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Get over it

May 4, 2015 - 1:31pm

So I have survived one month of mentorship through my own programme of ‘Eight Step Recovery.’ I’ve relapsed twice, and am back on track with three days of abstinence. I tried harm reduction and it didn’t work for me. Told myself I will eat a handful of raw cashews a day. I even left them out on the kitchen counter so my hosts could share them with me too. But once they were finished, I went out bought a 500 gram packet and proceeded to eat them for my lunch, during a period of three hours. Now you may think: ‘Get over it, you don’t have an addiction. It’s not a matter of life and death. You’re hardly going to wreck the family, or cause any great harm’.

While I do have a mild allergy to nuts, I can’t claim that if I carried on eating them that they would kill me, but I do know that consuming them stunts my emotional growth. Why? Because the nuts have replaced the cigarette I once used to put in my mouth, it has replaced the gum I used to chew obsessively, the food I used to binge on and purge, the substances I used to consume.

Although I’m not in the throes of a life threatening addiction and admittedly avoiding my direct experience has lessened, I still at times turn away from my direct experience enough to disturb my peace of mind. Every time I turn away or avoid, I am resisting and triggering the urges to pick up. These urges manifest into the mental proliferation and mental obsessing, multiplying my initial experience of discomfort several fold. ‘Now I must eat those cashews because it has become too overwhelming.’

I took the opportunity to reflect on my attachment to raw cashew nuts and I wrote this to my sponsor.

‘I’m on the bus licking my wounds and thought I could email you from my phone. As I walked today I realized I do not want to let go of cashews and that is my problem. I know I need to and that I should do as it is a neurotic behaviour that usurps my equilibrium. After that thought, I found myself buying cashews and ate them all over the next two hours not a huge amount but now I feel sick and wish I could turn the clocks back but I can’t. I can see I was turning away from the discomfort of knowing I don’t want to stop. So the question is how do I move from not wanting to let go or knowing I need to let go, to wanting to let go?’ I know eating them in small doses does not work as I end up bingeing as I did today’.

“What I recommend for you is to meditate and reflect on what you are believing about this behavior that is not true. Usually we are believing an untruth. And usually its a variation on ‘it will be ok this time’ (in spite of what has always happened in the past) or ‘even if it’s not ok, it will be worth it’. These are the lies that we most often keep on deluding ourselves with. Another common one is that: ‘I just can’t do this and I might as well give up’. It may be as simple as ‘it will make me feel better’, which of course is not true, because it never does. So there’s your challenge, to bring awareness to your unspoken beliefs, and then to investigate them for current validity. Uncover the lie that you’re believing. 

Most of these bad habits did actually have a valid coping function at one point in our lives, before they became debilitating addictions. They did help us cope. But now we have to uncover the dynamics, and ask ourselves ‘what did this do for me in the past?’, ‘what is it doing for me now?’, and ‘what is it doing TO me now?’. But mindfulness of the inner dynamics is a prerequisite. Then we can face our issues instead of having them ambush from behind.”

Great advice for somebody who has co-created Mindfulness Based Addiction Recovery MBAR course. While delivering the training the trainer MBAR course this weekend, I could not help realize, that I had few thoughts about eating cashews over the three days.

I realized that I have needed the dharma, the mindfulness teachings, rather than actually wanting them. It’s a subtle and gross difference. Nothing wrong in needing the teachings, but what does one do once they have been rescued by the teachings? Often go back to their ways.

If I want the dharma enough, I will wholeheartedly place positive values at the centre of my life moment by moment. I did this while delivering the training. I needed to, to deliver the course, but now the course is over, can I want the dharma enough to go for refuge to the Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, effectively and absolutely. This is step six. More about this step next month.

Meanwhile – check out the Detox Summit which I am one of the speakers, where I talk about weakening our attachment to those facilitative and or negative thoughts that can cause a slip and or relapse. Begins Tuesday May 5th for 3 weeks. Detox Summit

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

The benefits of meditation: from stress relief to pain relief, and everything in between

May 4, 2015 - 7:41am

Meditation MP3 – Guided Meditations for Stress Reduction Susan Scutti, Medical Daily: Meditation is both centuries old and hipster young. While the term is used to refer to many different types of similar techniques, the word itself is derived from the Latin, meditari, which means to concentrate. This, then, is the core intention of any technique, no matter its cultural or traditional root and regardless of those attempting to achieve other goals.

