Articles

Explore teachings on a wide variety of Dharma subjects—from mindfulness meditation practices to Buddhist psychological insights for dealing with difficult emotions—that will help guide you on your spiritual journey.

How Preferences Prejudice Your Perceptions

How Preferences Prejudice Your Perceptions

Look around you. What do you notice? There are endless things in both your external and internal environment that you could notice. Given that you can’t possibly notice everything, why do you notice what you do? What you perceive from among all

Awakening in the Body

Awakening in the Body

When you choose to be present with your body when it is in pain or when it is feeling the tension and contraction caused by your wanting mind, you are accepting your life experience just as it is, in this moment, without clinging.

Balancing Priorities

Balancing Priorities

“The highest compassion, the only true act of compassion, is to point a person to their own liberation.” These are the words of one of my spiritual teachers in response to a question I had asked them about applying the dharma in daily life. I asked the question because

Being in Your Body

Being in Your Body

One must be realistic; you will inevitably have limitations in your range of motion. But whatever your range, within it you can achieve a spacious, relaxed feeling-the kind of freedom that you might experience in your best moments in yoga class.

Cultivating Clear Comprehension

Cultivating Clear Comprehension

Try being mindful of how little distinction you make between caring about something or somebody and being attached to that thing or person. The Buddha taught that one of the fundamental characteristics of the universe is anicca, meaning

Do the Right Thing

Do the Right Thing

Doing the right thing when it’s difficult has a cumulative effect over time because you let loose, at least in that moment, of the attachment to your own well-being, and you discover, “I survived that one!” It also increases the possibility of your doing the right thing again in the future.

Establishing a Daily Home Practice

Establishing a Daily Home Practice

Isn’t this really what you want as well: Your own sense of grace and clarity? How could it possibly be achieved except through a struggle of hope and doubt, intention and failure? One day you simply arrive, not at some special place, but the most ordinary

Forgiveness Practice

Forgiveness Practice

To those who may have caused me harm, knowingly or unknowingly, through their thoughts, words and actions, I offer my forgiveness as best I am able.

Freedom from Fear

Freedom from Fear

Living in a fear-based culture inevitably affects your state of mind and the decisions you make. As a citizen you may become more compliant, more willing to surrender your rights for vague promises of safety. As an employee you are less demanding, less willing to take risks.

How to Meditate

How to Meditate

Mindfulness meditation begins with learning to concentrate your attention on an object, typically the breath, which enables you to notice how your mind is reacting to what it is experiencing.

Living with Disappointment

Living with Disappointment

In becoming an adult you learned how to cope with disappointment, or else you wouldn’t be able to function at all. Yet, the conundrum remains: If you’ve learned to live with disappointments, then why does it still take so much of your energy to cope?

Lost in Doubt?

Lost in Doubt?

Last year while teaching a month-long silent meditation retreat with several other vipassana teachers, we were faced with what to do about a yogi who was not fully participating. He wasn’t showing up for the sittings or attending the dharma talks, and he was avoiding

Maintaining Mindfulness in Daily Life

Maintaining Mindfulness in Daily Life

Instead of staying mindful of whatever is happening in the moment, we immediately begin to interpret our experience and create a story based on past associations and attitudes we have about ourselves and others. However, our interpretation is

Making Major Life Changes

Making Major Life Changes

If you watch closely, you may discover that your own life is part of this seasonal pattern of endings and beginnings. In early fall, you externally focus on finishing up tasks with a burst of energy, followed by delving into your internal experience as the days get shorter and the darkness lasts longer.

Managing Fatigue with Mindfulness

Managing Fatigue with Mindfulness

Most of us dislike being fatigued and aren’t fully open to experiencing it. However, when we practice vipassana, we use mindfulness to see the dukkha (suffering) in all of our experiences; therefore, we can treat fatigue as one more experience that can be known.

