mindfulness

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

My Way or The Highway or the direct path to the four noble truths, the noble 8 fold pathIn 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 3 lakasana’s, 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.

 Eight Step Recovery - The 2014 USA Best Book Awards - winner of the category - self help: motivational.

The 2014 USA Best Book Awards – winner of the category, self help: motivational.
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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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Join us for our second Year of Going Deeper

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yogd2015Join us for a series of thirteen meditation events throughout 2015. We’re calling this our Year of Going Deeper.

There is no fixed charge for these events; they’re all by donation.

  • Practice reminders delivered by email. (Three to seven per week).
  • Meditation guidance and links to guided meditations.
  • Optional meditation events: watch live on video, or catch the archive later.
  • Online community: share your experience, receive support and encouragement.

There is no fixed charge for these events. Participation is by donation.

Our Year of Going Deeper includes events for all levels of practice, whether you’re a beginner interested in learning basic techniques or a more experienced meditator interested in cultivating deep meditative states and insight.

Please share this news with your friends. We have 1,200 on each of our events last year, and we’d like this Year of Going Deeper to be a year of going bigger!

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Mind over matter

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wildmind meditation newsClick here to check out our online meditation storeLinda 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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Harvard unveils MRI study proving meditation literally rebuilds the brain’s gray matter in 8 weeks

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wildmind meditation newsFeelGuide: Test subjects taking part in an 8-week program of mindfulness meditation showed results that astonished even the most experienced neuroscientists at Harvard University. The study was led by a Harvard-affiliated team of researchers based at Massachusetts General Hospital, and the team’s MRI scans documented for the very first time in medical history how meditation produced massive changes inside the brain’s gray matter. “Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day,” says study senior author Sara Lazar …

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Free book giveaway!

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Dipa Ma largeWe’re giving away a copy of Dipa Ma: The Life and Legacy of a Buddhist Master by Amy Schmidt!

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

We will choose one new subscriber at random tomorrow, Tuesday, November 25, 2015 at 4:00 pm (US EST). The winner will be notified by email.

“Dipa Ma’s profound wisdom and compassion continue to inspire and guide an ever-growing number of spiritual seekers and practitioners of every persuasion. Weaving together her powerful words and techniques with heartwarming biographical stories and encounters shared by her family, her students in India and the West, and prominent teachers of Buddhism and meditation in America, this is the only full account of Dipa Ma’s extraordinary life and legacy.”

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The healing effects of total silence

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wildmind meditation newsFlorence Waters, The Telegraph: A week without noise in Ibiza proves a meditation revelation for Florence Waters.

I remember the first time a friend confessed he was going on a silent meditation retreat: no talking, Wi-Fi, books, phones or pens for what sounded like a very long week.

Though a little curious, I was embarrassed enough to change the subject immediately. Perhaps this is how people felt in the Nineties when someone disclosed they were having therapy. But when I saw him afterwards he was clearly moved by the experience; “I can’t really explain, you’ve just got to do it,” he ventured. “I …

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Buddhism, vegetarianism, and the ethics of intention

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smile pigOne of the most attractive things about Buddhism is that it considers ethics to be based on the intentions behind our actions. This perspective is radical in its simplicity, clarity, and practicality.

When our actions are based on greed, hatred, or delusion, they’re said to be “unskillful” (akusala), which is the term Buddhism prefers over the more judgmental terms “bad” or “evil” — although those terms are used too, albeit mostly in the context of poetry. By contrast, when our intentions are based on mindfulness, compassion, and wisdom, they’re said to be skillful (kusala).

For many people accustomed to systems of morality based on commandments, rewards and punishments, the Buddhist ethical perspective is liberating and refreshing.

But sometimes the idea that Buddhist ethics is about intention is seen in too narrow a way. The problem is that a deluded mind is trying to become aware of itself! We’re not always aware of our intentions, or may choose to fool ourselves about what our motivations really are. We develop ethical blind spots and adopt evasive strategies to justify our actions and to avoid change. Delusion keeps us tied to our current way of being and stops us from making spiritual progress.

One tool that the Buddha encouraged as a way of breaking out of ethical confusion is paying attention to the consequences of our actions:

Having done a bodily action, you should reflect on it: ‘This bodily action I have done — did it lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both? Was it an unskillful bodily action, with painful consequences, painful results?’ If, on reflection, you know that it led to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both; it was an unskillful bodily action with painful consequences, painful results, then you should confess it, reveal it, lay it open to the Teacher or to a knowledgeable companion in the holy life. Having confessed it… you should exercise restraint in the future.

If we notice that we’re harming others, or that we’re causing pain to ourselves — for example through inducing guilt — then we need to look more closely at our motivations, being open to the possibility that we’re not clear enough about our intentions. We need to look for and admit to hidden ethical agendas. I wrote about this recently in terms of the way some men harass women on the street, without being willing to look at the fact that their attentions are unwanted and cause suffering.

Another example is the way most people who eat meat say that they like animals. They don’t think of themselves as cruel. Most of them are shocked by actual cruelty and want animal abusers to go to jail. And at the same time, they pay people to abuse animals on their behalf. They don’t think of themselves as doing this, but when they buy meat they’re financially rewarding people who raise animals in stressful and unnatural conditions, transport them, terrified, long distances in trucks, herd them into a slaughterhouse, shoot them in the head, hoist them into the air by their back legs, cut their throats, and then disembowel and dismember them in preparation for being shrink-wrapped and sold.

