Something different from the roof of the world. Peace to all.
Something different from the roof of the world. Peace to all.
“We have entered the uncharted territory of a global emergency, where ‘business as usual’ cannot continue. It is now urgent that we take corrective action to ensure a safe-climate future for coming generations of human beings and other species.” ~The Dalai Lama
“This is the time for humankind to embark upon a new historical epoch. We ourselves have to make the critical decisions, individually and collectively, that will determine our future destiny.” ~Bikkhu Bodhi
“If we continue abusing the earth this way, there is no doubt that our civilisation will be destroyed. This will require enlightenment, awakening. The Buddha attained individual awakening. Now we need a collective enlightenment to stop this course of destruction.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
“The world itself has a role to play in our awakening. Its very brokenness and need call to us, summoning us to walk out of the prison of self-concern.” ~Joanna Macy
“This surely must rivet the urgent, critical attention of anyone who takes the bodhisattva vows.” ~Susan Murphy Roshi
Shared as part of
“Zen, Nature & Climate Change”
Back in 1965, a grad student in molecular biology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology stumbled across a class of five people on Zen Buddhism. He’d never heard of Zen and knew nothing of Buddhism. Nearly half a century later, that grad student, Jon Kabat-Zinn, has arguably done more than any other individual to put Buddhism into the mainstream, not just in America, but in dozens of countries around the world. Now, Downing Street policymakers are keen to hear more.
“That first class took the top off my head. I found a sense of largeness beyond my little preoccupations of what would happen to my future, or my relationships,” says Kabat-Zinn. “It opened up a new dimension of being which could offer more meaning and enable me to interface more effectively with society in a way which could be healing and transformative.”
Kabat-Zinn’s enthusiasm for that dramatic breakthrough is still palpable as he talks of how as a scientist he resolved to find a way to bring those benefits to millions of others. What he evolved over the next 15 years was the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programme; an eight-week set of meditation and yoga practices in classes and at home, which instil the basics of paying close attention to the current moment.
“I was teaching molecular biology of muscle development in medical school at the time, and began to ask doctors: ‘What percentage of your patients do you help?’ They thought it was about 15% to 20%.”
So Kabat-Zinn set up a clinic to help the untreatable majority. “Patients turned up with all kinds of conditions: hypertension, cancer, anxiety.”
As a scientist, Kabat-Zinn knew he needed evidence; anecdotes and testimony were not going to be enough to persuade the American health establishment. “I wrote up the chronic pain results first because they were astonishing.” Since then, a steady stream of academic papers, books and, more recently, randomised control trials, have helped pave the way for hundreds of MBSR programmes in hospitals and medical centres across the US.
Kabat-Zinn’s work has spawned a cluster of different applications of mindfulness training, including for addiction, the elderly and parenting. In the past couple of decades, Kabat-Zinn has collaborated with psychologists in the UK who have adapted his work for Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), which has won recognition from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice), as a treatment for depression.
All of which explains why our interview is happening in Westminster, where Kabat-Zinn has a string of meetings with senior politicians before he heads to Downing Street for a session with policy advisers. There are good reasons for the policymakers to be listening closely, as Kabat-Zinn and his colleagues have a compelling proposition: mindfulness has unlimited applicability to almost every healthcare issue we now face – and it’s cheap.
“The find it, fix it model of medicine doesn’t work any more. The US healthcare system is bankrupting the country, bankrolling the insurance companies and exhausting healthcare staff,” says Kabat-Zinn. “And despite all that, we are ranked 50th in the world for life expectancy.”
The UK has huge challenges in healthcare, with an explosion in mental illness and an ageing population, he points out, adding that mindfulness is relevant to the debate about how to instil compassion and attentive care in healthcare workers to avoid a repeat of the Mid Staffordshire scandal. Mindfulness training inspires compassion, he argues. Just the act of being in the moment and paying attention to that moment allows the innate compassion within us all to emerge.