Meaning of the Pali Word “Dana”

Meaning of the Pali Word “Dana”

In the Buddhist tradition, the teachings are given freely because they are considered priceless; in the Buddhist tradition we also practice dana, or generosity, by making monetary offerings for the teachings. Dana is not payment for goods or services rendered;

Opening to Love

Opening to Love

Every Sunday evening the Turtle Island Yoga Studio in San Rafael, California, is transformed into a vipassana meditation hall. A large silk painting of the Buddha, which I commissioned from a street artist in New Delhi for just this purpose, hangs on the front wall, and all the yoga mats are laid out around

Our Addiction to Preferences

Our Addiction to Preferences

Buddhadharma places a lot of emphasis on being mindful of our preferences. When we start to pay attention to our preferences, we quickly notice that we prefer what’s pleasant, what will make us happy. There is nothing wrong per se with having preferences, but our attachment to, clinging to, and identifying

Practicing Nonviolence Toward Self

Practicing Nonviolence Toward Self

Some years ago people used to wear a T-shirt printed with the slogan, “Life is difficult, and then you die.” I once asked a group of people at a yoga retreat what they thought when they read those words. One person found it funny; a way to laugh at

Practicing Self-Restraint

Practicing Self-Restraint

Renunciation takes the practice of restraint to the next level and is recognized in most religious traditions as a vital step toward finding a center of being other than the ego. It is most visible with nuns and monks who have renounced the life of a householder,

Realizing Your True Nature

Realizing Your True Nature

There are a few individuals for whom life itself seems to offer the perfect balance of these practices, but it is foolhardy to decide you are such a person. For most of us practice is essential; it is the only way that we can consciously experience and

Reconcilable Differences

Reconcilable Differences

MY MIND FILLS WITH ANGER each time I hear him speak,” one of my students reports of his response to a political leader. “I find myself wishing ill will toward them all,” another says with a pained voice, ashamed of her own reactions to politicians.

Releasing the Past through Investigation

Releasing the Past through Investigation

The more painful your feelings, the more likely you are to hold the experience at bay, never able to fully let it in so that it can be processed and relinquished. Nor are you able to let it go, since that would first require allowing it to permeate you to

Self-Soothing during Difficult Times

Self-Soothing during Difficult Times

We’ve all experienced how unsettling and uncertain life can be and how easily we can be knocked off center at any moment. When we’re not in balance, we can become defined by whatever’s happening and get caught in what I call “reactive mind.”

Selfless Gratitude

Selfless Gratitude

Gratitude is the sweetest of all the practices for living the dharma in daily life and the most easily cultivated, requiring the least sacrifice for what is gained in return. It is a very powerful form of mindfulness practice, particularly for students who

Setting Personal Boundaries

Setting Personal Boundaries

Sophie, a professional woman in her mid-30s and a member of my weekly mindfulness meditation class, repeatedly feels taken advantage of. After listening to her describe a painful episode in which a friend had acted inappropriately

Sharing the Mat: The Synergy of Yoga & Buddhism

Sharing the Mat: The Synergy of Yoga & Buddhism

My primary practice is theravada meditation. this includes Vipassana mindfulness meditation, as well as the other concentration meditations that are part of the tradition, known as the jhana

Start With Your Body

Start With Your Body

When we hear words like “meditation,” “mindfulness,” or “mind training,” we often assume we’re working with our minds alone. But nothing could be further from the way it really is. Meditation, mindfulness, and mind training are full-being enterprises.

Starting a Mindfulness Meditation Practice

Starting a Mindfulness Meditation Practice

As a meditation teacher, I’m often solicited for advice by students who are seeking to change their lives in some way. They may want to alter an aspect of their behavior or their emotional life, or improve their relations with others.

Starting Over

Starting Over

As a meditation teacher, I’m often solicited for advice by students who are seeking to change their lives in some way. They may want to alter an aspect of their behavior or their emotional life, or improve their relations with others. They almost always report

Starting Your Day with Clarity

Starting Your Day with Clarity

When you wake up in the morning, does your mind automatically launch into planning for the day ahead such that you’re already tense by the time you get out of bed? Do you often wake up feeling agitated or fuzzy headed or filled with a sense of dread?

