How This Book Is Organized

This book is organized into four parts. In Part I, The Key, we describe the problems of modern life and how meditation and mindful-ness help. This is the background information you need in preparation for the journey. Part II is called The Door, since it leads us out into a new life. In these chapters, we teach you how to meditate and how to use a meditative approach to daily living. This section is primarily spiritual in orientation, but includes supplemental information from psychology. In...

Practice for Weeks Three and Four

Because establishing a regular practice of meditation is so important, we suggest you spend two weeks just doing that. This is in fact only a minimum period of time, but at least you can make a beginning. 1. During week three, practice sitting meditation for at least ten minutes once a day. Then during week four, add a second sitting of the same length for example, sitting once in the morning and once in the evening. Remember to keep it enjoyable and not struggle. 2. Every day, reread a little...

Im Sitting Now What

Some meditation traditions answer this question very simply What you must do when you are sitting, is just sit In practice, however, most find it helpful to give the mind a focal point. The mind will be doing something, after all, and if we don't give it some job to do, chances are good it will run off in its familiar patterns of worry, fear, planning, scheming, reviewing the past, and so on. And if that happens, your meditation will probably not be enjoyable or healing. The degree to which...

Find Bells of Mindfulness

One very useful technology of change comes from Buddhist monastic tradition. Periodically through the day, a monk strikes a large, resonant bell or gong. At the sound of the bell, people in the monastery stop what they are doing or saying, come back to their breathing, and return to themselves. On a retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh at a California university, we experienced an interesting variation on this. The university clock struck bells at fifteen-minute intervals throughout the day. We were...

Dont Worry about Doing It Right

Some of us sabotage ourselves by the very intensity of our efforts. Our desire to be right and correct interferes with coming into the present moment. If you are even a little bit more present to your life, even a little less distracted by thoughts and worries and plans, then you are doing it right. You are moving in the right direction. Today I am giving a talk to some colleagues. I am more nervous than usual before a talk. There is something intimidating about all those Ph.D.'s in the room. I...

Care Now Decide Later

In essence, the same principles apply in working with anger as noted above First notice that you need to do something to take care of your feelings. You need to touch your calmness. If you have been practicing mindfulness, you can develop enough facility to deal with most anger-provoking situations by simply calming these feelings and working with the breath. Psychology can also help us look more deeply. In most situations, you do not have to decide what to do right away. You can take care of...

Cultivate a Balanced Lifestyle

There is an important principle in psychology called a balanced lifestyle. This means that each day should have as many things in it that you are looking forward to as there are things that you have to do but would rather not do. In practice, this may be difficult on busy working days. But it is a good idea to make sure there are at least some enjoyable things even on the busiest of days. Mindfulness takes this a step farther. Everything we have to do has enjoyable aspects. Tasks become easier...

Common Problems in Getting Started

Once you have started to meditate, you may immediately become overwhelmed at the busyness of your mind. You may feel that you simply cannot do this, that you have no aptitude for it whatsoever. But don't give in to this feeling. If you have reached this point, congratulations on how well you are practicing All that has happened is that you have become more aware of the activity of the mind. And that's great. Becoming aware is very important. In fact, becoming aware is the main thing. This...

Coffee Break Attitude

If in your meditation, you try to restrict yourself, or struggle with yourself, your meditation imprisons you. Then it will be no wonder if you give up on it. The purpose of meditation is to enjoy it. The proper attitude to take toward it is a little like your attitude toward a coffee break. You know that a coffee break is good for you. You know it increases your productivity and helps you feel better. But that is not why you take a coffee break. You take a coffee break to enjoy it. You do not...

Encourage Loving Action

Action, it is said, speaks louder than words. And certainly it is the case that loving, kind words carry little weight if not supported by loving, kind action. When we make the heart larger through metta meditation, we find that loving action flows easily. Often it is not when we set about selfconsciously doing some good deed that we are helpful, but when we just are who we are. A tree helps the world by being a tree and following its own nature. It does not have to tell itself, I must do...

Refuse to Compare Betty and George

As Betty sat in meditation, her thoughts ran off like this Well, here I am again, sitting at the meditation hall. I don't know why. (Oh yeah, remember, breathing, in, out . . .) Look at these other people around me. They are sitting so straight and tall. They look so peaceful. And here I must sit in a chair instead of a meditation cushion because of my weak back. None of these other people seem to struggle with wandering thoughts the way I do. They all look like they know just what they're...

Use a Timer

Some people have a kind of romantic notion that they can just meditate for whatever feels comfortable at the moment. But for formal practice, it is good to set a specific time. This is a way of honoring your intention to keep coming back to your mindfulness, whether meditation on a given day is easy and peaceful, or whether you are very distracted. With a timer, you do not have to worry that you might be late for work or whatever you should be doing next. You can let the timer take over that...

Identify What Loved Ones Truly Want

Sometimes people devote a lot of time and energy to doing helpful, loving things, but the effort is wasted because they are not the right things, or at least not the best ones. George might knock himself out fixing Mary's car, trying through many hours of difficult, dirty work to do something nice for her. But it may be that Mary would just as soon take the car to a mechanic. It may be that George would receive more appreciation for giving Mary fifteen minutes of deep listening about her work...

Move Mindfully During Meditation

Some meditation teachers strictly forbid movement during meditation. While there is a lot to be gained from cultivating stillness, we feel that if you prohibit yourself from moving, you may get caught up in a struggle between your desire to move and your intention not to. This is a frustrating way to spend your meditation time, and actually prevents the stillness you are seeking. So go ahead and move if you need to. When you move, however, do so mindfully. Resist the temptation to move as a...

