How to Meditate: Sharon Salzberg on getting started

Sharon Salzberg explains the ins and outs of a core technique—meditating on the breath.

This classic meditation practice is designed to deepen concentration by teaching us to focus on the in-breath and out-breath.

Sit comfortably on a cushion or a chair. Keep your back erect, but without straining or overarching. (If you can’t sit, lie on your back, on a yoga mat or folded blanket, with your arms at your sides.)

Close your eyes, if you’re comfortable with that. If not, gaze gently a few feet in front of you. Aim for a state of alert relaxation.

Deliberately take three or four deep breaths, feeling the air as it enters your nostrils, fills your chest and abdomen, and flows out again. Then let your breathing settle into its natural rhythm, without forcing or controlling it. Just feel the breath as it happens, without trying to change it or improve it. You’re breathing anyway. All you have to do is feel it. Continued »

“How to Be a Peacemaker”

“Looking at modern champions of peace such as Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, and the Dalai Lama,” writes Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, “we see that as life put them to the test, they all came to the conclusion that peace is the way. How did they do it?”

Good question! See Sakyong Mipham’s “How to Be a Peacemaker,” from the Shambhala Sun Archives, to learn how developing a meditative discipline is part of the answer.

The “Seeing Fresh” contemplative photo of the moment…

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From author and contemplative photographer Andy Karr comes the latest “Seeing Fresh” contemplative photo of the week, submitted by Didi Young. Andy’s comment: “These lush, curvaceous succulents are reminiscent of Edward Weston’s work, but with the added bonus of color. It’s a great example of fresh seeing.” Continued »

Summer books: Looking for a fun and meaningful new read?

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Then look no further — in our new, September 2014 magazine, Andrea Miller tells you about the latest books from Tom Robbins and Peter Matthiessen, a re-release of Nyanaponika Thera’s classic Heart of Buddhist Meditation, and more. Click here to read. (And once you’re there, click any book’s bibliographical information to purchase directly from its publisher.)

 

Thich Nhat Hanh on how we create misunderstanding, anger, and violence

tnh-detail-farber-216“It is crucial to look deeply at your thoughts and your views. What are you holding on to? Whether you are an artist or a businessperson, a parent or a teacher, you have your views about how to live your life, how to help other people, how to make your country prosperous, and so on. When you are attached to these views, to the idea of right and wrong, then you may be get caught. When your thinking is caught in these views, then you create misunderstanding, anger, and violence. That is what you are becoming in this very moment.

“When you are mindful of this and can look deeply, you can produce thoughts that are full of love and understanding. You can make yourself and the world around you suffer less.” — from “This Silence is Called Great Joy,” a teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh from the Shambhala Sun. For lots more on working with anger, see our September 2014 magazine (which also includes Thich Nhat Hanh’s answers to children’s questions). And for many more teachings from Thich Nhat Hanh, visit our Thich Nhat Hanh Spotlight page.

Extreme Detox: How Buddhist monks led me to humility and freedom from alcohol addiction

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Author Paul Garrigan tells how Buddhist monks in a Thai temple helped him to drop his drinking, and even the very idea that he was an addict.

In 2006, I entered an addiction treatment program in Thailand. I did this in the hope of curing a problem that had been making my life miserable for almost two decades. I felt full of despair and saw the monastery as my last chance. That first day, I came to a decision: if the temple didn’t work out, I would make no further attempts to quit alcohol.

A liver function test I’d taken a couple of years earlier had shown there was damage. I suspected I didn’t have long left in the world. I wondered if a lot of my misery was caused by my yearning to escape addiction. If I just gave in to it then maybe I would have a few months of peace before the end.

I grew up on the south side of Dublin, mostly in Shankill. I started falling into difficulties in my teens. I attended my first addiction treatment facility at 20, before moving to England, where I spent a few years working in pubs. In my mid-20s I sank so low that I ended up begging on the streets of London.

Alcohol continued to drag me down further and further into misery. Continued »

“All the Rage” — read Andrea Miller’s new Shambhala Sun editorial about working with anger

andreamiller2014“At its best,” writes Shambhala Sun Deputy Editor Andrea Miller in her newest Editorial, “anger is a formidable tool that shows us when something is unjust and needs to be rectified. Much more commonly, however, anger is simply an ugly and destructive force.”

So, she says, “I gave a lot of thought to anger and how it manifests in my life. I became curious about what it would be like if I stopped getting angry in the face of my soft, uncomfortable feelings, and so I experimented.” How’d that go? Read the Editorial. And if you’d like to work with anger yourself, don’t miss our September magazine’s special section on Discovering The Wisdom of Anger. Browse the whole issue here.

Our September issue is here, featuring helpful teachings on transforming anger into wisdom and compassion — plus lots more

2014-09 coverThe September 2014 Shambhala Sun now on sale. What’s inside? Well, read on and click the links found below, or click here to start browsing complete articles and excerpts on our “Current Issue” page.

* Special Section: Discovering the Wisdom of AngerMelvin McLeod on the “enlightened power of no; Judy Lief offers four Buddhist techniques to work with anger; Emily Horn teaches us how RAIN — Recognizing, Accepting, Investigating, and Not identifying with our anger — can cool the flames of anger; Norman Fischer applies five surprising mind-training slogans to anger and other strong emotions

* A Refuge from AddictionNoah Levine offers Buddhist principles and practices to help people free themselves from the suffering of substance abuse

* Is Nothing Something? Children’s questions reveal that they, like adults, are grappling with the human condition. We’ll all benefit from Thich Nhat Hanh‘s answers to their questions

More, after the jump: Continued »

How to Meditate: Thich Nhat Hanh on Walking Meditation

The practice of mindful walking, says Thich Nhat Hanh, is a profound and pleasurable way to deepen our connection with our body and the earth. We breathe, take a mindful step, and come back to our true home. Read on and learn how to.

