Articles

Stop the War Within

  We human beings are constantly in combat, at war to escape the fact of being so limited, limited by so many circumstances we cannot control. But instead of escaping, we continue to create suffering, waging war with good, waging war with evil, waging war with what is...

Did I Love Well?

  Even the most exalted states and the most exceptional spiritual accomplishments are unimportant if we cannot be happy in the most basic and ordinary ways, if we cannot touch one another and the life we have been given with our hearts. In undertaking a spiritual...

Happiness and Tranquillity

In our busy world, we tend to overlook the capacity we have to allow the mind to settle down and rest, to become deeply silent and peaceful. This stillness is a great power in meditation, and through it we can learn to listen more fully to the world around us and to...

Inattention and Delusion

Buddhist psychology describes the way delusion operates in our lives. One form of delusion is a lack of attention. Without attention, it is as if the Wicked Witch of the West has sown our hometown with poppies and we don’t notice where we are. We could call this...

Good Politics

A highlight of a recent teaching trip Trudy and I took to France and England was working with members of the British Parliament. After observing working sessions in the House of Commons and the House of Lords, Trudy and I met with a number of members of the 85-strong...

Fear and Anger

Aversion, anger, and hatred are states of mind that strike against experience, pushing it away, rejecting what is presented in the moment. They do not come from without. This insight is a reversal of the ordinary way we perceive life. “Usually,” says Ajahn Chah, “we...

The Practice of Forgiveness

Buddhist psychology offers specific teachings and practices for the development of forgiveness. Like the practice of compassion, forgiveness does not ignore the truth of our suffering.  Forgiveness is not weak. It demands courage and integrity. Yet only forgiveness...

Do Not Despair

The problem with the world is that we draw our family circle too small.—Mother Teresa Many of us wrestle with our response to the sufferings of the country and the world. What can we do in the face of poverty, disease, war, injustice, and environmental devastation?...

Wise Society

Trudy and I have had the privilege of staying at Montagne-Alternative, a visionary community high in the Swiss Alps. The community has rebuilt an ancient and semi-deserted Swiss mountain village to create an elegant center for groups to learn integrated and healthy...

Protecting the Vulnerable

"As long as a society holds regular and frequent assemblies, meeting in harmony and mutual respect, can they be expected to prosper and not decline. As long as a society follows the long held traditions of wisdom, and honors its elders, can they be expected to prosper...

Learning from Doubt

When we learn about doubt in meditation, we can then learn to face doubt wisely in our life. Here’s how to start: begin by looking at doubt carefully and with detachment. Have we ever really observed the voice that says, ‘‘I can’t do it. It’s too hard. It’s the wrong...

Let Go of Unhealthy Thoughts

  Whatever a person frequently thinks and reflects on, that will become the inclination of their mind. —Buddha Speak and act from unwise thoughts, and sorrow will follow you as surely as the wheel follows the ox who draws the cart. Speak and act from wise thoughts and...

Steady the Mind

Who is your enemy? Mind is your enemy. No one can harm you more than a mind untrained. Who is your friend? Mind is your friend. Nothing can help you more that a trained mind, not even your loving parents. —Buddha What do we see when we look at our mind? Constant...

Awakening Love

The Buddha taught that we can develop loving-kindness by visualizing how a caring mother holds her beloved child. Love is our true nature, but it is often covered over by a protective layer of fear. The Buddhist path uses systematic trainings to cultivate love. These...

The Colorings of Consciousness

Consciousness is colored by the states that visit it.—Buddha "Eh," my teacher Ajahn Chah would peer at me when I was having a hard time, “caught in some state again?” In the forest monastery we were constantly being directed both to look at consciousness itself and to...

Freedom to Make Mistakes

Gandhi said, “Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.” Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Step out. Fly. Even if you get burned, you can fall back to earth and start again. Zen Master Dogen laughingly called life “one...

Parenting As Practice

Parenting is a labor love. It's a path of service and surrender and, like the practice of a Buddha or bodhisattva, it demands patience and understanding and tremendous sacrifice. It is also a way to reconnect with the mystery of life and to reconnect with ourselves....

Love: The Gateway to Freedom

  No matter where we are, we can see the world through the eyes of love. Without love, everything is constrained, if not false. With love, we stand in the presence of all of life’s mysteries. We can hold a golden apricot, a worn baseball glove, a photo of a child, or...

Freedom from Repetitive Thoughts

  There are a few basic principles for learning how to release the contractions and stuck places we encounter in meditation. One of the most helpful of these principles is called Expanding the Field of Attention. A repeated difficulty will be predominantly felt in one...

Why We Suffer

  Like the mother of the world who carries the pain of the world in her heart, you are sharing in the totality of this pain and are called upon to meet it in compassion and joy instead of self-pity.—Sufi master Pir Vilayat Khan Alan Wallace, a leading Western teacher...

