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Showing posts from August, 2013

On Working with Thoughts

As many of us begin our meditation practice and spiritual journeys, we may start out with an agenda of silencing our thoughts, muting all our inner chatter, if only for a little peace and quiet. Naturally, such an attempt fails, as thoughts are an inevitable product of language and communication skills; indeed, they provide us with key tools that insure our survival, both individually and as a species. Without thoughts, our moment by moment experience would be overwhelming, confusing and impossible to learn from or share with others. And so thoughts are a necessary function of the mind, and its not surprising that they continue to jabber away, creating a distracting stream of content during those moments we've set a side for tranquility. This, of course, can lead to periods of frustration and disappointment for the new practitioner. Yet such a reaction is a needless detour on the path, as eliminating thoughts is not only impossible, its far removed from the goal of spiritual endea…

Rebalancing the thought and the felt

The Thought and the Felt There are several levels of awareness from which one can experience life. One level is the domain of conceptual awareness, wherein everything we experience is translated into words and images, which in turn can be stored and used in narrative thought sequences—academically referred to as declarative memory. Words and visuals provide us the ability to represent and store the events of our lives, they are the building blocks of "The Autobiographical Self," the narrative the provides a thematic unity to our experiences. Language additionally allows us to derive meanings from the various ideas we store; its what we rely on for understanding the mysteries of life, from the greatest of tragedies to the most mundane of set backs and successes. As we think conceptually, given the emphasis on visuals and words, we tend to situate a sense of awareness being situated behind the eyes and between the years, as if we exist within our heads, but not our bodies.
The…

don't believe the hype

The social emphasis upon the unique individual is one of the central developments of, and requirements for, capitalism. It rests upon the idea that each of us has unique skills and vision, that we are free to pursue activities and livelihoods to which we're best suited.* In theory, individuals compete to attain productive roles on an even playing field; our value or role isn't predetermined as it was under feudalism, but derived solely from our individual skills and creativity. All of this mirrors the ideology of "free" market relationships, in which businesses—supposedly—connect independently, and deals are made based on the value and quality of services and goods provided, not arranged by favoritism, bribery, extortion, etc. Of course, the freedom and equality of the individual in this model is, to a great degree, a fiction, as individuals arise in the competitive arena with unequal advantages; some are born into privilege, provided with the means for education and…

neuroscience and meditation: take as good care of your brain as you do your body.

Its interesting that so many people I know are given to regular, if not daily, exercise routines, often putting in a couple of hours at the gym without a blink. If asked why, they invariably mention the numerous benefits of maintaining strength, flexibility and cardio performance for “it's the only body I've got.” Some explain that they love exercise in general, however many do it principally for the long term benefits, understanding the results are worth the time and effort it requires.

Yet so many admit they fail to practice meditation on a daily basis, even in the briefest of 5 - 10 minute intervals, explaining that “I have too much going on,” or “I can't sit still.” Some try to claim that their morning coffee and news reading, or their jogging is “meditative,” which would be like claiming “my television watching is how I exercise.” This is hardly a wise choice: increasing evidence via research shows that spending a life without training the mind is as detrimental to bra…

right now, what am i adding to life?

The voice-over is a familiar technique of delivering information during film, documentaries, marketing videos and commercials; it's the addition of a disembodied voice over the top of the visuals, guiding the audience's understanding or 'reading' of the film. While the actor who speaks isn't visible, the words they say are crucial to our interpretation of the film, etc, for they provide us with a translation of onscreen events that otherwise could have a myriad of possible explanations, much like the headline in a print ad provides the artwork with a message. Without a narrative or voiceover, a series of disjointed filmed events could be an interesting film, but it would be a demanding cinematic experience as well, as the accumulation of inconclusive, often unconnected elements could easily overwhelm the viewer.

The voiceover is, of course, modeled on the role our thoughts, or running inner commentary, plays in life. Inner speech provides us with an explanatory pe…

Behind the Armoring

From our earliest relational experiences in life, in bonding encounters with caretakers and family members, continuing via the trials of navigating childhood and young adult institutions, we develop emotional and physical armoring to help us survive the inevitable difficult experiences. Even the most secure of attachment styles between infant and caretaker have disruptive breaks and discontinuities that create anxious emotional reactions before a secure bond is restored. Infancies spent amidst insecure attachments can result in frequent feelings of being imperiled (after all, we are dependent on others to survive until well into our teens, at the very least). By the time we arrive in the challenging dramas of workplaces, social and romantic encounters, we can find ourselves quite defensive, vigilant, armored.

The role of armoring is to shield us from re-experiencing some of the woundings that resulted in childhood, via our interactions with stressed or narcissistic caretakers, bullyin…