Posts in Buddhism
Project Me

Mindfulness has become such an unobtrusive part of our cultural landscape that we can forget how radical and counter-cultural Buddhism really is. It’s become subsumed into the well-being movement: if we take five minutes to close our eyes, breathe slowly and relax, then we can live our normal lives on a slightly happier and more even keel. That’s the promise of mindfulness.

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The Princess and the Pea

I’m back from a 10-day meditation retreat, at Vajrasana in sunny Suffolk. That might seem a bit of a doss, but it’s also an investment – I really want to improve my meditation practice, for my benefit and others', and it’s ten times easier to learn on retreat than at home.  It’s like trying to light a match indoors versus trying to light it on the top of a windy hill.

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Tenzin Palmo on escaping the prison of the ego

This week I saw Tenzin Palmo speak at the Rigpa centre in London. She’s a remarkable woman, the daughter of a fishmonger from East London, who left Bethnal Green at the age of 20 to learn about the dharma in northern India. She became a Tibetan Buddhist nun – the second Western woman ever to do that – and then spent 12 years meditating in a Himalayan cave.

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The lazy mysticism of Alan Watts

The only thinker whose popularity on YouTube comes close to prophet-of-rage Jordan Peterson is Alan Watts, the British popularizer of Eastern wisdom. Watts’ talks from the 50s, 60s and early 70s have millions of views on YouTube, and are often edited to the accompaniment of orchestral or ‘chillstep’ soundtracks and jazzy collages of modern life.

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Integrating ayahuasca into western healthcare (part 2)

Here is part 2 of my interview with pioneering researcher Milan Scheidegger, who works in the psychedelics lab at University of Zurich. You can read part 1 here. In this half of the interview, we discuss how to translate aspects of indigenous ayahuasca rituals - such as the shaman or sacred plant songs - into the context of western healthcare. We also discuss Milan's plans to establish a psychedelic healing clinic in Switzerland.

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What's the evidence for reincarnation?

I've believed in reincarnation longer than I can remember. It must have started in a previous life. I've never really examined my core belief. It's just been there, part of the furniture. But a new book has stung me into examining that comfy old sofa. Do I really need it? Is it time to chuck it out?

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Mental illness: shedding the stigma around India’s big secret

Yesterday, I was at a panel on mental health in India, at a conference in Goa organized by UCL. One of the speakers – Ratnaboli Ray, who runs a mental health NGO called Anjali in West Bengal – asked for anyone in the audience who’d ever had mental illness or been on psychiatric drugs to raise their hands. For a few seconds, no one did. And then about 10 of us did, in a room of around 100.

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