Category: Jack Kornfield

Heart Wisdom – Ep. 126 – Freedom, Gratitude, & the Buoyancy of Hope

What is freedom? Nelson Mandela—when he got out of 27 years in prison and stood up in front of the newly remade nation of South Africa with such magnanimity, graciousness, and wisdom he spoke of freedom and said: “You are not yet free, you merely have the freedom to be free.” No matter what the situation, we are offered the freedom to choose our highest intention, to choose to be free. When we understand intention, we are given the opportunity to set the compass of our heart. This is what will transform our world.

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Video: Joy (Mudita) Dharma Talk

“Live in joy, in love, even among those who hate. Live in joy, in health, even among the afflicted. Live in joy, in peace, even among the troubled. Look within, be still. Free from fear and attachment, know the sweet joy of the way.” —Buddha From suffering, greed, hatred, and fear we can shift our whole identity and find well-being, release, & freedom. This is possible for us and those around us.

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

This talk was originally livestreamed by Spirit Rock on 4/12/21.

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Video: Joy (Mudita) Meditation

Let yourself think of someone you care about. Picture them, remember them, see them in your mind’s eye or hold them in your heart. Imagine their happiest moment as a child. Then begin to wish them well: “May you be joyful. May you remember that child of spirit that was born in you. May your joy increase. May the causes for happiness and joy grow stronger in your life.” Then imagine this person wishing 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 4/12/21.

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Natural Joy

Natural Joy

When Harvard psychologist Jack Engler was doing his research with my teacher Dipama, he asked her about one of the common misunderstandings of Buddhist teachings. “This all sounds very gray,” he said. “Getting rid of greed, getting rid of hate, getting rid of ignorance. Where’s the juice?” “Oh, you don’t understand!” Dipama burst out laughing. “There is so much sameness in ordinary life. We are always experiencing everything through the same set of lenses. Once greed, hatred and delusion are gone, you see everything fresh and new all the time. Every moment is new. Life was dull before. Now, every day, every moment is full of taste and zest.”
 
When love meets pain it becomes compassion. When love meets happiness, it becomes joy. Joy is an expression of the awakened heart, a quality of enlightenment. When we live in the present, joy often arises for no reason. This is the happiness of consciousness that is not dependent on particular conditions. Children know this. Maurice Sendak, author of Where the Wild Things Are, describes how enthusiastically children write to him. “One day a little boy sent me a charming card with a drawing. I loved it. I answer all my children’s letters – sometimes very hastily – but this one I lingered over. I sent him a postcard and I drew a picture of a Wild Thing on it. I wrote, ‘Dear Jim, I loved your card.’ Then I got a letter back from his mother and she said ‘Jim loved your card so much he ate it.’ That to me was one of the highest compliments I’ve ever received. He didn’t care that it was an original drawing or anything. He saw it, he loved it, he ate it.”

We have seen how joy can come in deep meditation. Students describe trembling, tears of laughter, cool waves, ripples of ecstasy, floating joy, joy like turquoise water, bodily thrilling, grateful joy, playful, delighting joy and ecstasy of stillness. They describe joy in the body, heart and mind, joy in the beauty of the world and joy in the happiness of others.

Sometimes people mistake Buddhism for a pessimistic view of life. Certainly the Noble Truths teach about suffering and its causes and in Buddhist countries there are a few very serious, grim–duty style meditation masters. I, myself, like many other Westerners, sought them out. I was so determined to transform myself and attain some special realization that I went to the strictest monasteries and retreats, where we practiced 18 hours a day and sat unmoving in the face of enormous pain. And at these monasteries I learned many important things.

But somehow in the seriousness of my quest, I failed to notice the extraordinary buoyancy of the Buddhist cultures around me. Seeking austerity, we serious Westerners failed to notice that most Buddhist temples are a riot of colors, filled with paintings and statues and images of fantastic stories of angels, devas, bodhisattvas and Buddhas. We ignored the community life that centered around the temples, the cycles of rituals, dances, celebrations, feasts and festivals. In our ardor, we did not appreciate how many of our greatest teachers, Ajahn Chah, Maha Ghosananda, Ananda Maitreya, the 16th Karmapa, Anagarika Munindra, had marvelous, easy laughs, and an infectious sense of joy.

Read Natural Joy, Part 2.

 

 

This excerpt is taken from the book, “The Wise Heart”

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Video: Seeing the World with the Heart of Wisdom Dharma Talk

We have the capacity to be awake and to see the world as it is with a graciousness and an understanding. As the poet Mary Oliver writes, “To live in this world, you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go, to let it go.” This is our dance, our human incarnation: to tend and love that which is ephemeral.

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

This talk was originally livestreamed by Spirit Rock on 2/8/21.

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Heart Wisdom – Ep. 125 – ‘Just Like Me’ Guided Meditation

How do we relate to people who are different? In truth, we are all strange and unique through the very nature of our differences within separate human incarnations; yet despite this slew of personal variance, we actually have more in common than we have in contrast. Through this lens, we can peer through the eyes of wisdom, we can transcend our games and ideas of differences, trading them for similarities, understanding, and oneness.

