If you’re new to the Free Bodhi fundraiser, we’re raising money to help Bodhipaksa be more effective in promoting meditation, by providing seed-money for a new admin worker at Wildmind. This new position will help free Bodhipaksa (Bodhi) up from day to day admin that gets in the way of writing and teaching.
To get an idea of how this can benefit the world, Wildmind is providing a year-long program of free meditation events in 2014, called the Year of Going Deeper. It’s an amazing opportunity for people to learn meditation and to take their practice to a deeper level. But that program’s not going to be sustainable unless people like you — people who recognize the value of meditation — help out. So please contribute to our Free Bodhi project.
Oh, and we’re offering great perks to all our donors, so in giving, you’ll also receive.
Below, you’ll see Christina, from Germany, explaining why it’s a good idea to help Free Bodhi.
When I’m talking with people about the Buddhist teaching of non-self (anatta) they often say things like, “But how can you function in daily life without a self?” I usually answer, “Well, how do you function in daily life without a self?” Because Buddhism doesn’t say that we have to lose our selves — it says that we have no selves to lose. The reason we assume we have to lose our selves is because we walk around with the delusion that we do actually have a self in the first place.
So we all go about our daily lives without selves; it’s just that most of us drag around with us a sense that we have this “thing” called a self. I use the word “drag” because our sense of self is a burden. Once you have the belief that you have a self, then you have to wonder what kind of self you have. Is it a likeable self or an unlikeable self? Is this self good enough or not good enough? Is it good or bad?
This last question was something that confused my children a lot when they were younger. We never said to them things like “You’re bad” or even “You’re good.” We might say that a particular action they’d taken was good or bad (although we’d be more likely to point out the consequences of their actions than to use those labels). But we’d go to visit relatives, who would ask the kids, “Have you been good?” And this really puzzled the children. They found themselves perplexed about whether they were “good” or not. And how would they know, anyway? How can the entirety of a rapidly developing human life be packaged into crude containers like the words “good” or “bad”?
There’s a huge amount to be said about the teaching of non-self, but I’d like just to focus on one thing, which is the simple observation that we don’t know what we’re going to think before we think it. If we don’t have selves, then this should be evident in some way. And actually, one of the things you find when you lose this sense of having a sense of having a self is that the evidence is everywhere. And it always has been everywhere. It’s just that you’ve been ignoring it.
And one of those pieces of evidence that is omnipresent and yet almost universally ignored is the nature of our thoughts. Thoreau’s observation, “Nothing was ever so unfamiliar and startling to me as my own thoughts,” points at this. Probably it’s rare that you’re surprised by your own thought. But one thing that’s useful is to see that our thoughts really are surprising. The mind, though, can be a bit like a blasé teenager who yawns at miracles: “Whatever.”
Here’s a way you can learn to be surprised by your own thoughts. Try, right now, asking yourself, “I wonder what my next thought is going to be.” Now notice that you don’t know! In fact you’ve no idea what you’re going to say to yourself until you hear the thought in your mind. You’ve simply received the thought, so in what sense is it your thought? You didn’t make the thought happen. It just arrived. And then what usually happens is immediately, you claim ownership of the thought.
Now the mind has become a plagiarist. It’s like two students standing by their teacher’s desk, handing in their homework. One of the students hands over an essay, and the other one says “I wrote that.” The similarity is that when you were thinking, “I wonder what my next thought will be,” and then a thought appeared, you jumped one moment from having no clue to what the thought was going to be, straight into claiming the thought as “yours” the next moment. One part of the mind creates the thought. Another part of the mind claims ownership of the thought. That’s plagiarism.
Now, try the exercise again, but knowing that you are receiving the thought rather than creating it, see if you can let yourself be surprised. Realize that thoughts just appear. You can’t stop them appearing! If you could, meditation would be a lot easier. Allowing ourselves to be surprised by our own experience only happens when we let go of claiming our experience as ours. As the Buddha put it, “This is not me; this is not mine; I am not this.” This is a practice of recognizing anatta — not self. And it’s a question of seeing what has always been there, unseen: the un-owned nature of our experience.
Once you’ve realized that you can’t even predict your own thoughts, you can enjoy more of a sense of openness. You can start to let go of your sense of “owning” your experience, and even of “owning” a self. And this can be applied not just to the experience of thoughts, but to all sense impressions, to feelings, emotions, speech, physical sensations, and physical actions. Experience arises, and yet there is no experiencer. Actions happen, and yet there is no agent.
There is no self, and there never has been.
Self-compassion is at the heart of my teaching these days.
The retreat fees include food and accommodation, and they’re on a sliding scale.
Florida Retreat CenterFlorida Retreat Center
Most us us have the habit of being unkind to ourselves. We talk unkindly to ourselves and often we sacrifice our own well-being in order to “get things done.”
On this weekend retreat, Bodhipaksa will introduce a step-by-step guide to self-compassion, so that we can learn to be less hard on ourselves.
To allow people of varying income levels to attend, we have three suggested contributions: $250 for those with lower disposable incomes, $350 as the “standard” contribution, and $450 for those with more disposable income available. The price of the retreat includes food, which will be vegetarian/vegan.
Bookings are refundable (minus $100) up to two weeks before the retreat.
The retreat will start at 7:00 PM on Friday and end at 12:30 PM on Sunday.
Places on the retreat are very limited. We strongly suggest booking early.
