Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Barn at the End of the World

The Barn at the End of the World
Apprenticeship of a Quaker Buddhist Shepherd
by Mary Rose O'Reilley

When we breathe, that is normal. When we practice, we bring mindfulness to breathing. Breathing is always breathing. Right mindfulness becomes one with breathing and gradually transformation occurs. When we breathe with mere recognition, quite naturally breathing becomes slower. When we dwell in sitting still, the quality of breathing is different, feels light. This is the joy of meditation. There is letting go and freedom in that. Thus we nourish ourselves. Body and mind calm down and we smile.

We smile out of our inner calm and that takes the calmness deeper. The breath is a rest between past and future. We bring our mind home to our breath. Only our breath brings about oneness of mind and body. Breathing in, I am aware of my whole body.... We invite our breathing to embrace our whole body. This is the beginning of love, compassion, of understanding. Calm and harmony embrace our body. When five or ten minutes pass this way, my body is calm. This is mindfulness of body.

Next we practice so that feelings become the object of practice. Peace helps us to do the work of healing. First we have to put our body at peace, then we turn to our feelings. We feel joy because we see that the path is helping us. Breathing in, I feel happy.... We need these resources of calm and peace; only then can we recognize our unpleasant feelings. We embrace them. We do not blame or oppress our suffering. Embrace a feeling like a little child. Who is going to look after your unpleasant emotions if not you? We must not let the child be alone. Right mindfulness increases our resources. Our healing gets easier. That is the dharma, that mustard seed. Water it so it can grow. Embrace your suffering with your deep and calm breathing. You don't need to do anything else.

Mindfulness does not force, does not invade. When we're sad, when we're angry, this is the way to practice: I breath in and know I am sad / Breathing out, I smile with my sadness....

Don't judge, don't scold yourself. Just be with the feeling. When we have embraced our anger or our sadness in calm, we will begin to see its root. That is wisdom, and that is what liberates us from pain. Right mindfulness is presence, body/mind in the here and now. We can only recognize something when we are present, and then we can embrace. We make it calm when it is painful, but if it is already beautiful, we make it more beautiful: full moon, sunset. Stopping is essential to looking deeply.

by Thich Nhat Hanh
“Breathing in, I become a flower.
Breathing in, I become a mountain.
Breathing in, I become water,
reflecting all things.
Calm water.” by Thich Nhat Hanh

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Running with the Mind of Meditation

Running with the Mind of Meditation
Lessons for Training Body and Mind
by Sakyong Mipham

A unique fitness program from a highly respected spiritual leader that blends physical and spiritual practice for everyone - regardless of age, spiritual background, or ability - to great benefits for both body and soul.

As a Tibetan lama and leader of Shambhala (an international organization of 165 meditation centers), Sakyong Mipham has found physical activity to be essential for spiritual well-being. He's been trained in horsemanship and martial arts but has a special love for running. Here he incorporates his spiritual practice with running, presenting basic meditation instruction and fundamental principles he has developed. Even though both activities can be complicated, the lessons here are simple and designed to show how the melding of internal practice with physical movement can be used by anyone - regardless of age, spiritual background, or ability - to benefit body and soul.

Book Quotes:

Through meditation we can connect with that long-forgotten goodness we all have. It is very powerful to feel that sense of goodness: having confidence and bravery in our innermost being.

When we give our mind and body what benefits them, a natural harmony and balance takes place. With this unified approach, we are happy, healthy, and wise.

...movement is good for the body, and stillness is good for the mind. To lead a balanced life, we need to engage and be active, and to deepen and rest.

Being able to acknowledge the breath and then appreciate the breath, becoming intimately involved with the breathing process, is a key to meditation - and to running. The breath is like the green grass of the earth that we are standing on. We are often unaware of where we are standing.

