Buddhist Mantras

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Wildmind as “right livelihood”

October 29, 2014 - 10:19am

The reactions I get when I tell people that I did an interdisciplinary Master’s degree in Buddhism and business studies are very telling. Once people have stopped laughing or spluttering incoherently, they usually say that they’d assumed that Buddhism and business were mutually exclusive. But in fact the concept of “right livelihood” is part of the Buddha’s core teaching, the Eightfold Path.

In Buddhist practice we’re encouraged to make every aspect of our lives an opportunity to practice mindfulness, compassion, balance, and insight. Since we all have to earn a living, our work needs to become part of our practice.

Our mission at Wildmind is to benefit the world by promoting mindfulness and compassion through teaching meditation. Almost all the events we run are free of charge. This year (our Year of Going Deeper) we’ve been running eight events, which have had an average of 1,200 participants each. These events are by donation.

We also sell guided meditation CDs, which provide the bulk of the income that allows us to teach. And because we were selling our CDs online, we started selling other meditation supplies, both to support others’ meditation practice and to subsidize our teaching.

We don’t pay ourselves much — enough to live with simple dignity, but not enough (unfortunately) that we don’t have money worries.

But our aim is always the promotion of meditation.

If you benefit from the work we do, please consider supporting Wildmind. Click here to make a one-time or recurring donation.There are other aspects to right livelihood as well. We strive to be honest. The three of us who work here strive to care for each other. We have a very harmonious office! We source fair trade products as much as possible. We support local small businesses (like the woman who makes our meditation cushions and the Buddhist former prison inmate who makes some of our malas).

I’m mentioning all this because I know you have choices about what you can do with your money. You can support large businesses like Amazon that treat their workers badly, dodge taxes, and use their quasi-monopoly power to bully suppliers. Or you can support people like us — not a faceless corporation, but people trying to make the world a truly better place.

Your money is power. You have the power to choose (or least influence) the kind of world you want to live in. Your choices matter.

So when you’re buying gifts, we’d ask that you consider our online store.

We’re participating in a Triratna campaign called #ethicalchristmas, along with other Buddhist businesses. You can read about the how Evolution in the UK benefits the environment by selling recycled glass products, and how they’ve been supporting children orphaned by HIV in Thailand.

This is consumer power at work: the money of people like you being used to make the world a better place.

Healing after heartbreak

October 29, 2014 - 7:02am

Anastasia Pollock, NewsOK: Healing from heartbreak can feel daunting and overwhelming. These five skills can aid in the healing process, making it less overwhelming, and helping a person to heal fully so he or she can move forward with his or her life.

Heartbreak can be the result of many situations. It can be the loss of or a change in a relationship, the loss of a loved one, a major life adjustment or the loss of something that is important to you. The common denominator here is loss and change that feels like (and is in some respects) loss. Often, when we …

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Restive lads opt for meditation over detention

October 28, 2014 - 7:45am

Alexandra Smith, The Sydney Morning Herald: Teenage boys are not known for deep contemplation, but if if gets them out of detention then it seems meditation can be very appealing.

At Balgowlah Boys, a comprehensive public school on the northern beaches, students can now swap an afternoon detention for meditation.

In a darkened classroom last week, about 20 barefooted boys spent an hour breathing, relaxing and clearing their minds. And while they may have been sceptical before their first class, the boys who rolled out of bed for the early-morning class were converts.

For Kobe Edwards, the meditation class was a ticket out of 90 …

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Mindfulness: how to be in the moment … right here, right now

October 27, 2014 - 7:23am

Maarten Immink, Epoch Times: “Remember then: there is only one time that is important – Now! It is the most important time because it is the only time when we have any power.”

This quote by Leo Tolstoy in What Men Live By and Other Tales is valuable wisdom and a fitting prompt for us to take this moment to intentionally direct our attention to what is actually happening now.

You might begin to notice the variety of sights and sounds in your environment. Within your space you can then become aware of your body, its posture and all of its sensations such …

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“Our deeds determine us, as much as we determine our deeds.” George Eliot

October 27, 2014 - 5:00am

Karma is one of the most misunderstood Buddhist teachings. Often people think of karma as some kind of external, impersonal force that “rewards” us for our good deeds and punishes us for our bad. Consequently, even some people with an otherwise good understanding of Buddhism reject karma (usually along with rebirth) as being non-rational.

