We need to raise $4,000 in donations in order to get over a cash-flow crunch and cover our payroll and rent at the start of October.
It would be wonderful if you could donate $100, $10, $5 — or whatever you can afford — in order to show your support.
- If you want to use a credit card, you can click here, enter the amount you want to donate, and then click on “add to cart.”
- If you have a Paypal account, you can click here and enter your chosen donation.
There are more details below the chart, if you’d like more information about our situation and how you can support us.Here’s Our Progress So Far!
Our target is $4000. Hover over the sections of the chart to show the dollar amounts.Here’s Some Background!
We think we’re actually doing well, and that there’s much to be cheerful about! We continue to make all our courses available by donation, so that people of all levels of income can experience the benefits of meditation. In general our courses are well attended.
Although we lost a little money in the first half of the year, we broke even by August, which is great! We’d like to thank everyone who’s contributed by participating in our courses or has made other donations. We’re deeply grateful for your support.
The donations for our courses income fluctuate considerably, though, and this month it’s been about half of what it usually is. Another problem has been a seller of our CDs that went bankrupt, owing us thousands of dollars. This has left us with very little in the bank, and a number of bills coming up.
For those who are interested in such things, we’re keeping our expenses very low. We don’t pay ourselves a lot, and we recently moved into a much smaller office in order to save money.
We see this as a temporary problem, and we’re still very optimistic about the future. We have an exciting program of online events planned for 2017. We’re also bringing out another CD before the end of this year, and we have further CD titles planned for next year as well.
We’re on the way to being financially stable! We’re looking forward one day, perhaps soon, to having our days of worrying about money behind us! We just need a little more help to get there!Please Show Your Support
We believe passionately in the power meditation has to transform lives for the better. We’re doing everything we can, with the resources at our disposal, to help others. We’re seeking a balance where what we give out to the world in energy is met with enough support so that we can flourish and help the world to flourish. We’re not at that point of balance yet, but we believe it’s attainable. Please support us and help us get there!
PS. Again, the two ways you can make a donation are:
My first morning at “Sages & Scientists,” I walked into a cavernous ballroom as Deepak Chopra, on a stage, brilliantly illuminated, assured the audience that “consciousness is reality.”
He looked weird, almost too real. Then I realized I was seeing not Chopra himself, the spirituality and holistic-health mogul and host of the meeting, but an …
Traditionally, the answer would be to give the unruly kid detention or suspension.
But in my memory, detention tended to involve staring at walls, bored out of my mind, trying to either surreptitiously talk to the kids around me without getting caught or trying to read a book. If it was designed to make me think about my actions, it didn’t really work. It just made everything feel stupid and unfair.
Most of the time when I meditate, I use the Insight Timer app on my iPhone. (It’s also available on Android). I use it to time my sits, and at the end, when it shows me how many people have been meditating with me (and sometimes that’s more than 5,000!) I say “Thank you for sitting with me” to some of the meditators using the app that live locally. It’s a great way to feel supported in your practice.
I’ve never used the guided meditations on the app, although I have contributed a few. Recently I was checking the stats that the app’s creators have made available, and was rather stunned.
At the moment by guided meditations have been played 440,500 times by 115,500 meditators, who have cumulatively spent 164,000 hours listening to them. That’s almost 19 years! Wow! I’m grateful that the app developers have helped me reach such a wide audience.
There are loads of other teachers on the app as well.
If you don’t use the app, I’d highly recommend it. There are buttons below, linking you to the iPhone and Android versions.
Here’s a link to my profile, which shows you which guided meditations I’ve made available. And if you do give it a try, please do check out my meditations.
My desire for both was total, visceral: passion seeking its own DNA. The bond was physical, emotional, spiritual, chemical—drink, man, and I locked in a menage a trois.
