Health

Buddhist practice begins with mindfulness of the body
  • Breathe Easy Paid Member

    When I first started practicing meditation, my teacher taught me that the breath—ever-present and unconditional—is the link between body and mind. When we place our full attention on the breath, we pull ourselves out of the past, away from the future, and directly into the present moment. Or at least that’s how the common instruction goes. But using the breath to enter the proverbial here-and-now is easier said than done. More »
  • Trying Not to Itch Paid Member

    Three days into a weeklong Vipassana retreat at Spirit Rock Meditation Center, just north of San Francisco, California, I notice myself itching, unbearably. I’m not the only person distracted by the desire to scratch. Someone else leaves a handwritten note on the staff bulletin board confessing discomfort. The senior teacher responds by devoting an entire dharma session to “the itch,” the gist of which amounts to the following: observe the body’s suffering and let it go. The aching knee, the tickle in the back of the throat—just sensory experiences. Name, but refrain from scratching at all costs. More »
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    Alleviating Suffering Paid Member

    It’s three a.m. when the on-call pager goes off, rousing me out of a fitful sleep. By the time I arrive on the geriatric wing to answer the “obstreperous patient” page, the floor is quiet. “We’re fine,” a nurse tells me. “She’s calmed down. We just have to watch for the flying tray.” One busy week later, I still haven’t visited this patient. Often, when I pass her room, I hear her calling out, “Help, help!” Her charts speak of dementia and pain; she’s triggered other “obstreperous patient” calls, and she’s been giving some of the nurses a really hard time. Now one of the palliative-geriatric physicians has asked me to check on her, so I cautiously step into her room, wary of the tray. More »
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    More than This Body Paid Member

    Pain, by definition, kind of sucks. So unpleasant emotions like fear and anger often arise along with it, making for an especially demoralizing experience. We usually try, then, to simply get rid of it. Being cured of pain is the outcome our culture teaches us to expect—we carry a sense of entitlement that life should be free from pain. But one of the worst parts of the pain syndrome—whether the discomfort is short-term, as in meditation, or long-term, with chronic pain—is that our physical pain and our urge to nullify it feed off one another in a most unfortunate loop, and our life comes to revolve around our discomfort. More »
  • I Survived Ebola. But the Fight Doesn’t End There. Paid Member

    When Ashoka Mukpo speaks about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, his words carry a compassion and humanity that can only come from firsthand experience. That’s because Mukpo, 33, is one of only a handful of Americans to contract Ebola in West Africa, where he was working as a cameraman with NBC News.  More »