Can You Walk this Path Alone?

There’s hope for the solo practitioner, even at the earliest stages of learning Buddhism

solo buddhist


Diving headfirst into anything all on your own can be daunting, and more of a challenge than most of us ever assume at the outset – but when you’re trying to make an earnest entry into something as all-encompassing and as ancient as Buddhism, going at it alone brings its own set of hurdles.


Thankfully though a lot of the frustration and anxiety that some of us feel when we begin to teach ourselves the path fades away after you simply get to it – placing one foot in front of the other and moving towards the ideals that Buddhism teaches.


Sure, those that start off with guidance are going to have a bit of an advantage in that they are likely following a traditional curriculum and will have assistance through the early transition into this new lifestyle. As an independent student however, you’re going to have to be disciplined and resourceful.


By embracing the road before you, recognizing that there is struggle in everything beautiful, and realizing that the lessons Buddhism has to teach you will come to you as you progress, you’ll be able to fight back against this spiritual gravity regardless of the volume of material you believe you have to push through to get started.


But committed self-study practitioners do have more flexibility and can set their own pace of learning. Not to mention freedom in choosing the source material and in what order.  Often, the solo practitioner is able to progress more quickly than matriculated students simply because they carve out larger blocks of uninterrupted time to study – as opposed to a scheduled hour with a teacher so many days per week.

It is of critical importance that you embrace the need for regular, routine, and proper scholarship as you begin to learn all that Buddhism has to offer. You’ll want to look into the different teachings of Buddhism, you’ll want to look into the different pathways to Buddhism, and you want to search for guides – physical, tangible, as well as mental and emotional – that have the opportunity to shine the brightest light of Buddhism on you.


It’s also important to remember that a true dharmic understanding of Buddhism is only going to unfold in three different stages

  • hearing (or reading)
  • contemplating
  • meditation

An intellectual understanding of the material that you are studying is only going to provide you with a framework of Buddhism. You’ll need to wrestle with the material, force it into your subconscious, and fold it into the very fabric of your personality while contemplating it as often as you can. Different life situations will obviously bring different teachings to the surface, and this is when you’re going to want to capture the moment, embrace all that contemplation has to offer, and spend time really trying to understand all that this lesson is promising.


Finally, you’ll want to spend time every day (ideally every morning and every night) looking for new opportunities to meditate on the lessons that you have been studying as well as the lessons that you have uncovered through your daily life. This time spent meditating on both the mysteries and the lessons of Buddhism will pay off significantly, especially if you are committing to master all that this spiritual pathway has to offer.


At the end of the day, there is a larger amount of research available to anyone and everyone hoping to study Buddhism today than ever before. On top of that, Buddhist lessons from a number of different experienced practitioners are available as well – many of them at your fingertips free of charge thanks to the reach of the internet – and it’s never been easier than it is today to self-study Buddhism.


Of course, it’s impossible to represent all the knowledge and lessons that Buddhism has to offer in a book, DVD, or YouTube series. Buddhism is, at its very core, something distinctly personal and something separate from our physical world and you’ll do well to strive to understand as much of this mysticism as you can along your path without fighting the fits and starts that are inevitable along the way.

dharma wheel

Why Form Matters in Buddhism

Why Form Does Actually Matter in Practical Buddhism

buddhists praying hands

The challenge, that all Buddhists face, is not one of whether or not this kind of lifestyle and spiritual calling makes sense – it resonates and rings true, for sure – but one of whether or not the “form” of our Buddhism is “correct”.


This is especially true of those that have come to this calling later in life, compared to those that have been embracing all that this spiritual choice has to offer from birth. We wonder whether or not we are doing things the right way, whether or not we are making our offerings correctly and with the right mindset, and whether or not we are embracing all that our hearts tell us we must – or if we’re just playing around with foreign superstitions.


Worst of all, so much of what we worry about as practicing Buddhists never seems to impact those that have been “dyed in the wool”. Monks do not seemingly have these concerns, and in truth they reach a place in their minds, their spirits, and their souls that allows them to forget completely about form, ceremony, and pomp (as much as there is “pomp” in this world) and instead just feel the way that they should honor their traditions.