It began, however, as a folie á deux. Alcohol was my first love: a constant, if feckless …
1. Develop Team Harmony
Mindfulness practice and group meditation helps people to be closer and in harmony. By practicing together team members develop a …
Everyone from Fortune 500 executives to Silicon Valley entrepreneurs are talking about mindfulness. Mindfulness is the awareness that arises when you pay attention to the present moment, on purpose, and without judgment. By using the breath or another sensation as an anchor during meditation, diligent practitioners are able to achieve this mind state in everyday life. Research has shown that we perform optimally and feel at our best when we are focused on the …
Mindfulness was a term first used in the 1970s by Jon Kabat-Zinn, and is defined by him as paying attention on purpose …
Barely a week goes by without some new clinical trial showing how programs which teach mindfulness can help people minimize suffering and enhance their well-being. Whether it be through reducing stress, managing illness, boosting the immune system or moving away from addictive habits, science is confirming what meditators have reported for thousands of years—that mindfulness is beneficial in a wide range of ways. At the same time, it’s important not to get …
Chris Ruiz, one of the producers of SIT, a short documentary by Yoko Okumura, suggested that I might want to share this video. Yoko Okumura is the daughter of Shohaku Okumura, a Zen abbot and Eihei Dogen translator. Confounding stereotypes of Zen strictness, Shohaku is a really easy-going guy. Her brother, Masaki, lacks direction, and although he’d like to go to college to learn to cook, he’s perpetually “not ready” to take any concrete steps, seeming to have retreated into a world of video games and finding interaction with the world to be scary.
As Ruiz said to me, the documentary helps “dispel myths about the traditionalism, closed-mindedness, and rigidness attributed to Asian families.”
It’s a very short documentary, and slow moving. It’s rather interesting and surprising, though.
The study involved 94 healthy women, aged 30-60. Sixty-four women were recruited who were not regular meditators. Participants stayed at the same resort in California for six days, and randomized so that half were simply on vacation while the other half joined a meditation training program run by the Chopra Center for Well Being. The meditation program included training in mantra meditation, yoga, and self reflection exercises. It was designed by Deepak Chopra, MD, who did not participate in data collection or analysis.
For greater insight into the long-term effects of what scientists dubbed the “meditation effect” compared to the “vacation effect,” the team also studied a group of 30 experienced meditators who were already enrolled in the retreat that week. Researchers collected blood samples, and surveys, from all participants immediately before and after their stay, as well as surveys one month and ten months later.
“In the spirit of other research efforts we have pioneered with other groups, this work underscores the importance of studies focused on healthy people,” said Eric Schadt, PhD, senior author on the paper and the Jean C. and James W. Crystal Professor of Genomics at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and Founding Director of the Icahn Institute for Genomics and Multiscale Biology. “By combining an interrogation of gene networks with advanced data analysis and statistics, we have generated clinically meaningful information about stress and aging that is relevant to the broader population.”
The research team examined the changes in 20,000 genes to determine which types of genes were changing before and after the resort experience. Scientists performed an integrative transcriptomic analysis, comparing gene expression networks across all three groups of participants and finding unique molecular profiles and pathway enrichment patterns. Study results show that all groups — novice meditators, experienced meditators, and vacationers — had significant changes in molecular network patterns after the week at the resort, with a clear signature distinguishing baseline from post-vacation biology. The most notable changes in gene activity were related to stress response and immune function.
Researchers assessed self-reported measures of well being. While all groups showed improvements up to one month later, the novice meditators had fewer symptoms of depression and less stress much longer than the non-meditating vacationers. The psychological effects appear to be enduring and it is unknown how much of this longer lasting benefit may be due to continued practice or lasting changes in how people view events in their lives.
“It’s intuitive that taking a vacation reduces biological processes related to stress, but it was still impressive to see the large changes in gene expression from being away from the busy pace of life, in a relaxing environment, in such a short period of time. These findings will have to be replicated to see if the changes are reliably invoked under the same circumstances, in future studies, and compared to an at-home control group,” said Elissa S. Epel, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry at University of California, San Francisco and first author of the study.
