Three Ways to Practice Forgiveness

Three Ways to Practice Forgiveness

Photo by Rob Ireton |

Meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg guides us through an exercise that helps us cultivate kindness toward those who have harmed us (including our own selves).

By Sharon Salzberg

The sense of psychological and spiritual well-being that comes from practicing forgiveness comes directly because this practice takes us to the edge of what we can accept. Being on the edge is challenging, wrenching, and transforming. The process of forgiveness demands courage and a continual remembering of where our deepest happiness lies. As Goethe said, “Our friends show us what we can do; our enemies show us what we must do.”

It is indeed a process, which means that as you do the reflections, many conflicted emotions may arise: shame, anger, a sense of betrayal, confusion, or doubt. Try to allow such states to arise without judging them. Recognize them as natural occurrences, and then gently return your attention to the forgiveness reflection.

The reflection is done in three parts: asking forgiveness from those you have harmed; offering forgiveness to those who have harmed you; and offering forgiveness to yourself. Sit comfortably, close your eyes, and let your breath be natural and uncontrolled. Begin with the recitation (silent or not, as you prefer): “If I have hurt or harmed anyone, knowingly or unknowingly, I ask their forgiveness.” If different people, images, or scenarios come up, release the burden of guilt and ask for forgiveness: “I ask your forgiveness.”

After some time, you can offer forgiveness to those who have harmed you. Don’t worry if there is not a great rush of loving feeling; this is not meant to be an artificial exercise, but rather a way of honoring the powerful force of intention in our minds. We are paying respects to our ultimate ability to let go and begin again. We are asserting the human heart’s capacity to change and grow and love. “If anyone has hurt or harmed me, knowingly or unknowingly, I forgive them.” And, as different thoughts or images come up mind, continue the recitation, “I forgive you.”

In the end, we turn our attention to forgiveness of ourselves. If there are ways you have harmed yourself, or not loved yourself, or not lived up to your own expectations, this is the time to let go of unkindness toward yourself because of what you have done. You can include any inability to forgive others that you may have discovered on your part in the reflection immediately preceding—that is not a reason to be unkind to yourself. “For all of the ways I have hurt or harmed myself, knowingly or unknowingly, I offer forgiveness.”

Continue this practice as a part of your daily meditation, and allow the force of intention to work in its own way, in its own time.


The Fifth Precept in the Age of Facebook and Trump

The Fifth Precept in the Age of Facebook and Trump

Photo by Franck Michel |

A meditation teacher and political columnist makes a case for considering the Internet an intoxicant that should be used in moderation.

By Dr. Jay Michaelson
We literally cannot help ourselves. The news is toxic, the conversations about it are often rancorous . . . and yet, let me scroll down one more time to see what else is new.

Certainly, the Trump administration has brought with it new opportunities to worry, obsess, fear, get angry, get motivated, detach, indulge—and with any luck, to notice these various mind states as they come and go. The Internet, too, is quite new, at least in terms of human evolution.

But some of our online conundrum is, in fact, quite old. Given the research on Internet addiction, I want to suggest that it’s time to expand the fifth precept, which proscribes the consumption of intoxicants, to include the online world. The Internet is an intoxicant and should be treated as such.

First, social media is designed to maximize addictive behavior. Push notifications, “likes,” and other positive feedback loops have been shown to trigger the brain’s dopamine system. With each “like” you get, your brain gets the same little jolt that it gets from drugs, sex, gambling, and other potentially addictive stimuli.

Thanks to evolution, we are wired to watch vigilantly for threats and reward, and to enjoy that reward when it comes. Thanks to social media, that happens every time your phone beeps.

What is that? Anticipation. Did I get a new like? Hope for validation. I did!Dopamine reward. This cycle activates the same parts of the brain as heroin and cocaine. Indeed, a 2011 study showed that heavy Internet users suffered physical and mental withdrawal symptoms after unplugging for a day.

And then there’s the converse: the feelings of envy or loneliness that can arise from viewing other people’s life updates. Researchers have dubbed this “Facebook depression.” Another study showed that the reward centers in young people’s brains were activated more by the “likes” a photo gets than by the content of the photo itself. We are, after all, social animals.

Again, none of this is an accident. As technology folks readily admit, they’ve designed products to exploit your brain chemistry as effectively and efficiently as possible. There’s no hidden agenda here: it’s right out in the open. Each time you scroll down, you see another ad. Each ad you see, the advertiser pays a few cents. Now multiply that by a billion.