“It’s a basic human practice — a human practice not owned by any organization or tradition, a practice that people can engage in no matter what their background,” …

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Running the 20s marathon: how mindfulness can help the stress of your twenties

May 1, 2015 - 8:18am

Meditation MP3 – Guided Meditations for Stress Reduction Blake Colaianne, Huffington Post: Living through your 20s is exhausting. Suddenly you are faced with big questions that seem to require as-soon-as-possible answers. As if it wasn’t hard enough, social media has transformed this time of life into what seems like a sprint-to-the-finish-line marathon. We want to be happy for each other and be there to support the people close to us. But we are constantly flooded with posts/pictures/tags/tweets/snapchats of someone’s new job, apartment, house, relationship, wedding, baby, vacation, and anything else that someone else has or has “better” than you. And …

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Experts recommend meditation to ease arthritis symptoms

April 30, 2015 - 6:47am

Meditation MP3 – Meeting pain with compassion Digital Journal: Arthritis patients have their own ways of reducing the pain and suffering from their condition. Many use pain relief drugs, while others are relying on natural alternatives such as herbal supplements. In addition to these popular alternatives, there is also another option that is believed to help patients.

Experts recommend meditation to ease arthritis symptoms. This ancient practice is believed to be very effective in fighting chronic pain. Meditation can be very easy to practice and it doesn’t require too much time or energy. It is even believed to be beneficial to one’s physical and psychological state.

“Arthritis patients can choose how they respond and cope with the symptoms. They can stop pain from defining their lives and change the way that they see it,” said VitaBreeze Supplements spokesperson, Michelle O’Sullivan.

According to the National Institutes of Health Survey, there are more than 20 million people in the United States who practiced some form of meditation in 2007. A variety of relaxation techniques are believed to be very effective in easing pain, stress, insomnia and anxiety.

The techniques can be practiced alone or with groups initiated by a health care professional. One technique is deep breathing, which enhances relaxation. There is also another method called cognitive-behavioral therapy that helps people focus on positive thoughts. Other techniques include body scanning, yoga-based meditation, chanting, guided imagery and contemplative walking.

Steven Rosenzweig, M.D., an emergency medicine doctor, believes that there are three ways the practice can help patients. It lowers pain intensity, keeps the cycles of pain escalation moderated, and makes pain less intrusive on the patient’s thoughts or life. Meditation allows individuals to realize that there is more to life than focusing on pain. It can help patients concentrate on the moments of pleasure and enjoyment.

Many people in the medical community agree that meditation or mindfulness practice can significantly help arthritis patients take control of their emotions and pain, as well as manage them successfully. There are even scientific studies that show meditation practice may have positive results on arthritis pain.

Seven ways meditation can actually change the brain

April 29, 2015 - 7:57am

Meditations to Change Your Brain, by Rick Hanson PhD & Richard Mendius (3CDs) Alice G. Walton, Forbes: The meditation-and-the-brain research has been rolling in steadily for a number of years now, with new studies coming out just about every week to illustrate some new benefit of meditation. Or, rather, some ancient benefit that is just now being confirmed with fMRI or EEG. The practice appears to have an amazing variety of neurological benefits – from changes in grey matter volume to reduced activity in the “me” centers of the brain to enhanced connectivity between brain regions. Below are some …

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You must find time for self-care to take back control of your life and wellbeing

April 27, 2015 - 8:34am

Meditation MP3 – Guided Meditations for Busy People (complete album) Reeta Wolfsohn, Social Justice Solutions: How do you find time for you when our lives are full of responsibilities towards others? How can you disconnect when, thanks to technology, our lives are always connected? If you’ve been looking for answers to these questions, we’ve got a few tips to share with you below.

Finding time for yourself isn’t a luxury – it is a necessity. If you do not take time to find healthy balance in your life and take care of yourself mentally, physically or spiritually, then you can …

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Forgive Yourself

April 23, 2015 - 10:35am

Meditation MP3 – The Heart’s Wisdom: Development of Compassion Everyone messes up. Me, you, the neighbors, Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, King David, the Buddha, everybody.

It’s important to acknowledge mistakes, feel appropriate remorse, and learn from them so they don’t happen again. But most people keep beating themselves up way past the point of usefulness: they’re unfairly self-critical.

