A Mindful Blog


Join me as we explore mindfulness. Many of these posts are based on my in-progress book, Jane Austen and the Buddha. How Austen understood suffering and alleviating it shares much in common with the Buddha’s teachings centuries before. These same ideas are relevant for us as we navigate anxiety and grief during these uncertain times. 

“We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.” – Gautama Buddha

 

Feb
27

Crime and Punishment as Gift

    Crime and Punishment as Gift   “A book enters the life of an individual, a deep relation is formed, and the person changes in some significant way as a result of this engagement.” Stephen Bonnycastle     For Christmas, knowing I am a huge Harry Potter nerd, my daughter gave me a Slytherin-themed […]

Feb
20

Generations

    Generations   “… the sins of fathers are visited on their children to the third and fourth generation.” Horace Walpole, The Castle of Otranto     Recently, I looked in the mirror and saw my mother’s face. It was my face, of course, but for a moment it felt as I were once again […]

Feb
13

Love as Commandment

    Love as Commandment   “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Matthew 24:49     We don’t have to be Christians to see that Jesus’s fundamental commandment to love one another is, as he says, the foundation for all other commandments. We might also agree that it’s a shame that we have to […]

Feb
06

All Is Well

    All is Well   “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” Julian of Norwich     In the medieval era while England was still Catholic and long before the Age of Reason, mysticism held great respect. During this time lived a woman called […]

Jan
30

Quesadillas, Muffins, and Decisions

    Quesadillas, Muffins, and Decisions   “Just decide to be more decisive.” Chidi Anagonye, The Good Place   I was once on a committee charged with infusing our university’s curriculum with critical thinking as it pertains to decision making. At one of the meetings, the committee chair asked what we had for dinner the […]

Jan
23

Fearless vs. Brave

    Fearless vs. Brave   “When you’re scared but you still do it anyway, that’s brave.” Neil Gaiman, Coraline       When Neil Gaiman’s five-year-old daughter asked him for a children’s horror book, he was happy to oblige. When he went to the local bookstore to buy her one, he discovered clerks shocked […]

Jan
16

An Ordinary Day

    An Ordinary Day   “About suffering they were never wrong, The Old Masters: how well they understood Its human position: how it takes place While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;” W.H. Auden, Musée des Beaux Arts     Early twentieth-century British poet W.H. Auden used […]

Jan
09

Stopping Time

    Stopping Time   “Time is thus understood in Buddhism always to be inseparable from things as ever-changing.” Masao Abe, Zen and Comparative Studies     Most of us feel pretty celebratory about the passage of time with the shift away from the challenging year of 2020 to what we hope is a more […]

Jan
02

The Grief Store

    The Grief Store   “The sorrow of great and small losses is a river that runs in the underground of all our lives.” Roshi Joan Halifax       I shared with a dear friend recently that I had such a surplus of grief that I could open a grief store if anyone […]

Dec
26

Old Friends and New Perspectives

    Old Friends and New Perspectives   “Should auld acquaintance be forgot, And never brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot, And auld lang syne?” Robert Burns, “Auld Lang Syne?”   At the end of the movie When Harry Met Sally, the title characters have an epiphany at a New Year’s Eve Party […]

Dec
19

Anxiety, Buddy the Elf, Linus, and the Dalai Lama

    Anxiety, Buddy the Elf, Linus, and the Dalai Lama   “Treat every day like Christmas.” Buddy the Elf     Anxiety is an important evolutionary adaptation that has kept our species alive. It also feels lousy. Unlike fear, which is focused on something or someone specific, anxiety is more a diffuse feeling that […]

Dec
12

Christmas Ghosts

    Christmas Ghosts   “There’ll be scary ghost stories And tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago.””   George Wyle and Eddie Pola, It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year     I’ve always found the line about “scary ghost stories” in the Andy Williams classic Christmas carol a bit jarring, […]

Dec
05

Why the Grinch Stole Christmas

    Why the Grinch Stole Christmas   “The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season! Now, please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason.” Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas     With all due respect to Dr. Seuss, I think I know the reason. But before I can share it, […]

Nov
28

The Downside of Hope

    The Downside of Hope   “There’s a hope in hopeless, so things are looking up.” Whitehorse, Trophy Wife     Western culture values hope. In The Divine Comedy, fourteenth-century Italian poet Dante Alighieri inscribed above the gates of hell, “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” Once in hell, there’s no escape from […]

Nov
21

It’s A Wonderful Life

    It’s A Wonderful Life   “Remember, George: no man is a failure who has friends.” Clarence Odbody, Angel Second Class   I promise I’m not skipping Thanksgiving to get right to Christmas. Though It’s a Wonderful Life became a classic Christmas film thanks to the closing scenes celebrating Christmas, for me, the movie […]

Nov
14

Suffering and Magical Thinking

    Suffering and Magical Thinking   “Ye who listen with credulity to the whispers of fancy, and pursue with eagerness the phantoms of hope; who expect that age will perform the promises of youth, and that the deficiencies of the present day will be supplied by the morrow, attend to history of Rasselas, Prince […]

Nov
07

True Love

    True Love   “All You Need is Love.” The Beatles     I am not going to offer political commentary because there’s plenty of that already floating around. However, the current political atmosphere makes me want to write about love and suggest that everyone listen to The Beatles because there’s an awful lot […]

Oct
31

The Disappeared Door

    The Disappeared Door   “Don’t think that happiness will be possible only when conditions around you become perfect. Happiness lies in your own heart.” Thich Nhat Hanh     You may have noticed there was no new blog entry last week. Life became quite difficult, and I couldn’t manage to write one. This […]

