More from and about
Sylvia Boorstein
(biographical info at bottom of page)

  

I want to feel deeply, and whenever I am brokenhearted I emerge
more compassionate. I think I allow myself to be brokenhearted
more easily, knowing I won't be irrevocably shattered.

   

I think a lot about Big Mind-Small Mind, expansive, wide-lens consciousness and contracted, introverted consciousness.  I have moments--we all do--when just being alive is a pleasure and a miracle.  They feel like moments when the shutters of the mind are open so I can look out.  It also feels as if those same shutters have no hooks to fix them in an open position.  One small wind and bang--they slam shut.
  
  
The moment in which the mind acknowledge 'This isn't what I wanted, but it's what I got' is the point at which suffering disappears. Sadness might remain present, but the mind is free to console, free to support the mind's acceptance of the situation, free to allow space for new possibilities to come into view.

      
Mindfulness is the aware, balanced acceptance of the present experience.  It isn't more complicated that that.  It is opening to or receiving the present moment, pleasant or unpleasant, just as it is, without either clinging to it or rejecting it.
  
Change and loss and sadness and grief are the shared lot of all human beings ... we are all making our way from one end of life to the other hoping--for whatever intervals of time we can manage it--to feel safe and content and strong and at ease.
  
  
Mindfulness meditation doesn't change life. Life remains as fragile and unpredictable as ever. Meditation changes the heart's capacity to accept life as it is. It teaches the heart to be more accommodating, not by beating it into submission, but by making it clear that accommodation is a gratifying choice.
   

Heir to your own karma doesn't mean 'You get what you deserve.' I think it means 'You get what you get.' Bad things happen to good people. My happiness depending on my action means, to me, that it depends on my action of choosing compassion--for myself as well as for everyone else--rather than contention.

     

May I meet this moment fully.  May I meet it as a friend.

   

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Becoming aware of fragility, of temporality, of the fact that we will
surely all be lost to one another, sooner or later, mandates a clear
imperative to be totally kind and loving to each other always.

   

I love the phrase 'I am not afraid!'  Maybe it's the best phrase
we can say, other than 'I have everything I need.'  Maybe they are the same.

   

Some of my most precious moments of insight have been those in
which I have seen clearly that gratitude is the only possible response.

   
    
Sylvia Boorstein is a Buddhist Teacher and a cofounder of Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, California.  She has a Ph.D. in Psychology and teaches and lectures widely. She is the author of several books, including That's Funny, You Don't Look Buddhist and Pay Attention, For Goodness' Sake. She lives in Sonoma County, California.

Excerpt from an interview:

Could you tell our readers something about your own search for enlightenment and how you came to be on the Buddhist Path?

I discovered mindfulness meditation in 1977.  It is the typical meditation that the Buddhists have.  In the Pali Canon, which is the compilation of the earliest teachings of the Buddha, there are two principle teaching sermons where Buddha says, "This is what you should do." One of them is the Mindfulness Sermon and the other one is the Lovingkindness Sermon. What is interesting about the whole lesson of the Pali Canon is a continuing narrative of the life of the Buddha:  where he went, whom he taught, and the different teachings that he gave.  For the most part he did not give instructions for practice, he just probed his vision of the truth, of what a healthy, happy or a fulfilled life would be.  It is tremendously uplifting to read them because in many instances, he teaches and then the narrative describes how many people became completely free of all conditioning and became completely liberated.  The Mindfulness Sermon gives instructions for paying attention in your life in a really awakened and consistently conscious way.

Lovingkindness, which is a facet of mindfulness, is paying attention most specifically to the climate of your heart.  Is it open and loving or is it closed up and in self-serving mode?  You need to determine if it is frightened, overwhelmed, confused, and then do what you need to do. It is a very simple teaching.  I started it because it was the 1970's and people were doing all kinds of meditative practices for the first time.  It was a really wonderful time of spiritual surge in this country.  There were all kinds of things to do.  I tried a lot of them mostly because my husband was a tremendously spiritual seeker and adventurer and he would come home with great ideas to try.  I would go and be initiated into this or that.  Nothing was ever bad, but nothing actually captivated me until this did.  I went on a Mindfulness Retreat in 1977 and I have never left.

From my study with local Buddhist teachers, it seems to me that this teaching is more about daily practical living rather than abstract principles and studies.

That would be fair to say.  It is based more on daily living, but also on a daily sustained meditation practice that is quite simple and doesn't require abstract thought.  You could explain it to anyone:  Take some time quietly during the day by yourself. You can choose to walk back and forth in some place that clearly defines you, just paying attention to the sensations of your body and discovering how that makes you present and more awake--not only in that moment but in the rest of the day that follows.  Alternately, find a place to sit quietly for some period of time and focus on your bodily sensations and the coming and going of the breath.  Notice that your attention and focus becomes settled and refined in that very quiet and simple experience of just existing and sitting and breathing and being alive.  Then you are more aware and alert as you go about the rest of the day.

What does enlightenment mean to you?

I like to think I have an enlightened moment when I see clearly and respond wisely, when my actions are not colored by greed, hatred or delusion.  It's when wisdom predominates and not ignorance.  I think of those as enlightened moments.  I have more of them now than I did when I began studying the Buddha's teachings.  The mind freed from greed, hatred, or delusion is not a complicated thing.  We have plenty of times to recognize them, as these are liberated moments.  I'd certainly like to have more enlightened moments in my life.

  

  

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