Category: Jack Kornfield

Audio: Grounding Practice

Audio: Grounding Practice

Do this grounding practice for 3-5 minutes at different times of the day to steady yourself. With each breath, exhale tension. Let yourself imagine that you have roots that go deep into the soil of the earth, to steady and nurture you. If images help, let yourself remember a wonderful tree from your life—an old tree, a strong tree. Imagine that you are standing in front of the tree, meditating together. Just as this great tree has a strong trunk that has weathered storms and the changing of the seasons, feel your own body steady like the trunk of that tree.

 

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Video: Summer Solstice Dharma Talk

Here we are in the change of seasons—the great turning. The sun is something for us to pay attention to, something we often take for granted. Notice the way the gift of sunlight streams behind everything—it feeds the plants we eat. We can be joyful for sunlight and trees, for people we love, for moments of goodness, and for the breath within our breast. And as our joy grows we discover a happiness without cause.

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

This talk was originally livestreamed by Spirit Rock on 6/14/21.

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Video: Compassionate Heart Meditation

Picture someone you care about, someone you love. Feel the natural well-wishing of love. Surround them with care:

“May you be held in compassion.
May your struggles and sorrows be eased.
May your heart be at peace.”

Now imagine that this person wishes the same for you.

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

This meditation was originally livestreamed by Spirit Rock on 5/24/21.

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Courage of the Heart

Courage of the Heart

Very often what nourishes our spirit most is what brings us face to face with our greatest limitations and difficulties. My teacher Ajahn Chah called this “practicing against the grain,” or “facing into one’s difficulties.” Every life has periods and situations of great difficulty that call on our spirit. Sometimes we are faced with the pain or illness of a child or a parent we love dearly. Sometimes it is a loss we face in career or business. Sometimes it is just our own loneliness or confusion or fear. Sometimes we are forced to live with painful circumstances or difficult people. In this time of pandemic these problems can become more intense. Yet in these very difficulties, we can learn the true strength of our practice. At these times, the wisdom we have cultivated and the depth of our love is our chief resource. To meditate, to pray, to practice at such times can be like pouring soothing balm onto the aches of our heart. The great forces of greed, hatred, fear, and ignorance that we encounter can be met by the equally great courage of our heart.

Freedom is born out of our capacity to work with any energy or difficulty that arises. It’s the freedom to enter wisely into all the realms of this world, the beautiful and painful realms, the realms of sickness and health, the realms of war and of peace. We can’t find freedom in some other place or some other time, we must find it here and now in this very life.

Often we see only two choices for dealing with our problems. One is to suppress them and deny them, to try to fill our lives with only light, beauty, and ideal feelings. In the long run we find that this does not work, for what we suppress with one hand or one part of our body cries out from another. If we suppress thoughts in the mind, we get ulcers; and if we clench problems in our body, our mind later becomes agitated or rigid, filled with unfaced fear. A second strategy is the opposite, to let all our reactions out, freely venting our feelings about each situation. This, too, becomes a problem, for if we act out every feeling that arises, all our dislikes, opinions, and agitations, our habitual reactions grow until they become tiresome, painful, confusing, contradictory, difficult, and finally overwhelming. What is left? The third alternative is the power of our wakeful and attentive heart. We can face these forces, these difficulties with loving awareness.

The maturity we can develop in approaching our difficulties is illustrated by the traditional story of a poisoned tree. On first discovering a poisoned tree, some people see only its danger. Their immediate reaction is, “Let’s cut this down before we are hurt. Let’s cut it down before anyone else eats the poisoned fruit.” This resembles our initial response to the difficulties that arise in our lives, when we encounter aggression, compulsion, greed, or fear, when we are faced with stress, loss, conflict, depression, or sorrow in ourselves and in those around us. Our initial response is to avoid them, saying, “These poisons afflict us. Let us uproot them; let us be rid of them. Let us cut them down.”

Other people, who have journeyed further along the spiritual path, discover this poisoned tree and do not meet it with aversion. They have realized that to open to life requires a deep and heartfelt compassion for all. Knowing the poisoned tree is somehow a part of us, they say, “Let us not cut it down. Instead, let’s have compassion for the tree as well.” So out of kindness they build a fence around the tree so that others may not be poisoned and the tree may also have its life. This second approach shows a profound shift of relationship from judgment and fear to compassion.

A third type of person, who has traveled yet deeper in spiritual life, sees this same tree. This person, who has gained much vision, looks and says, “Oh, a poisoned tree. Perfect! Just what I was looking for.” This individual picks the poisoned fruit, investigates its properties, mixes it with other ingredients, and uses the poison as a great medicine to heal the sick and transform the ills of the world.

How can we do this? We can develop the seeds of wisdom, peace, and wholeness within each of our difficulties. We can make our very difficulties the place of our practice. Then our life becomes not a struggle with success and failure but a dance of the heart. Where better to meditate, to steady our hearts, to practice patience, calm, generosity, compassion than in our tough times? This is where the straw becomes spun into the gold of love.

MEDITATION: REFLECTING ON DIFFICULTY

Sit quietly, feeling the rhythm of your breathing, allowing yourself to become calm and receptive. Then think of a difficulty that you face, whether in your spiritual practice or anywhere in your life. As you sense this difficulty, take your time. Notice how it affects your body, how it feels in the heart, its energy in the mind. Feeling it carefully, begin to ask yourself a few questions, listening inwardly for their answers.

How have I approached this difficulty so far?

How have I suffered by my own response and reaction to it?

What does this problem ask me to let go of?

What suffering here is unavoidable, is my measure to accept?

What happens if I bring tender compassion to all the parts of this difficulty?

What courage is asked as I respond?

What great lesson might it be able to teach me?

What is the gold, the value, hidden in this situation?

