Contrary to popular belief, meditation doesn’t always feel relaxing in real time. When I first came to meditation when I was 18, I was experiencing a lot …
Standing in line meditation
This nice little video from Sharon Salzberg arrived in my inbox this morning. It describes a simple practice of bringing mindfulness and kindness into the act of standing in line (or queueing, as we say in my native Britain).
This is something I do a lot. It transforms what can be a frustrating experience into one that’s grounding and joyful. Give it a try.
Meditation could be the key to your stress problems
Shelby Sheehan-Bernard, BND: Stress. It seems everywhere we go, there’s an email to read, a text to send, a task to complete. If you’re seeking a way to ease your response to modern life’s stressors and overstimulation, mindfulness meditation may be the answer. Current research in the field, including a 2014 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine from researchers at Johns Hopkins University, is continuing to uncover the benefits of a consistent meditation practice, such as its ability to help reduce anxiety …
Mindfulness: a key to productivity at work
Kellye Whitney, Talent Management: It might be time to reconsider the power of mindfulness to counteract some of the common issues often encountered at work, according to author Sharon Salzberg.
Even the best jobs cause stress, but meditation may be a tool people can use to mitigate its effects.
In her latest book, “Real Happiness at Work,” meditation teacher and author Sharon Salzberg says workers can use mindfulness and meditation to improve their work lives.
Salzberg, who is also co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, has also written other books, including “Real Happiness” and “Love Your Enemies.” She said it’s …
Body image booster: loving-kindness meditation
Margarita Tartakovsky, PsychCentral: In her book The Need to Please: Mindfulness Skills to Gain Freedom from People Pleasing & Approval Seeking, psychotherapist and mindfulness teacher Micki Fine, MEd, LPC, explains that each of us is made of love.
And as we water the seeds of love within us, we can learn to accept ourselves precisely as we are. When you have a negative body image, this can be incredibly hard to do.
That’s when having a daily practice is important. We can start creating new ways of thinking and feeling about our bodies and ourselves.
A daily practice that can be really helpful…
As more people meditate, more realize its benefits
Karen Garloch, Charlotte Observer: If the word meditation conjures images of a Buddhist guru sitting cross-legged in a Himalayan cave, you’ve got some catching up to do.
Devotees of meditation do take time each day to sit quietly, close their eyes and focus on their breathing.
But they could also be practicing while sitting in traffic, standing in grocery lines, or stuck in a contentious meeting.
“It’s available to us in a lot of life circumstances,” said Sharon Salzberg, an internationally known leader of meditation retreats and co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society. “You don’t have to close your eyes. No one even …
Through meditation, she makes happiness an inside job
Sharon Salzberg, 58, a co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society, has spent more than three decades helping Westerners access a daily spiritual practice that originated in Buddhism but is not confined to that faith.
When Sharon Salzberg returned to New York from her first trips to India in the 1970s, a crinkled cotton blouse was still exotic and people would politely sidle away from her at parties after she told them she taught meditation for a living.
Now even Starbucks sells chai (a milky Indian spice tea), and a landmark Massachusetts General Hospital study released last month has documented that the brain shows positive physical changes — in density of gray matter — after just eight weeks of meditation.
Salzberg, 58, a co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Mass., has spent more than three decades helping Westerners access a daily spiritual practice that originated in Buddhism but is not confined to that faith.
Her latest book, “Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation,” offers a 28-day guide to generating what she calls “sustainable and durable” happiness from within oneself, rather than…
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relying on external events.
“We all want to be happy. We need to expand the notion of what that means, to make it bigger and wiser,” the author said in a telephone interview from Albuquerque, a stop on her book tour. On Feb. 26, Salzberg will lead a three-hour retreat at Santa Monica’s First United Methodist Church for the InsightLA meditation center.
She said a key to experiencing happiness on an ongoing basis is to acknowledge pain and suffering, something American culture resists.
“It’s difficult to admit to ourselves that we suffer. We feel humiliated, like we should have been able to control our pain. If someone else is suffering, we like to tuck them away, out of sight,” Salzberg said. “It’s a cruel, cruel conditioning. There is no controlling the unfolding of life.”
Salzberg’s own childhood was filled with pain and loss. Her parents divorced when she was 4, and her father simply “disappeared.” When Salzberg was 9, her mother died and she went to live with her father’s parents. When she was 11 the father returned to the family, but he soon took an overdose that put him in the hospital and then the mental health system for the rest of his life.
“By age 16, I had lived in five different family configurations, all ending in loss,” she recalled.
After an Asian thought class at State University of New York at Buffalo exposed Salzberg to Buddhism, she left for India on an independent study course that changed her life. She went to Bodhgaya, where Buddhists believe that 2,500 years ago Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha) attained enlightenment after 49 days meditating under the Bodhi tree, a sacred fig.
Salzberg said she wasn’t seeking a new religion but a pragmatic way of living, and what she discovered allowed her to relate to her past with “compassion rather than bitterness” and to live with a sense of connection.
She was attracted to the Buddha’s open acknowledgement of suffering in life and the invitation to do something about it.
“As is the case for many people, my childhood traumas weren’t spoken about in our family,” Salzberg said. “I didn’t know what to do with all those feelings.” She said she saw a shocking level of anger and judgment in herself and recognized that her operating system for life was based on fear.
The Buddhist principles of vipassana, or mindfulness, and metta, lovingkindness, afforded Salzberg what she calls a “spacious” form of awareness in which people know they have a choice. Instead of being dominated by her fears, Salzberg said, she began to communicate what she learned, ultimately publishing seven books.
