Author Profile: Molly De Shong


How to meditate with kids (and why it’s important)

June1409 Kids drawing/ Flickr 3088470051_3fc0342144_mAnna Narvid writes on matters of physical and emotional health for Examiner.com and says that teaching mindfulness to kids is an “extraordinary way to help them generate esteem, cultivate calm, and deal with difficulty.” Anna offers some thoughtful and beyond-the-usual ideas for practicing ‘meditation’ with children. Try a few, then let us know how they work for you and yours.

Meditation for Children—3 Simple Exercises

A. Drawing Meditation

1. Sit down with your child in a quiet, comfortable spot
2. Allow your child to pick one object in the room to focus on
3. With your child, look at the object and describe what you see
4. Have your child draw the object as best she/he can
5. Together, descriptively compare and contrast the drawing and the object
6. If your child seems finished with the exercise, then you are done—if not, continue…
7. Now, choose a different place in the room to sit
8. Look at the object again from this alternate location
9. With your child, look at the object and describe what you see
10. Repeat the exercise until you feel your child feels like she/he is finished!

B. Reporting Meditation

1. Toward the end of the day, sit with your child in a quiet, comfortable spot Continued »

“Buddha” film a Bollywood blockbuster

Channelnewsasia.com reports the Indian film industry is set make the most expensive movie ever made in Bollywood—this one on the life of Gautama Buddha. Said Academy Award-nominated director Ashutosh Gowariker, “This is the story that unfolded 2,500 years ago, a time in ancient India when you had slavery, you had cruelty… To re-create that is an expensive proposition.” The script is based on the book Old Path, White Clouds by Vietnamese master Thich Nhat Hanh.

TULKU, the movie

Tulku trailerWe brought you the trailer, and now the film’s in festival run.

TULKU: Divine Birth, Ordinary Life is the new documentary by Gesar Mukpo (son of the late Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche) that is his intensely personal exploration of life as a tulku, or reincarnated Buddhist master. He sets out to discover what it means to ‘wear’ this identity—especially as someone brought up in the West, with a great deal of choice but without the traditional supports or reference points of tulkus in Tibet. He interviews 4 other young tulkus (too bad, all men!) as well as his own teacher, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche—all of whom question the place of tulku-hood in modern America.

It’s a thoughtful frolic around the globe, meeting up with these ‘special’ beings. I like that writer and director Gesar shows us who he is; he doesn’t hide behind camera, guru, or filmmaker agenda but lets us see how unclear and confusing life has been. He and the 4 have never quite resolved who they are, what they’re doing on Earth, or what they should commit to.

But really, who has? Who knows why we’re here, in this body/shape, and what we’re moving toward? As Gesar says in the film, life offers no certainty—only the opportunity for self discovery. This simple truth leaves us plenty to contemplate.

TULKU will be released on DVD this Fall, after the festival run. Check here for updates.

Pico Iyer on the surprise route to happiness

08iyer75In today’s New York Times, writer Pico Iyer argues that happiness lies less in our circumstances than in what we make of them. “I’m no Buddhist monk, and I can’t say I’m in love with renunciation in itself, or traveling an hour or more to print out an article I’ve written, or missing out on the N.B.A. Finals. But at some point, I decided that, for me at least, happiness arose out of all I didn’t want or need, not all I did.” Read on here.

In writing for the Shambhala Sun over the years, Pico has has told us about his travels, the art of writing, and his meetings with the Dalai Lama. Enjoy this selection from our archive.

Over Tea with the Dalai Lama

Centered at the Summit – Pico Iyer concludes that only the Dalai Lama brings true spiritual peace to the summit of world affairs.

My Private Cineplex – The writer’s job, says Pico Iyer, is to watch his moods and thoughts, as captivating yet passing as the seasons, and decide which are worth sharing

Saka Dawa observed, and suicides on the rise among monks in Tibet

TibetCustom.com presents this report submitted to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Freedom of Religion or Belief, on the circumstances leading to the increase in suicides by Tibetan monks and nuns in Chinese occupied Tibet since 10 March 2008.

Tibetan Buddhists worldwide are currently observing this month as the holy Buddhist month of Saka Dawa. 7 June 2009 (a full moon day), Sunday, will be observed as the most important day of the holy month according to the Buddhist belief due to the significance of the day being Buddha Shakyamuni’s birth, enlightenment and parinirvana falling on the same day. While the Tibetan Buddhist – both the civil and monastic community – worldwide spend the day with various religious activities and rituals according to the faith, however, Tibetans inside Chinese administered Tibet face severe religious repression enacted by the State and its agents. Read the full report here.

Meditation may lessen depression

A while back we ran a SunSpace story showing how Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy—a group-based clinical approach—could be a viable treatment for long-term depression. Well here’s another pilot study that talks up the benefits of meditation once again, this one conducted by psychiatrists at the University of Oxford. Their report states that “MBCT can be used to successfully reduce current symptoms in patients suffering from a protracted course of the disorder.”

