Buddhist Mantras

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Buddhists are pro-environment, pro-evolution

May 22, 2015 - 3:49pm

Josh Rosenau, evolutionary biologist and Programs and Policy Director at the National Center for Science Education downloaded the 2007 version of Pew’s Religious Landscape Survey and mapped the correlation between attitudes on the environment and attitudes on evolution. The result is the graph above. His blog post on this graph is here.

In the original survey, people had been asked which of these statements they most agreed with:

Stricter environmental laws and regulations cost too many jobs and hurt the economy; or
Stricter environmental laws and regulations are worth the cost.

The second question asked people to agree or disagree with the statement:

Evolution is the best explanation for the origins of human life on earth.

The sizes of the circles are are in proportion to the relative population sizes in the original Pew survey.

As you’ll see, Buddhists strongly agree that evolution is the best way of explaining the origins of human life. This perhaps isn’t very surprising. There’s no Buddhist creation myth to defend, and in fact that things are subject to change is a key teaching of Buddhism. While the Buddha’s emphasis was on the way our experience changes, he often referred to cosmological change as well. Had the Buddha known about how species change over time he wouldn’t have been at all surprised.

Additionally, most Buddhists I know are relatively well-educated and liberal. They respect science, for the most part.

Buddhists are also among the most pro-environmental of all religious groups, in that they support environmental regulation. That the environment needs protection against the greed and delusion of humanity is so obvious to me as a Buddhist that I can’t believe that I have would have to explain why I, and other Buddhists, see things this way.

I suppose one could argue a case that the traditional Buddhist belief in rebirth would promote a respect for the environment. Who wants to be reborn in an environmental wasteland that they themselves have helped create in a previous life? Contrast that to the view of some evangelical Christians that the world is about to end soon. Why bother preserving the environment when God is about to end his experiment?

I’m not convinced that’s actually much of a factor, although I can’t rule it out.

I that people who are attracted to Buddhism in the US tend to be liberal and pro-environmental in the first place. However, I suspect that Buddhist practices such as a mindfulness of the consequences of our actions and the cultivation of lovingkindness and compassion do nudge Buddhists toward a pro-environmental stance that they generally tended toward anyway.

The power of presence: 3 simple ways to harness mindfulness

May 22, 2015 - 11:28am

Shakti Sutriasa, Huffington Post: We hear a lot about being mindful – not just within spiritual circles – but more and more in the work place.

What exactly is mindfulness?

Simply, mindfulness is awareness of the present or the ability to be present in all aspects of our lives. It’s a honing of the mind to focus on what is happening right now.

Since the 1970s, there’s been a growing recognition and movement towards embracing mindfulness in the United States. This is due in large part to the many Buddhists teachers who have come here as well as the American practitioner …

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How mindfulness can defeat racial bias

May 20, 2015 - 9:35am

Rhonda Magee, GGSC: When I was promoted to tenured full professor, the dean of my law school kindly had flowers sent to me at my home in Pacific Heights, an overpriced San Francisco neighborhood almost devoid of black residents. I opened the door to find a tall, young, African-American deliveryman who announced, “Delivery for Professor Magee.” I, a petite black woman, dressed for a simple Saturday spent in my own home, reached for the flowers saying, “I am Professor Magee.”

The deliveryman looked down at the order and back up …

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Meditation earning a place in health care

May 19, 2015 - 9:16am

David Stroud, Las Vegas Review-Journal: Tina Encheva is sitting in a chair in front of five women, all of them lying on their backs on top of spongy yoga mats. The women’s eyes are closed and their hands rest palms down just above their hearts.

The hypnotic sounds of lilting flutes and humming Tibetan singing bowls are playing over a meditation tape, and Encheva’s delicate voice floats in and out like wind chimes tousled by a soft breeze.

Encheva guides them through the relaxation of their …

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An important appeal: please respond!

May 19, 2015 - 7:38am

The short version

We need to raise $4,000 so that we can redesign our website, making it easier to use generally, and also making it much more accessible for users of mobile devices, such as smartphones.