“Based on our results, the benefit we experience from meditation isn’t strictly psychological; there is a clear and quantifiable change in how our bodies function,” said Rudolph Tanzi, PhD, the Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Neurology at Harvard University, and Director of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital. “Meditation is one of the ways to engage in restorative activities that may provide relief for our immune systems, easing the day-to-day stress of a body constantly trying to protect itself. The prediction is that this would then lead to healthier aging.”
Elissa S. Epel, et al. Meditation and vacation effects impact disease-associated molecular phenotypes. Translational Psychiatry. DOI: 10.1038/tp.2016.164
by Shelly Chatterelli and Bodhipaksa
Our intimate relationships are a vital area for practice. Each day, each moment, they offer us fresh opportunities to practice kindness, love, and compassion. They give us practice in forgiving and asking for forgiveness. They allow us to cultivate honesty and to become more skillful in our communication. They provide us with opportunities to give and to receive and to learn about ourselves and our partner.
Intimate relationships challenge us. They unerringly find our emotional weak spots, highlighting our insecurities and failings in ways that can cause great discomfort. Yet this too is spiritually beneficial; how else can we change, but by bringing into conscious awareness that which needs transformation?
Our intimate relationships can also be a source of aspiration and inspiration. The desire to live in love and harmony with another person, to know them deeply and to let ourselves be known, can give us a positive motivation to change and to become better partners, better lovers, better people.
Many people are aware that the Buddha described intimate relationships, and the desire for them, as one of the main distractions in the spiritual life! Fewer know that at the same time he often applauded lay practitioners for the depth of spiritual practice they manifested.
The Buddha praised married couples who practiced and lived harmoniously together, saying that they were living a divine life. We’re told, in fact, that many, many householders attained various degrees of awakening, showing that family life is hardly an insurmountable obstacle to spiritual progress.
There is no contradiction between the Buddha’s emphasis on relationships both as a hindrance and as a practice. The spiritual community had a monastic wing, which practiced simplicity of lifestyle (no work, no kids, no marriage) in order to focus intensely on meditation, study, and teaching. Monastics were therefore required to regard romantic and sexual entanglements as distractions. But there was also a householder wing of the community, consisting of people who worked for a living, who married, and who brought up children — and whose members could, as we’ve seen, be practicing deeply.
The purpose of this 28-day online course is to help us explore the ways in which our intimate and romantic relationships provide opportunities for us to deepen our practice, and how our practice can in turn help us deepen the intimacy we experience with our partners.
There are many different approaches we could have taken to structure this course. We could have had no structure, and just sent you a number of reflections! But we’ve settled on the Buddha’s Eightfold Path, since it’s one of the most important frameworks for exploring how to bring practice into daily life. In each post you’ll see a “map” of the Eightfold Path, with the current phase highlighted.
In the next email we’ll start with the cultivation of Right View, which involves looking at the ideas, opinions, assumptions, and models we use in regard to our relationships. In fact we’ve already begun with this exploration, since we’ve been discussing views about the relationship between married life and the spiritual life.
Cultivating right view means bringing our views into line with the Dharma. But this doesn’t mean blind conformity! It simply means that sometimes we have views that hinder the development of love, intimacy, and honesty. We may not be conscious of those views, or it may be that we don’t see the harmful effects they have. (We humans have a perplexing ability to keep doing things we are sure will make our lives better, when actually they cause harm.) Our views have to be brought into consciousness if we’re to avoid causing suffering to ourselves and to our partner. And we need to nurture views that lead to a deeper and more harmonious connection with ourselves and with the person most dear to us. We need views that allow us to be part of a conscious, thriving couple.
Shelly and Bodhipaksa
Homework: For the next 24 hours, just notice your interactions with your partner (or in other relationships), without trying to fix anything. Notice in particular times that you interact in a way that you perceive as kind or loving, and times that those qualities are absent. As best you can, make these observations without judgement: that is, don’t engage in self-criticism or ruminate about your interactions. Feel free to make notes, and to discuss your observations in the online community we’ve created to accompany this course.
Guided meditation: This brief guided mindfulness meditation can be done with a partner, or on your own.
