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 In this episode Joel and Antonia talk with New York Times bestselling author Ethan Nichtern about Shambhala meditation, introverts vs extraverts in meditation, and his new book “The Dharma Of The Princess Bride.”

In this podcast you’ll find:

  • Ethan Nichtern is a senior teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist Tradition.
  • His newest book is: “The Dharma of the Princess Bride.”
  • Shambhala is a westernized form of Tibetan Buddhism.
  • Meditation and study of the mind are at the center of it.
  • Mindfulness, compassion, concentration, loving kindness, visualizations, etc.
  • A Tibetan man came west after the Communist invasion. He wanted to bring the Tibetan tradition to the west.
  • Shambhala uses a lot of Tibetan meditation practices with the expressed intent of creating an awakened and enlightened society.
  • Shambhala is a great practice for people who don’t want to leave the world behind but make the world better.
  • “Meditation has become the thing that we are all happy other people do.”
  • Most people think it is great when someone can meditate, but they tell themselves they cannot because it seems a lot more complicated than it is.
  • We think it is about shutting off the mind, but our minds don’t shut off.
  • The purpose of meditation is to make friends with ourselves.
  • Meditation is about accepting your own friend request.
  • Look at meditation practice as a way to know who you are and be comfortable with everything your mind throws at you.
  • We have anywhere from 50,000-75,000 thoughts per day.
  • There’s a lot of embarrassment among people who can’t master meditation, especially among psychotherapists.
  • There are lots of ways to dive into meditation. Just do it!
  • It’s not about shutting anything off, but about spending time with yourself using some specific techniques.
  • Look at your mind as if it is a movie theater where you are getting to know the characters.
  • Meditation doesn’t have to be grueling. It can be playful.
  • Dharma of the Princess Bride” is about relationships and trying to be more mindful.
  • Our spiritual lives always have a cultural context in our inner narratives.
  • The romantic comedy and the fairy tale and the deconstruction of those are big narratives for Gen Xers.
  • Princess Bride is a deconstructed Fairy Tale. It knows we don’t believe in Fairy Tales.
  • Buddhism is about seeing a storyline or fixed narrative that we are living by and encourages us to unravel it and let it go.
  • Princess Bride optimistically deconstructs the fairy tale narrative.  
  • Contrast it to Game of Thrones which is more of a slaughter fest. More negative in its deconstruction of fairy tales.
  • Spiritual practitioners have to acknowledge and embrace the culture that creates the context for whatever our spiritual practice is.
  • Honor your place in time.
  • There is a balance between taking life seriously and being aware of what is important in life. Things don’t need to be taken so seriously. Let go.
  • Buddhism begins with the premise that we need to acknowledge our unhappiness and the shortness of life.
  • A playful attitude will give us the stamina to keep to a spiritual path.
  • There are a lot of conundrums in life that are impossible to figure out, and a sense of humor will help us have a more open heart and mind.
  • If we are going to make friends with ourselves, we need a playful attitude.
  • Some people take themselves too seriously.
  • Princess Bride takes all the most important relationships we have in our lives and reflects back to us the core truth of these relationships.
  • A lot of people carry the belief that they are fundamentally flawed.
  • The basis of the human being is awakened and compassionate, which is known as Basic Goodness.
  • Basic Goodness is the opposite of original sin.
  • Basic Goodness is the Buddhist belief that the nature of one’s being is good, complete, whole, awake, and sufficient.
  • When we meditate, it isn’t about trudging thru the muck and slime of all of one’s evil deeds but to connect with the fact that we are all good fundamentally.
  • We are terrified of ourselves on a certain level.
  • Maybe there’s nothing wrong with us. Maybe we are basically good and kind.
  • We really can’t know another person’s heart and mind. We can only see our own experience directly.  
  • We have to learn how to be alone with ourselves, and we have to balance that work with being in relationships with others.
  • Meditation works well with our nervous system to develop significant aspects of our biochemistry.
  • It is necessary to be alone, or we will go chasing after validation from other people which leads us into problematic ways of relating with others.
  • Whatever is must be good.
  • We live in a world where everything is ranked. We aren’t used to the idea of basically enjoying something without having to compare it to something else.
  • “If I’m basically good, I am better than so and so, or better than I used to be.”
  • We are programmed to want to see everything in terms of contrast.
  • We live our lives in our consciousness.
  • We have to learn to be alone and accept that we are fundamentally alone.
  • All we can do is share aloneness. Culture is shared aloneness.
  • When you start meditating, you realize you aren’t alone.
  • Most of the scripts in our minds we borrow from others, so we are never really alone.
  • We are the only ones who are experiencing what we are experiencing, but we pick up so much from the outside that informs and influences us that all those people get inside us.
  • Extraverts bias is not to want to be alone.
  • People who get into meditation think they need to be alone.
  • The notion of society and relationships is so important because so much of the support for working with our minds come from social relationships.
  • Why do so many western meditators experience so much self-criticism?
  • We’ve never had so much advertising bombarding us as we do now.
  • The Extravert needs to learn to be alone with self.
  • The Introvert needs to recognize that their inner movie theater is still influenced by the outside world.
  • Wesley, the man in black, is the individual hero who is an amazing sword fighter and pirate and it seems like he is going to conquer the world on his own, but it ends up he can’t do anything without the support of his friends.
  • We are relying on each other constantly.
  • If we can understand the balance of aloneness and interdependence, we reach enlightenment.
  • We don’t create anything. We inherit, repurpose, and revitalize a lot of wisdom that existed before.
  • Having a lineage and studying what came before is important. Also having one’s own voice is important.
  • Hold the tradition while being in the moment.
  • When we don’t have a feeling of a lineage that we feel part of we feel like we are floating on the wind, unsupported.
  • Find a balance between lineage and tradition and being your self in the modern world.
  • Don’t just throw out all traditions because some of them let you down.
  • You don’t need to disappear into a tradition. You don’t need to lose your identity.
  • Ethannichtern.com
  • “The Road Home”
  • Shambhala centers

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Comments
  • Amy Francis
    Reply

    “Meditation helps you know who you are and be comfortable with everything your mind throws at you” – well said!

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