See for your Self: Zen Mindfulness for the Next Generation

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Conscious Creativity

That we sprung from the same moist soil that holds our feet as well as the roots of towering redwood monoliths represents something primordially vital—a nourishing truth, the tantalizing wafts of which break down the borders of small mind and open the passageways into vastness. Bring poetry into your daily mindfulness practice.


Place it against the scenery of the world or let it permeate into the depths of the mind. It might just be a wonderful thing to do. Through meditation, daily mindfulness practice, and individual koan work, Dianda seeks to shed light on the inherently deep connection one can have with the experience of this life as well as the world one moves through.

Stepping into the now and recognizing the movements within the mind is where the path begins. Sign up to receive our top articles, courses and other freebies direct to your inbox! Mind-spirit Mind-spirit See all. What is Suffering?

Practices with Jon Kabat-Zinn

Conscious Creativity See all. Wholistic Health See all. Now there are dozens of employee development programs at Google that incorporate some aspect of meditation or mindfulness. And Meng—who was born in Singapore and was turned on to Buddhism by an American nun—has slowly ascended to icon status within the company. More than one Search Inside Yourself student has asked Meng for his autograph. There is in fact little data to support the notion that meditation is good for Google's bottom line, just a few studies from outfits like the Conference Board showing that emotionally connected employees tend to remain at their current workplaces.

Still, the company already tends to its employees' physical needs with onsite gyms, subsidized massages, and free organic meals to keep them productive. Why not help them search for meaning and emotional connection as well? Duane, for one, credits Google's meditation program with upgrading both his business and personal life.

It wasn't long ago that he was a stress case, and with good reason: He was leading a person site-reliability team while dealing with his father's life-threatening heart disease. Then Duane attended a lecture Meng arranged on the neuroscience of mindfulness and quickly adopted a meditation practice of his own. Duane believes the emotional regulation he gained from meditation helped him cope with his father's eventual death. The increased ability to focus, he says, was a major factor in his promotion to a management post where he oversaw nearly Googlers.

In January he decided to leave the company's cadre of engineers and concentrate full-time on bringing meditation to more of the organization. Google executives, who have put mindfulness at the center of their internal training efforts, OK'd the switch. Duane still doesn't have much use for hippies. He still professes to be a proud empiricist. But when I walk back into the Search Inside Yourself class, neither he nor any of the other Googlers seem at all fazed when Meng tells us to imagine the goodness of everyone on the planet and to visualize that goodness as a glowing white light.

As before, Meng's voice lowers and slows to a crawl. And, of course, we close our eyes. Using your heart, multiply that goodness by 10," he says, in a variation on a Tibetan Tonglen exercise.

Hacking inner peace

And if it's useful to you, you may visualize yourself breathing out white light—brilliant white light—representing this abundance of goodness. I actually feel a buzzing on the underside of my skull as I try to imagine pure love. For a minute, I forget that we're in a room ordinarily reserved for corporate presentations. Gordhamer, who had spent years teaching yoga and meditation in New York City's juvenile detention centers, was feeling increasingly beleaguered by his seemingly uncontrollable Twitter habit.

He decided to write a book—Wisdom 2. The book wasn't exactly a best seller. But Gordhamer struck a nerve when he described how hard it was to focus in our always-on culture. By providing constant access to email, tweets, and Facebook updates, smartphones keep users distracted, exploiting the same psychological vulnerability as slot machines: predictable input and random payouts. They feed a sense that any pull of the lever, or Facebook refresh, could result in an information jackpot.

And so he got the idea to host a conference where the technology and contemplative communities could hash out the best ways to incorporate these tools into our lives—and keep them from taking over. The event, billed as Wisdom 2. That was three years ago; since then attendance at the now annual conference has shot up percent. Gordhamer has become a Silicon Valley superconnector, with an array of contacts that would make an ordinary entrepreneur burst with envy. He now leads private retreats for the technorati, and more conferences are in the works—one just for women, another to be held in New York City.

He popularized the notion of open source enlightenment, winning adherents in Silicon Valley—and plenty of eye-rolls from the American Buddhist establishment. He once taught meditation in New York prisons. Now he's a Silicon Valley influencer, thanks to his hugely popular Wisdom 2. Self-described Buddhist geeks, this married couple is crafting new ways to practice mindfulness, helping others develop apps for contemplation.

Today Kornfield hosts the technorati at his Spirit Rock sanctuary. Author of Search Inside Yourself. Official title at Google: Jolly Good Fellow. His job is to make meditation accessible to as many Googlers as he can. The Twitter cofounder has spoken at Wisdom 2. On an enclosed porch outside the exhibition hall at this year's Wisdom 2.