But karma is not external, nor is it about rewards and punishments. Karma simply means “action.” As an ethical term, it refers to the intentions underlying our actions, understood very broadly as anything we might think, say, or do. As the Buddha said, “I declare, intention is karma” (Cetan?ha? kamma? vad?mi).

What this means is three-fold:

First, ethically speaking our intentions can be seen as skillful or unskillful. Skillful intentions embody qualities of mindfulness, contentment, clarity, and care for the wellbeing of oneself and others. Unskillful intentions embody the opposites: they are motivated by impulsive selfishness, craving, confusion, and ill will.

Second, the importance of this distinction is that skillful actions (i.e. those arising from skillful volitions) lead on the whole to a decrease in unhappiness and an increase in ease. Unskillful actions, as you might expect, do the opposite. So in choosing our actions, we also choose (whether we know it or not) the consequences of those actions. We create much of our own suffering and happiness through our actions.

Third, habits are like muscles in the brain. By exercising a habit, it becomes stronger. As the Buddha said (and with apologies for the gender-specific language), “Whatever a monk keeps pursuing with his thinking and pondering, that becomes the inclination of his awareness,” and “What a man wills, what he plans, what he dwells on forms the basis for the continuation of consciousness.”

We create our consciousness through the actions we take — even our thoughts and words — and so, as Eliot observed, not only do we create our actions, but our actions create us.

Mindfulness (samm? sati), right view (samm? ditthi), and right effort (samma v?y?ma) can free us from this feedback loop, breaking open a circular track and turning it into a path that leads to awakening.

Mindfulness is necessary because without it, we’re submerged in our thoughts and feelings. Unable to stand back, we act unreflectively, strengthening our unskillful habits and creating suffering for ourselves.

Right view is important because it allows us to evaluate our potential actions. We can realize, “If I act in this way (e.g. angrily) then there will be painful consequences. On the other hand, if I act that way (e.g. with patience and kindness) then the consequences will be more beneficial for me and others.

Right effort is needed because it’s not enough just to know what we should do: we have to be able to act. Right effort is our commitment to bring into being and sustain the skillful, and to eradicate and prevent the further arising of the unskillful.

Karma is essentially a feedback mechanism, showing us the extent to which we’re in tune with reality.

Something the Buddha was quite clear about is that not everything we experience is a result of karma, even though some Buddhist traditions seem to have overlooked that fact. If it rains on your wedding day, or if you hit a red light when you’re already late, that’s not the result of your karma (neither is it ironic, as many people have no doubt pointed out to Alanis Morissette). But how you respond emotionally to such events, and how much you suffer as a result, does depend on your karma. If you’ve developed the emotional “muscles” of acceptance, patience, and flexibility, then you’ll be able to meet these events with elegance and with a minimum of suffering, or perhaps none. If your emotional muscles of impatience and anger have been bulked up by a lifetime of exercise, then once again you’ll experience these events as acutely frustrating, painful, and stressful.

The extent to which we’re able to meet life’s difficulties with grace is the measure of our wisdom.

One thing we have to be aware of is the tendency to say “My intentions were pure, therefore I’m not responsible for the fact that you got hurt by my actions.” Our own intentions are never entirely clear to us, and the Buddha pointed out that we have to look at the consequences of our actions in order to divine them. If we’ve caused pain to ourselves or others, then there was likely some kind of unskillful motivation mixed in with the skillful.

Karma, then, isn’t anything mystical. It’s simple a description of the psychology or happiness. It’s not an external force, but a feedback mechanism. And it’s not a judgement, but the natural result of how we act.

Changing the machinery of upset

October 24, 2014 - 10:20am

Let’s consider ways to cultivate more peace of mind – and even its consummation in profound equanimity – by working with the eight gears of the machine of suffering that we explored in this earlier post. (There are other methods, too, that are more specifically Buddhist, and you might like to explore the Access to Insight website for more information.)

