Buddhist Mantras

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Bringing more kindness to the world

July 22, 2016 - 12:02pm

We could all do with being kinder to ourselves, and with being more patient and forgiving with others in our lives.

My forthcoming album of guided lovingkindness meditations, “Harnessing the Power of Kindness,” includes my latest teachings on how to become kinder. It’s the result of over 30 years of practice and of having taught lovingkindness meditation to many thousands of people. I’m perfectly happy to say that I think it’s very effective!

Wildmind is run on a shoestring (all of our courses are offered by donation) and the moment we’re fundraising to cover the production costs of this album, which will be available in CD and MP3 formats. Those costs include the recording and audio editing expenses, plus the design and (in the case of the CD) manufacturing costs. We use a local recording studio, a designer who lives just around the corner, and a US-based CD duplicator, since we’re keen to keep money in the local economy and keep Americans employed.

The total costs are around $2,500, and that’s what we’re aiming to raise. At the time of writing we’re 90% of the way to meeting that target, with five days left to go! (The inset image to the right will give you the up-to-date figures).

We’re not asking for something for nothing! We offer perks to each of our donors.

  • Our most popular perk is for a $25 donation: We’ll mail you a copy of the CD, anywhere in the world. (The CD will be mailed out in August.) We’ll also provide you with a link to download the tracks as high-quality MP3 files. Each file will be in a standard, abridged, and extended version, so that you have three lengths to choose from. That way you can choose which meditation fits the time you have available. You’ll receive the download links as soon as our fundraiser is completed.
  • For a $10 donation you have the choice of either getting the CD or getting a download of the album.
  • For $15 you get both the CD and the MP3 version of the album. I know, you can rip the CD yourself, but this way you get the CDs as soon as our campaign is over, and then you’ll have the CD as a backup.
  • Lastly, for a $250 donation we’ll give 50 copies of our CD to an educational project helping teens from low-income families to prepare for college. One of the challenges these young people face is developing emotional coping strategies to help them deal with challenging circumstances at home as well as in the educational system. Self-compassion and self-kindness in particular are valuable skills in this regard. Your donation can be anonymous, or we can give them in your name. So far two people have generously donated $250!

So, feel free to head over to our Indiegogo campaign page and choose your perk!

“Lovingkindness” is simply “kindness”

July 20, 2016 - 8:47am

Our Indiegogo crowdfunding project—aimed at helping us to cover the production costs of our forthcoming album of lovingkindness meditations—is getting close to being 100% funded! Please do visit our campaign page to check out the great perks we offer to donors.

Although the Pali word “metta” is most often translated as lovingkindness, I think that the simple term “kindness” works much better.

“Kindness” is a more natural part part of our vocabulary than lovingkindness. We use it all the time in ordinary conversation, while we only use “lovingkindness” when we’re talking about metta. This has the effect of making metta look as if it’s something removed from our everyday experience. (It doesn’t help that, historically, the term “loving-kindness”—sometimes hyphenated, sometimes as two separate words—was used only to describe God’s love for humanity.)

The word kindness is experiential. We all know what it’s like to be kind, or to be on the receiving end of someone’s kindness. These are common experiences. On the other hand, the term lovingkindness seems more remote, as if it’s reserved for some special kind of experience that we have to strive to bring into being.

Also, the word kindness accurately reflects what metta is. What is kindness? It’s a recognition that we are all feeling beings. We all feel, and we all prefer feelings of happiness, security, well-being, etc. to their opposites. It’s an empathetic recognition that we all feel happiness and sorrow, and prefer the former to the latter.

Others’ feelings are as real to them as ours are to us. Their happiness is as important to them as ours is to us. Their pain is as real and as unpleasant to them as our own is to us. When we recognize this, we want to support their desire to be happy and to avoid suffering. We therefore think kindly, speak kindly, and act kindly.

And this empathetic attitude I’ve described—this kindness—is metta. Metta and kindness are the same.

Metta is kindness. There’s really no significant difference that I can see between the two terms.

And we all embody kindness. We may often act unkindly—as if the feelings and wellbeing of others doesn’t matter—but at least some of the time we’re kind. This manifests in a hundred small ways that we don’t even think about. We do things like hold open a door for the person behind us, we nod and smile when people are talking to us in order to reassure them, and we say “thank you” to acknowledge a favor that’s been done for us. These are all very ordinary everyday acts. In a way they’re nothing special, but in another way they’re very special indeed because they make social interaction bearable. They show us that we matter to each other.

Of course we often forget to be kind. We get so wrapped up in our own inner dramas that we forget that others are feeling beings, and act in ways that cause them suffering.

The task of lovingkindness meditation—or simply kindness meditation—is to strengthen our recollection of beings’ feeling nature. This generally starts with ourselves. If we don’t first remember that we want happiness and don’t want to suffer, then we’ll fail to recognize that others are the same as us in sharing those desires. And so, in developing kindness through meditation, we remind ourselves of our deep-rooted desire for well-being, peace, and joy. We remind ourselves also that it’s not easy to be happy; one thing that causes us a great deal of suffering is thinking that happiness is an easy thing to attain. We’re not failing when we suffer; we’re simply showing that we’re human.

