and the Guide: A Practical Course in Enlightenment
(Aug 1 - Sep 26)
How do we make the most of life? This course is for
anyone who wants their life to be a journey. With humor and profundity,
mixing poetry and myth with down-to earth instruction, Maitreyabandhu —
a well-known Buddhist teacher and a prize-winning poet — describes what
it means to set out on the Buddha’s journey and how you can follow it,
day by day and week by week.
This course leads participants step by step along the Buddhist path
from mindfulness and emotional strength to receptivity, spiritual death
and rebirth. On the course we will be learning how to put spiritual
life into practice here and now.
Course participants will receive a discounted copy of
Maitreyabandhu's new book "The Journey and the Guide" as part
of the course.
Into Joy: A Step-By-Step Guide to the Experience of Jhana
(Aug 1 - Sep 19)
This 50-day online course offers a step-by-step guide
that will lead you into deep states of calm, relaxation, joy. Jhana (or
dhyana) is a joyful state of focused attention that can arise in
meditation. It’s what modern psychology calls a “flow state.”
Very few modern teachers are able to explain how to
consistently experience this state, and so it's commonly thought of as
being unattainable for all but "elite" meditators, or for
those in on long and intensive retreats. None of these things are true.
Jhana is doable! It can be experienced by ordinary meditators, and all
that is necessary is to know the steps involved.
Join Bodhipaksa on this course, and learn how to
bring greater calm and joy into your meditation practice — and your
life! This event can accommodate complete beginners, but is aimed at
those with an established meditation practice.
A woman I know who had recently become a mother found that she had
difficulty in getting her child to settle down and go to sleep.
Eventually she realized that she was communicating her anxiety to her
child, so that the more she tried, the more fussy the baby became.
Fortunately she learned how to be more at ease in her new role, and
found that this change in attitude was also picked up by the baby, who
then became much calmer.
This has a parallel, I think, in lovingkindness (metta) practice. A
common problem many people have with this form of meditation is that
they don't feel the warm glow they expect to find.
So, maybe your main approach to the practice is to use phrases such as
"May I be well. May I be happy. May I be free from
suffering." (What I'm going to say applies to wishing others well,
too, but self-metta is where we start in the practice.)
You send these messages out into your being, and you watch for a
result. Maybe you're expecting some kind of warm glow to appear around
the heart, or deep in the belly — some sign that the practice is
working. But nothing much seems to happen.
So maybe you struggle on for a while, thinking that there's something
wrong with you. Maybe you pretty much give up on doing the practice.
That's a pretty rational response, actually. What's the point in
continuing to do something that doesn't seem to be working?
The central problem here is that we're looking for the wrong thing, or
at least we're looking for it in the wrong place. We're looking for
some kind of feeling down there, in the body — in the heart,
or in the belly, where we often to experience feelings connected with
So what's the alternative?
To describe our experience in very crude terms, when we're doing
lovingkindness practice there's an "up here" that's doing the
practice (that's akin to the mother), and a "down there" that
we're being aware of and that we're hoping is going to respond (that's
like the baby), showing us that the practice is working.
But what we're trying to develop in lovingkindness meditation is not a
feeling. We're trying to develop kindness. Kindness is an
attitude. It's a way of relating. So it's "up here," not
This is a bit like the problem the mother faced. Initially she was
looking to the baby to relax. She was expecting the relaxation, trust,
and ease to happen "down there." And actually, what she
needed to do was to learn to look for those qualities "up
here," in her own being, in the way she was relating to herself
and her child.
It's the mother part of us that needs to change first. So if you have
this problem of the practice apparently not working, ask yourself this
question first: Am I being kind, right now?
And if you're not feeling kind, ask yourself this question: What could
I do, right now, to show kindness? Or to put it another way, how could
my attitude me more kind?
Maybe that means relaxing physically. Maybe it means smiling. Maybe it
means relaxing mentally, so that we're not trying too hard, not judging
ourselves for "not being good enough." Maybe it means
allowing ourselves to be at ease and to be playful.
What you'll probably find is that there is a change in the feeling tone
of your experience, which starts "up here" — in terms of
where you're looking at your experience from. Now you're relating to
yourself (and then others) in a kinder way. And just as a mother's
kindness leads to her child being at ease, so our bodies begin to
respond to our kindness by producing the warm glow that we think is
associated with kindness. And perhaps we recognize that, valuable and
pleasant as it is to have those feelings, they are just a part of the
experience of kindness, and not the whole of it.
New articles on
How to calm
your mind, quickly and easily
We can use our attention in two ways: either as a
flashlight or as a candle.
Flashlight attention is where we have a narrow,
focused beam of awareness. We observe one aspect of our experience, and
because our focus is narrow, we don’t notice much else.
A candle, unlike a flashlight, throws its light in
all directions. When we use our attention in this way, we allow
ourselves to be aware of everything that’s arising.
The one emotion that we most commonly repress is
We don’t intend to do this. Instead, it happens
through inattention. Few if any of us would sense joy arising and make
a conscious decision to destroy it or push it out of awareness. Few of
us would refuse happiness if it were to appear. And still we repress
joy all the time.
One of the principles of meditation is that it
allows joy to flourish.