Insight Meditation: Present, Open & Aware (Your Guide to Buddhist Meditation/July 2014)
Shambhala Sun | July 2014
SPECIAL SECTION: YOUR GUIDE TO BUDDHIST MEDITATION
Insight Meditation: Present, Open & Aware
EMILY HORN on how to
discover the peace and awakening in every moment
We all long for deeper connection with ourselves and
others, less stress, and a better
understanding of what is really happening in our lives. Through the practice of
Vipassana, or Insight Meditation, we find that peace and awakening are
found right here in the present.
Insight Meditation is a way to hack the mind and heart, to
reboot how we interface with the world. We see our old programs and habits and,
through kindness and dedication, they unwind. We open to what is happening in
each moment and discover how we prevent life from being fluid and flexible.
We sit and we notice where our attention lands. What catches
it? Where does it cling? Is there grasping? We learn to direct our attention,
moving it toward and away from objects. This kind of focus brings insight into
how we shut down the flow of experience and cause ourselves suffering. We learn
to open to greater freedom.
For me, questioning started at a young age. I grew up in the
South, where people packed churches and listened to Bible stories. As I watched
the news and saw the wars of the world, I began to question the distance
between people’s values and their actions. These painful human divisions didn’t
make sense to me.
This kicked off a journey to find freedom beyond the
conditioned walls of ignorance. What I have found is that peace and awakening
are not found in some other place, or an imaginary better world. They are found
only in the present.
Mindfulness became my gateway to an unending process of
discovery. What is this mind and heart? How can I live a life worth living? My
life became a fertile ground for investigation, acceptance, and discovery.
Becoming open to experience isn’t always easy. Sometimes we
face unpleasant aspects of our body and mind. But this too is insight, and when
we approach our difficulties with kind attention, they lose their power over
us. It all comes down to the simple act of returning to the breath and the
body, and then using our embodied presence to notice what is happening right
now. Certainly it can be difficult, but reminding ourselves that we are on a
path that has been trusted and traveled for more than 2,600 years can help.
We all struggle: with sickness, raising children, aging
parents, death of loved ones, and violent boundary violations. But in each moment
we can call on our ability as human beings to open, even when it doesn’t feel
I remember crying while listening to Insight teacher Trudy
Goodman explain to a woman who had just lost her husband that we sit again and
again in the crucible of meditation. We sit for ourselves, for those we love,
and for the next time we venture into the depths. She told the students, “Don’t
worry that you will miss out. If you aren’t in the crucible now, you will be.
Let’s practice now so that we can open even amidst the storms.”
I remember being on a meditation retreat and falling into a
pit of despair and frustration. Memories flashed from my past, my body burned,
and I just wanted to get out of, fix, and change my experience.
I asked my teacher, Jack Kornfield, if the bombardment of
unpleasantness ever stopped. He smiled big with love and care. “Relax and you
will know,” he said.
It can be counterintuitive to relax when there is chaos. Yet
learning to recognize, accept, investigate, and not identify with our
experience—think of the mnemonic device “RAIN”—helps free us from the false
realities our thoughts, emotions, and body sensations create. We usually feel
that our experience is solid and will never change, but with insight it all
breaks down into a million different aspects. We open so that all experience is
a flowing stream, and when debris floats by, it is held with loving,
non-judgmental, mindful awareness.
The Buddha taught that we free ourselves from our stormy
struggles by noticing their causes and by understanding the patterns of our
mind, or programming. We are able to recognize which parts are useful and which
are hindering us from freely experiencing the ebb and flow of life. Let’s call
this “mind hacking,” because mindfulness gives us the ability to reprogram the
inner operating system and become more fluid in our identity.
As you practice Insight Meditation, you’ll become more
comfortable with this continual shifting of identity, and you’ll come to trust
the unfolding of life itself. It provides the soil for a deep joy and
connection in both solitude and in relationship. With mindfulness you can
extend your inward learning and begin to deeply love the whole network of
humanity. Here’s how to get started.