This list is by no means exclusive: it just points to how many great tools are available these days for managing our emotional reactions.

Methods for Appraisals

  • Stay mindful of the whole.
  • Be mindful of the meanings, the framings, we give things.
  • Challenge the significance the mind gives something. Is it really an 8 on the 10- point Ugh scale? If it’s really a 2, why is my anger an 8?
  • Challenge the intentions we attribute to others; realize we are usually a bit player in their drama.
  • What beliefs are implicit about others, world? Try cognitive therapy methods for challenging inaccurate, negative beliefs.

Methods for Self-Referencing

  • Recognize the suffering that comes from selfing.
  • Practice mindfulness of the sense of “I”
  • What are the implicit representations of self: Strong? Weak? Mistreated? How does this underlying framing affect your experience of situations?
  • How much are we taking things personally? (“Negative grandiosity,” I’m so important that they’re deliberately hassling me.)
  • How does getting upset intensify or shade self?
  • See the interconnectedness of things in the situation, including yourself.
  • Identify legitimate rights and needs, and take care of them.

Methods for Vulnerabilities

  • Hold a frame of compassion for yourself and self-acceptance
  • Do an honest self-appraisal of physiology/health, temperament, and psychology: Weak spots? Hot buttons?
  • Protect vulnerabilities in situations: e.g., eat before talking about what upset you; ask people to slow down if you tend to be rigid; push through possible inhibitions in assertiveness due to culture, gender.
  • Shore up vulnerabilities over time: e.g., medical care, vitamins, 5-HTP, antidepressants; build up greater control over your attention; take in positive experiences that slowly fill the hole in your heart.

Methods for Memory

  • Be aware of the “pre-amp” turbo-charging of memory and sensitization.
  • Increase positive emotional memories by “taking in the good.”
  • Shift emotional memories in positive directions over time by recalling old painful experiences while simultaneously bringing positive thoughts and feelings prominently to mind.
  • With a therapist, consider other methods for painful experiences or traumas (e.g., EMDR)

Methods for Aversion

  • Understand the central place in psychology and in spiritual growth of working with aversion; use that to motivate yourself to not act aversively.
  • Meditate on the Second Foundation of Mindfulness (feeling).
  • Focus on neutral feeling tones.
  • Dwell on the conditioned, compounded, and impermanent nature of the unpleasant.
  • Find compassion for people who are aversive to you.
  • See “21 Ways to Turn Ill Will into Good Will.”

Methods for Bodily Activation

  • Understand the mechanical, animal nature of activation.
  • Regard stressful activation as an affliction (as the health consequences of chronic stress)
  • Use one of the many methods for stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system to down-regulate the SNS.
  • Get in the habit of rapidly activating a damping cascade when the body activates.
  • Regard bodily activation as just another compounded, “meaningless,” and impermanent phenomenon.

Methods for Negative Emotions

  • Practice mindfulness of how thoughts shape emotions . . . and emotions shape thoughts.
  • Explore the many practices for letting go of negative emotions (e.g., visualize them leaving the body through valves in the tips of the fingers and the toes).
  • Cultivate rapture and joy – and the dopaminergic neurological benefits of those states, including for steadying the mind.

Methods for Loss of Executive Control

  • Slow down; buy yourself time.
  • Cultivate steadiness of mind.
  • Describe your experiences in words (noting).
  • Actively enlist internal resources, e.g., the felt sense of others who love you, recollection of what happened the last time you lost your temper.
  • Enlist external resources, e.g., call a friend, do therapy, go to a meditation group.
  • Stay embodied, which helps dampen runaway emotional-visual reactions.

Listening as meditation

October 24, 2014 - 7:54am

I recently wrote a post about how we can use listening as a way to quiet the mind, and how the arising of thoughts can become a “mindfulness bell,” calling us back to mindful attentiveness of the sounds around us. (The post was specifically about persistent thoughts that take the form of music, but the same approach works for all thoughts.)

