(#EthicalChristmas) What kind of society are you creating?

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every_time_you_spend_your_moneyRecently I wanted to buy some herbal tea in bulk. I did my research on Amazon, found the brand I wanted, and then promptly headed over to the manufacturer’s website to make my purchase. This cost me a little more, but I was happy to pay the extra expense. Why, you may wonder?

Whether we consider it or not, every penny we spend has some effect on the direction our society takes. We can choose to spend our money at businesses that are exploitative and socially harmful, or at businesses that make a more positive contribution to our world. We collectively create the world we live in.

I’ve stopped shopping at Amazon. In some ways the company is wonderful. It’s an amazing example of entrepreneurialism. It offers a huge range of goods, often at significantly lower prices than can be found elsewhere. I have to admit I’ve shopped there a lot in the past. And there’s a benefit to that. I’ve definitely saved some money (and time — let’s not overlook the convenience of shopping from home). In theory the money I’ve saved is of benefit to me.

But there’s a bigger picture too. Amazon thrives in part by employing people at rock bottom wages. In the US, workers are forced to toil in huge warehouses where temperatures can be over 38°C (100°F) in the summer. Many have collapsed with heat exhaustion. The work is brutal, involving constant movement, bending, stooping, lifting, and fast-paced walking for miles on hard concrete floors. Even young and fit employees find themselves in constant pain. Workers are electronically monitored in a way reminiscent of George Orwell’s 1984, and even bathroom breaks are strictly timed. Staff have to queue up for long periods of time in order to pass through security checkpoints when leaving at the end of their shifts, and Amazon refuses to pay them for that time, on the basis that it’s not an “integral” part of their work. Is this the kind of world we want to build for ourselves?

There’s also the financial pressure that the company puts on suppliers, including the tactics they used in their recent dispute with the publisher Hachette, such as increasing the shipping times of Hachette’s titles, refusing to take pre-orders, or simply removing the “buy” button. This was all in an effort to force the publisher to drive down its prices.

And then there’s Amazon’s highly effective (although legal) tax avoidance strategies. They’re a company that benefits from the infrastructure and services that taxes fund, and yet gives little or nothing back to the tax system.

Check out our online meditation supplies store for gifts, meditation MP3s & CDs, and more!

Check out our online meditation supplies store for gifts, meditation MP3s & CDs, and more!

We have choices. We can choose to support other retailers, online or off. So that’s why I decided to boycott Amazon. I feel better giving my money to a small herbal tea company that, I’m pretty sure, treats its workers with more respect and, like most small businesses, pays into the taxation system. I consider that the extra costs I incur by avoiding Amazon aren’t really costs. After all, if Amazon isn’t paying the taxes that support our national infrastructure and essential services, then someone else is. That someone else is me, and you.

We may think our economic choices don’t make a difference, but as someone who runs a small online store, I have to tell you that that’s not the case. Every order for a CD, or for incense, or for a Buddha statue that we receive on Wildmind’s store is received with gratitude — and sometimes relief. And our suppliers, many of them artisans in the developing world, being paid fair wages for their work, are grateful too.

So this is the point of #ethicalchristmas. Over the next few weeks you’ll have plenty of opportunities to spend your money at small companies, some of whom make a positive contribution to the world. You have a choice. I’d suggest you choose with wisdom, and with compassion. Choose to create a better world.

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Prisoners and guards ‘should meditate together’, MP says

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wildmind meditation newsMeditation MP3 – Mindfulness of BreathingBill Gardner, The Telegraph: Prisoners and their guards should meditate together to reduce violence and improve behaviour, an MP has suggested.

Mindfulness is said to change the way people think about experiences and reduce stress and anxiety, an approach adopted by around 115 MPs and peers in the “hothouse” of Parliament.

Using meditation, devotees are trained to “accept the intentional, accepting and non-judgmental focus of one’s attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment”.

Labour’s Chris Ruane said the “chic” approach would help prisoners to learn “gratitude, appreciation and balance”. Meditating would …

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(#EthicalChristmas) Wildmind supports ethical businesses

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sign-web_0As a small independent enterprise, Wildmind is keen to support artisans and local producers where possible.

Many of the items that we sell are Fair Trade products, where local artisans in Nepal and India work in good conditions and are fairly recompensed for their labors.

Other items we sell are made locally in and around New Hampshire, where we’re based, or are made by Buddhists.

Here are a few of the things we sell…

The Kindseat meditation stool

kindseatThe Kindseat meditation stool is made from beautiful birchwood ply which is sourced from sustainably managed forests from Finland. The Kindseat is shipped internationally through a courier company that operates a carbon offsetting scheme to care for the environment. It is professionally manufactured in the UK on a computer controlled machine and hand finished by an established company that also produces furniture for young people with special needs. The Kindseat was designed by Viramitra, an Order member who lives in the UK.

