Category: Jack Kornfield

Video: Loving Witness Dharma Talk

In any moment you can become the loving witness—it’s why we sit in meditation. We learn to sit with both heartbreak and love—with whatever arises. We become the loving witness of it all. What channel do you turn to amidst the joy and sorrows? With mindful loving awareness we can see it all anew. When we see with amazement, with loving awareness, we also see with the heart.

As Mary Oliver writes:

“And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood….

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular….

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement….”

For more teachings like this, please subscribe to my YouTube channel HERE.

This talk was originally livestreamed by Spirit Rock on 8/23/21.

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Heart Wisdom – Ep. 131 – Heart of an Impeccable Warrior

Real courage is the courage of the heart… It’s the courage to investigate, to look, to see really honestly what’s true inside ourselves.

One of the wonderful things about practice is each moment, in each thing we do in our life, is a new opportunity to be mindful, to be complete, to be whole. It’s never too late, and it’s never lost. It’s just now, again.


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Navigating Rough Waters

Navigating Rough Waters


Every morning when the Dalai Lama wakes up, he begins his morning practices with a prayer from Shantideva: “May I be a guard for those who need protection; a guide for those on the path; a boat, a raft, a bridge for those to cross the flood; may I be a lamp in the darkness; a resting place for the weary, and a healing medicine for all who are sick. For as long as Earth and sky endure, may I assist until all living beings are awakened.” This is the Dalai Lama’s way of reaffirming the direction of his life and the direction of his heart before he starts his day. With this powerful prayer, the Dalai Lama recites his vow of compassion and love for all beings, even in the face of the great difficulties of the Tibetan people.

You too need a reliable compass to set your direction and steer through the rough waters. When you are going through hard times you need a way to guide yourself. But how can you set your direction when you can’t see any clear harbor? And how can you navigate through difficult waters when you’re swamped by overwhelming emotions? There is a wise spirit in us that knows that we can behave with dignity and courage and magnanimity, no matter what the circumstances.

In the Buddhist tradition, one who dedicates themselves to the spirit of courage and compassion is called a bodhisattva. Bodhi means awakened, and sattva means being. A bodhisattva is a being committed to the awakening of the good heart in everyone. A bodhisattva is committed to compassion, committed to making known the shining beauty that is possible for the human spirit, not because they believe that it is somehow a “better” way to live but because they know that it is the only way to be fully alive and awake.

Living our highest intentions can happen in great ways or in what may seem small—yet critical—ways of refusing to be conquered by the difficulties that come to us in our lives. We can choose our spirit in spite of everything. Sometimes, all we’ll be able to offer is a smile to the weary or forlorn on the streets. Sometimes it will be to plant a garden where there was none, or plant seeds of patience in a family or of reconciliation in community difficulty. No matter what situation we find ourselves in, we can always set our compass to our highest intentions in the present moment.

When you’re overwhelmed by loss, by the difficulties around you, when you feel you are lost in the darkness, sometimes all you can do is to breathe consciously and gently with your pain and anguish and know that with this simple gesture you are resetting the compass of your heart, no matter your circumstances. By taking that one simple, mindful breath, you will return again to compassion and realize that you are more than your fears and confusions.

Whatever your difficulties, you can always remember that you are free in every moment to set the compass of your heart to your highest intentions. You can offer the best of yourself in any circumstance, including in difficult times. In fact, the two things that you are always free to do—despite your circumstances—are to be present and to be willing to love.

Sometimes you may be able to improve a situation immediately, and sometimes you will have to steadily carry the lamp for yourself and others through a period of darkness. Your intuition and your good heart will guide the way.

Adapted from A Lamp in Darkness

Visit the Pandemic Resources page on my website for meditations & other materials.

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Mindfulness of Feelings

Mindfulness of Feelings

Feelings are ever-present. They are a mysterious and rich dimension of our human life. But without mindfulness of them we can react automatically, habitually clinging to the pleasant feelings, avoiding the unpleasant ones, and remaining unaware of what is neutral. This reactiveness limits our ability to find balance and clarity in our daily life, and limits our ability to love.

How do we bring mindfulness to feelings? The first step is to know the feelings in themselves, to become curious. Many of us have learned to suppress or ignore our feelings, yet underneath they still drive our life in an unconscious way. To become mindful, you can begin simply with an awareness of pain as pain, of sadness as sadness. You can name them: this is joy, this is excitement, this is fear, this is contentment. You can gradually become aware of your waves of feelings as they rise and fall. With awareness you see that you are not your emotions. Instead, you see that the ever-changing feelings and emotions are simply part of the dance of life that you can hold with appreciation and wisdom.

As you bring mindfulness to your emotions you learn that emotions themselves are not the problem: your difficulties come from your relationship to them. You can bring a mindful and kind attention to them all, even the difficult ones such as fear, grief, hatred and jealousy. But focusing on difficult emotions alone can become one-sided. Notice the happy ones and the beautiful ones as well as the painful ones. Joy and sorrow are woven together; you can’t have one without the other. You can’t have birth without death, or pleasure without pain, or hot without cold, nor light without dark. Human feelings, and emotions of joy and sorrow, are ever-changing, like a river.