Inside the mind are many sub-personalities. For example, one part of me might set the alarm clock for 6 am to get up and exercise . . . and then when it goes off, another part of me could grumble: “Who set the darn clock?” More broadly, there is a kind of inner critic and inner protector inside each of us. For most people, that inner critic is continually yammering away, looking for something, anything, to find fault with. It magnifies small failings into big ones, punishes you over and over for things long past, ignores the larger context, and doesn’t credit you for your efforts to make amends.

Therefore, you really need your inner protector to stick up for you: to put your weaknesses and misdeeds in perspective, to highlight your many good qualities surrounding your lapses, to encourage you to keep getting back on the high road even if you’ve gone down the low one, and – frankly – to tell that inner critic to Shut Up.

With the support of your inner protector, you can see your faults clearly without fearing that will drag you into a pit of feeling awful, clean up whatever mess you’ve made as best you can, and move on. The only wholesome purpose of guilt, shame, or remorse is learning – not punishment! – so that you don’t mess up in that way again. Anything past the point of learning is just needless suffering. Plus excessive guilt, etc., actually gets in the way of you contributing to others and helping make this world a better place, by undermining your energy, mood, confidence, and sense of worth.

Seeing faults clearly, taking responsibility for them with remorse and making amends, and then coming to peace about them: this is what I mean by forgiving yourself.

Start by picking something relatively small that you’re still being hard on yourself about, and then try one or more of the methods below. I’ve spelled them out in detail since that’s often useful, but you could do the gist of these methods in a few minutes or less.

Then if you like, work up to more significant issues.

Here we go:

  • Start by getting in touch, as best you can, with the feeling of being cared about by some being: a friend or mate, spiritual being, pet, or person from your childhood. Open to the sense that aspects of this being, including the caring for you, have been taken into your own mind as parts of your inner protector.
  • Staying with feeling cared about, list some of your many good qualities. You could ask the protector what it knows about you. These are facts, not flattery, and you don’t need a halo to have good qualities like patience, determination, fairness, or kindness.
  • If you yelled at a child, lied at work, partied too hard, let a friend down, cheated on a partner, or were secretly glad about someone’s downfall – whatever it was – acknowledge the facts: what happened, what was in your mind at the time, the relevant context and history, and the results for yourself and others.

Notice any facts that are hard to face – like the look in a child’s eyes when you yelled at her – and be especially open to them; they’re the ones that are keeping you stuck. It is always the truth that sets us free.

  • Sort what happened into three piles: moral faults, unskillfulness, and everything else. Moral faults deserve proportionate guilt, remorse, or shame, but unskillfulness calls for correction, no more. (This point is very important.)
  • You could ask others what they think about this sorting (and about other points below) – include those you may have wronged – but you alone get to decide what’s right. For example, if you gossiped about someone and embellished a mistake he made, you might decide that the lie in your exaggeration is a moral fault deserving a wince of remorse, but that casual gossip (which most of us do, at one time or another) is simply unskillful and should be corrected (i.e., never done again) without self-flagellation.
  • In an honest way, take responsibility for your moral fault(s) and unskillfulness. Say in your mind or out loud (or write): I am responsible for ______ , _______ , and _______ . Let yourself feel it.
  • Then add to yourself: But I am NOT responsible for ______ , _______ , and _______ . For example, you are not responsible for the misinterpretations or over-reactions of others. Let the relief of what you are NOT responsible for sink in.
  • Acknowledge what you have already done to learn from this experience, and to repair things and make amends. Let this sink in. Appreciate yourself.

Next, decide what if anything remains to be done – inside your own heart or out there in the world – and then do it. Let it sink in that you’re doing it, and appreciate yourself for this, too.

  • Now check in with your inner protector: is there anything else you should face or do? Listen to that “still quiet voice of conscience,” so different from the pounding scorn of the critic. If you truly know that something remains, then take care of it. But otherwise, know in your heart that what needed learning has been learned, and that what needed doing has been done.
  • And now actively forgive yourself. Say in your mind, out loud, in writing, or perhaps to others statements like: I forgive myself for ______ , _______ , and _______ . I have taken responsibility and done what I could to make things better. You could also ask the inner protector to forgive you, or others out in the world, including maybe the person you wronged.
  • You may need to go through one or more the steps above again and again to truly forgive yourself, and that’s alright. Allow the experience of being forgiven to take some time to sink in. Help it sink in by opening up to it in your body and heart, and by reflecting on how it will help others for you to stop beating yourself up.

