relationships

“Sitting Practice,” by Caroline Adderson

Sitting PracticeA Canadian author’s sophomore novel deals with the serious subjects of disability and unrequited incestuous love, but brims over with life and laughter as it provokes the reader to reflect.

This is Caroline Adderson’s second novel — and one filled with humor, likable characters and great writing that make for an easy weekend read.

Ross and Iliana are three weeks into their marriage when a car accident and a moving tennis ball change the dynamics of their lives and lead them both into a journey of self-reflection and faith.

Ross Alexander is a funny, charismatic and passionate chef who runs his own business, Reel Food, catering to the film industry. He meets Iliana, a nurse, after he has surgery on his nose because of a history of snoring. She is tall, beautiful, reserved and athletic, and when Ross first sees her he can tell just by watching her walk across the room that she is his opposite.

Title: Sitting Practice
Author: Caroline Adderson
Publisher: Shambhala Publications
ISBN: 978-1-59030-558-4
Available from: Amazon.com and Shambhala.

Iliana comes from a family with rigid religious values. “You were damned if you did not accept Jesus Christ as your savior, yet faith was a gift from God, not something you could go out and acquire on your own.” As an adult she struggled with faith. “Who in their right mind, she wondered now, could endorse so frustrating and cruel a paradox?” Her parents chose not to attend Iliana and Ross’s wedding. They did not trust or believe in the secular world, especially people — even their daughter — who did not share their beliefs.

Their love story also includes Ross’s twin sister, Bonnie, who lives her life searching for “Mr. Right” but finding only betrayal and loss because she constantly compares them unfavorably to Ross, with whom she is in love. Bonnie has a son, Bryce, who is a delight in Ross’s otherwise heavy and darkly comic relationship with his sister.

Throughout much of the story Ross deals with his the guilt he assumes for the accident, which causes Iliana’s once toned and tall body to become wheel chair bound. It was fascinating to read how the more Ross suffered the more Iliana “let go” to what was and accepted her limitations by training her physical body within its new limitations. She seemed more alive and aware of herself after the accident. Perhaps when we lose an ability that we take for granted, our other faculties heighten to fill the loss?

She reveals her suffering in her loss of intimacy with Ross. “Never would she be suspected of an affair because no one suspected her desire. The chair had neutered her.” These two sentences are powerful. It made me think of the countless times I perceived people in wheelchairs to be somehow detached, asexual, or fragile.

Adderson illuminated many thoughts for me that I might never have had the opportunity to think about… What if? … What if this were me? Iliana may have lost the use of her physical body from the waist down but this did not diminish her need or desire to be touched. Ross, like myself, failed to recognize that just because her external vessel had changed, internally she was still a woman, longing and desiring warmth and love.

Although I really liked this book there were many times I lost interest in the story due to the many flashbacks. Caroline Adderson writes wonderful dialogues but at times she seems to try too hard. When I first embarked on this tale I thought the title was going to reveal Ross’s Buddhist beliefs. In the end, however, I realized that true wisdom came by way of the reader, processing, interpreting and evaluating: how would a trauma like this change my life with or without a spiritual practice? The ending was a tad disappointing, because Iliana and Ross never reached a point of closure, but life’s drama is often like that.

While Iliana trained her physical body, Ross was training his mind with his Buddhist practice. Both seem to come to realizations to move forward in their own time and means, but I can’t help but wonder who is the one doing the “Sitting Practice”?

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Auntie Suvanna: When love hurts

heart shape drawn in condensation on a bleak looking window

A young man in a troubled relationship seeks advice for Wildmind’s resident advice columnist, Auntie Suvanna. What’s the best path when you’re hooked up to someone who sees you as being the source of all her problems?

Dear Auntie,

I stumbled upon you while searching for Buddhist relationship advice, and I hope you can help me. It is a rather long story, but you did say in the post I read that you need details so here goes…

First, I have not been studying Buddhism for very long now, only a few months, and not very consistently at that. But a lot of it matches my own feelings already.

I have been in a relationship that has been going slowly (or quickly?) down hill for a couple years. The woman I am with (or not with now technically) is the one and only person I have ever had a relationship with, basically at least, but more on that later. We met online when we were both 19, and after only about 8 months she ended up pregnant. She moved two hours to live with me when she was about 6 months pregnant, something she really wanted to do at the time. We had had a few problems before, but I never thought anything of it because I had nothing to base it on so I just took it to be normal though they were probably signs of worse to come.