Human Flourishing

How can we foster peace and understanding, compassion and well-being for humans and for all beings? We know this is possible individually. In our practice and teaching of mindfulness, loving-kindness, compassion, forgiveness and other trainings of the heart, we have...

Healing the Heart

Just as we open and heal the body by sensing its rhythms and touching it with a deep and kind attention, so we can open and heal other dimensions of our being. The heart and the feelings go through a similar process of healing through the offering of our attention to...

Love Says We Are Everything

When we first hear them, the Buddhist teachings of non-self can arouse confusion or even fear. We might fear that non-self means the loss of our self, as if we were going to die. But the psychology of non-self is quite different. In practice, we don’t have to change...

Speak the Truth and Stand Up for Justice

The opposite of aggression is not passivity, it is true strength. When we have lost a sense of our innate nobility,we mistakenly believe in our fear and weakness. We try to be strong through hate and aggression. When we release aggression, we discover true strength, a...

The Tyranny of Perfection

Imperfections are part of the display of life. Joy and sorrow, birth and death are the dance of existence throughout which our awakened consciousness can shine. Yet we long for perfection. The perfect partner, house, job, boss, and spiritual teacher. And when we find...

From Self-Hate to Compassion

  In 1989, at one of the first international Buddhist teacher meetings, we Western teachers brought up the enormous problem of unworthiness and self-criticism, shame and self-hatred, and how frequently they arose in Western students’ practice. The Asian teachers were...

Understanding Your Own Mind

In popular Western culture we are taught that the way to achieve happiness is to change our external environment to fit our wishes. But this strategy doesn’t work. In every life, pleasure and pain, gain and loss, praise and blame keep showing up, no matter how hard we...

Freedom Amid Challenging Times

Every generation or so, modern society is rocked by upheavals, whether by assassinations, war, political turmoil, or powerful economic and environmental challenges. In uncertain times the political climate can worsen these fears. Early twentieth-century journalist and...

Believe in Your Goodness

Robert Johnson, the noted Jungian analyst, acknowledges how difficult it is for many of us to believe in our goodness. We more easily take our worst fears and thoughts to be who we are, the unacknowledged traits called our “shadow” by Jung.

Inspired New Year’s Intentions

It is the New Year. We all know about New Year’s resolutions and how short-lived they can be. Consider setting a long-term intention. A long-term intention is also called a vow or dedication. In the forest monastery we would gather before dawn in the candlelit...

2017 Year-End Message

“No mud, no lotus.”—Thich Nhat Hanh Dear ones, The year ends and we begin a new circuit around our own beautiful sun star, twirling amidst the galaxies. Take a breath, quiet your heart and listen deeply. There is so much coming and going, and yet… feel how underneath...

Learning the Middle Path

Learning the Middle Path, the life of balance, allows the heart's natural awareness and compassion to grow. We become free and gracious. I heard a story from the first Western monastery that my teacher Ajahn Chah set up in a forest two villages away from his main...

The Trouble with Denial

Anger is easy to see, and greed is more subtle, but delusion is the hardest. All the accompanying mind states get cloudy, confusing. — Ajahn Chah Denial arises when we don’t believe what is actually in front of our eyes. On a personal level, we can deny problems at...

Get Comfortable in Your Own Skin

We all face praise and blame, joy and sorrow, gain and loss. To have compassion for your human vulnerability is a blessed, tender practice. Poet Alison Luterman calls her life a “wonderful failure.” When astronauts return to Earth they are so grateful just to breathe...

Love vs. Attachment

The near enemy of love is attachment. Attachment masquerades as love. It says, "I will love this person because I need them." Or, "I'll love you if you'll love me back. I'll love you, but only if you will be the way I want." This isn't love at all - it is attachment -...

Suffering and Letting Go

Pain is inevitable. Suffering is not. Suffering arises from grasping. Release grasping and be free of suffering. Anyone who has had even the briefest introduction to Buddhist teaching is familiar with its starting point: the inescapable truth that existence entails...

Right Understanding

The path of awakening begins with a step the Buddha called right understanding. Right understanding has two parts. To start with, it asks a question of our hearts. What do we really value, what do we really care about in this life? Our lives are quite...

Karma, Intention & Wise Speech

People often struggle to understand karma. Karma is simply the law of cause and effect, and in our lives this law of cause and effect depends on our intention. To understand, notice how the motivation or intention preceding an action determines the future karmic...

Lean into the Wind

You are part of the web of life, so you don’t need to hold on so tightly. Ultimately, who you are is awareness itself. No one has lived your life before. It is an adventure worth taking. But whether you are down on your luck or successful, the same basic fears and...

Find Peace

 

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