Of course, this isn’t really new either. After all, both I and Tricycle have successfully enticed you to read this piece. We did it the way journalists have for centuries, with a (hopefully) interesting topic and a (hopefully) attention-grabbing headline. And if we didn’t have donors, you probably wouldn’t be reading these words.

But some of this really is new. Never before has an industry as large as social media had as many tools to maximize its impact on the human mind. And those tools are only going to get better (or worse): live video, augmented reality, virtual reality, sharper targeting for content and ads, wearable devices, new platforms, and, of course, innovations we can’t yet imagine. In a decade, we’re going to look back at 2017 as quaint.

That combination of improved means for unimproved ends is why it’s worth looking at older, yet often timeless, attempts to grapple with the addictive potentialities of mind. The fifth precept, present in multiple Buddhist traditions, is one of those.

The precept, in its classical forms, is refraining from liquors and other intoxicants. In Pali, sura-meraya-majja-pamadatthana literally means “abstaining from fermented drink that causes heedlessness.” There are many opinions as to the scope of the precept. On the strict side, almost everyone agrees that not just fermented drink but other intoxicants are also to be avoided




15 Quotes From a Modern Day Zen Master That Will Change Your Perspective on Life

Resultado de imagem para images of Mooji?


Ever heard of Mooji? If not, he is one of the greatest modern day spiritual teachers that has helped countless people achieve their goals of inner peace.

Mooji encourages his students to question who or what they are at the deepest level. One of his well known exercises is to identify the natural feeling ‘I am’ or ‘I exist’ and staying with this for 5 to 7 minutes at a time.

Another is to come to the recognition that everything (thoughts, emotions, sensations) can be perceived, and then inquiring, “Can the perceiver itself be perceived?”

Below, we share some of his most biting quotes on the journey of discovering who you truly are.

Everything is a blessing

“Don’t be too quick to interpret the moment. Just keep quiet. My encouragement would always be: never think anything is against you, everything is blessing. Why should it be different? Just be quiet. Let it all work itself out.”

On your thoughts

“No thought has any power. You have power. And when you identify and believe in the thought you give power to the thought.”

Let go and trust in life

“If you do not trust life to unfold, the mind takes over and it becomes a game of strategy, motivated by anxiety. This mistrust is unfair. Life has given us so much, and yet we do not trust it.”

Some of your friends will be marathon runners

“Some beings will walk with you for the duration of this bodily existence, up to the very end. Some will come with bright promises, bright lights, but they fade quickly. Others come, they don’t look like they will go very far, but they are marathon runners; they’re there with you all the time. You cannot determine this… Somehow in the flow of your own unique river, you will see that everything is as it should be.”

The world is beautiful and free

“Don’t remind the world that it is sick and troubled. Remind it that it is beautiful and free.”

Something is there taking care

“Who reminds you to breathe and to beat your heart? Something is there, taking care…”

Go beyond everything

“Go beyond everything. Don’t collect anything. A king does not need to go shopping in his own kingdom. Nor does he beg. Remember, you are the inner reality-pure awareness only.
All that arises are appearances in consciousness. Don’t bother with all that. Rest only as the awareness. This is the secret.”

Sink into this timeless moment

“If you give yourself one complete minute of focused presence, to simply stop; even to listen to your heart beating, it will take you out of your head and introduce you to the moment which is complete in itself. It is not on the way to another moment. It is not a bridge to another opportunity. It is the timeless perfection So stopand sink into this timeless moment.”

Our natural state of being is happy

“You need nothing to be happy – you need something to be sad.”

Illuminate the world with your being

“There is a mystery within all beings bursting to reveal itself, in the ones who become quiet enough to discover it. In this discovery a benevolent force shines spontaneously from your presence towards all beings, and this light cannot help but illuminate the world.”

On freedom

“When you can bear your own silence, you are free.”

Be nobody

“If I could give you only one advice, I would say: Don’t identify with anything. Be completely empty – no one. Be no-body and see if you lose anything but delusion.”

Let go

“The greatest step towards a life of happiness and simplicity is to let go. Trust in the power that is already taking care of you spontaneously without effort.”

The ego

“Life cannot be against you, for you are Life itself. Life can only seem to go against the ego’s projections, which are rarely the truth.”

Seeing the true selves of others

“If you could look inside the Heart of any and every single human being, you would fall in love with them completely. If you see the inside as it really Is and not as your mind projects it to be, you would be so purely in love with the whole thing.”


