The Big Heart: A Meditation on Love and Compassion

I just finished my third show in a series on Lessons in Joyful Living. Another fun one to be sure!

As promised, here’s a recap of the meditation on love and compassion we touched on during the show.

As always, take a moment to settle into a good meditation posture. For a detailed explanation of this, click here.

Once you’ve relaxed into the present moment visualize three people in the space in front of you:

A friend, a neutral person, and someone you don’t like.

Begin with the friend. Call to mind how she experiences happiness and suffering. Does she want comfort, good food, health, material abundance, pleasurable experiences, satisfaction in work, relationships, and family life?

How about suffering? Does she want to avoid illness, physical and mental pain, loss of life and possessions, sorrow, conflict, hunger, thirst, and all the other things that bring us suffering in life?

Of course she does.

Think of as many situations as you can where these things are so.

Chenrezig thangka, Avalokiteshvara, Bodhisattva of Compassion, crowned by Amitabha, holding a lotus and mala, wearing an antelope hide, sun, moon, stars, Tibetan Buddhism, Seattle, Washington, USA

 

Now, cultivate a feeling of empathy towards your friend. Doesn’t she want happiness and to avoid suffering just like you? Are the two of you really all that different?

Continue to contemplate these questions and situations until you can generate the strong wish that your friend be happy and free from suffering.

If you like, you can visualize pure white light surrounding and protecting your friend. Think to yourself how good it feels to be able to love and care for her like that.

Repeat this mental exercise with the next two kinds of people, the neutral person and the enemy.

Both of these will pose their own challenges but work on them until you come to the conclusion that even difficult people and those you don’t know are still the same: They want nothing more than their own happiness and to avoid suffering.

The main benefit of meditations like this is that we can transform and improve our minds. When it comes to changing long held habits and beliefs, this can take some time and effort.

So give this meditation a try for at least a week. Let the realizations sink in until they become new habits and new ways of seeing the world.

Then, just maybe, you’ll see how big your heart really is.

photo by: Wonderlane
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Found in Translation: Translating The Buddha’s Teachings

Did you know that more than 200,000 pages of the Buddha’s teachings have not been translated into modern languages?

Most of this precious advice, spiritual teaching, and insight is still encased in wood block printings in Classical Tibetan. This language is disappearing fast, and fewer and fewer people are able to read and translate it.

84,000: Translating the Words of The Buddha, is a project started by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche that aims to translate all of these invaluable teachings into modern languages.

For today only (Tuesday, 5/6/14), share the post of the video on the 84,000′s FaceBook page and a generous donor will contribute $1 to this vital project.

Check out the video here…

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Gay Monk Lays Buddha Smack-Down

A friend of mine posted this over at Buddhadharma the other day. It’s a great video clip of an interview with a Thai Buddhist monk who used to be a transvestite.

The interviewer is a little annoying at times. In his overly sensationalist, typical tabloid-in-your-face-a-current-affair journalistic style, he seems hell bound on getting a rise out of the guy.

But the young monk never looses his cool. Towards the end of the interview segment he lays the Buddha smack down on the show’s host:

“Can you cease it in your mind? A gay is a gay. Let it be. I am what I am.”

That’s right!

Watch the whole video clip here:

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Self-Compassion In Practice: A Meditation

In Buddhism, we talk a lot about generating compassion for all sentient beings.

The problem is we usually forget that “all” includes “us”!

Here’s a simple self-compassion meditation from my latest show on Lessons In Joyful Living.

Give it a try!

First of all let’s find our seat. We all have different capacities for sitting, so if you find sitting on a cushion to be uncomfortable, sit in a chair.

The main thing is that you adjust your posture so you’re sitting with a nice, straight spine. Ground yourself to earth. Let go of tension in the body. Bring your awareness of the breath.

Remind yourself that you are safe. Any emotions that come up in this meditation, just let them come. Experience them fully knowing that you are in no danger, they will pass.

Now that we’re relaxed and present, take a moment to examine the truth of your own suffering.

We all suffer. There’s no denying that. Look at some examples in your life. Right now in this moment you might be feeling uncomfortable sitting in your chair or on your cushion. You might be too cold or too hot.

In your daily life, you may be going through a tough time at work. There many be family and relationship problems Maybe you’re going through a break-up or even the death of someone close to you. Maybe you’re going through an illness, longterm depression, addiction.

Normally we resist the unpleasant emotions we feel during these times. They may even seem unbearable.

Right now I want you to take a moment to let the feelings of suffering come up without pushing them away. Let yourself become open to your own suffering. Let yourself become tender, soft. Don’t resist. Don’t be afraid. Even if tears are flowing down your cheeks, don’t run away.

Now I want you to generate compassion for yourself. You are a suffering sentient being. The sadness that you feel, the pain, even the agony, is all a part of who you are.

