Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Engaged Path

I have started reading a book I bought a while back, Buddhism on the Couch: From Analysis to Awakening Using Buddhist Psychology, by Caroline Brazier. It's a fairly technical look at Buddhist psychology as a means of psychotherapy. The back cover bills it as "the first no-self help book." Uh, yeah.

Anyway, I liked this passage from early in the book:

The Engaged Path

The teaching of the Four Noble Truths describes the whole-hearted application of energy that becomes possible when you contain and use the fire of your passion. It is an active process. Buddhism is not a path of withdrawal from the world, but one of engagement with it. In order to live whole-heartedly, you need to connect with others deeply; and in connecting with others, you cannot help but see and face their experiences of dukkha. Our lives are intertwined and we each provide the conditions for one another's well-being or otherwise. The engaged path is not one of quietism. It is one of constant challenge. It requires the containment and direction of our energies in the creation, not so much of personal improvement, but of the conditions for a better world for all.

In crisis situations we are often confronted with people who have much passion. Passion is the other side of depression and despair. .... Through galvanizing your energies and containing your passions, you can apply your actions whole-heartedly to a higher purpose, bringing many benefits. Nor should you think that you are too hurt or too damaged to be of use. It is often those who have been through the most who have most to give. It is from the energy of suffering that transformation becomes possible. All this is not, however, a matter of willpower. It is a matter of being willing to flow.

I like her vision of suffering as the fuel for transformation -- it's one of the reasons I first became interested in Buddhism after reading Sogyal Rinpoche many, many years ago.

I am also drawn to the idea that behind depression and despair is passion. This makes an intuitive sense in my own life. (Obviously, she doesn't mean passion as romantic lust.) It seems to me that the people I know who are the most passionate about things (animals, art, music, whatever) are the ones who suffer most often from depression and despair.

Thwarted passion in other areas of our lives manifests as depression. It seems worth reflecting on.

John Butler Trio - Ocean

Amazing acoustic guitar.

Via: VideoSift

'Over Time' (2004)

Wow. . . . A very touching tribute to the late Jim Henson.

Via: VideoSift

Daily Dharma: Teachers in Many Forms

Today's Daily Dharma from Tricycle:

Teachers in Many Forms

[I]n India, I was living in a little hut, about six feet by seven feet. It had a canvas flap instead of a door. I was sitting on my bed meditating, and a cat wandered in and plopped down on my lap. I took the cat and tossed it out the door. Ten seconds later it was back in my lap. We got into a sort of dance, this cat and I. I would toss it out, and it would come back. I tossed it out because I was trying to meditate, to get enlightened. But the cat kept returning. I was getting more and more irritated, more and more annoyed with the persistence of the cat. Finally, after about a half-hour of this coming in and tossing out, i had to surrender. There was nothing else to do. There was no way to block off the door. I sat there, the cat came back in, and it got on my lap. But I did not do anything. I just let go. Thirty seconds later the cat got up and walked out. So you see, our teachers come in many forms.

~ Joseph Goldstein, Transforming the Mind, Healing the World

Lewis Black - You Can't Marry A Snapping Turtle! [NSFW]

Lewis Black talks about the Old Testament God, the Book of Job, and the apparent animal fancies of ancient Jews.

Via: VideoSift

Friday, July 20, 2007

Enigma - Push the Limits

Cool video.

Via: VideoSift

Gratitude 7/20/07

Some things I am grateful for today:

1) Mega-blogger Andrew Sullivan (who blogs for The Atlantic) linked to my humble blog yesterday. Who woulda thunk it?

2) I went clothes shopping today -- something I usually loathe -- and it was painless.

3) Due to an improperly sealed bottle of Annie's Organic salad dressing, my kitchen was sprayed with roasted garlic dressing. Rather than being ticked-off, I am choosing to savor the pleasant aroma of garlic that will be wafting from my kitchen for the next several days.

What are you grateful for?


