I’ve often said that most of us come to practice for the stress reduction, and stay for the joy.  Early on, I taught meditation to substance abusers in a recovery program that saw this as a way to reduce stress.  Those moments in meditation when our punishing thoughts quiet down bring a sense of relief that can motivate beginners enough to establish a practice.  In these early months, it’s all about relief from stress.

After a while, many begin to ask, “Why can’t I get better at meditating?” but that’s not so important.  Any session of meditation is going to be what it is – that’s its nature.  Our job is simply to be present with it.  What’s needed at this stage is to understand what we observe during meditation.… Continue reading

The desire to end the suffering of all beings is at the heart of the Dharma.  But this tall order can be daunting.  Fortunately, each of us can help meaningfully when we hold it in perspective. 

At almost any time in history this world has been in dire shape.   Thousands of years ago humans, like most species, were living on the edge of survival.  Then civilizations grew on the labor of the oppressed.  Greed, hatred and delusion led to wars that made whole societies primitive again.  Famine and pandemics devastated populations in waves.  Today many of these catastrophes are held at bay, but the power of humans to destroy, and their willingness to do so, is at an all-time high. 

Seeing the suffering and threats faced by so many beings, most of us feel an urge to help.  But a look around at all that’s needed can overwhelm our ability even to make a start.  There are people with inspiration, energy and resources who make noticeable impacts on the problems that keep Earth from being a Garden of Eden, but no one has ever changed the planet into one.… Continue reading

In my first years of meditation practice, I went to a Zen center where every so often someone would give a talk called Way Seeking Mind, telling how they came to practice.  Many Buddhists say simply, and accurately, that people begin meditating because they’re suffering, but it’s usually more complex than that.  Way Seeking Mind is often a story about the elements of people’s characters that pulled them, almost magnetically, to a life centered around meditation and Buddhist principles.… Continue reading

When we get into position to meditate, we bring our lives with us.  The full turbulence of our thoughts and feelings accompany our efforts to settle down and focus.  It can help to see our emotional state as part of what naturally hinders mindfulness, but which can also be a valuable part of our practice.

Emotion doesn’t need to be something we fight against in order to meditate.  We can bring an accepting attention to it just as we would do with a physical sensation that dominates our awareness, like pain or pleasure.  The acceptance itself is something to be cultivated.  Whenever we allow ourselves to be fully present with our emotions, we grow in love and understanding.… Continue reading

Activism Powered by Love

Like many Buddhist teachers, I’ve been busy for the past 6 months searching for a path of social activism that leads to both opposition and reconciliation.  Sweeping across the world’s democracies is a polarization of liberal and conservative ideologies, facing off against each other with anger and hatred. 

In many First World countries, elections have put totalitarian-leaning regimes into power, shocking and enraging liberals, much the way Obama’s election fueled the rise of the Tea Party.  Those who follow the Eightfold Path are seeking ways to engage politically without further ratcheting up the fury.… Continue reading