Meditation: a Conversational Model

Some thoughts in progress, in preparation for a practice seminar in Edmonton. Perhaps the skeleton of a future book. Any and all feedback from meditators is most welcome. 

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[dropcap]I[/dropcap]f I don’t count the cathedral daydreams of a very Catholic childhood, I began meditating in 1995, when I was twenty-four. First with Tibetan Buddhists, through lam-rim (beginner) and then kye-rim (Tantric initiate) forms. Then I meditated with a charismatic Course in Miracles group, which was a total trip. After that there was a lot of mantra meditation while I was studying Ayurveda and Jyotisa intensively. Next came vipassana training. I’ve also done a lot of reading in zen, which like many traditions might be cool if a person gets lucky with a non-creepy teacher. But by the time I picked up Suzuki and Dogen I wasn’t a joiner anymore.

So under the auspices of several religious traditions, I’ve cycled through the four meditation categories that researchers in clinical psychology and neurophysiology have broken down for distinct study: “focused attention”, “open monitoring”, “self-transcendence”, and “compassion-based”. These days I sit almost every morning: never for too long, liking it, not liking it, and not quite sure of what I’m doing or where it’s taking me. Feeling like a beginner pretty much always. Continue reading “Meditation: a Conversational Model”

Changing, Fast and Slow /// notes on Sam Harris, meditation, spiritual impatience, and the rising sea

Just as the ocean has a gradual shelf, a gradual slope, a gradual inclination, with a sudden drop-off only after a long stretch, in the same way this Doctrine and Discipline (dhamma-vinaya) has a gradual training, a gradual performance, a gradual progression, with a penetration to gnosis only after a long stretch.

— Uposatha Sutta,  5.5

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[dropcap]I[/dropcap]’m looking forward to September’s release of Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion, by Sam Harris. When an “acerbic atheist” (to use the phrase of ABC’s Dan Harris in his mini pre-review) who has done so much to open up discourse on faith, reason, cognitive science and ethics comes out of the closet about his personal practice of meditation and proposes to evaluate his experience in terms of neuropsychology, it’s some good times. But a number of details from this recent dialogue with the same Dan Harris give me pause. (If he has modified these claims somewhere I haven’t come across, I ‘d be happy to know.)

Continue reading “Changing, Fast and Slow /// notes on Sam Harris, meditation, spiritual impatience, and the rising sea”

Mindfulness for Fathers: Louis CK is Wrong About Boredom

In support of a new book I’m co-writing with Michael Stone about the spirituality of family life. Follow the link to support and pre-order.

I have an ambivalence crush on Louis CK. He plays the brave and humiliating role of exposing the swinging sweaty balls of the cultural id. But this doesn’t make him the spiritual teacher so many want him to be, especially if we forget that he’s playing a caricature.

Continue reading “Mindfulness for Fathers: Louis CK is Wrong About Boredom”

Mindfulness for Fathers: Five Difficult Feelings We Can Learn to Love

In support of a new book I’m co-writing with Michael Stone about the spirituality of family life. Follow the link to support and pre-order.   

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It’s a tall order for many men to even acknowledge difficult feelings. But love them? That’s just going too far. But of course, going farther and loving deeper than you knew you could is what fatherhood, and life, demands.

Parenting is painted through with great strokes of perfectly natural sorrow. You can only pretend to fight it. Much better to look at it carefully, to see its colours clearly, feel its textures. What else could be at the root of empathy and compassion? What else would give you the gravitas you’ll need to be a person of consequence in later life? What else would you even aspire to? Our strange luck is that there are at least five inevitable sorrows that soften us as fathers, even as they strengthen us. Their lessons extrapolate well to the rest of life. Continue reading “Mindfulness for Fathers: Five Difficult Feelings We Can Learn to Love”

Mindfulness for Fathers: Giving Your Child Secret Space

A post in support of Family Wakes Us Up, a book I’m co-writing with Michael Stone. Please support the publication by donating here. Thank you!

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Our son Jacob is thirteen months. From dawn till dusk he treads the threshold between the togetherness we share with him and the secret space he is beginning to find in himself. At this age – all ages pass so quickly! – the contrast between the two is most visible in his relationship to books. Continue reading “Mindfulness for Fathers: Giving Your Child Secret Space”