Register: This article is taken from the first email of our 28-day online event, The Conscious Couple, led by teachers Shelly Chatterelli and Bodhipaksa. While both partners in a couple are welcome to participate, and it’s fine if you want to join on your own, or even if you aren’t currently involved in a relationship. To register, click here.
The ancient Romans had a special punishment for those guilty of parricide, which involved sewing the guilty party into a leather sack and tossing him into a river or the ocean. This, according to Cicero, symbolized how the heinousness of the offender’s crime sundered him from the realm of natural law.
This punishment evolved over time, with the addition to the sack of animals such as a viper and a dog. Eventually four animals were used, and this became the classical form of this punishment, which was known as the pœna cullei.
It’s hard to imagine how horrible this would have been. Suffocating would be awful enough, but throughout the ordeal you’d have two terrified animals working themselves into a panicked rage as they clawed and bit each other, as well as you.
This image came to mind last week when I was at a meditation class and people were talking about trying to manage the restless thoughts that intruded into the meditation practice. People mentioned various ways that they try to calm their thoughts, such setting an intention to stay focused on the breathing. But it struck me that this is a bit like trying to calm down a dog and snake that are tied in a sack with you.
It’s difficult to calm your thoughts when you feel trapped with them in what feels like a confined space.
What I find works best for calming thoughts is to develop a sense of spaciousness. This is akin to opening the sack and setting the dog, the snake, and yourself free in a large meadow. You’re all still together. But there’s less pressure, less fear, and therefore more calmness and ease.
What does this mean, to develop a sense of spaciousness?
Although beginners to meditation often think about noises as being distractions, these sounds are simply sensations that we can be mindful of. In other words, rather than being distractions from meditation, sounds are opportunities to practice meditation.
So, right now, try being aware of the sounds around you. (You might want to close your eyes.)
As you pay attention mindfully to these sounds, notice how they are inherently spacious. The sounds you hear may come from several yards away, or even from miles away. This is a much larger space than the tiny “leather sack” of your head, where you may often feel you are suffocating with your thoughts.
As you’re mindfully paying attention to the sound and space surrounding you, notice what’s been happening with your thoughts. They will probably still be there, but it’s likely that they’re no longer bothering you. The snake and dog of your thoughts are off doing their respective things, and aren’t causing a disturbance.
Now, let your attention narrow again until it’s inside your skull, and you’re focusing on your thoughts. How does this feel? Does it feel constricted, tight, and unpleasant?
Broaden your awareness to the sound and space around you once again, and notice how that feels. Perhaps it’s more relaxed, calm, and easeful?
Try alternating in this way a few more times, to reinforce the fact that whether you let your awareness be expansive or contacted is a choice. Also, you can reinforce that an expansive and calm awareness, even if it’s unfamiliar to you, is someplace you can feel at home.
Trying to negotiate with our thoughts can sometimes work, but often it’s as futile as trying to calm trapped and panicky animals. It’s better broaden your attention—to open up the leather sack—and to let your thoughts exist in a spacious field of awareness, where they will naturally and spontaneously find peace and calm.
While the authors of the paper interpreted their results in a slightly less positive light, stating that (contrary to their hypothesis) mindfulness was no more effective than medication, the meaning inferred by many in the media was that mindfulness was superior to medication.
Mindfulness is a technique extracted …
“This study is the first to demonstrate that mindfulness-related pain relief is mechanistically distinct from placebo analgesia,” the researchers wrote. “The elucidation of this distinction confirms the existence of multiple, cognitively driven, supraspinal mechanisms for pain modulation.” Specifically, mindfulness meditation–induced pain relief was associated with greater neural activation in higher-order …
Inside the airy chapel on a recent summer afternoon, about 35 educators from the U.S. and at least five foreign countries are seated quietly, shoes off.
“Just notice your breath, the sensation of your air coming in, going out,” says Christa Turksma, a Dutch woman dressed all in white with silver-white hair. She’s one …
The saying that “happiness is a choice” is extremely common. There’s a book by that title, as well as a gazillion articles. They all say that you can choose to be happy.