The whole premise of motivation is that there is no limit to it. In the meditation tradition, we talk about three kinds of motivation: small, medium, and large. Rousing small motivation is contemplating that the meditation practice is helpful for ourselves: we can develop a good attitude, which helps alleviate our mental and physical suffering. Medium motivation is realizing that we can use meditation to discover the nature of reality, what lies underneath all our discursiveness and habitual patterns. Great motivation is that we can attain enlightenment and therefore help all beings. The exercise of rousing motivation is not about what is possible or impossible, but rather about seeing how far we can expand. When we contemplate our motivation, we expand our attitude from being concerned with just ourselves to caring for the whole world.

The success...lies in the ability to handle our motivation. The not necessarily to channel it into a drive to be successful; that would be ambition. Rather, the point is to allow ourselves to see what is possible.

Mindfulness brings contentment and satisfaction. We need nothing but what we have, like a tiger preening. The tiger is very present. When we are very present, we project more health and power. We feel mentally at ease: quite simply, we are happier.

That in a nutshell is essentially what mediation practice is: creating a personal, self-contained environment in which you develop health and happiness for your mind.

One could say that life is at least 50 percent pain. If we do not relate to pain, we are not relating to half our life... When we are able to work with pain and understand it, life becomes twice as interesting. Relating to pain makes us more fearless and happy.

If we are overwhelmed by pain and unhappiness, we often react in a childish way: we objectify the pain. As soon as we start accusing the pain, the pain becomes our enemy. Getting angry does not help us grow from the experience.

Acknowledging that something is off is a sign of maturity. Recognizing that pain is an opportunity to grow gives us the power to see how to correct the imbalance and move forward, taking on the pain as a journey. Then we see pain as an opportunity.

It is helpful to regard the experience of pain as a way to stay connected with others. Everybody suffers. When our own pain serves as a reminder of this truth, we can use it as a source of genuine compassion... Even when it hurts, you can promote that attitude by turning your mind to its natural radiance and generating compassion for others.

"If you want to be miserable, think of yourself. If you want to be happy, think of others."

Aggression is a short-term solution for a long-term problem. Gentleness is persistent. Gentleness is therefore a sign of strength, while aggression is a sign of weakness.

With gentleness, we no longer struggle with ourselves. When we are not struggling with ourselves, we are doing our best. We cannot do more than that. In fact, being gentle with ourselves, we may be surprised by how much we can do. We become inspired by our potential.

Gentleness allows us to have more skill and more options in how we overcome negative habits and ingrain positive ones.

Meditation can play a major role in reducing our mental stress. We are increasing its strength and flexibility to hand more without the worrying. How much more? Infinitely more...

True confidence is grounded in the unity of mind and body. The two are not meant to be separate.

Pride is mental bloatness based on an inaccurate self-assessment: we have overvalued ourselves.

Boredom has a interest scale, and it correlates directly with self-worth. We don't consider our activity worthy of our attention, and therefore we're not interested.

We meditate to become more healthy, available, compassionate, and present. If we find ourselves less healthy, available, compassionate, or present, then we are missing the point.

Over the centuries, meditators have determined that the root of unhappiness, suffering, and stress is essentially self centeredness.

In the ancient meditation texts, the distinction between being wise and being foolish is not so much who you are but how you utilize what you have. Wise people have imagination. No matter what confronts them, they are able to see possibility.

...we are all gifted; we all have something to offer. ...all these gifts that is moving us in the right direction. In these times, what we do matters, regardless of how insignificant it is. But that is not the point. The point is that we are all optimistic and engaged. In that way, not only is our activity of benefit to others, it is also personally satisfying and leads to contentment and happiness. This is a win-win situation.

