November 4, 2019

Let the Buddha Do It

            Thich Nhat Hanh taught that, whenever you are overwhelmed, or have to do something you don’t want to do, we should let the Buddha do it.  He adds that this is always effective.


October 2, 2019

The Fifth Hindrance: Doubt

            Doubt can, of course, be a positive word when used in contrast to naïve belief.  It is of course potentially harmful to swallow everything we hear without considering it, and the Buddha warned against this kind of naïveté....

September 4, 2019

            I have been writing about the hindrances that arise in meditation, as well as whenever we are trying to practice mindfulness.  I have described the first three—desire, aversion, and sloth and torpor—and what may be done to work with them.  In this blog, I w...

August 4, 2019

The Third Hindrance: Sloth and Torpor

            The third hindrance is sloth and torpor.  These are technically somewhat different mental factors.  But in both, the mind is not workable.  It becomes difficult to meditate and be mindful....

Aversion The second of the five hindrances noted by the Buddha is aversion. The Pali word patigha means striking against, indicating a sense of friction or tension. If the first hindrance, desire, means, in essence, “ I want it. I want to have more of it. I want to keep it,” then this second term means, “ I don’t want it. I want none of it. I want it to go away.” The word can sometimes be translated as hatred or anger, which are the most noticeable examples of patigha. But the meaning of the term is broad. It may be anger in the form of its lesser cousins, including minor irritation, frustration, or vague annoyance. These are more difficult to notice, but for that reason perhaps even more important to notice. When we hold aversion in mindful awareness, allowing space for these unpleasant feeling to be with us for a time and run their course, a zone of freedom opens up in us. Knowing that we are in the grip of anger, we learn to refrain from doing or saying anything for a time, since almost everything we will think of doing or saying will only make the situation worse. Holding our irritation or frustration with the kind, accepting awareness of mindfulness will likely help it to depart, while our culturally learned reaction of trying to repress will cause it to linger, and actually give more energy to it. One could beneficially take each of these hindrances, and practice especially noting their presence for a day, a week, or a month. Becoming familiar with how they manifest in our own bodies, minds, and situations, frees us gradually from their sway. Breathing and smiling, I know there is anger/irritation/ frustration in me. Breathing and smiling, I hold the anger/irritation/frustration in open awareness.

July 13, 2019

June 12, 2019

The Five Hindrances: Working with Desire

            If we wish to achieve some meditative stability, or some peace in our lives in general, the Buddha’s teaching on the five hindrances is worth considering.  The first of these is desire.  If you have a western religiou...

May 13, 2019


            There are two basic aspects to Buddhist meditation—shamatha, and vipassana.  For this piece I will talk about the first of these.

            Shamatha can be translated as stopping, calming, or c...

April 8, 2019

The Hazards of Being Male

            When I was in college, feminism was becoming a powerful and transformative force in our society.  Women at that time explained to me that “Women’s Liberation” was really “People Liberation,” and that the movement opposed rigid gende...

March 9, 2019

How to be of Actual Help

            If there were one thing I could tell people who aren’t mental health professionals, and who are listening to a friend or family member who is upset and experiencing difficulties, it would be this: cut down your advice giving by 90%....

February 7, 2019

            The human brain evolved with what has been called a negativity bias.  This means that we are far more inclined to notice what is wrong than to appreciate what is right.  When it comes to relationships, this can be disastrous.  Because of this, resentments s...

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