You can read more, or sign up, here: http://www.wildmind.org/florida
Julie Hare, The Australian: Just over four months ago, Ryan Daniels (not his real name) made a life-changing decision. He started practising meditation.
“I’d upped my game and was exercising more and eating better,” says the 40-year-old executive for a not-for-profit organisation. “But I realised despite doing everything right I still wasn’t coping well. Nothing dreadful, but things kept getting on top of me, especially at work.
“Now I meditate every day. I describe it like brushing my teeth. I get up in the morning and do it; I can’t start my day without it.”
Simone Pedersen feels the same way. The business…
Dr. Arnie Kozak, beliefnet: I recently gave a talk at the University of Vermont College of Medicine called “Beyond Stress Reduction: Mindfulness as a Radical Technology. In this talk, I spoke about the indictment that the healthcare and corporate-related applications of mindfulness are tantamount to “McMindfulness.”
If you read my post on this issue, you know that I think the criticisms of secularized mindfulness go to far. In my talk, I made the point that secular dharma is a uniquely Western dharma.
Secular Buddhism, which seeks enlightenment, accords with the Enlightenment era values of rationality, empiricism, and skepticism…
We’re pulled and prodded by financial pressures, commuter traffic, corporate policies, technology, advertising, politics, and the people we work with and live with. As well, internal forces yank the proverbial chains, including emotional reactions, compelling desires, “shoulds,” and internalized “voices” from parents and other authority figures.
Sometimes these pressures are necessary, like a flashing light on your car’s dashboard telling you to get gas. Even a broken clock is right two times a day.
But on the whole these pressures are stressful and breed a sense of helplessness. Plus, a lot of the internal forces come from childhood, irrational fears, unfair self-criticism, ancient tendencies in the brain (e.g., its negativity bias), or the darker corners of human nature; acting out these forces is bad for us and others.
Giving oneself over to these pressures is un-free, like being a puppet tugged by many strings. It’s the opposite of well-being to be “hijacked,” “obsessed,” “addicted,” “plugged in,” or “compelled” – which all imply mental servitude if not slavery.
On the other hand, a sense of inner freedom is a hallmark of emotional healing, mental health, self-actualization, and the upper reaches of human potential. For example, a common term for enlightenment is “liberation.”
In plain English, we all know what it feels like to be pushed around . . . and what it feels like to have choices and be autonomous.
So, lately I’ve been softly saying this phrase in my mind – the freedom not to – and seeing what happens. And what’s been happening is great. A feeling of ease, of room to breathe, of not needing to jump to some task or to agree or disagree immediately with someone. A sense of shock absorbers between me and my emotional reactions, of not making a mess that I’ve got to clean up later, of not embarrassing myself, of not swapping a minute of pleasure for an hour of pain.
Being intimate with life while feeling free within it.
For one or more of the items just below, imagine what it would feel like for you to have the freedom not to:
Press your point home
Struggle to get someone to change his or her mind
Have a second drink. Or a first one.
Worry what other people think about you
React to what is swirling around you
Act on an impulse
Get into an argument
Be swept along by anger
Identify with a mood or point of view passing through awareness
Take something personally
Take responsibility for the experiences of other people
Criticize yourself for not being able to fit into a pair of jeans
Resist what’s unpleasant
Drive toward what’s pleasant
Cling to what’s heartfelt
For one or more of the items just above, imagine how your greater freedom would help others. Also, let others be freer themselves with you; give them room to breathe, time to think and feel.
Faced with things that grab you in daily life, play with phrases like these in your mind: I’m free not to . . . I’m free not to __________ . . . I’m free . . . there is choice . . . Slow things down, pause, buy yourself some time, that space of freedom between stimulus and response. If others are getting intense, try gently talking to yourself, reminding yourself: You are free . . . you can choose your response . . . they are over there and you are over here . . . there is a freedom . . .
Notice what it’s like to feel freer. Enjoy it. Let this experience sink in.
Be at peace.
If you’d like to support our efforts to promote the practice of meditation, please contribute to the Free Bodhi project on Indiegogo.
Brendan, who lives in a small town in Sardinia, far from the nearest meditation center, talks about the benefits he’s experienced because of Bodhipaksa’s work here on the Wildmind web site, where we offer thousands of pages of meditation instruction as well as many guided meditation videos and audio recordings, and on Wildmind’s Google+ Community.
We already do a lot. For example:
- More than 1.5 million people visit our site each year.
- Our most popular web page (not counting the home page) has been read by half a million people.
- Our most popular blog post has been read more than a quarter of a million times.
- Hundreds of thousands of people have learned to meditate here — for free.
- We also publish guided meditation CDs, which help fund our activities, and those have reached hundreds of thousands of people as well.
We’d like to do more, but we need more staff, and we urgently need to free Bodhi (Bodhipaksa) up from administrative responsibilities so that he can concentrate on teaching. Our most ambitious plan so far is our Year of Going Deeper, which offers eight free meditation events that cover the whole of 2014. We simply can’t do this project without support from people like you — people who use and love Wildmind’s site. So please make a contribution and help Free Bodhi.
Jill Sakai, Medical Xpress: With evidence growing that meditation can have beneficial health effects, scientists have sought to understand how these practices physically affect the body.
A new study by researchers in Wisconsin, Spain, and France reports the first evidence of specific molecular changes in the body following a period of mindfulness meditation.
