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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A busy life can be experienced as an addictive video game, comprising the twisty route from a morning coffee to the time we return home and close the door on the world and its demands. The circuit is strewn with pleasant opportunities—friendly conversations—which we navigate toward, and unpleasant roadblocks—impossible characters with impractical deadlines—which we try to avoid. Caught up in the game, our frustrations and disappointments are stifled so we can keep moving. We lose track of how these blocked emotions translate into stress carried in the body; our external fixation and continual thoughts relegate the body to the corners of awareness; the tension that lies beneath our attention spans often remains unnoticed.
Sometimes it seems so difficult to meditate. We might try to sit, but our minds are all over the place; or perhaps we have too much pressure and stress in our life and can't seem to find the mental space for meditation. What can we do?
It is easy to spiral into depression or to find our lives suddenly stressful and racing along at a clipping pace. It easy to stop it too, but we think it's difficult and so we make it so. Really, it's not. We just have to have a daily mediation practice.
But even if we know that a daily mediation practice will help us, we see it as just another thing we have to try to fit into our day, and our ego battles us all the way, always finding some reason why we can't to it today. Then we may feel guilty, which adds even more stress to the situation. And on it goes. It's easy for not mediating to become a habit. Even if we're just taking a break for a while, the break can become our routine. Making ourselves happy, as in truly deeply happy - the kind that doesn't rely on anything external - does take discipline. There's no way around it.
So how do we make the leap? How do we fit mediation into our day?
The passage to radical change in life can be stumbled upon via many routes, but they all have a common theme: it presents that which doesn’t fit into our standard modes of apprehension and understanding. Perhaps its a sudden realization of how vulnerable and subject to change are all our plans and expectations, thrust on us by a sudden, unexpected separation, career setback, a shocking loss. Or a recognition that we’ve become addicted to unsuitable habits and behaviors. Or it may be the dismay of recognizing how inadequate are the stories we’ve been reciting about our “self;” how they fail to capture our character, capabilities or weaknesses.
There are three common myths or misconceptions about meditation that can block us from realizing the power and benefit of practice. Yet, if we take a moment to expose them, we can easily figure out how to overcome them.
Sometimes it seems so difficult to meditate. We might try to sit, but our minds are all over the place; or perhaps we have too much pressure and stress in our life and can’t seem to find the mental space for meditation. What can we do?
I have had the privilege of working with many experienced meditators on their personal food issues. It’s always a real pleasure when a long-time practitioner walks into my office. As they tell me about what’s troubling them I often hear the phrase “how could I have missed this?”. Total confusion, sometimes even desperation, is in their eyes.
It’s often a relief for people to hear that so many of us “miss this”.
Something as basic as eating - is a big deal. How do we really look at something this primal without judgment? How do we change our reactions to these ideas and patterns that have formed before birth?
Last year I had the opportunity to ask Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche some questions about meditation, while he was visiting the Lerab Ling retreat centre in southern France
Andy Fraser: These days we have all kinds of ideas about meditation. We see it everywhere, on television, in adverts, on YouTube and so on. Could you tell us very simply what meditation really is?
Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche: Meditation is a process of getting to know yourself, or a process of getting to know your own mind. The great meditation masters from Tibet often defined meditation as becoming familiar with your own mind and its nature.
This is what meditation really is.