Monthly Archives: May 2009

Jack Kornfield on the Seven Factors of Enlightenment

Jack Kornfield

Jack Kornfield

Regina Stribling, who writes on Buddhism for, unearthed this tasty nugget of Jack Kornfield’s—his talk, The Seven Factors of Enlightenment—where he shows us how to “taste the freedom of reconnecting with the openness and luminosity of mind that is our true nature.”

1. (Focus and Investigation) Recognizing the emotional/mental state or behavior: When an emotion or ruminating thoughts occur, the first step is becoming aware of what is occurring. Instead of following the scent of drama welled up in the emotions or thoughts, stop for a moment. What is actually happening right now? For example saying to myself, “I am feeling depressed about not being with him.” Is that the most honest answer? Is depression what I feel or is it a deep sense of loss? Truly asking myself, “What is this state I am feeling right now?” Then simply name the emotion or thought. For example: sadness, anger, thought about him/her.

2. (Concentration) Tending to the emotion/behavior through helpful tools: Helpful tools are those core positive coping mechanisms that assist in bringing peace to the mind and body. Continued »

Happy to see The Happiness Trap

By Alan Brush

This book cheered me up just by hearing about it: “The Happiness Trap” by Russ Harris, recently reviewed in The Times. It cheered me up because it offers advice based on the new Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), a recent form of Western psychotherapy.

Talking about creating a meaningful life, Harris says, “Of course, as we attempt to create such a life, we will encounter all sorts of barriers, in the form of unpleasant and unwanted ‘private experiences’ — thoughts, images, feelings, sensations, urges and memories. ACT teaches mindfulness skills as a way to handle these private experiences, allowing your feelings to be as they are, letting them come and go rather than trying to control them.”  Nice to see western psychotherapy offering the same advice found in the eastern Buddhist tradition…and now available to everyone, on both sides of the world.  A cheerful thought indeed!

Simon Critchley: Happy like God

May 29, 2009 Simon CritchleyMaybe your philosophy-101 textbook was as dry-as-a-bone and your philosophy class (MWF 11:00 to 12:00) was a good opportunity to doze. But don’t hold that against Simon Critchley. Though he’s professor and chair of philosophy at the New School for Social Research in New York, he’s way more interesting than the prof you had.

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Simon Critchley for the Q&A for the upcoming August/September issue of the Shambhala Sun and I got to talk to him about his latest book, The Book of Dead Philosophers, which unpacks 3,000 years of philosophical history by explaining how “190 or so” philosophers have kicked off. This, surprisingly, is a lively read—life affirming and morbidly funny. Now I’ve had the pleasure of coming across one of Critchley’s essays on the internet, Happy Like God. It’s a thoughtful piece you might like to check out.

John Tarrant’s “Escape Arts in Delusionville”: My Average Life

Q: “What is the Way?”

A: “Ordinary mind is the Way.”

I like finding features of popular culture that point the way out of the mind’s prison. It is as if a trail of breadcrumbs had been left where least expected.

Sometimes these features are influenced by Buddhism, sometimes they are just rhymes. I find the rhymes intriguing because they indicate that someone has found a method for hacking the mind, and that the mind likes to hack the mind, which is where Buddhism came from. (VDM) is a French site devoted to the truth that life is suffering. Vie de merde means — well, use the Babel translator. In the French way, VDM is devoted to offering the truth of suffering as short, tight exemplary narratives that are classified by subject — Amour, Argent, Enfants, Sexe, Travail and my favorite, Unclassable.

Viedemerde often has a rueful or droll touch:

Today I brought my lingerie home from my boyfriend’s place and found some that did not belong to me.

Today I had a big argument with my girlfriend who accused me of being narcissistic. Leaving home, I decided to write a text message to get her to forgive me. Lapse or inattention? I signed off with “I love myself.”

When you post on VDM it is rated with a little benediction: “It’s true it’s a VDM, it’s confirmed.”

Since Americans wanted to celebrate the Buddha’s dark diagnosis of the human condition in their own language, arose. FMyLifes are postcards from Delusionville, narratives of failed hope, more emo and histrionic than Viedemerde.

Sometimes FMyLife is a miscellany of simple complaints, but the ideal post depends on a mapping problem, an irretrievable misreading of a situation:

Today, I was waiting in the car while my mom went into a store to get beer. A few minutes later, some random guy was knocking on my window telling me to open the door. I started cursing him out, thinking I was getting attacked. Turns out he worked there and was putting the beer in the car.

Today, my brother came out to our family as being gay. My mother starting crying because “She wanted grandchildren.” I told her that I was planning on having children. She started crying harder.

Today, I was on the bus home and on the phone with my best friend discussing my sex life with this new guy I’m seeing. I was telling her all sorts of raunchy sex things we’ve done until someone taps my shoulder and says “I’m sure he doesn’t appreciate you saying this in public.” It was his mom. Continued »

Does meditation do it all?