In her first book, “Lovingkindness,” Salzberg explored a meditation technique in which certain phrases with personal meaning — wishing a benefactor well, for example — become conduits for concentration.
In another book, “Faith,” published when Salzberg turned 50, she sought to “go deeper into the unknown.” For Salzberg, faith means “connecting to inner strength and a vision of life in which you are part of a greater whole.”
“I wanted to help reclaim the word and free the word from a lot of what had accrued around it,” Salzberg said, noting that many of her Christian and Jewish contemporaries had felt silenced in the faith traditions in which they grew up.
Although she was raised Jewish and in certain contexts identifies as Buddhist, Salzberg believes meditation can complement any faith tradition.
“Faith is not a commodity that you either have or don’t have enough of, or the right kind of,” she said. “It’s an ongoing process. The opposite of faith is despair.”
Even her Buddhist teachers did not tout Buddhism as the only way to truth, Salzberg said. She remembers that her first teacher told her “the Buddha did not teach Buddhism; he taught a way of life.” Her second teacher went even further: “The Buddha’s enlightenment solved the Buddha’s problem. Now you go solve yours.”
Most of what Salzberg has learned and taught comes full circle in “Real Happiness,” which she said does not imply that other types of happiness are not real. Instead, she said, the mind has the power to keep us depressed even when things are good and to allow us to experience well-being even when times are tough.
Salzberg saw that principle come alive when she taught a meditation class to the nursing staff at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where young soldiers were recovering from amputations and other injuries suffered in the Iraq war.
On a tour of the hospital, Salzberg was reminded by the nurse conducting it of how one’s internal approach to suffering makes all the difference.
“The nurses who can stay here are not the ones who get lost in sorrow, but the ones who can connect to the resiliency of the human spirit,” Salzberg said her guide told her.
Meditation, said the author, gives people the tools to tap into that spirit.
Top 10 Buddhist teachers living in America
Waylon Lewis at the Huffington Post has compiled a list of what he considers to the the top ten teachers “you can study with,” excluding “charlatans,” “promising youngsters,” “those who you can’t really study with because they’re too famous,” or “in private meditation retreat all the time.”
1. Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche ~ he’s young but not too young, experienced, thoroughly Westernized (though exotically Tibetan, heritage-wise), a great teacher and frequently accessible at programs around the US, Europe, Canada, even South America. But because he’s a rising star, you’ve got to make an effort if you want personal training.
2. Pema Chodron ~ though Pema is a best selling, accessible, wise, safe teacher, and Oprah loves her…I nearly disqualified her because she’s no longer frequently accessible. But she’s just too good to overlook. So check out her teaching schedule, and connect with her before she retires or goes into retreat.
3. Sharon Salzberg ~ like Pema, she’s a best-selling author, beloved by Oprah, and an immediately accessible teacher to Buddhists and never-gonna-be-Buddhists alike. While less feisty than Pema, she‘s deeply experienced and warm-hearted. With her partners-in-crime Joseph Goldstein and Jack Kornfield, she teaches mostly out of the Insight Meditation Centre in Barre, Mass.
4. Ponlop Rinpoche ~ like Mipham Rinpoche and Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche (below), a young, well-trained teacher who belongs to the first generation of Tibetan Buddhist raised and trained in the West. He’s got an avid, small-but-fast-growing community–perfect if you want personal attention and training.
5. Joan Halifax Roshi ~ a strikingly-lovely, wise and venerable American Zen teacher, she‘s based out of her Upaya Zen Center in New Mexico, and works with the yoga community extensively. A superstar.
6. Dr. Reggie Ray ~ while he’s been caught in that “I’m American yet folks treat me like a guru vortex” that’s chewed up and spit out Osel Tendzin and Richard Baker Roshi before him, Reggie is like Pema a magnetic, accessible teacher. Unlike Pema, he’s got a small community with whom he works closely. Perfect if you want personal attention and training.
7. Columbia professor, Free Tibet activist and co-founder of The Tibet House, righthand man to the Dalai Lama, one of TIME’s most Influential People and father of Uma, Robert Thurman is charismatic, wild and wise–perfect for those who want to connect with the Dalai Lama’s teachings.
8. Norman Fischer ~ I don’t know him at all, being mostly a Tibetan Buddhist trained boy myself, but he’s got a stellar reputation for integrity.
9. Dr. Judith Simmer-Brown, Dale Asrael, Frank Berliner ~ alright, I’m cheating–combining three in one–but if you’re college-age, you can find ’em all (and other gems, too) at little Naropa University. Dr. Simmer-Brown is an expert in feminism, or the feminine principle in Buddhism, Ms. Asrael is wise and kind, Mr. Berliner is deeply serious, knowledgeable, caring, and impossibly good looking–the Marlboro man of Buddhism.
10. Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche ~ like Ponlop Rinpoche, if you’re looking for a small community, personal attention and deep study, he’s perfect for you. Same goes for the remarkable, crazy-wisdomish Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche–an artist, filmmaker and incredible teacher–who has a strong, committed community. If however, you’re looking to simply inject a little mindfulness and awake-ness and peace and sanity into your daily life, you may want to stick with the superstars listed above.
Lewis insists that the list isn’t final and invites comments.
Bodhipaksa is a Buddhist practitioner, writer, and teacher, and is also the founder of Wildmind. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife and daughter, and has a particular interest in teaching prison inmates.
As well as teaching behind bars, Bodhipaksa also conducts classes at Aryaloka Buddhist Center in Newmarket, New Hampshire. He muses, rants, and shares random aspects of his life on his blog at bodhipaksa.com. You can follow Bodhipaksa’s Twitter feed at https://twitter.com/bodhipaksa or join him on Facebook.