Still Mind, Moving Body

Still Mind, Moving Body

It doesn’t matter what it looks like or what anybody else thinks. “So every day I get on the mat and see what I’m feeling. What is my breath like? What is my energy like? Where am I tight? Where am I loose? And who is this ‘me’ anyway, and who’s asking…”

Surrendering to Suffering

Surrendering to Suffering

Most people confronted by an assailant with a knife will try to avoid being cut out of fear. But in trying to avoid the cut, they make poor decisions, expose vital parts, and take actions that are ineffective. Not Prema- she grabbed the knife’s blade.

The Body As Spiritual Path

The Body As Spiritual Path

For more than 2000 years, one of the fundamental questions in both Eastern and Western religious traditions has been how to view the body: Is it a sacred vessel to be honored as a manifestation of the divine, or is it a stagnant pond that

Taking in the Good Meditation

Taking in the Good Meditation

When you are experiencing difficulty in some aspect of your life that is clouding your mind and causing you to contract, practicing this meditation can help soothe your suffering and clarify your thinking.

The Five Precepts

The Five Precepts

Precept 3 – To the best of my ability, I will respect and support on-going relationships, honor my commitments, and practice discernment between the beauty of Eros as a feeling and the compulsiveness to act it out.

The Gift of Generosity

The Gift of Generosity

It was the second day of a vipassana meditation retreat I was co-teaching in Santa Fe, and we had a problem. Or at least, I had a problem. I was not satisfied with the Tibetan bowl we were using as a bell to signal the end of each sitting. The retreat managers had provided us with a small bowl, and I found

The Heart’s Intention

The Heart’s Intention

Cultivating right intention does not mean you abandon goals. You continue to use them, but they exist within a larger context of meaning that offers the possibility of peace beyond the fluctuations caused by pain and pleasure, gain and loss.

The Perfect Yoga Pose

The Perfect Yoga Pose

When you experience your yoga from the mind-set of the perfect pose, you are no longer doing yoga. Instead you are transforming it into a kind of gymnastics, as though there are judges from whom you hope to receive as close to a perfect score as possible.

The Pursuit of Happiness

The Pursuit of Happiness

When you organize and measure your life by how well you follow your intentions instead of getting what you desire, your moments of happiness are enhanced and your difficult moments are more bearable.

The Tyranny of Expectations

The Tyranny of Expectations

When you practice staying in the “sacred now,” the future will take care of itself as well as is possible. My teacher the Venerable Ajahn Sumedho calls this “trusting your practice.” It is an acknowledgment that you cannot know the mysteries of how life unfolds

The Yoga of Relationship

The Yoga of Relationship

I sat silently as the woman self-consciously settled herself onto the couch in my office. She was in her 30s, married, well established in her profession, and a sincere student of the dharma. She looked up after a few moments of reflection, smiled nervously, and said,

Trust Issues

Trust Issues

I had just ended our Sunday sangha, and people were coming up to ask me questions they were not comfortable voicing in front of the whole group, when I noticed one yogi who was hanging back patiently waiting for everyone else to finish.

Understanding Your Sense of Identity

Understanding Your Sense of Identity

On the fifth day of an annual weeklong silent meditation retreat I teach, a yogi who has attended for several years came to me for an interview. She was in her mid-30s, a vibrant, professional woman. When we first met, she had seemed tense and

When the Student is Ready

When the Student is Ready

She was a 28-year-old, smart, “together” American woman who was committed to developing her spiritual life through the eight limbs of yoga and had become a popular yoga teacher. She was also devoted to her swami. He was her teacher, and

The Gift of Generosity

The Gift of Generosity

Every year at this time, I am reminded of a lesson in generosity that I received many years ago. As a teenager living in the Appalachian Mountains, I worked as a bag boy in a supermarket. To my dismay, it was the working poor who were most likely to give tips, people who often seemed

Living an Authentic Life

Living an Authentic Life

We all experience moments when we act or speak in an inauthentic way. We want others to like us or to think we’re smart, so we present a false persona. Or we do it because we feel unsafe or we want something really badly. It can be truly painful when this happens.

Gratitude in Daily Life

Gratitude in Daily Life

Cultivating thankfulness for being part of life blossoms into a feeling of being blessed, not in the sense of winning the lottery, but in a more refined appreciation for the interdependent nature of life. It also elicits feelings of generosity, which create further joy. Gratitude can soften a heart that has