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
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
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
It was a really wonderful time of spiritual surge in this
were all kinds of things to do. I tried a lot of them mostly
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.