I have always known she had it rough all her life, and for a slightly less time known she suffered from some depression, though it wasn’t until recently I found out just how bad. I always felt like it was my duty to save her and sacrifice some of my happiness to make her happy. I would do almost anything she asked me too and besides school and work she basically has controlled when and where I can go or what I can do for a long time.

She has deep, deep depression and a long history of abuse by both parents, and she is a bit bipolar. She is also deathly afraid of doctors, and is completely against seeking any kind of treatment for it. I have always hoped I could cure her, but I think all I did was give her something to cling to and base her happiness on. I thought that a lot of her emotional instability was due to being pregnant, or hormone imbalance right after, but it never stopped and only got worse.

I am not an argumentative person, and though there are many things that have always bothered me, I tend to forget about them rather quickly until they happen again. She likes to start arguments all the time about simple things and then escalate them into larger things like me not appreciating her, or her hating her life and how it is my fault. And she has never been able to accept fault for anything. If there is a problem in our relationship it is never a matter of compromise but of it being all my fault.

But in May I did something I am not proud of and started talking to another girl. Well my fiance found out I was talking to her and was obviously upset and I said I would stop talking to the other girl, but I did something I am even less proud of by continuing and eventually near the end of May had sexual relations with her. Ironically my fiance found out the next day and that of course lead me to where I am today. I know I was wrong in what I did and let my desires bring me and others suffering, and it was a firm lesson to me on that matter. For some reason I didn’t feel I was doing anything wrong, and I guess I just wanted to feel like I was loved again, and felt trapped in my then current situation. And I have never been much of a liar except for that period of time.

Well, we made up at first but things have been rocky ever since. And only seem to get worse. She of course doesn’t trust me at all and so now she spies on everything I do online or any calls or texts I send, and she will call me at random times to try to catch me . And she becomes more and more suspicious as time goes on. I guess it is from all the other relationships where similar things have happened. I’m NOT doing anything bad anymore, but in addition to making me feel even more distant, she is even more controlling so I get even less freedom.

She has decided that she can’t be with me anymore and is certain she wants to move back home. I really want to be with my son, but I know that we are two very different people. I am rather passive, she is aggressive. I believe in forgiveness and non violence, she holds grudges for a very long time and feels that violence should be used against those that wrong her. I don’t care what other people think, she cares a lot about what others think and is embarrassed by me sometimes. I don’t care about marriage, she cares a great deal about it. I don’t care about the standards society has imposed for life, she wants most of that. My views on relationships are very different from hers. We have little in common as far as interests go either. I am ore about living in the present, and she focuses on the past and the future. And my Buddhist views are completely different from her religious beliefs. There is a lot more so just take my word for it.

I desperately want her to be happy, and to get rid of her depression and learn to love herself. How should I manage this situation so that I can show her compassion but not lead her to stay with me only to continue the same old cycle as before? Am I wrong to want to seek happiness myself, or should I teach myself not to desire anything more than what I have now? I am so confused…

I am sorry that is very long and you probably didn’t need that much detail, but I have a problem with going into too much detail.

Whatever your reply, thank you,
Anonymous


Hi Anonymous,

Ask Auntie Suvanna is a humorous column (or tries to be anyway!), and Auntie thinks your situation sounds rather more serious than what she would usually publish. Perhaps this time Auntie’s advice will be a tad more sober than usual.

Childhood habits of interpreting and responding are deeply ingrained; the deeper and more unconscious they are, the less able we are to see them and work with them. We can’t see how our habits are creating further suffering for ourselves (and usually others). I wonder if loving is what challenges those patterns the most, which is why relationships are often so horribly painful.

Even if you don’t want to be in the relationship anymore, going to counseling might facilitate some healing between you, and for each of you individually. It may be hard to get this going, especially since you say you are more passive than she is and she is very resistant. If this isn’t possible, you could get some individual counseling and work on the parts of the dynamic that are coming from you. For example, perhaps thinking of yourself as someone who can save other people, get rid of their depression for them, is something you could look into.