It’s not true. Happiness is not a choice.
Or at least it’s not strictly true that happiness is a choice. There’s a grain of truth here; we can influence our happiness. But happiness is a feeling, and we can’t directly choose our feelings.
What is true is that happiness is the result of our choices.
We can choose actions that will bring long-term happiness. We can choose what we say. We can choose our attitudes. We can choose to have thoughts that increase our happiness.
You might be thinking, “So, tell me what these choices are, so I can go and make them and then be happy!” as if they were major life decisions, like choosing the right home or the right job. But it’s more fine-grained than that. It’s a case of looking at what we’re thinking, saying, and doing, and making choices about the nature of each of those actions. It’s a question of making moment-by-moment choices, not big, once-in-a-lifetime choices (although those can be important too).
We need to be aware of what we’re doing physically, and how that makes us feel. So, for example, when I’m chopping vegetables I often find that I’m clenching my jaw for some reason. When I’m working on the computer I often find that my breathing is a little tight. These things contribute to a general sense of emotional tension that inhibits my happiness. As soon as I relax my jaw or let my breathing go back to a normal pattern, my being moves more in the direction of happiness. Relaxing promotes happiness.
I’ve often recommended that people watch Amy Cuddy’s TED talk on how our posture influences how we feel. Stand or sit in an open and expansive way, and you’ll feel more confident. Confidence leads to happiness. Stand or sit in a hunched, defensive, closed way, and you’ll feel more fearful and unhappy. This is a great illustration of my point. We choose our actions, and those actions change our level of happiness. We don’t just simply “choose to be happy.” If you try to choose happiness without changing the conditions that are undermining your happiness, nothing much is going to change. You’ll probably just get depressed.
We’re always going to have thoughts arising that contribute to our unhappiness. When you make a mistake it’s natural to think, “Man, that was stupid!” You can make a choice not to buy into and believe such thoughts, however. When we buy into our thoughts we magnify them. We take “Man, that was stupid!” and elaborate and expand it into a story about how useless we are and how we’re never going to be good at anything. And that proliferation of thought makes us unhappy. Simply letting the thought “Man, that was stupid!” pass through the mind without engaging with it makes us happier. Encouraging a more realistic, honest, and skillful thought, like “It’s OK. We all make mistakes,” helps us to be more at ease with ourselves, and thus to be happier. We’re not choosing happiness. We’re choosing how we think, and that can lead to us being happier.
We can choose to pay attention to our feelings, and that will make us happier. When my attention is caught up in my thoughts, I sometimes lose touch with my feelings, and my experience becomes kind of cold and hard. But when I pay attention to my heart (an area of the body innervated by the emotionally important vagus nerve) I’m more emotionally open and sensitive. I feel more connected with myself and with others. That’s enriching, like a black and white movie suddenly turning into color.
We can choose how we speak. Connecting honestly and kindly with others builds up bonds that lead to happiness arising in the short term (saying kind things to others makes both them and us happy in that moment) and in the long term (having positive connections with others gives us support when times get hard, and make the good times better). Again, we’re choosing actions, not happiness. But those actions lead to happiness.
Happiness arises from a million momentary choices. This is why we need to cultivate mindfulness. Without the ability to monitor our actions moment by moment, the mind will habitually and automatically default to decisions that make us unhappy.
Feelings like happiness are, according to Buddhist teachings, not actions. They’re not things we do. They’re the results of actions. They’re the consequences of our actions. You can’t choose happiness. But if you want to be happier, you can make choices that allow happiness to happen.
Fast-forward 15 years to a busy middle- school. I step into the hallway between classes and hear a dull roar that I’ve heard before. Turning a corner, I see students shouting and gathering around two girls …
Rather than defining compassion, kindness is just one way of being compassionate. Imagine a fire officer who regularly puts his or her life in danger to save others. That act in itself is certainly compassionate but, outside of work, he or she might be standoffish, have an irritable temperament or consistently fail to remember birthdays. The point is that kind people don’t always …