  • If you prefer to use Paypal (whether or not you have an account), you can click here and enter your chosen donation.
  • 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.”
  • And lastly, checks can be mailed to: Wildmind, 55 Main St. Suite 315, Newmarket NH 03857, USA.
The more detailed version

We’re calling this our “Multitude of Hands” fundraiser in homage to Avalokiteshvara, a mythic figure representing compassion. Avalokitesvara is said to have 1,000 hands reaching out in order to help suffering beings. Compassion finds a way. Similarly, each page of our website and each blog post is like a hand reaching out to the world. We’d like to be be able to do that more effectively.

This isn’t just a cosmetic redesign, but a complete overhaul of how our site works, so that it will be easier to use—and appear very differently—on a smartphone, tablet, or desktop computer. With your support, we’ll be able to provide better support and encouragement to meditators all over the world, whatever device they’re using.

It’s urgent that we make this move now. Google, which many people use to find us, is going to start penalizing websites that don’t offer a good experience to mobile users—and right now we don’t.

We’re barely scraping by financially at the moment, and we need your help to be able to pull this off. We’ve already found a designer and in fact he’s already started work. The initial results are very promising indeed, and I’m looking forward to unveiling the final design when it’s ready—hopefully before the end of this month.

It would be wonderful if you could donate $100, $50, or even just $10 — whatever you can afford. You can make a donation using any of the links above or below.

  • If you prefer to use Paypal (whether or not you have an account), you can click here and enter your chosen donation.
  • 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.”
  • And lastly, checks can be mailed to: Wildmind, 55 Main St. Suite 315, Newmarket NH 03857, USA.

With much love,
Bodhipaksa

Meditation optimizes adaptive behavior

May 18, 2015 - 11:07am

News-Medical: Certain meditation techniques can promote behavior to vary adaptively from moment to moment depending on current goals, rather than remaining rigid and inflexible. This is the outcome of a study by Lorenza Colzato and Iliana Samara from the Leiden Institute of Brain and Cognition at Leiden University, published in Consciousness and Cognition.

Different meditation types, different effects

Colzato and her fellow researchers were the first to investigate if meditation has an immediate effect on behavior, even in people who have never meditated before. “There are two fundamental types of meditation that affect us …

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Pop Art Buddhas

May 16, 2015 - 4:51am

“Pop art,” Wikipedia tells us, “is an art movement that emerged in the mid-1950s in Britain and in the late 1950s in the United States … Pop art presented a challenge to traditions of fine art by including imagery from popular culture such as advertising, news, etc. In pop art, material is sometimes visually removed from its known context, isolated, and/or combined with unrelated material.”

For some reason I found myself using Google’s images search to look for Pop Art representations of the Buddha. There’s rather a lot of them out there, and I’ve included a few here, with links so that you can support the artists, if you’re so inclined. (None of these are affiliate links.)


We can save a precious Buddhist archaeological site!

May 15, 2015 - 11:20am

Brent Huffman, who travelled to Afghanistan to film the desperate efforts by archaeologists to document the ancient city of Mes Aynak before it turns into a Chinese-funded open-cast copper mine, wrote today to point out these new artifacts, which were recently unearthed:

The unheard-of level of preservation on discoveries just like this is one of the many reasons why Mes Aynak provides such a unique insight into Buddhism and Afghanistan’s past. This historical treasure must be protected and preserved!

Mes Aynak (“little copper well” in Pashto) is a mountainous site in the Taliban-controlled Logar Province, Afghanistan, 25 miles southeast of Kabul near the Pakistan border. Mes Aynak contains the ancient remains of a 2,000-year-old Buddhist city, on top of a 5,000-year-old Bronze Age site. Massive, at nearly 500,000 sq. meters, this historic Buddhist city contains dozens of unique and never-before-seen stupas and temples, thousands of artifacts, and around 600 large Buddha statues – similar to those destroyed by the Taliban in 2001 at Bamiyan.

These archaeologists working at Mes Aynak risk their lives daily to discover and protect the priceless cultural heritage found at the site. Learn more about the sacrifices they make in our new video, featuring footage from “Saving Mes Aynak”. Please help by sharing their story, and the story of Mes Aynak.

