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    Sunday
    Jun152008

    Mindfulness: Aids to 

    Mindfulness is a practice of mind -- it is remembering and being mindful of self. Mindfulness can be thought of as a kind of meditation actively practiced throughout the day, whether or not one practices formal sitting meditation.

    Our experience of ourselves in mind is how we know ourselves, it is the basis of our sense of who we are, our self-image. In the same way that we need a mirror to see our face, we need a mental and emotional reflection of ourselves (in the mirror of our mind) order to appreciate who and what we are as beings

    When we practice being consciously reflective of ourselves in a positive, appreciative way, we are mindful of our self as worthy, as valued, and we feel good. When we are mindless, distracted, critical of self, lacking in positive self reflection, we are "mindless," empty -- we focus away from ourselves, we feel a lack, a sense of being needy -- we feel something is missing. It is. What's missing is our appreciative sense of ourselves. This leaves us feeling insecure and vulnerable, and so we look outside of ourselves for validation -- we look to others, to the world around us, for some sense of who we are and what we are worth.

    Small children are naturally mindful, naturally "full of themselves." You were, too, when you were a little one.

    In seeking to understand mindfulness, it may help to consider it’s opposite: mindlessness.

    Mindless means living without a conscious, deliberate sense of knowing and appreciating oneself. Mindless means desperately striving; living anxiously, constantly seeking to achieve something in order to feel worthy. It means feeling empty, insufficient, and consequently seeing what is lacking in everything. It means needing to prove, defend or justify oneself to others. Mindless means being reactive—helplessly driven by external events, without a strong, authoritative sense of being.

    The practice of mindfulness, on the other hand, means learning to tune into, to feel and connect deeply with what is best in ourselves -- feeling pleasure in knowing and being ourselves; it means consciously and deliberately feeling a sense of being enough, and sensing the possibilities in everything; recognizing what is good -- in ourselves and in the world, and actively cultivating an attentive, open, forward-looking, intentional, participatory way of being in our everyday life. It means relearning, step by step, to be present as oneself, and in turn, learning to be authentically present in the lives of others. It means conscious, deliberate appreciation of our experience of being in this world.

    Click to read more ...

    Monday
    Jun022008

    A Superhighway to Bliss

    If you haven't yet seen the video that accompanies this article, be sure to do so. You will find the link embedded in the article below.

    May 25, 2008

    By LESLIE KAUFMAN

    JILL BOLTE TAYLOR was a neuroscientist working at Harvard’s brain research center when she experienced nirvana.

    But she did it by having a stroke.

    On Dec. 10, 1996, Dr. Taylor, then 37, woke up in her apartment near Boston with a piercing pain behind her eye. A blood vessel in her brain had popped. Within minutes, her left lobe — the source of ego, analysis, judgment and context — began to fail her. Oddly, it felt great.

    The incessant chatter that normally filled her mind disappeared. Her everyday worries — about a brother with schizophrenia and her high-powered job — untethered themselves from her and slid away.

    Her perceptions changed, too. She could see that the atoms and molecules making up her body blended with the space around her; the whole world and the creatures in it were all part of the same magnificent field of shimmering energy.

    “My perception of physical boundaries was no longer limited to where my skin met air,” she has written in her memoir, “My Stroke of Insight,” which was just published by Viking.

    After experiencing intense pain, she said, her body disconnected from her mind. “I felt like a genie liberated from its bottle,” she wrote in her book. “The energy of my spirit seemed to flow like a great whale gliding through a sea of silent euphoria.”

    Click to read more ...

    Sunday
    Mar022008

    Twelve Steps Revisited

    The following is offered not as a alternative, or substitute, to the traditional twelve steps of recovery programs, but simply as a way of extending and broadening our understanding of what recovery may be.

    1 We admitted to ourselves that this thing that had felt so good at first no longer worked. In fact it was now hurting us. And even though we did not want to admit it, our 'addiction' no longer helped, it no longer gave us relief. It had become a burden and more trouble than it was worth, and there was no getting around that fact anymore.

