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Showing posts from April, 2013

Various views on money

Some of my earliest childhood memories feature a series of what seemed to be unendurable debates my parents assailed over the spiritual values of securing good incomes and the rewards and pitfalls wealth produced from one’s work and career. Such arguments were more than idle intellectual concerns; both my parents were first generation Americans who grew up amidst considerable poverty, and their sentiments toward finances revealed deeper issues involving both assimilation and the existential purpose of life itself.
My father, for many years a Zen Buddhist who started his practice in the early 70s, came to view the post 60s era as far too object-oriented and consumerist by nature, at odds with his veneration of the heroic, anti-materialist abstract painters and jazz musicians he venerated. From this vantage, financial concerns were profane affairs that distracted from one’s deepest purpose in life: creating art and attaining peace through meditation. He quit his job as a “refrigeration …

Shopping for Security

Spree shopping, binging, sales hunting, ceaseless consumerism. These are forms of intoxication, the act of a mind that seeks relief, through external distractions, from the nagging worries and fears that are kept barely suppressed. Shopping is the approved addiction of capitalist countries; during weekends the streets of commerce districts and pedestrian malls jammed, the plazas filled, with patrons lugging bags adorned with the gods of materialism: Armani, Marc Jacobs, Hugo Boss, Gucci and on.
Shortly after the towers fell during 9/11, when a populace was traumatized and fearful, seeking a way to interpret the unfathomable, what were the messages we received from so many elected officials? ‘Keep shopping.’ Apparently consumerism is our way of telling an undefined enemy ‘we’re strong and resilient.’ Today, amidst all the vulnerabilities and discomfort we face living in a country with no safety net, unaffordable healthcare, cutthroat competition for work, we’re bombarded with marketing…

Self talk

Self-talk originates in early childhood as a device for self-regulation, an internalization of the voice of the infant's caretaker(s), allowing children to control impulses in the absence of supervision. Additionally, some theorize that humans are like other social animals (such as gibbons) that use calls to establish contact with other members of a group, alerting individuals to the presence of danger. For social animals, silence can be misinterpreted as a state of vulnerability and danger, creating feelings of unease; self-talk alleviates discomfort by creating a sense of contact.

Over the years self-talk develops into an ongoing voiceover that often distorts as much as it elucidates. Clinical psychology and neuroscience demonstrates that self-deception is a prevalent characteristic, distorted by survival based agendas: people will unconsciously create puffed up self-appraisals to develop the confidence to attract a mate, or add self-diminishing thoughts to avoid threats. Denying…

Taking a Break from the Game

A busy life can be experienced as an addictive video game, comprising the twisty route from a morning coffee to the time we return home and close the door on the world and its demands. The circuit is strewn with pleasant opportunities—friendly conversations—which we navigate toward, and unpleasant roadblocks—impossible characters with impractical deadlines—which we try to avoid. Caught up in the game, our frustrations and disappointments are stifled so we can keep moving. We lose track of how these blocked emotions translate into stress carried in the body; our external fixation and continual thoughts relegate the body to the corners of awareness; the tension that lies beneath our attention spans often remains unnoticed.

Yet these physically stored emotions play a greater role in the course of our days than we expect: they create the pressure that lies beneath a sudden verbal outburst; the urgency behind the rash decision; the constriction that leads to sudden backaches; the tightness …

Reclaiming this opportunity to connect

It’s easy to become transfixed by the events, memories, fears and hopes that make up the plot of our autobiographical movies ("The story my life" starring Me). Caught up in our dramas, its easy to envision ourselves as heroic, while others—work colleagues for example—can be viewed superficially, as either helping hands or villains (ie. useful or in the way). The more we live in such a fantasy, the easier it is to believe that those we experience as inconvenient or annoying are motivated by emotions and aspirations that are dissimilar and lesser than our own. Perhaps someone cuts us off in traffic, blocks a subway door, elbows past us on the street: How quickly they can be perceived as reprehensible, born with indelibly evil qualities; the possibility they were having a singularly bad day, or simply unaware of our presence, is rarely considered.


Our self-centered stories lend our experiences the weight and importance of something profound, unique and special. Unfortunately, th…

Nothing Is Boring

Its easy to mistake the experience of boredom as a state in which the mind is not properly stimulated by a present situation; in ‘what's going on isn't interesting.’ But when we examine it closely, we find that boredom is actually felt stirrings of worry and anxiety that arise when the mind is not entranced by the world.

So what are we anxious of, worried about? None other than the unattended, unexplored emotions that inevitably arise after abandonments, break ups, rejections, traumatic fears, times of confusion and on that we've pushed out of awareness.

Its important to understand that, after disappointing events, the mind tends to run off in search of distractions, rather than discern the full articulation of feelings and moods in the body and mind. These impressions don't go away, they lie in the shadows, announcing their presence when the mind isn't distracted by the world.

So boredom can be viewed as an invitation to turn inwards and become aware of what we …