May you be at peace.

You are the child of all beings

April 23, 2015 - 8:46am

A well-known Buddhist teaching explains that all (or at least most) beings have, at one time or another in the inconceivable past, been close family members:

From an inconstruable beginning comes transmigration [sa?s?ra]. A beginning point is not evident, though beings hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving are transmigrating and wandering on [literally “sa?s?ra-ing”]. A being who has not been your mother at one time in the past is not easy to find… A being who has not been your father… your brother… your sister… your son… your daughter at one time in the past is not easy to find. [M?ta sutta]

A millennium or so later this was elaborated by Buddhaghosa into a reflective practice, so that we contemplate in detail how any person we’re feeling resentful of has, at some point in the past, as our mother, carried us in her womb, given birth to us, suckled us, and taken care of us. And as our father, this being has previously worked tirelessly and took great risks to provide for us, and even went to war to protect us.

The point of this practice is to eliminate ill will. Recognizing the debt we owe to others, we can think, “It is unbecoming for me to harbor hate for him [or her!] in my mind.”

Being of a scientific bent, and not putting much stock in reflections that hinge upon a belief in rebirth, I find myself approaching this advice in a different way. Let’s take rebirth as a metaphor: change is happening all the time, and so we’re each moment we die and are reborn.

This is what I think the Buddha had in mind, rather than literal rebirth, when he said in the Dhatu-Vibhanga Sutta:

Furthermore, a sage at peace is not born, does not age, does not die, is unagitated, and is free from longing. He has nothing whereby he would be born. Not being born, will he age? Not aging, will he die? Not dying, will he be agitated? Not being agitated, for what will he long?

If you like my articles and want to support the work I do, please click here to check out my books, guided meditation CDs, and MP3s. Or you can make a donation.If there’s only a constant process of death and rebirth, moment by moment, then there’s no “thing” that can be born, age, or die. Thus there’s nothing to mourn or fear, or to long for.

If we look closely at our own moments of death and rebirth, we see that ultimately each one of them takes place not with us as an isolated unit, but as an inextricable part of a greater whole. Each momentary contact with the world is part of this process of death and rebirth.

Each perception is the birth of a new experience, and thus of a new “us.” Each time we see someone, hear someone, touch someone, or even think of someone, a new experience arises and we change; in a sense, we die and are reborn with every contact we have with another being.

Right now, as you read these words, my thoughts are echoing in your mind, evoking new experiences. Each word gives birth to a new you that didn’t exist a moment before.
And since the constellation of experiences that is me arises in dependence upon many other beings, your reading this article right now connects you to everyone who has ever been in my life, everyone who has been in those people’s lives, and ultimately all beings who are or have existed.

And since, in our immensely complex world, the unfolding, never-ending death-and-rebirth of each being is ultimately connected with the never-ending death-and-rebirth of each other being, all beings are our mothers and fathers.

Compassion meditation reduces ‘mind-wandering,’ research shows

April 23, 2015 - 8:32am

Meditation MP3 – The Heart’s Wisdom: Development of Compassion Clifton B. Parker, Medical Xpress: Compassion meditation focuses on benevolent thoughts toward oneself and others, as the researchers noted. It is different in this aspect than most forms of meditation in the sense that participants are “guided” toward compassionate thoughts.

The research article, “A Wandering Mind is a Less Caring Mind,” was recently published in the Journal of Positive Psychology.

“This is the first report that demonstrates that formal compassion training decreases the tendency for the mind to wander, while increasing caring behavior not only towards others but towards oneself,” said …

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So… why do you meditate?

April 22, 2015 - 7:18am

Meditation MP3 – Guided Meditations for Calmness, Awareness, and Love (complete album) Reetu Gupta, Huffington Post: This is a question that is posed to me quite regularly, and I can see the skepticism in people’s eyes — the fear of meditation, and the preconceived notions that the only people that meditate are/were Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi. However, I am also regularly asked, “Reetu, why do you always seem at peace? Why do you seem like you are happy from the inside? How are you so centered? So positive?” Well, this is because I meditate.

