One of the things I've tried to do most of my life, both in my personal and professional lives, has been to become aware of the more subtle aspects of what I'm thinking, feeling, and doing. I especially like to become aware of implicit assumptions that lie behind what I'm doing, outside of my normal consciousness, as such assumptions can control what I'm thinking, feeling, and doing in ways that I'm not aware of, thus limiting my freedom and having consequences for the people I relate to insofar as such implicit assumptions affect the way I act.

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The world of science and technology develops really quickly. Recently I read a very intriguing paper that pushes the boundaries of what we believe about meditation training. In that paper, they investigated the feasibility of delivering a mind-body intervention in a virtual world. Mindfulness-based stress reduction is a very frequently-used treatment for a wide range of disorders. What is a common question amongst those scientists studying contemplative practice is to what extent the efficacy of this intervention is in fact caused by social group effects; the fact that people attend weekly meetings, feel part of a supportive group, meet with a charismatic teacher.

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Friday, 27 July 2012 17:58

The practice of receiving criticism

I recently attended a retreat with Sogyal Rinpochein Amsterdam. One of the main themes of the retreat was about how to take the blame. Now this may seem like quite a strange concept: why should we be willing to take the blame in situations? It definitely was something to think about for me, which is why I am writing this blog.

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As in previous years, I was fortunate enough to attend the Mind & Life Summer Research Institute. At this summer school, a group of scientists and practitioners get together to discuss on-going research into the nature of contemplative practice, and future avenues. What is quite special is that we do not only discuss contemplative practices (such as yoga and meditation) but also practise them ourselves. Every morning starts with yoga and meditation, and every evening ends with it as well. Participants observe silence between the evening meditation and morning meditation. We even have one full day of practice, which is an absolutely interesting experience: in addition to talking about how we can study contemplative practice scientifically, we also get to study ourselves in our own portable laboratory.

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Compassion fatigue? It's an Interesting phrase, one that's used daily when describing what healthcare practitioners encounter when they burnout or experience loss of empathy while caring for others. And even though it's used a lot, I'm not sure that it really makes sense.

Just for the heck of it, I did a Google® search for the keywords "compassion fatigue in nurses" and came up with 110,000 links...110,000! Oh my gosh, you’d think that we’re all suffering from burnout, which can’t be possible…or, is it?!
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This is from Karén, who came all the way from Moscow, to attend the What Meditation Really Is 2012 retreat:

I have been interested in Buddhism since the age of 14 when I read my first book about it. Since that time I’ve read a lot of books but never really practised. First of all because, there are very few Buddhists in Russia, especially where I live, and I couldn’t find a master I could trust.

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We just finished the 2nd annual What Meditation Really Is retreat at Lerab Ling, France. Here is what one of the participants, Drew from Ireland, wrote about it:

On this retreat there have been many moments of beauty, learning, breakthrough, breakdown, pain (both physical and emotional), truth and realization. But really, it all comes down to the teaching, “Water, if you don’t stir it, will become clear; the mind, left unaltered, will find its own natural peace.’ When I first came, I had many questions. Some I asked, many I kept to myself. All were usually answered fairly quickly.

 

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Tuesday, 03 July 2012 10:27

The roaring silence

A few years ago at dawn one Summer morning, a friend and I pedaled to the top of Australia’s highest mountain, Mount Kosciuszko. This is possible and pretty easy because Australia is the world’s oldest continent and Kosciuszko (7,310 feet or 2,228 metres tall and named by Polish explorer Strzelecki in 1840) has been weathered over millennia into a place more rounded than its younger, steeper and craggier equivalents elsewhere on the earth. But that’s by the by.

The thing is that when we got there not only were we alone at the highest point on the world’s biggest island but up there it was absolutely, utterly, wonderfully silent.

No wind and no wind through leaves (no bushes or trees), no chirruping insects or croaking frogs, no twittering birds or lowing of cows, no distant bark of a dog on the breeze, no traffic, no lawnmowers, no voices. Nothing -- just glorious silence. Absolute silence is a thing most of us rarely get to experience and when you do it can be profound.


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Monday, 02 July 2012 12:48

Less Stressed and More Compassionate

A new study has been published a few weeks ago on the effects of a 42-hour training in meditation on school teachers. The eighty-two participants were found to be less depressed, anxious or stressed, and more compassionate and aware of other’s emotions.
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Wednesday, 27 June 2012 11:38

Are you dead yet?

Excerpt from “Being a Compassionate Presence – The contemplative approach to end-of-life care” in The Arts of Contemplative Care.

“Are you dead yet?” her high-pitch voice hurled across the room. “Are you dead yet . . . you in the corner?” She glared at me, wide-awake ready to engage. I had been sitting quietly in her room assuming she was asleep. The physician had pointed to the chair in the corner across from her bed before he shut the door behind him with a resounding bang. I had a sinking feeling in my body. I was a fresh hospice volunteer and novice meditator. I followed the direction of his finger and sat down on the chair. I did what was expected, straightened my back and sat in silence.

 

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