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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.

Published in Meditation Blog

Elizabeth explains how we can understand reality just by wrestling with basic questions that we all have: "What is the basis of suffering? What causes happiness?"


Published in Elizabeth Namgyel

Elizabeth Namgyel describes compassion as a radical expansion of self.

Published in Elizabeth Namgyel

In this 2 minute skype video, Elizabeth explains to Erric how we can understand reality just by wrestling with basic questions that we all have: "What is the basis of suffering? What causes happiness?"

Published in Meditation Blog

This five minute video is the first part of a fascinating skype conversation between Elizabeth Namgyel and Erric. Elizabeth describes compassion as a radical expansion of self. Then she gives some tips about how we can begin to cultivate this expanded sense of self.

Published in Meditation Blog
Saturday, 21 January 2012 01:27

Learning to be Naked

Question to Elizabeth: We hear the term “nakedness” a lot in the dharma. They often say: “Rest in the naked state.”  In my life, I have found it extremely difficult to be naked, to be exposed both physically and emotionally. I tend to enjoy quite a bit of privacy. When I am exposed, I feel very uncomfortable, quite agitated and it's times when I feel extremely agitated that I do not want to sit on my cushion. In fact, if I get to such a point of agitation, I don't sit on my cushion but do things to numb it out. Is there a way that I could methodically work with this type of situation so that I can systematically learn to gently unveil myself? I really think these periods of agitation from exposure need to be worked with consciously and methodically to keep me engaged and on my cushion, but I don't know what to do. When I am on my cushion during such emotional upheaval, I feel like I need some way to walk myself through the practice step by step so that I can allow myself to look deeper into what this agitation really is. Can you offer me any suggestions?


Published in Meditation Blog
Friday, 13 January 2012 23:43

The Freedom of an Open Question

I am always looking for books on the Buddhist view on emptiness and that I can give to my non-buddhist friends, or people who are just starting on the path, whenever they asked about the Buddhist view.

Years ago, one of my friends at work, an incredibly intelligent, intellectual former professor, asked me for two books. I  based on what I knew about him, I gave him Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind and a translation of a traditional book on reasoning and philosophy. He liked Suzuki Roshi and couldn’t get past the first few pages of Chandrakirti.  The problem is that traditional texts on emptiness are written for people who are already Buddhist and often assume quite a scholarly education. Even most of the contemporary ones are too.

So I really wanted to read Elizabeth Mattis-Namgyal’s book, "The Power of an Open Question: The Buddha's Path to Freedom". I asked her for a copy, offering to review it here. She agreed. Then I panicked. She’s a friend, what if I hate the book? I don’t know if that is an open question, but that is the one I had when I started to read the book.

But after reading her “personal koan”, I started to forget about my question and ponder hers. Most of us try to ignore the inevitable and spend our lives trying to grasp what cannot be grasped and then suffer the discontentment that follows or worse.

Published in Meditation Blog

How does emptiness help us? How do we apply an understanding of emptiness to our lives?

Sometimes emptiness seems foreign to us. But in truth, we live and move about in emptiness because things, by nature, are not static or “objectifiable.” I often speak of resting in emptiness as an open question. An open question is a question we ask without expecting to find a final answer. When we ask an open question we have not yet reached a conclusion and yet the mind is focused and engaged with life.

Published in Meditation Blog
Wednesday, 30 November 2011 16:59

The Fullness of Emptiness

(Editor's note: We are very pleased to have Buddhist teacher and author Elizabeth Namgyal as our newest whatmeditationreally.com blogger. You can read her biography and find links to her web site by clicking here. To get things rolling I posed a couple of questions to her. This is part one of her response.)


Q: In Buddhism, we often hear about the word emptiness. What exactly is emptiness? How do we apply the understanding of emptiness to our lives?


The teachings on emptiness are at the heart of the Buddha’s path.

And yet people often have misunderstandings about them. I suspect this is partly because some of the teachings on emptiness can be a bit cryptic and require years of study with a learned teacher. The other reason is that people often struggle with the word “emptiness” itself. What does it mean to rest in emptiness? We associate emptiness with “empty nest,” “a glass half empty” or an “empty feeling in our chest”…there is a sense of negation we associate with this word. But there is a twist. When we start to really understand emptiness as an experience we see that it leads us to an experience of fullness. This is what I want to talk about here.

Published in Meditation Blog