When our bodies become overworked, the body …

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Facing the demon of self-doubt

April 22, 2015 - 6:51am

Someone wrote to me the other day, asking for advice:

I just started regularly meditating about a month ago. I’m scared to continue now though. I had a sudden feeling of self resentment and I felt it so deeply. I remembered the bad choices I have made in my life and felt so unworthy of love and compassion. I felt unworthy of the meditation itself. I felt like I was the most selfish person in the world. I can’t even begin to describe how painful it was.

What she’d described is what we call the “hindrance of doubt.” There are five of these hindrances, which are mental patterns that stop us from being at ease with ourselves. They are (1) craving, (2) ill will, (3) anxiety, (4) lethargy, and (5) doubt, which is the sneakiest of them all.

Doubt tells us stories that sap our confidence. This woman’s thoughts of unworthiness and of being “the most selfish person in the world” are doubt’s modus operandi. Sometimes the doubts are about our practice, but more commonly they’re about ourselves.

Doubt is the hardest of the hindrances to recognize, because the stories we’re telling ourselves “hit below the belt” emotionally and leave us feeling vulnerable and exposed. We totally believe the stories we’re telling ourselves, and have difficulty questioning their validity.

It’s very important to learn to recognize the patterns through which doubt expresses itself, and to remind yourself that this is just doubt—that it’s not reality you’re describing to yourself. It’s just a story.

When you do that, you’re less inclined to believe what you’ve been telling yourself. Having a thought like “I am unworthy of love” isn’t actually much of a problem if you don’t believe it, and if you recognize that this is just some frightened part of yourself trying to “protect” you from positive change.

And I do think that the function of doubt is to “protect us.” It may be a fear-based response to some difficulty. By telling ourselves we’re not capable of meeting this challenge, we take away the possibility of failing. It may also arise from a fear of positive change, however. Habits we have that are going to be eliminated act like sub-personalities and try to prevent change from happening. My guess is that this is what was going on with this woman: after a month of meditation, parts of her were fearful of change.

Don’t be afraid of doubt. Recognize that it’s just a story, and don’t take it seriously.

There are huge benefits to doing this. Often when we’ve recognized doubt and chosen not to believe it, there’s an immediate upwelling of energy and confidence in ourselves and our practice. On the other side of doubt lies faith.

Mindfulness as effective as pills for treating recurrent depression

April 21, 2015 - 6:32am

The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness, with Jon Kabat-Zinn and others Sarah Boseley, The Guardian: Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy may be as good as pills at stopping people relapsing after recovering from major bouts of depression, according to a study.

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) was developed from mindfulness techniques, which encourage individuals to pay more attention to the present moment, combined with cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), specifically to try to help people who have recurring depression.

It teaches people to recognise that negative thoughts and feelings will return, but that they can disengage from them. Rather …

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Why develop mindful presence?

April 20, 2015 - 12:37pm

Meditations for Happiness by Rick Hanson (3 CDs) This is the second post in the series on mindful presence. You can view Part One here.

So why should we go out of our way to develop mindfulness?

Mindful presence feels good in its own right: relaxed, alert, and peaceful. Not contending with anything. No struggle.

In addition to the inherent, experiential rewards of mindful presence, studies have shown that it lowers stress, makes discomfort and pain more bearable, reduces depression, and increases self-knowledge and self-acceptance.

To quote the father of American psychology, William James: “The faculty of voluntarily bringing back a wandering attention, over and over again, is the very root of judgment, character, and will. No one is compos sui [master of himself] if he have it not. An education which should improve this faculty would be the education par excellence. But it is easier to define this ideal than to give practical directions for bringing it about.”
William James, Psychology: Briefer Course, p. 424 (Harper Torchbooks, 1961)

At a deeper level, mindful presence is the counter to our habitual state of mind, which a Thai meditation master once summarized as, “Lost in thought.”

To quote Jack Kornfield: “ . . . you [become] mindful of the constantly changing conditions of sight, sound, taste, smell, physical perceptions, feelings, and thoughts. Through mindfulness practice, you [begin] to experience how conditioned the world is and how these conditions constantly change.