Kitten Meditation

Kitten Meditation
Photo by Carolina Barría Kemp |

Thai Forest monk Ajahn Brahm invites us to start meditating by choosing something easy to love in this excerpt from his book

By Ajahn Brahm

I continue to visualize my imaginary friend, picturing it as abandoned, hungry, and very afraid. In its short span of life it has known only rejection, violence, and loneliness. I imagine its bones sticking out from its emaciated body, its fur soiled with grime and some blood, and its body rigid with terror. I consider that if I don’t care for this vulnerable little being then no one will, and it will die such a horrible, lonely, terrified death. I feel that kitten’s pain fully, in all its forms, and my heart opens up, releasing a flood of compassion. I will care for that little kitten. I will protect it and feed it.I imagine myself looking deeply into its anxious eyes, trying to melt its apprehension with the metta flowing through my own eyes. I reach out to it slowly, reassuringly, never losing eye contact. Gently, I pick up that little kitten and bring it to my chest. I remove the kitten’s cold with the warmth from my own body, I take away its fear with the softness of my embrace, and I feel the kitten’s trust grow. I speak to the kitten on my chest:

“Little being, never feel alone again. Never feel so afraid. I will always look after you, be your protector and friend. I love you, little kitten. Wherever you go, whatever you do, my heart will always welcome you. I give you my limitless lovingkindness always.”

When I do this, I feel my kitten become warm, relax, and finally purr.

This is but an outline of how I begin my meditation on metta. I usually take much more time. I use my imagination and inner speech to paint a picture in my mind, to create a scenario where the first flames of metta can arise.

At the end of the mental exercise, my eyes still closed, I focus the attention on the region around my heart and feel the first warm glow of the emotion of kindfulness…





Brett Ryder/Heart Agency

Coming to terms with how we really feel about our friends’ good fortune

By Joan Duncan Oliver
At the gym, I idly thumb through a back issue of the Harvard Business Review. A headline, “Envy at Work,” catches my eye. I glance at paragraph one:

As you enter your recently promoted colleague’s office, you notice a photograph of his beautiful family in their new vacation home. He casually adjusts his custom suit and mentions his upcoming board meeting and speech in Davos. On one hand, you want to feel genuinely happy for him and celebrate his successes. On the other, you hope he falls into a crevasse in the Alps. Hello. You’re playing my song. Alas, I’ve been there more than once, my good Buddhist training battling—unsuccessfully—my envious heart.

Hello. You’re playing my song. Alas, I’ve been there more than once, my good Buddhist training battling—unsuccessfully—my envious heart.

And I’m not alone, right? Envy is “universal,” assert the authors of the HBR article, psychologist Tanya Menon and Leigh Thompson, a management professor. And psychologists, anthropologists, and philosophers for the most part agree: envy is a standard-issue human emotion, albeit the one we are least likely to admit to, even to ourselves.

With that in mind, I ask two young colleagues, “What do you think about envy?” Vigorous shaking of heads. “Nope, never feel it,” one declares. Nodding in agreement, the other says, “My mother always told us not to envy anyone. You don’t know their story—what the rest of their life is like, or what they’re feeling inside.”

She’s right, of course. Envy rests on comparing ourselves to others—and coming up short. Comparing per se isn’t the problem. It can be beneficial if it motivates us to take action on our own behalf—to start exercising or meditating, say, or to apply for a more challenging job. But invidious comparisons are deleterious all around.

In Buddhist teachings, envy isn’t clearly distinguished from jealousy. So I try another tack with my colleagues. “What about jealousy? Ever feel that?” I ask. “Of course!” one shoots back, laughing. “All the time!” And off we go on the fickleness of boyfriends.

Jealousy—fear of losing someone we value—is at least marginally justifiable and therefore socially acceptable. Envy—discontent or anger that someone else has something we want but don’t possess, be it beauty, talent, a coveted job, or just dumb luck—is neither justifiable nor condoned. La Rochefoucauld, that astute observer of human nature, defined the difference: “Jealousy is in some measure just and reasonable since it tends only to retain a good which belongs to us, whereas envy is a fury that cannot endure the good of others.”

However couched it might be, envy by its very nature is hostile. The word comes from the Latin invidere, to regard maliciously, to grudge. Unlike its cousin greed, envy doesn’t just crave the object of its desire, it taints the whole project, begrudging others what they have and, when all else fails, devaluing or destroying the desired object.

