soul shadow by bluespuit
photo by Bluespuit

How to Meditate: Sam Harris Edition

From time to time, I like to pass on any interesting articles on the topic of meditation. As I’ve written many times before, meditation is a very useful adjunct to psychotherapy – and like psychotherapy is a practice that has the potential to improve quality of life. (I would not recommend it as replacement for psychotherapy – that would be just as silly as recommending psychotherapy to someone interested in meditation.)

I’m not that familiar with Mr. Harris, but he’s written a number of books with intriguing titles and I was immediately struck by his clear, straightforward, pragmatic and informed meditation instructions. He strikes a very nice balance of both committed and skeptical, one many writers on the topic should be envious of.

Here’s the link to his article, How to Meditate. Definitely worth a click.

And here’s a brief excerpt in which he compares learning to meditate with learning to walk a tightrope:

As every meditator soon discovers, such distraction is the normal condition of our minds: Most of us fall from the wire every second, toppling headlong—whether gliding happily in reverie, or plunging into fear, anger, self-hatred and other negative states of mind. Meditation is a technique for breaking this spell, if only for a few moments. The goal is to awaken from our trance of discursive thinking—and from the habit of ceaselessly grasping at the pleasant and recoiling from the unpleasant—so that we can enjoy a mind that is undisturbed by worry, merely open like the sky, and effortlessly aware of the flow of experience in the present.



Even More from the Mindfulness Blog

  • Mind Training “Many of us are slaves to our minds…” Sound familiar? You might want to click on the link to read the rest of the quote.
  • Happiness Beyond Thought – Gary Weber Weber is an interesting guy who claims to have reached a “nondual state”. For some, that may provoke eye rolling. For others, just a blank look. Weber is down to earth and describes his remarkable experience of stopping much of his thinking.
  • The Mighty Avalanche of Hype: Does Mindfulness Mean Anything? Mostly a link to a great NPR article in their Cosmos and Culture section about the hype surrounding “mindfulness”. Methodically addresses the key issues.
  • How to Get Into Jhana. That’s one of the initial stages of bliss that is commonly referred to in the “maps” of meditative progress. Here meditation teacher Bodhipaksa matter of factly describes a method for attaining this state of bliss.
  • The New Wave of Meditation Teachers. If you associate meditation with aging hippies, the fetishizing of Eastern culture, and similar trappings — meet the new folks. Meditation 2.0.
  • Is Meditation Narcissistic? A pithy quotation from Ken Wilber on a question always worth asking. One of the key questions that keeps people away from meditation. And, oh, it *can* be true. But it isn’t *necessarily* true.
  • Impermanence. A simple story about Ajahn Chah related by Mark Epstein. If you’ve ever read about this Buddhist idea and found it too philosophical and vague — give this a quick read.
  • Loving Kindness. A practice that gives many people trouble. So many of us have trouble directing affectionate feelings toward ourselves. So how to sidestep this?


12 Steps to Motivating When You’re Depressed

photo by vinoth chandar (creative commons)

I’m just passing this on, in case someone might find it useful. There’s nothing more irritating to a depressed person than being told you should just do blah blah blah. If you’ve never been depressed, the simplicity of some of the suggestions might shock you. Such as “Wash Up” or “Get Dressed” or “Go Outside”.

In any case, some food for thought at PsychCentral.

The Godzilla Mayhem of Kids, Parents, and Family Screen Time. Tokyo Is Torched.

Mostly at my new blogs I post shorter stuff, but for some reason I posted a longer piece regarding the use of what increasingly seem like our overlords — our electronic devices. Very much for parents, but anyone struggling with judicious use of technology may find something of interest. Links to a number of recent articles and some books, too. There’s also a cute picture. You can find it here:

Some Recent Highlights from the Mindfulness Blog

  • When Meditation Becomes Problematic. Interview with Leigh Brasington about what happens in meditation when emotional issues come to the foreground, and the problems that can pose.
  • A brief profile of Mahasi Sayadaw (1904-1982) an influential Buddhist meditation teacher. Links to a number of his books and writings in pdf form, for the interested. Includes Practical Vipassana Exercises and a link to a Buddhist Geeks piece.
  • Kenneth Folk coined the phrase “contemplative fitness.” Here he Takes A Stab at Defining Meditation. Short and sweet.
  • Shamatha Retreat with B. Alan Wallace an accomplished author and interpreter to the Dalai Lama. Here are roughly 12-hours(!) of instruction on this concentration meditation. Each session is separated into bite-size files.
  • Something Lacking in the Secular. A first-person musing on not being religious, but finding secular meditation somehow disappointing.
  • A brief profile of and quote from Bhante Gunaratana, author of Mindfulness in Plain English. The post includes links to this and titles by the author, in free, downloadable pdf format. The aforementioned text is a great place to start.
  • Positive review of Pema Chodron’s How to Meditate: A Practical Guide to Making Friends with Your Mind. The subtitle is the key to the book. Recommended.

The Role of Sadness in “Inside Out”

Unsurprisingly very nice piece by Dachel Keltner and Paul Ekman in the New York Times on the portrayal of emotions in the recent Pixar movie “Inside Out.”

…studies find that sadness is associated with elevated physiological arousal, activating the body to respond to loss. And in the film, Sadness is frumpy and off-putting. More often in real life, one person’s sadness pulls other people in to comfort and help.

First, emotions organize — rather than disrupt — rational thinking. Traditionally, in the history of Western thought, the prevailing view has been that emotions are enemies of rationality and disruptive of cooperative social relations.

Also posted at LA Eastsider Depressed

The Depression Blog*

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA photo by nevil zavery (creative commons) I’ve got another blog kicking around. Though it’s called LA Eastsider Depressed it’s devoted to a number of topics, much like this blog. The style is a little less wordy than here, and I’m making more of an effort toward variety — quotes, images, videos, poetry, etc. Some of the recent posts:

*LA Eastsider Depressed has been renamed! It’s now Los Feliz Psychologist, but there will still be plenty of stuff about depression. All the old links will work, too.

Recently on the Mindfulness Blog

At the meditation blog I’ve gathered a grab bag of mindfulness related links, reflections, resources. There’s a real attempt to forward material that I’ve found to be practically useful or at least intellectually stimulating.