makes me wonder if I’ve locked up properly outside, and it’s a couple of moments before I can pull myself back to the meditation.

 

I cringe a bit at the mention of my belly. I hate this word and, like many women, hate focusing on my tummy at all. But as I feel my breath echo in my pelvic floor and my lower back, I begin to feel like a star pupil. I can do this! To say I’m pleased with myself is an understatement. I hear another noise outside, in the front this time, and I tense up again and wonder what it is.

 

Vidyamala is now asking me to relax my face. Oops! My face is very tense. Like, really tense. I relax it: my jaw, my teeth, the set of my mouth. As soon as I relax one part of it, another tenses up again. I get distracted thinking about the irony of having to work harder at being relaxed. I make myself laugh, then realise I’ve missed the next few moments of the meditation. Must do better next time.

 

Afterwards, I decide I should go to bed. I notice how much more relaxed I am. Despite Stuart being away, which normally makes me edgy, I sleep like a baby.

Click here to register for the Mindfulness for Women online course, starting March 1.

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