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What to Do in Meditation When You Are Flooded with Mental Pain

Each meditation is so different. Today, as I settled into my breath, I was immediately aware of a great deal of mental pain. The pain didn’t seem to be tied to anything in particular, but was more an existential kind of pain—just “being” felt painful. One I got mentally quiet enough to feel its full […]

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How to Get Started with Sitting Meditation

Because it was free and available online, Buddha Smile by Roberto Vicente, was one of the earliest dharma books I read when I first began investigating Buddhism.  I feel very fortunate that I read his book during my initial discovery period, because the author conveys such a wonderful, joyous sense of the Buddha’s teaching and […]

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Whose Silence Are You? Thomas Merton Poem and Music

Thomas Merton was a Trappist monk who was well-known as a social activist, writer, and poet.  An deep student of comparative religion, Merton was a keen proponent of interfaith dialog.  He became close friends with prominent Eastern spiritual teachers, such as the Dalai Lama, D.T. Suzuki, and my own heart teacher, Vietnamese Zen Master Thich […]

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Sacred Scriptures and Gurus Are Not the Final Authority

Anyone who grew up in a fundamentalist or doctrinaire religious environment can tell you how hard it is to to think for oneself and choose one’s own spiritual path. In a child’s mind, the authority of one’s parents becomes totally merged with the authority of her religious teachings and teachers. Because a child is totally […]

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Thich Nhat Hanh – “Contemplation” – Poem and Music

Contemplation A Poem by Thich Nhat Hanh Since the moon is full tonight, let us call upon the stars in prayer. The power of concentration, seen through the bright, one-pointed mind, is shaking the universe. All living beings are present tonight to witness the ocean of fear flooding the Earth. Upon the sound of the […]

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The Bodhisattva Vow-the whole thing is hopeless, but we’ll do it

A hazy autumn moon, solitary and full, falls as it may on the winding river ahead.
 There are those who seek perfect clarity,
 yet sweep as you may, you cannot empty the mind. (The Capping Verse to Dongshan and Shenshan Cross the River) “You can’t teach someone to walk a tightrope wire by telling them […]

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Did you know that the Buddha almost didn’t teach the Dharma?

According to the Pali canon, not long after the Buddha attained enlightenment, he mused to himself: “This Dhamma that I have realized is profound, hard to see and hard to understand, peaceful and sublime, unattainable by mere reasoning, subtle, to be experienced only by the wise.” The Buddha then apparently seriously questioned whether he could […]

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Why Buddhist Practice is Deeply Rooted in Mindfulness of the Body

One of the very first teachers I discovered in my dharma practice was Gil Fronsdal. I was always touched by Gil’s gentle, loving approach to the practice, and his wisdom in guiding students to more and more skillful means. Gil has practiced Zen and Vipassana since 1975 and has a Ph.D. in Buddhist Studies from […]

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Some thoughts on talent, success, failure and compassion for ourselves

The ego has many traps, but one of the worst is self-identification with one’s talent. If one self-identifies with one’s artistic or creative talent, this inevitably leads to suffering as the ego’s unquenchable needs and desires can never be satisfied by that talent. Indeed, the world is filled with “hungry ghosts” whose attachment to their […]

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Am I Pleasing Others to Make Myself Feel Loved and Good?

The path of awakening, of liberation, always includes self-observation and self-inquiry. Without them, we tend to repeat the same unskillful ways of thinking and acting over and over again. That’s what is called samsara in Buddhism. In this essay I’m sharing my thoughts and observations on something I’ve struggled with much of my life: a […]

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Sogyal Rinpoche on God and Emptiness

A recent discussion with a friend on Facebook about the nature of the Absolute, brought to mind something I had transcribed years ago from a CD, but had forgotten about. So, I thought I’d dig it up from my dharma archives and share it here on my blog. The passage is from a talk by […]

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Choose life! Choose love! Choose to live!

“Most people can look back over the years and identify a time and place at which their lives changed significantly. Whether by accident or design, these are the moments when, because of a readiness within us and a collaboration with events occurring around us, we are forced to seriously reappraise ourselves and the conditions under […]

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New Year Message from Thich Nhat Hanh on Suffering

“The New Year is a great opportunity to begin anew. Because many people look at the new year, the year to come, with hope. “I will do better next year,” you promise yourself…Of course we have made mistakes. Of course we have been not very skillful. Of course we have made ourselves suffer. Of course […]

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