“It’s all about training what you pay attention to,” he says, admitting that this goes against the grain of a culture that trains us to privilege thinking and which offers endless opportunities for constant distraction from the present moment. “It’s common sense. It’s not about cures, it’s about over time developing a different relationship with one’s experiences, whether that’s anxiety, pain, stress or depression. We know that changes the shape of the brain, it affects the behaviour of cells.”
Kabat-Zinn has been one of the leaders of the dialogue between science and Buddhism, in which the Dalai Lama has been an enthusiastic participant. But it is the insistence of a very practical approach that has perhaps been the key factor in his success. Kabat-Zinn wanted to translate the Buddha’s central insight, mindfulness, into a language that anyone could grasp. That’s why he stopped calling himself a Buddhist; this is about being human, he says.
He now believes that mindfulness is on a steep adoption curve. Given the benefits of mental clarity, insight and creativity that practitioners claim, the interest from corporations is wellestablished, particularly in Silicon Valley, where Kabat-Zinn is a regular speaker. Even the US military has adopted a version of mindfulness for training soldiers.
None of these applications faze Kabat-Zinn, although they are far from the ethos of his own work. Even if mindfulness is used by the banker or the soldier to improve their professional skills, he says, it will also nurture the innate compassion of their humanity.
“It is what makes us human, what distinguishes us from other animals. We can be aware of being aware.”
By Emily Davies
Having a spring clean around the house is one way to mark the changing of the seasons, but Japanese Buddhist monks have a more extreme way of cleansing to welcome the arrival of spring.
As part of the Hiwatari-matsuri ceremony, Buddhist monks dash barefoot through flames to purify their bodies and minds of bad luck and misfortune, and to pray for safety in the seasons to come.
The ritual takes place each year at the beginning of March, and sees thousands participate in the fiery challenge to mark the end of winter.
A Buddhist dashes barefoot through flames in the ‘Hi-watari’, or fire walking ceremony, at the Fudoji temple
Amulets are carried by Buddhist monks in traditional dress through the flames to herald the coming of spring as part of the Hiwatari-matsuri festival, which takes place each March
Goma fires are lit by Shingon Buddhist monks dressed in traditional garb, who spark flints symbolically to ignite a sacred pyre and strike impurities from the vicinity. A sword is used to signify cutting the ties of wickedness from the area.
The monks, known as Shugenja, fire arrows to create a barrier against evil spirits while others whip themselves with a branch of bamboo soaked in boiling water.
At this Hiwatari-matsuri ceremony at Fudoji temple in Nagatoro, Buddhist monks were first to dash through flames, before festival goers followed suit over the embers
Buddhist ascentic monks blow trumpet shells at the start of the ritual, which symbolises a cleansing of the bad luck from those who participate
Special chants are uttered and prayer sticks, known as goma-gi are tossed onto the flames before the Shugenja dash across the flames barefoot towards the end of the path where there is a statue of Izuna-Daigongen, the god of the mountain.
The monks carry special amulets through the coals, and when the fire has died down members of the public are allowed to participate in the ritual by walking over the embers, regardless of their beliefs.
Feb. 11, 2013
People who meditate grow bigger brains than those who don’t.
Researchers at Harvard, Yale, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have found the first evidence that meditation can alter the physical structure of our brains. Brain scans they conducted reveal that experienced meditators boasted increased thickness in parts of the brain that deal with attention and processing sensory input.
In one area of gray matter, the thickening turns out to be more pronounced in older than in younger people. That’s intriguing because those sections of the human cortex, or thinking cap, normally get thinner as we age.
“Our data suggest that meditation practice can promote cortical plasticity in adults in areas important for cognitive and emotional processing and well-being,” says Sara Lazar, leader of the study and a psychologist at Harvard Medical School. “These findings are consistent with other studies that demonstrated increased thickness of music areas in the brains of musicians, and visual and motor areas in the brains of jugglers. In other words, the structure of an adult brain can change in response to repeated practice.”