We often think in relationships that the problem is the other person. The way Buddhism sees such things is that the primary cause of any experience is what we have made of our own mind, and that no matter what we consider to be the reason we are responsible for what we do. Which isn’t to say that we should stay in situations that are obviously unhealthy, or espouse a philosophy of ‘everything is my fault.’ I guess it’s something other than, on the one hand, blaming everything on externals (which of course we ourselves chose at one point), or blaming everything on ourselves, saying if we just fix our mind (for example by not wanting anything) everything will be fine. Some different way of looking at what is causing suffering is needed, all the while cultivating kindness toward this difficult situation (life) we find ourselves trying to navigate.

I hope this is helpful at least in some small way.

Lots of love,
Auntie Suvanna

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Ten most popular posts on Wildmind this year

Top TenJust to help you keep track of what’s hot on Wildmind at the moment, we’ve put together this list of the ten blog posts that have received the most visitors this year. Enjoy!

10. Naming negative emotions makes them weaker Wired Magazine reports on research that’s of relevance to meditators — especially those that use the vipassana technique of “noting,” where we name the most prominent aspect of our experience, saying inwardly, for example, “anger, anger” when we recognize that that emotion is present.

9. Top 10 Myths About Meditation Bodhipaksa debunks the ten most common meditation myths.

8. The Buddha as Warrior It might seem strange to think of the Buddha as a “warrior” when he is rightly seen as above all a figure of peace. Lieutenant (jg) Jeanette Shin, the US military’s first Buddhist chaplain, looks at the Buddha’s martial background.

7. Infinity in the palm of your hand Would you like to see the world in a new way? A way that’s more authentic and satisfying? A way that taps into your infinite potential and helps others to realize theirs?

6. “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society” (Krishnamurti) Bodhipaksa explores the uncomfortable notion that we are all trapped in a world of delusions.

5. “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom” (Anaïs Nin) Bodhipaksa explores a quote by Anaïs Nin.

4. The joys of Zen Coffee There are many paths to Awakening, including the path of Zen Coffee, Gloria Chadwick’s hip new take on Zen mindfulness.

3. Love, Sex, and Non-Attachment Is it possible to be in a committed sexual relationship and follow the Buddha’s teaching on non-attachment? Does loving someone deeply by definition mean we’re attached to them? Sunada doesn’t see these ideas as contradictory, and explores what an enlightened relationship might look like.

2. The 12-Step Buddhist Alcoholics Anonymous’ 12-Step Program offers a path of escape from the cycle of dependency, but it’s a path that’s heavily reliant on belief in a deity. Can Buddhism provide an alternative approach to addiction? Buddhist and incarcerated drug-offender Rich Cormier investigates “12-Step Buddhism” as outlined in a new book by Darren Littlejohn.

1. Top 10 celebrity Buddhists When we started putting this list together it seemed like it was going to be nothing more than a shallow, trivial — although perhaps welcome — distraction from all the news about disastrous wars and sordid political scandals, but as we dug deeper into the web we found that we felt at times inspired by reading about the practice of famous Buddhists, some of whom have had their trials. We hope that you too will be inspired — and entertained — by Wildmind’s Top Ten List of Celebrity Buddhists.

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Auntie Suvanna: Breaking up, the Buddhist way

The Break-Up Movie poster

Dear Auntie,

I only recently decided to become a Buddhist, so I’m still trying to work out how best to apply it to some situations in my life. I was especially wondering if there is a good way to break up with someone in a Buddhist manner. I am currently in a relationship that just isn’t working out, but I can’t think of what to say to end it without causing a negative situation. I really don’t want the person to be hurt, or for there to be bad feelings between us. Break ups most often do seem to end that way, but I was hoping that by taking a new approach this time, in keeping with the Buddhist tradition, it could work out better for both of us. Do you have any advice for me? Thank you very much!

Signed,
Concerned Beginner

Dear Concerned Beginner,

Your question is not an easy one. You might as well have asked, What is the best way to separate someone from what they desire?

Traditional Buddhism has had little to say about relationships. Part of the reason is that Buddhist texts were preserved by celibate monks who spent their days memorizing suttas and doing formal practices such as Recollecting the Loathsomeness of the Body. So you probably wouldn’t want romantic advice from these people (or perhaps Auntie underestimates them?)

At any rate, Buddhist practice generally focuses on the cultivation of impartial love, friendliness and awareness. How can you apply this in your situation? What might it mean to break up with someone “in a Buddhist manner”? Might it mean, for example, leaving in the middle of the night while they’re asleep? That’s what the future Buddha did before his awakening. This really pisses people off. Turns out, this story is apocryphal; the Buddha probably was never even married. Ha Ha!