Zafu/Zabuton Combination

Made specially for Wildmind by a local seamstress, our cotton Zafu/Zabuton Combination comes in a choice of red, forest green, black, or royal blue.

Both our zafus and zabutons are made from hard-wearing cotton twill.

The zafu (the round meditation cushion) is generously filled with organic buckwheat hulls. The cover contains a zipper so that the buckwheat hulls can be replenished or removed for washing.

The zabuton (the floor mat) also has a removable cover, and is stuffed with cotton batting inside an inner cover.

Both items proudly bear Wildmind’s own label. We’re happy to guarantee these products for five years, and if you have any problems related to defects, we’ll give a free replacement.

Old Palmwood Wrist mala

Old Palmwood Wrist malaHand-made exclusively for Wildmind by “Buddha Bob,” this mala of polished old palmwood makes a perfect accompaniment to mantra recitation, or can simply be a beautiful decorative object.

Buddha Bob” is a former prison inmate who was part of a prison meditation class run by a number of Order members from Aryaloka Buddhist Center. Prior to his release he started selling malas in order to provide a financial cushion and ease his transition to the outside world.

This mala has 25 beads, plus a larger guru bead made of buri wood. It is securely strung, and has an imitation silk tassel.

Six Inch Hand-beaten Singing Bowl

Six Inch Hand-beaten Singing BowlThis hand beaten singing bowl is one of our Fair Trade products. It’s an exceptional example of traditional craftsmanship. It is made by Nepalese craftsmen with a special 7-metal alloy that produces a powerful harmonic resonance when played. It comes with a wooden striker.

The cushion is for illustrative purposes only, and isn’t included with the singing bowl.

Turquoise and Silver Prayer Wheel Earrings

Prayer Wheel Earrings, Turquoise and SilverA superb example of a Fair Trade product, these little prayer wheel earrings bear the Tibetan sacred mantra of compassion, Om Mani Padme Hum. These prayer wheels actually spin, and are not merely decorative!

Each earring is accented with a tiny garnet spinning bead. Made with Sterling Silver and Turquoise, the mantra is in brass.

Large Tara Prayer Flag Set

Large Tara Prayer Flag Set

This Fair Trade gift is a set of five large prayer flags printed with the image and mantra of Tara. Tara is known as the goddess of compassion or The Swift One because of her immediate response to those requesting her aid. She is also called the Liberator and goddess who grants all wishes, and is regarded as a fully awakened Buddha. She is said to have been born from a lotus blossom that sprang from a tear shed by Avalokitesvara, the Bodhisattva of compassion.

These prayer flags are printed from hand carved woodblocks in the traditional manner. The five flag colors represent the five elements: Blue (earth), White (water), Red (fire), Saffron (infinite space), and Green (winds).

This purchase helps to provide food, shelter, and psychological support to former Tibetan political prisoners.

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Conscious breathing to regular breathing

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wildmind meditation newsMindfulness of Breathing – Meditation MP3 Partha Pratim Bose, The Hindu: A 65-year-old alcoholic with irregular heartbeats was subjected to a rehabilitation programme. He was subjected to cognitive behaviour therapy and trained on this breathing technique to control his mind.

Have you observed that when you tickle your own armpits you do not feel ticklish. If another person does the tickling, however, you feel ticklish. Why is this? Recently, it has come to light that when you move your bodies, the cerebellum, related to physical movement, suppresses emotions. We also now know that emotions are suppressed even at times when the results …

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(#EthicalChristmas) Wildmind: the accidental publisher

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IMG_20141208_134412Wildmind stumbled into publishing back in 2002, and has now brought out eight guided meditation CDs, with plans to publish a number of books.

Wildmind’s foray into publishing started because many meditation students requested that the guided meditations Bodhipaksa recorded for his online courses be offered in CD format as well. Bodhipaksa used the services of a local recording studio in order to record the mindfulness of breathing, development of lovingkindness, and walking meditation practices. This CD was self-published under the title, Guided Meditations for Calmness, Awareness, and Love. Amazon ordered a copy. Then two. Then a dozen. Then a hundred! For several years, Bodhipaksa’s first CD was Amazon’s best-selling meditation title, and it has now sold a very respectable 200,000 copies.

Wildmind has since published a number of other titles, which are of course also available in MP3 format:

More CDs are planned, and so are several books. Materials that Bodhipaksa wrote for Wildmind’s 2014 Year of Going Deeper is also destined to be published in book form — initially as ebooks, then as paperbacks.

