November 5, 2012

Changing My Mind, Year After Year

    “The greatest miracle is the miracle of learning”  
    – Buddha

Asked to reflect on how I have changed my mind and perspective over years of Dharma  practice and teaching, I recognize that I have changed my mind about a hundred things. Effort in meditation is one example. I used to think that to become free you had to practice like a samurai warrior, but now I understand that you have to practice like a devoted mother of a newborn child. It takes the same energy but has a completely different quality. It’s unwavering compassion and presence that liberates rather than having to defeat the enemy in battle.

Here’s another thing: I used to think that sitting in meditation was enough, that it would really change everything in your life in a whole and complete way. For a few people, it might work out that way, but in general, it ain’t so. For most of us, meditation is one part of a whole mandala of awakening, which includes attention to your body, attention to your relationships, attention to right speech and right livelihood.

I used to think that deeper, better meditation and practice was happening in the centers in Asia than what we could teach here in America, and that for the real thing you had to go to Thailand or Burma or India or Tibet. Many of us who studied in Asia used to think that, and maybe some still do. But now, when I go back to Asia, I realize that beautiful deep practice is happening in Burma and Thailand and India and Tibet, and the same beautiful deep practice is happening here, at our centers and in our lives, and I think, “Oh, that was just a delusion I had.”

Wherever you are is the perfect place to awaken. This moment is the exact place to practice compassion and loving awareness. You have all the ingredients to breathe and find freedom just where you are.

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24 Responses to Changing My Mind, Year After Year

  1. Diane Kerner says:

    I love how deeply it seems that everything you say resonates with me (and obviously many others). I am so grateful. Deep bow.

  2. Terry Sherwood says:

    Thanks for this. Could you please let us know which sutta the Buddha quote is taken from?

  3. otis boyles says:


  4. Betsy Blossom says:

    Thank you for this reflection and for the Monday night with Ajahn Amaro. You two bring out the very best in each other! It was a joyful experience.
    All good wishes,

  5. Valeta Bruce says:

    Dear Jack,

    Thank you for this Awakened Wisdom that touches on the split between opinions that indicate and sometimes implore there is a right way to approach meditation – As you have shared on retreat, this is the same split of duality we experience within as well as in our societies throughout the world – an internal fundamentalism.

    Calming the mental storm that drives us to perfectionism in our practices, may be a place to rest from fear and transform our selves as you’ve consistently suggested with felt empathy that leads to embodied Wisdom.

    It has been said that the little way to the Big Way is wrought with Mara’s intrusion when actually Mara may be helping us in showing us ever more clearly what and how to let go into our True Nature. I am grateful for these lessons, and in All Ways, grateful for decades of your wise generosity.

    May you be well, safe, peaceful and happy! Valeta

  6. Luke McKean says:

    Thanks for your wonderful words Jack. I love listening to your podcasts on on my way to work on the train in the morning. Puts a smile on my face and love in my heart!

  7. Shayne odonald says:

    Mr.kornfield i just want to thank you for your amazing books and your wisdom they have helped to save my life and have helped me to find my way along a better path.

  8. I am new to mindfulness in a class at our local Ollie. I already how many ways I have found to use what I have been learning. It is wonderful.

  9. Carin Huss says:

    Dear Jack!
    So wonderful reading during early morning houres. So true it is with how we bring our intention into our lifes. It was 25 years ago when I for the first time heard “bring your efforts in it the same way as parents nurses their children” I coulden’t understand it back then. It took me many years of practis and when I red your blog today I’m aware of that my live have changed in to this direction. My greetings to you fr.o.m. Sweden Carin Huss

  10. Daisy Frost says:

    Dear Jack,
    I listen to your CDs very often and have just discovered the website. Thank you for your wisdom and gentle directions.

  11. Pure Bliss says:

    Dear Jack,
    I read your book Path with Heart chapter by chapter again and again. You know what? I was spiritually dead. I confused religion with spirituality – and religion for me was a structure without meaning. I have starved spiritually – only to discover at 52 that I do understand spiritual stuff.
    I have been wanting to contact you to thank you for writing such a personal, insightful, honest, loving, wake-up and find your real life book. I have started a pictorial journal, also words, but mostly yours, along with pictures that illustrate timelessly these spiritual truths.
    I have numerous pictures of ‘the one chair’, especially one in a deserted warehouse. An ordinary, uninspiring chair in a place where messages can come to me from left, right, above, no walls, no barriers, no frontiers. I hold this picture in my mind as I meditate. Just take the one seat, stay put…… and hear what comes.
    I have got over my very debilitating PTSD like this. Taking the One Chair. I also did Yoga Nidra twice a day for 9 months (and continue to do so). I am so happy now and the happiness is like a melody, it just plays and plays and it is a feeling too, a feeling of happiness from within.
    This, for me, is a miracle.
    Thank you.
    Thank you.
    Thank you.
    My next project is the compassion meditation. I have a picture of a pink lotus = compassion from within. As you say, repeat the mantra for 20 minutes once or twice a day for several months.
    I will. At last I get it. I am a Westerner. I expected instant results. Now I invest in myself. Repetition, diligence, self-discipline, and the rewards will come, drip feeding over time as I change for the better so gently, so softly, so subtly. I wouldn’t want to be in anyones shoes but my own. Life is so enthralling like this. Connected to within, not being jostled about by without.
    Thank you so much.
    I mean this from the depths of my being.
    I altered my name, because who I am is irrelevant, it is just a name, a label, but how I feel and live, in Pure Bliss counts so much.