Considering the celibates and the accounts of the deadbeat Buddha-dad, not to mention the various Buddhist abominations to good taste (at least in titles) such as ‘If the Buddha Dated,’ we don’t have much to go on here. Perhaps Auntie may be excused in turning now to a non-Buddhist source, such as Richard Nixon, for guidance.

Here’s what he said at the White House after he resigned:

Always remember others may hate you, but those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them. And then you destroy yourself.

Not that your former girlfriend or boyfriend will necessarily hate you, but they might. And even though you seem pretty mellow at the moment, you could start hating him/her later. (And all this in response to the person we gazed at with doe’s eyes perhaps only days before — tragic!) And even though of course in many ways he was an unethical person, take the good advice from Tricky Dick and try not to get swept away by aversion. Set an intention for yourself to speak in a way that you can be proud of later – or at least in a way you will not regret.

Beyond this it’s hard to make specific suggestions about how to approach this without knowing the particular personalities. [Dear readers, when you ask for Auntie’s advice PLEASE give her more detail!] Moving into the future, examine your mistakes as much as possible and resolve not to repeat them or, at worst, resolve to bring more awareness to them next time around. Try not to base choices in your life on what is essentially a pheromone fog. This will reduce suffering for all.

Love,
Auntie Suvanna

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Love, sex, and non-attachment

Stone carvings at ancient temple, Sri Lanka

Is it possible to be in a committed sexual relationship and follow the Buddha’s teaching on non-attachment? Does loving someone deeply by definition mean we’re attached to them? Sunada doesn’t see these ideas as contradictory, and explores what an enlightened relationship might look like.

This year, my husband David and I will mark 27 years of being happily married. Am I attached to him? You bet I am. If he were to die tomorrow, of course I would be devastated. And am I completely unselfish in my regard for him? If I were honest, I’d have to say no. After all, what if he were to come home one day and say, “Sunada, I met a new woman and we love each other very much.” A completely other-regarding response would be, “I’m happy for you!” No, I couldn’t possibly imagine saying that.

My understanding of attachment is that it’s not about what we have or don’t have, but what our expectations of them are.

So does that make me a bad, overly-attached Buddhist? I would argue no.

First of all, let’s clarify what the Buddha said about sexual relationships. He said that a man and a woman in a loving, supportive relationship are like a pairing of a god and a goddess. Hardly sounds like disapproval, does it? It turns out the Buddha encouraged people to engage in relationships and enjoy them to their full extent. His teachings imply that all human relationships are wonderful opportunities to practice loving-kindness, generosity, and mutual support. A long-term committed one was all the more an opportunity to go deeper in one’s understanding and cultivation of these qualities.

See also:

So then what is non-attachment in a loving, committed relationship? My understanding of attachment is that it’s not about what we have or don’t have, but what our expectations of them are. As unenlightened people, we live with a persistent delusion that people and things will provide us with more happiness and satisfaction than they really can. And this is where we get tripped up.

…real contentment can only come from within ourselves. A partner can’t provide that for us, and to expect it will only lead to disappointment.

So for example, how much am I using my partner’s love to fill a void in my own love and acceptance of myself? A truly healthy individual is one who is complete by herself, and doesn’t need to depend on anything or anyone else to feel whole and content. I don’t mean we should go it alone and isolate ourselves from others. I mean simply not to depend on someone or something external to me as a necessary condition for my happiness.

But the fact is I’m not enlightened. Sure, it’s great to know what the ideal is, but very few people are actually there. I’m sure not. We all have times when we come up against feelings of loneliness, inadequacy, or insecurity. It’s a very normal human response to try to compensate for these unpleasant feelings by using a partner’s love to cover them over. But the truth is, real contentment can only come from within ourselves. A partner can’t provide that for us, and to expect it will only lead to disappointment.

But does that make it wrong to succumb to our habits of attachment? Perhaps this is the subtle effect of Judeo-Christian conditioning on the Western mind, but I often hear people judging our very human imperfections as somehow wrong – things to be ashamed of or gotten rid of at the very least.

A relationship with a partner, because it’s by nature where we open ourselves completely to another person, is a great working ground for understanding the true nature of self and other.

