The Loving Kindness Prayer

In the Buddhist tradition we have a text called the Metta Sutta, or loving kindness scripture.  In my own Buddhist teaching, I developed a short prayer based on this text, that goes like this:

May each of us be filled with loving kindness;

May each of us be free from suffering;

May each of us be happy and at peace.

This short saying seems to have resonated in the larger Buddhist world; other Buddhist groups have picked it up and are using it.  It has also been criticized, usually by people not too familiar with the Buddhist way of … Read More

Covid: A Deep Mind Reflection

It’s on everyone’s mind these days, everywhere.  It’s inescapable, it influences everything we do our say.  Few issues—not perhaps since World War II—have been so all-encompassing and potent.  The Covid pandemic, in the space of less than two years, has transformed the world, in every country and continent, in every individual human mind and family.  Even if Covid finally subsides–through the efficacy of miraculous vaccines, new anti-viral medicines, and the natural ebb and flow of the virus itself—its aftermath will reverberate for years, if not decades.  School children have lost months and years of irreplaceable educational opportunity.  Grieving families will … Read More

What is War? A Suzuki Roshi Story

One day after a Saturday lecture, my Buddhist teacher Shunryu Suzuki opened the floor to questions.  This was in 1968, at the height of the Vietnam War.  I was in my early twenties at the time, working as an anti-war activist by day, and learning about Buddhist meditation at Suzuki’s temple on weekends.  I raised my hand and asked the question that was troubling me and so many of us in the room.  “Suzuki Roshi,” I said, “What is war?”

He pointed to the goza mat in front of him, a six-by-three foot thin bamboo mat on which two people … Read More

Intuition and the Inner Grandfather

Much has been written about men’s relationships with their own fathers, and how that has affected their attitudes and behaviors.  Less discussed is a man’s relationship with his grandfather, perhaps because these days most boys do not live in extended family households and grandfathers are less present in a growing boy’s life.  I happen to believe, though, that in traditional communities grandfathers have played an important role in guiding and socializing young men, and that their absence as an influence is a loss for healthy male development and society generally.  In my latest book Every Breath, New Chances: How To Read More

Four Features of Growing Older

As someone who has written several books about aging and spirituality, I am often asked to describe the most important issues about aging that people need to know.  I often answer with what I call the four features of aging—loss, time, gratitude, and new chances.  There are many other aspects of aging that are worthy and important, but I feel that these four are the universal components of growing older that everyone experiences.

Loss.  There is no getting around it.  Aging means loss—loss of youth, loss of possibility, loss of energy and stamina, loss of physical attractiveness, and even … Read More

Was Buddha a Deadbeat Dad?

Was the Buddha really a “deadbeat Dad” as we would say in modern parlance?  The real answer is that we have no idea, because all the stories of the life of Siddhartha the Buddha are heavily overlaid with mythological and idealized elements.  But the scriptural accounts of his life do say that he was born a prince, was married with an infant son, and abandoned his family and his life of royal privilege at the age of 29 for the life of a sadhu, a homeless monk.  Whether these accounts are objectively true or not, they are spiritually and psychologically … Read More

Two Families of Meditation

When most people think of meditation these days, they think of a practice to make themselves calm.  This is not wrong—meditation can do that—but it is an incomplete understanding of what meditation is or can be.  When I taught meditation I would always say, “Meditation is not just about being calm, it is about being real.”

I started meditating in college, over fifty years ago.  There were few actual teachers of meditation in those days, and none in my town. I learned using dusty old texts on Buddhism and Yoga that I found tucked away in the basement of the … Read More

All Women Have Been Harassed or Worse

As a man who has always tried to be sensitive to a woman’s needs and point of view, I have always known that women suffer from being harassed or abused by men.  But it was not until one particular conversation with two female professional colleagues, that I realized that this truth applied to nearly every woman, everywhere.  Women, reading this, might say, Well, where have you been? How could you not know? But I think a lot of men don’t really know.

I have had a long career as a Buddhist teacher and meditation instructor, though I am now retired.  … Read More

OpeningYour Heart to Grief

Grief is the natural human response to loss.  People who don’t care about other people don’t grieve.  People who don’t know love are walled off from grief.  People who love carry the burden of grief.  This is hard. It is tempting to build a wall against loss—particularly when it is not our own personal loss, but someone else’s—but that only lessens our innate humanity. To be truly and deeply human is to grieve.  The question is how to grieve in a way that does not crush or overwhelm us, and to open to loss in a manner that can lead … Read More

Tuning Into the Un-News

These days we are all flooded with news, or what passes for news.  I can’t even open a browser or a newsfeed without seeing a slideshow of all the news stories the curators of the browser or their algorithmic robots think is important.  I remember the days when there was no internet, when the news was announced by one of the three major television networks, when Walter Cronkite ended his half-hour of news by saying, “And that’s the way it is,” and we all accepted and believed it.

It is now almost a cliché to say that we live in … Read More