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Tricycle Talks

Conversations with contemporary Buddhist leaders and thinkers

Weekly hand curated podcast episodes for learning

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The best episodes ranked using user listens.

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Mark Epstein: The Task Is Being You

The Buddha had a prescription to end suffering—the eightfold path. But can the Western tradition of psychotherapy build upon these essential steps? Here, Buddhist psychotherapist and bestselling author Epstein talks with Tricycle contributing editor Amy Gross about how the two realms of wisdom view the idea of self as both problematic and helpful. Drawing from his new book, Advice Not Given: A Guide to Getting Over Yourself, to discuss the ways meditation illuminates aspects of ourselves that we’re afraid or ashamed of, allowing us to let go of the identities that constrict us.

48mins

17 Jan 2018

Rank #1

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Mark Epstein: Buddhism and Psychotherapy

In the debut episode of Tricycle Talks, contributing editor Amy Gross speaks with practicing psychiatrist Mark Epstein on Buddhism and psychotherapy. Epstein emphasizes that there is dukkha (suffering)in every place at every time, and that psychotherapeutic practices can help alleviate this suffering. Epstein's new book, The Trauma of Everyday Life, also explores this topic.

39mins

17 Apr 2017

Rank #2

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Guy Armstrong: What Do Buddhists Mean When They Talk About Not-Self?

The foundational Buddhist concept of "no-self" can be a headbanger. What does it mean that our self is fundamentally empty? And if that’s true, who are we? In our latest Tricycle Talks podcast, Insight meditation teacher Guy Armstrong explains the concept to Tricycle contributing editor Amy Gross. Drawing from his book Emptiness: A Practical Guide for Meditators, he breaks down what happens when we stop constructing a sense of “I, me, mine” and begin to let go of the extraneous mental activity that leads to unnecessary suffering.

56mins

30 Dec 2017

Rank #3

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Judson Brewer: The Mindful Way to Kick a Craving

The second of the four noble truths teaches that craving leads to suffering. But that would be obvious to anyone struggling with addiction. Psychiatrist Judson Brewer, who is the director of research at the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, brings mindfulness practice to the treatment of addiction. Here, Brewer talks to Tricycle contributing editor Amy Gross about the mechanisms in the brain that activate when we have cravings and how Buddhist teachings can help combat a wide variety of addictions.

46mins

13 Apr 2018

Rank #4

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Koshin Paley Ellison: Waking Up from Zombieland

So often we succumb to our narratives about the people in our lives without taking a moment to examine what’s really going on, and this mindset leaves us feeling isolated. Koshin Paley Ellison calls this state of existence “zombieland,” and says that the habits that keep us locked in our mental stories—and glued to our devices—are rooted in a deep-seated fear of awkwardness and discomfort. Koshin is a Zen chaplain and teacher and co-founder of the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care, a non-profit that offers training programs in clinical chaplaincy meditation and spiritual counseling. His recent book Wholehearted: Slow Down, Help Out, Wake Up, is a reflection on how the 16 Zen precepts can apply to life today and help us enter into compassionate relationships with ourselves and others. Here, Koshin sits down with Tricycle Editor and Publisher James Shaheen to discuss his journey from “lone wolf” to Zen chaplain and how being with people who are dying has taught him to live a more meaningful life.

42mins

19 Nov 2019

Rank #5

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Sharon Salzberg: Real Happiness at Work

In this episode of Tricycle Talks, contributing editor Amy Gross speaks with renowned meditation teacher and best-selling author Sharon Salzberg. Co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, Salzberg was among the first to bring mindfulness meditation practice to the West. Her new book, Real Happiness at Work, helps us cultivate mindfulness, compassion and awareness at work. In this podcast, Gross and Salzberg speak on the practices that can help us bring these qualities into our workplace and infuse our work with greater meaning.

47mins

14 Apr 2017

Rank #6

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Robert Wright: Why (Science Says) Buddhism Is True

In this episode of Tricycle Talks, best-selling author Robert Wright speaks with Tricycle’s web editor, Wendy Joan Biddlecombe, about how evolutionary psychology supports what the Buddha taught us about suffering and not being satisfied in the present moment. In the talk, Wright explains why we haven’t evolved past difficult emotions such as anxiety and how mindfulness meditation can provide a way to work through—and maybe even free us from—them.

33mins

13 Oct 2017

Rank #7

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Roshi Pat Enkyo O'Hara: Getting Intimate

In the latest episode of Tricycle Talks, contributing editor Amy Gross speaks with Roshi Pat Enkyo O'Hara, Abbot of the Village Zendo in New York City, on how to cultivate compassion for ourselves through honest reflection, breaking down any sort of “fixed self-identity,” and living in the present moment. Enkyo is the Co-Spiritual Director of the Zen Peacemakers Order and is known for her social activism and teachings on sexuality, race, class, and health.

