Jack Kornfield

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Jack Kornfield, PhD, trained as a Buddhist monk in Thailand, Burma, and India and has taught worldwide since 1974. He is one of the key teachers to introduce Buddhist mindfulness practices to the West. He holds a PhD in clinical psychology and is the co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society and of Spirit Rock Center in Woodacre, California. He has written more than a dozen books including The Wise Heart; A Path With Heart; After the Ecstasy, the Laundry; and more.

Listen to Tami Simon's in-depth audio podcast interviews with Jack Kornfield:
Big Insights: The Power of Awareness to Change Your Life »
Difficult Times & Liberation »

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3 Simple Habits of a Loving Kindness Practice

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Are you interested in studying loving kindness more in-depth? Check out Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach’s The Power of Awareness, a 7-week mindfulness training and community mentoring program beginning February 18, 2020. Can’t wait? Take advantage of the free video teachings.

 

“A little kingdom I possess, where thoughts and feelings dwell; and very hard the task I find of governing it well.”
—Louisa May Alcott

In his video Seeing the Goodness, Jack Kornfield refers to the practice of loving kindness as “seeing the original innocence, dignity, and beauty of another.”

At first glance, this might sound like a simple thing to do. But what makes loving kindness (also known as lovingkindness) a practice rather than a feeling?

I believe we all have the capacity to embrace loving kindness in our daily lives. Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s an easy task. When I sat down to do one of Jack Kornfield’s loving kindness meditations (find it here), I found it surprisingly difficult. Cross-legged on the carpet, I pushed my headphones into my ears and listened carefully to every word—until I couldn’t anymore, and I turned it off.

For the rest of the day, I wondered, why? I think of myself as a kind person. Plus, I meditate fairly regularly. So what was it about this practice I found so difficult?

I ruminated and ruminated. Finally, as I lay in bed drifting off to sleep the other night, the answer came to me at once. My whole life, I’ve been doing it backward—extending love to others and then, only at the end, if there was space left, extending it out to myself. And there isn’t always space left.

WHAT IS LOVING KINDNESS?

loving kindness practice hand

Loving kindness is not just about empathy, presence, and listening in regards to others. It is part of the difficult inner work we all face. This is the work of finding self-forgiveness, releasing shame and guilt, and loving ourselves for exactly who we are. Loving kindness is kind of like looking at ourselves and expressing love—then letting that love reverberate, like two mirrors reflecting one another into infinity.

“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.”
—Confucius

It’s a practice of recognizing our own inner beauty and watching it manifest as love and healthy attachment in our relationships. It’s about embracing compassion as a state of enlightenment, as the highest nature of ourselves and the true nature of God. It’s about seeing beyond guilt and shame to the fundamental, universal innocence of all beings.

The origins of the word innocent are various. They are even more fascinating when taken together. In the 12th century, the word inocent (Old French) meant simply “harmless; not guilty; pure.” The prefix, in, meaning not or un-, is attached to the suffix nocere (Latin), meaning “to harm.” Nocere itself originated from the root nek-, meaning “death.” In that regard, we can read innocence as meaning not harmful or not deathful; not yielding death. Infinite.

GENTLE HABITS FOR CULTIVATING LOVING KINDNESS

loving kindness practice habitsI don’t think I’m alone in finding it easier to extend compassion to others than to myself. And I don’t think I’m alone in experiencing repeated bouts of resentment and sadness toward people I love—probably partly from expecting to receive my self-worth from them.

So, how do you get started on something that seems so simple, but isn’t?

Here are three small, but profound, ways to gently maintain a lovingkindness practice.

GROUNDING

What helps you relax? Write down a list of things that help you feel calm, creative and focused. Maybe you feel better after a long shower or bath. I know people who absolutely love puzzling, coloring and Sodoku for this. It can be talking to a good friend, taking a walk, spending some time in nature, or curling up with a good book, watching television, meditating, or yoga. The list can be as long as you want!

As you practice loving kindness, begin to recognize whenever you feel uprooted: instead of compassionate, you might feel irritated, resentful, or bitter. You might feel afraid instead of loving. You might feel defensive instead of communicative. Hold these grounding practices close to your heart and use them whenever needed. They are for you.

SELF-COMPASSION

Jack Kornfield writes in A Path with Heart: A Guide Through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life, “Much of spiritual life is self-acceptance, maybe all of it.” One of the things that’s hard about lovingkindness, I think, is that it’s possible to feel loving of others while quietly holding onto self-doubt. Whether it’s daily, weekly, or multiple times a day, make a plan for checking in with yourself: How are those inner voices speaking to you right now?