    We saw how confused we were, and recognized the need to reference something greater than our own ineffective struggles; some "higher power" that could lend us structure and support and help us get back on our own feet again.

    2 We began to understand that it was possible to find healthy, sustainable ways to feel good again -- we saw that others had done it. We understood that we had lost our way, that we had given our freedom and our happiness away to something that was a poor substitute for what we really wanted. And we saw that we needed to remember who we were --  that we seemed to have forgotten; we needed to learn again how to safeguard and care for ourselves; we needed to get back our dignity and our strength. And in doing so, we understood that we would do well to look for and accept support -- in the form of inspiration, guidance, and fellowship, and to accept the idea that we were part of something greater than our present understanding, and that we were willing to find out whether we could ask for and receive support from that higher power.

    3 We decided it would be better to stop struggling and trying to control things, to stop resisting and avoiding, and to simply acknowledge that we were no longer willing to live in a way that no longer felt good to us, that we didn't want to suffer, or feel desperate, or insist that we were right any longer. We decided that we wanted to feel good again and we began to learn, from ourselves and from others and from life itself, how to recover our sense of freedom and well being, how to better manage ourselves and our emotions, how to have peace and joy again.

    4 We began to recover more and more of a sense of ourselves as worthy and capable and resilient, we began to remember what it felt like to really feel good again, to trust again, and enjoy a new sense of freedom and comfort without sacrificing self-respect. We began to learn how to actually enjoy our lives again, and from this felt a sense of renewal, of hope.

    Click to read more ...

    Saturday
    Mar012008

    Grape Expectations

    What Wine Can Tell Us About the Nature of Reality

    By Jonah Lehrer

    From the Boston Globe, Sunday February 24, 2008

    SCIENTISTS AT CALTECH and Stanford recently published the results of a peculiar wine tasting. They provided people with cabernet sauvignons at various price points, with bottles ranging from $5 to $90. Although the tasters were told that all the wines were different, the scientists were in fact presenting the same wines at different prices.

    The subjects consistently reported that the more expensive wines tasted better, even when they were actually identical to cheaper wines.

    The experiment was even more unusual because it was conducted inside a scanner - the drinks were sipped via a network of plastic tubes - that allowed the scientists to see how the subjects' brains responded to each wine. When subjects were told they were getting a more expensive wine, they observed more activity in a part of the brain known to be involved in our experience of pleasure.

    What they saw was the power of expectations. People expect expensive wines to taste better, and then their brains literally make it so. Wine lovers shouldn't feel singled out: Antonio Rangel, the Caltech neuroeconomist who led the study, insists that he could have used a variety of items to get similar results, from bottled water to modern art.

    Expectations have long been a topic of psychological research, and it's well known that they affect how we react to events, or how we respond to medication. But in recent years, scientists have been intensively studying how expectations shape our direct experience of the world, what we taste, feel, and hear. The findings have been surprising - did you know that generic drugs can be less effective merely because they cost less? - and it's now becoming clear just how pervasive the effects of expectation are.

    The human brain, research suggests, isn't built for objectivity. The brain doesn't passively take in perceptions. Rather, brain regions involved in developing expectations can systematically alter the activity of areas involved in sensation. The cortex is "cooking the books," adjusting its own inputs depending on what it expects.

    Click to read more ...

    Sunday
    Feb242008

    Beginning Meditation

    1. The following is a technique to help you to relax, both mind and body. Like most beginning meditation techniques it is a centering practice, and this one is especially designed to support and encourage soothing thoughts and good feelings. Good feelings mean you're coming into your broader perspective, your energy (all three kinds -- physical, mental and spiritual) is coming into alignment and flowing more strongly, and as a result, you're getting stronger, clearer and brighter.