Speedlinking 7/20/07

Quote of the day:

"I am among those who think that science has great beauty. A scientist in his laboratory is not only a technician: he is also a child placed before natural phenomena which impress him like a fairy tale."
~ Marie Curie

Image of the day:

~ Links Between Food Cravings, Types Of Cravings, And Weight Management -- "Accepting food cravings and keeping them in check may be an important component of weight management, according to findings from the first six-month phase of a calorie-restriction study conducted at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (USDA HNRCA) at Tufts University."
~ Exercise, Rest, Repeat: How A Break Can Help Your Workout -- "Taking a break in the middle of your workout may metabolize more fat than exercising without stopping, according to a recent study in Japan. Researchers conducted the first known study to compare these two exercise methods exercising continually in one long bout versus breaking up the same workout with a rest period. The findings could change the way we approach exercise."
~ Antioxidants may protect against knee arthritis -- "People who have plenty of foods with antioxidants in their diets may be protecting themselves from bone changes associated with knee arthritis, according to a new study."
~ No love handles now? Just wait -- "How do you feel about gaining 10 to 20 pounds? Researchers say that most Americans probably will within the next 10 years if they continue their current exercise and eating habits."
~ Fitness: Improve the Health of Your Diet by Avoiding White Flour -- "I'd like to share some research with you that may make you think twice before eating your next sandwich on white bread. It will also help your efforts to lose weight and will improve your health."
~ High-intensity walking beneficial for elderly -- "High-intensity walking helps elderly adults keep their blood pressure in check, maintain thigh muscle strength, and increase their exercise capacity, according to results of a study published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings."

~ Nature? Nurture? What makes us human? -- "That old chestnut - what defines human nature? Genes or experience? Are we free agents or genetically determined souls? These questions have fuelled a fierce fight - polarizing a battleground of social scientists, biologists, parents and politicians. World renowned science writer Matt Ridley is calling a truce, and arguing the case for Nature via Nurture." I like this view -- the post links to audio and a PDF of the lecture.
~ Study To Evaluate Lithium For Pediatric Bipolar Disorder -- "Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago are participating in a national study to evaluate lithium for the treatment of bipolar disorder in children and adolescents."
~ Teen Self-Injury May Be Common -- "Teenage cutting and other forms of nonsuicidal self-harm may be more common than previously thought, researchers say."
~ Being Lonely Can Cause Physical & Mental Harm -- "According to psychologists researching in this area, humans are instinctually social creatures who need to engage in interpersonal interaction. They also agree that people who have close ties with others tend to be better motivated and can navigate through stressful challenges better than those who don’t. Conversely, people who lack proper social interaction have been found to suffer from a battery of physical illnesses, including the eroding of arteries and high blood pressure."
~ Friends: Life Support -- "Safeguards against the damaging effects of stress."
~ The Dangers of Loneliness -- "The deep-seated need for inclusion."
~ Further Exploration of Alcohols Link to Aggression -- "The relationship between alcohol and aggression is not just a Hollywood invention. The U.S. Bureau of Justice reported that when it comes to violent assault, 2/3 of relationship-partner perpetrators were inebriated, as were 1/3 of stranger-assailants."
~ Online papers on consciousness, part 3: Science of consciousness -- Compiled by David Chalmers.