Once you do this enough, it becomes a habit, maybe even automatic. You can get to know these voices, and they can get to know you. They will learn what can and cannot be tolerated and that you value being treated gently, just as you wish to treat others. It is a vital first step on the path toward loving kindness—one that, for many, is the most difficult, but affects our spiritual practice from every direction.

GRATITUDE

Gratitude is like an orb of everything you want from loving kindness. It is a way to thank yourself, others, and the Universe all at once.  The closest to real peace I’ve ever felt was in a moment of gratitude. I felt suspended in the air.

In a grateful space of consciousness, it is much easier to have compassion for others. We can see further into different perspectives. We can have mercy on ourselves. Gratitude is not about removing boundaries, but about understanding this moment as an irreplaceable one. It’s about comprehending that each person is infinitely unique, including you.

 

ABOUT JACK KORNFIELD

Jack Kornfield Author Photo
Jack Kornfield, PhD, trained as a Buddhist monk in Thailand, Burma, and India and has taught worldwide since 1974. He is one of the key teachers to introduce Buddhist mindfulness practices to the West. He holds a PhD in clinical psychology and is the co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society and of Spirit Rock Center in Woodacre, California. He has written more than a dozen books including The Wise Heart; A Path With HeartAfter the Ecstasy, the Laundry; and more.

ABOUT THE AUTHORDani Ferrara Blogger Author Photo

When she isn’t writing, playing music or teaching, Dani Ferrara blogs at Sounds True and researches the alchemy of healing. Explore her art at daniferrarapoet.com.

Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach: Big Insights: The Power...

Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach are two of the leading authorities on mindfulness and meditation in the West. Jack is the bestselling author and teacher widely credited with combining mindfulness with modern western psychology. Tara has been teaching meditation for more than four decades and is the author of Radical Acceptance and True Refuge. In this special edition of Insights at the Edge originally recorded in 2015, Tami Simon sits down with both Jack and Tara to discuss the big insights that form the foundation of mindfulness practice. They speak on the concept of awareness itself and how to distinguish “awareness” from “thinking.” Tara and Jack share some of the everyday benefits of a meditation practice, including personal clarity and more conscious relationships. Finally, Jack, Tara, and Tami have a frank conversation on how awareness training could affect the state of the world. (60 minutes)

Jack Kornfield: Difficult Times & Liberation

Jack Kornfield is a world-renowned teacher and one of the key figures to introduce Buddhist mindfulness practice to the West. He is the author of many books and audio programs, including The Wise Heart and After the Ecstasy, the Laundry. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Jack and Tami Simon discuss Buddhist views of how best to navigate periods of difficulty and heartache. Jack reflects on four decades of personal meditation practice and how this has informed how he works with students. Jack and Tami also explore insights into the nature of suffering, whether or not it is possible to be liberated even in spite of our neuroses, and what is meant by ”the crystal of liberation.”
(49 minutes)

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Mindful Movement: Walking Meditation 101

The Here and Now

What if you could change your life by doing one thing for just ten seconds each day? What if this thing would make you more contented, more grounded, and less stressed?

Welcome to mindfulness.

We spend almost all of our time worrying about two things: what has already happened (the past) and what hasn’t happened yet (the future). This only makes us miserable. The past is over, so there’s nothing we can do about it. And the future isn’t something we should be thinking about right now—unless we’re taking concrete action toward a goal.

Mindfulness breaks us out of this pattern by turning our awareness to the simple moments of life as they happen. We laser in on our senses as we’re experiencing them, and we feel them deeply.

So, the way to “be deep” is to focus on what’s going on right now.

I have two favorite ways to zap into the present moment.

The first way is to briefly tune in to my breath a few times a day. Set an alarm on your watch or phone to go off at three set times during the day. When it goes off, close your eyes and take three deep breaths. Notice how the breath feels as it flows in and out. Let go of whatever else is going on in your mind. Then open your eyes and go back to your day.

The second way is to tune in to the little details of the day. Say you’re picking up a water bottle. Consider this: How does the bottle feel in your hand? Is it heavy or light? When you take a sip of the water, how does it feel on your tongue? Is it cool or warm? What does it taste like? Try this exercise with one small act each day.

deepMINDFUL MOVEMENT: Walking Meditation

Walking meditation is a great way to de-stress and get centered while moving your body and getting some fresh air. It takes only a few minutes, so you can do it almost anywhere.