The study investigated the effects of a day of intensive mindfulness practice in a group of experienced meditators, compared to a group of untrained control subjects who engaged in quiet non-meditative activities. After eight hours of mindfulness practice, the meditators showed a range of genetic and molecular differences, including altered levels…
Join us for a series of free meditation events throughout 2014. We’re calling this our Year of Going Deeper.
The Year of Going Deeper includes events suitable for you whatever your level of practice, whether you’re a beginner interested in learning basic techniques or a more experienced meditator interested in cultivating deep meditative states and insight. You’re free to pick and choose which events you participate in.
- Registration for these events is free, although donations are encouraged.
- When you register for an event, you’re signing up for a daily practice reminder that will be delivered by email.
- The newsletter will contain practice suggestions and links to guided meditations.
- There will also be some “live” events that you can watch on video, or watch recordings of later.
- For each event there will be an online community where you can share your experience and receive support and encouragement.
Click on the title of any event in order to learn more or to register.Dates Event Details Jan 1 – 28 Sit : Breathe : Love
(#1)* A 28 Day Meditation Challenge Jan 31 – May 10 100 Days of Lovingkindness* An exploration of the four “immeasurable” states of kindness, compassion, appreciation, and “loving with insight” May 13 – Jun 9 Sit : Breathe : Love
(#2)* A 28 Day Meditation Challenge Jun 6 – Aug 10 60 Days to Jhana Exploring how to bring about deeper states of calmness, energy, joy, and concentration that characterize the “flow” state known as jhana or dhyana Aug 13 – Sep 9 Sit : Breathe : Love
(#3)* A 28 Day Meditation Challenge Sep 12 – Oct 23 42 Days: 6 Elements An exploration of the Six Element Practice, which is an insight practice on impermanence, interconnectedness, and non-self Oct 27 – Nov 23 Sit : Breathe : Love
(#4)* A 28 Day Meditation Challenge Nov 28 – Dec 25 4 Weeks of Insight Dissolving the false sense of having a separate and permanent self, so that we can embrace change and let go of suffering
* Suitable for complete beginners. Other events require prior meditation experience. Click on event titles for further details or to register.
No matter how much experience we have of meditation being beneficial in our lives, and of not meditating making life harder for us, we can still end up experiencing resistance. And resistance to meditation can be very painful, especially when we get caught between that feeling that we “should” meditation and the feeling that we don’t want to.
Sometimes there’s a hidden agenda at work. We might on some level think that meditation is selfish. Or we might be worried about “not getting things done.” Or we might be afraid of change. If you can become aware of the underlying reason for your resistance you might be able to work at rediscovering your sense of motivation, but in some ways it doesn’t matter what the content of the resistance is.
One thing I’ve found very successful when I’ve experienced resistance is to become mindful of the feeling of resistance. Where is it situated in the body? How large is it? What “texture” does it have? What kinds of thoughts does it give rise to? Notice those things, and just be with the resistance. Turn the resistance into an object of mindfulness. At that point you’re already meditating, so you might as well get on the cushion. Or you could just stay where you are, let your eyes close, and notice the breathing at that same time as you observe the resistance, or notice the resistance and send it your lovingkindness. In this kind of approach the specific content of your resistance isn’t important, because you’re not meeting your rationalizations on their own level. You’re not arguing with them; you’re outsmarting them by surrounding them with mindful awareness.
If truly want to meditate daily, but find that the resistance goes on day after day, then set yourself a low bar for what constitutes a day in which you meditate: five minutes works fine. That may not sound like much, but regularity is ultimately more important than the number of minutes you do each day. Do feel free to do more, but don’t try to impress yourself with how much meditation you can do. It’ll just lead to more resistance.
You want to get, as quickly as possible, to the point where you don’t even have to decide to meditate every day. It shouldn’t be a decision. It should just be what you do. So I have a mantra: “I meditate every day; it’s just what I do; it’s part of who I am.” If you want to meditate absolutely every day, then keep reciting that mantra (and meditate for at least five minutes each day, although preferably more) until you start to believe the mantra on a deep level. If you miss days at first, that’s OK. Just keep repeating the mantra: “I meditate every day; it’s just what I do; it’s part of who I am.”
The Buddha really emphasized giving. In fact in you think about it we wouldn’t have any Buddhism today. The Buddha’s life, after his Awakening, was a life of giving. His time and his talent in communication was spent in giving people the tools they needed to become awakened. His energy was spent traveling around India, teaching.
The entire community of monks and nuns likewise gave their time and energy — their lives, really — in order to help others.
And if it wasn’t for 2,500 years of householders donating to the sangha, none of that teaching would have been passed onto us. It wasn’t just a question of lay Buddhists putting some scraps of food in the bowls of begging monks and nuns. It was a question of them donating robes, giving land to the sangha, having dwellings and monasteries built, paying for monuments to be erected, etc.
2,500 years of giving. And we’re the beneficiaries. I benefit. You benefit.
We’re asking for donations to our Free Bodhi project. The aim is to provide seed funding for a business manager for Wildmind so that I don’t have to do so much admin and can concentrate on teaching and writing. Lots of people tell me that the teaching and writing I do has made a positive difference to their lives, and I hope you’ll consider supporting us on this.
So we’re asking you to continue 2,500 year tradition, and to pay it forward. We’ve written, and continue to write, hundreds of articles on meditation. We’ve made structured guides to various meditation practices available. We run free guided meditation videoconferences and post the recordings on Youtube.