  12. Genevieve Buehler says:

    Thank you, Jack, for the beautiful clarity and simplicity of this blog. I am finding that as I age, areas of Buddhas practice that I was not interested in, have been inviting me! One example is Nirvana. I have never been so interested in this state, but now as I think about death getting closer, I am more curious. I have started a practice of generosity to all homeless people I encounter, and I feel moments of what I call Nirvana when I give. I think that generosity cultivates connection and connection cultivates nirvana. I am taking this cultivation of generosity as a kind of experiment with death and the deathless, I suppose. I am looking to see if the generosity, nirvana, death connection frees one from the contracted body at death…??? I will not be able to tell you the results of this experiment, sorry, because by the time I figure that one out — I will be gone! But the spirit of this experiment is nourishing right me. And that feels very good.

  13. Treena says:

    Hello Jack,
    Thank you for all your wonderful resources.

    I have a question, and I post it here as I am unsure how else to reach you. It centers on those who practice Buddhism as a religion and those who see it and experience it as a ‘science of the mind.’ I am one of the latter. Never the twain shall meet.

    In one of your resources, you quote the Dalai Lama as saying ‘Buddhism is not a religion, it is a science of the mind.’

    Is this taken from this longer quote?
    “Buddhism does not accept a theory of God, or a creator. According to Buddhism, one’s own actions are the creator, ultimately. Some people say that, from a certain angle, Buddhism is not a religion but rather a science of mind. Religion has much involvement with faith. Sometimes it seems that there is quite a distance between a way of thinking based on faith and one entirely based on experiment, remaining skeptical. Unless you find something through investigation, you do not want to accept it as fact. From one viewpoint, Buddhism is a religion, from another viewpoint Buddhism is a science of mind and not a religion. Buddhism can be a bridge between these two sides. Therefore, with this conviction I try to have closer ties with scientists, mainly in the fields of cosmology, psychology, neurobiology and physics. In these fields there are insights to share, and to a certain extent we can work together.”

    Or somewhere else?

    In any case, it seems clear that the DL sees Buddhism as something that should be practiced and experienced as a set of teachings, practices, psychological frameworks that are to be tried out and proven for yourself to see if they are ‘true’ for you. A science for sure.

    Just wondered if that quote was from the longer one – a local Tendai priest would like a definitive answer from you.
    Thanks very much,

  14. Meena Modi says:

    It is wonderful how we grow in mind and body! Having learned yoga and meditation in India, and being a person of Indian origin, like you I thought that the “real” teaching and practicing was still in the East.

    Of course, now it is clear that it is not the case. Teaching and learning come in all forms and settings. The book of life is there to read anywhere and the place one happens to be in happens to be the perfect place.

    Your thoughts in the blog above echo mine. It is a pleasure to read your blog.

  15. Dear Jack,

    I didn’t know how else to contact you to say thank you for your influence on my life which set me on a path and led to me doing this TED talk on grief

    Thank you

    Blessings Geoff

  16. Mary Killian says:

    You say, “now I understand that you have to practice like a devoted mother of a newborn child.” I am learning this, gradually, but surely. What other way is there to truly walk with the heart? You have been such a loving teacher, modeling this. Thank you, very deeply. You are my root and beginning teacher, and I am forever grateful to you.

  17. Linda Potter says:


  18. John H. Watson says:

    A deep Bow to you and thanks!
    I hope to attend and meet you at your five day Retreat at Kripalu.

  19. Rufus Conn says:

    Thanks for sharing such interesting thoughts, looking forward for more from you.

  20. Ross says:

    Linda Potter, I’ve asked the same question, but I submitted it to Snopes. I’ve searched some and haven’t found any corroboration for this lovely little story.

  21. John says:

    Great article! It helps to read my mind… Thanks for sharing this.

  22. Susan White says:

    Wow that was unusual. I just wrote an incredibly long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t show up. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again.Anyways, just wanted to say wonderful blog!

  23. Hey Jack,
    I listen to your CDs very often and have just discovered the website. Thank you for your wisdom and gentle directions.

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