Why do we always recommend meditating with our eyes open? So, asked my stepfather the other day. He learned to meditate in the What Meditation Really Is classes held in New York City. And now, he goes to a different meditation group on Sundays, sometimes attended by 100 or so people, and everyone else meditates with their eyes closed.

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Co-founder and former Chairman of the Mind and Life Institute R. Adam Engle has thought pretty deeply about what ancient contemplative practices have to offer the modern world. He argues that most of the biggest problems in the world and for individuals are made by human beings. But recent developments in contemplative science are paving the way for a transformation in the way we view ourselves and our relationship to the world that could be a powerful force for positive global change.

Last May, Adam and I sat down and spoke for almost three hours. Frankly, it was one of the most fascinating conversations I had all year. At a certain point, I asked if I could turn on a camera and here is a fraction of what went down. More to come…

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Sunday, 10 March 2013 13:50

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.

Isn’t it strange how silence – if you care to listen -- feels full rather than empty; pregnant with possibility rather than absent of meaning?

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Monday, 04 March 2013 18:36

How to Respond to a Dying Pet

Dear Elizabeth,

I am addressing you with my concerns about animal euthanasia since I know you to be a lover and owner of horses.  My dear, 16-year-old dog is ill and dying, and I watch her physical suffering as she gets closer and closer to her end.  The tumors in her nose are bleeding and her breathing is labored.  The weight loss is dramatic, though she still can eat little bits and walk with some difficulty and assistance.

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I've begun teaching my course on Mindfulness at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology (now called Sofia University) this week (September 25,2012), and think that some remarks and diagrams I created for my students to help clarify some things about two kinds of concentration and their use in meditation would be of general interest. While “progress” in spiritual development calls for profoundly more than better words, I do note that physical science has made enormous progress in the last few hundred years, but it’s not clear that spiritual knowledge and development have made much, if any, “progress.” One element allowing progress in basic science has been precise definition and usage of key terms, which allows for clear communication of observations and understandings.

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I was very lucky to attend the recent Mind & Life meeting between the Dalai Lama and neuroscientists. The theme of the meeting was stress, which indeed seems a pretty timely topic in today's challenging world. In fact, as I continue on the path of meditation I am starting to be more aware of just how much stress I have in me every moment.
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Sunday, 24 February 2013 14:21

Sogyal Rinpoche: Who Are We?

Sit quietly for a moment or two. Now ask yourself: “Who am I?”

If you are anything like me, what happens next a bunch of thoughts arise such as a list of qualities (e.g. Talkative, honest, irascible…) or relationships (Blogger, Husband, Meditation Instructor…) or perhaps we might  start thinking paradoxically that “I am not my thoughts.” But almost all the time our response to the question is to think about who we are, rather than actually experience who we are.

In this video, Sogyal Rinpoche suggests an alternative to the habitual self-identification with our thoughts and emotions. Normally, it is as if the thoughts about who we are or what we are experiencing are in fact who we are.

My suggestion is that before you watch this video, take a few moments to meditate, calm the mind and allow yourself to come into the present moment. Then hit the play button. You might find that not only do you hear what Rinpoche is saying, but you can even get an experiential taste of what he is pointing us towards.

Have fun!

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Do you ever give yourself time to focus on your true nature rather than the ego self that usually runs your life? If you practice meditation, then you do, but for how long at a time? Twenty or thirty minutes or more a day, perhaps? That's great, but what if you took a week or two off from your usual routine just to focus entirely on your greater self, the you that is free of the thoughts and emotions that batter us daily. Wouldn't that be the best of holidays? I think so, and that's why I go on retreat every year.
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This is the last in a series of 5 posts on the history of meditation, adapted from Meditation- an In-depth Guide by Ian Gawler and Paul Bedson.
See here for the first, second, third & fourth part.

One of the most exciting new developments in meditation research has been the realization meditation can prolong life in an extraordinary way.

This knowledge has emerged from the remarkable Shamatha Project, a high level investigation of the effects of intensive meditation. During a closed, 3 month retreat led by Alan Wallace, a renowned meditation teacher, writer and researcher, a vast amount of scientific research data was recorded. Analysis is ongoing but already some remarkably significant findings have been recorded. 

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It was just another busy day in the hospital and I was sitting in front of my W.O.W. (workstation on wheels) trying to catch up on my notes and charting. One of my coworkers ran up to me, and knowing that I'd written a book for nurses on meditation, said, "Help! I really need to learn how to meditate at work. I'm so stressed out here. I need to learn...now!" Without even thinking about it, I said, "I'm meditating right now, while I'm charting. That's what meditation is."
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