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Check Out Our Meditation Courses, Starting
have three exciting courses starting in a two weeks. Check them out!
Forgiveness: The Art and Science of
Letting Go (Mar 1–28)
do we let go of resentments? How do we forgive others? How do we make
sure we aren't letting people off the hook or putting ourselves or others
at risk of harm? How do we forgive ourselves? And if we do, are we
increasing our risk of making mistakes in the future?
this 28-day online course our reflections, and Bodhipaksa's guided
meditations, will help build the foundations for a mindful and
self-compassionate approach to forgiving ourselves and others.
Living With Kindness: Lovingkindness
Practices for Awakening the Heart (Mar 1–28)
can become kinder and more accepting of ourselves through practice. We
can deepen our appreciation of and care for our friends. We can become
kinder and more patient with relative strangers. And we can reduce the
tensions between us and those who we find challenging.
(or metta as it's called in Buddhism) begins with empathizing with
the fact that we are all doing a difficult thing in being human.
Optimize Your Brain: Awaken Your Full
Potential With Meditation (Mar 1–28)
of the most potent tools for changing the brain—and thus our ability to
live happy and fulfilling lives—is meditation.
of studies have shown that meditating even for just a few minutes a day
has substantial benefits for our wellbeing.
this 28-day online course we’ll learn how to activate states of calm
instead of worry; kindness and compassion instead of irritability and
anger; mindful presence instead of distractedness; and joy instead of
sadness and despair.
our compliments, please enjoy the first of the meditations from our
forthcoming online course, Optimize
Your bi-monthly dose
Embrace your full humanity!
Buddha’s cousin once asked him what the benefit of living skillfully was.
The Buddha answered that skillful living leads to freedom from remorse,
which in turn leads to joy. Joy then allows the mind to settle into
concentration, and concentration leads to the arising of insight. That’s
the path we follow in Buddhist practice. And it all starts with learning
to live skillfully.
word “skillful” (that’s kusala
in Pali, for those who are interested) is a fascinating vocabulary choice
on the Buddha’s part. He didn’t generally talk about “good” and “bad”
actions, although that terminology was, of course, available to him.
Instead, he talked about us acting skillfully or unskillfully. Since this
may seem like odd language for talking about morality or ethics, as if we’re
being asked to perform some kind of trick, let’s take a closer look at
what he might have meant by it.
can think about “skill” as meaning, “actions that can accomplish an aim.”
A skilled writer is one who aims to persuade or create pleasure, or whatever
her aim might be, and can actually do so. Merely having the intent isn’t
enough, or we’d all be good writers! Writing well is a craft, and has to
be learned by the intelligent application of trial and error and well as
by studying the works of other writers who are themselves recognized as
having skill. An unskilled writer may have the same aim as a more skilled
one but isn’t able to put those aims into action.
the relevance of this to spirituality? In life, we all have the aim, deep
down, of finding peace of mind, happiness, and wellbeing. But do we have
the skill to create that kind of life? Here too, just as with our example
of a skilled writer, accomplishing this aim is a matter of intelligently
approaching life in a trial and error way, while also learning from the
life, example, and sometimes personal guidance of those who seem to be
skilled at living well.
stops us from finding peace of mind? We do! We contain skillful
tendencies (compassion, kindness, mindfulness, etc) and unskillful
tendencies (such as self-centeredness, aversion to discomfort. Both sets
of impulses aim to keep us secure and happy, but all too often our
unskillful tendencies create suffering for ourselves. We react, and these
reactions cause suffering.
unskillful instincts advertise themselves as helpful when most of the
time they’re not. So our trial and error process consists of observing
that unskillful, reactive impulses do not bring happiness and that only a
creative life based on living with mindfulness and kindness can achieve
is something that we have to work at learning because our unskillful
impulses have evolved to protect us. For example, being unpleasant to
someone who annoys us is an instinct that evolved hundreds of millions of
years ago. If you’re a lizard, and you make a threatening display to
another lizard who comes too close to you, you can chase the intruder
away, protecting yourself and your food supply. But when the person
you’re annoyed with is a colleague or close family member, it’s not
possible to remove this person from your life! Your aversion binds you in
a conflicted and painful relationship. And so, in many ways, our
“protective” instincts end up harming us.
more skilful attributes are rooted in our evolutionary biology as well.
As mammals, we’ve evolved to value love and connection; a newborn baby’s
first need is to be held, monkeys create social binds by grooming each
other. We’ve evolved to have empathy; even mice show distress when they
see one of their fellows suffering, and rats have been observed trying to
free their friends from traps. This too is built into the structure of
part of our mammalian conditioning, however, is the need to establish our
position in a social “pecking order.” This can result in us competing,
even with friends and family. This kind of inappropriate conditioning
goes against our need for connection, warmth, and intimacy.
we also have a more distinctively human part of our brains — the most
recently evolved part of our brains, the neocortex, which is the seat of
reason, reflection, and self-awareness. The neocortex allows us to look
at our reactive instincts and our more creative and skillful instincts,
and to see the disadvantages of the former compared to the latter. It
also allows us to change our behavior, so that we choose to let go of
unskillful impulses, and instead to think, speak, and act skillfully. In
choosing to live skillfully, we’re choosing to live a more authentically
human, happier, and meaningful life.