I see it differently. I’m not enlightened, I’m not perfect. I still live under the delusion that David will be with me forever. I depend on him from time to time to fill emotional voids that I’m unable to fill on my own. But through my growing understanding of non-attachment, I’m seeing more clearly what I’m doing. And I understand, at least intellectually, that my views don’t accurately reflect the way things really are. For me to be out of alignment with that reality is to create my own suffering. There’s nothing wrong with that – maybe uninformed and unwise, but not wrong. So I continue to work toward becoming a more complete individual who is capable of standing on her own. There is no good or bad here — simply a natural, human process of growth as it’s taking shape for me.

So let’s not get caught up in our ideas of what attachment should or shouldn’t look like, what’s right or wrong. Let’s not lose sight of the forest for the trees. A relationship with a partner, because it’s by nature where we open ourselves completely to another person, is a great working ground for understanding the true nature of self and other. When we have our defenses down and allow ourselves to be vulnerable to another person, we have the opportunity to explore deeply the nature of our own egos, desires, and expectations. We can challenge ourselves to aspire toward an enlightened relationship — one which is marked by a pure, unselfish, and unconditional love. What emerges is a partnership of strong individuals who don’t NEED each other, but openly give and take in loving support of one another.


As an aside, when the Buddha said that a man and a woman are like a god and a goddess in the above referenced scripture, I don’t think it meant that he disapproved of homosexual relationships. In this particular case, he was speaking to a group of husbands and wives. Although there’s no record of him explicitly addressing the topic of homosexuality, more generally, it seems his criteria for a positive relationship is that it’s between two individuals who love, respect, and support each other.

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Six tips for mindful parenting

mindful parenting: young back man helping a young child to draw

Five mindful parenting tips from Dr. Fran Walfish, the Early Childhood Parenting Center.

1. Balance love and limits. Be equally comfortable with loving / nurturing and setting boundaries / limits with your child.

2. Give lots of “undivided” listening attention to your child.

3. Follow your child’s lead (vs. directing your child).

4. Get on the same page as your spouse / companion. Kids learn very young to play one parent against the other.

5. Nurture yourself (so that you’re fortified to give to your child).

6. Examine your own behavior as closely and honestly as you do your child’s.

What would be your top suggestion for mindful parenting? Why not leave a comment below?

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It’s Not Just Quiet Time (Palm Beach Post, Florida)

wildmind meditation newsCarolyn Susman: In a stressed-out world, many find the road to peace comes by way of meditation and relaxation.

An old woman sits on a couch, bent over her rosary beads, fingering and fondling them, and repeating her prayers.

Another spends time saying a Hebrew prayer over and over: The Lord is God. The Lord is One.

Is either of these women meditating?

Neither might think so, but thousands of years of reflection by spiritual masters and mental health experts say otherwise.

“Every major religion has some form of meditation connected with it,” Daniel Goleman, author of Destructive Emotions: A Scientific Dialogue with the Dalai Lama, explained last year on CNN. “There’s the centering prayer in Catholicism. There are Jewish meditations. Mindfulness has its roots in Buddhism.

“Transcendental meditation has its roots in India. Those forms have been taken out of the religious context and put into a format that anybody, no matter what your religious belief, can benefit from.”

Continuing experiments show the benefit of meditation, and so-called “focused breathing,” for physical and spiritual health – arguably the most famous being Dr. Herbert Benson’s 1975 book, The Relaxation Response.

“We have… shown how the Relaxation Response may be used as a new approach to aid in the treatment and perhaps prevention of diseases such as hypertension,” Benson maintained, a ground-breaking approach at the time.

Just a few years before, in 1968, Beatles John Lennon and George Harrison and their wives had gone to India to study transcendental meditation with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, elevating this elegant form of breathing and concentration to popular acceptance.

Continuing experiments show the benefit of meditation, and so-called “focused breathing,” for physical and spiritual health – arguably the most famous being Dr. Herbert Benson’s 1975 book, “The Relaxation Response.”

“We have shown how the Relaxation Response may be used as a new approach to aid in the treatment and perhaps prevention of diseases such as hypertension,” Benson maintained, a ground-breaking approach at the time,
Just a few years before, in 1968, Beatles John Lennon and George Harrison and their wives had gone to India to study transcendental meditation with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, elevating this elegant form of breathing and concentration to popular acceptance.