    2. Before you begin, find several thoughts that please you -- we will call these thoughts mantras. Choose some words, some ideas that you find simple and rewarding (the feeling of the thoughts matters more than the thoughts themselves); they can be like your favorite flavor of ice cream -- ideas that make you feel good -- the more pleasant, the better. Try different ones, concepts that have a positive, physically felt appeal to you -- "joy," "softness," "summer," "sea breeze," "warm," "cozy," "pink," "chocolate," "bright," whatever feels good to you.

    3. Now, having arranged things so as not to be interrupted or distracted by anything, sit comfortably and close the eyes.

    4. Wait about half a minute, eyes closed, before beginning. While you're waiting, you might want to notice your present state of mind -- do you feel busy? Relaxed? How would you like to feel?

    5. Now, to begin, introduce the mantra by gently calling it to mind -- allow yourself to dwell on the idea and the feeling of the mantra in a relaxed, gentle, easy way. Don't try to concentrate. Rather, let your mind "play" with the mantra as a soft point of focus, a soothing notion. We're just going for a vague, soft, pleasant feeling here. No need to visualize clearly; no need to concentrate.

    6. If it feels easy to play with the mantra, and it feels enjoyable, and you feel some slight physical sense of relief, of comfort, then you're doing it correctly. Keep going, but keep it gentle, keep it light and easy.

    If you feel the mantra slipping away, don't try to hold on to it, let it go. You can come back to it later. We don't try to concentrate, we don't try to control the mind, just savor the mantra as a vague idea, a pleasant feeling.

    It's all right to physically move to make your self more comfortable. Meditation isn't sitting like a statue. It isn't discipline. It isn't work.

    It's a releasing of resistant thought; it is a sustained, unrestricted flow of mind.1 Done properly, it's pure pleasure, pure joy.

    7. If and when you notice you've been distracted from the mantra by other thoughts, simply center on it once again. Don't struggle -- again, don't try to control the mind. There's no need to resist thought. Just gently favor the mantra. The idea is to cycle: mantra --> thoughts --> mantra --> thoughts, and so on. Return to the mantra whenever you remember to. If the mantra you've chosen stops feeling good, simply pick another one.

    After a while, you should begin to notice pleasurable sensations, lots of relaxation and good feelings. You may get sleepy.

    Over time, you will find it that it becomes easier to stay with your focus, to center your mind. Many people find using a mantra to learn to meditate, especially a good feeling one, allows them to progress more easily than the more common practice of using the breath as a centering device. But good results are really what matters, so use the method or focus that works best for you. The key idea in all centering practices is to gently release all thoughts in favor of one thought.

    8. If you drift off, it's OK -- just start over. Again, meditation is not concentration -- it is a release of mental resistance, a letting go of discordant thought (thoughts that clash). It's becoming naturally absorbed in a pleasant, one-pointed focus. Meditation should mean less mental activity, less thoughts, not more. It's knowing one thing -- simple innocence.

    9. Keep it simple, keep it easy, keep it enjoyable. Keep track of time by peeking at a clock. Fifteen minutes should be enough of a session when you're first starting out.

    10. Above all, be sure to relax and have fun. It should feel rewarding.

    If it's not easy and enjoyable, it's not meditation.

    1"See "Meditation 101" in Longer Articles.

    Click to read more ...

    Saturday
    Feb022008

    Professor Loses Weight With No-Diet Diet

    Updated on Saturday, February 2, 2008 at 03:51AM by Registered CommenterDennis Young

    Updated on Saturday, February 2, 2008 at 08:09PM by Registered CommenterDennis Young

    By BROCK VERGAKIS, AP

    SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - When Steven Hawks is tempted by ice cream bars, M&Ms and toffee-covered almonds at the grocery store, he doesn't pass them by. He fills up his shopping cart.

    It's the no-diet diet, an approach the Brigham Young University health science professor used to lose 50 pounds and to keep it off for more than five years.

    Hawks calls his plan "intuitive eating" and thinks the rest of the country would be better off if people stopped counting calories, started paying attention to hunger pangs and ate whatever they wanted.

    Click to read more ...