How to Practice Insight Meditation
You can practice Insight Meditation in a number of
situations. You can practice in a quiet place in your home, in your car, or
even during a break at work. You may want to surround yourself with objects
that remind you of the sacred quality of life, perhaps a flower or candles.
Allow the space to be uniquely yours.
Begin by taking a meditation posture either in a chair or on
a meditation cushion. Allowing your posture to be upright and stable, take a
few deep breaths in and out, exhaling fully and inhaling fully.
As your breath becomes simple and natural, allow your
sitting bones to fall toward the earth and your spine to straighten toward the
sky. Feel the weight of your body and the space it takes up. Soften your
attention by relaxing into the posture and allowing a simple smile to appear on
Now direct your attention to the natural rhythm of your
breath, noticing the sensations as you breathe in and out. Notice the space
between your inhalations and exhalations. You may make a gentle mental note: in
with the in-breath and out with the out-breath. Allow the multitude of
sensations to arise and pass around the breath.
When you notice your attention wandering, gently bring it
back to the breath. It takes time to be able to stay with the breath for very
long. It is like going to the gym: with practice, your “attention muscles” will
become stronger and you will be able to see more and more clearly what is
happening in your experience.
To deepen attention, notice if the breath is warm, cool,
hot, slow, or fast. Is it tingling, stuffy, gentle? Investigate what is
happening. Usually we take this mysterious process of breathing for granted.
Use it to become present.
When thoughts come, acknowledge them gently and return to
the breath. Stepping outside the story, we can begin to non-identify and simply
be with what’s happening. One moment at a time, gradually open to the whole
range of sensations and the flow of life.
As you become more present using the breath, ask yourself,
what else is happening right now? Allow the experience to be as it is without
pushing it away, grasping toward it, or numbing out. Become gracious,
accepting, fully present, and wise. This is the art of mindfulness.
Focusing on the movement of the breath softens our
identification with the stories we tell ourselves so we can simply be with
what’s happening. With gentleness and insight, your sense of freedom grows and
you open to the flow of life.
The View: Why We Meditate (Your Guide to Buddhist Meditation/July 2014)
Shambhala Sun | July 2014
SPECIAL SECTION: YOUR GUIDE TO BUDDHIST MEDITATION
The View: Why We Meditate
We don’t meditate to
become better people or have special experiences, says CHÖGYAM TRUNGPA RINPOCHE. Meditation is simply the way we relate to our already existing
The actual experience, techniques, and disciplines of
meditation are still unfamiliar to many people. So I would like to give you a
basic idea of how meditation practice works, how it operates in our everyday
life, and how it functions scientifically, so to speak.
The practice of meditation is not so much based on becoming
a better person, or for that matter becoming an enlightened person. It is
seeing how we can relate to our already existing enlightened state. To do that
is a matter of trust, as well as a matter of openness.
Trust plays an extremely
important part in the practice of meditation. The trust we are discussing is
trust in yourself. This trust has to be recovered rather than developed. We
have all kinds of conceptualizations and attitudes that prevent us from
uncovering that basic trust. These are known as the veil of conceptualization.
Sometimes we think of trust as trusting someone else to
provide us with security, or trusting someone else as an example or an
inspiration. These kinds of trust are generally based on forgetting yourself
and trying to secure something trustworthy from the outside. But when our
approach is highly externalized, the real meaning of trust is lost.
Real trust is not outward facing, as if you were completely
poverty-stricken. When you have that mentality, you feel that you have nothing
valuable within you, so you try to copy somebody else’s success or style or use
somebody else’s resources. However, Buddhism is known as a nontheistic
tradition, which means that help doesn’t come from outside.
The Sanskrit term for meditation, dhyana, is common
to many Buddhist traditions. In Chinese it is chan, and in Japanese it
is zen. We may use the word “meditation” in the English language, but
how can we actually express its meaning or what this approach actually is?
Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche (1939–1987) was the author of
such classics as Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism and
Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior. He was the founder of this
Inside the July 2014 Shambhala Sun magazine
Look inside the July 2014 Shambhala Sun magazine
FEATURING: "Your Guide to Buddhist Meditation," featuring guidance from 11 of today's finest teachers; a celebration of New York hotspot and Himalayan art refuge, the Rubin Museum; meditation teacher Allan Lokos's incredible airplane-crash survival story; plus, book reviews, Karen Maezen Miller, Brad Warner, "About a Poem," and more.
Click titles below to read excerpts and select complete articles.
this issue's editorial:
Rod Meade Sperry on why it's never too soon to get started with meditation.
special feature section: your guide to buddhist meditation
Learn a wealth of meditation techniques to develop calm, awareness, wisdom & love. Click titles to read samples and complete articles.
The art, spirituality, and ideas of the Himalayas meet the best of the modern world at New York's Rubin Museum. Celebrating its tenth anniversary, we showcase art from the collection and dialogues featuring Laurie Anderson, Martin Scorsese, Sharon Salzberg, the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, and many more.
Death can come at any time, so the Buddha warned us to get ready now. Knowing that helped Buddhist teacher Allan Lokos after a terrible airplane crash. Rod Meade Sperry has his story.
As a child, Howard Axelrod dreamed of a festival that everyone in the world attended. Now he realizes that it's been happening all along.
Crummy cars, a wall of guitars, and a whole bunch of meditation: not exactly the American Dream, but Zen teacher Brad Warner is good with that.
Through the practice of meditation, says Sakyong
Mipham, we discover an unconditional confidence that transforms our lives and benefits others.
The pond in her garden isn't like those decorating fancy homes and magazine covers. In time, however, Karen Maezen Miller discovered the right view of her muddy waters.
reviews & more
This issue, Andrea Miller's roundup features books on yoga, parenting, and our connections to animals, plus the new novel by Silver Linings Playbook author Matthew Quick
Sarah Messer on Nick Flynn's "Hive"
Shambhala Sun, March 2014, Volume Twenty Two, Number 6.
On the cover: Seated Buddha in meditation with right hand in the "touching the earth" mudra; alabaster, Burmese School, Amarapura, Burma / Photo (c) Luca Tettoni / The Bridgeman Art Library.
Books in Brief (May 2014)
Shambhala Sun | May 2014
Books in Brief
By ANDREA MILLER
Life, Love, and the Perfect Meal
By Ava Chin
Simon & Schuster 2014; 256 pp., $25 (cloth)
Don’t read Eating
Wildly when you’re hungry. Ava Chin has such a luscious knack for
describing anything steamed, sautéed, or deep-fried that you’ll be left with
your mouth watering and your stomach grumbling. She recreates the dishes of her
Chinese-American childhood, such as lobster Cantonese with lacy egg whites and
soy sauce chicken wings dripping in brown-sugar glaze, but foraging in New York
and other urban jungles is her specialty. She takes us on her hunts for savory
lambsquarters, mellow-sweet mulberries, and morels infused with the taste of
earth and springtime. For Chin, foraging is a moving meditation that has a
healing quality. Bit by bit, bite by bite, she comes to terms with her romantic
failures, her grandmother’s death, and the long-lingering pain of her father’s abandonment.
This story of self-discovery is complete with recipes.
THE PATH TO
Seven Points of Mind Training Can Lead You to a Life of Enlightenment and Happiness
By Shamar Rinpoche,
edited and translated by Lara Braitstein
Delphinium Books 2014; 178 pp., $14.95 (paper)
While the Tibetan
term lojong translates into English as “mind training,” the practice
transforms the heart as well. It was established in Tibet by the celebrated yogi-scholar Atisha (c. 982–1054) and
for years was only taught orally. Then Chekawa Yeshe Dorje (1101–1175) wrote The
Root Text of the Seven Points of Mind Training, in which he summarized
lojong into fifty-nine pithy aphorisms or slogans and divided them into seven
sections. One way that lojong can be practiced is to memorize these slogans so
they will pop into your mind when you need them. “Train uninterruptedly” and
“Do not hold on to anger” are two that seem fairly straightforward. Others are
quite obscure, such as “Guard the two even at the cost of your life” and “Make
the three inseparable.” Generation after generation of teachers have commented
on The Root Text of the Seven Points of Mind Training, and The Path
to Awakening is the Kagyu figure Shamar Rinpoche’s contribution.
