Zen Blog

This blog collects various internet feeds aimed towards information, experience and technique exchange in support of our shared spiritual journey.....

”Namaste - may the light in me, honor the light in you…”

Loving Pain

It may seem utterly counterintuitive to turn toward pain. Our evolved instincts are to avoid or to flee it. Yet mindfully accepting our painful feelings is an essential prerequisite to supporting ourselves with kindness and compassion. Accepting our pain means being willing to be present with it, not pushing it away or reacting to it.

When we observe painful feelings, we needn’t do so in a way that’s cold and clinical. We can work against our inherent tendency to resist painful feelings by encouraging ourselves to remain open to them. We can approach these feelings in a spirit that’s warm, supportive, and loving. In practicing self-compassion, we recognize that there is a part of us that is suffering, and give it our support and our love. 

We can be curious about emotional pain as we might be curious with any other sensation in the body—we can look to see what a particular feeling is like and notice exactly where in the body it takes place. We can observe what size it is, what volume of physical space it occupies, or what texture it has. (Perhaps it will feel heavy or dark. Some people observe a color associated with the feeling, although if this doesn’t happen naturally then don’t strive to make it happen; just be present with whatever is arising. Perhaps there may be a sense of tension or pressure or movement associated with it. Labeling our feelings can very useful too—naming them as anxiety, or sadness, or disappointment, for example—although it’s fine if we can’t put names to them.) 

Something that can help us to practice acceptance of our pain is to recognize that our feelings are only ever pleasant or unpleasant, and never right or wrong. This is something that Buddhist psychology strongly emphasizes. Feelings are non-volitional and ethically neutral; they are not choices we make and so they don’t have any moral significance. Only how we think, speak, and act in response to them is ethically significant. You need not be ashamed of any feeling you experience. You feel what you feel. Simply accepting this is in itself a profound act of self-compassion.

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Sexual Misconduct

We continue our series of posts with questions and answers. In this sixth post, we hear one question.

The session takes place on August 16, 2007 during the Stonehill College retreat during the U.S. Tour. The retreat theme is Mindfulness, Fearlessness, and Togetherness.

Question about healing within my church community. A church leader who has acted inappropriately with sexual misconduct. The person is now gone, but we still need a healing process. Is that important even when some don’t want to or with people who didn’t even know the person?

Original author: Chan Niem Hy
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Where Did “Tibetan” Singing Bowls Really Come From?

In Kathmandu’s tourist district of Thamel sits a planned outdoor shopping area called Mandala Street. Nearly every morning—around when the foreigner-friendly coffee shop Himalayan Java opens its doors—a man blows his conch shell loudly from a second-story walkway. He typically wears flowing white robes and a large turban with a peacock feather stuck in its folds, and sports a beard and moustache curled into near-perfect circles. He is a self-described “sound-bowl healer” who offers to align chakras with specially tuned metal bowls, a technique, he will tell you, that is practiced by an ancient lineage of yogis. The staff of Himalayan Java are suspicious of his sound bowl healings, but some of the visitors are spellbound by him, the picture of the Orientalized South Asian holy man, and a few find their way to his healing table each day during the peak tourist seasons.

These sound bowls, or “Tibetan singing bowls” as they are frequently called, have become nearly ubiquitous in Buddhist contexts in North America and Europe. They are used in mindfulness practices, yoga studios, and even some newer Buddhist rituals, yet a credible consensus regarding their origins is difficult to find. There is no hard evidence that the sound bowls are ancient—and even less that they are Tibetan.

The dubious claims of the bowls’ Tibetan origins have not escaped the notice of the Tibetan community in North America. A handful of blog entries by Tibetan writers in North America have appeared questioning the pedigree of the allegedly “Tibetan” bowls, and as recently as February 18, an op-ed piece by Tenzin Dheden of the Canada Tibet Committee ran in the Toronto Star entitled “‘Tibetan singing bowls’ are not Tibetan. Sincerely, a Tibetan person.” The piece garnered attention on Facebook with one commenter noting, “I’ve always wondered why Injis [foreigners/non-Tibetans] are so fond of these bowls. In the past, I’ve asked a number of Tibetans, including monks, and none of them had heard about [them].” 

I spoke to a few other Tibetan scholars/friends and colleagues, and they said they had similar experiences. One Geluk monk and geshe currently in the United States pursuing a graduate degree when asked whether or not he had encountered the bowls while growing up in Kham or during his monastic training in Mysore, said: “When I was in Tibet, I never saw those bowls that you hit and spin around the rim. I saw them in India . . . But in India there are many different things.”

So if Tibetan singing bowls are not a Tibetan creation, what are they? And where did they come from?

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A Tibetan Lama Answers Meditation FAQs

How can we deal with everyday stress?

It’s really important that we take time each and every day, even if it’s just a bit, to practice some meditation. Even just a few minutes will be of immense benefit. You can do some calm-abiding meditation by visualizing the Buddha or attuning to the in-and-out breathing and do some prayers that fill you with inspiration and remind you of the stages of the path. Otherwise, even if we really love the idea that practicing Buddhism can help us to be calmer, kinder, more insightful, and so on, it won’t really come to life unless we feel it deep inside from meditating. 

So even if your workload feels enormous, make time to meditate, and it will help. Not only can it make you feel less stressed, it will also make your mind sharper and clearer for your studies, your work, or whatever. Then to do it effectively, we must be mindful of the present, not caught up in ideas about the future or the past, so we have to let go of all those ideas when we meditate. The more we do it, the more we feel clarity and confidence about what to do with our lives that will be beneficial. So be kind to yourself; don’t give up studying hard and working hard, because those are good things to do, but familiarize yourself with a daily practice and you will really start to notice changes.

How do we deal with distraction and lack of support from non-Buddhist friends?

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Meditation Month 2020: Grounding Our Practice

Week 1 of Sebene Selassie’s guided meditation videos

With Sebene SelassieMar 01, 2020

It’s Day 1 of Tricycle Meditation Month, our annual challenge to sit all 31 days of March, and we’re getting started with the first of four free guided meditation videos led by our Meditation Month teacher, Sebene Selassie.

Sebene is a teacher in the Insight meditation tradition who has been studying Buddhism for over 30 years. This month, she uses a Buddhist teaching from the Satipatthana Sutta on mindfulness of the four elements—earth, fire, water, and air—to invite us into a holistic and embodied awareness of our experience. These simple approaches to awareness are designed to help you develop a regular meditation practice. 

In this first video on the element of earth, Sebene explains how we can stay present with the experience of the body—creating a sense of stability in our practice that will last throughout this month-long commitment to meditation. 

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