And next year we’ll be running an unprecedented year-long series of meditation events that we’re calling a Year of Going Deeper. We chose that title because the eight events we’re running will give you a complete guide to meditation practices that can take you all the way to Awakening.
Our Year of Going Deeper is going to be free. That’s our gift. What we’re asking is that you help support us — just as generations of practitioners before you have helped support other teachers — so that we can help enlighten the world.
Please donate to the Free Bodhi project on Indiegogo, and help support our work.
This month I share my dharma talk – given on TEDx – it could have been called many names, like the Power of Loving Kindness. I explore through my personal and professional experience how our ‘stinking thinking’ can be our biggest addiction. It is the cause of heedlessness – and it has been said: ‘That those who are heedless are like the dead, and those who are heedful do not die.’ When we are heedful we are mindful, attentive and aware. When we are heedless we are negligent, thoughtless and undmindful.
When we are addicted to our ‘stinking thinking’ we are on the path of the death, there is no room for mindfulness. Yes of course the body dies, but when we become aware of the flow of direct experience from moment to moment, we are freed from identifying with the self, with our thoughts, feelings and emotions. We are in essence heedful. Renounce your ‘stinking thinking’ because it clouds the mind, deludes the mind, agitates the mind and causes great suffering. Mental proliferation is the second dart of suffering. And the great news is, that it is possible to be free of this type of suffering. Renounce and discover a new freedom and happiness. How? Take a listen to my TEDx talk below.
We are what we think
For a free sample chapter of Eight Step Recovery – Using The Buddha’s Teachings To Overcome Addiction please email: [email protected]
By “sobriety,” I mean healthy self-control, a centered enjoyment of life, and an inner freedom from drivenness. We typically apply this sense of balance and self-care to things like food, drugs and alcohol, sexuality, money, and risky behaviors. And if you like, you could bring sobriety to other things as well, such as to righteousness, contentiousness, over-working, or controlling others.
At bottom, sobriety is the opposite of craving, broadly defined: you’re not going to war with what’s unpleasant, chasing after what’s pleasant, or clinging to what’s heartfelt.
Personally, I think of sobriety in terms of the big picture, and in the context of a life well-lived. Pigging out over a luscious meal with friends once a month is one thing, but over-eating daily is another. Bottom-line, if you can’t do something within appropriate bounds, you can’t do it at all. Most of us – me included – know where we tend to go too far and need to establish a more wholesome balance. And obviously, any behavior that harms others should go to zero.
You might think of sobriety as a kind of loss, but it’s actually fueled by a sense of gain. Sure, there’s a place for using your will. But studies show that willpower gets depleted fairly quickly in most people. Instead of willing yourself to avoid the bad, enjoying the good – the benefits of your sobriety – will naturally draw you in a higher direction.
Set yourself up to succeed. Do what you can to take care of your deeper needs so you feel less driven to distract yourself, numb out, or get high. Reduce temptations; if you’re trying to stop drinking, don’t have alcohol in your home. Get support, from an honest conversation with your partner to a 12-step program (or secular alternatives) and/or counseling. Don’t underestimate the power of craving: if you’ve tried to change in the past and not succeeded, recognize that you’ll need to increase your inner and outer resources for sobriety to have a different result this time around.
As they say in Tibet: If you take care of the minutes, the years will take care of themselves. Take it a minute at a time, a day at a time. When you have a chance to enjoy your sobriety, really help the experience sink in, which will gradually incline your mind and brain toward the high road instead of the low one. Sober traits are grown in your brain by actually installing sober states. If you don’t register your positive states – if you don’t take the dozen seconds or so to help them sink in – they make little or no difference to your brain: then there’s no learning, no improvement in neural structure or function, and thus no lasting benefit. (For more on this, see Hardwiring Happiness.)
So, to support and maintain your sobriety, enjoy and really take in its benefits. At the start of a day, an evening, or even a minute, commit to and enjoy the anticipated positive results of sobriety. While you are being sober in some way, enjoy the results. After being sober, looking back, take in the sense of its benefits.
Enjoy the bliss of blamelessness. The feeling that there is nothing to be ashamed of, that you are taking an honorable path. The knowledge that you are putting distance every day between yourself and problematic past behaviors. Enjoy the sense of worth, of self-respect.
Enjoy the pleasures of a clear mind and a healthy body. Be glad about not putting toxins – the source of the word, intoxication – into your body and mind. Feel good about the gift you are giving your future self.
Enjoy the results in your relationships. Enjoy not feeling embarrassed the day after, or hung-over, or tired because you stayed up too late. Savor the respect of others. Be glad you avoided needless quarrels. Feel good about not harming others. Be glad you’ve cleared the field so you can focus on getting your wants met in the relationship.
Enjoy learning how to manage stress and have fun in more wholesome, psychologically mature ways.
Enjoy the freedom in not being compelled to drink, etc. The pleasure in feeling in charge of your own actions, mind, and life.
Enjoy the opportunity to learn about desire by not fulfilling it. Be more realistic about the actual rewards of indulging desires; enjoy waking up from the spells cast – “Drink this! Smoke that! Eat these!” – by addictive hungers. Enjoy how sobriety supports your practices in the upper reaches of human potential, including in spiritual life.
