Articles

Your Mind: Friend or Foe?

Who is your enemy? Mind is your enemy. No one can harm you more than your own mind untamed. And who is your friend? Mind is your friend. No one can help you more than your own mind, wisely trained—not even your own mother and father. —Buddha How can we be mindful of...

Fear of Freedom

People often prefer a very limited, punishing regime—rather than face the anxiety of freedom. — Jean-Paul Sartre Along with the joy of freedom is a fear of the unknown. Freedom can be both exhilarating and unnerving. The conflict runs deep. When a rabbit runs free, it...

Accepting One’s Quirky Personality

No matter how old a mother is, she watches her middle-aged children for signs of improvement. —Florida Scott-Maxwell Looking closely at personality and temperament is like looking closely at the body. The human body looks best when viewed from an intermediate...

Choose Love

We all want to love and be loved. Love is the natural order, the main attraction, the mover of nations, the bees in spring, the tender touch, the first and the last word. It is like gravity, a mysterious force that ties all things together, the heart’s memory of being...

The Truth about Suffering

Without understanding the source of suffering, human beings strive to gain happiness by possessiveness and greed, through violence and hatred. We act out of delusion and ignorance, creating pain as an inevitable result. Our grasping, our aggressive entanglement in the...

The World Needs You

Guilt and anger and fear are part of the problem. If you want to save the world, save it because you love it! —Gary Snyder It is easy to feel overwhelmed by global problems. Climate change. Children fleeing violence in Central America. Wars across the Middle East....

Living Mindfully in Modern Society

Every morning I awaken torn between the desire to save the world and the inclination to savor it.— E.B. White Spiritual life may initially be focused on self-transformation, but as mindfulness and compassion grow we naturally become attentive to the values of the...

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.

A Meditation on Grief

“When after heavy rain the storm clouds disperse, is it not that they’ve wept themselves clear to the end?” ~Ghalib Grief is one of the heart’s natural responses to loss. When we grieve we allow ourselves to feel the truth of our pain, the measure of betrayal or...

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...

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