Psychologists, unlike Buddhists, distinguish between envy and jealousy. Jealousy is a triangulation among equals: I’m jealous of the glamorous new neighbor my boyfriend has been chatting up, afraid that she’s going to drive a wedge between us. Envy is an unequal misalliance of two, with the envied person one up, the envier one down. I envy the new hire for being younger, smarter, and more tech savvy than I. And if I’m convinced my job is in jeopardy as a result, then consciously or unconsciously, I might try to sabotage the upstart.

Nothing good attaches to envy, a sin in every major religion. Two German social psychologists who study envy say that “among the seven deadlies, it occupies a unique position: it’s the only sin that is never fun.” Even schadenfreude—wicked pleasure in someone else’s misfortune—is usually short-lived: soon enough, the bitter taste of hatred rises in your throat, and shame and guilt flood your system…



The Buddha Talks to a Brahmin Supremacist

The Buddha Talks to a Brahmin Supremacist

Photo by Ed Schipul |

How a Buddhist teaching on dismantling the superiority of the brahmin class can help us take on racism.

By Krishnan Venkatesh

The belief that a group of people can be born superior to all other groups has been around for a very long time, and even existed during the time of the Buddha. For 3,000 years, society in South Asia has been dominated by the caste system, according to which a person is born into one of four major castes (varna), or social stations: laborers, merchants, warriors, and brahmins. According to the earliest Hindu scriptures, brahmins—scholars and priests—were the highest caste and viewed as morally and spiritually superior to the others; indeed, they are called “brahmins” because according to one of the hymns of the Rg Veda, they were born from the mouth of Brahman [God].

In the Pali Canon, the Buddha has many conversations with brahmins who, clearly provoked by his ideas of radical equality, routinely approached him to argue and learn. Late in the Middle Length Discourses, we meet a group of 500 brahmins who live in the town of Savatthi, where the Buddha is staying at the time. When they hear that the Buddha has been teaching that all the castes are equally “pure,” they are outraged, and decide to send a smart young brahmin to go and debate him.

In the following conversation between the Buddha and the proud brahmin Assalayana (after whom the Assalayana Sutta is named), the Buddha offers some ways to address the obdurate belief in superiority of caste, race, or any other birth group.

Master Gotama, the brahmins say, ‘Brahmins are the superior caste; any other caste is inferior. Only brahmins are the fair caste; any other caste is dark. Only brahmins are pure, not non-brahmins. Only brahmins are the sons and offspring of Brahma: born of his mouth, born of Brahma, created by Brahma, heirs of Brahma.’ What does Master Gotama have to say with regard to that?

The Buddha begins to dismantle Assalayana’s notions of superiority by noting that we all enter the world the same way:

But, Assalayana, the brahmins’ brahmin-women are plainly seen having their periods, becoming pregnant, giving birth, and nursing [their children]. And yet the brahmins, being born through the birth canal, say, “Brahmins are the superior caste . . .”

The Buddha grounds this initial discussion in physical reality, as it is difficult to argue that people who give birth the same way are fundamentally different. Besides, how delightful is it that a creature who emerges from the nether end of its mother can entertain fantasies about its own transcendent superiority! We see from this exchange that the Buddha has a wry sense of humor as well as a comedian’s gift for drawing out the absurd.

The Buddha then proceeds to ask questions that he already knows Assalayana’s answers to. First, whether a person is a brahmin, a warrior, a merchant, or a laborer, if he does bad things, can he expect to suffer bad consequences? And if he does good things, can he expect to be rewarded with good consequences? Surely, replies Assalayana. Good people are good people, and bad people are bad people, no matter what they come from, and all can be expected to suffer the appropriate consequences. Even a brahmin supremacist has to admit to knowing some brahmins who are terrible people and some farm laborers who are wise and noble.

Next, the Buddha asks whether brahmins, warriors, merchants, and workers have the same relationship to their bodies and to the physical world. When anybody from any caste goes down to the river to bathe, do they not all scrub their skin and then rinse with water? And when they start a fire using logs, kindling, and a lighter, do they not all produce fire and heat, and smoke that makes everyone cough? Using the same materials and techniques, every human being will produce the same fire; thus notions of caste superiority have no basis whatsoever in the physical nature of the world.