Practice Walking Meditation

Many Zen teachers consider this an essential meditation practice. Learning to meditate while walking is also a good bridge to sitting meditation for active people. In most Zen centers, walking meditation is interspersed between periods of sitting. This is in part to stretch the legs, wake up, and promote circulation. But it is more than that. Walking meditation connects sitting meditation with the rest of your life. The basic instruction for walking meditation is to become deeply aware of the...

Practice Meditation as Self Love

We cannot stress enough the importance of not forcing anything to happen. If you feel anxious and you try to force yourself to feel peaceful, you have declared war on yourself. You have divided your original wholeness into warring factions the part that wants to feel peaceful and the part that feels anxious. At this point, you trade one problem for two, because now you are not only feeling anxious, but you are also struggling with yourself not to feel that way. You are both anxious, and anxious...

Acknowledge All Your Experience Joes Story

He was a middle manager for a technology firm, which was not doing well. Management blamed the workers, and the workers blamed management. Joe constantly got caught in between. Joe believed in being optimistic and strong. He boasted that he had never had a bad day. He would tell you this, if you asked him, even last Tuesday when half of the workers under him took a sick-out and his boss scolded him mercilessly right in front of the people Joe managed. That evening,...

Lower Your Threshold of Pleasure

By adolescence, if not sooner, we have received millions of messages persuading us that we need more and more. We come to require ever higher levels of stimulation to be happy. These messages make hungry ghosts of us, leaving us perpetually discontented in the most prosperous society in the history of the world. Mindfulness lowers the level of stimulation that we need to reach in order to have fun. By living mindfully, you are training yourself to require lower levels of stimulation. You can...

Devote a Day to Mindfulness Practice

One thing that can help you generate more energy in your mindfulness practice is to have a day that you devote to mindfulness. Ideally, you are learning to live deeply and mindfully every day. However, it is all too easy to get pulled out of our intention to be mindful. Our lives are too demanding, too stimulating, and the quality of our mindfulness is as yet too weak. A day of mindfulness is a day that you set aside to move more slowly and calmly. You resolve that, for this day especially, you...

The Prime Directive

Anyone with a passing familiarity with Star Trek in any of its multiple incarnations will recognize the term prime directive. In these shows, the prime directive was a rule to not interfere with the development of other cultures in the galaxy, but to let each develop in its own way and at its own pace. How shall you, as an individual, practice Shall you join the Zen center down the street Will you do a lot of sitting meditation or more walking meditation Will you emphasize metta meditation,...

Wholeness Rather Than Holiness

When a person becomes religious, or adopts some form of self-improvement regimen, something happens. Suddenly that person develops a split in herself a split between where she is and where she would like to be, between how she is now and her new ideals. Whether it is the newly converted Christian, who now wants to convert her friends, or the coworker who just got back from an assertiveness workshop and now deals roughly with everyone's feelings but his own, we say such people have gotten...

Inner Guide Journaling

Emerson wrote, We are wiser than we know. There is in each of us an amazing wisdom. The problem is not that this wise voice does not exist. The problem is that it is difficult to hear it over the cacophony of other voices, especially the voices of worry, fear, and gloom. It can help to use imagery to access the wise voice. There are many ways to do this. You might imagine a holy figure such as Jesus, Mary, Krishna, the Buddha, Avalokiteshvara, or any representation of the wise woman or wise man...

Become Acquainted with Your Shadow

The shadow is a part of ourselves that we view from a conscious perspective as weak or inferior and that we therefore push out of awareness into the unconscious. The shadow is not evil per se, though sometimes we think of it that way since it is incompatible with our ideals and aspirations. Shadow figures generally appear as a person of the same sex as the dreamer. Sometimes the shadow appears in a dream literally as one who follows or shadows us as we move. The shadow generally exhibits...

Practice for Week Seven

Continue to practice meditation (twenty minutes twice daily), mindful moments, daily reading, and walking meditation (chapter 3). 2. Begin to record and work with your dreams, using the suggestions and ideas in this chapter. If you do not always have the time in the morning to work with a dream, at least jot some quick notes to jog your memory. Then record it more fully later in the day. 3. Continue to practice a day of mindfulness (chapter 5). 4. There's a lot of information in this chapter....

Learn the Art of Wu

In Chinese Zen, there is a practice called wu-wei. Although it means not doing, it does not mean doing nothing. It is about a certain kind of awareness, a certain attitude toward the doing. Often, when we do something, our mind is elsewhere. Brushing our teeth in the morning, we are thinking of the next thing we have to do, and the next thing, and maybe even the next thing after that. Brushing teeth in the spirit of wu-wei means coming back to the present. It means being aware of brushing our...

Patiently Untie the Knots

A major life issue is like a large, tight knot. A difficult knot must be tugged at here, pulled on there, gradually loosened, bit by bit, until it unravels. Then at some point, the solution emerges. Issues reaching back into childhood or involving years to reach their present state of complexity are seldom resolved in a quick way. Instant answers are suspect. You may recall the legend of Alexander the Great and the Gordian knot a knot that no one had been able to untie. Alexander simply drew...

Bring Mindfulness to Your Schemas

Mindfulness can help us identify and alter our schemas. First of all, as we become more mindful, as we learn to calm ourselves and look deeply, we become more aware of these patterns. For example, if you have an unrelenting standards schema, you start to notice how hard you are on yourself. If you have a mistrust and abuse schema, you may begin to notice how unsatisfying your relationships are and how self-protective you feel around others, as though at any moment they would try to hurt you....