To free ourselves, we need to quiet the mind through some mindfulness in meditation. Then, instead of identifying with the changing conditions, we learn to release them and turn toward consciousness itself, to rest in the knowing. Ajahn Chah called this pure awareness, “the original mind,” and resting in “the one who knows.”

The senses and the world are always changing conditions, but that which knows is unconditioned. With practice . . . we can be in the midst of an experience, being upset or angry or caught by some problem, and then step back from it and rest in pure awareness. . . We learn to trust pure awareness itself.”
Jack Kornfield, Buddhadharma, Summer 2007, pp. 34-35

And in addition to the psychological, everyday benefits of mindful presence, it is also, in Buddhism, considered to be a direct path to enlightenment and the end of suffering:

“This is the one-way path for the purification of beings, for the surmounting of sorrow and lamentations, for the passing away of pain and dejection, for the attainment of the true way, for the realization of Nibbana – namely, the four establishments of mindfulness.

What are the four? A person dwells contemplating the body in the body, ardent, clearly comprehending, and mindful, having subdued longing and dejection in regard to the world. He or she dwells contemplating feelings in feelings, ardent, clearly comprehending, mindful, having subdued longing and dejection in regard to the world. He or she dwells contemplating mind in mind, ardent, clearly comprehending, mindful, having subdued longing and dejection in regard to the world. He or she dwells contemplating phenomena in phenomena, ardent, clearly comprehending, mindful, having subdued longing and dejection in regard to the world.”
[In the Buddha’s Words, p. 281]

This isn’t the place to get into detail about that quote, though I invite you to let the feeling of it carry you along. But in passing, it is worth noting that “contemplating body in the body” (or feelings in feelings, mind in mind, phenomena in phenomena) means being simply aware of immediate, experiential phenomena as they are without conceptualization or commentary. Just the sensations of the rising breath in the belly. Just the subtle feeling of a sound being mildly unpleasant. Just the sense of consciousness being contracted or spacious. Just a single thought emerging and then disappearing. Just this moment. Just this.

There’s a pithy summary of this simplicity of pure experiencing in the advice the Buddha gave to a man named Bahiya:

“Bahiya, you should train yourself in this way: With the seen, there will be just the seen; with the heard, there will be just the heard; with the sensed (touched, tasted, smelt) there will be just the sensed; with the cognized [thoughts, feelings, etc.], there will be just the cognized.”

In sum, imagine being in a lovely and peaceful meadow, with a train full of thoughts and feelings and desires rolling by in the distance . . . Normally, as this train approaches we tend to become drawn in, and we hop on board and get carried away . . . “lost in thought.”

On the other hand, mindfulness allows you to see the train coming but have the presence of mind . . . to stay in the meadow! And whenever you get swept along by the train, as soon as you notice that, whoosh, you return immediately to the peaceful meadow, to the refuge of mindfulness.

Meditation in Ontario

April 20, 2015 - 11:42am

I just wanted to flag up that in late May and June my friend Harshaprabha of the Triratna Buddhist Order will be offering the opportunity to meet with like-minded people in Goderich, Guelph and Sudbury, Ontario.

He has planned a diverse set of events, ones which he believes will meet the expectations of those living in those places.
This is the first of his 2015 visits and one he is particularly looking forward to; not just meeting old and potentially new friends but the first time he has put on events in Sudbury.

Harshaprabha lives in the UK but has family ties to Ontario. He’s visited the province many times over the years in order to promote the practice of Buddhism.

I am sure you will receive a warm welcome by him and enjoy being introduced to meditation, practicing it and then hear about a particular Buddhist topic.

The events are in Goderich (29 and 30 May), Guelph (31 May), and Sudbury (6 and 7 June). These links will take you to PDF fliers for the relevant venues.

Meditation should be taught in school

April 20, 2015 - 7:36am

Guided Meditation for Children – Journey Into the Elements, by Chitra Sukhu Instruction in the art of mindfulness is emerging in grade schools around the country to help children relax, focus, and help others. But it still has a long way to go to become part of the curriculum nationwide.

On a recent Thursday just after lunch, 20 first-graders gathered in a circle on the carpeted floor of their public school classroom in Santa Fe. Some sat cross-legged and others on their knees, each with one hand clasped in front of them or resting on their stomachs. Their teacher, Katie Norton …

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Changing the world and ourselves through compassion

April 18, 2015 - 7:14am

Meditation MP3 – The Heart’s Wisdom: Development of Compassion Jill Stark, Western Advocate: Be kind and you will be well. It has been the cornerstone of Eastern philosophy for centuries.

