In her new book, Close to the Ground, the S&H columnist and Zen practitioner explores Buddhism’s seven factors of enlightenment: mindfulness, investigation, effort, ease, joy, concentration, and equanimity.
Which of the seven factors do you think is the most misunderstood?
Joy. I don’t know what it is about joy that is so confusing. My experience is that most people equate pleasure with joy. Although there may be joy within some pleasures, it is so much more. Quieter. Lighter. Braver.
For some addicts, hitting bottom and having a spiritual awakening are the first steps along the path of recovery. That's why Alcoholics Anonymous, the oldest and largest of the twelve-step groups, calls itself a spiritual—rather than a religious—program.
Founded in 1935 by Bill Wilson, a New York stock market analyst, and Dr. Bob Smith, an Akron, Ohio, physician, AA is a fellowship of alcoholics who decided to "turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him."
"A Rabbit Noticed My Condition"
I was sad one day and went for a walk;
I sat in a field.
A rabbit noticed my condition and came near.
It often does not take more than that to help at times—
just to be close to creatures who are so full of knowing,
so full of love
that they don’t
they just gaze with
-St John of the Cross
I glance at my watch quickly, at the risk of spilling some of the Sancerre in my glass. It’s almost 10 p.m., and I’m doing the sleep-math in my head. If I go to bed by 11, I’ll get only seven hours before I have to wake up and prepare the traps. Oberon, Ariel and Puck will be waiting for me on the sidewalk as they have these last two months since emerging, blinking tiny eyes, from the depths of the garbage-filled ravine where they were born, seeking their daily meal. They trust me now, and it’s time...
“Jane rescues cats! Don’t you, Jane?”
I’m sitting cross-legged on a downtown sidewalk. My five year-old son is in my lap and for 10 minutes the little guy is completely focused and very still; we’re watching and listening with curious eyes and ears to an unusual music performance.
I’m too judgmental. It is a bad habit (there I go again!), one I learned from my family, where criticism far outweighed compliments. I went to a liberal arts college to learn critical thinking; I was brought up and educated to tear apart anything and anyone―to be a mental pit bull. I vacillate between my basic good nature―cheerful, polite to waiters, kind to strangers―and an ingrown critic who is hard to silence.
A recent issue of Business Week has stuck in my mind. The cover story is “The Case for Optimism,” and it is full of inspiring stories and studies showing that optimism works. Students of Zen Buddhism and those knowledgeable with the way our mind functions might be saying “duh” to this. And serious Zen students may find a chat about inspired optimism a bit lame and Pollyanna-ish. Yet our very society and life success is dependent on inspiration and optimism — the fuel of all things good.
An Interview with Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo
It is the close of the final day of her last teaching tour before retirement, and the legendary Buddhist nun Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo, in the maroon robes of her calling, is taking questions from the floor. Until this point, it has been a fairly uneventful — if luminous — lecture on “transforming the mind.” Then a tousled, torn–T-shirted youth in the back raises his hand and shouts, “I heard women cannot become enlightened!”
Tenzin Palmo blinks in a state of mild shock. “Is that a question?” she asks.
Welcome to our weekly round-up of news and inspiration for body, mind, and spirit. Each week in this space, we'll feature a curated collection of great ideas, important news, and uplifting tidbits. This week: a new danger for drivers, a summery song that inspires spiritual practice, honoring Vesak Day, plus the transit of Venus.
Suzuki Roshi says the essence of Buddhism is that "Everything changes." It was much easier for me to ignore that fact when I was young.