Most deeply, enjoy relating to the world and to your life not gripped at the throat by desire. Enjoy the inner peace that comes from not being compelled to do things that may feel good in the moment but have big lingering costs for you and others.
What’s your preferred translation of “metta”?
As a kind of postscript to our recent Urban Retreat, which was on the theme of metta, I’m going to share my thoughts about some of the terms people use, and propose an uncommon, but I think good, English term.1. Lovingkindness
The most common English term that people use for metta is “lovingkindness.” That’s pretty much the standard term. A search for “metta is loving-kindness” on Google brought up 17,200 results.What’s good about it?
It’s an old and well-established term in English. You might be surprised how old it is; it’s found for example in a 1611 translation of the Bible (this example is from the Book of Psalms):
I have not concealed thy lovingkindness and thy truth from the great congregation.
Withhold not thou thy tender mercies from me, O Lord:
Let thy lovingkindness and thy truth continually preserve me.
Well, how often do you hear people who aren’t Buddhists talking about “lovingkindness”? It’s a rare term, and because it’s rare it doesn’t resonate much on an emotional level. And so it’s rather abstract, and ends up suggesting that metta is something remote from our everyday experience; something we’ve yet to experience.2. Love
Love is again less common than lovingkindness. A search for “metta is love” on Google brought up 34,800 results.What’s good about it?
We can all resonate with the word “love.” It’s a very warm and emotional term.What’s not so good about it?
The word “love” is very ambiguous, and we’re always having to qualify it in various ways, by specifying that it’s “non-romantic love” for example (but even that’s very ambiguous, because there are many kinds of non-romantic love, including love of our children, love or our country, loving chocolate, etc.).
And even the “love they neighbor” kind of love doesn’t necessarily fit very well with what metta is. For example, can you love your neighbor but not like them? Possibly, but it’s not very obvious to everyone what that means. But you can have metta for someone you don’t like.
Also, “love” is very much understood as an emotion — something we feel — while metta is a volition or intention — something we want. Specifically, metta is wanting beings (ourselves included) to be well and happy.
Which brings up another problem. “Self-love” has a bad reputation in the west, and it conjures up narcissism and arrogance.3. Friendliness
Friendliness is less commonly used than lovingkindness as a term for metta, but it’s not uncommon. A search for “metta is friendliness” on Google brought up 2,180 results.What’s good about it?
Friendliness is a good translation of metta, because it’s related to the P?li word mitta, meaning friend. Metta isn’t about friendship, but it is about friendliness. It has the advantage of being a word in common use, and it’s one that we can relate to more easily than lovingkindness. Friendliness again is more of an attitude or intention, which is closer to metta’s role as a volition.What’s not so good about it?
The word friendliness sounds a bit weak, and metta can feel quite intense (although it doesn’t have to). What do you think of when you call the word “friendliness” to mind? What images do you see? I see someone at a party, socializing, which isn’t really what metta is about.4. Universal Love
It’s a term that used, although “metta is universal love” brings up only 9 results on Google. It’s found in books going back to the early 20th century, and I think it used to be more common. In my early days of practice, people would often say that metta was universal love, or universal lovingkindness.What’s good about it?
Well, technically metta is an unbounded (appam??a) state of mind, which is to say that it’s not “bounded” (pam??a) by conditional relationships, which the word “universal” tries to communicate.What’s not so good about it?
However, anything that’s “universal” seems pretty much out of reach. What images come to mind when you think of “universal love”? Are those images related to your day-to-day experience? “Universal love” suggests a degree of love that’s almost unimaginable. Sure, you have days when you’re in a good mood and you feel affection for lots of people, but do you love everyone? Every single person? That’s what the term seems to suggest. And probably because that seems to unattainable, “universal love” isn’t very popular as a translation for metta.5. Goodwill
Goodwill isn’t a common translation of metta, but Bhikkhu Thanissaro, who has contributed the bulk of translations to the wonderful Access to Insight, prefers it. I only found 172 results, however, for “metta is goodwill.”What’s good about it?
“Goodwill” is having a friendly or cooperative attitude, so there’s a close correspondence with metta. Thanissaro describes goodwill as “wishing the other person well, but realizing that true happiness is something that each of us ultimately will have to find for him or herself, and sometimes most easily when we go our separate ways.”What’s not so good about it?
When was the last time you used the word “goodwill” or heard it being used? Perhaps on a Christmas card: “Peace on Earth and Good Will to all Men”? Perhaps in a business transaction: paying more for an asset than it’s worth? It’s just not a very common term. I certainly do talk about metta as wishing people well (which is another way of describing goodwill), but the term “goodwill” isn’t one I use much, or hear used, and it doesn’t really resonate with me. But perhaps it resonates more with you.6. Kindness
Metta isn’t often translated as “kindness.” The phrase “metta is kindness” only brought up 88 results on Google.What’s good about it?
Kindness is, like love, an almost tangible quality. It’s something we’ve all felt. We know we’ve experienced it within ourselves, and we can think of examples of people we know who are kind. And kindness is as much an attitude as an intention. What images come to mind when you think of kindness? I think of ordinary everyday situations, with one person being helpful and loving toward another person — perhaps someone who’s in trouble. So kindness is close to compassion, which fits with metta as well, since metta is the basis of compassion.What’s not so good about it?