You deserve relief from that pain and  sorrow, from all that suffering.

Just as you would wish for someone you care deeply about: a spouse, a child, a parent, a dear one, generate the wish that you too be free from the suffering you are experiencing.

When that feeling is as strong as you can make it say this:

May I be free from suffering.

May I be free from illness.

May I be free of pain and sorrow.

May I show myself kindness.

May I show myself patience.

May I always have the strength and wisdom to show myself compassion even when I’m feeling great suffering.

Say these words, or any that resonate for you, a few times. Let that feeling sink in until you know without a doubt that you have cultivated compassion for yourself.

Now open your eyes and come out of the meditation.

Dedicate the merit of your practice to the relief of suffering for yourself and all beings.

And that’s it!

So go ahead and give this meditation a try. Try it out for the next thirty days and let me know how it changes your relationship to yourself and everyone around you!

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Pema Chodron On Gentleness

I know that one of the biggest things that fueled my life of addiction was my lack of gentleness towards myself.

It’s still an issue for me but I’m working on it day by day.

Here’s some beautiful and inspiring advice from Pema Chodron on how to cultivate gentleness towards yourself, others, and the world.

Give her advice a try. How do you treat yourself on a daily basis? Are you kind, patient and gentle? Or are you harsh, judgmental, and aggressive?

Try cultivating some mindfulness about how you treat yourself for the next week (or two). When you find your patience with yourself running short, take a deep breath and resolve to go easier on yourself. Cultivate some love and compassion for yourself. Become your own best friend.

You’ll be amazed at how this simple shift will change your whole view!

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A Prayer For The Victims Of The Fort Hood Shooting

The Buddhist teachings say that at the moment of death, our experience will be deeply affected by our state of mind.

At the moment that the outer breath ceases, if we are calm, cultivating thoughts of love, kindness and compassion, then there is nothing to fear.

On the other hand, if our minds are filled with anger, violence, hatred, and grasping, our experience will be nothing short of a hell realm.

Untethered from our bodies, unable to find any place to rest, we will be caught up in a tidal wave of disturbing thoughts and emotions. We will tumble helplessly through the bardo of death until we are reborn in another similar state of confusion.

Whether you believe this or not, it can’t be argued that the victims and the shooter at yesterday’s tragedy at Fort Hood, died in such a state of profound unease.

Imagine all they must have been feeling. Fear. Confusion. Desperation. Their thoughts must have turned to their loves ones and families and all their hopes and dreams that would never be realized.

What if you were one of them?

In the days to come, there will be the inevitable media blitz. The lives of the shooter, Ivan Lopez, and the victims will be carefully dissected as we try to understand why things like this continue to happen in our world.

No matter who or what is to blame, those who died deserve all the thoughts and prayers of love and compassion that we can muster.

So I encourage you to hold all those involved in your hearts today. Bring them to mind as many times as you can. Send them light and love.

If you have a daily spiritual practice, dedicate it to all of them. Then generate the wish that peace and non-violence flourish from today forward.

If we can do this, today and every time a tragedy like this occurs, not only will be empowered to face these events with courageous hearts, I truly believe we can change the world.

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A Meditation On Love

Thank you for joining me last month my first guest radio host spot on Lessons in Joyful Living!

It was so much fun and I’m looking forward to three more shows this year!

In case you missed the show, you can download the MP3 for your listening pleasure here.

As promised here’s a copy of the guided meditation on love I took us through on the program:

First of all let’s find a comfortable seat. It doesn’t matter if it’s a chair or a cushion on the floor, just make sure you can sit with a straight spine.

Check your posture. Straighten and lengthen your spine. If you’re sitting in a chair, make sure your feet are firmly planted on the floor. You can let your hands rest gently on your thighs.

Your shoulders should be wide like the wings of bird ready to fly. Keep your eyes slightly open, jaw relaxed, tongue lightly touching the roof of your mouth.

Bring your awareness now to your breath. Notice the rising and falling of your chest and abdomen. Let yourself relax into the breath’s natural rhythm.

You can mentally scan your body if you like, paying special attention to areas of pain or tension. Try to simply notice these then let the muscles relax as best you can.

You’re now in a state of calm, focused awareness. Even if thoughts and worries come into your mind, you can just notice them and let them go.

Let’s bring our awareness now to the object of today’s meditation by asking this question:

Do I really love myself? Do I hold myself in high enough esteem to allow myself to be truly happy and live a life of purpose and meaning?

To answer this, take a few moments to examine how you relate to yourself on a daily basis.

How do you speak to yourself when you face challenges and difficulties? How do you view your shortcomings? When you make mistakes, what kinds of things do you say to yourself?

Be honest. Many of us are very hard on ourselves. We say horrible things to ourselves that we probably wouldn’t even say to our worst enemies.

