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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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.
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.
Is meditation really for everybody? Aren’t there a lot of good reasons never to meditate? Seems like all we do on this blog is go on and on about how great meditation is. To remedy this one-sided approach and bring a bit of balance to the blog, I’ve painstakingly compiled a carefully researched list of the top ten reasons never to meditate. Please feel free to add your own reasons in the comments section.
A couple of months ago I wrote a series of blogs that explain how to begin to integrate meditative awareness, the state of non-distraction, into daily activities. Here everything is brought together so that you don’t have to go searching through many different posts.
Welcome to our 10-step introduction to meditation.
We recommend that you go through steps 1-10 in order, but you can set your own pace, and repeat each step as many times as you want before you move on to the next one.
Regardless of who we are, the main purpose of our life is to be happy.
In this video, the Tibetan meditation teacher Sogyal Rinpoche offers advice on how to find inner peace and contentment, and explains why meditation has such an important role to play.
Inner peace and contentment
All of us share the same wish, and the same right, to seek happiness and avoid suffering.
We spend nearly all our time and energy trying to find happiness, peace and satisfaction.
But do we ever stop to ask ourselves where the real source of happiness and well-being lies? Is it in the ever-changing conditions of the outside world, or within our own mind?
Our society offers an endless array of seductive messages that advertise happiness in money, possessions, fame and good looks.
The trouble is that none of them seems to lead to lasting happiness.
At the same time, we only need to look around us to see how prevalent anxiety, depression, stress and loneliness have become, as well as how our constant hunger for more and more things is threatening the very survival of our planet.
Outer or inner wealth?
If we look closely, we can see that there are two kinds of happiness: one that is based more on physical comfort, and another that comes from a deeper, mental contentment.
Many of us spend so much effort trying to accumulate and maintain material or ‘outer wealth’.
This leaves us very little opportunity to cultivate ’inner wealth’, qualities such as compassion and patience.
But if we have this deeper, inner peace and contentment—this inner wealth—then even when we go through suffering, our minds can still be happy.
This explains how some people can have every material advantage, and still remain dissatisfied and discontent; and others are always satisfied and content, even when faced with the most difficult circumstances.
What do we really need?
Of course, basic necessities such as food, clothing, shelter, health and education are crucial for all of us to live healthy and happy lives.
Beyond these, however, we need to ask ourselves honestly: how many things really deserve our precious time and energy?
There is a saying that ‘Only the foolish go looking for happiness outside of themselves’—because when we do that, then we have no control.
The wise and learned, the saying continues, know that happiness and the causes of happiness are all present within us.
You could say that the principal characteristic of genuine happiness is inner peace and contentment.
If you have contentment and inner peace as your basis, your mind will be relaxed and at ease.
If your mind is relaxed and at ease, then no matter what difficulties or crises you encounter, you will not be disturbed. Your basic sense of well-being will not be undermined.
As a result, you will be able to carry on your everyday life, your work and your responsibilities more efficiently, and you will have the wisdom to discern what to do and what not to do.
Your life will become happier, and when difficulties arise, you will even be able to turn them to your advantage.
So, for our own inner peace and stability, taking care of our mind and heart is crucial.
Once our mind is more at peace, then both inner and outer harmony will automatically follow.
That is why we meditate.
As the Tibetan teacher Mingyur Rinpoche explains, when you meditate, you are giving your mind a job—and gradually, as the mind becomes more and more familiar with its job, a natural and powerful transformation occurs.
Now it’s time to try meditation for yourself.
To get used to the experience of being in the present moment, begin by sitting for five minutes.
Just sit comfortably, your body still, breathing naturally.
Let your thoughts come and go, without trying to hold on to them or follow after them.
Try not to have too much hope or expectation about what you might experience or achieve.
You can start now...
Five minutes a day
Give this a try for a few days, with one five-minute session each day.
Then, as you get more used to meditation, you can gradually increase the length of each session, or sit more than once each day.
If you find it useful, after a session you can note down what you have found easy or challenging, plus any insights you have about your meditation practice.
When people begin to meditate, they often say that their thoughts are running riot, and have become wilder than ever before.
This is a good sign.
Far from meaning that your thoughts have become wilder, it shows that you have become quieter, and you are finally aware of just how noisy your thoughts have always been.
It’s said that at the beginning, thoughts will arrive one on top of another, uninterrupted, like a steep mountain waterfall.
Gradually, as you perfect meditation, thoughts become like the water in a deep, narrow gorge.
Then they become like a great river, slowly winding its way down to the sea.
Finally, the mind becomes like a still and placid ocean, ruffled by only the occasional ripple or wave.
The fifth stage is that of perfect stability, which is described as an oil lamp not blown by the wind, resting bright and clear, unmoved by anything.
So meditation is a gradual process.
If you want to ask any questions, or share your experiences and insights, you can visit our forum at any time
Now move on to step 4: getting to know your mind