The first book to appear will be The Path to Jhana, which grew out of an online event called “60 Days to Jhana.” This title breaks down, in a step-by-step way, how to eliminate the five hindrances to meditation. It also explains how to cultivate calmness, “piti” (the pleasurable energy that is experienced when we’re attentive to the body as it relaxes), and joy. Together these three factors support the arising of sustained absorption (jhana).

The second book will be 100 Days of Lovingkindness, which was developed from an online event of the same name. This is a guide to cultivating the four heart-based qualities of kindness (metta), compassion (karuna), joyful appreciation (mudita), and loving wisdom (upekkha). The emphasis is not only on developing these qualities in meditation, but in daily life.

Thirdly, Bodhipaksa is a keen exponent of the Six Element Practice, and an as-yet untitled book on that topic will be published in 2016. This will be a more practical accompaniment to his more reflective book, Living as a River, which was published by Sounds True in 2010.

Wildmind’s CDs are available in the UK from Windhorse Publications, in Australia from Windhorse Books, and in the rest of the world from Wildmind’s own meditation supplies store, which ships worldwide.

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Free book giveaway!

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Radical Self-forgiveness bookWe’re giving away a copy of Radical Self-Forgiveness: The Direct Path to True Self-Acceptance by Colin Tipping!

Simply sign up for Wildmind’s bi-monthly newsletter for a chance to win!

We will choose one new subscriber at random on Friday, December 12, 2015 at 2:00 pm (US EST). The winner will be notified by email. If you are already a subscriber then please share this with a friend.

Most of us have plenty of experience with self-blame and guilt—but we are often at a loss when it comes to forgiving ourselves. According to Colin Tipping, this is because our idea of forgiveness usually requires a victim and a perpetrator—which is impossible when we play both roles at the same time. Tipping’s Radical Forgiveness process allows us to navigate this dilemma for deep and lasting healing.

Many of our fears, anxieties, and even physical health problems originate from the parts of us that we consider unforgiveable. Yet when we recognize that we are worthy of forgiveness—no matter who we are or what we have done—we gain access to the loving energy of spirit that can heal our deepest wounds.

Enter your name and email address below if you wish to join the thousands of people who receive our monthly newsletter and to have a chance to win this great book. You can see examples of past newsletters here.

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We hate spam as much as you do, and so we take your privacy seriously and will never, ever, sell, rent, or share your email address with anyone. An unsubscribe link can be found at the foot of every newsletter and you can cancel your subscription at any time.

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The Power of Mindfulness: a four-week course starting Jan 5, 2015

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1312 POM 600pxGive the gift of meditation Make a resolution to bring mindfulness and meditation into the New Year!

The next Power of Mindfulness online course starts January 5, 2015. It’s a four-week meditation course that’s accessible 24 hours a day, every day of the week, wherever you are. All you need is an internet browser. You can even participate on an iPad or other mobile device.

The convenience makes this perfect for people who don’t have meditation classes nearby, or who work irregular hours or who can’t travel because of illness, childcare arrangements, etc.

The course is web-based, and involves readings, guided meditation MP3s that were specially recorded for this course, a discussion forum, and email exchanges with the teacher, Bodhipaksa.

Weaving together the latest scientific research with ancient Buddhist wisdom, this four-week course provides a comprehensive introduction to living mindfully. It’s not just about the skills of meditation. You’ll also learn how to take what you learn into action. This course gives you the tools to gain more insight into yourself, and be more at ease and content through life’s ups and downs.

For more information, or to register for the course click here to go to the online store.

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Mindfulness meditation physically changes the brain

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wildmind meditation newsThe Enlightened Brain: The Neuroscience of Awakening, by Rick Hanson (7 CDs) Crystal Shepeard, Truthout: In 1987, a lawyer, a neuroscientist and Tenzin Gyatso, known more commonly as the 14th Dalai Lama, had a meeting about science and spirituality. The three felt that the use of science as the dominant method in which to investigate reality was, at best, incomplete. They were convinced that “well-refined contemplative practices and introspective methods could, and should, be used as equal instruments of investigation.” This would, in turn, complement scientific discoveries, adding a more humane element to science.

It was from that meeting that Adam …

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(#EthicalChristmas) The evolution of donation-supported online teaching

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woman hands with flowers outdoorThere’s been a rapid evolution of how Wildmind runs online courses. For years we held online courses with anything from half a dozen to 20 participants. Then we decided to start 2013 with a more public 100 Day Meditation Challenge, followed by another 100 days exploring the four Brahmaviharas. For these events I wrote a daily (or almost daily) article on Wildmind’s blog, accompanied by guided meditations.

When Mark joined the team, we decided to develop that model yet further, in order to create a year-long schedule of meditation events for 2014. This became our first Year of Going Deeper. We offered a program of eight online courses, covering everything from learning basic meditation techniques, to cultivating absorption (jhana), to developing insight.