In our stressed-out world, the advice “Take a deep breath” has renewed meaning.

One of the most recent studies to attest to the value of meditation –simply defined as deep breathing combined with focused attention to relax the body – is published in the April issue of the “American Journal of Hypertension.”

Conducted by Dr. Vernon A. Barnes, a physiologist at the Medical College of Georgia, the study showed that African-American teenagers, at risk for having high blood pressure, lowered their day-time blood pressures over four months by practicing 15 minutes of transcendental meditation twice daily.

“Allowing your mind to go to that state of inner quietness and be there for a time has an effect on the physiology by reducing stress hormone levels like cortisol and reducing activation of the fight-or-flight response,” Barnes said when the study was released.

Nothing is new here, except that Barnes’ study is fueling the idea that meditation should become a part of classroom learning and an option for children at risk for or suffering with conditions ranging from high blood pressure, to anxiety and depression, to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Balancing emotions

As a society, we are always looking for methods of dealing with emotional and physical illness that can reduce or eliminate drugs.

One of those on that search was Dr. Kamara Elaine Altman of Jupiter, a holistic health counselor and yoga therapist. Thirteen years ago, she went from a public relations career to teaching stress reduction techniques (she has studied with Benson and another renowned stress-reduction clinician, Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn).

Altman says she overcame a debilitating fatigue and irritability when she incorporated yoga and relaxation techniques into her life. “When people are under stress, they are irritable, emotionally vulnerable. I would get angry quickly, raise my voice, and I had very little patience. So I think it gave me the tools, time and commitment to relax myself and calm myself and center myself. I was able to balance my emotions better.”

She defines meditation as “the process of liberating your mind from distracting thoughts. The physical aspect of sitting down, slowing down, slows your heart rate and respiration rate. You are occupying your mind so distracting thoughts don’t come in.”

Meditators say the process actually reprograms your brain, accelerating physical healing.

Altman credits meditation and focused breathing with helping her concentrate on what she considers important, her inner peace. “If I find my mind wandering off, I take a centering breath to let go of distractions, not be reactive (to surroundings) and to bring myself into the present moment.”

She can practice focused breathing – relaxing breaths without the intensity of meditation – anywhere, doing a grocery list, at the dentist’s office or sitting in a car.

Especially when she’s caught in traffic, she finds the technique helpful.

“I put my hands on my belly and relax. It reminds me there is nothing I can do. I’m not so reactive.”

In her personal relationship, she finds it helpful, too, with the man she is dating.

“He could do something that in the past would have been irritating.” she says. “I can listen now and let it be.

And I’ll do my breathing and think, ‘Is this a good time to discuss this?'” Perspective and inner peace were also the goals sought by therapist Miriam R. Davis of West Palm Beach when she sought out meditation to ease her mind more than 30 years ago.

Davis, a single mother at the time, describes her state as one of “constant mind chatter that allowed me no peace.”
She went to England to study with The Beatles’ guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and practiced the technique twice a day, 20 minutes at a time.

“I began to clear my mind. It’s not positive thinking: it’s not a way to change your thinking by thinking more. It involves watching your thoughts without being drawn into them,” she explains.

“By dwelling inwardly for extend ed periods,” she says of her meditating, “I came to realize the poverty of always looking outside myself for happiness, understanding and wisdom.”

Today she uses meditation and relaxation techniques with clients who are anxious, depressed or have high blood pressure or chronic pain.

Tools for managing stress

I was introduced to a form of meditation when a perceptive rheumatologist years ago handed me a book about the Catholic technique of centering prayer — very similar to meditation — when I visited him with complaints of strange muscle cramping that others couldn’t diagnose.

This doesn’t shock Davis. “Meditation and relaxation are powerful tools for managing stress,” she says, “and stress can lead to extreme body tension that can affect your health.

So much so that Benson, the “Relaxation Response” author and a Harvard Medical School associate professor, has just released a book that discusses how depression, anger and hostility can adversely affect your heart.

One of the goals of “Mind Your Heart, A Mind/Body Approach to Stress Management, Exercise and Nutrition for Heart Health” (Free Press, $12) is to maintain calm and “allow blood to flow more easily throughout the body.”

Stress can damage the heart, Benson points out. But with meditation, yoga and focused breathing, it is possible to prevent and reduce heart damage, and even avoid and manage other illnesses.

