Fingernails

by Jessica Graham I’m a little worried today. The usual stuff: money, relationships, time management. I caught myself biting my nails, which is usually a sign that I’m taking the worries personally. Nothing that I ever worry about is actually occurring in the moment; it’s always something that might happen in the future, or more likely, will never happen. The …

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Attention vs. Distraction

Want to learn how to focus and concentrate better? Nothing is more important to meditation than the quality of attention. In mindfulness meditation, we are doing more than just concentrating—the point is to concentrate on something useful—but to do it requires high quality attention. Between the rise of mindfulness practices in America and the rise of the Internet and a …

Meditation Promotes Rational Thinking

Studies looking at the brains of people playing a fairness game found very different responses between Buddhist meditators and other participants. By Michael Haederle It’s no secret that humans are not entirely rational when it comes to weighing rewards. For example, we might be perfectly happy with how much money we’re making — until we find out how much more …

Dying with Dad, Part 2

by Jessica Graham My teacher Shinzen teaches that mindfulness meditation has three parts: concentration, sensory clarity, and equanimity, which all together lead to a reduction in suffering. But sometimes people have “freak-outs.” A freak-out is a state in which you lose the ability to concentrate and maintain sensory clarity. As a result, your equanimity falls apart, and you have a …

Dying With Dad

by Jessica Graham Part One My meditation practice has helped me with all kinds of things. I don’t lose my keys as often. I don’t have meaningless sex with strangers. I don’t wake up with bits of teeth in my mouth from grinding them. My sisters enjoy my company. I usually don’t eat foods that make me feel sick, even …

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No Place to Stand

Shinzen talks about why it is important to let go of the idea of “witnessing” in Vipassana. Oftentimes meditators find comfort and stability in dissociating themselves from experience. That is, in getting an internal sense of distance from their own experience. Sort of sitting back, outside the experience, and watching or observing it go by (which is why it’s called …

Concentration and Silence

by Michael W. Taft Yesterday I was deep inside a website, working on a project that took my full attention. Just as I was getting really focused, a neighbor busted out his leaf blower and started making a terrible racket. I have pretty good concentration skills, so I could continue working, but I noticed how much mental effort it took …

Meditation Builds the Brain

Two years ago, researchers at UCLA found that specific regions in the brains of long-term meditators were larger and had more gray matter than the brains of individuals in a control group. This suggested that meditation may indeed be good for all of us since, alas, our brains shrink naturally with age. Now, a follow-up study suggests that people who …

Teaching The Neurons To Meditate

In the late 1990s, Jane Anderson was working as a landscape architect. That meant she didn’t work much in the winter, and she struggled with seasonal affective disorder in the dreary Minnesota winter months. She decided to try meditation and noticed a change within a month. “My experience was a sense of calmness, of better ability to regulate my emotions,” …