 

 

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When Fear Arises

When Fear Arises

 

Little fears cause anxiety, and big fears cause panic.— Chuang Tzu

Although most of us have been deeply conditioned by fear, for the most part we have avoided directly exploring its nature. Because we are not aware of its workings, it is often an unconscious driving force in our lives. When fear arises, whether it’s fear of pain, fear of certain emotions, or fear of death, the meditation practice of mindful loving awareness invites us to explore and understand fear itself. What does it feel like? What are the sensations in the body? Where are they located? Are there images or pictures in the mind? We can look closely to see the constellation of experiences we call fear, to understand its true nature. When we do so we see that fear is also a passing conditioned experience, and then it becomes much more workable.

Start simply. When fear arises, name it softly and experience what it does to the breath, to the body, how it affects the heart. Notice how long it lasts. Be aware of the images. Notice the sensations and ideas that accompany it, the scary stories it tells. Fear is often an anticipation of the future, an imagination, often unfounded. As Mark Twain remarked, “My life has been filled with terrible misfortunes—most of which never happened.”

Of course, when we work with the fearful mind, we will initially become afraid. However, at some point, if we open our eyes and our heart to the fearful mind and gently name it, “fear, fear, fear,” experiencing its energy as it moves through us, the whole sense of fear will shift and eventually become recognition: “Oh, fear, here you are again. I know you. How interesting that you’ve come.” Make friends with your fear.

From this foundation of loving awareness and acceptance we can make choices about how to act with some degree of discriminating wisdom. Sometimes it is wise to retreat from a situation, and sometimes we move ahead despite the fear. We become more willing to take some risks because our energy is not so bound up in resisting the feeling of fear itself. We learn that it is okay to feel fear. Our mindfulness practice should challenge us to come to the edge of what we’re willing to be with, what we’re willing to do, what we’re willing to open to. If we keep avoiding the feeling of fear, then we have to build barriers and defenses, closing ourselves off from every experience where fear might arise. Not only is this impossible to do, but it results in a narrow and restricted way of living. We close our hearts and close off the possibility of true vitality, compassion and growth.

Practicing meditation with patience and courage, we can gradually learn trust, how to sit firmly on the earth and kindly sense the contraction and trembling of our body without running away. We learn how to feel the floods of strong emotions—fear, grief, and rage—and to allow them to slowly release with mindfulness. We learn to see the endless mental stories that repeat over and over, and with the resources of mindfulness and compassion, to let them go and relax, to steady the mind and return to the present. Befriending fear becomes a gateway to freedom, an invitation to live more fully with trust and love.

Practice: Transforming Difficult Emotions

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

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The Sacred Pause

The Sacred Pause

Our life can take on a whirlwind quality of working, responding, answering, solving, building, caring, tending and enjoying. When we are busy, and conflicts or difficulties arise, we can easily find ourselves overwhelmed, or reacting to problems in ways that make things worse. Because experience happens so quickly, unskillful habitual responses can come out of our mouth before we know it. It helps to practice skillful responses when things are easy. That way when things are tough, a healthy pattern is available, already set. It also helps to train ourselves to pause before our response. This is called the sacred pause, a moment where we stop and release our identification with problems and reactions. Without a pause our actions are automatic.

In a moment of stopping, we break the spell between past result and automatic reaction. When we pause, we can notice the actual experience, the pain or pleasure, fear or excitement. In the stillness before our habits arise, we become free to act wisely.

In this pause, we can examine our intention. If we have set a long-term intention or dedication for our life, we can remember our vows. Or we can simply check our motivation. Are we caught up, upset, angry, trying to get even, win at any cost? Or with a pause, can we take the time to act out of respect for ourself and others, to sow seeds of understanding and courage? It is in our hands.

The power of intention is most easily visible in our speech. In conversation, we get immediate feedback, and often the response we get will reflect our intention. Before we speak, we can pause and sense our motivation. Is our motivation one of compassion and concern for everyone? Or do we want to be right? Clarifying our intention is critical in times of difficulty. When there is difference or conflict, do we genuinely want to hear about the concerns of the other? Are we open to learn, to see other perspectives?

Try this in your next argument or conflict: Take a pause. Hold everyone’s struggle in compassion. Reflect on your highest intention. Whenever things get difficult, pause before you speak and sense your wisest motivation. From there, it will all flow better.

This is the secret of wise speech. As the Buddha describes it: “Speak with kindly motivation. Speak what is true and helpful, speak in due season and to the benefit of all.” When we pause and connect with our highest intention, we learn to see with eyes of compassion and everything becomes more workable.

Excerpt: The Wise Heart

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Heart Wisdom – Ep. 124 – Conflict and Reconciliation

Conflict really starts in the heart with our attachments and our needs and our desires. And this is a particularly divided time where there’s different beliefs and views about the pandemic or climate change or racial and social justice or how we go forward… We need to kpause for a moment and reflect on all conflicts that are here with us, that surround us. What is it that matters?

 

 

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