This can be particularly confounding for those that want to become more authentic, those striving for a more impactful connection, and those that are looking for answers in a world that has so few with any real weight.


Make no mistake about it, the form – the physical rituals we all go through as practicing Buddhists – definitely has a place in our spirituality. It has a way of manifesting the way we feel in the physical realm, and it has a way of making our souls a more tangible thing.


And while it is essential to spend as much time honor the form of our bows, our rituals, and our prayers, it is most important that we don’t allow the form – or the stress about whether or not our form is correct – to cloud the connection we feel with all that we have learned and strive to be.


Above all else, it is most important that we strive to be our most authentic selves.


While this may not always involve pitch perfect form, or the most traditional of rituals, it is what we all owe to ourselves and to our souls. Authenticity is so severally lacking in our world and as Buddhists it is our calling to celebrate it in every way possible. The things we keep, the things we discard, and the things that we hold most dear are all going to shape the future of Buddhism, just as the workings of past generations have. The beauty of this calling is that it is alive, ever changing, and always evolving. By letting go of the stress and pressure of mastering form (sounds a bit like mindfulness, discussed in this post), while at the same time striving to perfect it as much as possible, is the true balance that we all deserve to pursue.


It’s not easy. It’s never promised to be easy.


But it is worthwhile.





Scientific Studies Measure Mind-Body Connection in Meditation

Scientific Studies Measure Mind-Body Connection in Meditation

mind body connection

While some scientists are skeptical about the mind/body connection and consider it to be an element of pseudoscience, there is growing evidence which is peer-reviewed that shows a direct link in functionality between our minds and bodies.


A research group has devised a method of measurement of physiological phenomena which is connected to stress reduction that is based on mindfulness. According to their research, meditation helps to synchronize brain and heart processes.


There are actually quite a few reputable studies which prove that meditation has a tangible and positive effect on the human body. Scientists from Harvard published an array of studies which detailed the physiological and biological effects of meditation upon the brain and stomach.


If you’ve ever meditated for even ten minutes, you probably already know that it calms you and gives you a sense of being centered. It clears away negative thoughts and lets in peace and love. Scientific studies are explaining why…


Now, we’d like to talk about important data which comes from researchers at Hong Kong’s Centre for Buddhist Studies.


The director of the Centre told a reporter at Newsweek that the practice of MBSR (Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction) helps to create more synchronization between brain and heart, which is great for the body. Data from the study was published and peer-reviewed. The study lasted eight weeks and featured eleven graduate students who had no experience with meditation programs.


Studies such as this definitely underscore the wisdom of ancient cultures which encouraged meditation. Meditation is good for us!


Discover the Power of Heart Coherence


Scientific researchers at the HeartMath Institute are also studying heart-mind synchronicity. The Institute’s Director, Dr. Rollin McCarthy, has remarked that meditation which fosters a sense of compassion and love causes our hearts to generate measurable electromagnetic waves, which travel into local field environments. These waves make social coherence easier! When heart coherence builds, an energy field emerges which helps others to connect with their own hearts.


Is heart coherence the secret of global coherence? it may not solve everything, but it definitely won’t hurt.


How Does Epigenetics Factor In?


Epigenetics is the study of alterations in organisms which are triggered by a modification of “gene expression”. Epigenetics shows us that DNA and genes aren’t in control of our biology. Instead, DNA is controlled via signals which are situated outside of cells, which come with messages that are derived from our thoughts.


Bruce Lipton is a leading authority on epigenetics. He’s a cellular biologist. In his opinion, our feelings do regulate our genetic expression. He wrote about this interaction between mind and body in his books, Spontaneous Evolution and The Biology of Belief.


It’s interesting to note that the placebo effect is a facet of epigenetics (this is what Lipton believes). There will be great value in discovering the best way to leverage the power of the placebo effect as a treatment for illness.


A study showed that patients who felt nauseated chronically, in a severe way, were able to find relief via the placebo effect. They were told that they were getting an effective treatment for nausea and received a placebo instead (a “dummy pill”). The dummy pill was actually designed to make their nausea worse. Despite the properties of the dummy pill, the patients who received the placebo felt that it helped them. Basically, their brains decreased the nausea that they were feeling. This is startling as the dummy pills should have made them feel much worse.