But what if recognising our shared humanity was more than just a sentimental ideal? What if consciously practicing kindness could change the wiring of your brain and make you live longer?

This is neuroscience’s latest frontier – a growing body of research that shows compassion could be the key to improved health, happiness and longevity.

Brain imaging reveals that exercising compassion stimulates the same pleasure centers associated with the drive …

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Mindfulness at work can reduce retaliation after unfair treatment

April 17, 2015 - 8:01am

Meditation MP3 – Guided Meditations for Stress Reduction PRWEB: Practicing mindfulness at work can reduce retaliation by employees who feel treated unfairly.

Mindful employees are less angry, less likely to dwell on the mistreatment and less likely to retaliate, according to a new study by PhD student Erin Cooke Long and Professor Michael S. Christian of the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School,

“When employees think they have an unfair boss or colleague or the organization is unfair, they might be tempted to seek retribution or act in ways to ‘even the score,’” said Cooke Long. “Mindfulness helps them short-circuits emotions and negative thoughts so that they can respond more constructively.”

Their study is the first to test the role of mindfulness in the relationship between workplace injustice and retaliation.

“It demonstrates that a trainable mindset helps diffuse negative reactions by employees, said Christian. “We also show that both emotions and thoughts affect our behaviors when we believe we’ve been treated unfairly at work.”
Mindfulness – nonjudgmental attention and awareness of what is happening in present-moment experiences – has important workplace implications.

“It helps employees to overcome knee-jerk reactions to unfairness at work, said Cooke Long. “When treated unfairly, people tend to feel angry and dwell on the unfair treatment, which can trigger acts of retaliation or attempts to even the score. More mindful people are less likely to ‘take things personally’ and therefore less likely to retaliate.”

“Our work introduces mindfulness as a malleable psychological factor – one that managers and employers can cultivate in their employees to reduce unproductive reactions when they feel unjustly treated,” said Christian. “Delivering mindfulness training can help employees control their thoughts, emotions and, ultimately, behavior at work.”
Their findings are based on two studies: An intervention study using brief mindfulness training in the lab and with a diverse sample of employees who recounted experiences with unfairness at work. Their paper “Mindfulness Buffers Retaliatory Responses to Injustice: A Regulatory Approach” will be published in the Journal of Applied Psychology and is available online.

Mindfulness matters at work in more ways than we think,” said Cooke Long. “It is not just a skill that promotes health – it also helps us behave positively and helps us avoid behaviors that are short-sighted and can damage relationships, reputations and career.”

Promoting mindfulness is a proactive option for organizations to reduce retaliation at work, said Christian. “Mindfulness training is not difficult for novices to learn and use.”

“Employers can enhance employee mindfulness through mindfulness education,” said Cooke Long, “by creating an organizational culture that recognizes the merits of mindfulness and by conducting large-scale interventions.”

“25 Mostly Fake Buddha Quotes That May or May Not Change Your Life.”

April 17, 2015 - 6:43am

A blog post listing 25 Buddha quotes—most of which are fake—has now been “liked” over half a million times on Facebook. Sheesh.

So I’ve written a blog post debunking the list, with a link to an article on the origins of each quote, usually also with references to actual quotes from the Buddhist scriptures. The article’s called “25 Mostly Fake Buddha Quotes That May or May Not Change Your Life.”

So far it’s been liked nine times on Facebook. Only another 600,000 “likes” to go and we can leave the article of fake quotes standing in the dust :)

Head on over to FakeBuddhaQuotes.com, and remember to click the Facebook button at the foot of the article!

Let Go

April 16, 2015 - 12:38pm

What Are You Holding Onto?

I’ve done a lot of rock climbing, so I know firsthand the importance sometimes of not letting go! This applies to other things as well: keeping hold of a child’s hand while crossing the street, staying true to your ethics in a tricky situation, or sustaining attention to your breath while meditating.

On the other hand, think of all the stuff – both physical and nonphysical – we cling to that creates problems for us and others: clutter in the home, “shoulds,” rigid opinions, resentments, regrets, status, guilt, resistance to the facts on the ground, needing to be one-up with others, the past, people who are gone, bad habits, hopeless guests, unrewarding relationships, and so on.

