Empty The Cup

Are you full to the rim? The Practice: Empty the cup. Why? Once upon a time, a scholar came to visit a saint. After the scholar had been orating and propounding for a while, the saint proposed some tea. She slowly filled the scholar's cup: gradually the tea rose to the very brim and began spilling over onto the table, yet she kept pouring and pouring. The scholar burst out: "Stop! You can't add anything to something that's already full!" The saint set down the teapot and replied, … [Read more...]

Remember The Big Things

What matters most to you? The Practice: Remember the big things. Why? In every life, reminders arrive about what's really important. I've recently received one myself, in a form that's already come to countless people and will come to countless more: news of a potentially serious health problem. My semi-annual dermatology mole check turned up a localized melanoma cancer in my ear that will need to come out immediately. The prognosis is very positive - this thing is "non-invasive" - but … [Read more...]

Rest

Busy, busy? The Practice: Rest. Why? This practice is definitely a case of teaching what you need to learn: I've been working through a big bucket of tasks lately with little chance to rest. (I console myself with knowing that the bucket is emptying a lot faster than it's filling with new tasks.) Sometimes you can really feel what you need to do by feeling what's happening for you when you don't. "Don't," that is: ease up, unwind, recharge, put your feet up, take a load off, just … [Read more...]

Give Over To Good

What is living you? The Practice: Give over to good. Why? In every moment, you and I and everyone and everything else - from quantum foam to fleeting thoughts, intimate relationships, rainforest ecosystems, and the stars themselves - are each a kind of standing wave, like the ever-changing though persistent pattern of water rising above a boulder in a river. We are the result of multiple causes flowing through us. As Buckminster Fuller famously said, "I seem to be a verb." This fact … [Read more...]

Have Compassion

Do You Care? The Practice: Have compassion. Why? Compassion is essentially the wish that beings not suffer - from subtle physical and emotional discomfort to agony and anguish - combined with feelings of sympathetic concern. You could have compassion for an individual (a friend in the hospital, a co-worker passed over for a promotion), groups of people (victims of crime, those displaced by a hurricane, refugee children), animals (your pet, livestock heading for the slaughterhouse), and … [Read more...]

Speak from the Heart

What's Your Heart Say? The Practice Speak from the heart. Why? One Christmas I hiked down into the Grand Canyon, whose bottom lay a vertical mile below the rim. Its walls were layered like a cake, and a foot-high stripe of red or gray rock indicated a million-plus years of erosion by the Colorado river. Think of water - so soft and gentle - gradually carving through the hardest stone to reveal great beauty. Sometimes what seems weakest is actually most powerful. In the same way, speaking … [Read more...]

Keep Hope Not Fear Alive

This recent series of posts has used the example of Stephen Colbert's satirical "March to Keep Fear Alive" as a timely illustration of a larger point: humans evolved to be fearful -- a major feature of the brain's negativity bias that helped our ancestors pass on their genes. Consequently, as much research has shown, we're usually much more affected by negative -- by which I mean painful -- experiences than by positive ones. Besides the personal impacts of this bias in the brain, it also makes … [Read more...]

Balancing Joining and Separating

There is a natural balance within us all between the desire for joining and the desire for separation, between the desire for closeness and the desire for distance. These two great themes – joining and separation – are central to human life. Almost everyone wants both of them, to varying degrees. People tend to focus a lot on the joining theme, both because relationships are about – uh – joining, and because spiritual practice of any kind is fundamentally about coming into relationship … [Read more...]

The Wolf of Hate

I heard a story once about a Native American elder who was asked how she had become so wise, so happy, and so respected. She answered: “In my heart, there are two wolves: a wolf of love and a wolf of hate. It all depends on which one I feed each day.” This story always gives me a little shiver. It’s both humbling and hopeful. First, the wolf of love is very popular, but who among us does not also harbor a wolf of hate? We can hear its snarling both far away in distant wars and close to … [Read more...]

The Evolution of Love

How did we evolve the most loving brain on the planet? Humans are the most sociable species on earth – for better and for worse. On the one hand, we have the greatest capacities for empathy, communication, friendship, romance, complex social structures, and altruism. On the other, we have the greatest capacities for shaming, emotional cruelty, sadism, envy, jealousy, discrimination and other forms of dehumanization, and wholesale slaughter of our fellow humans. In other words, to paraphrase … [Read more...]


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