on the cushion

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    The Wisdom of Discomfort Paid Member

    What should I do if I experience considerable physical pain in my knees and my back when I practice sitting meditation? I love it when people ask technical questions about pain associated with meditation postures because, rather than just saying, “Make yourself comfortable,” it gives me the opportunity to explain why we suggest these postures in the first place. One way to address concern about pain is to ask three basic questions: “How does sitting in a particular way increase the ability of the mind to see more clearly? How does seeing more clearly develop wisdom? And how does wisdom lead to compassion?” (It is, after all, wisdom and compassion, not stalwart sitting, that are the point of practice.)More »
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    When Inspiration Strikes Paid Member

    Meditation practice should always be inclusive and workable. In fact, a wholehearted, mindful embrace of everything that arises in your mind is the only path to true freedom. It is critical that all thoughts—including inspiring ones—be included in meditation practice. So the moment when inspiration strikes is really the perfect opportunity to put this vision of inclusiveness and workability to the test! Here are some tools that can help you affirm your inspiring thoughts without letting them distract you from the focus of your practice: 1. Make an Agreement with YourselfBefore beginning a period of meditation, reflect for a moment on your commitment to bringing your inspiring thoughts into the heart of your meditation practice. Place a pad and a pen beside you. Make an agreement with yourself that you will allow yourself to record only one inspiring thought per sitting period. More »
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    Competing With The Incomparable Paid Member

    When comparing yourself with others, do you usually find that you compare favorably or unfavorably? If you compare favorably, do you feel proud? If you compare unfavorably, do you feel devastated? Either of these reactions will keep you from seeing things as they are. If you are feeling competitive, the real question is, Who is it who compares? Don’t repress this feeling or tell yourself how bad it is, but study it as a foolish trait for which you have some affection. Master Dogen, the thirteenth-century founder of Soto Zen in Japan, was asked by a student, “What should you do if you find yourself in an argument? Should you try to win the argument or should you concede, even though you feel you’re right?” Dogen advised neither path. Become disinterested, he told the student, and the argument will lose its energy. The same advice can be applied to feelings of competitiveness in practice: Let go of your attachment to appearances of one who wins or has “got it right.” More »
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    Q&A with Douglas Phillips Paid Member

    I’m sitting every day and I feel like I’m not getting anywhere. What should I do? Ideally, teachers respond not just to the question but also to the person asking it. We would want to know more about how long you have been sitting every day and for how long you sit. What happens during your meditation, and how have you worked with it? What motivates you to practice, and is your practice really designed to get you where you want to go? Does this question of getting somewhere arise only in regard to sitting or in other aspects of your life as well? Does it arise from an intelligence that points to something that needs to be changed, or is it indicative of a more chronic tendency toward doubt and self-judgment? More »