Although there’s no overt ill intent when you pick up a steak at the supermarket, you’re paying for this whole process to happen — a process that causes affliction to others. And we don’t want to think about all this. We’re shocked by animal cruelty, so for example we don’t want to see videos of animals in slaughterhouses because we’d rather avoid being shocked. That way we can avoid the discomfort that comes from change.

If we’re going to take the Buddha’s teachings seriously as a guide for living, then we need to examine the harmful consequences of our actions, and then look for the hidden intentions and assumptions that drive those actions.

Implicit in buying meat are attitudes like, “You are more useful to me dead than alive,” and “I kind of like you, but I’m hungry, and so I don’t mind you being killed.”

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The attitudes are rarely if ever experienced as overtly as that (and I’ve expressed them rather baldly here) but something like that is going on. I know. I used to eat meat.

Meat-eating is just an example. I’ve picked it because so many people who want to follow the Buddhist path fall into the trap of thinking that if their actions are not directly harming others, then there’s no ethical issue at stake. And I picked it because I really hope we can reduce the amount of suffering in our world.

The problem with discussing an issue like this, though, is that it’s emotive, and so the larger point — we should examine the consequences of our actions in order to clarify our hidden intentions — can get lost in our emotional reactions.

Setting aside any such reactions for the moment, the principle of examining the consequences of our actions extends into almost every aspect of our lives. One example is our interaction with the environment. I know that taking my car to work unnecessarily contributes to climate disruption. And I know that climate change causes suffering to people on the other side of the planet. And yet I still take the lazy route. This suggests that I care less about people if they live far away or if I don’t personally know them, and that I value my comfort over others’ wellbeing. My “forgetting” to do my share of the housework suggests that I have a sense of entitlement, and that I think other people’s job is to clean up after me.

The applications are endless; Buddhism is calling upon us to be radically compassionate, radically mindful of our actions.

The principle that reflecting on the consequences of our actions illuminates our unacknowledged motivations is rarely recognized, but it’s one of the most powerful teachings that the Buddha offered us.

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Mindfulness program reveals positive results

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wildmind meditation newsSarah Duggan, EducationHQ: Using mindfulness in the classroom improves students’ self-control, attentiveness and respect for each other, researchers have discovered.

The findings come from the Mental Health Foundation’s (MHF) Mindfulness in Schools programme, which saw six schools take part in an eight-week trial requiring teachers to implement 20-minute mindfulness sessions into their lessons.

Throughout the trial teachers documented any progress in a journal and later completed an extensive survey, the results of which were examined by researchers from Auckland University and the Auckland University of Technology.

Teck Wee, a primary teacher at Te Papapa School who participated in the trial, reported that he …

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A Mindful Christmas Survival Guide

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Sad_SantaSad to say, for many of us, the season of peace and goodwill has become a time of stress and indulgence. Here’s a mindful survival kit

Pace Yourself

Christmas starts with battling through the seasonal crowds and keeps going to the New Year hangover. We need to pace ourselves. When you go shopping, take breaks. Sit in a café and follow your breath, regardless of what’s going on around you.

Check Your Expectations

So much stress comes from the idea that everyone should be happy and get on well. But things are as they are: children can get hyper and temperamental; family tensions can come out; old patterns can resurface. Allowing ourselves to experience any feelings of disappointment and frustrations when they arise, can help us find a more creative response.

Look After Yourself

For some people Christmas is a lonely time, and it can bring back painful memories of people you’ve lost. If that’s your experience, make it a time to take care of yourself. Give yourself the space and kindness you need.

Enjoy Yourself – in Moderation

It’s easy to do too much of everything at Christmas: eating, drinking and being entertained. The downside is feeling tired and bloated, regretting the weight you’re gaining, and spending too much money. So take a mindful breath, appreciate the simple things and stop when you need to.

Take Time Out

At family gatherings and celebrations things like meditation are easily pushed out, especially when children are around. So try to maintain your practice and take breathing spaces. Reflect that staying in a better state helps you to respond better to others. You could even try them to join in.

Enjoy the Christianity … and the paganism

If you’re a Christian, the festival’s spiritual meaning is the best antidote to indulgence and materialism. Although I’m not one, I still love the atmosphere of Christmas carols and nativity plays. The Christmas story is universal: celebrating the birth of a child who brings hope; and it’s a pagan festival, filled with the imagery of rebirth and new life.

Go on Retreat

If you value meditation and mindfulness, an alternative to a conventional Christmas is going on retreat. You can experience a different way of being and take meditation practice much deeper.

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A mindful gift from Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay) to all of us

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wildmind meditation newsElisha Goldstein, PsychCentral: Last week I wrote about Thich Nhat Hanh’s brain hemorrhage landing him in the hospital. The most recent update from Plum Village shows that while his condition is still in a critical stage he has opened his eyes and even reached out to touch the attendant next to him. In continuing this time of honoring his life I wanted to share with you one of the gifts he has given me that I often share with others.

These are the short phrases he weaves into breathing or walking that helps us be more present, loving, grounded, and aware in …

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