Articles

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...

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...

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...

Steadying the Mind

What do we see when we look at the mind? Constant change. The untrained and unconcentrated mind is like a flywheel of spinning thoughts, emotions, images, stories, likes, dislikes, and so forth. There is ceaseless movement, filled with plans, ideas, and memories....

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.  Yet only forgiveness...

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...

Finding the Middle Way

"Hence the purpose of Holy Life does not consist in acquiring merit, honour, or fame, nor in gaining morality, concentration, or the eye of knowledge.  That unshakable deliverance, the sure heart’s release, that indeed is the object of the Holy Life, that is its...

Moving Toward Freedom

Learning takes place only in a mind that is innocent and vulnerable.—Krishnamurti There are four principles for mindful transformation of difficulties, poetically articulated by Michele McDonald with the acronym RAIN. RAIN stands for Recognition, Acceptance,...

The Path Is Not Linear but Circular and Continuous

Systematic depictions of spiritual stages can make it seem as if the path is simple, linear, and progressive, as if spiritual life were a step-by-step development of oneself over time. In one way, the maps are correct, and we do gradually purify, open, release, and...

Honesty and a Non-Contentious Heart

The Buddha’s teachings point to a non-contentious heart.  “There is gain and loss, slander and honor, praise and blame, pleasure and pain; the awakened ones are not controlled by these external things; they will cease as quickly as they arise.  If others speak against...

The Sacredness of Form

"Teach us to care and not to care." ~T.S. Elliot  If you tell a Zen master everything is like a dream, she will take her stick and whack you over the head.  Then she will ask, “Is that a dream?”  Focusing on the big picture alone is not enough. Form must be honored. ...

Redemption and Forgiveness

“No one is forgotten. It is a lie, any talk of God that does not comfort you.” ~Meister Ekhart Milarepa, the most famous saint in the Himalayas, was a Tibetan youth whose family was terribly abused by relatives after his father died. As a result, Milarepa was urged by...

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...

The Compass of the Heart

We hear the word karma all the time. I heard it on the radio in an advertisement for cars, “It’s Bob Bridge’s karma to sell to you for less.” I saw it on a drugstore greeting card, a chimpanzee with a sad looking face, “I’m repenting of my bad karma for forgetting to...

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