  1. The next time you’re walking down the street, start by getting your senses alert. Tune in to the pace of your steps and fall into the rhythm of the steps. What do they sound like?
  2. Turn your attention to an object you see as you’re walking. It might be a sign, a tree, or a building. Look intently at that object and observe it without labeling it. Just notice it.
  3. Now turn your attention to the noises that surround you. Don’t label them. Just listen.
  4. Finally, turn your attention to your breathing. Is it fast and shallow or slow and deep? Take a few deep breaths and continue with your steady pace.
  5. When you finish your walking meditation, take a minute and pause before reentering your day. Notice the way your body and mind feel. Carry that alertness and presence with you into the rest of your day

walking meditation

This is an excerpt from the chapter “Be Deep” from Whole Girl: Live Vibrantly, Love Your Entire Self, and Make Friends with Food by Sadie Radinsky.

 

sadie radinskySadie Radinsky is a 19-year-old blogger and recipe creator. For over six years, she has touched the lives of girls and women worldwide with her award-winning website, wholegirl.com, where she shares paleo treat recipes and advice for living an empowered life. She has published articles and recipes in national magazines and other platforms, including Paleo, Shape, Justine, mindbodygreen, and The Primal Kitchen Cookbook. She lives in the mountains of Los Angeles. For more, visit wholegirl.com.

 

 

 

 

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The Trauma-Trigger Cycle

When you are stuck with old unprocessed experiences living inside you, they can create what I call a trauma-trigger cycle because they are still very much alive in our systems.

Here’s my analogy to help you understand how this works and why it causes so much trouble. Imagine that you have a very difficult experience, for example, having to say goodbye to a sick pet. All of the details in the form of individual feelings, smells, images, sounds, and more get bundled up and deposited into a metaphorical glass trauma capsule—which gets stored in the body. It sits there with all of the old feelings we experienced at the time the event happened. While you might not be aware of it constantly, you are likely feeling those emotions at a low level all the time. When any current situation reminds you of any of those details hanging out in the capsule—either consciously or subconsciously—the old trauma gets “poked,” or reactivated. This is how we get triggered. Being triggered can bring up flashes of those memories, including images, feelings, and any sensory stimuli.

For the most part, except in certain cases of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from major life events, where sometimes the trigger is known, this trauma-trigger reaction actually happens at a subconscious level, outside of your awareness. Even in obvious situations, you may think you know what the trigger is, and try to avoid it, but it may be something totally different that got stuck in the metaphorical glass trauma capsule. Often, people come to me and say, “Nothing set this off,” “I’m depressed for no reason,” or “I suddenly started feeling terrible but nothing happened.” While this may seem true, I can bet on the fact that while the bad feelings might seem random, they are being triggered in some way that you simply haven’t yet identified. Triggers can be foods, colors, smells,sounds, weather, or anything, really! Finding and resolving triggers can become almost an entertaining game if you let it.

As you can imagine, this entire trauma-trigger dynamic is very unsettling and unpredictable—which can feel like danger to your system and keep you stuck in that freakout response. Not only that, but in this state, you can actually be excessively tuned in to your trauma, seeing reminders of it everywhere, which further traumatizes you.

I had an experience after going through a loved one’s difficult health crisis where every single place I looked, I saw reminders of the experience. And for someone who wonders if everything is some greater “sign from the Universe” (fact: not every single thing is) or my intuition is trying to get my attention because another loved one might be in danger (second fact: trauma and fear clouds intuition), it felt like torture to me. I kept meeting people who had the same illness that my loved one had had, saw posters and billboards advertising medications for the condition, and more. As a distraction while on vacation, I had deliberately picked out several seemingly lighthearted books to take—and it turned out a character in every single book had that same medical condition! I was constantly on edge and further traumatized by all of these things. This is a perfect example of what happens to us in a traumatized state: we become highly attuned to the world around us, perhaps subconsciously scanning for danger, but in the process, we see and get triggered by everyday things we’ve probably passed by a million times before. I realized that had I been tuned in to any other single thing out in the world, like peaches, I likely would have seen that everywhere. This recognition actually led to a funny mantra I used during that time to keep things light while I did the deeper healing work: Look for the peaches! But in all seriousness, what happened as I worked to release the trauma, just like you’ll be doing in this chapter, was that I stopped seeing reminders of it. I have to be honest in that this took months of using energy therapy in different ways to overcome the trauma I had experienced, like you’ll be learning soon—but it worked. Did all the people with this condition go away? Did all the billboards get taken down? No. The less traumatized I became, the less heightened my sensitivity to it was. This is a perfect example of why it’s essential to work with unprocessed experiences.

Emotional memory is stored throughout the entire body. Thanks to the work of Candace Pert, we know that “unexpressed emotions from experiences can get stuck in the body at the level of cellular memory.” This is such a simple explanation for why we feel bad when we haven’t resolved our past experiences. We are still quite literally feeling them. And even if it’s at a subtle level, it may only take a “trigger” from that metaphorical glass capsule to awaken it.