Having recognized that we’re doing a difficult thing in being human, we then naturally feel the desire to give ourselves support and encouragement as we go through life. In other words, we relate to ourselves with kindness.

And when we call others to mind in our practice, we remind ourselves that they are just like us: they want to be happy; they find happiness elusive; they too are doing this difficult thing of being human; they too need support and encouragement. And so we relate to them with kindness too.

This is how we develop kindness. This is how we cultivate metta: by connecting with our own nature as feeling beings, and by empathetically recognizing that others share our deepest wishes from happiness and share our existential situation as being for whom happiness is elusive, and suffering all too common.

Our Indiegogo crowdfunding project—aimed at helping us to cover the production costs of our forthcoming album of lovingkindness meditations—is getting close to being 100% funded! Please do visit our campaign page to check out the great perks we offer to donors.

Mindful eating with the “Sati Tala” — so sane it seems crazy

July 19, 2016 - 8:36am

The other day I got an email from a couple in Israel who are launching a new mindfulness product. It’s one of those things that is possibly just crazy enough (or sane enough — I can’t tell) to really take off.

Basically, it’s a tool for mindful eating. What’s the tool? Well, you are, along with one other person, the Sati Tala eating surface, and two simple seats. What this means is that you and your eating partner become part of the table as you sit on the seats and rest the surface of the Sati Tala on the laps. (Sati Tala is Pali for “mindfulness surface.”)

What this means is that you’re physically connected as you eat, which seems rather lovely and even romantic. It’s also more difficult to jump up and start doing something else, since doing so requires the cooperation of both people. And so you’re more likely to stay put and just focus on your meal.

On the other hand, if you do have to get up (to answer the door or a call of nature) dinner’s pretty much over until you return, and I can imagine that if you have a fidgety partner things could get ugly.

Still, this is the kind of thing I can imagine becoming a crazy amongst Hollywood celebrities!

Tany and Sagie, who came up with the idea, are launching a Kickstarter fundraiser, which you can read about on their website.

There’s also a video where you can see the Sati Tala in action:

P.S. I haven’t tried this product, have no connection with the company, and don’t benefit in any way by bringing it to your attention!

Kindness, good. Self kindness, better

July 19, 2016 - 7:39am
Want to be kinder to yourself? Try this: How To Stop Beating Yourself Up (MP3) by BodhipaksaI’m standing in the kitchen talking to one of my best friends. We’re both crying. And we don’t have much time.

The kids will be home soon. The visit will end. We’ll be back to communicating sporadically via time zone-challenged texts.

“I’m having this crisis of confidence,” she says. “At work. As a parent.”

“How come you can’t see yourself the way I see you?” I ask.

“I don’t know.”

“Go and see someone. Tell them you need to change the tape in your head. Tell them …

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Don’t try to like yourself. Just be kind to yourself

July 18, 2016 - 11:44am

At the moment we’re fundraising to cover the costs of bringing out our newest guided meditation album, “Harnessing the Power of Kindness,” (publication date August 2016) which of course will also be available both in CD and in MP3 format. We’re asking people to buy a copy in advance to help us pay for the upfront costs. Here’s a link to our Indiegogo crowdfunding page, where you can read about the perks we’re offering to donors. This post illustrates some of the principles that have made their way into my current teachings on metta, or lovingkindness.

The solution to the problem of not liking yourself isn’t trying to like yourself: it’s being kind to yourself.

Last week I was having a conversation with a friend who was experiencing loneliness. She said she liked herself, but she also said at one point, “I have a sweet dog in my life. Maybe that’s all I’m allowed.”

I suggested that she might ask herself whether that was something she would say to a friend who was lonely.

You wouldn’t do that, would you? To say to someone, “Maybe the universe doesn’t want you to have anyone in your life but your dog. Maybe you’re meant to be lonely,” would be very unkind and hurtful.

What does liking yourself mean?

First, liking means that something gives you pleasure. You like food that you find pleasurable. You like people it’s pleasurable to be with.

But what does “yourself” mean!

Your self is an incredibly complex thing, full of contradictions. It contains love and hate. It contains patience and anger. It contains compassion and cruelty, ignorance and delusion, intelligence and wisdom, happiness and pain.

“Yourself” isn’t one thing. In liking “yourself” are you liking all of the things I’ve mentioned? Are you finding all aspects of your being pleasurable? Probably not!

Maybe “liking yourself” means that on the whole you like what you see when you turn your awareness toward your own being. But what happens when you are forced to see the uncomfortable stuff, as my friend was? What happens when you see the loneliness and the neediness (as in her case)? What happens when you see harshness and self-hatred? It’s hard to like those things (and I’d argue you shouldn’t). More likely, you’re going to not like them. And that’s going to be a source of conflict and pain.

You might, in order to preserve the sense of “liking yourself,” ignore the parts of you that you don’t like, and end up with a skewed sense of who you are. I don’t think that’s very healthy.

It’s also possible, as my friend found, to “like yourself” (i.e. to find your being as a whole to be pleasing) but be unkind to the parts that of yourself you can’t like. And then, often, people switch to disliking themselves as a whole.

