Articles

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...

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...

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.

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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....

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 and so many others though hardship and storms can carry you. Inside...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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