When you’re not aware of your emotions, you can become lost in them or frightened by them. But if you can create enough space to hold them with mindfulness and wisdom, you can see how they represent an important part of the picture, but not the entirety of the truth. You can see that anger has some truth in it, but it also has some delusion in it. And when you see love clearly, you can see that often love has some truth in it and that it also has some delusion. You can learn to become mindful of the river of emotions, resting in loving awareness, knowing that we are not limited by what is arising in the river.

There’s a grace that comes when we’re willing to touch the full measure of our feelings, our fear and longing, failure and tenderness, and great love that’s inside every one of us. We become the loving witness, what my teacher Ajahn Chah called the One Who Knows. As we allow our feelings to be met in the space of loving awareness, where they can come and go, we become free.

Excerpt: A Lamp in the Darkness

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Video: Listening with the Heart Meditation

Direct mindful loving awareness to the mind. The mind secretes thoughts, stories and memories. You are the loving awareness that feels the stream of the mind, that knows it—all the busyness, hopes, and ideas. Listen now to the wisdom mind. It has a message for you. It has wisdom that you need just now. Now let the field of loving awareness open, so the heart knows you can listen to the world around you with tender care. By listening with a compassionate heart and a wisdom mind, your understanding can grow.

For more teachings like this, please subscribe to my YouTube channel HERE.

This meditation was originally livestreamed by Spirit Rock on 7/19/21.

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Video: Listening with the Heart Dharma Talk

We are each other’s bond. We are each other’s community. We are each other’s family. What we most want, perhaps, is to be listened to in the deepest way, to be met with the heart. When we learn to rest in awareness, there’s both caring and silence. There is listening for what’s the next thing to do and awareness of all that’s happening, a big space and a connected feeling of love. When there is enough space, our whole being can both comprehend the situation and be at ease. We see the dance of life, we dance beautifully, yet we’re not caught in it.

For more teachings like this, please subscribe to my YouTube channel HERE.

This talk was originally livestreamed by Spirit Rock on 7/19/21.

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Heart Wisdom – Ep. 130 – Working with Wisdom, Power & Knowledge on Your Spiritual Path

In this dharma talk from 1977, we explore working with wisdom, power, and knowledge on your spiritual path, and why it’s so important to walk the Middle Way.

There is endless knowledge to pursue and endless powers to be cultivated. We cover the Buddha’s four unknowables, which include things like karma and the range of the mind of a Buddha. If you look in the spiritual traditions in literature all around the world, the kind of things you can do with your mind when it becomes really concentrated and directed are fantastic and enormous.

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Audio: Walking Meditation

Audio: Walking Meditation

One of the most useful and grounding ways of attending to our body is the practice of walking meditation. Walking meditation is a simple and universal practice for developing calm, connectedness, and embodied awareness. It can be practiced regularly, before or after sitting meditation or any time on its own, such as after a busy day at work or on a lazy Sunday morning. The art of walking meditation is to learn to be aware as you walk, to use the natural movement of walking to cultivate mindfulness and wakeful presence.

To practice, select a quiet place where you can walk comfortably back and forth, indoors or out, about ten to thirty paces in length. Begin by standing at one end of this “walking path,” with your feet firmly planted on the ground. Let your hands rest easily, wherever they are comfortable. Open your senses to see and feel the whole surroundings. After a minute, bring your attention back to focus on the body. Center yourself, and feel how your body is standing on the earth. Feel the pressure on the bottoms of your feet and the other natural sensations of standing. Let yourself be present and alert.

Begin to walk a bit more slowly than usual. Let yourself walk with a sense of ease and dignity. Relax and let your walking be easy and natural. Pay attention to your body. With each step feel the sensations of lifting your foot and leg off of the earth. Then mindfully place your foot back down. Feel each step mindfully as you walk. When you reach the end of your path, pause for a moment. Center yourself, carefully turn around, pause again so that you can be aware of the first step as you walk back. You can experiment with the speed, walking at whatever pace keeps you most present.

Continue to walk back and forth for ten or twenty minutes or longer. Your attention may wander away many times. As soon as you notice this, acknowledge where it went softly: “wandering,” “thinking,” “hearing,” “planning.” Then return to feel the next step. Like training a puppy, you will need to come back a thousand times. Whether you have been away for one second or for ten minutes, no matter. Simply acknowledge where you have been and then come back to being alive here and now with the next step you take.

Use the walking meditation to calm and collect yourself and to live more wakefully in your body. Practice at home first. You can then extend your mindful walking in an informal way when you go shopping, whenever you walk down the street or walk to or from your car. You can learn to enjoy walking for its own sake instead of the usual planning and thinking and, in this simple way, begin to be truly present, to bring your body, heart and mind together as your move through your life.


This meditation is taken from the book, “The Wise Heart

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Heart Wisdom – Ep. 129 – All We Need to Know

In this dharma talk, we explore a few truths about life: things change, each moment contains both light and darkness, opinions are fleeting. Our direct experiences of these truths can lead to freedom.

Life is really about seeing with the heart, living each moment with an open-hearted presence, and bringing compassion to every situation.

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