In reaction to the pain in my life I began to close my heart and to harden myself against all forms of love. Before I began my meditation practice, when my mind started to worry about what would happen in the future I would get completely sucked into the fears and often become convinced that the worst-case scenario would play out. When I did practice lovingkindness meditations, my mind was so critical and resistant, it seemed to make my mind louder and my heart harder, not softer. So without much hope, I eventually committed to including kindness, compassion and forgiveness meditations to my daily practice. Over my years of meditation practice, which has included regular periods of silent intensive retreats, ranging from five days to three months in length, I have gradually come to experience the compassion, forgiveness, mercy, kindness and generosity that the Buddha promised would be found. The Buddhist path is a process of discovery, recovery and a gradual uncovering of a loving heart. Perhaps, at times, the heart practices could be seen as even finer instruments of archeology. I can say all of this with confidence, because I have experienced it directly, as you will as well. But before I go off on my Atheist Buddhist rant, let me also say I believe that although it seems true love and the willingness to uncover the heart qualities of forgiveness, mercy and compassion is rare, I do not believe that Buddhists are the only ones who are doing it. I hope this view does not discourage you, but rather that it inspires you to make sure that you’re part of the rare and precious.
Buddhist meditation includes various types of meditation techniques that build concentration, mindfulness, insight and tranquility. This form of meditation is based on two principles: one is calm meditation and the other is insight meditation.
Basically, this technique is a form of mental concentration depending on the liberation of the mind by giving importance to the development of virtue and knowledge. The main aim of tranquility meditation is to build concentration, detachment, happiness, and equanimity. Insight meditation (Vipassana) builds self understanding through comprehending feelings, mind and the mental objects.
While you are going to perform Buddhist meditation, you need to choose the right technique that suits your needs. Nowadays, Buddhist meditation is widely considered as an instrument to achieve various goals like physical relaxation and spiritual blissfulness. When I first heard the Buddhist teachings on loving kindness, compassion and forgiveness, I was incredibly skeptical. NewsletterIf you like what you see here, sign up for the Safely Embodied newsletter to get twice monthly tips and support.
Life is fragile, like the dew hanging delicately on the grass, crystal drops that will be carried away on the first morning breeze. Like a robe wears out over time and turns to rags, life wears out from day to day, from second to second. The basic root of happiness lies in our minds; outer circumstances are nothing more than adverse or favourable. The mind in its natural state can be compared to the sky, covered by layers of cloud which hide its true nature. Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. We must make good use of this life for the time that we have left, This brief flash of light, like the sun appearing through the clouds. We can bring our spiritual practice into the streets, into our communities, when we see each realm as a temple, as a place to discover that which is sacred.
If one were truly aware of the value of human life, to waste it blithely on distractions and the pursuit of vulgar ambitions would be the height of confusion. Knowledge does not mean mastering a great quantity of different information, but understanding the nature of mind. When we are mindful, deeply in touch with the present moment, our understanding of what is going on deepens, and we begin to be filled with acceptance, joy, peace and love. Somehow, in the process of trying to deny that things are always changing, we lose our sense of the sacredness of life.
In Buddhism, ignorance as the root cause of suffering refers to a fundamental misperception of the true nature of the self and all phenomena.
Great spiritual traditions are used as a means to ripen us, to bring us face to face with our life, and to help us to see in a new way by developing a stillness of mind and a strength of heart. Underneath our ordinary lives, underneath all the talking we do, all the moving we do, all the thoughts in our minds, there’s a fundamental groundlessness.
Feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back. Suffering begins to dissolve when we can question the belief or the hope that there’s anywhere to hide.
We are awakened to the profound realization that the true path to liberation is to let go of everything. You cannot live sheltered forever without being exposed, and at the same time be a spiritual adventurer. We need a repeated discipline, a genuine training, in order to let go of our old habits of mind and to find and sustain a new way of seeing.
We must especially learn the art of directing mindfulness into the closed areas of our life.
To diminish the suffering of pain, we need to make a crucial distinction between the pain of pain, and the pain we create by our thoughts about the pain.
When the mind is full of memories and preoccupied by the future, it misses the freshness of the present moment.
When repeated difficulties do arise, our first spiritual approach is to acknowledge what is present, naming, softly saying ‘sadness, sadness’, or ‘remembering, remembering’, or whatever. Why, if we are as pragmatic as we claim, don’t we begin to ask ourselves seriously: Where does our real future lie?