A commenter on that post directed me to a video featuring the Canadian composer, writer, music educator and environmentalist R. Murray Schafer. In the video, Schafer very cleverly leads us into a form of listening meditation, in which he guides us from being mindful of recorded sounds to the “real” sounds in our personal environment. There’s a clever fake-out toward the end of the video that I didn’t see coming!

Enjoy!

Listen by David New, National Film Board of Canada

Dispositional mindfulness associated with better cardiovascular health

October 24, 2014 - 7:26am

MedicalXpress: Pay attention to the implication of these new research results: People who pay more attention to their feelings and experiences tend to have better cardiovascular health.

As noted more precisely in a new study in the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, researchers at Brown University found a significant association between self-reported “dispositional mindfulness” and better scores on four of seven cardiovascular health indicators, as well as a composite overall health score. Dispositional mindfulness is defined as someone’s awareness and attention to what they are thinking and feeling in the moment.

The study is the first to quantify such an association between mindfulness …

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We can teach our brains to feel more compassion

October 23, 2014 - 6:55am

Mindful.org: Scientific evidence shows that we can train the brain to feel more compassion—for others and for ourselves.

Another science-based reason to try loving-kindness meditation! In a study conducted at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Investigating Healthy Minds (directed by Dr. Richard J. Davidson, who was featured in Mindful’s August 2014 issue), participants were taught to generate compassion for different categories of people, including both those they love and “difficult” people in their lives.

After only two weeks of online training, participants who practiced compassion meditation every day behaved more altruistically towards strangers compared to another group taught to simply regulate or control …

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Understanding depression: mindfulness and acceptance

October 22, 2014 - 8:14am

Kate Lochte & Matt Markgraf, WKMS.org: “One of the cornerstones of treatments for depression is getting out and moving in the world in ways that matter to the individual,” says Dr. Michael Bordieri, assistant professor of psychology at Murray State University. Mindfulness can be a way to help achieve that, by becoming aware of ones thoughts and not changing them, but rather letting them go. This is the topic of the fourth conversation in our series on understanding depression: the emerging therapeutic use of mindfulness.

Mindfulness isn’t necessarily new, it’s been practiced in eastern medicine for centuries. New to western scientific scrutiny and …

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Sit : Breathe : Love (Oct 27 – Nov 23)

October 22, 2014 - 6:47am

Want to experience the physical and mental health benefits of meditation, but have trouble setting up a regular practice?

Sit : Breathe : Love is a 28 Day Meditation Challenge, with the aim of helping you to set up the habit of meditating daily.

The benefits of regular meditation have been demonstrated again and again in multiple studies. Meditating makes you happier, is good for your health, protects your brain from aging, boosts your intelligence, and helps reduce pain, stress, and depression.

But it’s not easy to set up a regular meditation practice.

So we’re here to help you!

The aims in the 28 Day Challenge are:

  • To work toward building up a daily habit of meditation
  • If possible, to sit every day for 28 days

We set the bar for success low: although we hope you’ll meditate for 20 to 40 minutes a day, a “successful” day is one in which you’ve done some form of sitting meditation for at least five minutes — because there are Days Like That, aren’t there?

In the 28 Day Challenge we’ll teach you how to find a comfortable meditation posture (“Sit”); we’ll teach you how to calm your mind and settle agitated emotions by practicing the mindfulness of breathing (“Breathe”); and we’ll teach you how to appreciate yourself and others more through the practice of lovingkindness (“Love”). Hence, Sit : Breathe : Love”. We’ll also teach you walking meditation.

You’ll receive an email every day containing meditation instructions and links to guided meditations.

There is also a Community on Google Plus where you can share your experiences and receive support and encouragement from other participants in the challenge. If you already have a Google account, then joining the Community is easy. Even if you don’t have a Google account, it’s simple to set one up.

The challenge is free, although we do appreciate donations. In fact we need donations to cover our running costs.

Energize, Inspire, Enjoy

October 22, 2014 - 5:08am

Recently I offered a mantra that can accompany the out-breathing: Relax, Rest, Reveal. These words encourage us, respectively, to let go of unnecessary tensions in the body, to let go of unnecessary mental effort, and to be open and receptive to whatever is arising in our experience.

