Is it Self-Centered to Meditate?
The Difference Between Pain and Suffering
There’s a cliché out there that mindfulness is self-centered. Which is strange because all contemplative traditions say that one’s ethical conduct, both in our personal relationships and in working to improve the lives of others, is an essential part of the path.
At the same time, there is some truth to the cliché. When I started meditating over thirty five years ago, I was consumed with hopes and worries. I spent a lot of time reflecting on what I was doing with my time, judging myself for not being good enough, and worrying that I wouldn’t amount to anything. All thoughts wrapped up in myself.
When Monsters Attack (for real)
This may sound weird, but meditation has taught me that you can have joy even when you have pain.
In the beginning, most of us start meditating to eliminate our pain. I know I did. I wanted to get rid of my sadness and fear. But meditation doesn’t eliminate pain -- it eliminates suffering.
What’s the difference?
Maintaining Hope in Hard Times
My Halloween monsters showed up early this year.
It was a few weeks ago, right before the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. My daughter, nearing two years of age, entered a nasty “sleep regression,” which is basically when toddlers forget everything they know about how to sleep and spend the night resisting, howling, fighting, needing attention, and running around like the Energizer bunny on methamphetamine.
Three Tools for More Effective Communication
It can be hard to have hope these days.
On the one hand, we all want to feel hopeful. Hope encourages us to look forward confidently, and we may expect hope itself is necessary for us to get what we desire. Often when someone succeeds despite the odds, admirers say, “She never gave up hope.” In this way, hope is also a refuge, akin to having faith.
On the other hand, we live in such difficult times that I have heard from many people that they feel almost frightened or foolish to hope that things in their world will be better.
Be Your Own Mom
Human communication is complex. There are a myriad of factors in any interaction. Our emotions, ideas, and beliefs come into play both verbally and nonverbally. We have to negotiate patterns of relating that have been established, whether between two individuals or between the groups and communities to which we belong.
Yet, in all of this, there are certain consistent foundations to skillful communication.
When my daughter is upset, anxious, or angry, my job as a parent is to hold her in a loving presence. I don’t have to fix her emotion, give her advice, tell her not to be sad, or take the pain away. My job is simply be there for her.
The same is often true in meditation—except for myself.
If you’re into yoga, travel, philosophy, meditation, or any number of other pursuits, you might sometimes get called a “seeker.” A seeker of truth, or experiences, or happiness – but a seeker. Someone looking for something. Which is funny, because when it comes to authentic happiness, you actually have to stop seeking.
Training Yourself To Monotask
No matter how long you’ve been meditating, or even if you’ve never meditated at all, it’s inevitable that you’ll ask, especially at a difficult moment: what’s the point? Why meditate?
Where Should I Meditate?
Did you know multitasking is the devil?
It's true. And there's research to prove it.
Why Money Can't Buy You Happiness (According to Science)
One of the most frequent questions we get at Ten Percent Happier is where to meditate. I’m going to answer it.
Enjoy the View -- Not the Commentary
Can money buy you happiness?
If you’re reading this blog, you probably expect me to say no.
On the other hand, I suspect that many of us, deep down, think that it can. Certainly, that belief is promoted by our culture. And if not money, then what about a relationship, or success, or achievement?
In fact, years of research have shown that none of these provide lasting happiness, in large part due to a powerful force that psychologists call hedonic adaptation.
Forcing the Breath
Here’s the scene: I am standing on top of an overlook in the foothills of the Green Mountains. I can see a 180-degree vista to the West that features the Adirondacks, tinged in pink, as the sun gets ready to set. Vermont’s famous Camel’s Hump sits majestically to the south.
My mind, however, is not appreciating this beautiful experience, at least not consistently so, because I am frustrated and disappointed in myself. I want to get some pictures of this awesome scene, but I have forgotten my phone and thus have no camera.
Love in the Midst of Violence
One of my most frequent meditation habits is forcing the breath.
You may have experienced something similar. You sit down, you say “okay, time to meditate,” and that translates into taking big breaths, or rapid breaths, or otherwise forced, artificial breaths that are surprisingly easy to follow… only not so surprising, because you’ve made them impossible to miss by faking it.
How to Not Meditate
We are living in difficult times, and this has been a difficult week.
Fear and anxiety are always part of life, but these days, people commonly tell me they wake up in a funk, tossed into sleeplessness by a refrain of fear. We fear the violence that we see every day, and in horrifying events like the shootings last week. We fear chaos. We fear being consigned to the category of people in this world who don’t count. We fear the kind of hatred spilling out through Western societies.
Increasingly, people tell me they even fear the kind of hatred spilling from their own hearts.
What Does “Progress” Look Like?
For years, meditation was one more activity I packed into my busy day.
It was yet another thing to check off my to-do list, like going to the gym or buying groceries. I would skid into my meditation session, set a timer, and dutifully bring my attention back to my breath, again and again, with a kind of grim determination. It was really not that much fun at all.
I was, in other words, bringing my everyday habits to the cushion. My overdrive, my overachieving, my over-everything.
Then, a few years ago, I hit a wall.
The Science of Stress
As of this moment, I still don’t know where my wallet is.
I’m pretty sure that by the time you read this, I will have found it. But as I’m writing these words, I have no [expletive] idea where my [expletive] wallet is.
Maybe the baby put it somewhere. Maybe I put it somewhere so the baby couldn’t get it. I don’t know. All I know is that I was almost late to my meeting with Dan Harris because I couldn’t get out of the house.
How to be a Better Listener
Stress is part of evolution’s brilliance. It motivated us to run away from lions in the jungle. It’s your body’s way of trying to keep you safe.
The problem is, in today’s concrete jungle, we’re stressed out not by lions but by traffic jams, overflowing inboxes, and an insufficient number of Instagram likes. All of which our bodies treat as emergencies, What can we do about that?
“You’re not listening!” my friend Jeremy shouted in frustration.
We were standing in his kitchen and Jeremy was upset. Though I can’t remember the details, what I do remember is that he was right: I was only half-listening. I was waiting for him to finish so I could explain my perspective. Even though I was completely silent, making eye contact, and hearing every word, Jeremy could sense that I wasn’t really taking it in. I was building my case, preparing to defend myself.