One interesting thing about greed is that although the underlying motive is to seek satisfaction, the irony is that even after obtaining the object of your desire you are still not satisfied. Children, old people, vagabonds laugh easily and heartily: they have nothing to lose and hope for little. Without being aware of it, you take many things as being your identity: your body, your race, your beliefs, your thoughts. True freedom means freeing oneself from the dictates of the ego and its accompanying emotions. We can gradually drop our ideals of who we think we ought to be, or who we think we want to be, or who we think other people think we want to be or ought to be. By breaking down our sense of self-importance, all we lose is a parasite that has long infected our minds. Humility does not mean believing oneself to be inferior, but to be freed from self-importance.
Ours is a society of denial that conditions us to protect ourselves from any direct difficulty and discomfort. In opening we can see how many times we have mistaken small identities and fearful beliefs for our true nature and how limiting this is. When we let go of our battles and open our hearts to things as they are, then we come to rest in the present moment. Our lives are lived in intense and anxious struggle, in a swirl of speed and aggression, in competing, grasping, possessing and achieving, forever burdening ourselves with extraneous activities and preoccupations.
Western laziness consists of cramming our lives with compulsive activity, so that there is no time at all to confront the real issues. Simplifying our lives does not mean sinking into idleness, but on the contrary, getting rid of the most subtle aspect of laziness: the one which makes us take on thousands of less important activities.
We have only now, only this single eternal moment opening and unfolding before us, day and night.
Mindful and creative, a child who has neither a past, nor examples to follow, nor value judgments, simply lives, speaks and plays in freedom.


Advertisements Summit Outpatient offers customized treatment programs designed to bring counseling and healing to those struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol. Text available under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, unless otherwise noted. As we discussed in our previous post on guided meditation, there are two main conceptions of meditation: mindfulness (moment-to-moment awareness) and concentration (focused attention). Purists have argued that modern mindfulness techniques do not comport with the teachings of the Buddha or certain strands of Hinduism. The sheer number of traditions within Buddhism accounts for much of this dispute, and it could easily be dismissed as irrelevant.
Although mindfulness is undoubtedly an effective stress-reduction tool, I remain personally underwhelmed by the practice, for reasons that are far more fundamental than its apparent disdain for brainwave entrainment technology. Simply put, the mindfulness industry hasn’t noticed that we create our reality with our thoughts, beliefs, and emotions. Thus, the kind of mindfulness we should be aiming for is one which does not merely observe the contents of the mind, but also compares them to the components of external reality, constantly seeking possible patterns of causation.
I heard things like "love is your true nature" or "the heart has a natural tendency toward compassion." Now, I had already been meditating for some time, examining my inner-world through mindfulness, and I didn't see any of the love and compassion of which these teachers spoke.
In the circles I ran in, compassion was seen as equivalent to weakness and would make you vulnerable to harm and abuse. So it was with great hesitance that I experimented with Buddhist practices of kindness and compassion.
When I looked into my heart and mind I only saw fear, anger, hatred, judgment, more fear and a lot of lustful cravings. I was introduced to breath awareness meditations and as a result I experienced the direct benefits of concentration and mindfulness.
Mindfulness gave me the tools to let go of those thoughts and to bring my attention into the body’s experience of the breath. Like the brushes that are used to gently sweep away the remaining dust covering the treasure of our own heart.
These eight fold views include: Right thought, right effort, right view, right livelihood, right speech, right concentration, right action, and right mindfulness. This form of meditation teaches you how to progress the life through the four knowledges, the four stages of tranquility. Practicing the right technique can be physically helpful if you approach it in a proper way. Coming from a background of drugs and violence, I saw those heart qualities as undesirable and perhaps unsafe. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth.
Relaxing with the present moment, relaxing with hopelessness, relaxing with death, not resisting the fact that things end, that things pass, that things have no lasting substance, that everything is changing all the time—that is the basic message. The past is gone, the future is not yet here, and if we do not go back to ourselves in the present moment, we cannot be in touch with life. This knowledge can penetrate each one of our thoughts and illuminate each one of our perceptions. The birth of the child is the death of the baby, just as the birth of the adolescent is the death of the child.
Fear, anger, guilt, loneliness and helplessness are all mental and emotional responses that can intensify pain.
In this way, we fail to recognize the luminous simplicity of mind that is always present behind the veils of thought.
What we gain in return is freedom, openness of mind, spontaneity, simplicity, altruism: all qualities inherent in happiness. It is a state of natural simplicity which is in harmony with our true nature and allows us to taste the freshness of the present moment. We expend enormous energy denying our insecurity, fighting pain, death and loss and hiding from the basic truths of the natural world and of our own nature.
We can touch with great compassion the pain from the contracted identities that we and others have created in the world. The Mindful Word invites you to reprint, copy, distribute, and alter CC-licensed text as long as you provide a clickable link back to The Mindful Word and share-alike.