Please do contribute to Saving Mes Aynak’s Indiegogo fundraiser, which will go towards advocacy and education in order to build a strong international case for saving the city,

Also please sign the change.org petition in order to pressure the Afghan government to reconsider its decision regarding Mes Aynak, and a separate petition to ask UNESCO to add Mes Aynak to a list of endangered sites.

“A Love as Deep as Life Itself” begins June 1st

May 15, 2015 - 10:36am

Click here to register for A Love as Deep as Life Itself! In this 28 day event we’ll explore the quality of upekkha, or loving wisdom.

This event is by donation and is suitable for people who are familiar with lovingkindness or compassion meditation.

Upekkha is often translated as “equanimity,” but this is just a secondary aspect of this quality. Upekkha rests on an awareness that for beings (including ourselves) to be truly happy, they need spiritual insight.

Therefore, the practice of upekkha involves cultivating insight as we develop metta (kindness), karuna (compassion), and mudita (joyful appreciation). Not only do we cultivate insight ourselves, but we wish that all beings find the deep peace of awakening.

In this event you’ll learn how to:

  • Appreciate positive qualities within yourself and others
  • Overcome barriers to accepting your own innate goodness
  • Cultivate an attitude of appreciation and rejoicing
  • Abandon jealousy and resentment in favor of appreciation
  • Be a supportive and encouraging presence for others

Signing up for this event gives you access to:

  • 28 daily emails with practice suggestions
  • Access to guided meditations
  • Support in our online community
Share the love!

Please let your friends know about Wildmind’s Year of Going Deeper by using the share buttons below.

Is mindfulness actually good for you?

May 15, 2015 - 9:35am

Lynne Malcolm, Radio National: Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn became interested in the Buddhist practice of mindfulness more than 35 years ago. With the scientific community skeptical, the at the University of Massachusetts Medical School professor decided to develop a more secular approach in the hope of opening the minds of people in the west.

By 1979 he’d designed a program called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, which today is one of the world’s most well-respected secular mindfulness programs.

That was only the beginning of scientific interest in mindfulness, though. Psychiatrist Dr Elise Bialylew has practised mindfulness for …

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What is mindfulness?

May 14, 2015 - 10:21am

Considering that I’ve been practicing meditation for over 30 years, I’m rather embarrassed about how hard I find it to define mindfulness.

I’ve described it elsewhere as “the gentle effort to be continuously present with experience.”

Jon Kabat-Zinn’s has described it as “Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”

The other day I thought of a useful way to describe or define mindfulness:

“Mindfulness is when we observe our experience rather than merely participate in our experience.”

Unmindfulness is an almost hypnotic state. We’ve lost our perspective on our experience, and we’re swept along by it. We may be caught up in an angry rant, or in some compulsive activity like binge-watching TV, but we’re not standing back and observing our experience. We’re participants in the stories and fantasies we create.

In mindfulness we observe our experience rather than merely participate in it. When there’s anger present, we notice the feelings and thoughts that constitute the experience. Part of us is still caught up as a participant, but we’re observing that taking place. When there’s a compulsive activity going on, we stand back and recognize that this is happening. We may not yet be able to stop our compulsion, but we’re at least making a move in that direction.

Another way to put this is that when you’re unmindful, you’re entirely inside your experience. When you’re mindful, you’re partly inside it but there’s a significant part of you that’s looking at the experience from the outside. In neuroscience terms this probably means that you can have your limbic system active (that’s where your emotions and drives operates) or you can have your neocortex (your higher centers) monitoring what the limbic system is up to. That’s the part of you that’s standing outside your experience. That’s the part of you that’s observing, rather than merely participating.

Mindfulness: let’s be mindful of its limitations

May 14, 2015 - 8:02am

Tayana Simons, Huffington Post: The ancient practice of mindfulness meditation has received a lot of hype over the past few years. Tens of thousands of people are signing up for courses all over the country, therapists are using it as a core part of their treatment for depression and anxiety, and millions have downloaded an app called ‘Headspace’ allowing them ‘meditation on the go’. Even Emma Watson calls it ‘genius’.