I think we cling to the ideal of “liking ourselves” because we’re aware of the pain that is caused by not liking ourselves (or parts of ourselves). In wanting to like ourselves we hope to find inner harmony — a break from inner strife. The aim is noble.

But I’d suggest that “liking yourself” isn’t a particularly rational aim to have in life. You can like parts, but not all, of yourself, and so we can never have self-liking without self-dislike. In fact, the pursuit of the one, as we’ve seen, can lead to the other.

But you can be kind to all of yourself, including what you don’t like.

You can see the parts of yourself that are hateful, angry, cruel, and deluded, and offer them kindness. You can see your own pain, and relate to it with compassion. And this brings the inner harmony that we try, but fail, to get from liking ourselves.

Being kind to ourselves means developing patience and understanding. It means recognizing that having hate, anger, confusion, etc. isn’t a sign of failure, but simply a part of being human. None of us asked to be born with these tendencies. We all have them. They’re something that we all have to work with. So there’s no point blaming ourselves.

Being kind also means recognizing that harshness and self-blame are counterproductive. We might think that in being harsh on ourselves we’re training ourselves to be better in the future, just as some people think that beating children or animals is “corrective.” But the best examples of child-rearing and animal training tell us that harshness and punishment tends to be counterproductive in bringing about positive change.

Self-kindness doesn’t require us to “like” the more troublesome and destructive parts of ourselves. We don’t have to pretend that they are good for us. And we don’t have to pretend they don’t exist. Self-kindness allows us to accept who we are, not as something fixed, but as something we’re currently passing through on our journey through life.

But how do we cultivate greater self-kindness?

One thing we can do that helps with self-kindness is recognizing that we are not our feelings, and we are not our habits. We are not defined by those things. They’re merely temporary manifestations within our being.

But we can cultivate kindness toward the difficult in ourselves by connecting with some painful habit or feeling, and then doing three things:

  1. We can place a hand where any difficult feeling, such as hurt, anger, or craving is manifesting in the body, and let it rest there tenderly, offering kindness and reassurance. The more primitive parts of our being respond to touch in much the same way as a frightened animal.
  2. We can look with kindness on our difficult habits and feelings, seeing them with loving eyes. You know how unsettling and threatening it is to have someone look at you with hostility, or even with a blank, emotionless gaze? You know how it makes you tense and defensive? The same applies when it comes to observing your own being. Having a kindly gaze (something I teach on my forthcoming guided meditation album) helps us to feel more at ease with ourselves.
  3. We can talk kindly to ourselves. We can say things like “It’s OK not to be perfect. We all mess up. I know you’re suffering, and I wish you well. I just want you to know that I love you and want you to be happy.

These things, done together, constitute a powerful self-kindness practice.

The funny thing is that if you stop trying to focus on liking yourself, and instead place more emphasis on being kind to yourself, you’ll find you experience less self-dislike. Our deepest fear is that we are unlovable, but when we practice self-kindness we discover that there is no part of us that is unworthy of compassion and kindness.

Self-kindness is transformative. It allows us to recognize that we can’t be perfect, and that it’s therefore OK to be imperfect. It allows us the freedom to be patient with our own being as we gently strengthen what is best within us, and as we make the effort to let go of unhelpful habits that cause us and others pain.

And if we can learn to relate kindly to what we find difficult in ourselves, then we find that we become more skillful in relating to what we find difficult in others. The kindness that begins in ourselves does not end there, but permeates all our relationships and our entire lives.

We have 10 days of fundraising left, and we’re getting close to our goal! I’d really like to see this project succeed, and I hope you do too! I do hope you’ll help support this crowdfunded project to help bring more kindness and compassion into the world.

Lovingkindness: Connection before cultivation

July 15, 2016 - 11:28am

At the moment we’re fundraising to cover the costs of bringing out our newest CD, “Harnessing the Power of Kindness,” (publication date August 2016) which of course will also be available in MP3 format. We’re asking people to buy a copy in advance to help us pay for the upfront costs. Here’s a link to our Indiegogo crowdfunding page, where you can read about the perks we’re offering to donors.

One of the emphases in the guided meditations on this album is what might be called connection before cultivation. Basically this is the principle that cultivating kindness (or lovingkindness, if you prefer) is easier and more effective when we first connect empathetically with the person we’re wishing well (and that can include ourselves!).

This isn’t the way I was taught to cultivate metta. I was encouraged, more or less, just to connect with my experience and then to start wishing myself, and then others, well.

What I do now makes my practice much more effective and really brings it to life.

I start by empathizing with my deepest desire, which I believe is everyone’s deepest desire: to be happy, or to experience some kind of peace or state of wellbeing. I do this by simply reminding myself, “I want to be happy,” and connecting with the truth of that statement in my experience. Usually at that very moment it’s true that I want to be happy.

Now I empathize with the fact that it’s not easy to be happy. Suffering happens all the time. Happiness is elusive. I do this just by remembering how hard it can be to find happiness.

Put together, these two facts — that we desire happiness and yet happiness is elusive — mean that this human life we live isn’t easy. This is what we’re empathizing with.