Although there are some genuine benefits to be derived from these mindfulness techniques, the veritable cottage-industry that has grown up around them is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of personal reality. The modern, Western emphasis on non-judgmental acceptance of whatever thoughts and feelings arise in one’s mindstream is said to depart from the original concern to cultivate virtue and wholesomeness, which obviously implies the exercise of judgment on some level. However, we shall see later that the issue of judging the contents of one’s mind is very, very important. Hanson, with both scientific and contemplative training, sticks his neck above the parapet of the scientific establishment and acknowledges the inherent transcendence of the mind, then promptly ducks back down again by presenting the mind-brain connection as one of the fundamental challenges remaining to be unlocked by science.
The fatal weakness of mindfulness is its failure to grasp both the creative and predictive power of our thoughts and emotions. Thoughts are not just transient mental guests with only fleeting, internal consequences; on the contrary, they are potent agents of creativity, with potentially life-altering consequences. While not guilty of foisting upon us the utter nonsense of omnipotent and omniscient imaginary friends, and helpful to some extent in turning our focus within, a fatal sin of omission renders it inadequate to our need for complete understanding and unworthy of further attention. When I sat quietly, paying attention to my breath, my attention was repeatedly drawn into fantasies of vengeful destruction or pornographic sex.
Mindfulness made sense to me and it wasn’t difficult to gain a verified faith in that aspect of Buddhism. Again, I had seen that mindfulness worked, so it gave me some confidence to try the rest of the Buddha’s teachings. Eventually I began to understand what the Buddha and my teachers were talking about; I began to get glimpses of genuine kindness, compassion and moments of forgiveness. My early days of feeling more unsettled during compassion and kindness exercises was because I was simply uncovering all of the skeletons that had been buried over the years of trying to avoid the pains of my childhood and adolescence. Meditations are versatile — sometimes you need a shovel to do heavy lifting, and at other times something gentler, very subtle and refined, just to dust off the heart. My relationship to my parents, my friends and my wife and daughter are sourced from appreciation, love, compassion and forgiveness.
The Buddha spoke of a middle path, a path that leads against the stream, between the two dead-ends.
Meditation is a great reliever of stress and lowers the possibility of many stress related illnesses like high blood pressure and heart conditions.
Be crazy in your own way, with that madness in the eyes of man that is wisdom in the eyes of God. Indeed, this confusion permeates much of the scientific literature on the subject of meditation, detracting somewhat from the clarity of its findings on the benefits of any particular technique. While I share their concern to advance personal freedom, I find that mindfulness practitioners have an unduly stunted conception of the nature and scope of that freedom. In the Buddhist conception of reality, suffering is inevitable and all we can do is choose how we’re going to react to it. To simply observe our thoughts in a non-judgmental way is to abdicate our responsibility to actively select those thoughts and feelings which will create the realities we seek.
This is not mere chatter above which we should rise; it is a bona fide sense that should be embraced. Again, I had seen that mindfulness worked, so it gave me some confidence to try the rest of the Buddha's teachings. Meditations are versatile -- sometimes you need a shovel to do heavy lifting, and at other times something gentler, very subtle and refined, just to dust off the heart.
The only reason I opened my self to these meditation practices, often called heart practices, at all was because I had tremendous faith in the practices of mindfulness (paying attention to the present moment), the Buddha and my teachers, who assured me that it was safe to love again.
One moment I was bashing in my step-father’s head with a Louisville slugger, the next I was in a threesome with Madonna and Traci Lords. Learning to train my mind to pay close attention to the present moment was difficult, but fruitful.


For me, mindfulness proved to be the doorway to the rest of the Buddha’s dharma, or teachings. When I think of my step-father, I do so with compassion for how much suffering he must have been in to have been such a jerk back then. Mindfulness was a tremendous relief, and it acted like a metal detector that allowed me to know there were precious treasures beneath the ground.
But perhaps more important is the attitude of lovingkindness that permeates my attitude toward strangers. Most people would confess the desire to be free from the hatred, anger and fear that they live with, although there are those who have been so badly injured and confused that they have lost all hope.
The first dead-end is that of Worldliness, or seeking or happiness from material or sensual experiences. The first stage of this technique is called bare awareness and it goes with an insight of you. Take risks, search and search again, search everywhere, in every way, do not let a single opportunity or chance that life offers pass you by, and do not be petty and mean, trying to drive a hard bargain. Practitioners of mindfulness, however, need no such validation, for they are imbued with the certitude that they are on the one, true path.
