Mapping my mind: a summer doing contemplative science
Last summer, I was lucky enough to spend almost 2 months as a visiting scholar at the Mind & Life Visiting Scholar house in Amherst, Massachusetts. In this house, scientists…
How should we conduct research on contemplative science? News from the first European Mind & Life Summer Research Institute
I attended the first European Mind & Life Summer Research Institute. These institutes are designed to bring together researchers, philosophers, practitioners, and clinicians to talk about how to engage in…
Creating a compassionate organization
The second day of the Meditation & Human Values in the Workplace conference moved from the individual to the organizational level. We started out by hearing from Federico Daini-Jôkô Procopio,…
How to practically embody a strong personal ethics in the workplace
On the last day of the conference, Monique de Knop shared her experience in being a top manager in the Belgian government. She dissected what wisdom in the workplace really…
Meditation and Human Values at the Workplace?
With economic crises and various corporate scandals under our belt you may wonder whether meditation and human values actually exist in the workplace. Right now a group of people is…
Who Meditates at Work?
Do you start your work meetings with a couple of minutes of meditation? This morning, I talked with a teacher who has just introduced meditation into her classroom. "The great…
The Great and Curious Truth: Cultivating Compassion, The Contemplative Approach
Patrick Gaffney is one of the leading authorities on the contemplation and practice of compassion in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition and I was lucky enough to hear him speak at…
Read This Book!: The Compassionate Mind Approach to Reducing Stress by Maureen Cooper
For the last month or so I have been reading Maureen Cooper’s fabulous new book, The Compassionate Mind Approach to Reducing Stress Reducing Stress. Combining an authentically Buddhist approach with…
Taking a bite of mindfulness
Eating is a very touchy topic in our society (see also this recent article on WMRI). There are enormous social problems associated with addiction to food (listen for a discussion…
Non-silent interaction meditation
If you are anything like me, you spend a good deal of time interacting with other people. Is it possible to integrate meditation in your interaction with others, and if…
Imaginary Limits: Grasping at Illusory I
From the perspective of science, there is no inherent reason for the human mind to have an underlying owner or "self." The brain, the physical structure that creates consciousness and…
To give your sheep or cow a large, spacious meadow is the way to control him. If you want to attain perfect calmness in your zazen [meditation], you should not be bothered by the various images you find in your mind. Let them come, and let them go. Then they will be under control.
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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.
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.
Recently I've been taking to heart the connections between meditation and compassion. There are times in my meditation practice when I've found these sweet, inspired and clear moments - glimpses actually - where I can actually see how the suffering that I endure in my life really is due to my mind. And, with these glimpses I've begun to emerge from my claustrophobic "me" in realizing that we all suffer due to our mind.
If you’re already on your cushion and working to tame your wild mind through meditation, then please congratulate yourself because you have already accomplished quite a lot.
If not, then you might want to read this…
[In this and subsequent postings, I'll be writing about Buddhism, but such writings of mine always need to be qualified. I'm not a Buddhist scholar, for example, nor am I at all "enlightened" and thus speaking from deep interior knowledge. Yet I am a sincere student of this particular path of spiritual development (as well as other paths I've been involved with in the past), and I am a scientist, someone who tries to write as clearly and truthfully as I can. I also know there is immense variation in Buddhism because of the many branches of it, so anything I say on the order of "Buddhists believe…" Or "Buddhists practice…" can undoubtedly be contradicted by the beliefs and practices of some branch of Buddhism. So all my comments should be considered as my current understanding, subject to change as my understanding gets better. Readers and students tell me that my reflections on these sorts of things often stimulate them to think about them more deeply, or understand them more deeply, so I offer them in the spirit of stimulation. But don't take them as any final, authoritative understanding, they're just my best understanding at the time of writing. I should probably repeat this qualification at the beginning of anything I write about Buddhism, but that would get pretty awkward, so I'll just hyperlink to these qualifications in the future articles.]
While searching for information on just what is meant in Buddhism by the concept of coemergent ignorance, one of the first entries I came across was full of statements about something which has bothered and confused me for years. It so activated my old concerns that I never did get far enough down in the article to find what it said about coemergent ignorance - that's a task for later.
This thing that has disturbed and puzzled me for decades of trying to adequately understand - well enough to facilitate my practices - the Tibetan Buddhist worldview, is what I call a powerful anti-thought attitude. It basically seems to say that any kind of thought is inherently bad and must inevitably lead to suffering.
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…
Combining contemporary psychotherapy with the science and techniques of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism, Dr. Neale provides the conceptual maps, practical skills and emotional support that lead to optimal health and happiness. For more info check him out by clicking here.
I met someone the other night who criticized one of the most popular and successful secular meditation programs out there. His point was that while it is wonderful that people are meditating and through mindfulness leading healthier lives, BUT, there is nothing in that system that promotes any kind of ethical behavior. In other words, you can meditate in the morning and then lie, cheat and steal all day long. My new acquaintance’s position was that ethical behavior is a necessary component for true spiritual discovery.
What a relief! The last eclipse of the year occurs today. But there’s more to come next year!
An eclipse can trigger sudden, irrevocable change in your life that comes about due to external circumstances.
Yikes! Unexpected change. The kind of change that can make your head spin in disbelief and leave your knees knocking loudly.
Fortunately, every eclipse doesn’t effect every person so dramatically.
But still, you can’t escape change forever. There’s also the unfolding of karma - the fruition of your past actions - which can also twist your world around in abrupt and surprising ways.
Change will arrive in this lightning-like way at some point in your life. What will you do?