Jack Kornfield on the Seven Factors of Enlightenment

Jack Kornfield

Jack Kornfield

Regina Stribling, who writes on Buddhism for Examiner.com, 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 »

Does meditation do it all?

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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.

Deity yoga may boost visual memory

Forbes.com reports that “an experiment by George Mason University researchers found that people who practice Deity Yoga (DY) do much better at visual-spatial tasks shortly after they meditate. … The study’s authors, writing in a recent issue of Psychological Science, said the finding may have ‘many implications for therapy, treatment of memory loss and mental training.’ “  The study describes ‘deity yoga’ as when a person “zeros in on an image of their deity, conjuring up a vivid, three-dimensional mental picture of it while honing in on the deity’s emotions and environment.”

Episcopal church rejects bishop over Zen-inspired changes to liturgy

Leaders of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh have voted against permitting another diocese to consecrate a bishop who is also a practicing Zen Buddhist.

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “A spokesman for the diocese said the decision was not based on Bishop-elect Kevin Thew Forrester’s Zen practices, but on changes he had made to the liturgy in his parish. …. Members said he had stripped the baptismal liturgy of references to divine redemption, emphasizing human action over God’s grace.” Read the full story here.

Brains grow bigger in people who meditate

A new UCLA study shows that sitting quietly and focusing the mind bulks up the brain. Reports the L.A. DailyBreeze: “In a study published today in the journal Neurolmage, researchers found that areas of the brain controlling emotion — the hippocampus, the orbito-frontal cortex, the thalamus and the inferior temporal gyrus—were larger among meditators than those in a control group.” Read the full story here or in Science Daily here.

The itch of existence: Where do I fit?

myphotoEach week on SunSpace we’ll feature a piece submitted by a reader—so please be in touch. Here, ‘Buddhist in Nebraska’ blogger Monica Sanford has the “nagging sense we don’t fit in…an itch just beneath the skin”—until she realizes that there is nothing to fit into.

I have everything going for me.  I’m white, middle class, college educated, and living in America.  I tend to think that multiple orgasms is more than fair trade for a glass ceiling with more cracks every day.  I’m tall, healthy, and of above average intelligence, or so they tell me (I know, I’m still surprised, too).  I was raised in the suburbs, went to public school and church on Sunday, and my folks are still happily married after 35 years.  I don’t suffer from any mental disorders (that I know of) or addictions.  There is nothing to set me apart.

Yet, I’ve always felt outside in, like my skin was on wrong.  I don’t belong to my own culture, despite every demographic label telling me I do.  I know all the rules, but I don’t care about any of them.  I feel like an actor playing a part in a play I never chose. Continued »

Buddhist teachers, sign here: Declaration on Climate Change

Zen teacher, author and scholar David Loy sends this invitation to SunSpace readers—Buddhist teachers especially:

Dear Bodhisattvas,
This email is to inform you that a joint Declaration on Climate Change is now available online at: http://www.ecobuddhism.org/buddhist-declaration.php

We hope that you will join the Dalai Lama in signing this statement and informing your Buddhist colleagues and students about it. We are especially eager to obtain the signatures of 100 Buddhist teachers, as a way to raise the visibility of this project.

For those of you who don’t already know, later this month Wisdom Publications will be releasing A Buddhist Response to the Climate Emergency, an edited book with contributions by the Dalai Lama, the Karmapa, Thich Nhat Hanh, Bhikkhu Bodhi, and many others. For details, visit here.

With gassho,
David Loy

Pema Chödrön on Commitment

pema-chodron_photoIn the Winter 2009 issue of Gampo Abbey’s newsletter are the Six Commitments that spiritual director (and bestselling author) Pema Chödrön asked students to ‘work with’ during a recent retreat. Here are just a couple to test-drive for yourself.

The Six Commitments

1. Am I willing to do my best to take full responsibility for my own shenpa [how we get hooked] and for my own karma ripening and not blame it on what triggered it?

2. Am I wiling to do my best to take being hooked (triggered, activated) as an opportunity to free myself or ancient habits and patterns and to weaken, even burn up entirely, old karmic seeds?

3. Am I willing to do my best to take this time in this community to ”clean my karmic slate”; a) by purifying my past karma through an ongoing compassionate personal life review; b) so I do not collect more karma in the present by “confessing” or acknowledging when I lose it or get swept away; c) by aspiring in the future to continue compassionately working in this way?

To see all 6 commitments, visit the Abbey’s website and download their Winter 2009 newsletter.

Swine Flu and You: “We have to stop killing animals” says Master Cheng Yen

Hard to resist serving you up some Buddhist reflections on swine flu. Here’s one from Master Cheng Yen, the (female) Taiwanese master who’s social action network reaches ’round the world: “This is the cycle of cause and effect. Human beings should return to the simple lifestyle, stop killing animals and go vegetarian. When everyone performs kindness, spreads kindness and lets the earth take a rest, there will be peace and harmony in the world.” Cheng Yen made this statement in a broadcast by her Tzu Chi Foundation; read the full story on Earth Times.