The reduction of corrosive stress hormones circulating through one’s system in response to imagined threats has much to do with the boost to immune function attributed to mindfulness. His suggested exercises include numerous ways to emphasize the positive in our lives and, over time, rewire our brains to counteract this inbuilt negativity bias. But his approach to continuing mental evolution ultimately returns to an application of the Buddhist triad of virtue, mindfulness, and wisdom. This limitation may stem from an excessively rigid adherence to the teachings of the Buddha (and their ridiculously variegated iterations); but, ultimately, it stems from a failure to notice what is really going on. To be clear, then, this kind of mindfulness differs from the usual prescriptions not just in its focus on the vital interplay between inner and outer reality, but also in its explicit call for personal judgment. One moment I was bashing in my step-father's head with a Louisville slugger, the next I was in a threesome with Madonna and Traci Lords.
The Dalai Lama dispatched eight of his most accomplished practitioners to Davidson’s lab to have them hooked up for electroencephalograph (EEG) testing and brain scanning. I experienced the immediate, if only momentary, relief from the suffering I created with my mind’s tendency to be lost in the future and past. I came to believe that it was going to be possible to train my mind, but I still had no hope for my heart. My mind focuses easily on the task at hand and I often feel warmth and kindness toward all beings.
But each meditative effort of forgiveness, kindness or compassion was another shovel full of dirt, each one getting me closer to the forgotten truth of my heart. The second dead-end is that of religion, or seeking happiness from devotion and belief in external salvation. We are actually educated into believing that nothing is real beyond what we can perceive with our ordinary senses.
It motivates passion, aggression, ignorance, jealousy, and pride, but we never get down to the essence of it. But, as Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once put it, certitude is not the test of certainty…. Hanson’s mindfulness takes us beyond open-monitoring toward active selection of beneficial inner states. Fascinating though this might be, it misses an opportunity to exploit modern brainwave entrainment technology – a resource the Buddha could never have dreamed of.
And that’s a pretty damning indictment for a movement that purports to be all about cultivating awareness. That is all well and good, but it remains a passive and reactive conception of personal reality. A fully mindful person is, therefore, aware of his true power and wisely evaluating whether that power is being applied intelligently and beneficially. I experienced the immediate, if only momentary, relief from the suffering I created with my mind's tendency to be lost in the future and past. The Buddhist practitioners in the experiment had undergone training in the Tibetan Nyingmapa and Kagyupa traditions of meditation for an estimated 10,000 to 50,000 hours, over time periods of 15 to 40 years.
I now know that compassion is a natural quality of my heart that was laying dormant, waiting to be uncovered. But as I began to dig, I first found all the layers of sediment that were covering the heart. There is no guarantee that we will reach the forgotten treasure of compassion anytime soon. The heart practices of the Buddha taught me to surrender, but not to give up the commitment to creating a positive change. Mara will attack with vengeance at times, for by committing to the heart’s liberation we are committing to face Mara directly. It seems like this is the case in much of the western religions, when you worship a God that is judgmental, wrathful and vengeful, it makes sense that those same qualities would become acceptable and perhaps even desirable in oneself. One cannot help but wonder if the purists, too, would be impressed by his attempt to train the mind to learn more wholesome habits, instead of simply watching the mental world go by. More importantly, this adherence to Buddhism makes him subject to the limits of its worldview, to which we now turn. There is simply no discussion of the much more profound role we can take on when we act as a mental gatekeeper – that of choosing the thoughts and emotions that will actively change our reality. This is not what the Buddha meant by wholesomeness, but in case it is not already painfully obvious, I see no reason to be constrained by his conceptions.
Mara will attack with vengeance at times, for by committing to the heart's liberation we are committing to face Mara directly.
As a control, 10 student volunteers with no previous meditation experience were also tested after one week of training.The monks and volunteers were fitted with a net of 256 electrical sensors and asked to meditate for short periods. And I began to see that some of what was underneath my fears and lusts was a genuine desire to be free from suffering. What is promised is that it is there, waiting, and at times we can hear it calling to us, begging to be uncovered.
The Buddha spoke of his battle with Mara, and victory over Mara was won with the weapons of Love, Compassion, Equanimity and Appreciation. And, by extension, there is inevitably no recognition of the corollary that suffering can be, if not eliminated, certainly reduced by a wise application of this creative principle.
Mindfulness gave me the tools to let go of those thoughts and to bring my attention into the body's experience of the breath. Thinking and other mental activity are known to produce slight, but detectable, bursts of electrical activity as large groupings of neurons send messages to each other, and that’s what the sensors picked up. The path of meditative training, if followed correctly and with persistence, will always lead to the recovery of our lost love and compassion, one scoop at a time. But he does not go further than that, perhaps because of his desire to retain credibility in the mainstream scientific community and within the mindfulness industry.
The Buddha was constantly vigilant, always meeting Mara with a loving awareness, always disarming him with the heart’s wisest responses.
With one foot stuck in ancient oriental mud, he can’t stride boldly forward into the New Age. The Buddha was constantly vigilant, always meeting Mara with a loving awareness, always disarming him with the heart's wisest responses.



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