Change begins from the inside. Lots of people on Earth are not happy people and their mindsets may negatively impact their health and the health of those around them. Mind-body connection is extremely important. Our feelings may indeed trigger physiological responses in other people.


We Need to Master Our Feelings


It would be helpful if schoolchildren were able to learn how to master (or just manage) their feelings at a young age.


During 1999, a study performed by a statistics professor who works at UC Irvine showed that people who take daily doses of aspirin for the purpose of preventing heart attacks had stronger results during paraphysiological experiments. Since these stronger results were proven, why are most scientific authorities so reluctant to acknowledge psi experiments?


It’s possible that many scientists are concerned about the link between the mind-body connection and magic, superstition and spiritualism. Lots of scientists are clearly more interested in staying far away from “pseudoscience” than they are with promoting scientific exploration. Hopefully, in the future, a new spirit of true academic freedom will prevail and the connection between heart and mind, as it relates to the individual and society as a whole, will be the subject of further study.


The studies that we’ve talked about today show that there is a strong mind-body connection and that heart coherence offers amazing possibilities in terms of helping groups of people to come together and get things done effectively.

Neuroscience Backs up a Buddhist Belief?

Neuroscience Backs Up A Crucial Buddhist Belief Regarding The Self



It is unlikely that you can remember your life as a toddler. Even so, it is just as likely that your essential being has remained unchanged from then to now. Or at least, this is something that you have always suspected.


Yet such a belief goes against one of the core principles of Buddhism. It is believed by Buddhists that this concept of our selfhood is merely an illusion. While it is easy to dismiss such a notion, particularly if it flies in the face of something you truly believe to be the case, neuroscience and recent studies suggest that you may want to reconsider this cornerstone of the Buddhist faith. An increasing number of studies are beginning to suggest that this notion of selfhood is in fact a falsehood.


Not surprisingly, there is a great deal to this subject that is worth studying in greater detail.


What Does Science Have To Say About The State Of The Self?

One of the main arguments of Buddhism is the idea that nothing is in fact constant. Everything is capable of changing through time. Your consciousness is a constantly moving, constantly evolving stream that drives not only your reality, but your perception of your reality. From the perspective of neuroscience, our brains and bodies are in a constant state of flux. Nothing in its principles contradicts the idea of the ever-changing state of selfhood.


While scientists in the West and Buddhism obviously reached these conclusions in profoundly different ways, using profoundly paths to reach their respective conclusions, it is fascinating nonetheless to see these two different entities meet at a corner of cooperation. Theories put forth by Buddhists thousands of years ago are now being embraced and utilized by scientific research. Studies suggest that self-processing within our brains is not merely limited to one area or network. On the other hand, these studies indicate that all of this can be extended towards a wide assortment of fluctuating neuro processes. Furthermore, these do not appear to be self-specific.


For example, research suggests that our cognitive capabilities are not static. Quite the contrary, this research strongly points to the possibility that these capabilities can be trained through things like meditation.


Does Consciousness Extend Into Deep Sleep?

Buddhists believe profoundly in the idea that our consciousness extends into the act of deep sleep. For a long time, scientists have held on to the notion that our brains enter a blackout state during the act of deep sleep. However, recent studies are beginning to suggest that this is not in fact the case. Some research suggests that meditation impacts our electro-physical brain patterns while we sleep. These studies further suggest that at least some awareness can be carried over into deep sleep.


At the same time, don’t expect Buddhism and the lab coats to exist in perfect harmony anytime soon. There are still a number of topics, including deeper aspects of this subject, in which the two efforts to better understand ourselves can differ greatly. For example, Buddhists believe that there is a form of consciousness that is not dependent upon the body in any form or fashion. Neuroscience disagrees – at least for now.


Still, the relationship between consciousness and the brain is something that remains shrouded in mystery. Neither modern science nor Buddhism have clear answers on the subject. What they do have is a desire to dig deeper, and to understand more. On that front, you will find that both Buddhism and modern science trends have much to discuss with one another. Perhaps by combining the two, as many are beginning to do, we will get closer to finding the answers that will give us a greater understanding of ourselves.