A Vital Part of Aliveness

A Vital Part of Aliveness

"One of the beautiful things about the early twilight at this time of year, as it fades into the dark of the long nights, is that you can just surrender yourself to it. Allow the twilight to remind you that it is a time of consideration and renewal. Know full well that in this world the darkness and the light are one. There is no new dawn without the night; their seeming separateness disguises a unity that reflects the unity of life, an unfathomable dance of opposites. This paradox is the very essence of what it is to be alive—joy and pain, sickness and health, light and dark, wonder and fear."

~ Phillip Moffitt

The Mind Postponing Action in Indecision

Excerpt from "The Chattering Mind," by Tim ParksThe New York Review of Books, June 29, 2012:

“Who is the most memorable character in the novels of the twentieth century?”

It’s a typical radio ploy to fill some mental space on a Saturday morning. Dutifully, people phone in. Studio guests discuss their choices. The obvious: Leopold Bloom, Gatsby. The wry, Jeeves, Sir Peter Wimsey. To select Proust’s unnamed narrator in In Search of Lost Time indicates a certain sophistication. Somebody, not a child, proposes Harry Potter. Then Miss Marple, Svevo’s Zeno, James Bond, Gustav von Aschenbach, Richard Hannay. People are telling us about themselves of course. They want to talk about themselves. There’s no question of establishing if Frodo Baggins is really more influential than José Arcadio Buendía or Bellow’s Herzog. But Sherlock Holmes can be safely ruled out because first published in the nineteenth century and Lisbeth Salander because she doesn’t turn up until 2005.

I can’t be bothered to think of a name myself. I resist these games—the most this, the best that. Surely these characters are all actors in a grand cast; they all have their roles in the larger drama of the collective psyche. But now suddenly it occurs to me that by far the main protagonist of twentieth century literature must be the chattering mind, which usually means the mind that can’t make up its mind, the mind postponing action in indecision and, if we’re lucky, poetry...

...Seeing the pros and cons of every possible move, this modern man is paralysed, half-envying those less intelligent than himself who throw themselves instinctively into the fray: “[The man of action] is stupid, I won’t argue with you about that, but perhaps a normal man ought to be stupid.” And the voice is actually pleased with this formulation. It’s great to feel superior to those happier than oneself.

In the twentieth century this monstrously heightened consciousness meshes with the swelling background noise of modern life and we have the full-blown performing mind of modernist literature. It starts perhaps in that room where the women come and go, talking of Michelangelo. Soon Leopold Bloom is diffusing his anxiety about Molly’s betrayal in the shop signs and newspaper advertisements of Dublin. In Mrs Dalloway’s London people muddle thoughts of their private lives with airborne advertisements for toffee, striking clocks, sandwich men, omnibuses, chauffeur-driven celebrities.


To Create and Thrive from that Place Where all Feelings Reside

To Create and Thrive from that Place Where all Feelings Reside

"We naturally long to sequester our doubts and fears, to disavow pain and worry. Unfortunately, to vanquish doubt is to leave the domain of the human being. Conversely, to embrace both one’s doubt and faith, one’s fear and courage, is to relate to the totality of the human experience." 

~ Dennis Palumbo

Navigating by Resistance

Three observations about resistance from The War of Art by Steven Pressfield:

We’re wrong if we think we’re the only ones struggling with resistance. Everyone who has a body experiences resistance.

Resistance obstructs movement only from a lower sphere to a higher. It kicks in when we seek to pursue a calling in the arts, launch an innovative enterprise, or evolve to a higher station morally, ethically, or spiritually. So if you’re in Calcutta working with the Mother Teresa Foundation and you’re thinking of bolting to launch a career in telemarketing…relax. Resistance will give you a free pass.

Like a magnetized needle floating on a surface of oil, resistance will unfailingly point to true North—meaning that calling or action it most wants to stop us from doing. We can use this. We can use it as a compass. We can navigate by resistance, letting it guide us to that calling or action that we must follow before all others. Rule of thumb: The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.

Stopping for Success

"Study: All American Problems Could Be Solved By Just Stopping And Thinking For Two Seconds," The Onion, May 27, 2011:

A study published Thursday by psychologists at the University of North Carolina concluded that all American problems—from stuck jacket zippers to the national debt—could be solved if citizens just stopped, took a deep breath, and thought for two seconds before they acted. "We found that in 93 percent of cases, a positive outcome could have been achieved if Americans simply splashed a little water on their faces prior to dealing with an unfair boss, being out of clean spoons, signing on to direct a second Wall Street film, or answering a call from a parent," Janet Mallory, the study's lead author, told reporters. "Our data indicate that when U.S. citizens don't take a second to compose themselves, they typically charge in like maniacs and hurt either themselves or several million Iraqi civilians." Mallory said a good rule of thumb for Americans is to think of a plan, stop, and then do the complete opposite.

Body Building for the Brain

Excerpt from “Management as Meditation,” by Dominique Haijtema, Ode Magazine, Spring 2011:

More and more businesses and managers are becoming interested in meditation, according to Rob Brandsma, founder of the Dutch Institute for Mindfulness and Management. The word no longer conjures images of vagueness or flakiness, but is increasingly seen as a practical method for stress reduction. And that’s hardly a luxury in these times of recession, job insecurity and economic turmoil. Many employees and managers fear for their jobs, or for their company’s survival, and those who are still employed are confronted with increasing workloads and increasing stress levels.

Many view meditation as a way to keep calm, cool and collected in uncertain times. According to Time magazine, 10 million people meditate daily in the U.S. No hard figures exist on the number of businesses that offer meditation. However, organizations such as Google, Deutsche Bank, AOL Time Warner and Apple let workers meditate. Meditation’s role in maintaining physical and mental health is also increasingly backed up by scientific research. According to researchers at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind-Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, meditating regularly results in lower blood pressure and less insomnia. Using MRI scans, neuroscientists at Harvard Medical School found that meditation boosts the immune system, lowers heart rates and improves circulation. Golf star Tiger Woods and Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson claim meditation is partly responsible for their sporting accomplishments.

Interest in the practice in countries like Norway, Australia and the U.K. is picking up, too. According to research from the Identity Foundation, even in conservative Germany, 10 percent of managers consider it “body building for the brain”; whereas sports train the body, meditation trains the spirit.

[I would say mindfulness practice develops the skills of attention and intimate familiarity with sensory experience which together foster well-being that is less dependent on the constantly fluctuating conditions of life. ~ Daron]

The cliché image of Indian hippies and incense persists, according to Susanne Hauptmann, a German meditation teacher and yoga instructor who works with businesses, but once people give mindfulness a try, they’re usually convinced. “The positive effects, like relaxation, are quickly noticeable,” she says. Managers in particular report that meditation helps them achieve greater insights and make better decisions.

Read more…

[Thanks, Kit!]

Uncoupling Negative Emotional Reactions from Behavior

From the abstract of a recent study looking at the impact on meditation practice on the decision-making process:

“Human decision-making is often framed as a competition between cognitive and emotional processes in the brain. Deviations from rational processes are believed to derive from inclusion of emotional factors in decision-making.

Here, we investigate whether a group of experienced Buddhist meditators are better equipped to regulate emotional processes compared with controls during economic decision-making in the Ultimatum Game.

We show that meditators accept unfair offers on more than half of the trials, whereas controls only accept unfair offers on one-quarter of the trials…

In summary, when assessing unfairness, meditators activate a different network of brain areas compared with controls enabling them to uncouple negative emotional reactions from their behavior. These findings highlight the clinically and socially important possibility that sustained training in mindfulness meditation may impact distinct domains of human decision-making.”

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