In using this reflection to consider your difficulties, the understanding and openings may come slowly. Take your time. As with all meditations, it can be helpful to repeat this reflection a number of times, listening each time for deeper answers from your body, heart, and spirit.

Excerpt adapted from A Path with Heart

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Awakening Self-Compassion

Awakening Self-Compassion

Hold yourself as a mother holds her beloved child. —Buddha

We are so quick to judge one another. And just as we are hard on others we are even harder on ourselves. With mindfulness, our natural compassion grows. We can see that we are all carrying our own burden of tears. You and everyone you meet are sharing in some measure of the pain present on the planet. You are called upon to witness this pain—in yourself and others—with compassion. But how can we do this when we live in a time where it seems we have lost contact with the power of mercy and compassion, when we have closed off to the suffering of ourselves and others?

We have to begin to sense the tears for ourselves before we can cry for others. These tears are actually a great gift. They are the same moisture that brings new life out of the dry earth every spring. For the Lakota Sioux, grief is considered a great gift because they believe the gods are closest to us when we are suffering. When a Lakota Sioux has suffered a great loss and is grieving, he or she is considered wacan, or “most holy.” Their prayers are believed to be especially powerful, and others will often ask one who grieves to pray on their behalf.

This doesn’t mean that compassion will be easy, especially when you’ve been betrayed or you’ve suffered some irreplaceable loss. As the Sufis pray, “Overcome any bitterness that may have come because I am not up to the magnitude of the pain that has been entrusted to me.”

You may want to heal, but still find yourself slipping back into old habits of anger and resentment. This can be the most frustrating. After struggling for half a century with the British Empire, Mahatma Gandhi said that his most formidable opponent was not the British Empire or the Indian people, but a man named Mohandas K. Gandhi. “With him I seem to have very little influence.”

But it is necessary to learn that you are worthy of being loved. Buddha put it quite simply: “You can search the whole tenfold universe and not find a single being more worthy of love and compassion than the one seated here—yourself.” Self-compassion and self-forgiveness are not weaknesses, but the roots of our courage and magnanimity. Sometimes compassion for ourselves and others seems hard to find. But even if you lose touch with these feelings during your most intense suffering, compassion is an essential part of our true nature. In fact, it is in this self-compassion and self-love that you find the strength to carry a lamp through your darkest nights. And it is by first practicing self-compassion that you find not only a way to hold your own struggles and sorrows in your heart—but through them you learn how to connect with the sufferings and sorrows of all those around.

This self-compassion helps us all survive. It causes us to jump out of the way of an unexpected fast car as we enter the street. We treasure our life. Self-compassion struggles to keep us alive even in situations of complete abandonment and abuse.

As you go through your difficulties, you can learn to bring a quality of loving care to everything you touch. You will find that love and care have an extraordinary capacity to transform the sorrows of your life into a great stream of compassion.

Be gentle with yourself—it should not be a struggle. Know your limitations. Extend your compassion only as far as you feel your heart opening naturally. Plant your seed of trust. It will grow in its season.

As you face loss, frustration, hurt, and conflict, invite a sense of your own dignity. Sit up, stand up tall. Have respect for yourself, and patience and compassion. With these, you can handle anything.

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Compassion for Imperfection

Compassion for Imperfection

What if you could love yourself fully, including your imperfections? What if you could love others in the same way? You might fear that by loving your anger or laziness, your addictions or your anxiety, that you will never change for the better, that you will become more angry, lazy, addicted, or anxious. But if you experiment, you will see that what happens is often the opposite. As you love and accept yourself in a bigger, wiser love, your fear and aggression, your neediness and inertia, lose their hold. The wise heart brings compassion to imperfection itself. With mindfulness you can become the love you have sought. And with this love you are also returned to yourself.

Try it. Imagine you were to love yourself just as you are – with all these human flaws. Every human has imperfections; this is part of human incarnation. Your task is to see them clearly and love anyway. Now become the loving awareness that can witness and hold your life with its successes and imperfections in a sea of love. Who you are is not the flaws and trauma and fears. These are outer human struggles. You are timeless awareness, born with original beauty, the child of the spirit having a complicated human incarnation, like the other 7 billion of us.

With this deep acceptance and loving awareness, step out of the judge’s court. Invite yourself to become quiet, at ease with your whole self, kind and thoughtful. With this accepting presence you will see yourself make better choices – not out of shame or self-hate, but because your loving heart teaches you how to care. The loving heart transforms the whole human dance. After you practice embracing your imperfections, you can choose other people to include in this practice. See and accept all their imperfections with a profound loving awareness. Take your time. Notice how this acceptance changes your conflicts and feelings for the better. Other people are learners, just as you are. And when you envision loving them with all their flaws, notice how your loving gaze and care might inspire the best in them. As Nelson Mandela says, “It never hurts to see the good in someone. They often act the better because of it.”

Love yourself. This is the essence. Then take your very human imperfections and make beauty anyway.

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Video: Loving Awareness Meditation

The freedom of loving awareness is available; it just takes practice for you to remember it, and to trust that it is always here. When you feel lost, stuck in a tiny part of the big picture, contracted, or caught up, take a breath and visualize yourself stepping back. With a spacious mind, you can witness even these contracted states and hold them in loving awareness.

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

This meditation was originally livestreamed by Spirit Rock on 2/2/21.

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Heart Wisdom – Ep. 128 – Mudita: Practicing With Joy In Our Heart

In this dharma talk, we explore mudita. Mudita invites us to open a channel to joy, delight, and creativity. Joy arises, like the Buddha sitting under the Bodhi Tree, from following the heart’s silent source. When we get still, and the mind quiets, and the heart opens, and we remember that Buddhas live in joy even among the troubled; out of that stillness there is a silent source of something beautiful that wants to come through every one of us.

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