Local meditator: Dr. Jean Malecki

When you have to deal with anthrax and terrorism, having an inner sanctuary is essential.

Dr. Jean Malecki, Palm Beach County Health Department director, has nurtured that private place since she was studying pre-med in college, “I majored in pre-med and minored in religion and philosophy. I’ve been studying it for a long time. I spend a lot of my free time pursuing it,” she said.

“Some people call it prayer. Others call it meditation. It’s a time of quiet, silence in your surrounding. It’s time set aside from the normal day when you think, contemplate. I usually do it in the early morning hours, and it brings me a lot of energy and satisfaction. I couldn’t do what I do every day if I didn’t have that connection.”

Original article no longer available…

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First Online Dating Service for Buddhists Debuts (Buddhist News Network)

In a sign of the times, Buddhists now have their own online dating site. Launched in February, DharmaDate, at www.dharmadate.com, aims to bring together Buddhist laypeople from around the world for friendship, dating and marriage.

The globalization of Buddhism combined with rapid growth in online dating has created a demand for a way for practitioners to meet online. Yet, so far, there has been no service dedicated just to Buddhists.

“Buddhists want to meet other Buddhists, especially for serious relationships,” DharmaDate co-founder Erik Curren said. “But in the West in particular, where Buddhism is just taking root, finding others can be a challenge.”

Buddhism’s growth in the West has been dramatic. It has become the #4 religion in the USA with more than 2 million adherents. Buddhism has shown similar growth throughout the Americas and in Europe. Yet, many Western Buddhists may have limited access to a local Dharma center and, as a result, they may meet few other practitioners in their daily lives.

At the same time, online dating has moved from the last resort of the computer savvy and socially awkward into the mainstream. In 2003, Match.com, the largest dating site, had more than 9 million active members, almost 5% of the US population. Online dating has already established itself in Europe as well, where big sites have seen their membership increase by 10% or more every month in many countries.

Given the mobility of singles today and the failure of traditional ways to meet others, online dating has now emerged as the only alternative for many to the “bar scene.” For those who want to meet a Buddhist, online dating may be even more attractive.

“There are now thousands of online dating services serving all interests and religions, with sites for followers of Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Judaism,” Curren said. “So why not a site for Buddhists? We’ve had people from around the world tell us that they’ve been waiting a long time for something like this.”

Curren co-founded DharmaDate with LB Shiu. After the two Buddhists met at a Tibetan Buddhist center in Virginia, they bemoaned the lack of options for Buddhists in the West to meet each other. The pair decided to collaborate on a way to use the internet to help bring Buddhists together. They came up with the concept for DharmaDate and then provided financing for the service from their personal funds.

The format of DharmaDate is similar to other online dating sites, but its approach is adapted to the needs and interests of Buddhists.

A new member can join the site for free by posting a personal ad with a photo. To create the ad, new members fill out an interactive questionnaire that allows them to describe themselves and talk about what kind of person they want to meet. In contrast to the general questionnaires users will find on other services, DharmaDate’s version was constructed to help Buddhist practitioners express their core values and interests. Questions include “How did you first get interested in Buddhism?” and “What teachers have inspired you?”

Visitors to the site can also browse ads created by others to find someone who matches their interests. During its launch period, the service is offering various incentives to encourage new members to create an ad on the site. As a service to the Buddhist community, the site also offers free e-books and articles on all traditions of Buddhism and on relationship issues. DharmaDate will also donate a percentage of profits to support Buddhist groups.

“We’re just getting started and our membership has only begun to grow,” said Curren. “We never expect to have millions of members like the big general interest sites. Instead, we hope to offer those with a serious interest in Buddhism a place to easily meet likeminded people.”

DharmaDate was designed initially to meet the needs of Buddhist singles living in the West. But its founders also hope that the service will help bridge the gap between Asian and Western Buddhists. And, people who are not single can use the site to meet new friends, perhaps in a country they would like to visit.

“Our dream is to see a strong online community of Buddhist laypeople spanning the globe who can offer each other friendship, support and encouragement to practice Dharma and live lives according to Buddhist principles,” said Curren. “We hope that bringing together Buddhists of different cultures and traditions for new personal connections will support international understanding while helping us all in our practice of wisdom and compassion.”

DharmaDate can be found at www.dharmadate.com. Basic membership including a personal ad with photos is free.

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