35mins

14 Apr 2017

Rank #8

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Frank Ostaseski: Learning to Living Fully

A pioneer in end-of-life care, Frank Ostaseski brings his Buddhist practice—and a startlingly respectful compassion—to the bedsides of people who are face to face with dying. In his new book, The Five Invitations: What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully, he has learned lessons that “are too important to be left to our final hours”: By turning away from death, he says, we also turn away from the preciousness of life and our ability to live fully. Ostaseski guides us through what is otherwise scary territory with kindness, warmth, wisdom and humor. As Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D., writes in her exquisite introduction, “Death, like love, is intimate, and that intimacy is the condition of the deepest learning.”Contributing editor Amy Gross sits down for a conversation with Ostaseski about his work in our latest Tricycle Talk. Gross teaches mindfulness-based stress reduction at the Open Center in New York City. His lessons can help all of us—the sick and the well, the old and the young—live a life of bravery, intimacy, honesty, and ease, even alongside our fear of dying.

39mins

20 Apr 2017

Rank #9

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Helen Tworkov: Dying Every Day

At the age of 36, the Tibetan Buddhist meditation master Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche sneaked out of his monastery in Bodhgaya, India, in the middle of the night to live as a beggar and traveling yogi. The story of how he left behind his privileged lifestyle for a four-year wandering retreat is told in the new book, In Love With the World: A Monk's Journey Through the Bardos of Living and Dying, which he co-wrote with his student and Tricycle’s founding editor, Helen Tworkov. Tworkov sits down with James Shaheen, Tricycle’s publisher and editor, to discuss how she helped Mingyur Rinpoche tell his story, the near-death experience that transformed his life and teachings, and how seeing the small deaths we experience each day can help us alleviate our fears of dying. They also discuss the origins of the magazine and how the Western Buddhist landscape has changed over time.

47mins

29 Jun 2019

Rank #10

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Roshi Joan Halifax: Empathy's Double-Edge

Altruism. Empathy. Integrity. Respect. Engagement. These five psychological states are keys to living a compassionate, courageous life, according to Buddhist teacher, anthropologist, and social activist Roshi Joan Halifax. However, each has the potential to become counter-productive: altruism can become pathological, empathy can prevent you from seeing another’s situation clearly, and engagement can become an endless to-do list. In her latest book, Standing at the Edge, Roshi Halifax likens these states to ecosystems that are the most instructive when we work from their edges. Here, Roshi Joan Halifax speaks to author Sandy Boucher about how “edge states” have been vital to her work as a change-agent, and how they might help us nourish love and justice in society today.

51mins

3 May 2018

Rank #11

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Donald Lopez & Jacqueline Stone: How to Read the Lotus Sutra

The Lotus Sutra is one of the most important Buddhist texts, but for the uninitiated reader, it can make little to no sense. Our guests are two of the foremost scholars in Buddhist studies, Donald Lopez, Jr., Arthur E. Link Distinguished University Professor of Buddhist and Tibetan Studies at the University of Michigan, and Jacqueline Stone, who recently retired from her position as Professor of Japanese Religions at Princeton University. They have written a chapter-by-chapter guide to the Lotus Sutra called Two Buddhas Seated Side by Side: A Guide to the Lotus Sutra (October 2019, Princeton University Press). The book is a highly readable commentary and introduction to the sutra that flips between ancient India, when the sutra was written, and medieval Japan, when it took on a new meaning for the Buddhist priest and reformationist Nichiren. Here, Stone and Lopez sit down with Tricycle Editor and Publisher James Shaheen to discuss the issues, such as religious meaning, reinvention, and adaptation, that this book brings to the surface.

45mins

21 Oct 2019

Rank #12

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Sharon Salzberg: Breaking Down Love

Love isn’t just a feeling, says meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg. It’s an ability. This ability to love is inherent in all beings, but it’s up to us whether we develop it or not. Listen in to our newest Tricycle Talks podcast for a conversation with Sharon, author of the just-released Real Love, about the keys for cultivating this innate, indestructible ability, which can help deepen and open up our relationships with everyone from our partner to a stranger on the street—not to mention ourselves.

34mins

21 Jun 2017

Rank #13

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Elaine Pagels: Why Do We Still Have Religion?