Word List:
to engage:
to alleviate:
to channel:

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Maezumi’s Three Teachings

by Karen Maezen Miller

Luckily for me, my teacher Nyogen Roshi keeps repeating the same thing over and over again. (I’m beginning to realize that’s what teachers do.) In nearly every one of his weekly dharma talks he ends up reciting a set of instructions given to him by his teacher Maezumi Roshi in the early days of his training.
Wisdom teachings are fascinating things. They may not appear to be special. They are never complicated. They can sound so ordinary that we don’t even hear them or grant them consideration. But like seeds, they burrow into us and one day surface in full bloom. Only then are we ready to appreciate them. Here are Maezumi’s Three Teachings, which you’re not likely to find elsewhere.
  • Don’t deceive yourself. In the Ten Grave Precepts we vow to “refrain from lying” and yet in the early stages of our practice we might interpret this admonition dualistically to mean not lying to others. In truth, every time we lie we lie to ourselves, and we’re the only one we consistently fool! Others are seldom conned by us for as long as we con ourselves. At its most profound level, my greatest self-deceit is the deceit of self, with all my ego-reinforcing views. In daily life, this teaching reminds me that unless I practice consistently and devotedly on a cushion, I cannot practice at the kitchen sink. Without practice, my views devolve into either self-congratulation or self-criticism, and both are deceptions. Practice starts with me.

  • Don’t make excuses for yourself. The list of all the people and things I can, and do, blame is endless. Don’t get me started! Blaming external, or even internal, conditions for what I do or don’t do is dualistic. As long as I’m casting blame elsewhere, I am reinforcing my own wrong-headed view as separate. Taking this teaching at its most profound level, I must begin to see that any excuse for myself is a self-deception. The power to change is only mine. The power to practice is only mine. Waking up is up to me. The responsibility for my life begins and ends with me, and only when I stop excusing myself does my life benefit everyone and everything.

  • Take responsibility for yourself. If you’re like me, you might imagine yourself to be the most responsible human being on the planet! But that’s not responsible enough. To take complete responsibility for yourself is to no longer deceive yourself, no longer make excuses for yourself, and thereby serve the entire world by waking up. At its most profound level, taking responsibility for yourself means taking responsibility for everything. In these three little instructions we thus find both the seed and the fruit of continuous practice.

English PDFMP3

Originally published on Shambhala SunSpace, reprinted here with author's permission


Errant mother, delinquent wife, reluctant dog walker, expert laundress, and stationmaster of the full catastrophe. Author of "Momma Zen: Walking the Crooked Path of Motherhood" and the forthcoming "Hand Wash Cold: Care Instructions for An Ordinary Life.

Her blog is at

Sunday, June 2, 2013


Mindful Eating, Mindful Life
by Thich Nhat Hanh

(Obesity) is also a worldwide crisis largely brought on by social trends that distract and prevent us from doing the things that keep us in balance, healthy, and connected with our inner selves and our place in the world.

Do not get lost in regret about your past mistakes. The past is the past. It is not the present. You can seize the present moment – any present moment – to begin anew.

The past is your teacher and can offer valuable lessons on what worked and what did not work for you. But it is not your present reality. It remains your present reality only if you allow it to be. Do not let your past experiences hold you back. Your failures do not need to determine your current or future experience. Focus on the present. When you focus on the present, you do not give any power to your past actions.

It may seem like a huge change for many people, but reducing the amount of meat and dairy in your diet is a great way to keep your weight in check, improve your overall health, and take steps toward improving the health of our planet. When we learn to eat more vegetables, grains, and beans mindfully, we will enjoy their taste, and we can be happy knowing that we are supporting a new kind of society in which there is enough food for everyone and no one will have to suffer form hunger.

Mass media is the food for our eyes, ears, and minds. When we watch television, read a magazine, watch a film, or play a video game, we are consuming sensory impressions. Many of the images we are exposed to through the media water unwholesome seeds of craving, fear, anger, and violence in our consciousness. The images, sounds, and ideas that are toxic can rob our body and consciousness of their well-being. If you feel anxious, fearful, or depressed, it may be because you have taken in too many toxins through your sense without even knowing it. Be mindful of what you watch, read, and listen to, and protect yourself from the fear, despair, anger, craving, anxiety, or violence they promote. The material goods they promise are only quick, temporary fixes. True contentment lies within.