“My religion is kindness.”Not much, in my opinion. Of all the terms we can use to translate metta, I think kindness is the most accessible, in that it’s part of our daily emotional experience. It’s easy to picture it. Think of the Dalai Lama’s smiling face: I think of his face as expressing great kindness. I think it’s closest in terms of describing a volition or intention: with both kindness and metta the intention is to help others find happiness. It does have a feeling quality about it — a sense of warmth and gentleness — but kindness is more defined by our intention and action than is the word love. Kindness is less ambiguous than love, and less over-used. It’s more palatable to think in terms of being kind to oneself as opposed to loving oneself.
So, out of all the possible options for words to translate metta, my vote is for that simple, accessible, appealing word, “kindness.”
What do you think?
Are you sitting comfortably? Have you silenced all the alarms on your computer and phone? Have you closed all other windows or switched your browser to full screen mode? Have you taken three full breaths, closed your eyes, and spent a few minutes quietly listening to the world around you? No? OK, go do that now…
I adore Ms. Underwood’s books. So does my six-year-old daughter and, to a lesser extent, my four-year-old son. My wife’s a big fan, too. Underwood writes a lot of different kinds of children’s book, but those that I suspect are most popular are those she’s least known for: The Sugar Plum Ballerinas books, which are nominally by Whoopi Goldberg, but which in fact are written by Deborah Underwood. These books are so well-written that dad is always pushing the kids so that he can go back and catch up on the two chapters he missed when it was mom’s turn to put them to bed.
This isn’t a review of the Sugar Plum Ballerinas books, but I’d just like to note that I found myself wondering if Underwood was a meditator, given how good she is at describing the physical sensations of emotion (and if you don’t get the connection, read this article). The reflective nature of The Christmas Quiet book, and its predecessor, The Quiet Book, reinforces Underwood’s meditative aura (actually, she is not only a meditator, but is a fan of Wilmdind — I asked her).
As I wrote of her earlier “Quiet” children’s book, Underwood “creates a space of stillness in which children’s imagination and attention can grow.” That’s true of the new book as well, especially given the snowy Christmas settings of many of the vignettes that illustrate the many kinds of quiet that normally slip by us unnoticed. There’s an old Buddhist saying that what we repeatedly turn our attention to becomes the inclination of the mind, and by focusing children’s attention on quiet, they will learn to appreciate silence and stillness. This is a kind of contemplative children’s picture book.
Thus we have Searching for Presents Quiet, Getting Caught Quiet, Hoping for a Snow Day Quiet, and Bundled Up Quiet — in all, 29 forms of quiet. As you’ll have picked up from the few examples given, there are storylines connecting some of the vignettes, and the illustrations reinforce those storylines, helping us to see how one kind of quiet can flow into another.
The illustrations themselves are charming, with a dramatis personae of various fluffy and not so fluffy animals, from bunnies to iguanas (but even the iguana seems cuddly, somehow). The drawings are varied, evocative, and emotionally expressive. The crouching bunny in “Shattered Ornament Quiet” is a study in shame and anxiety, while the skating owl in “Skating Quiet” exudes quiet confidence. The varying emotional tone of the images will surely help children to slow down and empathetically enter the world of the characters.
This is an adorable book. If you have children up to the age of six, and you’d like to encourage them to pause more, be more introspective, to empathize more, and to be quiet, I’d highly recommend The Christmas Quiet Book.
PS. The Sugar Plum Ballerinas rock!
Years ago, when Bodhipaksa described what Wildmind was about, he expressed it along these lines: that our mission was to to benefit the world by promoting mindfulness and compassion through the practice of Buddhist meditation. Twelve years later, our intent is still the same.
Bodhipaksa wanted, and still wants, to have an impact on contemporary culture. He wants to show the benefits of meditation, and also make it easy for people to learn to meditate.
And that’s why this site is here. We have hundreds of pages of freely available meditation instruction, where people can walk themselves through structured guides to a variety of practices. And we’re constantly adding new materials on our blog. This year, for example, we’ve posted something like 100,000 words of guidance (the equivalent of a couple of books) along with several hours of recordings.
Here are some other highlights:
- More than 1.5 million people visit our site each year.
- Our most popular web page (not counting the home page) has been read by half a million people.
- Our most popular blog post has been read more than a quarter of a million times.
- Hundreds of thousands of people have learned to meditate here — for free.
- We also publish guided meditation CDs, which help fund our activities, and those have reached hundreds of thousands of people as well.
This is a good start, but it’s just a start. We’re really just scratching the surface if we want to transform society through teaching mindfulness and compassion.
For one thing, the way people are using the web is changing.
People want smaller, more easily-digestible chunks of information.
They want more multimedia content.
They want presentations that are more “app-like” and that work well on mobile devices.
They want more interactivity — like being able to track how many times they’ve meditated, or how much progress they’ve made in working through a program of instruction.
They want tools that mesh seamlessly with their daily lives — for example mindfulness reminders that pop up on their computer, cellphone, or tablet.
They also want more of a sense of community — a sense that they’re not practicing in isolation, but are practicing along with others.
These are all things we’re working on, or plan to work on. We see people’s embrace of mobile devices as an opportunity to help them integrate the practice of mindfulness and compassion into their daily lives.
But we need your help to take Wildmind to the next level. That’s why we launched the Free Bodhi project. We need to build a team around Bodhipaksa (a.k.a. “Bodhi” or sometimes “Mr. B.”) to be a kind of “amplification system.” We need to free him from his admin responsibilities so that he has more time to teach, and to write, and to develop new ways to bring mindfulness and compassion into our society.
