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Showing posts from July, 2014

Imagination And Creativity as Spiritual Practice

It’s worth noting how few of childhoods’ freewheeling exercises—the entertainments that were once synonymous with youthful delight—journey through to adult life. To a great degree, we’ve moved, en masse, toward consuming entertainment via television, video games and social media rather than creating our entertainment: drawing, making pottery, dancing, singing, and other inventive endeavors. Those same kindergartners who sing, draw, dance, and engage in all kinds of play, will, in only a few years’ time, be streaming their content via iPad screens, which requires less imagination and effort. 
Consider the mind’s two dominant cognitive networks: the first is the default mode network (DMN), a mental state wherein we can visualize possibilities or solve problems, but where we often wind up speculating about unknowable future outcomes or ruminating about interpersonal conflicts. DMN is largely activated by subregions associated with inductive reasoning centers of the brain (the dorsal and m…

A Carnival in Your Palm: Stress and Isolation in the Age of Social Media

It’s a beautiful, early June afternoon on what’s known as Bushwick Inlet Park, a meadow with soccer fields and a set of benches overlooking the East River. As do all north Brooklyn waterfronts, the park provides an unobstructed of Manhattan’s dramatic skyline, and this afternoon offers a particularly enjoyable scene. In addition to near perfect weather, water planes are making swooping arcs over the river and landing like geese at the water plane terminal across from us, on the Manhattan side. Just behind us, groups of young children chase soccer balls and try to score goals, oblivious to the teacher who blows a whistle for their attention. It’s all so complete and perfect, yet few people are actually taking in the scene. Despite the view, the sounds, and the rich sensations, my present neighbors are glued to the tiny screens on their smartphones, soaking in the messages, news items, posts and status alerts, hooked into a netherworld of .jpg images and headlines demanding attention. Lost in cyber…

spiritual isolation (transcript of a talk given January 2011)

Everything the Buddha taught boiled down to, in his words, ‘Suffering and the end of suffering.’  He wanted people to understand what suffering is, what causes it, and to provide tools necessary to limit all the needless stress we’re adding to life. After all, we wind up with enough challenges with a human birth, receiving what the Buddha called that the first noble truth: we're going to grow old, experience sickness and and death, we’ll know loss, separation, disappointment, sorrow, lamentation, despair.  All these things happen to everyone;  in life shit hits the fan. The Buddha also referred to such experiences as the first arrows.  
But the goal is, when we are suffering, not to increase our misery by adding more emotional pain and mental agitation to the mix.  For example, using the old example of when we stub our toe: there is the pain, but also the stuff that we add on top of it: we may focus excessively on the pain without being aware of other parts of the body that aren’t …