Meditation whilst sitting upon one’s cushion is all well and good but that’s not what meditation is about…at least not for me. When I practice formally, I’m working on learning how to bring my “meditative mind,” or “meditative awareness” into my life. For me, no aspect of life is better for testing my meditative abilities then the experience of fear.
Happiness doesn’t depend on what happens to you, but on how you see, think and feel about what happens to you.
Here’s an example: John and Jenny are visiting their Grandma. She serves them a cream filled chocolate cake. John is happy because he likes chocolate cake but Jenny is unhappy because she has sworn off eating chocolate cake and having one in front of her is making it extremely difficult for her to stick to her vow. It’s the same external situation for both people, but one is happy about it and one is unhappy.
Treatment Methods in Buddhist Psychotherapy
It is clear that all psychotherapies emphasize introspection aimed at self-understanding and rely on the healing relationship. The Buddhist method in particular, incorporates an insight-oriented dialog and interpersonal role-modeling during the session with a contemplative educational triad of meditation, study, and lifestyle between sessions.
Not long ago I came across this very simple statement from the Buddha in a book by the great Vietnamese teacher Thich Nhat Hanh:
Love is understanding.
I find this to be such a beautiful statement and I think it reveals a lot about how the practice of meditation can change the world and make us more loving. Here are a few reflections…
A little while ago I had a radio interview with the Dutch Buddhist Broadcasting company, and one of the things I talked a lot about with the interviewer was the relation between my meditation practice and my passion for ballet. Then when I read the wonderful book Confessions of a gypsy yogini by fellow blogger Marcia Dechen Wangmo, where she wrote about her passion for dance, I decided it was time to blog about it.
Jealousy is a painful emotion, in part, because when we get jealous we lose our self-respect. It is deeply embarrassing to watch ourselves feel displeasure at the happiness and good fortune of others, whether it be their wealth, physical attributes, money...whatever.
I suppose, if we look at it in one way, it is good news that we feel disturbed when we feel jealous. This shows that we have a conscience – that in truth we really do want others to be happy and don’t want to feel uncomfortable about their good fortune. And yet we experience this inner-conflict.
Jealousy comes from feeling impoverished in our own minds. We wish we possessed the attributes that belong to someone else…therefore we feel we “lack” something in some way. So jealousy comes from being totally self-focused. Herein lies the problem.
Buddhist psychotherapy, which has been adopted in the last several decades, is a novel approach to the clinical practice of mental health. It combines aspects of conventional psychotherapy with traditional Buddhist psychological theory and practice. Because there are several sub-schools of psychotherapy and Buddhism from which to integrate, there currently is no single formalized clinical approach to its practice. Therefore, Buddhist psychotherapy differs widely in its presentation among diverse practitioners.
A little while ago I had an interesting experience at work, where the things I learnt in my meditation practice surely came in helpful. The situation is that I am very lucky to be mostly surrounded by some of the most interesting, kind and open-minded people. As a result, I pretty much never get angry. I always used to think I am just "not that kind of a person that gets angry". It turned out, I was wrong. I just hadn't met the people to make me angry.
Twenty five hundred years ago, Gautama Siddhartha, the historical Buddha, had some deep insights and created powerful techniques that would allow major reductions of human suffering. Traditionally the Buddha is said to found a total end to all suffering. Perhaps that's true, perhaps it's not. I don't know, but certainly Buddhist meditation techniques and related practices can greatly reduced individuals' suffering.
From that time on, to greatly oversimplify, you can talk about two main streams of Buddhist activity. The heart of Buddhism is the monastic tradition, monks and nuns so dedicated to achieving enlightenment for their own sakes and for the sake of others that they devote their entire lives to living in ascetic conditions and practicing meditation and prayer. The other main stream is the beliefs of the common people, in essence, that the Buddha was some kind of god, or at least had supernatural abilities, as the monks and nuns also do to various degrees. These people were too busy trying to survive and earn a living, and so could not meditate very much themselves, but they could earn merit, which would go toward improving their future lives, by worshiping the Buddha and by supporting the monks and nuns with alms and other donations. I'm speaking very generally, of course, and you can find many variations on these themes.
Last weekend we had a visit in Groningen by Maureen Cooper, a senior instructor in the Rigpa Buddhist sangha. She taught a very inspiring weekend about how to bring the Buddhist teachings on meditation and compassion into busy city life. They helped me a lot to re-inspire myself to bring the sanity in my crazy life.