This difficulty in navigating a world where we desire and need something that is elusive isn’t a personal failing. It’s an intrinsic part of being human. So I like to say that we’re doing a difficult thing in being human.

Having recognized all the above, I can now see that as I go through life I need support. I need encouragement. I need kindness. And while it’s lovely to receive these from other people, the one person I’m with 24 hours a day is myself! And so “cultivating metta” becomes the act of wishing myself well as I do this difficult thing of being human. This is how empathy and kindness work together.

Without this kind of empathy as a basis, it’s much harder to wish ourselves well.

Having empathized with myself, it becomes much easier to empathize with other people. Everyone else is in the same situation as myself. They all want happiness and find it elusive. They’re also all doing this difficult thing of being human. When I reflect on this my heart becomes tender. Seeing that we’re all in the same existential situation, I want to offer kindness, support, and encouragement to others. And that’s how metta arises.

This is just part of the approach I take on “Harnessing the Power of Kindness.” I’m pleased with the guided meditations on it since they include my latest and most effective approaches to cultivating metta. I’ve been doing this now for over 30 years, and I’m always looking to see what works.

We have 13 days of fundraising left, and we’re getting close to our goal! I’d really like to see this project succeed, and I hope you do too! I do hope you’ll help support this crowdfunded project to help bring more kindness and compassion into the world.

The neuroscience of suffering – and its end

July 14, 2016 - 7:29am
Learn more with The Enlightened Brain: The Neuroscience of Awakening, by Rick Hanson (7 CDs)Jeff Warren, Psychology Tomorrow Magazine: It was 1972, and Gary Weber, a 29-year old materials science PhD student at Penn State University, had a problem with his brain. It kept generating thoughts! – continuously, oppressively – a stream of neurotic concerns about his life, his studies, whatever. While most human beings would consider this par for the course, par for the human condition (cogito ergo sum), Weber wouldn’t accept it. He was a scientist, a systematizer, a process guy. He liked to figure out how things worked, and how they could be tweaked …

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Kindness and personal responsibility

July 13, 2016 - 8:36am
A Kindfulness of Breathing guided meditation by Bodhipaksa is available here!Ryan James Lock, Huffington Post: Lady Gaga and the Dalai Lama recently gave a talk about the importance of kindness and personal responsibility recently and the response has been amazing.

I’ve always been pretty interested in personal development and conscious living. Over the last few years, I’ve read more self help books than I can count- most of which were extremely helpful and some of which were….less than.

Whatever belief system the book, workshop, class audio or course was based on, one common thread ran through nearly all of the material and that …

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“The Kindness Cascade”

July 6, 2016 - 8:00am

Meditation and mindfulness are frequently in the news, mainly because of the dramatic increase in research projects showing the many benefits these practices bring. In the graph below you’ll see that from around a dozen scientific journal articles on mindfulness being published in the entire decade of the 1980s, there are now several hundred papers being published each year, with the numbers increasing annually.

Although most of the focus in this research has been on mindfulness, there’s now an increasing emphasis on exploring the benefits lovingkindness (metta) meditation. Lovingkindness is really just the very familiar quality of “kindness.” Kindness is a recognition of ourselves and others as feeling beings — we all want to be happy, it’s good to be happy, and none of us wants to suffer. When we recognize that a person we’re with feels, and that they, just like us, prefer happiness to unhappiness, then we naturally want to act in ways that help them and don’t want to act in ways that cause them unnecessary distress. In other words, we act kindly. We value them. We treat them with respect and consideration.

The difficulty we have is that we get so wrapped up in our lives that we forget about all this. We forget that we want to be happy, or that it’s even possible. Forgetting that other people have feelings, we fail to empathize with them and to take their wellbeing into account. And so we act unkindly, to ourselves as well as others.

Kindness meditation trains us to keep in the forefront of our minds an awareness of the fact that we are all feeling beings. It helps us to empathize and to desire the wellbeing of ourselves and others.

If you like my articles, please click here to check out my books, guided meditation CDs, and MP3s.This makes a huge difference to our lives—not just to our emotional states, but to our bodies, our relationships, and the entirety of our experience.

  • One study at Duke University found that an 8 week course in lovingkindness led to significant improvements in back pain, even after the study had ended. In other words, when we’re kind, we’re less stressed and physically feel more at ease.
  • An Emory University study showed a strong relationship between the time spent practicing meditation and reductions feelings of distress, but also a decrease in inflammation. When we’re more at ease, we produce less adrenalin and less cortisol, which is a stress hormone. This leads to decreased inflammation in the body. That’s why the participants in the Duke study had less pain.
  • At Stanford University it was found that just a few minutes of lovingkindness meditation increased feelings of social connection and positivity toward strangers. This leads not just to us feeling more at ease with others, but to them feeling more at ease with us! They see us as less threatening, and as people they want to be with. And so they offer us more kindness and social support. In this way, our entire social experience changes. It’s not hard to see how this then leads to other benefits. For example, if others want to help us we may benefit through receiving advice and encouragement, and even through job offers and material assistance.
  • A University of North Carolina study found that not only does lovingkindness practice increase our daily experience of positive emotions, it heightens our mindfulness and leads to improved health, reduced illness symptoms, greater emotional support, and an enhanced sense of purpose in life. What we see here is a cascade effect.