David Rome

David Rome, Senior Fellow at Garrison Institute and former secretary to Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, is a practitioner of both Buddhism and focussing—the discipline of bringing gentle, interested attention to one’s bodily felt experience.

In an interview with the Shambhala Times (newsletter of Shambhala International) David argues that “Buddhist meditation gives a way of working with mind and making situations more workable because you’re able to have space and detachment. What meditation is not so beneficial for is actually exploring the situation or feelings themselves.” He says mindfulness-awareness is a wonderful tool for taming the mind, and in so doing can “relieve some of the pressure of emotional conflict, neurosis—but that doesn’t mean that it allows the source of those conflicts to be resolved.” We know that the Buddha taught the value of insight, not just sitting with a calm mind. Says David, focussing is one discipline that creates a setting where fresh insight can arise.

Read the entire interview with David here, and check out the article David wrote on this topic for the Shambhala Sun.

Let’s hear from YOU, SunSpace readers: What does meditation allow you to explore or touch in to? What other disciplines might be needed in life to get to the core of emotional, unclear, or conflicted issues? Broad question, but worth hearing the breadth of experience.

Final notes: David and others will explore such topics at the Applied Mindfulness Conference at Karme Choling in July; see details in our Calendar. Also: David offers a wonderful commentary on William Stafford’s poem “Like a Little Stone” in the July issue of Shambhala Sun, on sale beginning June 2.

Are you looking at the Buddha?

jadensmithAccording to film director Ashutosh Gowariker, you are. He has selected Jade Smith, son of actor and once-rapper Will Smith, to play the young Siddhartha Gautauma in a biopic to be released in 2010. The 11-year-old played Smith’s son in The Pursuit of Happyness [sic], and while playing son to your own dad may not seem like a stretch, he clearly impressed “Ashu,” as his new employer is known.

The script was written by David Ward, who wrote The Sting (for which he won the Oscar), Sleepless in Seattle, The Milagro Beanfield War, and more. (Quite a range!)  So this should be one to see.

From The Worst Horse’s Mouth: The “Buddha-phone” hits the streets

Ya gotta see this. Via

MP3 playback? Check. Two cameras? Check. Built-in mobile Buddhist altar? Che… Wait, WTF?!

You read correctly. The Odin 99 has landed on the streets of Japan, and a single tap of the phone‘s dedicated lotus-leaf button will load a private, customisable, animated altar.

The idea is to allow Buddhists to perform their dedications and rituals conveniently when away from home. You can simulate incense burning, purification rites and play music to help you meditate wherever you happen to be.

For photos, go here.

Is it possible to meditate in a moment?

May 26, 2009 One Moment MeditationThe moment in which we most need to be peaceful is the very moment in which it is not easy to be peaceful. In this excerpt from Martin Boroson’s new book One-Moment Meditation: Stillness for People on the Go, he encourages us to find peace now.

Many people see meditation as an endurance test: the longer they can sit still, being peaceful, the more spiritual they are. Many people also believe that meditation must be practiced in a serene and beautiful retreat—far removed from everyday life. They have these beliefs, no doubt, because so much of our spiritual heritage has been handed down by monks, nuns, hermits, and prophets—people who renounced ordinary life to spend years and years in silent contemplation. Continued »

Prop 8 ruling: California upholds same-sex marriage ban

janadrakkaSad but true. Via the NY Times:

The California Supreme Court upheld a ban on same-sex marriage today, ratifying a decision made by voters last year that runs counter to a growing trend of states allowing the practice.

The decision, however, preserves the 18,000 marriages performed between the court’s decision last May that same-sex marriage was lawful and the passage by voters in November of Proposition 8, which banned it.

Well, that’s something, thank goodness. For the Buddhist, gay, and committed perspective on Prop 8 and same-sex marriage — listen to our recent Shambhala Sun Audio segment with Steve Silberman, who wrote “Happily Ever After” in our May 2009 issue. And be sure to see all of the comments left by your fellow SunSpace readers.

Steve also sends the smile-inducing photo (again, we’ll take what we can get!) you see here, of priest Jana Drakka at today’s anti-Prop 8 rally. For more, see Steve’s album of shots, here.

Oh, and by the way, San Francsico Zen Center has released its statement about Prop 8. Read it here.

k.d. lang: A voice “a few lifetimes old”

Photo by Liza Matthews

Photo by Liza Matthews

The Guardian has a lovely new article featuring chanteuse extraordinaire k.d. lang, in which she explains her relationship to her voice, and touches on her Buddhism:

“My voice and the styles and genres I sing all express my appreciation for what I hear. I’ve always been that way: I started singing when I was five. I grew up the youngest of four kids who all studied classical piano, so you could say I’ve been listening to music ever since the moment of conception. It was ingrained in my family environment. But I sort of believe that my voice was preordained; I’m a Buddhist who believes in reincarnation so I think that my voice is a few lifetimes old.”