    Tuesday
    Oct302007

    Understanding Energy Medicine, An Introduction

    Updated on Sunday, December 2, 2007 at 05:52PM by Registered CommenterDennis Young

    When we see a boat on the water, we think in terms of wind and wet when in truth what we're really looking at is energy manifesting as different forms of matter, combining and interacting in very consistent ways and producing the experience of a sailboat moving on the water.

    Sailing is energy at play. Gravity, friction, surface tension all interact, along with a myriad of other forces, to produce the experience of a boat on the water. At the molecular level where the wood of the boat meets the water, there is no "water" or "wood", there's electrical surface tension and friction, and where the wind meets the sail, again, there is movement (of the wind) and resistance (of the sail). What holds the boat together, and allows the boat to stay afloat, the interaction between wood and nails and glue and wind and rope and rigging and tar and water is at it's heart, electrical -- molecules of air and molecules of fabric and molecules of wood and molecules of water and so on. And molecules are little bundles of energy that follow natural laws and interact with one another in very specific ways. At the molecular level, there is no wet or dry, there are only different energy states attracting or resisting one another. The scene may look like wind and wood and water, but it's all vectors of energy at work. What appears to be stuff is really energy become matter becoming motion.

    Now think about the scene in a different way:  there is a form of intelligence, an orderly and systematic unfolding, a "knowing" at work here too. Nature knows what to do  -- the water knows what to do, the boat knows what to do, the wind and sails know what to do, the ropes know what part to play, and hopefully the sailor does, too. We can argue as to the degree of consciousness in each of the inanimate parts, but the fact is that the water displays an intelligence that is profoundly sophisticated in it's scope, as do all the other players. And when all the different parts come together and do their respective jobs well, the result is an enjoyable voyage across the water.

    We take it for granted -- how water knows how to be water -- after all, water is just inanimate bits of hydrogen and oxygen, right? So where does the "knowing" live, where does the "wetness" abide? Deep in the nature of water itself. The knowing of how to be water is built into the water itself, in the energy characteristics of the molecules themselves. Water knows it's "job" and does it perfectly, as do wood and wind and everything else. There is an intelligence built into each part of the system -- each part seeming to know effortlessly how to work in relation to the another. Nature knows what it is doing -- deeply -- there is an intelligence built into the energy, built into the matter itself.

    More on this later, but intelligence and energy, in this sense, could be seen as two sides of one coin.

    So how does all of this relate to our health and well-being? Well, the good news is that like the sailboat, when it comes to our physical bodies and our health and well being,  there much more to us than meets the eye as well. We may see and touch and feel flesh, but what we see and touch and feel with our senses is a small part of who we really are. We are much more energy and spirit than flesh and blood, in every sense.

    Our bodies, like the wind, like the waves, are energy in motion. Energy following eternal laws, swirling, flowing, manifesting (through our mind and senses) as a human body.

    We are much more energy and electricity than stuff. We already understand this in terms of EKGs or EEGs or what Asian medicine calls chi or Yoga calls prana or what fringe or alternative medicines call bioelectrics. But there is so much more.

    The energy that we are made of is pure intelligence in wave form. On the deeper levels of being, the matter we are made of is highly organized, infinitely brilliant, sequenced and  orchestrated energy pulses -- we are more energy and vibration than stuff and matter and that energy and vibration is highly intelligent in itself.

    Energy Medicines or Vibrational Medicines (disciplines like Qigong, Acupuncture, Homeopathics, Yuen Method, Reiki, Quantum Touch, Applied Kinesiology, Herbal Medicines, Ayurveda,Yoga and a host of others) are an attempt to sense and influence this energetic level of our being directly. These disciplines are way to support our mind and body at the deepest substrates of our physical being, at the source level, at the level where all of our health "intelligence" resides.

    As we will see, most of what are called "spiritual" healing or "faith" healing methodologies and effects are also understandable using this model. What the ancients called spirit we now call deeper, subtler levels of energy.

    The words we use don't really matter, but understanding the deeper intelligence and deeper workings of our body/mind does.

    Click to read more ...