Letting go can mean several things: releasing pain; dropping thoughts, words, and deeds that cause suffering and harm; yielding rather than breaking; surrendering to the way it is, like it or not; allowing each moment to pass away without trying to hold on to it; accepting the permanently impermanent nature of existence; and relaxing the sense of self and opening out into the wider world.

Living in this way is relaxing, decreases hassles and conflicts, reduces stress, improves mood and well-being, and grounds you in reality as it is. And it’s a key element, if you like, of spiritual practice. To quote Ajahn Chah, a major Buddhist teacher who lived in Thailand:

If you let go a little, you will have a little happiness.
If you let go a lot, you will have a lot of happiness.
If you let go completely, you will be completely happy.

Appreciate the wisdom of letting go, and notice any resistance to it: perhaps it seems weak to you, foolish, or against the culture of your gender or personal background. For example, I remember talking with my friend John years ago about a woman he’d been pursuing who’d made it clear she wasn’t interested, and he felt frustrated and hurt. I said maybe he should surrender and move on – to which John replied fiercely, “I don’t do surrender.” It took him a while to get past his belief that surrender – acceptance, letting go – meant you were wimping out. (All ended happily with us getting drunk together and him throwing up on my shoe – which I then had to surrender to!) It takes strength to let go, and fortitude, character, and insight. When you let go, you’re like a supple and resilient willow tree that bends before the storm, still here in the morning – rather than a stiff oak that ends up broken and toppled over.

Be aware of the letting go that happens naturally all day long such as, releasing objects from your hands, hanging up the phone, pushing send on an e-mail, moving from one thought or feeling to another in your mind, saying bye to a friend, shifting plans, using the bathroom, changing a TV channel, or emptying the trash. Notice that letting go is all right, that you keep on going, that it’s necessary and beneficial. Become more comfortable with letting go.

Consciously let go of tension in your body. Exhale long and slowly, activating the relaxing parasympathetic nervous system. Let go of holding in your belly, shoulders, jaws, and eyes.

Clear out possessions you don’t use or need. Let in how great it feels to finally have some room in your closet, drawers, or garage.

Pick a dumb idea you’ve held on to way too long – one for me would be that I have to do things perfectly or there’ll be a disaster. Practice dropping this idea and replacing it with better ones (like for me: “Nobody is perfect and that’s okay”).

Pick a grievance, grudge, or resentment – and resolve to move on. This does not necessarily mean letting other people off the moral hook, just that you are letting yourself off the hot plate of staying upset about whatever happened. If feelings such as hurt still come up about the issue, be aware of them, be kind to yourself about them, and then gently encourage them out the door.

Letting go of painful emotions is a big subject, with lots of resources for you in books such as Focusing, by Eugene Gendlin, or What We May Be, by Piero Ferrucci. Here’s a summary of methods I like: relax your body; imagine that the feelings are flowing out of you like water; vent in a letter you’ll never send, or out loud someplace appropriate; get things off your chest with a good friend; take in positive feelings to soothe and gradually replace the painful ones.

In general, let things be pleasant without grasping after them; let things be unpleasant without resisting them; let things be neutral without prodding them to get pleasant. Letting go undoes the craving and clinging that lead to suffering and harm.

Let go of who you used to be. Let yourself learn, grow, and therefore change.

Let go of each moment as it disappears beneath your feet. It’s gone as soon as you’re aware of it, like a snowflake melting as soon as you see its shape. You can afford to abide as letting go because of the miracle – which no scientist fully understands – that the next moment continually emerges as the previous one vanishes, all within the infinitely tiny duration of Now.

British Airways starts meditation initiative on flights

April 16, 2015 - 7:14am

Meditation MP3 – Guided Meditations for Calmness, Awareness, and Love NY Daily News: British Airways will promote meditation techniques on its new transatlantic flights as part of a bigger focus on passenger well-being.

A collaboration with the Mindfulness Institute, the new initiative will launch on BA’s new services between San Francisco and London.

As well as instructional fliers, the Mindfulness for Travel series will include a series of specially created on-board videos designed to help people relax at each stage of a journey — pre-flight, mid-flight and arrival.

Sean Doyle, Americas Executive Vice President, British Airways, said, “At British Airways we …

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