Maintaining False Appearances is Exhausting

False appearances are exhausting to keep up. When we’re not being ourselves and we know it, it weighs down on us like a burden. When we can just be, not who we think we should be, not who others want us to be, but just who we are, it is like a breath of fresh…

How to Calm the Monkey Mind

Q: How do we calm the distracted, ever-shifting, ever-concerned mind? A: Focus attention on a single thing (e.g. the breath) until the mind calms. Repeated practice makes this calmed state faster to achieve and easier to prolong. Dispassionate concentration calms and relaxes the monkey mind. I usually start with a one-pointed focus on the breath,…

Reality

There is a tradition in India that “reality” is, as Swami Omkarananda defined it, “what is self-existent and not dependent on anything else for its reality.” They ancient rishis looked at the contingent universe and saw nothing self-existent and concluded that this was all illusion, not real. ┬áIf this is the definition of reality that…

Atheism, Denial and Acknowledgement

Karen Johnston claimed that “atheists acknowledge the existence of God by denying it.” Most atheists would reject this claim on the grounds that we can deny that certain ideas refer to anything real. For instance, we can deny that there are any purple unicorns that shoot lasers out of their eyes and fly faster than…

On Silence and Stories

My dear friend Swami Omkarananda recently asked “What happens when we throw out the story line playing in the mind, in the absence of the inner narrative rambeling on and on…..in that silence who are we?” The silence he speaks of is the meaning of “Mu” and “one hand clapping” in Zen, and also of…

Wise and Unwise Compassion

I used to think that compassion meant taking on the sufferings of all beings as a burden. Then I realized that suffering over others’ suffering does not decrease the overall suffering in the universe; it adds to it. This insight helped me see that my view of compassion must not be the wisest one. With…