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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My aspiration is to help others find true happiness and freedom. I write about personal transformation at Always Well Within (dot) com and instruct online courses for the Rigpa Distance Learning Program.
When you set out to learn meditation, your emotional patterns will delightfully come along. In fact, they will probably be your first and fiercest obstacles to overcome. While you may consistently falter due to their incessant influence, you may not even notice given how unconscious and instantaneous these responses have become.
Are any of these seven common tendencies dampening your meditation?
Perfectionism. An intense drive to clarify every element of the instruction and apply the methods faultlessly. Comes with a long list of questions on how to do it right, a furrowed brow, and muscle tension. Don't confuse the methods with meditation itself. Meditation transforms the ambiance of the mind. An over focus on technique constrains it.
And this ruby red can help you with mindfulness too!
The system involves the use of a kitchen timer set to 25 minutes of time, but you can actually use any timer. This slice of time is officially called a “pomodoro”. Wind your physical timer or click the Pomodoro online time for 25 minutes. Then set out on a task without stopping until the timer rings.
Here’s where your mindfulness training comes in.
Do you sometimes - or perhaps often - feel disconnected from your body? Mentally overactive, an intellectual athlete, internet addict, or couch potato?
Maybe you are like my friend who reads a book while holding her yoga stretches or the reluctant exerciser who devours the paper while walking briskly on his treadmill. It’s possible: you may exercise and still be relatively oblivious to the felt sense of your body.
When the mind is highly active, even meditation can become a stressful game of catching the thoughts or emotions before they catch you. It can be like watching a tennis match, where all your attention is on the ball. So much so that there’s a sense of meditating from the head up.
Do you ever long for dead silence in your mind? Do you think this is what meditation really is?
Basic meditation is sometimes called “calm abiding”, “peacefully remaining” or “tranquility meditation.”
Sounds good, right? Given the 15,000 to 50,000 thoughts popping about in your brain on any given day, a moment of quiet seems like outright bliss. I bet you’re wondering, “Where can I sign up?”
Many novice meditators believe that meditation means putting an end to thoughts and emotions. Well, at least the bothersome ones. I’ll tell you a little secret. Even experienced meditators may be hoping for the same isle of peace.
Is it devilish of me to burst the bubble?
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?
"In the practice of meditation, having developed a sense of trust in oneself, slowly that expands its expression outward, and the world becomes a friendly world rather than a hostile world. You could say that you have changed the world: you have become the king or queen of the universe.
On the other hand, you can’t exactly say that, because the world has come toward you, to return your friendship. It tried all kinds of harsh ways to deal with you at the beginning, but finally the world and you begin to speak with each other, and the world becomes a real world, a completely real world, not at all an illusory world or a confused world. It is a real world. You begin to realize the reality of elements, the reality of time and space, the reality of emotions—the reality of everything."
What do coconuts have to do with meditation? Good question! Here's the story.
One day, I was quietly walking along. Minding my own business, but not especially brilliantly awake.
Suddenly, in the blink of an eye and with a thunderous roar, a slew of coconut bombs pummeled the asphalt. Less than 30 feet in front of me.
Needless to say, this brought me back to the present moment with a jerk.
We all know how difficult it is to crack open a coconut. There's the hammer, nail and towel method, but this is still not a piece of cake.
But due to the force of gravity, the falling velocity of a coconut accelerates. These puppies - 15 or more - literally exploded splashing a big stretch of the road with coconut milk and littering it with cracked nuts, white meat, and gigantic branches.
Recently, I watched an extraordinary documentary called Doing Time, Doing Vipassana. Vipassana is a simple, non-sectarian meditation technique.
This film moved me deeply. It illustrates so vividly how anyone can change and the powerful transformation that can arise through simply looking at your own mind.
It might sound crazy, but Doing Time, Doing Vipassana actually renewed my faith in humanity and our inherent potential for goodness. It gave me hope. We can avert the environmental destruction of the planet. We can dispel violence and terror. We can create a harmonious world. If only we can learn to look within and abandon our own negative tendencies, thoughts, and emotions.
Sure, we need to take practical steps too. But without collectively changing the inner landscape of our minds, there is no hope for permanent, positive change in the world.
It's funny because I avoided watching the DVD for a number of months. The idea of watching a film about prison seemed depressing. But in the end, this is one of the most inspiring and motivational films I've ever seen.
If you feel like it's impossible to change yourself - or the world - don't give up. Watch this film instead. And even if you are not discouraged, I think you may find amazing inspiration here.
Do you sometimes feel in a stranglehold of overwhelm? So pressed for time that meditation feels like an unwarranted diversion from the important affairs of life?
The very thought of meditation may begin to spark annoyance. And the actual act may feel excruciatingly painful. When all the demands of life start pressing in, meditation can appear like an enemy on the battleground of life.
You came to meditation for a reason. You know that meditation is "good" for you, yet you resent the time it takes away from your real-world obligations.
How do you get through this?
“If it weren’t for my mind, my meditation would be excellent.” – Pema Chodron
Does your mind get all unruly when you try to meditate?
Beginning meditators often feel disheartened when they find their mind besieged by more thoughts and emotions than ever. They might even give up, thinking that meditation will never work because their mind is just too unruly.
Even those who find meditation easy in the beginning, may soon encounter a time when their mind suddenly feels out of control. "Advanced" meditators also hit turbulence from time-to-time.
Here's the secret: If your mind is a bit wild, you are not alone! Agitation is one of the two main obstacles in meditation; the other is dullness. The great meditators of the past encountered precisely the same problems when they tried to meditate. Lucky for us, they found solutions.