Oct
16

The Poison of Ignorance and Death Eaters

    The Poison of Ignorance and Death Eaters   “After all, to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.” J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone   According to Buddhism, ignorance is not bliss. It’s one of the three poisons, alongside craving and anger, that leads to suffering. Ignorance refers […]

Oct
09

Othello and the Poison of Anger

  Othello and the Poison of Anger   “Heat not a furnace for your foe so hot / That it do singe yourself.” William Shakespeare, Henry VII     As described in the last post, the Buddha taught that three poisons lead to suffering: craving, ignorance, and anger. Anger is an emotion, and there is […]

Oct
02

The Three Poisons Craving and The Great British Baking Show

    The Three Poisons Craving and The Great British Baking Show   Mel: This week it’s all about stressed. Sue: Stressed? Mel: “Desserts” backwards     According to Buddhism, there are three poisons that produce suffering: ignorance, anger, and craving, and craving makes me think of The Great British Baking Show. If you’re not […]

Sep
25

Right Mindfulness and Petite Women Who Kick Butt

    Right Mindfulness and Petite Women Who Kick Butt   “Four ounces can move a thousand pounds.” Mulan     I once had a student come up to me outside of class and say, “Are you always this tall?” I guess with the change in perspective of standing right next to me rather than […]

Sep
18

Harry Potter and the Practice of Right Action

    Harry Potter and the Practice of Right Action   “It is our actions, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” JK Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets   SPOILER ALERT! Go read all of Harry Potter and then come back. I’ll wait.   Headmaster Albus Dumbledore […]

Sep
11

Right Diligence and The Office

    Right Diligence and The Office   “Work smart, not hard.” Every Teacher Ever     Spoiler Alert Warning: The Office         No show exemplifies Right Diligence quite so much as The Office. I should warn you that spoilers are below. If you haven’t watched The Office, get on that. There […]

Sep
04

Right Concentration and Dug the Dog

    Right Concentration and Dug the Dog   “Squirrel!” Dug, Up     Dug, for non-Disney fans, is a dog from the movie Up. He’s able to speak thanks to a special collar and can be engaged in conversation, when, yep, he sees a squirrel, yells “Squirrel!” and there he goes. Dug’s problem is […]

Aug
28

Right Speech — An Essential Skill

    Right Speech — An Essential Skill   “Say only what is well-intended, true, beneficial, timely, expressed without harshness or malice, and — ideally — what is wanted.” Rick Hanson, Budhha’s Brain     Speak the truth kindly and consistently. That seems straightforward. My love of advice columns proves that it’s by no means […]

Aug
21

Right Livelihood and Compassion

    Right Livelihood and Compassion   “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great […]

Aug
14

Gator Girls

    Gator Girls   This week’s offering is off topic a bit. August 15 marks one year since my mother’s death, and she’s been very much on my mind. I wrote this piece for my university’s literary journal, The Sandhill Review.  The theme was belonging.   It was 2006 when I realized something was […]

Aug
07

Right Thinking and the Problem of Cow Paths

    Right Thinking and the Problem of Cow Paths   “That is why I don’t believe much in what Mr. Descartes said: ‘I think, therefore I am.’ I think, therefore I’m lost in my thinking. I’m not there.” Thich Nhat Hanh     I am an over thinker. I once had a friend say […]

Jul
31

Getting Right View Wrong

    Getting Right View Wrong   “How quick come the reasons for approving what we like!”  Jane Austen, Persuasion     When it comes to the Eightfold Path, we don’t master the first step and then move on to the next. They are interconnected. For the sake of understanding, though, let’s revisit just one: […]

Jul
24

The Fourth Noble Truth

    The Fourth Noble Truth   “If we live according to the Noble Eightfold Path, we cultivate well-being and our life will be filled with joy, ease, and wonder.” Thich Nhat Hanh, The Heart of the Budhha’s Teaching     The Buddha devoted his teachings to the causes and cure for suffering. The First […]

Jul
17

The Story of the Buddha and the Third Noble Truth

    The Story of the Buddha and the Third Noble Truth   “It is good to tame the mind, which is difficult to hold in and flighty, rushing wherever it listeth; a tamed mind brings happiness.” Gautama Buddha, The Dhammapada     Buddhism is a non-theistic religion. The Buddha is not a god to be […]

Jul
10

The Story of Anxiety

    The Story of Anxiety   “What makes us suffer is the way we think about what’s happening.” Pema Chodron, No Time to Lose     As noted in the previous post, anxiety causes suffering and is also an important psychological adaptation. We all experience anxiety. But we don’t all experience it the same […]

Jul
03

“We were built by natural selection, and natural selection works to maximize genetic proliferation, period. In addition to not caring about the truth per se, it doesn’t care about our long-term happiness.”

  “We were built by natural selection, and natural selection works to maximize genetic proliferation, period. In addition to not caring about the truth per se, it doesn’t care about our long-term happiness.” Robert Wright, Why Buddhism is True             Remember that the First Noble Truth is that life includes […]

Jun
26

“Pain is inevitable, but suffering is truly optional.”

  “Pain is inevitable, but suffering is truly optional.” Sister Dang Nghiem, Mindfulness as Medicine: A Story of Healing Body and Spirit     Why Jane Austen and the Buddha instead of Austen and mindfulness? After all, mindfulness is the buzzword today. Think of all of the magazine covers touting mindfulness staring at you in […]

Jun
19

Austen, the Buddha, Reading, and Me

“And then I knew: I read and reread Persuasion alongside Buddhism because it is a novel about suffering. In fact, all of Austen’s novels, even the most comedic, are about suffering, and the successful heroines are those who cope with their suffering in Buddhist fashion.”   Austen, the Buddha, Reading, and Me              Ever […]