We’ve learned a lot on the go! With the two events in 2013 we didn’t know how many people were participating; we guessed it was a few hundred, but we were simply posting material on the blog and hoping that people were paying attention! So for our first Year of Going Deeper we decided to run the events via email. This gave us a clear idea of how many people were participating. As it happened, we had over 1,200 people sign up for each of the eight events!

We’re building on that success by offering another Year of Going Deeper in 2015 with an even larger program.

One thing we’ve learned is to have shorter events. For example, instead of a 100 day event exploring the four Brahmaviharas, we have one 25 day event for each of the four practices. This is less daunting for potential participants, and allows people to join at different times.

We’ve also learned not to use the “f-word” — that is, the word “free”! We’d said that our first Year of Going Deeper was “free,” but that donations were welcome. That turned out to be a mistake! The word “free” is very attractive, but it sets up an unhelpful expectation: last year only around five percent of participants donated.

Like any organization we have financial needs, and we’ve really struggled this year because of our missteps in communicating them. So for 2015 we’re encouraging participants to donate when they enroll, being more upfront about our needs while (we hope) avoiding being pushy.

If you like our articles and want to support the work we do,  please click here to check out our books,  guided meditation CDs, and MP3s. Or you can make a donation.

If you like our articles and want to support the work we do, please click here to check out our books, guided meditation CDs, and MP3s. Or you can make a donation.

Our first event of next year — a 28 day meditation challenge called “Sit Breathe Love” — starts on January 1, and so far the indications are good. It’s quite likely that we’ll end up the same number of participants as last year, and so far about 50% of those who’ve enrolled have made a donation: a ten-fold increase on last year. We’re hopeful that this is going to bring us some much-needed financial stability.

Wildmind, I think, does an amazing job in reaching out and making meditation instruction available on a mass scale. We’ve literally touched millions of lives through our website. I’m looking forward to the day when no longer have to do this on a shoestring and with an anxious eye on our cash-flow, but instead have an abundance of resources to draw on!

I’m sure that 2015 won’t be our last Year of Going Deeper. In fact I’d like to keep running these events and for them to grow. Wouldn’t it be inspiring to have 10,000 people participating in each of these events? Or even 100,000? I hope you can join us for one of them!

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(#EthicalChristmas) Wildmind: an online meditation center .. and more!

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the wildmind office

Wildmind is an online meditation center, a blog, an online meditation supplies store, and a publisher of guided meditation CDs.

These varied activities are run by a small team of three people working from an office in a former cotton mill on the Lamprey River in Newmarket, New Hampshire, just down the road from Aryaloka Buddhist Center.

As an online meditation center, Wildmind has a global, reach. In the past twelve months Wildmind’s website, which offers structured guides to meditation as well as a constant stream of news, reviews, and articles on various aspects of practice, has had visitors from every single country in the world, with the exception of Western Sahara.

The website is visited by one and a half million people per year, making Wildmind Triratna’s busiest center! The two most popular blog articles, both written by Bodhipaksa, have each been read by over a quarter of a million people, which probably makes Bodhipaksa Triratna’s most widely read author.

Wildmind sprang to life in 2001 as a project that Bodhipaksa undertook while completing Master’s degree in Buddhism and Business at the University of Montana. At first the site offered just structured guides to the mindfulness of breathing, development of lovingkindness, and walking meditation practices, using a combination of text and audio. Within a year, Wildmind had started offering online meditation courses, and shortly after had branched into publishing guided meditation CDs. Because these CDs were being sold through the site, it made sense to sell other meditation items as well, leading to Wildmind having a fully fledged meditation supplies store, which retails locally made meditation cushions and fair-trade craft items from across the globe.

Check out our online meditation supplies store for gifts, meditation MP3s & CDs, and more!

Check out our online meditation supplies store for gifts, meditation MP3s & CDs, and more!

Wildmind has been through cycles of growth and contraction in its 13 years of existence. Weathering the recession that began in 2008 (and which doesn’t appear to have entirely ended yet) was a major challenge, but Bodhipaksa decided that growth was the best strategy. At the end of 2013 Mark Tillotson joined Bodhipaksa and Shantikirika (who has since been replaced by Amy Kosh) so that Bodhipaksa could devote more time to teaching and writing. Mark’s addition was instrumental in allowing Wildmind to set up a program of eight free meditation events in 2014, from 28 to 100 days in length, called “A Year of Going Deeper.” Each of the events attracted over 1,200 participants.

Wildmind is running an expanded series of thirteen meditation events in 2015, all of which are by donation. The material that Bodhipaksa wrote for these events last year will be appearing in book form next year in Wildmind’s newest venture — becoming a book publisher.

This post is part of the #ethicalchristmas series on Triratna’s thebuddhistcenter.com.

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