Articles

The Return Of Joy

If we cannot be happy in spite of our difficulties, what good is our spiritual practice? There is an unquenchable human spirit born anew in each child. This spirit which has carried Nelson Mandella, Aung San Suu Kyi, and so many others though hardship and storms can...

Necessary Healing

True maturation on the spiritual path requires that we discover the depth of our wounds. As Achaan Chah put it, “If you haven’t cried a number of times, your meditation hasn’t really begun.” Almost everyone who undertakes a true spiritual path will discover that a...

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 of...

The Beauty of Beginner’s Mind

The wisdom of uncertainty frees us from what Buddhist psychology calls the thicket of views and opinions. “Seeing misery in those who cling to views, a wise person should not adopt any of them. A wise person does not by opinions become arrogant. How could anyone...

Worry & Other Mind States

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...

The Problem of Self-Hatred

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...

No to Anti-Muslim, No to Anti-Semitism, No to Hate

In these confusing and heated political times, there has been an increase in hate speech and action. In response, we need to rededicate ourselves and our society to the underlying principles of compassion, ethics and kindness. Buddhism teaches us there is only one way...

Heart and Conduct

One way we create identity is seeing ourself as a member of a particular ethnic group, religion, tribe, caste, and class. I can identify myself as a middle-class, university-educated American. I can identify with being a Buddhist. I can identify with my ethnic roots...

Tolerance in Difficult Times

Traditional teachings focus so often on love and its transformative spirit that we can overlook a more basic and fundamental power—the tolerant heart. Human differences are enormous: our rhythms, what our bodies like, our aesthetic sense, our emotions, our fears, the...

The Time is Now

Buddhist teachings are filled with the principles of respect, tolerance, and compassion. When community members were sick, the Buddha told his followers to care for them as they would care for the Buddha himself. When those in grief and those who were afraid came to...

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?...

The Courageous Heart

As children, many of us were taught courage in the form of the warrior or the explorer, bravely facing danger. In the Buddhist understanding, however, great courage is not demonstrated by aggression or ambition. Aggression and ambition are more often expressions of...

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...

Dedication and Long-Term Intention

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...

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 Ajahn Chah set up in a forest two villages away from his main monastery. One...

Service Is the Expression of the Awakened Heart

Years ago Ram Dass went to his guru, Neem Karoli Baba, to ask, “How can I best be enlightened?” His guru answered, “Love people.” When he asked about the most direct path to awakening, his guru answered, “Feed people. Love people and feed people. Serve the Divine in...

Speak the Truth Fearlessly

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...

Open Your Heart

On December 5, my wife Trudy Goodman, Sharon Salzberg, and I celebrated the end of the Open Your Heart retreat we had been teaching with Ram Dass on Maui. The 375 participants who had been meditating, chanting, and living in a field of love all week lined up to...

Practicing the Dharma In Uncertain Times

When times are uncertain, difficult, fearful, full of change, they become the perfect place to deepen the practice of awakening. After viewing the elections....whatever your point of view, Take time to quiet the mind and tend to the heart. Then go out and look at the...

Responding with Love and Courage

In a healthy response to pain and fear, we establish awareness before it becomes anger. We can train ourselves to notice the gap between the moments of sense experience and the subsequent response. Because of the particle-like nature of consciousness, we can enter the...

Meditation On Lovingkindness

May I be filled with lovingkindness “I am larger, better than I thought; I did not know I held so much goodness.” – Walt Whitman This meditation uses words, images, and feelings to evoke a lovingkindness and friendliness toward oneself and others. With each recitation...

The Zen of an Aching Heart

"Your days pass like rainbows, like a flash of lightning, like a star at dawn. Your life is short. How can you quarrel?" ~Buddha  In the Jewish mystical tradition, one great Rabbi taught his disciples to memorize and contemplate the teachings and place the prayers and...

Wise Thought

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...

“The blues is the truth.”

In a healthy response to pain and fear, we establish awareness before it becomes anger. We can train ourselves to notice the gap between the moments of sense experience and the subsequent response. Because of the particle-like nature of consciousness, we can enter the...

Taming Monkey Mind

What do we see when we look at the mind? Constant change. In the traditional scriptures the untrained and unconcentrated mind is referred to as a mad monkey. As we look for ourselves, we see that it is like a circus or a zoo in there. The parrot, the sloth, the mouse,...

Learning to Surf

With mindfulness, we are learning to observe in a new way, with balance and a powerful disidentification. We can begin to sense and observe the changing mind, body, and heart the way a meteorologist observes changes in the weather: ‘‘It’s cloudy, the barometer is...

Reclaiming Our Lost Sense of Self

How can our practice help us develop a healthy and full sense of self? How can we come to true self? There are several aspects of this process to understand. Our initial sense of self or positive ego strength, as it is described in Western psychology, comes from our...

Patience is the Wrong Word

Patience has a certain impatience built into it. In Zen the word is “constancy.” Instead of patience, constancy is a kind of dedication to what you love and what you care about, and with that dedication comes a trust that by planting beautiful seeds, eventually in...

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...

Enacting Mindfully

The fifth skillful means for working with difficulties is called Enacting It Mindfully. Let’s face it, we act out most of our desires anyway. In the fifth way, we take whatever difficulty has repeated itself, and fulfill it while being fully aware of what is happening...

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. ...

Remembering Who You Are

"How amazing. All living beings have the Buddha nature of awakening and freedom, yet they do not realize this. Unknowingly they wander on the ocean of suffering for lifetimes. It is time to realize your own Buddha nature." ~Prajnaparamita Our delusion can be dispelled...

Healthy Desire

Buddhist psychology teaches us to distinguish between the painful desire of addiction and driven ambition and the healthy energies of dedication and commitment. A dream or powerful goal, whether to write a successful novel, to compete in the Olympics, or to create a...

Immediacy

Spiritual Awakening is found in the here and now. In the Zen tradition they say, "After the ecstasy, the laundry." Spiritual maturity manifests itself in the immanent as well as in the transcendent. It seeks to allow the divine to shine through our every action....

Awaken the Buddha Within

The karmic patterns that we create through our hearts transcend the limitations of time and space. To awaken the heart of compassion and wisdom in a response to all circumstances is to become a Buddha. When we awaken the Buddha within ourselves, we awaken to a...

Stephen Levine: Healer, poet, sage & beloved teacher (1937-2016)

I can hear Stephen Levine’s loving voice counseling healing awareness, soft belly, compassion, and mercy within mercy to all who came to see him and his beloved partner Ondrea. Their students brought everything, their spiritual longing and beauty along with their...

Forgiving Ourselves

Finding a way to extend forgiveness to ourselves is one of our most essential tasks. Just as others have been caught in suffering, so have we. If we look honestly at our life, we can see the sorrows and pain that have led to our own wrongdoing. In this we can finally...

Balancing What is Reactive

What is it that is reactive? Our minds are reactive: liking and disliking, judging and comparing, clinging and condemning. Our minds are like a balance scale, and as long as we’re identified with these judgments and preferences, likes and dislikes, wants and...

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