The funny thing is, its not like it’s a new discovery. Besides the fact that the basis of mindfulness is a form …

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125 U.S. Buddhist leaders to meet at the White House

May 13, 2015 - 8:28am

Click here to check out our online meditation store Michelle Boorstein, Washington Post: Are we about to enter the era of the political Buddhist?

On Thursday about 125 U.S. Buddhist leaders from across the spectrum will gather in Washington for what organizers say may be the biggest conference ever focused on bringing their faith communities into public, civic life. After the conference, the group will meet with officials at the White House, which longtime writers on U.S. Buddhism say is a first.

The daylong conference represents, some experts say, the start of a civic awakening not only among U.S. Buddhists, …

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Every moment is a new chance

May 12, 2015 - 8:55am

You Are Not Your Pain by Vidyamala Burch Pain always seems worse at night. Something about the silence amplifies the suffering. Even after you’ve taken the maximum dose of painkillers, the aching soon returns with a vengeance. You want to do something, anything, to stop the pain, but whatever you try seems to fail. Moving hurts. Doing nothing hurts. Ignoring it hurts. But it’s not just the pain that hurts; your mind can start to suffer as you desperately try to find a way of escaping. Pointed and bitter questions can begin nagging at your soul: What will happen if I don’t recover? What if it gets worse? I can’t cope with this. Please, I just want it to stop. . . .

We wrote this book to help you cope with pain, illness, and stress in times such as these. It will teach you how to reduce your suffering progressively, so that you can begin living life to the fullest once again. It may not completely eliminate your suffering, but it will ensure that it no longer dominates your life. You’ll discover that it is possible to be at peace, even if illness and pain are unavoidable, and to enjoy a fulfilling life.

We know this to be true because we have both experienced terrible injuries and used an ancient form of meditation known as mindfulness to ease our suffering. The techniques in this book have been proven to work by doctors and scientists in universities around the world. Mindfulness is so effective that doctors and specialist pain clinics now refer their patients to our Breathworks center in Manchester, UK, and to courses run by our affiliated trainers around the world. Every day we help people find peace amid their suffering.

This book and the accompanying CD reveal a series of simple practices that you can incorporate into daily life to significantly reduce your pain, anguish, and stress. They are built on Mindfulness-Based Pain Management (MBPM), which has its roots in the groundbreaking work of Dr. Jon  Kabat- Zinn of the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. The MBPM program itself was developed by Vidyamala Burch (coauthor of this book) as a means of coping with the after effects of two serious accidents. Although originally designed to reduce physical pain and suffering, it has proven to be an effective stress-reduction technique as well. The core mindfulness meditation techniques have been shown in many clinical trials to be at least as effective as drugs or counseling for relieving anxiety, stress, and depression. 

When it comes to pain, clinical trials show that mindfulness can be as effective as the most commonly prescribed painkillers, and some studies have shown it to be as powerful as morphine. Imaging studies show that it soothes the brain patterns underlying pain, and over time, these changes take root and alter the structure of the brain itself so that you no longer feel pain with the same intensity. And when it does arise, the pain no longer dominates your life. Many people report that their pain declines to such a degree that they barely notice it at all.

Let GPs offer mindfulness meditation to patients, say experts

May 11, 2015 - 10:07am

Meditation MP3 – Guided Meditations for Stress Reduction Jonathan Owen, The Independent: An ancient Buddhist approach to meditation rebranded as “mindfulness” should be made available to the millions of Britons who are suffering from stress, depression and anxiety, according to the Mental Health Foundation (MHF).

The call comes as new figures being released by the charity will show that more than one in four (29 per cent) of Britons regularly suffers from stress.

Nearly one in four (24 per cent) of people admit to being anxious on a regular basis, and more than one in seven (17 per cent) are often or always …

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Raw Voices podcast

May 11, 2015 - 7:44am

The other week I was interviewed by Olivier Larvor and Tim Brownson of the Raw Voices podcast. You can listen to the podcast here.

Olivier seems to be a fan of mine:

A truly enlightening podcast with Buddhist and meditation teacher Bodhipaksa Dharmacari, author of the book ”Living as a river: finding fearlessness in the face of change”

Prepare to be transported by Bodhipaksa’s stories, wisdom and soft-creamy voice.

