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Showing posts from April, 2014

Insight vs Concentration

One occasionally hears today, from a variety of different sources, that the Buddha taught two different forms of meditation: one is referred to as concentration, the other as insight. Concentration is a practice wherein the mind learns to settle and maintain awareness on a single, reoccurring event, such focusing on the breath or by repeating metta phrases; this practice is regarded as the most efficient route of developing states of tranquility and single minded focus, known as jhana. Insight is the process of developing enough bare attention—i.e. freedom from distracting thoughts and perceptions—to allow the mind to observe any internal experienced from an unbiased, neutral perspective. The mind is free to move from object to object—it doesn’t stay pinned as in concentration—noting the impermanence and lack of lasting, underlying identity inherent to each event that arises in life. The detached view this observational state entails ultimately results equanimity, which we’re informe…

Cracking Open the Sugar-Coated Self

Human beings are pack animals and not meant to live in isolation. We associate for security; our ability to bond with others is essential to our very survival. While on one level this is achieved through conscious communication through language (the realm of the brain's left hemisphere), we also achieve this through unconscious signals known as emotions (the domain of the right hemisphere). Just behind the field of awareness we're constantly sending and receiving messages about our state of being through tone of voice, locking glances, facial expressions, body language, posture and movements. How well our emotions are received help us regulate our emotional states; also, early interpersonal attempts at bonding, with caretakers, set our expectations as to how deeply and reliably others will connect with us.

In the buddha's teachings, becoming, or bhāva in the original pali, marks the establishment of an identity we believe will spare us from the inevitable discomforts of li…

The Ninety Second Sanity Pit Stop

It's hardly news that life is stressful, a journey in which disappointing and emotionally difficult events will occur. Putting aside the inevitable ordeals of aging and sickness, we all experience the loss of loved ones, projects we've devoted years of effort towards can fail, shit hits the fan. It's not news that the world doesn't conform to our plans. The jolts of adrenaline and cortisol, which allow us to sustain vigilance and move quickly during demanding experiences, are natural responses to anything that effects our long term survival. A stress-free life is not possible.
And yet most of our stress reactions are entirely unwarranted. This is the unfortunate, habitually ingrained tendency to address the small frustrations of life, the mosquito bites of existence, as if they'll matter in the long run, that important stuff is really at stake. The grind of unavoidable frustrations is far too long to list, but to give some examples: being late for appointments, mis…