By Thich Nhat Hanh
Parallax Press 2014; 208 pp., $12.95 (paper)
Do not kill, steal,
commit sexual misconduct, lie, or take intoxicants. Thich Nhat Hanh recognized
the timeless wisdom of these traditional Buddhist precepts but wanted to make
them more accessible for people today. So he rewrote them using fresh,
contemporary language, taking into account the realities of this modern world,
including the Internet, video games, television, and climate change. In his
version, Thich Nhat Hanh calls the five precepts “the five mindfulness
trainings,” and he lists them as: reverence for life, true happiness, true
love, deep listening and loving speech, and nourishment and healing. In The
Mindfulness Survival Kit, he delves deeply into the trainings and offers
concrete practices for each. He emphasizes that the trainings are free of
dogma, religion, and sectarianism, and they can be adopted by anyone, not just
Boundaries of Self and Other
By Ellen Birx
Wisdom Publications 2014; 248 pp., $15.95 (paper)
“Our lives are
constrained,” says Zen teacher Ellen Birx, “because we have a limited view of
who we are and who God is.” For Birx, the word “God” refers to the unknowable,
the ineffable. In short, God is a synonym for ultimate reality. Selfless
Love begins with two chapters on why and how to meditate, and Birx, who has
a Ph.D. in psychiatric nursing, informs this material with her solid knowledge
of cognitive science. But she is clear about her personal motivation, which is
spiritual. Meditation, as she sees it, is a kind of prayer, and its purpose is
to let go of all concepts and experience unbounded awareness. When we have this
direct experience of no-self, we can express our own unique gifts without being
self-centered. As Birx puts it, “You and God are not two separate realities.
God loves. You love. God’s love and your love are one reality.”
DAILY DOSES OF
A Year of
Edited by Josh
Wisdom Publications 2013; 438 pp., $16.95 (paper)
From the editor of Daily
Wisdom comes Daily Doses of Wisdom, a new collection of 365
contemplative quotes, plus nine longer selections. Contributors include the
poet Jane Hirshfield, the psychoanalyst and Zen teacher Barry Magid, and the
Buddhist ecologist Stephanie Kaza, as well as the Dalai Lama, Mahatma Gandhi,
Dogen, and the Buddha. From kindness to koans, fairness to freedom, a broad
range of topics are explored. “Use your own problems to remember that others
have problems too,” said by Kathleen McDonald, is one of the pithier quotes
that I enjoyed. Another is Issa’s classic haiku: “The world of dew/Is the world
of dew./And yet, and yet…” Bartok, who is head teacher at the Greater Boston
Zen Center, suggests reading one quote each day upon waking up or before going
to sleep or meditating. But he also points out that there is no wrong time for
the dharma, which is, as the Buddha put it, “good in the beginning, good in the
middle, and good in the end.”
JET BLACK AND
THE NINJA WIND
By Leza Lowitz and
Tuttle 2013; 320 pp., $17.99 (cloth)
Growing up in New
Mexico, Jet has a secret. Unlike the other kids in her class who watch TV in
the evenings, she is always training with her mother—learning things like how
to fight, how to hide, how to move without being heard. But Jet doesn’t
understand why she needs these skills. Then, when she’s seventeen years old,
her mother dies, leaving her with the instruction to go to Japan—her mother’s
native land—and find her grandfather. Suddenly Jet is thrust into a dangerous
world, but slowly she unravels its mystery. Jet Black and the Ninja Wind
is a young adult novel that will entertain readers with action and romance
while also exposing them to Japanese culture and history, focusing particularly
on the Emishi tribes and their struggle to save their land. The Buddhist thread
that runs through the story makes it a natural choice for budding
SWEEPS THE MIND
Written by Fa Ze,
illustrated by Du Lu
Buddha’s Light Publishing 2013; 28 pp., $8.95 (paper)
Little Panka Sweeps the Mind is a colorful treat of a picture book for children ages three to
eight. It tells the story of Culapanthaka—Little Panka—and his remarkable
achievement in the face of challenges. Big Panka, his elder brother, was a
quick study. But Little Panka could never remember anything, so eventually his
teacher gave up on him and Big Panka drove him from the temple. All alone,
Little Panka sobbed. Then suddenly the Buddha was at his side, offering to be
his teacher and instructing him to sweep while repeating the verse: “I sweep
the dust, I remove the waste.” Little Panka struggled to remember the words,
yet he kept sweeping and repeating, and after a long time he began to ask
himself what it meant to sweep. More time passed, and he realized that in his
mind there was dust and waste that couldn’t be removed with a broom. Clearing
his mind of dust and waste such as anger and pride, Little Panka opened his
heart to kindness, gratitude, and modesty. The Buddha recognized Little Panka
as an awakened one.