The conscious cultivation of kindness leads to a chain reaction of wellbeing. I call this effect “The Kindness Cascade.” It’s a transformative shift that starts within. Wellness and wholeness are developed inside us, but radiate out into the body and into our lives and communities, bringing benefits that are physical, emotional, social, material, and spiritual.

To begin developing kindness is easy: just visit the lovingkindness section of our website, where you’ll find a step-by-step guide to the practice, including guided meditations.

Turning towards the sting of suffering

July 5, 2016 - 7:26am

Suffering is the beginning of the path.

What is suffering? It’s traditionally described as an ill fitting wheel on a chariot. I tend to think of a buckled wheel on my bicycle. It’s a bumpy unsatisfactory journey from A to B. However suffering can be an invitation for us to do the work.

The Buddha has done the work for us. All we need to do is practise. When the Prince became distressed at the sight of aging, sickness and death, he stepped onto the path. He was inspired by a mendicant who was radiating peace and begging for alms. With great energy, faith, meditation, concentration and wisdom, he found an end to suffering and laid out the map of the four noble truths and the eightfold path.

While these teachings may seem too much to take on, we can begin doing the work by turning towards the unpleasant. When we turn towards the unpleasant, it takes the longevity out of suffering.

However, many of us find it difficult to face the sting of unpleasantness. Somebody gives us feedback, and there is the sting of sensations arising in the body, if we face the unpleasantness that arises in the body, the stinger will dissolve with time.

When a bee stings us, the best thing we can do is turn towards the sting and pull the stinger out. We must do the same when we have been stung by an external or internal action. We must embrace the entire experience of the human condition.

If we turn away from the sensations in the body, the stinger will calcify and our suffering will multiply.

Turning away from the sting of unpleasantness is limited, because when we do, we are resisting our pain. Shinzen Young says Pain x Resistance = suffering. Our resistance is manifested in our choice of distractions.

In the short term, the bottle of booze, the line of coke, the shot of heroin, even the blast of rage, may seem to take the sting out of the unpleasant. And it does for a while, as we become numb, but once the effects have worn off our suffering has multiplied.

When we turn away from our experience of sensations it put us on the wheel of becoming, the wheel of cyclic existence, the wheel of life. This wheel is a traditional Buddhist teaching on birth, death and our existence in Samsara. Samsara being the total confusion and creation of our inner and external worlds.

At the hub of this wheel is the pig that represents ignorance (delusion). In India it was seen the pig slept in the dirtiest places and ate what ever was fed to it.

Some of us with addictions have slept in some the dirtiest or most dangerous places and have eaten what ever has been fed to us. And that includes dirty drugs, or drinking methylated spirits.

The pig chases the snake. The snake represents aversions/hatred. It’s said that snakes will strike or be aroused at the slightest of touch. Many of us are like this too, we can blow up at the slightest thing and live our life on edge. The snake chases the cock.

The cock represents attachment/greed. The cock is symbolic of those birds that are often attached to their partners. Those of us with addictions are attached to our choice of distraction.

The cock chases the pig, the pig chases the snake and the snake chases the cock, as if they were on a vicious cycle of suffering. They move around and around the hub chasing each others tails.

Every time we turn to our choice of distraction we become one of these creatures running around and around chasing our tails.

Liberation from the Wheel of Life does not mean escape, the Buddha implied. It means clear perception of oneself, of the entire range of the human experience.

Prince Siddhartha vowed to find an end of suffering. He did not vow to gain enlightenment. We must stop chasing enlightenment, those blissful highs, and turn towards our own suffering if we are to gain liberation.

Join me online in July – A course working with our feelings, thoughts, awareness and addictions.

For a free sample of the first chapter, book study and 21 meditations of “Eight Step Recovery – Using The Buddha’s Teachings To Overcome Addiction,” please email: [email protected].

Suck at meditation? You may just be doing it right

July 5, 2016 - 7:19am
Download Kindfulness of Breathing (MP3) today!David Ferguson, The Guardian: I suck at meditating. I’m one of those perennially distracted people who knows they need to meditate, has meditated in the past with some success and who knows they should meditate more, but who finds it so much easier to do things like dishes, laundry and exercising than to schedule time to do nothing.

When I read this Forbes article touting mindfulness meditation as the “next big business opportunity”, my initial impulse is to grind my teeth in frustration. Co-opting a centuries-old spiritual practice as the engine of your hip new startup strikes me …

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“Harnessing the Power of Kindness”

July 2, 2016 - 4:43pm
Click here to support our Indiegogo fundraiser!Over the past three years I’ve been teaching lovingkindness meditation a lot. I ran a course in 2014 and again in 2015 called “100 Days of Lovingkindness,” and earlier this year I split that into four courses that were each 28 days long.

Focusing on lovingkindness practice in this way revealed a lot to me, even though this is a form of meditation I’ve been doing regularly for over 30 years.