Many of us walk for the sole purpose of getting from one place to another. Now suppose we are walking to a sacred place. We would walk quietly and take each gentle step with reverence. I propose that we walk this way every time we walk on the earth. The earth is sacred and we touch her with each step. We should be very respectful, because we are walking on our mother. If we walk like that, then every step will be grounding, every step will be nourishing.

We can train ourselves to walk with reverence. Wherever we walk, whether it’s the railway station or the supermarket, we are walking on the earth and so we are in a holy sanctuary. If we remember to walk like that, we can be nourished and find solidity with each step. Continued »

The “Seeing Fresh” contemplative photo of the moment…

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From author and contemplative photographer Andy Karr comes the latest “Seeing Fresh” contemplative photo of the week, submitted by Lis Maiz. Andy’s comment: “It’s just a hint of what’s above, but the reflection of sky and leaves in the puddle makes the textures of this perception sparkle. It’s a fine example of fresh seeing.”

Contemplative photography is a method for working with the contemplative state of mind, seeing the world in fresh ways, and expressing this experience photographically.  Continued »

Crowdfunding works: Updates on Against the Stream’s new SF Center and “The Dalai Lama Film”

Good news: Against the Stream’s online fundraising campaign for a new meditation center in San Francisco has been fully funded. But your donation is still very much welcome. Why? As ATS tells us:

The $30,000 raised [thus far] brings us what we need for the original renovation contract, but every dollar more buys us some breathing room for any overruns. It will also helps us with some important finishing touches.

  • A gift of $30 buys a chair (and we’ll need a lot of them!)
  • $70 buys us one zafu/zabuton set
  • $150 gets us an all-in one printer or a credit card machine
  • $300 gets us a wireless microphone or a digital recorder
  • $500 gets us a PA system so everyone can hear
  • $1,000 gets us a laptop
  • $2,000 helps ensure we get the other furnishings we’ll need: racks for folding chairs, tables, rugs, lamps, and more
If you want to help, make a donation here. UPDATE: If ATS raises another $10K by August 15th, those funds will be matched. So your contribution is twice as powerful now.
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And in more good crowdfunding news: Mickey Lemle’s documentary in progress, The Dalai Lama Film, has exceeded its fundraising goal by more than $20,000. Donations are still welcome (and a host of great premiums are offered) — and for other updates, follow The Dalai Lama Film on Facebook.

A Kickstarter for Nature lovers…

From TigerLion Arts — who produced “KIPO!”, a circus of spirit, song and dance from Tibet, and the official arts component of the Dalai Lama’s 2011 Minnesota visit (the Sun was a sponsor) — comes Nature, an “outdoor play, created by Ralph Waldo Emerson’s great-great-great-grandson, about Emerson and Thoreau’s mutual love affair with the natural world.” Watch above, and kick in to the play’s Kickstarter campaign. They have just 15 days to go so your help could go a long way.

Pema Chödrön on the power of love, gratitude, loneliness, embarrassment, and inadequacy

“Without realizing it, we continually put up protective walls made of opinions, prejudices, and strategies, barriers that are built on a deep fear of being hurt. These walls are further fortified by emotions of all kinds: anger, craving, indifference, jealousy, and arrogance.

“But fortunately for us, the soft spot — our innate ability to love and to care about things — is like a crack in these walls we erect. It’s a natural opening in the barriers we create when we’re afraid. With practice we can learn to find this opening. We can learn to seize that vulnerable moment — love, gratitude, loneliness, embarrassment, inadequacy — to awaken bodhichitta.”

For more, see “Stay With the Soft Spot,” Pema’s classic teaching from the pages of the Shambhala Sun, or see our special Spotlight page of her teachings from the Shambhala Sun.

How to Meditate: Being Genuine, by Carolyn Rose Gimian

Great meditators before us have laid out the path, but how can we be sure we’re following it genuinely? There are no guarantees, but Carolyn Rose Gimian has some tips for keeping it real.

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When the Shambhala Sun asked me to write an article about how to make meditation practice genuine and real, I wasn’t sure whether to be proud or insulted. Maybe they were asking me because they could see what a fraud I am on the meditation cushion, and they needed someone to write honestly about failure.

Well, guilty as charged. Failure to be peaceful, failure to be mindful, failure to be aware, failure to be kind, failure to think big, failure to be generous (or insert your favorite virtue/ accomplishment I’ve failed at). On the other hand, sitting on the cushion for a lot of years (if I tell you how many, it will be really embarrassing) has yielded some results. I have witnessed a whole circus of bizarre fantasies, emotions, and extreme mental states, starring anger, lust, hatred, delusion, arrogance, pride, depression, anxiety, and a host of other amazing performers. I’ve made friends with Speedy, Distracted, and Lazy, three of the seven dwarfs of meditation for small-minded people. However, I do have one genuine accomplishment: I have gotten completely and totally bored. Continued »

“No Time to Meditate?” Think again.

Just think of all the incredibly exciting things you could be doing instead!

We all think, at one point or another, that we don’t have time to meditate. But maybe time isn’t the issue. Maybe the problem is that one part of us wants to do it, while another part wants something else.

Author and meditator Tina Welling has some guidance for all of us who wish we could be more undivided when it comes to practice. Check out her Shambhala Sun article, “No Time to Meditate?”, here.