While your own unprocessed experiences may not disrupt your life in the way that clinically diagnosed PTSD does, you may relate to what it feels like to have PTSD, when one or a few memories from life takes over all of it. This is, again, why we must deal effectively and consistently with our emotions instead of suppressing them. Otherwise, we are at risk of our emotions becoming part of future unresolved experiences.

Even knowing all of this, there’s no need to panic. Again, not all experiences traumatize you. And, not all traumas will need to be dealt with in order to get you feeling better. But the ones that do need careful attention. I want you to understand that by working with trauma, we are not trying to force a positive perspective on it or make you be okay with something bad that happened to you. Not at all. What we want to do is release the stress it’s causing you, even if that stress is undetected consciously. We don’t want these traumas taking up space and energy in your body anymore or triggering you without your knowledge.

Working with unprocessed experiences will help empty the metaphorical glass trauma capsule so we stop becoming triggered by the world around us. In other words, you’ll be seeing peaches more easily instead of trauma triggers.

This is an excerpt from How to Heal Yourself From Depression When No One Else Can: A Self-Guided Program to Stop Feeling Like Sh*t by Amy B. Scher.

 

amy b scherAmy B. Scher is an energy therapist, expert in mind-body healing, and the bestselling author of How to Heal Yourself When No One Else Can and How to Heal Yourself from Anxiety When No One Else Can. She has been featured in the Times of India, CNN, HuffPost, CBS, the Washington Post, Cosmopolitan, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Curve magazine, and San Francisco Book Review. Scher was also named one of the Advocate’s “40 Under 40.” She lives in New York City. For more, visit amybscher.com.

 

 

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The Importance of Being Vulnerable

Emotions are the primary way we connect with others. In fact, for all the ways we perceive that sharing our emotions causes trouble, it’s actually worse for us not to. Sharing our truest, most vulnerable selves actually prevents us from the isolation that occurs when we miss out on the deep connection that only comes from this type of transparency. While social media can be a place of great support, it’s also caused a huge challenge. Because we’ve created a world in which we are addicted to showing our curated emotions, social media posts rarely tell the entire story. We’ve gotten accustomed to holding back our real selves—so much, in fact, that we have a totally distorted view of what’s “real.”

On a wet fall day as I was researching the negative effects of social media for this book, I noticed that a heavy sense of melancholy had fallen over me. Pushing myself to go out for a short walk in my beloved Central Park, only a block away, took every ounce of energy I had. When I was out, my sadness didn’t fade, but astounded by the colorful change of leaves, I felt inspired to take a handful of photos. They were the kind that Instagram is made of. When I got home, I decided to post them on social media. But earlier that day I had read something that was still with me: what happened when Tracy Clayton, host of the BuzzFeed podcast Another Round, asked people to repost photos they’d previously shared on social media, but this time, with the “real story” behind them. The photos that most of us would have longed for had painful stories behind them. One woman admitted to a terrible anxiety attack that took her all day to overcome, someone else shared the grief over a loss of a loved one stuffed under their smile at a party, and so on. What this shows us is that we are all running after a farce. But what’s worse, it shows that we’re all co-creating it.

So after a brief pause, I posted my gorgeous fall photos from the park with this: Full disclosure: Inspired by research for my next book about how social media posts screw us up by making everything and everyone seem OK even when they are not, I’m adding the truth here. These pictures were taken on a walk I dragged myself on because I felt sad today for no particular reason (except for that life is a lot sometimes).

I am typically not a sad person, nor am I one who shares it on social media when I am. I am very transparent on my author account, but for some reason, I am less so on my personal page. The response that day when I shared how I really felt took me by great surprise. Dozens of people I rarely heard from came out of the blue with comments, texts, and private messages. And what most of them were saying was, “I feel that way too.” In our technological age, we are more connected than ever before, but also lonelier and more isolated than ever before. I wondered that day, What if everyone stopped staying so busy pretending everything was perfect? What if instead of hiding our vulnerabilities to prevent the isolation we fear, we are driving it?

The bottom line is that, over and over again, I’ve learned that emotions are better in every way when they aren’t kept inside and to myself. 

This is an excerpt from How to Heal Yourself From Depression When No One Else Can: A Self-Guided Program to Stop Feeling Like Sh*t by Amy B. Scher.

 

amy scherAmy B. Scher is an energy therapist, expert in mind-body healing, and the bestselling author of How to Heal Yourself When No One Else Can and How to Heal Yourself from Anxiety When No One Else Can. She has been featured in the Times of India, CNN, HuffPost, CBS, the Washington Post, Cosmopolitan, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Curve magazine, and San Francisco Book Review. Scher was also named one of the Advocate’s “40 Under 40.” She lives in New York City. For more, visit amybscher.com.

 

 

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