For one thing it became clear to me that lovingkindness isn’t the best translation of “metta” and that “kindness” is a better term because it’s more experiential. (We can easily remember what it’s like to feel kind or to be on the receiving end of kindness and can recognize that it’s a common experience in our lives, while “lovingkindness” seems more abstract and something we need to strive to attain.)

Another thing I realized is that it’s important to begin cultivating kindness by first developing empathy. In becoming kinder to ourselves, we can recollect that we want to be happy and that it’s not that easy to actually experience happiness. In other words we’re doing a difficult thing in being human. Our kindness toward ourself comes from recognizing this, and therefore offering ourselves support and encouragement as we go through life’s difficulties. And we can then extend these same reflections to others, seeing that we’re all fundamentally the same. As a Scottish author said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

These, and other lessons I’ve learned, are things I’d like to bring to a wider audience, and so Wildmind, this year and next, is publishing four guided meditation CDs on the practice of kindness, compassion, and appreciation. The first of these will be released in August, and is called “Harnessing the Power of Kindness.”

To fund the publication of this CD, we’ve set up an Indiegogo crowdfunding project. For the smallest level of donation, we’ll send you a copy of the CD. So basically you’re just buying a copy in advance, and thus helping us with the publication costs. Higher levels of donation get you access to abridged and extended versions of the meditations in MP3 format. We also have a top-level donation which will allow us to give copies of this CD to a project that provides educational support for teens from low-income families.

At the moment of writing we’re four days into our 30-day fundraising project, and just a few dollars short of being 50% funded. This is fantastic! I’d invite you to pitch in, and also to bring our campaign to the attention of your friends on social media. It would be a BIG help, and much appreciated.

You can click here to visit our Indiegogo page and offer your support!

Thank you!
Bodhipaksa

Mindfulness meditation seems to soothe breast cancer survivors

July 1, 2016 - 8:27am
Download Guided Meditations for Stress Reduction (MP3) here! HealthDay News, MedlinePlus: Mindfulness meditation seems to help breast cancer patients better manage symptoms of fatigue, anxiety and fear of recurrence, a new study suggests.

Previous research has found that mindfulness meditation can reduce stress and anxiety in the general population as well as in breast cancer survivors. But, there hadn’t been many large, clinical trials to test the value of the practice among breast cancer patients, said study author Cecile Lengacher, director of the predoctoral fellowship program at the University of South Florida, in Tampa.

In her study, those who took part in the six-week …

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The Mayu Seat: A Review

July 1, 2016 - 6:17am

A week or two ago I was sent a new meditation seat to try out. It’s the Mayu Seat, developed by Cierra and Sean McNamara of the Mayu Meditation Co-op in Denver.

It’s not your typical fold-it-up-and-stick-it-under-your-arm type of meditation seat — but that’s for a reason. It can be used by people who lack the flexibility to sit in either a cross-legged or kneeling posture, and who normally rely on folding chairs, dining chairs, office chairs, and any number of barely suitable seating arrangements.

It’s very attractive, being made from birch plywood. It’s not, as I’ve suggested, something you’re going to habitually carry around with you, but it does fold down if you need to throw it in the back of your car or stash it away someplace. The plus side of its weight is that it feels solid to sit on.

The problem with most conventional chairs you see people using to meditate on is that they have flat seats. When you sit on a flat surface, the hips tilt back, and the spine ends up leaning against the back of the chair. This isn’t ideal for meditating, since you want to have the spine erect. Now you can adapt a regular seat to have a forward tilt by putting a wedge cushion on it or by putting blocks or books under the back legs. That works pretty well. But chairs also have the drawback that the height isn’t adjustable. People who are tall end up having to tuck their legs under the seat or have them sticking out in front of them. Both of those things affect the basic posture. Short people are left with their legs dangling or have to put their feet on a cushion.

The Mayu Seat at its second-lowest setting can be used with a kneeling posture.The Mayu seat, by contrast, has a variable height, and is angled. The seat fits into precut angled slots at one of seven heights. I’m six feet, and the highest setting worked for me. Very low settings are suitable for sitting in a kneeling position, while the lowest can be used for sitting cross-legged.

It’s very comfortable. I’ve even used it for working at my desk, so if you’re thinking of having one of these in your home, bear in mind that you don’t just have to use it for meditating. There’s one caveat, though, which is that the Mayu Seat doesn’t come with a cushion, and naked plywood gets pretty painful after a while. I’ve been using the KindKushion, which is non-slip. Just about any foam would work, though, as would a folded towel or blanket. Hopefully Sean and Cierra will find a suitable cushion supplier.

It only takes a moment to shift the seat from one height of slot to another, which makes this seat perfect for any situation where a variety of people might want to use it — such as a meditation center. I’d go as far as to say that every meditation center should have a few Mayu Seats!

At $199, it’s not an inexpensive option, but looked at as a life-time investment in meditative comfort, that’s not much at all. Many people with a committed meditation practice and a need to find effective and comfortable seating will find the Mayu Seat ideal.

