The Taliban may have destroyed the two historic Buddha statues of Bamiyan, but in a sort of compensation, three new statues have been excavated by Afghan archaeologists in the historic city of Mes Aynak. These aren’t giant sculptures, like the ones at Bamiyan were, but they’re still life size and one has escaped damage by looters.
The earliest Buddhist remains in the city are almost 2,000 years old. Mes Aynak, an important stop on the Silk Road, was at the peak of its prosperity between the fifth and seventh centuries. It went into decline in the eighth century and the settlement was finally abandoned 200 years later.
The Buddhist ruins were scheduled to be destroyed at the end of July 2012 for the purposes of mining copper, but for reasons that include political instability, this has been delayed, although the destruction may take place later this year.
Wildmind helped sponsor the making of a documentary, Saving Mes Aynak, by Brent E. Huffman, showing the work that archaeologists are undertaking in order to retrieve as much as possible of the ancient city’s precious past.
You can help save priceless discoveries like these by buying a limited-edition film poster today. The proceeds of these poster sales go to Afghan archaeologists working at Mes Aynak.
Living With Awareness is a 28 day meditation event exploring the practice of mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the gentle effort to be continuously present with our experience. When we’re not mindful, we get carried away with our thoughts and emotions, which leads to stress, anxiety, depression, anger, and distractedness.
When the quality of mindfulness is present, we have a greater ability to choose our thoughts and emotions. It has been clinically proven to reduce stress, promote feelings of wellbeing, and improve mental and physical health.
Signing up for this 28-day event gives you access to:
Emails (three times a week) with practice suggestions
Access to guided meditations
Support in our online community
We’ll be exploring the practice of mindfulness not only in meditation but in daily life, through the lens of the “Four Foundations of Mindfulness,” in which we cultivate mindfulness of the body, feelings, the mind, and patterns of mental states.
This event is suitable for people of all levels of experience, including complete beginners.
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How to Register
Registration for Living With Awareness (Feb 1–28) is now open!
Running these events is a full-time activity, and we can’t make them available without donations from participants. Please select a contribution level from the drop-down list below. After you make a donation you’ll be redirected to a page where you can sign up for the event. Or you can choose to make a donation later.
When I find myself awake in the middle of the night, perhaps after a trip to the bathroom or a weird dream, I often practice some kind of meditation to quiet my over-active mind. I’ll usually pay attention to my breathing, or do a body scan, and most times this will help me calm down and nod off.
But could meditating in the middle of the night create its own problems? Someone asked me whether this practice could either lead to us developing the habit of falling asleep during meditation, or keep us awake because mindfulness is so associated with alert attention that we can’t fall asleep.
I don’t think the first is much of a danger; we’re not likely to end up training ourselves to fall asleep in meditation. What happens when we can’t sleep is that intrusive mental activity inhibits the normal physiological mechanism that causes sleep. By being more mindful of the body, we let go of that mental activity, stop inhibiting sleep, and nod off. But in normal meditation (unless you’re already very tired) the physiological mechanism leading to sleep isn’t active, and so you’re not likely to drop off.
Not only can the second problem happen, but it’s something I’ve experienced many times. Meditation isn’t just about relaxation, but involves the arising of counter-balancing “active” qualities like curiosity, interest, and physical arousal. While calmness and relaxation are more likely to predominate when we meditate in order to get to sleep, sometimes alertness will prevail, so that we find ourselves in a “perked up” state that isn’t conducive to nodding off. But if that happens, I think it’s just a signal that we need to take another approach.
I find that visualizing soothing but boring imagery works rather well. For example I’ll imagine rain pattering on the leaves of a tree, on a particularly gray and dismal day. This counteracts the thought patterns and the emotional arousal that prevent sleep from happening, but it makes for a dull experience, and so I don’t get excited about it. I sometimes suspect that I fall asleep just so that I can dream about something more interesting!? This isn’t classic meditation, obviously, but it’s a good way of applying the principles of meditation in order to bring about a desired result — in this case a good night’s sleep.
One way that middle-of-the-night meditation has backfired on me has been when I’ve woken from an anxious dream, and taken my attention to the feeling of anxiety. Normally what I’d do is to give the anxiety some compassionate attention, and to sooth myself by being aware of the breathing down in the belly. But recently I’ve found that if I try being mindful in the middle of the night, my experience of the body changes radically. The body’s solidity and sense of form dissolves away, and I’m left with an experience of a translucent cloud of sensations hovering in space. The first couple of times this happened there was a “What the heck?” reaction that led to me remaining awake, seemingly for hours, just observing this phenomenon. But now that I’m used to this happening, I quite quickly get back to sleep again. Perhaps a general lesson is that if using meditation to overcome insomnia doesn’t work at first, keep going. It may be something that you need to persist with.
I haven’t read the book I’m about to introduce, but I’m familiar with the author and the advance information about it makes it sound interesting.
Uncovering Happiness: Overcoming Depression with Mindfulness and Self-Compassion is written by psychologist and bestselling author Elisha Goldstein, PhD. It shows us the science of natural anti-depressants and gives us the practices to unlock them, building new neural structures to uncover genuine happiness.
We now know that we can use our minds to change our brains, but Dr. Goldstein’s Uncovering Happiness reveals techniques that help us break our negative habit loops and release these five natural anti-depressants in the brain: mindfulness, self-compassion, purpose, play and developing confidence—ultimately creating a natural anti-depressant brain.
The book integrates the findings of hundreds of academic studies and dozens of interviews with mindfulness teachers, psychologists, neuroscientists and researchers. There are also stories of many people who have used these teachings to find their personal pathway to healing.
This book contains a message of hope: Having experienced bouts of anxiety, depression or being just down in the dumps doesn’t mean you have to suffer from it in the future. As Goldstein says, “Science and thousands of people’s experience are showing that these seven simple elements can help us take back control of our minds, our moods and our lives.”
The book comes out on January 27th. You can pre-order a copy and receive the free bonus of Dr. Goldstein’s “Uncovering Happiness Training” – A 90 Minute presentation that take you step-by-step through the elements of Uncovering Happiness, by visiting the author’s site.