Inside the May 2014 Shambhala Sun magazine
Look inside the May 2014 Shambhala Sun magazine
FEATURING: Judy Lief, Thich Nhat Hanh, Sharon Salzberg, and John Tarrant on The Real Problem with Distraction; George Saunders on kindness; the way of freerunning; plus: Sakyong Mipham on why believing in basic goodness is our hope for the future; Andrea Miller on America’s Next Top Model winner (and Buddhist) Naima Mora; Twin Peak‘s Dale Cooper is recalled as a “dharma friend” as the series returns to the public consciousness; plus book reviews, About a Poem, and more.
Click titles below to read excerpts and select complete articles.
this issue's editorial:
Melvin McLeod on distraction, enlightenment, and what Buddhism offers us as we try to cut through to the very root of our suffering.
special feature section: the real problem with distraction
Buddhism’s deeper take on a modern obsession
What is it we’re working so hard to distract ourselves from? It’s enlightenment, says Buddhist teacher Judy Lief. She explains why letting go of all our distractions and entertainments is the path to awakening.
It can be hard to tell what’s distraction and what could have real meaning for our life. But either way, says Zen teacher John Tarrant, there’s no going back.
No self, no form, no goal—the worst possible news from ego’s
point of view. Thich Nhat Hanh on the deep truths we’re distracting
We have the illusion that multitasking makes us more
efficient, but that’s not true. Sharon Salzberg offers tips for getting
work done well without getting worked up.
The famed writer talks about a little girl named Ellen, a
failure of kindness, and a convocation speech that went viral. An interview by
the Shambhala Sun’s Melvin McLeod.
Freerunning, or parkour, isn’t merely a daredevil’s
game. It’s a way of being. Vincent Thibault on how running, jumping, and
climbing can beautify our cities—and our lives.With a photo essay by Andy Day.
It took an illness of the brain to discover her inherent
sanity. Meg Hutchinson tells us why her breakdown was actually a
Believing in humanity’s basic goodness, says Sakyong
Mipham, is our hope for the future.
We overlook the Man of Steel’s greatest power, his selflessness. Koun Franz on why he and his son aspire to be superheroes.
For Naima Mora, being a model goes beyond striking a pose.
As she tells Andrea Miller, it’s about making the world a better place.
Sometimes after a phone call, nothing is ever the same. But if you let it, says Douglas Penick, the bad news can come to feel a little like falling in love.
Oak and maple, palm and pine—trees are our closest neighbors and most patient teachers. Henry Shukman on the common roots of people and trees.
reviews & more
Twin Peaks: The Entire Mystery, Blu-ray set
reviewed by Rod Meade Sperry
Books in Brief
This issue, Andrea Miller's roundup features books by Shamar Rinpoche, Ava
Chin, Leza Lowitz, and more.
Pat Enkyo O’Hara on an anonymous poem by a Sung Dynasty nun
Shambhala Sun, March 2014, Volume Twenty Two, Number 5.
On the cover: Taken at the Nam June Paik Art Center, Gyeonggi-do, Seoul, South Korea. Photo by Ana Nance/Redux.
|<< Start < Previous 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Next > End >>|
|Results 19 - 27 of 1409||