You can learn more about the Mayu Seat (or order one) at https://www.mayuseat.com/

Dimensions

Seat: 24.9″ x 11″
Rear Frame: 23.6″ tall x 24″ wide
Shortest Seat Height: 3″ at the back
Tallest Seat Height: 22″ at the back
Weight: 13.3 lbs

“Don’t Be A Jerk,” by Brad Warner

June 30, 2016 - 12:15pm
Available on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Barnes & Noble, and independent local bookstores.“Don’t Be A Jerk” is a kind of summary-plus-commentary on the 13th century Japanese Zen teacher Dõgen’s Sh?b?genz?, or “Treasury of the True Dharma Eye.” If that statement has you yawning, then let me add that it’s written by Brad Warner, who is a witty, engaging, and quirky author. “Don’t Be A Jerk” is stimulating, informative, and entertaining.

But let’s start with why this book is necessary.

First, Dõgen is a spiritual/philosophical genius. Just recently, on National Public Radio’s website, Adam Frank, an astrophysics professor at the University of Rochester and self-described “evangelist of science,” described D?gen as “the greatest philosopher you’ve never heard of,” and argued that he should be ranked in the pantheon alongside Heidegger and Husserl. But you may have come across his name before without realizing it, since there was a character named after him on the cult TV show “Lost.”

Second, Dõgen’s masterwork, the aforementioned Sh?b?genz?, is humungous, often difficult to translate, and sometimes difficult to read. This is one of the reasons why I’ve only ever dipped into it, despite finding it fascinating.

Brad Warner’s task has been to make the Sh?b?genz? more accessible, by condensing and paraphrasing its teachings in a more easily digested form, along the lines of Mark Russell’s “God Is Disappointed In You,” which is a summary of the Bible.

Brad Warner strikes me as a good person to undertake this task. He loves the Sh?b?genz? and has been steeped in it, both as a text and as a guide to his own spiritual practice, for decades. He has a good sense of what people need to know in terms of practice. For the most part he writes well, and always entertainingly. The very title, with its colorful use of the word “jerk,” gives a sense of his playfulness. There are also plenty of pop-culture references to Twinkies, Star Wars, Dustin Hoffman, etc. D?gen’s insulting terms for people with inferior spiritual understanding are rendered as dimwits, jackasses, dumb-bums, bullshitters, etc. This makes “Don’t Be A Jerk” a fun read.

As far as I can tell (not being well-versed in D?gen’s writing), Warner has done a good job. He provides context for D?gen’s teachings in the introductory parts of the chapters, and in the chapter conclusions he presents his own understanding of them. He often shows us what actually D?gen said (or what various people think he said — sometimes he’s hard to fathom him) so that you know what the 13th century Japanese original of “beer and doritos” is, for example. Many times he gives the Japanese characters, and a word-by-word translation.

Often Warner gives little biographical accounts of his own history with the text. So you learn a bit about the author, and various scholars and practitioners he’s encountered over the years. There’s also some history given of the text — not just how D?gen came to write it, but how it’s been regarded in Japan (at one time it was banned!) and how it’s come to be translated into English.

I learned a lot about D?gen’s teachings from “Don’t Be A Jerk.” The Dharmic content is very varied because D?gen’s writings are varied. He wrote the 95 chapters of the Sh?b?genz? over a long period of time, and for differing audiences. Sometimes he deals with the minutiae of monastic behavior, so that there’s a chapter on “Zen and the Art of Wiping Your Butt” (literally this is about going to the toilet as a spiritual practice) and another on monastic rules. Sometimes he deals with social issues like women’s equality (“Was D?gen the First Buddhist Feminist”). And many of the chapters, of course, deal with deep spiritual issues, like how you’re already enlightened but aren’t really, and how time and existence are inseparable.

You’ll probably have picked up that I’m a fan of this book. It’s spiritually and philosophically interesting to read, and it’s also fun. Many people might well read it, and then go off and try their hand at understanding the Shõbogenzo. Others may think, “OK, I know a bit about D?gen now,” and that’s fine too.

People who meditate are more aware of their unconscious brain

June 29, 2016 - 8:42am
Click here for Mindfulness and the Brain: A Professional Training in the Science and Practice of Meditative Awareness, by Jack Kornfield and Daniel J. SiegelClare Wilson, New Scientist: People who meditate are more aware of their unconscious brain activity – or so a new take on a classic “free will” experiment suggests.

The results hint that the feeling of conscious control over our actions can vary – and provide more clues to understanding the complex nature of free will.

The famous experiment that challenged our notions of free will was first done in 1983 by neuroscientist Benjamin Libet. It involved measuring electrical activity in someone’s brain …

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Support our next guided meditation CD!

June 27, 2016 - 1:51pm

I teach meditation because nothing makes me happier than seeing other people become happier through practicing.

My life’s mission is to promote compassion and mindfulness by teaching meditation. “Harnessing the Power of Kindness,” my next CD/MP3 album, represents the latest evolution in my 30 or so years of teaching lovingkindness meditation. It contains practices that I’ve found particularly useful in developing empathy and kindness.

To help us bring these teachings to the world, we’re asking that you help sponsor their production by purchasing the CD (or MP3s) in advance. The $2,500 we’re seeking will go to cover the recording studio, graphic design, and CD publication costs.