Plantronics, Farmers Insurance, and VMware have already signed up. Nearby, companies promoting mindfulness apps and "cloud-based platforms for market professionals" hawk their wares while an acoustic guitar player strums. On the main stage, executives discuss how they maintain mindful practices during the workweek: One wakes up early and focuses on his upcoming meetings; another takes a moment to pause as she dries her hands in the bathroom. In the cavernous, wood-paneled main hall, oversize screens show a silhouette of a brain connected to a lotus flower and the logos for Twitter and Facebook.

One of the reasons that Wisdom 2. But it's hard not to consider what gets lost in this whittling process.

Siddhartha famously abandoned the trappings of royalty to sit under the Bodhi Tree and preach about the illusion of the ego. Seeing the megarich take the stage to trumpet his practices is a bit jarring. It also raises the uncomfortable possibility that these ancient teachings are being used to reinforce some of modern society's uglier inequalities. Becoming successful, powerful, and influential can be as much about what you do outside the office as what you do at work. There was a time when that might have meant joining a country club or a Waspy church.

Today it might mean showing up at TED. Looking around Wisdom 2. That's a networking opportunity with a light dressing of Buddhism. They tell the crowd about an experiment going on at Facebook that is at once subtle, a little strange, and potentially of deep significance.

While many other Silicon Valley companies are teaching their employees to meditate, Facebook is trying to inject a Buddhist-inspired concept of compassion into the core of its business. Bejar had been a somewhat reluctant guest at the first Wisdom 2. But he was struck by an onstage conversation about kindness with American Buddhist trailblazer Jon Kabat-Zinn. If people truly see one another, Kabat-Zinn said, they're more likely to be empathetic and gentle toward each other. Bejar knew something about depending on the kindness of others.

As a geeky teenager in Mexico City in the s, he snuck into a tech convention by bribing the guards with candy bars; a local IBM exec was so impressed he gave Bejar a job. Then Bejar had his college education paid for by a friend of a family friend: Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak. Buddhism teaches that we are all interconnected.

And nowhere is that more apparent than on Facebook. After hearing Kabat-Zinn, Bejar began looking for ways to bring some of that compassion to Facebook, where bullying and flame wars were all too common among users and the tools for reporting offensive content weren't terribly effective. Bejar set up a series of "compassion research days" at Facebook and brought in Buddhist-inspired academics from Berkeley, Yale, and Stanford to see if they could help.

The researchers' advice: Make the tools more personal, more conversational, and more emotional. For instance, let people express their vulnerability and distress when asking for a problematic picture or status update to be removed. The changes were small at first. Instead of tagging a post as "Embarrassing," users clicked a new button that read "It's embarrassing.

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It turned the report from a seemingly objective classification of content into a customer's subjective, personal response. Use of the tool shot up 30 percent almost immediately. This in a field where a change of a few percentage points either way is considered tectonic. Further fixes followed: personalized messages, more polite requests to take down a photo or a post, more culture-specific pleas. In India, for example, online insults directed at someone's favorite celebrity tend to cut deeper than they do in the US. The koan serves as a surgical tool used to cut into and then break through the mind of the practitioner We asked a few of Zen Buddhists to share with us some koans that have been particularly useful in their practice.

We hope their reflections will help you on your own spiritual journey. Tap here to turn on desktop notifications to get the news sent straight to you. If you understand sitting Zen, you will know that Zen is not about sitting or lying down.

POETRY AND MINDFULNESS: Go beyond the words and rhyme | The Mindful Word

If you want to learn sitting Buddha, know that sitting Buddha is without any fixed form. Do not use discrimination in the non-abiding dharma. If you practice sitting as Buddha, you must kill Buddha. If you are attached to the sitting form, you are not yet mastering the essential principle. How is it possible to practice meditation without attachment to the fruit of our efforts? I think approaching spiritual practice this way is impossible at first, because it almost pre-supposes a certain degree of enlightenment.

The truth is, when we first take refuge in Buddha, our motivation is fear. We are afraid of suffering. We want change.

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  4. Only after we have gained some experience can we begin to shift the motivation, and explore these subtle traps of spiritual materialism. So this koan is a fantastic reminder to trust the purity of our primordial mind.

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    To acknowledge our constant mental habit of grasping. And to see how grasping obscures our innate wisdom. It is true that the world is full of suffering beings; humans, animals, plants, even the planet itself is deeply suffering. This koan does for me what I think is the intention of all koans — it stops my mind in mid stride. It brings my awareness to the importance of asking questions before acting. Questions like: What is the nature of suffering and what is its ultimate cause?

    How can I help a world that I see as separate from myself? If I consider the way we are all constantly, every moment, making the world then each simple, ordinary action I am able to take right here is 'doing something about the world. You're like this. And I'm like this. Born into a family of privilege in in northern Korea, her life was turned upside down by war in the early s.

    When she traveled south as a refugee, she found solace in a Buddhist monastery and decided to become a nun. Determined to reach enlightenment, she went through unimaginable hardships to gain acceptance as a disciple of Songchol Sunim, the most famous Zen Korean: Soen master of her day — something unheard of for nuns at the time.