Don’t worry. You’re not alone in treating yourself this way so you don’t have to beat yourself any more than you already do.

Relax and remind yourself that you can change any pattern you want to in your life and you’re going to start right here. Today, at this moment you’re going to take a positive step to change how you see and treat yourself.

First of all, look at who you really are. Often times we exaggerate our good and bad qualities to the point that they’re not even close to the reality.

Take some time here to closely examine your negative qualities and shortcomings, the ones that you really get down on yourself about.

Maybe you think you’re fat, not good looking enough, lazy, stupid, worthless?

When we’re viewing ourselves without love it sometimes seems that we are only that thing that we despise. There’s no room for anything else and we only see ourselves in that negative light.

But is this really true?

It may be true that you’re overweight, for example, but is that all you are? Is that the only quality that defines you as a human being?

Of course not.

You have many qualities that make you a complete person, that make you whole.

Take a look at some of them.

Are you kind, patient, funny, easy to talk to, diligent, reliable, honest?

No one who’s ever lived has been completely devoid of good qualities. This includes you.

Take a moment to recognize those good, positive traits. Rejoice in them, celebrate them. Allow yourself to see your own value as a human being.

Let that feeling of warmth and love for yourself fill your whole being.

Tell yourself, “I am worthy of happiness. I am worthy of love. I am worthy of living a life of purpose and meaning. From today forward I will make a greater effort to see myself realistically, to be kind to myself, to respect myself and give myself every chance to improve where I can and to accept my shortcomings with patience and dignity.”

Now rest in this feeling of love for yourself. Let it linger for as long as it does.

Slowly come out of the meditation. Open your eyes.

Now, if you like, you can do a dedication for this practice. Make the wishing aspiration that all the positive energy you’ve created result in happiness and ultimate spiritual awakening for yourself and all beings.”

I hope you enjoyed this meditation on love and that you got something valuable out of it.

Thanks for listening and may you be well and happy.

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Meditation In The Movies: Naked Mind

“From the Himalayas to US Neuroscience labs, two filmmakers explore the effects of meditation and it’s potential for collective evolution…”

I stumbled across this trailer for the now-in-post-production film, Naked Mind a few weeks ago.

I recently got in touch with filmmaker, Sarah Barab, who was out filming on location in Asia. She’s excited about getting the film out there as soon as possible but she needs your help.

I highly encourage you to contribute what you can to the post-production fundraising effort…we need more movies like this!

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Turning On The Light Within

Today I’m hosting my first ever internet radio show!

Do you ever feel unworthy? Do you think deep down that you just don’t measure up?

It’s these feelings of low self-esteem that prevent us from living our lives to their fullest potential.

Join me today at 1pm EST on Lessons in Joyful Living as I share a practical method for transforming our negative self-image into the recognition of our basic goodness.

To listen live or download the show later, click here.

And if you’d like to check out the transcript of the guided meditation from the show head on over here.

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2013: Looking Back, Looking Forward

I love the holidays in the States. Whether we know it or not, they’re packed with deep spiritual meaning regardless of religious (or lack thereof) affiliation.

It’s a time to cultivate generosity, to show the ones closest to us how much we love them, to reflect on where we’ve been for the past year and to hope, dream and plan about where we might be able to go in the next.

2013 was a milestone for me. After three years of hard work and persistence, I saw the publication of my first book, The Narrow Way, become a reality.

It didn’t turn out as I had imagined. There was no unprecedented advance from a Big Five publishing house. There were no appearances on Oprah or Fresh Air with Terry Gross. There was no twenty city book tour (although six cities in two states wasn’t too shabby).

First Stop on the Tour With Monte Cristo Owner, Chris Jones.
First Stop on the Tour With Monte Cristo Owner, Chris Jones.

In the end, I’m glad there wasn’t that kind of splash. It’s been such an adventure to learn how to continue to promote the book through guest blog posts, magazine articles, conference panel discussions and, my personal favorite, Internet radio shows.

The people I’ve met along the way, from new readers to new friends and mentors, have been the best part of it all.

I’m excited, too, because I will be continuing all of these efforts in the year to come.

My new webpage, www.chrislemig.com, is in the works. I have articles coming out in several online and print magazines. I’m learning how to use social media without it using me.

And (drumroll please) I’m in the process of developing my own radio show that will launch in 2014!

As if that we’re enough, I’m on track to finish my first novel, American Yogi, before I head back to India next summer.

I’m looking forward to seeing how all of these exciting projects manifest over the next year and I can’t wait to share them with you as they do.

In the mean time, I hope that your next year is a joyous one, that any obstacles to your goals, both worldly and spiritual, are easily overcome.

But whatever may come up, I hope that you always remember that you are worth all of your dreams coming true.

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