Articles

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...

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...

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...

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 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...

The Temple of Healing

Aging, sickness and death are suffering. Loss, grief, and despair are suffering. To lose what you love is suffering. —Buddha We all need healing at different times in our lives. Sometimes we need healing for physical illness. At other times, we need to heal 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...

Naming the Wanting Mind

This human world is sometimes called the desire realm because so much of it runs on desire and wanting. How to relate wisely with desire and wanting is a central question to all who wish to live with inner well-being and freedom. We can start by bringing mindful and...

Letting Go

In the stress and complexity of our lives, we may forget our deepest intentions. But when people come to the end of their life and look back, the questions that they most often ask are not usually, “How much is in my bank account?” or “How many books did I write?” or...

Awakening Self-Compassion

Hold yourself as a mother holds her beloved child. —Buddha We are so quick to judge one another. And just as we are hard on others we are even harder on ourselves. With mindfulness, our natural compassion grows. We can see that we are all carrying our own burden of...

Happiness Now

After more than 40 years teaching mindfulness and compassion to thousands on the spiritual path, the most important message I can offer is this: You don't have to wait to be free. You don't need to postpone being happy. All too often the beautiful spiritual practices...

Live in the Present

The present moment is all we have, and it becomes the doorway to true calm, your healing refuge. The only place you can love, or heal, or awaken is here and now, the eternal present. Create life a day at a time. You cannot know the future. It is a mystery. But you can...

Time for Truth and Reconciliation

I imagine that one of the reasons that people cling to their hate and prejudice so stubbornly is because they sense that once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with their own pain.—James Baldwin Like many, I am heartbroken with sadness over the events in...

Open to Mystery

Marcel Proust once said, “The real voyage of discovery lies not in finding new landscapes but in having new eyes.” Buddhist practice gives us new eyes. It offers an invitation to awe. Several years ago the great Hubble telescope was turned toward the darkest...

Anxiety and Retraining the Mind

In Buddhist psychology, the instructions for thought transformation are very explicit. The Buddha instructs his followers, “Like a skilled carpenter who removes a coarse peg by knocking it out with a fine one, so a person removes a pain-producing thought by...

Love Beyond Expectations

Romantic love can deepen when we let it. At first it is a kind of idol worship. It can come with idealism, possessiveness, jealousy, and need. Our songs and movies and dreams are full of idealistic, romantic love, the eros of sexual desire.  You see another person who...

Taming Addictive Tendencies of the Mind

Restraint serves as a counterbalance to the addictive tendencies of mind. There is a story in the Buddhist texts of a monkey living happily and freely in a forest on the high mountains. One day he became curious about what it was like on the plains, so he went down to...

Lover of the Moment

In order to be utterly happy, the only thing necessary is to refrain from comparing this moment with other moments in the past, which I often did not fully enjoy because I was comparing them with other moments of the future.—André Gide Living in the present unburdens...

Break the Cycle of Repetitive Thoughts

There are a few basic principles for learning how to open our stuck places and release the contradictions of the body of fear. The first of these principles is called Expanding the Field of Attention. A repeated difficulty will be predominantly felt in one of the four...

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...

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...

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