Kindness and compassion have been shown in studies to bring increased happiness, improved relationships, enhanced health, and a greater sense of meaning in life. Fortunately kindness and compassion are skills that can be learned.

Making our CDs available helps people have access to powerful tools for self-transformation. By supporting this project not only do you get access to my latest teachings, but you help make them available to others as well.

We have perks for all donors! The most basic perk, for a $10 donation, is that you’ll be mailed a copy of the CD when it’s published. Your CD will be on its way to you by August at the latest!

For a donation of $15, you’ll receive a downloadable version of the album in addition to the CD.

For $25, you’ll receive all the above, plus alternative, abridged and extended versions of the tracks, so that you can choose to meditate for a longer or shorter time.

To learn more about our fundraising project, or to contribute, visit our Indiegogo page.

The power of self-kindness

June 24, 2016 - 8:44am

How we look at ourselves makes a huge difference to how we feel. I’m talking principally about how we regard ourselves internally—how we each relate to ourselves as an individual human being—rather than the way we look at ourselves in a mirror, although the two are of course related.

For a moment, think what it’s like to sit having a conversation with a friendly person. We get lots of little signals from them, acknowledging us. They smile. They nod. They make little noises to let us know we’re being heard. They look concerned when we talk about our difficulties.

Now think of what it’s like to talk to someone who is staring blankly at you, not giving you any feedback. Although it’s a neutral gaze, we perceive neutrality as hostile. The other person is failing to acknowledge your reality as a feeling being. It may become difficult to speak. Your bodies produces adrenalin, and you’ll feel our heart racing, there will be butterflies in your tummy, and you’ll feel shaky.

An actual hostile encounter, where we’re faced with contempt, sneering, eye-rolling, and put downs, can leave us emotionally reeling for weeks.

Now, which of these three scenarios — the positive, neutral, or overtly hostile encounter — best describes the way that you relate to your own being?

For many people it’s the third. Our self-talk can be brutally contemptuous. “Oh, I’m such an idiot. There I go again! I’ll never get this right.” Imagine if we had someone following us around saying, “You know you’re going to fail. There’s no point trying. Nobody likes you anyway.” We’d describe such a relationship as abusive. And yet, for many of us, that’s the way we talk to ourselves. Most of us are in an abusive relationship with ourselves.

This is something we can undo.

Jan Chozen Bays, in her lovely book of weekly mindfulness exercises, “How to Train a Wild Elephant,” suggests a practice called “Loving Eyes.” It’s a beautiful and simply way to evoke a sense of kindness, so that we’re looking at ourselves in the way a dear friend would, rather than the way a neutral interviewer or a critic would.

Chozen suggests that we recall an experience of looking with love, kindness, or affection. I usually think about what it’s like to look at my children while they’re sleeping, but you can think of looking at a lover, a dear friend, or even a pet. As you recall an experience of that sort, notice how it feels around your eyes, and around your heart.

Now, stay in touch with those feelings as you turn your attention toward yourself. Looking with the “inner eye” of awareness, become conscious of your body, and the sensations arising within in. Regard your body with friendliness, with kindness, with love.

Try placing a hand gently on your heart, and say to yourself things like, “I care about you. I want you to be happy. You deserve happiness. I want to support you and offer you kindness.”

What we’re doing here is being a friend to ourselves. Rather than treating our own being as if it were an enemy that needs to be relentlessly criticized, we treat ourselves as someone whose happiness and wellbeing is important to us.

Treating ourselves this way is not selfish. When we treat ourselves with kindness, this naturally becomes the way we treat others too. And letting go of self-criticism frees up our emotional energy so that we can be more engaged with and concerned about others.

Remember the way that you feel when someone is looking at you in a friendly, encouraging way, smiling, nodding, and giving visible signs of support and encouragement? You can access that anytime, just by changing the way you look at yourself.

How to grow from your regrets

June 24, 2016 - 7:36am
Self-compassion is a skill that can be learned: How To Stop Beating Yourself Up (MP3) by BodhipaksaKira M. Newman, Greater Good Science Center: According to a new study, self-compassion may help us benefit from regret rather than wallowing in it.

Sometimes, regret is a deadweight that we carry through life, slowing us down and making our shoulders ache. But other times, it turns into a kind of fuel; it propels rather than hinders, motivates rather than distracts.
What’s the difference between these two outcomes? A new paper by researchers at UC Berkeley suggests that it might be self-compassion.

The researchers recruited 400 adults and …

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Kill the Soulmate

June 23, 2016 - 7:03am
The Neurobiology of “WE”: How Relationships, the Mind and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are, by Daniel J. Siegel, is available through our online store!Cheryl Fraser, Mindful.org: Our brains can’t help but compare the imperfect human snoring beside us to the ideal hunk in our heads. But around the corner there isn’t someone better—only someone different.

Shaun Cassidy, teen singing idol and one of TV’s sexy Hardy Boys, was my soulmate. There I was clad in the kilt and knee socks of a private school girl, lusting over this blue-eyed heartthrob and completely convinced we would fall in love. He …

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