At this point, in case Assalayana doesn’t believe that the laws of physics, chemistry, and biology have any bearing on the issue of ethical supremacy, the Buddha swerves back to the question of merit within the same caste. Between two brahmin brothers, is it possible for one to be worthier than the other—for example, the hard-working, respectful brother, versus the lazy, slanderous one? That is, when we’re dealing only with brahmins, it is clear that merit has nothing to do with birth; at least, we behave as if the more virtuous brother has deserved more respect…



“What Should I Do About My F’d-Up Life?”


Resultado de imagem para Illustration by Chioma Ebinama.

Illustration by Chioma Ebinama.


The question that Colin Beavan just had to ask his Zen teacher is one that’s on the tip of everybody’s tongues. Even the teacher’s!

At the Chogye International Zen Center of New York, part of the Kwan Um School of Zen, where I study meditation, my fellow students and I sit cross-legged on two long, parallel rows of mats and cushions. It is completely quiet except that every so often, in another room, a bell rings. When it does, someone gets up and shuffles through the door. One at a time, we each get a chance to ask our private, personal questions of the Zen teacher.

On this particular day, though my body is quiet, my mind is loud. What’s bothering me? The same things that bother everyone. Money problems. Kid worries. Job stresses. Relationship struggles. Nothing stays still. Everything changes.

The bell rings again and it’s my turn. I unfold my legs and tiptoe to the door. I slip into the interview room and perform the various standing bows and prostrations that are part of our form. The teacher gestures toward the cushion and I sit down in front of him.

“Do you have any questions?” he asks.

Questions? Yes, the same questions probably everyone else has: How do I make the discomfort of life go away, hopefully forever? How do I face up to the fact that I am going to die, like everyone, and stop worrying about it? How do I make it so that I don’t feel the insecurity of life so keenly? How do I deal with the fact that the world is messed up and the politicians don’t seem to care?

Almost as a joke, I say to the teacher, “Okay. Let me ask this. What should I do about my fucked-up life?”

The teacher leans forward with his hands and chin resting on his Zen stick. He smiles. He says, “Make it un-fucked-up.”

Really? I think. That’s your answer?

So I ask, “Is that working for you?”

He says, “Not so far!” Then we laugh. Hard.

I like this. To be reminded that one of my Zen teachers can’t quite get his life together. He has had his fair share of money and romantic problems, I happen to know.

Maybe there isn’t something I’m doing wrong. Maybe this is just being human.

Actually, after years of trying to find someone whose life wasn’t a little messy, here is what I’ve discovered: Nowhere have I been able to find anyone who has transcended her own humanity. Gandhi had a terrible temper and could be mean to his wife. Martin Luther King Jr. had affairs. And so on.

This is no longer bad news for me. It means maybe there isn’t something I’m doing wrong. Maybe this is just being human.

Sitting with me in that interview room, my teacher says, “Now you know what it means that ‘Delusions are endless. We vow to cut through them all.’ ” He is quoting one of the Four Great Vows that guide Zen practice in my school. This one, about endless delusions and cutting through them, like the other three, can mean many different things at different times. But to me, just now, it means, “The confused view of life that comes with being human never goes away, but we vow not to get so caught up in that confusion that we can’t do any good for ourselves and others.”

There is nothing wrong with any of us if we are having a hard time.

My Zen teacher, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., me — all human. So there is nothing wrong with any of us if we are having a hard time. The delusions never stop. The confusion, the desire, the anger that come with being born may never completely go away.

But we can detach from them enough to do a little good. That’s why it’s inspiring to know that Gandhi and King had their shortcomings. They weren’t so different from us. They got caught up in the delusion, but mostly, when it was important, they were able to cut through it. They heard the noise, but mostly, when the chips were down, they rose above it.

The Difference Between Inside Fucked Up and Outside Fucked Up

This is what my teacher, during that interview, talked about next. He said, “You have to remember that there is a difference between being inside fucked up and outside fucked up.”

Outside fucked up depends on circumstances and the changing emotions and feelings that come with them. The loss of a loved one. The end of a relationship. An unwanted change at work. Or even just the little things, like an unexpected big bill or the involuntary cancellation of a well-deserved vacation. We work moment by moment to respond to those circumstances, to put one foot in front of the other and make them un-fucked-up. That is natural.

Inside fucked up, on the other hand, is when you can’t come to terms with the fact that you will always, to some degree, be outside fucked up. It is when you are so caught up in the mistaken idea that you can somehow stop the delusions from coming and going that you put all your efforts into barricading the doors of life…


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