Chapter 7Building Your Mindfulness Muscles

Your brain pathways can be exercised and strengthened, just as your muscles can through physical exercise. What is your brain practicing most often?

I have been on many retreats over the years, but one of the richest I've experienced took place several years ago in India and Nepal, probably due to the historical significance of the places I went, the beauty of the awesome natural scenery, and the newness, and even bizarreness, of some of my experiences there.

I spent 17 nights in Bodh Gaya, India, the place where Siddhartha Gautama “woke up.” Each morning, I got up at 5 a.m., walked across the city to the Japanese Zen temple, and sat in meditation. Afterwards, I would walk around the Mahabodhi monument, erected beside the Bodhi tree, under which Siddhartha was sitting when he had his breakthrough. I would then enjoy a good breakfast, explore various temples and places in the city, and enjoy a good lunch before walking around the Bodhi tree again. The afternoon was spent reading, writing, or meditating in my rented room before once again trekking across the city for the evening meditation at the Zen temple.

It was the end of January, so the days were mild, though the nights were chilly. No one used heaters, and my room had built-in openings near the ceiling since most of the year it was sweltering hot there. I bundled up in my hat, ...

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