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    Worry Beads Paid Member

    TAKE UP A BUDDHIST MALA, and right away you notice how good it feels in your hands. The same is true of the prayer beads of any religious tradition. First, there is the soothing feel of the beads themselves, which only increases as they become smoother or darken with use. Then there is what they symbolize—the tangible link to an age-old tradition. Run a string of prayer beads through your hands and you are touching an ancient practice. Yours are only the most recent set of fingers to caress such beads, and others will take them up later, after you are gone. More »
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    Strong and Silent Paid Member

    I just signed up for my first weeklong meditation retreat. I have a history of back pain and am a little scared of all that sitting. Is there anything I can do to prepare? WHEN I ATTENDED my first meditation retreat, I had the exact same issue. Within two days of sitting, my lower back began to hurt. I tried to sit ramrod straight and stretch on every break, but no amount of adjustment seemed to ease what was progressing from an intermittent discomfort to a constant ache. At the meditation interview, I threw all hopes of profundity out the window and shared my back troubles with the sensei. He offered me a simple piece of advice: "Get to know this pain." More »
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    Changing Your Mind Paid Member

    THE HISTORICAL BUDDHA Shakyamuni made a big deal of the distinction between wholesome and unwholesome states of mind. Most religious and philosophical traditions probably share this point of view to some extent, but the Buddha was unique in offering a detailed way of understanding how and why the mind manifests as it does in any given moment. There are patterns of cause and effect that can be seen in experience and traced over time to explain the dynamics at work shaping each moment of consciousness. The word for this is karma, and it does not mean "fate." More »
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    Power of Conviction Paid Member

    ACCORDING TO THE BUDDHA, there is one thing that doesn't disappoint. When you pursue Awakening, it's not going to lead to disappointment. Quite the contrary, it goes wildly beyond your expectations, wildly beyond your hopes. Even just the first taste of the Deathless, stream entry, is enough to produce a seismic shift in your whole awareness, your whole understanding of what you think you are and what's possible in life, and in the importance of your own actions. Once you reach that state, your conviction in the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha is unshakeable. Your standards for what counts as true happiness get ratcheted up immeasurably. More »
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    Awakening to the Dream Paid Member

    For centuries, people around the world have reported experiences of lucid dreams, in which they know that they are dreaming while they are in the dream state. But as recently as thirty years ago—a hundred years after the scientific study of the mind began—no scientific evidence existed that anyone could be conscious while dreaming, and most psychologists were still convinced that lucid dreams were impossible. There were philosophical reasons for such skepticism as well: after all, how could anyone be awake and asleep at the same time? It just didn't make any sense, especially to those who never had a lucid dream and couldn't imagine anyone else having one. More »
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    Do the Thoughts Ever Stop? Paid Member

    THE BIGGEST HINDRANCE to our meditation is constant intrusive thoughts. This is normal for everyone and from the beginning you should expect it. The nature of our mind is to think, and it is childish to imagine that we can simply turn that process off when we wish to. Our minds have been almost completely out of control for most of our life. Recognizing this can help us to be practical and patient—it may take us some time and a lot of skillful practice to tame the crazy “monkey mind.” My own meditation practice was helped when I came across the instruction that while I have thoughts I am not those thoughts. When you stop to examine your thoughts you start to see that they have a life of their own, they come and go, generally in a random, idiosyncratic way. More »