Such a cool and humourous guy!

And his voice…

Damn!

Silky.

Ok fine, I am jealous!

The interview was rather rambling, since I was responding to questions and points that Olivier and Tim were bringing up. It’s partly about meditation and how it works, and partly autobiographical.

Olivier has a rather lovely French accent. He described himself as an “HR Project Manager, musician in an obscure indie band, guitar collector, ICF certified coach, failed writer, father of two boys and most of a time, an arrogant ass.”

I have to say he didn’t come across as arrogant in the slightest.

Tim is someone I know, since he’s been one of my meditation students for years. He’s English (you’re getting a great variety of accents in this podcast) and is a life coach. He blogs at A Daring Adventure and Coach the Life Coach. He’s a lovely guy. One of the things I most admire about him is that his teaching is evidence-based. He’s very happy to to challenge conventional wisdoms that many other life coaches accept uncritically.

The rest of the podcasts look interesting as well, although I haven’t had a chance to listen to any of them yet.

Buddhism poised to shrink globally

May 8, 2015 - 12:34pm

A new report by the Pew Research Center suggests that of all the world’s major religions, Buddhism is the only one destined to lose ground between now and 2050.

The total number of adherents to Buddhism will remain virtually unchanged, with a slight decline from approximately 187 to 186 thousand people. But since the global population will have risen, the percentage of the world population that practices Buddhism will have declined sharply from 7.1% to 5.2%.

In the meantime, the percentage of the world practicing Christianity will be roughly static, while Islam will go from being embraced by 23.2% to 29.7% of the world.

This strikes me as ironic, since at the moment Buddhist practices are being tested in laboratories around the world, and being shown to have beneficial effects ranging from slowing the aging of the brain to reducing pain. I would have hoped that this evidence would have encouraged more people to explore Buddhist practice, but I’d guess that this spread of Buddhist practice is taking place mostly in the west, and that most people who take up meditation are doing so in a secular way, through Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction classes, etc. And while the secular, unaffiliated, population is set to increase by 100 million, they’ll be shrinking from 16% to 13% of the global population. It looks like Buddhism’s going to have a hard time sneaking in through the back door!

Will this all happen as foretold? I’ve no idea. I’m imagine that the Pew researchers know what they’re talking about, but projections don’t always translate into reality, and can even bring about changes. Who knows, seeing these projections some Buddhists may increase their outreach efforts and bring new converts into the religion.

Eight tips for teaching mindfulness in high school

May 8, 2015 - 8:35am

Meditation MP3 – Mindfulness Meditations for Teens Patrick Cook-Deegan, Mindful.org: When I walked in to teach my first mindfulness class at a charter high school in Oakland, no one seemed interested. One student was sleeping in his chair; a few kids were messing around in the classroom.

Everyone looked at me like I was in the wrong place. I was nervous and not really sure what I would do. So I just started talking about stress. I asked students if they ever felt stressed, what they do when they are stressed, and asked each of them to share an experience …

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How does meditation make you smarter?

May 7, 2015 - 8:35am

Training the Brain: Cultivating Emotional Skills by Dan Goleman and Richard Davidson (Digital Download) Viatcheslav Wlassoff, PhD, BrainBlogger: Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you don’t need to be told about the relaxing effects of meditation. The practitioners vouch for it; and those who don’t, do not dispute it either. Those in the Far East have known for centuries that meditating brings mental peace and spiritual bliss. Now scientists claim that meditation can even alter the brain’s chemistry and functionality.

Over the years, neuroscientists have carried out brain imaging tests on long-term practitioners of meditation, including several Tibetan …

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Meditation may relieve IBS and IBD

May 6, 2015 - 7:53am

Meditation MP3 – Guided Meditations for Stress Reduction Sue McGreevey, Harvard Gazette: A pilot study has found that participating in a nine-week training program including elicitation of the relaxation response had a significant impact on clinical symptoms of the gastrointestinal disorders irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and on the expression of genes related to inflammation and the body’s response to stress.

The report from investigators at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), both Harvard affiliates, is the first to study the use …

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