Meditation in an Age of Cataclysms

When despairing thoughts about climate collapse become overwhelming, try turning towards feeling.  By David Edwards  If consciousness is an ocean, thoughts are waves that can be churned into vast storms. Have you ever awakened in the wee small hours, adrift on your tiny raft of awareness, to find yourself confronted by such a storm? Perhaps an icy wind is whipping up the memory of something you read about COVID and slapping you in the face with it: So now I have to tell the daughter that both her parents are dead in a matter of three days. Her dad’s not even buried yet. … Continue reading Meditation in an Age of Cataclysms

How to Make a Decision When There Are No Good Choices

Acceptance and commitment therapy, which integrates psychological science with Buddhist ideas, offers a helpful framework for seemingly impossible situations. By Yael Schonbrun  On an April morning in 2019, my sister rested in a California hospital bed and gazed with wonder at her beautiful new infant. A thirty-minute drive away, my father also rested in a hospital bed, fighting his years-long battle with stage IV melanoma. Across the country, I sat perched on the edge of a plastic blue chair in the airport waiting to board a plane from Boston. Knowing my dad was very ill and that my sister would want … Continue reading How to Make a Decision When There Are No Good Choices

How to Bear Your Loneliness: Grounding Wisdom from the Great Buddhist Teacher Pema Chödrön

Sunlit Solitude by Maria Popova. (Available as a print.) “We are cheating ourselves when we run away from the ambiguity of loneliness.” BY MARIA POPOVA “You are born alone. You die alone. The value of the space in between is trust and love,” the artist Louise Bourgeois wrote in her diary. How much trust and love we wrest from life and lavish upon life is largely a matter of how well we have befriended our existential loneliness — a fundamental fact of every human existence that coexists with our delicate interconnectedness, each a parallel dimension of our lived reality, each pulsating beneath our … Continue reading How to Bear Your Loneliness: Grounding Wisdom from the Great Buddhist Teacher Pema Chödrön

Restoring Dignity to Our Animal Kin

Anthropologist Amanda Stronza reflects on death, grief, and the profound interconnections between animals and humans. By Lauren Krauze  Is there a disconnect between what we love and how we live? For the last thirty years, anthropologist Amanda Stronza has been investigating this question through her studies of the relationships between humans and animals. Her research and work in applied conservation have taken her around the world, from Botswana to the Amazon, where she has investigated what influences humans to care about and interact with certain species the way we do.  In recent years, Stronza has become known for her practice of rescuing … Continue reading Restoring Dignity to Our Animal Kin

Emptiness Explained

The Middle Way of Nagarjuna, one of Mahayana Buddhism’s greatest philosophers By Filip Holm When people think of Buddhism, they tend to picture meditative practices. But what many tend to forget is that Buddhism has a tremendously rigorous philosophical tradition, and its thinkers have contributed immensely to philosophy across history. Of these Buddhist philosophers, few—perhaps none—have been as influential as the 3rd-century logician Nagarjuna. Sometimes considered the “Second Buddha,” Nagarjuna presented a novel approach to the core Buddhist doctrine of emptiness, or shunyata, that would become central to the development of Mahayana Buddhism. In fact, his most famous work, the Mulamadhyamakakarika (“Root Verses on the … Continue reading Emptiness Explained

Making Friends with Death

A meditation for new beginnings By Wes Nisker Since the Buddha’s time, many different ways of meditating on death have been devised in Buddhist communities. In their religious rituals, Tibetan Buddhist monks blow ceremonial horns made of human bones, and they sometimes eat their meals out of bowls made from human skulls. In the temples and monasteries of Thailand, one will often find pictures of skeletons hanging on the wall. They might depict, for example, a middle-class family—father, mother, and child—with half of each body clothed and face smiling, while the other half is a bare-boned skeleton. In some sense, the act of … Continue reading Making Friends with Death

The Dharma of Popular Music

An exercise for mindful listening, because even where you least expect it, music can present opportunities for reflection. By Bradley Donaldson  In 2019, I spent a breezy summer afternoon lying on the grass of a local park, nodding my head to Lana Del Rey’s just-released album. That day would turn out to be emblematic of much of my summer: wistful and pensive, yet hopeful. My most recent romantic relationship had unraveled, and the album was a soothing balm; I listened to it on repeat, daily. The fourteen-track record turned out to be Del Rey’s most critically acclaimed album to date, a … Continue reading The Dharma of Popular Music

Why Won’t You Be My Teacher?

An ex-monk and an aspiring practitioner discuss writing and Zen over wine and homemade schnapps. By Shozan Jack Haubner Two years ago Karl messaged me on Twitter. He had read my books. He too lived in Vienna. He wanted to buy me a beer at a famous socialist pub. He seemed odd and grumpy, like I owed him money, even though we’d never met. I’ve since discovered that saying someone is odd and grumpy is just another way of saying they’re Austrian. We’ve become good friends. I recently learned that his daughter was born on his living room rug. Not by choice. … Continue reading Why Won’t You Be My Teacher?

A Guided Practice for Cultivating Attention  

Learn how to break some of the crazy momentum of your day and return to a state of mindfulness. By Sharon Salzberg  Mindfulness is a relational quality. It’s not about what’s happening, it’s about how we are with what’s happening. The point isn’t to utterly control our internal and external environment—the point is to have a different relationship to everything.  Mindfulness can go anywhere: It doesn’t take the shape of what it’s watching. So we can be mindful of those beautiful, wonderful, tremendous times, we can be mindful of those difficult, painful times, and we can be mindful of all the … Continue reading A Guided Practice for Cultivating Attention  

What’s in a Word? Anattā

Our expert discusses its meaning. By Andrew Olendzki In Sanskrit the word ātman is used by Hindus for the soul, that most essential part of the self that is deeply embedded in the body but is immaterial and indestructible and reincarnates when one dies. Buddhists reject this idea as a comforting but mistaken viewpoint that does not stand up to deep empirical investigation and posit instead a foundational concept of anātman (“not-ātman” or “non-ātman”), which in Pali is spelled anattā. The Buddhist critique of ātman is subtle and goes beyond simply denying that a self exists. At the heart of the matter is how to regard … Continue reading What’s in a Word? Anattā