The researchers compared brain scans of 20 experienced meditators with those of 15 nonmeditators. Four of the former taught meditation or yoga, but they were not monks living in seclusion. The rest worked in careers such as law, health care, and journalism. All the participants were white. During scanning, the meditators meditated; the others just relaxed and thought about whatever they wanted.
Meditators did Buddhist “insight meditation,” which focuses on whatever is there, like noise or body sensations. It doesn’t involve “om,” other mantras, or chanting.
With thanks to http://greatmiddleway.wordpress.com
Being alone can be wonderful, but not if we feel lonely. Especially during the holidays, we can feel isolated and unloved, ignored and unimportant. It can feel as if the flow of social intercourse has passed us by —or worse, as if we were drowning in a river of purposeless time.Being alone may be a situational fact, but feeling lonely is always an afflicted emotion. Loneliness is an interpretation, a conceptual proliferation based on a given experience. It is the elaboration of the meaning we impose on our present circumstance.
Habituated to the idea of ourselves as central and the creatures of our universe as bound to that centrality, it is difficult to accept that the worlds (the persons and objects) of our solar system can pull away from our gravity —to see their orbits expand, distort, and ultimately migrate to other solar systems.
We interpret this natural migration of loved ones to other relationships or locations as abandonment. We may feel resentment at their real or apparent ingratitude. Or we may turn that resentment against ourselves, feeling shame at our inability to ‘hold’ our relations in orbit, or blaming ourselves for pushing them away.
The Buddha taught: “All that live must surely die, and all that meet must part.” One way or another —through choosing different paths or the finality of death— all whom we know and treasure will leave our lives, or we shall leave theirs. Resentment, shame, and blame are not reasonable or adequate responses to reality. Aloneness is a blessing. Loneliness is a self-inflicted curse.
Human beings —and especially those with spiritual inclinations— pass through four life stages: learning, production, withdrawal, and transcendence. All of these stages have their joys and sorrows, their challenges and rewards. They have their place and time.
Aloneness, solitude, is an essential component of the third stage of life. Without solitude, we cannot begin the process of deep introspection that will allow us to recognize reality as it is, and prepare to make a peaceful transition out of this world of suffering. If we remain immersed in the busy-ness and drama of relationships, we will be prevented from contemplating our own mortality, and we will fail to prepare for the next stage of our experience.
Not everyone is suited for the same degree of solitude. If we require company, then we must reach out to others. If family is not near, available, or so inclined, then we can seek out friends and persons in our own life-stage, with similar values and spiritual interests. If we have no such friends, and company is important to us, then we must find them. They exist. We may have to search high and low, but find them we will. Lamenting our loneliness will not help.
However, when and if we find such company, we should be careful not to re-create patterns of a previous life-stage with our spiritual friends. We are walking forward together as we withdraw from the drama of duality, not reverting to a stage that is no longer possible or desirable.
Even as young lovers seek to be alone together, away from all others, cherishing their intimacy, it is now time for us to seek the company of our inner light, our Buddha Nature, whose permanent presence we have long ignored, but has never abandoned us —our kind parent, our faithful lover, our filial child, our true friend.
It is time to cherish that intimacy, without the noise and distraction of the crowds.
om amideva hrih
Your first love has no beginning or end.
Your first love is not your first love,
and it is not your last. It is just love.
It is one with everything.
Thich Nhat Hanh
Fresh impression of the art of mindful living taught by Thich Nhat Hanh and practiced by friends in Plum Village, France.
This clip is a preview of the 40 minute movie, “Mindful Living Every Day”. Available, along with an additional 40 minutes of guided meditations and “Each of My Steps is a Prayer”, on DVD (NTSC & PAL) . Look for it at Parallax Press
, Deer Park & Plum Village with English and Spanish soundtracks.
In Holland in Nederlands at http://www.aandacht.net/ .