- Shambala Sun profiles Jack Kornfield: Kornfield’s Wise Heart has found a spot on my list of my favorite books on meditation. I found that it is best savored – read slowly and revisited. I continue to reread portions of it. I can’t wait to read his upcoming book, The Buddha is Still Teaching.
Before cofounding Spirit Rock in the late eighties, he helped create the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) in Barre, Massachusetts—the first retreat center in America dedicated to the 2,500-year-old form of meditation called Vipassana, which employs mindfulness of breath, bodily sensations, thoughts, and emotions to ground the racing mind in the here and now and penetrate the nature of reality. … He has organized councils of Buddhist teachers to meet with the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala; taught loving-kindness meditation to inmates at San Quentin prison; hosted men’s groups for former gang members in Los Angeles with poet Luis Rodriguez and storyteller Michael Meade; and led a peace march alongside rabbis, sheikhs, and imams through the streets of the Holy Land.
… A year ago, Kornfield was giving a talk in Barre when he lost consciousness and dropped to the floor. When he woke up, he says, “a dozen doctors were peering down at me.” At a neurologist’s office a few days later, he and his daughter Caroline heard that the initial diagnosis was of something grave, degenerative, and possibly life-threatening. “You don’t look so good, Dad,” Caroline said. He told her how much he loved her. “Oh Daddy,” she replied, “I wanted you to be here for my wedding and to be the grandfather for my children.” They both wept.
A day or two later, Kornfield attended a council of senior teachers at Spirit Rock. Another teacher present at the meeting, Sylvia Boorstein, author of Happiness is an Inside Job, says that he conducted himself with composure and dignity. “We always start by going around in a circle and telling each other how we are,” she recalls. “That morning Jack said, ‘I have to go first.’ If it was a rehearsal for how any of us should do it if we reach that point in our lives, Jack did the rehearsal really well.”
A painful rehearsal is what it turned out to be. The neurologist’s diagnosis proved incorrect, and in the past few months Kornfield’s tremors, dizziness, and other symptoms have lessened. Still, the ordeal was a potent spur to his appreciation of the fragility of existence.
- How Meditation Reshapes Your Brain: Includes an interview1 with Sharon Gannon, co-founder of Jivamukti Yoga.
- Jon Kabat-Zinn on how he combined his passion for mindfulness with integrative medicine, and the early days of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR): I remember a friend recommending Zinn’s book Full Catastrophe Living to me many years ago. I was already interested in meditation and mindfulness, but the that book really inspired me to keep going.
MBSR really developed out of going around and talking to doctors in the hospital while I was working in the cell biology and anatomy department. This was 1979—so, thirty-one years ago. I was thinking, “I’m thirty-five. I really don’t want to be doing molecular biology research anymore; I want to do something that has to do with my meditation practice and bringing the Dharma into the world in ways that address the infinite levels and forms of suffering. The idea was, “Would it be valuable to the doctors and these patients if there was some kind of a safety net that would catch those people falling through the cracks of the healthcare system and challenge them to do something for themselves?” It’s the kind of work no one can do for you.
It’s about cultivating what I call “deep interior resources” for learning, growing, healing, and transformation. The ability to cultivate those deep interior resources is grounded in the cultivation of attention and awareness and self-compassion.
- How to live in Southern California on $2000 a year: As a long-time volunteer in a soup kitchen, I’ve heard stories very similar to the one in this article.
I am an old man in his sixtieth year. I have entered that decade of life which destroys the last illusion and beyond which lies death, swift or lingering, actuarial or real. I am also poor, incontrovertibly, humiliatingly poor, for the first time in my life. My total annual income, from a modest pension ($1980) and the interest ($168.75) from an equally modest savings account, is 6 percent of what I earned in my prime-and less than two thirds of the property tax I once paid on a five-bedroom home with swimming pool in Westchester County, New York. I am divorced and living alone in an alien city of 800,000 strangers. My aging body betrays me day by day; the ground I am losing now I lose forever.
… I SURVEYED THE TEXTURE of my new approach. Free lunches. Cut-rate bus tickets. Retail discounts. Methodical-and tedious-tours of the thrift shops in quest of shorts and T-shirts, items in such low supply and high demand that one has to arrive at the thrift shop long before it opens, to join a cluster of earlier birds. I was in a Burger King when the thought that had been nagging me through the months of wearing poverty like the king’s new cloak leaped to the front of my consciousness. I was sipping what turned out to be my last free lemonade. It is no trouble to get one. With patience, and by never standing twice in the same line, one separately acquires a paper cup of ice water, sugar, and lemon slices (“For my iced tea, please; you forgot”) and combines these ingredients in a booth.
And it turns out, you don’t have to be a yogi to reap the benefits of meditation. Even those who participate in short-term training courses can alter their brains, according to research published this summer: In a collaborative study between the University of Oregon and the Dalian University of Technology in China, neuroscientists discovered that a Chinese meditation technique called integrative body-mind training (IBMT) could alter the connectivity in the brain after just 11 hours of practice. Using a type of magnetic resonance called “diffusion tensor imaging,” the researchers examined the white matter fibers connecting different brain regions before and after training. The changes were most dramatic in the anterior cingulate, an area implicated in emotion control.
(1) Sharon Gannon on The Importance of Meditation: