These essays are Peter’s teachings derived from the Theravada Buddhist tradition. Many of these are based on talks at the Thursday insight meditation group in Boulder.
A summary in outline form of the Theravada Buddhist teaching of the key ingredients of the spiritual path. The eightfold path focuses on wisdom in view and intentions; ethical behavior in speech, in actions, and at work; and meditative skill.
This essay is a comprehensive look at the Buddhist teaching on not-self. Realizing our lack of separateness relieves any suffering and helps us taste a sense of ultimate belonging and ease. While the idea of a lack of a separate self is challenging, it is actually fairly easy to experience and the essay presents a set of meditative exercises to do just that. To deepen the understanding, the essay includes a section that conceptually deconstructs the self and the lack of an essence in anything to see that all of existence is a vast, interconnected web.
If you are feeling frustrated by your meditation practice in some way, it is likely that your meditative effort needs adjusting. We often err in meditation by either straining or becoming too lax. We become more mindful only by employing a relaxed and precise effort directed solely at this present moment. Anything else does not work. Further, wise meditative effort acts as a training for taking effective action in the world.
Speech is one of the most powerful forces in our lives, with the potential to cause great harm or benefit. It is important enough that the Buddha made it one of the trainings of the eightfold path, his map of how the heart awakens. Does your speech reflect the wisdom and insight derived from your mindfulness practice? When you are more mindful of your speech you can connect that much more deeply with others.
In an amazing scientific feat, neuroscience can now map the neural correlates of every kind of mind state, from emotions to will to skills to even spiritual experiences. This essay focuses on the brain states of joy as well as the important scientific finding that meditation is one of the few activities that result in long-lasting changes to baseline happiness. Includes meditative practices based on neuroscience findings that help us release stress and cultivate more happiness.
This essay focuses on how meditation practice can help our hearts stay open and compassionate in the face of such horrors as the Dec. 14th, 2012 shooting of school children and their caretakers in Newtown, Conn. Recommendations include limiting exposure to media coverage of the event and practicing simple acts of kindness to help us reorient to the good in life. Practices: Compassion and Sympathetic Joy.
In an effort to help Buddhist meditators have more buy-in for the holidays, this essay casts Christmas and Hanukah in contemplative terms. Contemplative interpretations of these festivities are radically different from traditional ones, and have much in common with the spiritual insights that come from meditation.
This essay covers the limits of thinking mind and how such limits can help us take self judgment and other’s criticisms of us much more lightly. Includes the inquiry of relating to our judgments with the response, “I know this judgment is not true. But is it useful?”
This essay covers the power of gratitude as a spiritual practice and a balance to negative judgments. We create reality by what we chose to pay attention to and, given our negativity bias, gratitude is an essential reality need. Life tends to be much more full of blessings than our habitual patterns would have us believe.
A practical understanding of karma as mental habit. We can radically change our future by how we respond to the present moment. To understand karma is to take exquisite responsibility for our actions without blaming ourselves for a nanosecond.
In our culture of “lookin’ good and feelin’ good,” contemplating one’s mortality can seem morbid and depressing. Yet the Buddha taught that such contemplation can lead to a significant re-prioritizing of one’s life, where one’s choices, actions, and energy get more aligned with what one really wants. In short, death teaches us how to live more fully and courageously. Practice: The Five Daily Contemplations.
An essay for those whose personal mantra is more “um” than “om.” It outlines basic principles of working with doubt, from the debilitating effects of information overload to the false comfort of indecision. Practice: A mindful approach to making decisions.