I’d like now to offer a corresponding mantra for the in-breathing: Energize, Inspire, Enjoy. As with the previous mantra, each of the words has a specific function.

“Energize” connects us with the natural energy of the in-breath. Inhalation is dominated by the sympathetic nervous system, which isn’t always about “fight or flight” but is involved in any physical or emotional arousal. It’s no coincidence that we take a sudden in-breath when we’re startled, and the sympathetic nervous system is activated.

In our normal (non-startled!) breathing pattern, the sympathetic nervous system is active. Each time we inhale there is a subtle but noticeable sense of energy. The body becomes oxygenated and the heart beats a little faster. The body becomes more open and upright, and is more ready to act.

Saying the word “energize” as we inhale is a way of encouraging us to notice the gentle but arousing physical effects of the in-breath.

Saying “Inspire,” connects us with the same physiological processes, but it directs our attention more to the qualities of the mind and how they change as we breathe in. Just as the body becomes more alert and energetic on the in-breath, so does the mind. There’s a subtle but perceptible increase in our alertness, and the mind becomes brighter.

The word “Enjoy,” as you might expect, reminds us to appreciate any pleasure and happiness that are arising in our experience. This brings together everything: the out-breathing and the inbreathing; the body and the mind. Relaxing on the out-breath can be very enjoyable; so can feeling the energy of the in-breath. Resting the mind can be delightful; so can feeling the mind becoming brighter. Saying “Enjoy” as we breathe in encourages us to appreciate what’s positive in our experience. It encourages us to let happiness arise in response to the simple act of noticing the rhythm of our breathing.

Don’t try to do anything as you say these words. Don’t try to make anything happen. Just say the words, and let them have an effect.

Paying attention only to the out-breathing is calming, but in the long-term it tends to make us dull and sleepy. Paying attention only to the in-breathing is energizing, but we can easily become over-excited and distracted.

So if you’re going to use these two sets of mantras, use them skillfully. You may want to start a meditation with the mantras of the out-breath—especially if you need to calm the mind—and then move on to the mantras of the in-breath. But since this latter practice can lead to excitability, there will come a point when we need to drop the mantras and focus just on the breathing, and when we need to focus on the continuity of the breathing process—sensing it as an unbroken stream of sensations—without particular emphasis on either the breathing-out or the breathing-in.

‘Mindful’ commuters say deep breaths, clear mind keep them calm under stress

October 21, 2014 - 7:17am

Katherine Shaver, Washington Post: As harried commuters filed aboard a Metro Red Line train at Cleveland Park — jockeying for seats, hoisting bulging tote bags — Denise Keyes gazed straight ahead, took deep breaths and searched for inner peace.

There were no lit candles, no incense, no chanting of “om.” But Keyes was meditating.

Finding stillness on a subway during rush hour might sound impossible. But those who practice “mindful commuting” swear it brings tranquility to the daily misery of crowded trains, late buses, honking horns and traffic jams.

If it sounds too New-Agey or out there for you, consider this: Almost 2 million …

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How to Stop Beating Yourself Up: New York Insight Meditation Center

October 20, 2014 - 12:44pm

Bodhipaksa will be in New York City on Nov 22, 2014. He’s leading a self-compassion workshop at the New York Insight Meditation Center: “How to Stop Beating Yourself Up.”

In this workshop Bodhipaksa will introduce a step-by-step guide to the core skills of self-compassion. As well as drawing on models from Buddhist psychology, we’ll take a look at insights from neuroscience, and explore Buddhist compassion and lovingkindness meditation so that we can learn to regard ourselves — and our pain — with compassion and kindness.

Click here for more information

The Power of Mindfulness: an introductory meditation course begins November 3, 2014

October 20, 2014 - 12:13pm

Do you want to be calmer, happier, and experience more freedom from stress? Mindfulness has been clinically proven to reduce stress, promote feelings of wellbeing, and improve mental and physical health.

The next Power of Mindfulness online course starts November 3, 2014. 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. Sign up by October 31st and we’ll send you coupon for a free guided meditation MP3!

Mindfulness: does it really live up to the hype?