Acclaimed scholar of religion Elaine Pagels discusses the role of faith today, the practical consequences of religious ideas, and what led her to ask, "Why Religion?" with Tricycle's editor and publisher, James Shaheen.Pagels is the Harrington Spear Paine Foundation Professor of Religion at Princeton University, a MacArthur Fellow, and a best-selling author who won the National Book Award for her groundbreaking 1989 work, "The Gnostic Gospels." Her latest book, "Why Religion? A Personal Story" explores why religion has persisted through a blend of meticulous research and an earnest exploration of her own struggles with faith and grief.

49mins

24 Jan 2019

Rank #14

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Lawrence Levy: Beating Burnout by Just Being

Feeling burnt out does not make you a failure. That’s the first thing Buddhist teacher and former tech executive Lawrence Levy would want you to know. Burnout, Levy says, is a healthy response when our human needs aren’t being met. As the former Chief Financial Officer of Pixar, Levy knows what it means to have a demanding job. But it was during his many years practicing in the Gelug lineage of Tibetan Buddhism that Levy began to find a way to apply Buddhist principles to the difficulties that we face in our everyday lives, leading him to co-found Juniper, an organization devoted to making meditation and the dharma accessible in a modern context. Here, Tricycle Editor and Publisher James Shaheen talks to Levy about the importance of continuous self-care in a mutually supportive environment and how meditation, learning, and connection can help us tend to the conditions that lead to burnout.

37mins

28 Sep 2018

Rank #15

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Pico Iyer: Inside Japan as an Outsider

Acclaimed travel and spirituality writer Pico Iyer has written two new books about his life in Japan, Autumn Light (Penguin, April 2019), and the forthcoming A Beginner’s Guide to Japan: Observations and Provocations (Penguin, September 2019). Iyer views the books as complimentary: while Autumn Light describes his experience within the culture, A Beginner’s Guide offers his perspective as an outsider. Since marrying and moving in with his wife in her home city of Nara three decades ago, Iyer has become one of the foremost translators of Japanese culture to Western audiences. Iyer discusses his latest books as well as the way impermanence colors Japanese life and what it means to try to understand other cultures at a time when the term globalist has become, in many parts, a dirty word.

59mins

29 Apr 2019

Rank #16

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Ronald Purser: McMindfulness

Ronald Purser is a professor of management at San Francisco State University and a longtime Buddhist practitioner who popularized the term McMindfulness in a piece he wrote for the Huffington Post in 2013. In it, he argued  that mindfulness practice has been commercialized, and reduced to a mere “self-help technique.” His new book, McMindfulness: How Mindfulness Became the New Capitalist Spirituality, offers an argument against the mindfulness movement, claiming that corporations have embraced the practice in order to advance a neoliberal agenda. Here, Purser strikes a more balanced tone and discusses the good and bad of the mindfulness movement, explains what he means by the catch-all term McMindfulness, and presents his view that mindfulness has an untapped potential to bring about real social change.

44mins

30 Jul 2019

Rank #17

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Arun Gandhi: The Gift of Anger and Other Lessons from My Grandfather Mahatma Gandhi

“Anger is like electricity: it is just as powerful and just as useful, but only if you use it intelligently.” So told Mahatma Gandhi to his grandson Arun Gandhi, who lived with the political and spiritual giant on his ashram between the ages of 12 and 14. In our latest podcast, Tricycle's executive editor Emma Varvaloucas sits down with Arun to discuss the lessons that he’s learned from his grandfather about working with anger and cultivating peace.

42mins

26 May 2017

Rank #18

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Allan Badiner: The Psychedelics of Compassion

In this episode of Tricycle Talks, Allan Badiner and Don Lattin discuss the complex relationship between spiritual practice and psychedelic experiences. They also examine a new wave of clinical research that uses psychedelic drugs to treat PTSD, addiction, depression, and other mental illnesses. Badiner is the editor of Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics, an inquiry into the moral, ethical, and spiritual implications of blending Buddhist thought with the use of hallucinogens. Lattin is a reporter and author of the bestselling book The Harvard Psychedelic Club.

27mins

24 Jan 2016

Rank #19

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Katy Butler: A Life Too Long

Tricycle contributing editor Amy Gross speaks with author Katy Butler about modern medicine's often misguided approach to end-of-life care. Butler's bestselling book, Knocking on Heaven's Door: The Path to a Better Way of Death, chronicles the author's own experience of her father's slow decline following a devastating stroke. "There comes a point," Butler says, "when death becomes a blessing and living becomes a burden." In this episode of Tricycle Talks, Butler tells us what we need to know—and conversations we need to have—to make responsible medical decisions for ourselves and loved ones as we approach the end of life.

40mins

17 Apr 2017

Rank #20