So, please help Free Bodhi so that we can help make the world a more mindful and compassionate place.
This is not the end, but the beginning.
Here is a summary of where we’ve been, and a list of suggestions for continuing your exploration of meditation.
Where we’re been
We hope you appreciated and benefited from the material we sent you. Remember that even if you didn’t manage to read everything or watch all the videos, they’re always there for you. In fact here’s a handy list of all the posts we sent during the retreat:
- Urban Retreat: Day 1: Demystifying lovingkindness
- Urban Retreat: Day 2: Authentic lovingkindness
- Urban Retreat: Day 3: Lovingkindness: When the Rubber Hits the Road
- Urban Retreat: Day 4: Protecting others, you protect yourself.
- Urban Retreat, Day 5: Looking with loving eyes
- Urban Retreat, Day 6: The tender heart of lovingkindness
- Urban Retreat, Day 7: The practice of gratitude
- Urban Retreat, Day 8: Developing compassion
And there were three guided meditations that we led as part of the event. You can access those anytime, here:
- Urban Retreat Lovingkindness Meditation #1
- Urban Retreat Lovingkindness Meditation #2
- Urban Retreat Lovingkindness Meditation #3
If you want to maintain and deepen your meditation practice and, perhaps, your practice of Buddhism more generally, here are a few options:
1. Wildmind’s Year of Going Deeper
Our Year of Going Deeper is a year-long series of meditation events, where we’ll explore various aspects of meditation. It’ll be like the Urban Retreat, but with more of a sense of community. There are eight events planned, spanning the whole of 2014. Some are introductory, while others are more in-depth. All the events are free, although donations are encouraged. Click here to learn more about the Year of Going Deeper.
2. The World in Balance, March 20, 2014
The World In Balance is a special event we’re running on the March equinox: March 20, 2014, at 16:57 UTC (click on the link to add the event to your calendar in your local time). It’s a worldwide meditation event, taking place at the exact moment that the earth’s equator passes the center of the sun, the earth is perfectly upright, and the transit from the seasonal extremes is at a balance point worldwide — but at the moment the details of the event are a secret! All we can tell you now if that it’s going to be big. Sign up for our special World in Balance newsletter and we’ll reveal the secret in due time! (There won’t be many mailings.)
3. Join Wildmind’s Community on Google Plus
Our community is the most civilized, sane, compassionate place you’ll find for discussing your practice, and for getting support and encouragement. Join here.
4. Subscribe to Wildmind’s regular, bi-monthly newsletter
Our regular newsletter goes out roughly every two weeks, and contains links to selected news and articles from our blog. As of the next newsletter, there will also be a special article in each edition that hasn’t been published on our blog. Sign up here.
5. Join us for a weekend retreat
Bodhipaksa will be leading a retreat in Florida (just south of Tampa) from Feb 21–23, 2014. You can find out more or register here. There will also be a weekend retreat in southern New Hampshire, May 2–4, 2014. To find out more, subscribe to our newsletter!
6. Make use of other Triratna resources
Free Buddhist Audio is a treasure-trove of audio and written resources on the theme of Buddhist practice. The Buddhist Center is Triratna’s central site, which you can use to find a Triratna Center near you, or to find other resources.
7. Help us to spread the benefits of meditation
Lastly, we’re put a lot of work into this Urban Retreat. How about giving something back, by making a donation of $5, or $10, or even $20? We have a special fundraising project at the moment called the Free Bodhi Fund, which will help us to employ more staff so that Bodhipaksa can be freed up from admin and concentrate on teaching. You can contribute to the Free Bodhi Fund here. Oh, and donors can opt to receive perks as rewards for their donations!
May you fare well in the future, and may our paths cross again.
The next Power of Mindfulness online course starts December 2, 2013. It’s a four-week meditation course that’s accessible 24 hours a day, every day of the week, wherever you are. All you need is an internet browser. You can even participate on an iPad or other mobile device.
The convenience makes this perfect for people who don’t have meditation classes nearby, or who work irregular hours or who can’t travel because of illness, childcare arrangements, etc.
The course is web-based, and involves readings, guided meditation MP3s that were specially recorded for this course, a discussion forum, and email exchanges with the teacher, Bodhipaksa.
Weaving together the latest scientific research with ancient Buddhist wisdom, this four-week course provides a comprehensive introduction to living mindfully. It’s not just about the skills of meditation. You’ll also learn how to take what you learn into action. This course gives you the tools to gain more insight into yourself, and be more at ease and content through life’s ups and downs.
For more information, or to register for the course click here to go to the online store.
Available from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.Three years ago I walked into a bookstore in Vancouver, where I was doing a book launch, and literally the first book spine that caught my eye in the Buddhist book section was called Buddha at Bedtime. As the father of two young children I pulled it from the shelf with excitement, and was astonished to discover it had been written by an old friend of mine from my days in Glasgow.
Of course I got a copy of the book, and it’s been a bedtime fixture in our household ever since. Now comes a much-welcomed sequel, The Buddha’s Apprentice at Bedtime.
As with the first volume, The Buddha’s Apprentice contains adaptations of traditional “Jataka” tales, which are Indian fairy tales that tell of the previous lives of the Buddha. Each tale illustrates a particular virtue, in a similar way to the Fables of Aesop, which draw on the same body of folk tales (Indian and Greek cultures have a historical connection).
