Articles

Love: The Gateway to Freedom

Love: The Gateway to Freedom

  No matter where we are, we can see the world through the eyes of love. Without love, everything is constrained, if not false. With love, we stand in the presence of all of life’s mysteries. We can hold a golden apricot, a worn baseball glove, a photo of a...

Freedom to Make Mistakes

Freedom to Make Mistakes

Gandhi said, “Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.” Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Step out. Fly. Even if you get burned, you can fall back to earth and start again. It is never too late to start over. Zen Master Dogen...

Freedom from Suffering

Freedom from Suffering

“In a world of tension and breakdown it is necessary for there to be those who seek to integrate their inner lives not by avoiding sorrow and anguish and running from their problems, but by facing them in their naked reality and ordinariness.” —Thomas Merton Anyone...

Living Here and Now

Living Here and Now

The present moment is the doorway to true calm. It is the only place you can love or awaken—the eternal present. You cannot know the future. But here and now you can create a life of dignity and compassion, a day at a time. You can plant beautiful seeds and learn to...

Naming the Wanting Mind

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...

Transforming Anxiety and Difficult Thoughts

Transforming Anxiety and Difficult Thoughts

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...

The Tyranny of Perfection

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...

Understanding Your Own Mind

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...

Living Mindfully in Modern Society

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...

Radiate Love

Radiate Love

In a psychology of liberation, selflessness is a therapeutic necessity. Even though the whole concept may seem initially frightening and confusing, it is really quite simple. It is only the small self, the self-centered “ego” that cannot imagine how we will function...

Inspired New Year’s Intentions

Inspired New Year’s Intentions

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 darkness and begin the...

The Trouble with Denial

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...

Love vs. Attachment

Love vs. Attachment

Each of the qualities of the awakened heart, such as love, joy and peace, have what are called "near enemies"—aspects which mimic and limit them. The near enemy of love is attachment. Attachment masquerades as love. It says, "I will love this person (because I need...

The Reality Below Thoughts

The Reality Below Thoughts

  As we observe our thoughts and question our beliefs, we come to understand that while thinking, planning and remembering are vital to our lives, they are more tentative than we believe.  Our thoughts are always more provisional and one sided than we admit. ...

Dharma & Politics

Dharma & Politics

Many Buddhist practitioners have questioned what to do in these turbulent times. More than anything, I believe the world is in need of a spiritual perspective. The Dharma teachings of generosity, virtue, loving-kindness, and wisdom are non-partisan. The benefits of...

Awakening Love

Awakening Love

The Buddha taught that we can develop loving-kindness by visualizing how a caring mother holds her beloved child. Love is our true nature, but it is often covered over by a protective layer of fear. The Buddhist path uses systematic trainings to cultivate love. These...

Fearing Death

Fearing Death

If you understand—things are just as they are. If you do not understand—things are just as they are. —Zen saying From the universal perspective, all things that are born eventually die. Death comes to our best friends and family members, sometimes even to young...

Did I Love Well?

Did I Love Well?

  Even the most exalted states and the most exceptional spiritual accomplishments are unimportant if we cannot be happy in the most basic and ordinary ways, if we cannot touch one another and the life we have been given with our hearts. In undertaking a spiritual...

Happiness and Tranquillity

Happiness and Tranquillity

In our busy world, we tend to overlook the capacity we have to allow the mind to settle down and rest, to become deeply silent and peaceful. This stillness is a great power in meditation, and through it we can learn to listen more fully to the world around us and to...

Inattention and Delusion

Inattention and Delusion

Buddhist psychology describes the way delusion operates in our lives. One form of delusion is a lack of attention. Without attention, it is as if the Wicked Witch of the West has sown our hometown with poppies and we don’t notice where we are. We could call this...

Good Politics

Good Politics

A highlight of a recent teaching trip Trudy and I took to France and England was working with members of the British Parliament. After observing working sessions in the House of Commons and the House of Lords, Trudy and I met with a number of members of the 85-strong...

Wise Society

Wise Society

Trudy and I have had the privilege of staying at Montagne-Alternative, a visionary community high in the Swiss Alps. The community has rebuilt an ancient and semi-deserted Swiss mountain village to create an elegant center for groups to learn integrated and healthy...

Parenting As Practice

Parenting As Practice

Parenting is a labor love. It's a path of service and surrender and, like the practice of a Buddha or bodhisattva, it demands patience and understanding and tremendous sacrifice. It is also a way to reconnect with the mystery of life and to reconnect with ourselves....

Freedom from Repetitive Thoughts

Freedom from Repetitive Thoughts

  There are a few basic principles for learning how to release the contractions and stuck places we encounter in meditation. One of the most helpful of these principles is called Expanding the Field of Attention. A repeated difficulty will be predominantly felt...

Why We Suffer

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 Each person carries their own...

Human Flourishing

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

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

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

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

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...

Believe in Your Goodness

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.

Learning the Middle Path

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...

Wonderful, Messy Failure

Wonderful, Messy Failure

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

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

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

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

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

The Temple of Healing

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 traumas that we’ve suffered and find ways to release the difficulties of the past we carry in our bodies. We need release from the...

Responding with Love and Courage

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...

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