A Month of Tonglen Meditation

Tonglen is a meditation where you visualize yourself inhaling the suffering of others (taking their suffering upon yourself), and exhaling love and compassion back to them. I did it for 30 minutes every day (almost) for the month of December. I’ve meditated before, but this was my first time doing Tonglen.


My goal was not to actually reduce the suffering of anyone else.  If that happened I wasn’t going to complain, but it wasn’t something that I expected.  Rather I hoped that Tonglen meditation would affect me. [Read more...]

A Month of Writing To Authors

Books by the four authors I contacted in October.

Ever read a book and wanted to talk to the author after? I have, but I never actually made an attempt to contact any authors… until last month.

In October I contacted a few authors who I’ve been wanting to contact for a while. I was hoping to send them all letters by snail mail (better chance of a response that way, I assumed) but could only find a mailing address for one of them. The others I sent by email or through website contact forms.

Here’s who I contacted…

Sam Harris – Atheist, Philosopher, Neuroscientist

After watching his TED talk on morality (it’s great) and thinking about what he said, I thought I’d found some exceptions to his idea that the “well-being of conscious creatures” is/should be the sole basis of morality. [Read more...]

A Month of Walking In A Forest Daily

Canada Geese & Sunrise Over River

Looking out from the edge of the forest that I visited most often.

Last month I started each day (except for 3) by walking in a forest. One day as I was walking through the forest far from the path, I noticed a deer about 50 meters away that was eating plants and meandering in my general direction. It hadn’t seen me yet, so I sat down among the ferns (so I couldn’t see it – and there was no way it could see me) and waited to see how close it would get.

About 5 minutes later it was about 10 meters away from me and finally noticed me sitting on the ground. I didn’t move, and stayed there on the ground, mostly looking away from the deer so as not to make it uncomfortable. The deer just stood there staring at me (as they often do) and stomping on the ground occasionally. After a few minutes of me sitting there while the deer stomped, the deer let out a sudden snort. The snort alarmed me, so I quickly stood up. As soon as I stood up the deer took off, making huge bounds through the forest with its white tail in the air, snorting loudly the whole time.

It then started making its way back towards me [Read more...]

Vipassana 10-Day Meditation Retreat Review

2 months ago* I did a 10-day meditation retreat, put on the by Dhamma.org organization (they have centers all over the world, including one a few hours from me). This will be a long review since there is a lot to say!

They teach a specific type of meditation called “Vipassana Meditation”. First I’ll explain what the whole thing was like, and then let you know my opinions on it.

The Rules

There a few strict rules that you have to follow during the retreat:

  • “Noble Silence” for the entire 10 days – no communication of any kind, including verbal communication, non-verbal communication (gestures), physical contact, or eye contact. There are 2 times each day when you can ask an assistant teacher questions if necessary, but otherwise the entire retreat is completely void of communication. Since I was a bit late on the first day, I didn’t get to meet the other students ahead of time, and had no idea what anyone else looked like until the last day when we were allowed to talk again.
  • Complete celibacy (no sexual activity of any kind)
  • Can’t kill any animal (including insects like mosquitos)
  • Can’t lie (not too hard since you can’t talk)
  • Can’t have any intoxicants (alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, etc)
  • Can’t have any reading or writing material
  • No physical exercise
  • No music
  • …and a few others

All the rules are to facilitate meditation, minimize distractions, and allow people to get as deep as possible with their introspection. [Read more...]