October 20, 2014 - 8:29am

Polly Vernon, The Telegraph: Happier, healthier and better rested: that’s what 20 minutes a day of meditation has done for one writer. And as a resolute sceptic, she couldn’t be more surprised.

It may be a little early for bold proclamations of this nature, but still: I would bet big money on “mindfulness” being the Oxford English Dictionary’s word of 2014. It was “selfie” in 2013, you’ll recall, and “omnishambles” the year before that. We will have to wait a couple of weeks for the OED to make its decision final, official and public, but still… I am confident.

The Buddhist discipline – which encourages …

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Meditation changes your brain

October 17, 2014 - 8:02am

Maria Isabel Garcia, Rappler: ‘Meditation’ used to be the exclusive province of robed and hooded men enacting an ancient tradition. Now, science has joined them.

This could be one of the most powerful ways to change your brain and yet, all you have to do is be still. It will help you focus, be keenly observant but not obsessive, and essentially, be a kinder human being.

Meditation. We all have the basic equipment – the 3-pound matter inside our skulls – yet, we generally think that it is only for the religious or for our odd relatives and friends who dress funny.

Two …

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Meditation covers Scientific American November 2014 issue

October 16, 2014 - 2:43pm

Carolyn Gregoire, Huffington Post: In 2013, the New York Times declared that mindfulness was “having a moment” (pun intended), and just a few months later, a January 2014 TIME cover story announced that a “Mindful Revolution” was underway, challenging the stressed-out, tech-addicted American status quo. This month, Scientific American has featured meditation on its November 2014 cover, representing another major step toward a meeting of the minds between ancient Eastern wisdom and Western science.

Although Western psychologists have been studying the ancient contemplative practice since the 1970s — mindfulness pioneer Jon Kabat-Zinn created Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction in 1979 — scientific interest in mindfulness has escalated in the past decade.

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Ebola: the Buddhist connection

October 15, 2014 - 4:04pm

There’s an unusual connection between Ebola and Buddhism.

Ashoka Mukpo, one of a handful of Americans who have contracted Ebola, was identified soon after his birth as a reincarnated lama, or Tulku.

Mukpo is the son of Diana Mukpo, who married Tibetan lama Chogyam Tungpa in Scotland. Ashoka is not Trungpa’s biological son, but was raised as his child after his mother became pregnant while romantically involved with another of Trungpa’s followers, Dr. Mitchell Levy.

As a child, Ashoka was identified as the reincarnation of Khamyon Rinpoche, and he was enthroned as a tulku in Tibet.

Although Mukpo regards himself as a practicing Buddhist, he decided not to pursue a monastic life, and he works in the U.S. division of Human Rights Watch. He has also worked as a freelance cameraman for Vice News, NBC News and other media outlets. He spent two years working in Liberia, doing research for the Sustainable Development Institute, a nonprofit that highlights the concerns of workers in mining camps outside the west African country’s capital, Monrovia.

It was in Liberia that he was diagnosed with Ebola. Soon after he was moved to Nebraska Medical Center for treatment, where he is recovering.

NBC News reports that his parents say he “would likely rather the attention be paid to the West African countries that have been ravaged by the disease.”

Although many people in the west are anxious about Ebola, we should remember that the vast bulk of the suffering that’s taking place is in Africa, where thousands have been infected, and where its possible that a million people could contract the disease.

This article on Forbes suggests ways that individuals can contribute to fighting Ebola in Africa.

Sources: NBC, ABC.

The path to insight: a retreat with Bodhipaksa

October 15, 2014 - 12:04pm

Bodhipaksa is leading a retreat about the path to insight at the Vimaladhatu Meditation House, Germany, from Saturday, August 1st thru Saturday, August 8, 2015.

The Buddha’s teachings offer a pathway to inner peace, freedom, and compassion. But we can only go so far on this path unless we challenge our deeply held assumptions of our own permanence and separateness. Through understanding the eternally changing nature of our being, we can let go of self-grasping and awaken to a natural, spontaneous joy and freedom.

The retreat will be led in English. For those who wish, simultaneous translation into German will be available using headphones.

Click here for more information or to register.