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Showing posts from March, 2014

On Being Separated from the Loved

"What is the Noble Truth of Suffering? Birth is suffering, aging is suffering, sickness is suffering, dissociation from the loved is suffering, not to get what one wants is suffering."—the BuddhaThere is no experience more profoundly human and natural than that of sadness and despair over separation from the loved. Its our natural response to mourn the loss of a deep connection with another; we are pack animals; bonding is our species great survival advantage. When an important bond is severed, due to the end of a relationship, death, conflict or other commitments, it is inevitable that a deep emotional pain should be experienced. Unfortunately, this suffering can feel so overwhelming, the dejection so hopeless, that we seek to suppress the experience, to somehow 'grin and bear it' and move on through life as if we 'can handle it.' Alas, separation depression must be felt; the unacknowledged doesn't evaporate, it is simply shunted into largely unconscious…

Repetitive THoughts: Dealing with the Mind's Annoying Salespeople

Most of us, by the time we reach adult life, develop ways of relating to the obsessive thoughts that visit us; those inner voices that relentlessly detail bleak tales about the future, mistakes made in the past, inventories of what's missing from life. The brain’s set up to fret, and we all have to learn how to function in life without being dragged under by its constant jabbering. Despite these self-destructive tendencies, all we're after is a little peace of mind.

While we may understand that certain types of thoughts cause us a lot of stress, it’s less obvious that the mind's tendency to jump around, from one inner narrative to the next, plays a large part in our suffering. The mind doesn't generally roam in search of peace. The brain's subsystems that activate our impulses tend to reward us for cogitation about issues that effect our survival, from whether or not we'll ever find a lasting relationship, to attempting to predict our unknowable financial futur…

What to Feed Your Mind

As is the case of so many everyday catch phrases, "you are what you eat," contains an important message—though wrapped in a trite idiomatic saying—that the food we take into the body eventually becomes and sustains the body. If we are to maintain health, its beneficial to consume a nourishing, balanced diet. Now, we might find such a message obvious, but it asks us to perceive experience in a manner that’s both essential yet not easy for many of us, namely taking into consideration the long term results our actions. The Snickers bar tastes sweet, the Red Bull provides a quick energy boost, but they don't provide path to lasting health and vitality. When we suppress thoughts about the long term ramifications of a cheeseburger and milkshake, we’re living as actions don’t have results; like an infant covering its eyes to avoid a scary situation, we act as if what we don't acknowledge can't hurt us.

It was quite clever, then, of the Buddha to use appetite and digest…

Mindfulness Is Not Enough

Back in the late 1970s Jon Kabat-Zinn realized the potential value the 2,500 Buddhist meditation and awareness technique called sati—commonly translated into english as “mindfulness”—would have in therapeutic settings if it was stripped of its spiritual trappings and presented as a course in stress reduction. And so secular mindfulness was born, the wholsesale transformation of one the many, integrated tools of Buddhist practice into an entire self-help cottage industry. The new mindfulness was employed towards a vast array of ends, from reducing stress in the workplace to preventing addiction relapses, developing well being and so on. The list is potentially endless (check out a catalogue from your local 'well being' institute for the details).

Naturally, an essential development in presenting mindfulness as a marketable commodity was to extract it from the less market friendly tools in buddhist practice, such as the demands to participate in a spiritual community (sangha) a…