The stories have been updated in order to make them more accessible, and are no longer presented as the past lives of the Buddha. In a way that’s actually more accurate, since these would have originally been non-Buddhist tales. In fact the Buddha isn’t mentioned in the stories, nor are they all set in India. Although some of the settings are (from a Western point of view) exotic, they quite are multicultural, taking place in locales as disparate as jungles, deserts, the Scottish Highlands, Thailand, and, of course, India.
The names, unless the stories are explicitly set in a foreign land, are westernized. For example, one story features Rosie (a tough girl, who injures a rabbit), Hazel (who nurses the rabbit), and their teacher Miss Poppy. This makes the experience for both the reader and the average child much easier than struggling though Sanskrit names such as Siddhartha and Devadata. Additionally, in the tale of Rosie and Hazel the genders of the characters have been changed as well, so that we end up with more female protagonists than there are in the traditional tales. Since moral truths are universal, and not dependent on gender, this tweak to the originals is a valuable way of making the stories, and the lessons they contain, accessible to all children.
And as with the first volume, this is a delightful read. The stories are exceptionally well-written and a delight to read out loud. Nagaraja is a skilled storyteller.
The illustrations, by the very talented Sharon Tancredi, are luminously colorful, and the characters exude abundant personality. At first I thought I preferred the illustrations in the original book, but actually these are every bit as good, and in many ways the facial expressions are more “alive” than in the original Buddha At Bedtime. Some of the elements — mainly the monkeys’ faces, and those of some of the other animals — seem a bit child-like for my taste, but on the whole the images are delightful.
My seven-year-old daughter certainly doesn’t find this book too childish, nor did my son, at age four, find it too grown up. I’d guess that a good age-range for The Buddha’s Apprentice would be three to eight.
One thing I was pleased about is that the Buddha, who is illustrated at the end of every tale delivering a brief moral punchline, is now actually the Buddha. In the first book the illustrations were of Budai, who is the fat Chinese monk (often called the “Laughing Buddha”) who you’ll have seen in many a Chinese restaurant. It’s a common thing for westerners to assume that Budai is “the” Buddha (i.e. the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni) even though this is rather like confusing Christ and Santa Claus! As well as being more culturally accurate, the use of the serene and dignified figure of Buddha Shakyamuni seems more proper, and many Buddhist parents will be inclined to take the book just a little more seriously.
The book contains some meditation instructions for children, which I confess I haven’t tried with my own kids. The inclusion of meditation instruction for children gives another good reason for buying this book. There’s just not enough of that kind of material in circulation.
The ultimate reviewers of a book such as this, though, are the children. Mine love it! And I’m sure yours will too. Remember, Christmas is coming!
I’m going to write less today, because sometimes I go on a bit, and I know we’re all bombarded with information. So here are just a few words about the practice of compassion, and especially of self-compassion.
What is compassion? Like lovingkindness, it’s a volition (something we desire or will or intend). While lovingkindness is the desire that beings find happiness, compassion is the desire to relieve suffering. Compassion flows directly from lovingkindness; we want beings to be happy, yet they suffer, and so we want their suffering to be relieved so that they can find happiness.
Compassion is not a sentiment. It’s not just a feeling. Volitions are what lead to actions, and so the volition of compassion will lead to us relieving suffering where we’re able to. You can be compassionate without feeling much!
It’s hard to have compassion for others when we don’t have it for ourselves. Just as the lovingkindness practice starts with kindness toward ourselves, so compassion starts with — well, if we’re not currently suffering then it starts with kindness toward ourselves, but if we are suffering then we often need to address our suffering before we are able to have compassion for others, so we start with self-compassion. This isn’t selfish — it’s like how in airplanes you’re asked to put on your own oxygen mask before you help your children. If you don’t take care of your own needs first then you won’t be able to help your kids.
Suffering isn’t always what you think it is. A lot of people think they don’t suffer. They thing suffering is what poor people and sick people and people in third world countries do. Suffering is having cancer or starving to death. Actually, those things are suffering, but so is worrying about whether people like you, or feeling grumpy, or wishing you weren’t at work, or feeling low and despondent. Now it’s suffering on a different scale, but it’s still suffering, and it still matters. If we care about someone’s wellbeing we want them to be free of all suffering.
We often don’t notice we’re suffering when we’re suffering. We’re too caught up in worrying that people might not like us, for example, to notice that in that moment we’re in pain. So we have to learn to recognize our own suffering.
And when you find yourself in emotional pain in the ways I describe, it’s very valuable — crucial, even — to treat your pain with lovingkindness. You haven’t failed by suffering. It’s not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of being alive and human. So accept your suffering. Accept that it’s OK to suffer. Say to yourself “It’s OK to feel this.”
And then wish your suffering well. By doing this you’re wishing the part of you that is suffering well. Here’s one way to do that:
- Notice where in the body your pain is most strongly located. (Even emotional pain is located in the body.)
- Accept the pain. “It’s OK to feel this.”
- With gentle curiosity, notice the pain’s size and shape and texture.
- Place a hand on the part of part of your body where the pain manifests.
- Say, like an adult to a child, “I know you’re in pain; I love you, and I wish you well.”
If the pain has arisen in response to the actions of other people — for example someone may have said something you found hurtful — then call them to mind now. Recognizing that they, too, suffer, you can wish them well: “May you be free from pain; may you be free from fear; may you find peace.”