You can read the full article here.

Want more k.d.? Then read our editor in chief Melvin McLeod’s interview with her, in which she first spoke openly about her Buddhist practice, here.  Or check out these photos and a short write-up about her recent visit to the Shambhala Sun offices.

The Spirit of Buddha

May 25, 2009 The Spirit of Buddha coverOne of the new releases that I selected to feature in the Books in Brief section of the the June/July 2009 issue is the photography book, The Spirit of the Buddha. I attempted to give readers a taste of the photos on its pages butyou know what they say—a picture is worth a thousand words. What follows is the write-up I did on The Spirit of the Buddha, as well as several photographs from its pages.

The Spirit of Buddha
Photographs by Robin Kyte-Coles
teNeues Publishing Company, 2009; pp. 127 pp., $45.00 (cloth)

Robin Kyte-Coles, with his gorgeous photographs of Buddhist art, takes us on a journey across Asia. I love seeing how different artists in different countries have interpreted the same subject and how Kyte-Coles shot using as little flash as possible, resulting in compelling images that glow Continued »

Rise of the Machines

artificial-intelligenceby Alan Brush

Can humans design machines that are truly intelligent? Will humans eventually be supplanted by machine intelligence? The importance of questions like these is highlighted in a recent article in the New York Times.

There’s a growing sense of alarm related to these questions. Buddhist philosophy may offer some guidance in dealing with that. For example, the views of those who predict the eventual supremacy of machine intelligence seem to be based on philosophical assumptions that we see as unproven and incorrect, such as the notion of an objective reality independent of mind. I suspect that a Buddhist prescription for dealing with the prospect of runaway technology might be much like what we’ve already heard: meditate, clarify our mind, and nurture compassion. What do you think? Can we say more?

Cockroaches and beyond: To kill or not to kill?

In the new (July 2009) issue of the Shambhala Sun, Gabriel Cohen’s piece “Night of the Cockroach,” the author shines a light — and in so doing, sends little sentient beings scattering. But shocockroachuld we really treat cockroaches with compassion, or are they just disease-carrying pests to be dealt with?

In this short excerpt Cohen shares his reaction to the presence of unwanted six-legged visitors, and it’s probably not an uncommon one:

“I’m flooded with  an intense jolt of anger and revulsion. I’m thinking, how dare you invade my safe kitchen, you malicious little bastard!

“When anger arises, it’s always a good idea to question what’s going on inside, rather than out. first of all, because I have chosen to occupy this apartment, is it inherently mine? Why is it my space, as opposed to the roach’s? And why do I believe that this little creature is threatening me? I even impute a malicious streak to it, as if it were inherently both vermin — noxious and objectionable — and villain. When I look at things from the roach’s side, I see the wrongness of my view. This bug doesn’t wish me harm. It came out of  the darkness into an open space, just seeking a bit of food, the satisfaction of its most basic needs. then the light came on and  a huge monster was standing there! from the roach’s point of  view, I’m the menace; I’m the potential cause of suffering.”

We want to know: what do you think? Where do you draw the line when it comes to killing or not killing? Share your advice, your comments, and your thoughts with other SunSpace readers here.

(And for more related to this, you might want to see our recent SunSpace discussion about vegetarianism, here.)

Buddhist Movie Moments, Part II

oscarGiven that we’ve actually got a profile of Harold Ramis — who, it seems, only gets cooler with age — in the new July issue, we figured this would be a good time to re-ask the question, for those who missed it:

What’s your favorite movie moment that somehow touches on or refers to Buddhism, but isn’t from a specifically Buddhist film? (Ramis is responsible for more a couple himself; one of the silliest, from Caddyshack, is below, and the filmmaker contends it represents the first-ever mention of the Dalai Lama in a Hollywood film.) …All that matters is that for some reason it’s stayed with you — and maybe even the culture-at-large, too.

And if you can find a YouTube clip of the scene you’d like to suggest, you can even leave that right in your comment.

Lots of SunSpace readers have already commented, and their video-clips and suggestions are definitely worth a look.

Lin Jensen on the rising temperature of planet earth

May 22, 2009 EarthIn this web-exclusive piece, author Lin Jensen says the rising temperature of planet earth measures a fever. A fever that is symptomatic of a pathological infection: the pandemic of unrestrained human greed.

Global warming is inextricably linked to patterns of consumption, a direct result of what and how much we humans buy. Patterns of excessive economic consumption are pretty much the same throughout the industrialized world. Here in the United States, for example, the conventional economic assessment holds that when the index on consumer confidence is up that’s good. When it’s down that’s bad. The more goods people buy the better the prospects for the economy. Traders on Wall Street respond by buying up shares, the Dow industrial averages rise, and most people feel positive about their economic prospects. The fewer goods people buy the worse the prospects for the economy. Traders sell off shares, the Dow industrial averages fall, and people feel pretty dismal about economic prospects. Continued »