~ 101 Greatest Simpsons Quotes -- "If “The Simpsons” have taught us anything it’s that two-dimensional characters are funnier than three-dimensional ones. There are as many great Simpsons quotes as there are Republicans in hell, which is another way to say “a lot.” For 18 years the residents of Springfield have been piling up the wittiest quotes ever uttered on TV." One favorite: "Homer: Son, when you participate in sporting events, it’s not whether you win or lose: it’s how drunk you get."
~ Young girl claims she is Kalpana Chawla -- "REINCARNATION? Four-year-old Upasana from Bulandshahar (UP) claims that her name is Kalpana Chawla."
~ Man's new best friend lays eggs -- "A growing number of urban and suburban families keeping chickens in their backyards. While the birds don’t cuddle like kittens or play like puppies, owners say they offer a soothing presence in the yard and an endless supply of organic eggs."
~ Senate Panel Approves Huge Tobacco Tax To Fund Child Healthcare -- "In an overwhelming majority of 17 to 4, and in defiance of a threatened veto by President Bush, the US Senate Finance Committee approved a bill to expand child healthcare using a large increase in tobacco tax."
~ The YouTube Debate's Oddest Queries -- "Monday night's Democratic debate will be the first in which all the questions have been submitted by YouTube users. Here's a selection of 10 you probably won't see."
~ Senate Passes Student Aid Bill -- "The Senate passed a bill early Friday to increase aid to college students. The bill would give more money to Pell grant recipients, who are among the poorest."
~ Bush Proclaims Unlimited Executive Privilege Powers -- "'Bush administration officials unveiled a bold new assertion of executive authority yesterday in the dispute over the firing of nine US attorneys, saying that the Justice Department will never be allowed to pursue contempt charges initiated by Congress against White House officials once the president has invoked executive privilege,' write Dan Eggen and Amy Goldstein of The Washington Post."

~ Study Sheds Light on Why Humans Walk on Two Legs -- "A team of anthropologists that studied chimpanzees trained to use treadmills has gathered new evidence suggesting that our earliest apelike ancestors started walking on two legs because it required less energy than getting around on all fours."
~ Unique Material May Allow Capacitors to Store More Energy -- "Imagine an electric car with the same acceleration capability as a gas-powered sports car, or ultrafast rechargeable “batteries” that can be recharged a thousand times more than existing conventional batteries. According to physicists at North Carolina State University, all of these things are possible, thanks to their research on a polymer - or plastic material - that when used as a dielectric in capacitors may allow the capacitors to store up to seven times more energy than those currently in use."
~ Physicists get ultra-sharp glimpse of electrons -- "MIT physicists have developed a spectroscopy technique that allows researchers to inspect the world of electrons confined to a two-dimensional plane more clearly than ever before."
~ Electrical fields from everyday equipment and materials could increase infection risk -- "Electrical fields generated by everyday electrical equipment such as computers, and excess static charge created by many modern materials, could be bad for your health, says new research published by Imperial scientists."
~ New La Nina Could Stir Up Hurricanes -- "The U.N. warns a La Nina could mean more hurricanes in the Atlantic."
~ New Fingerprint Technique Could Reveal Diet, Sex, Race -- "The improved method is faster and provides more information."
~ The ethanol backlash is here! -- "Ethanol, the substitute for gasoline that in the United States is largely derived from corn, is hot. Statistics from the Renewable Fuels Association show that production doubled between 2002 and 2006, from 2.1 billion to 4.9 billion gallons, allowing the United States to surpass Brazil as the Saudi Arabia of ethanol."

~ Killing the Buddha -- "Part of the appeal of Buddhism for me is its investigative spirit. We’re encouraged to question the teachings to see if they are consistent with our own experiences. We should discard whatever gets in the way of understanding. Or, as the Zen saying goes, 'If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.'"
~ Mystical Arts of Tibet for world healing -- "The Drepung Loseling monks have appeared all over the world, sharing the stage with artists from Philip Glass to the Beastie Boys. They perform ancient temple music and mystical masked dances from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition robed in elaborate brocade costumes and playing traditional Tibetan instruments."
~ The Unbelievable -- "Problem with Harris is he won't recognize levels of religious faith, i.e. levels of spirituality, at least basic ones such as prerational, rational and postrational. He does not criticize magical and mythical religion, but religion as such, belief as such, faith as such."
~ Dealing with Kundalini -- "I’ve been describing my experiences with kundalini in detail as part of my description of my personal journey. But since kundalini-related experiences normally get such a bad reputation and are billed as being really terrifying, I just wanted to briefly describe the way I dealt with living, albeit briefly, with this often overwhelming and powerful energy."
~ Z2 - Riding the Kundalini Dragon: Integrating Altered States! -- "The Zymposium is an online community event in which a group of presenters take turns blogging on their own pages on a specific topic. All the presenters - as well as whomever wants to jump in from the readership engage each day in a discussion (via the comments section of that blogpost) of that day's piece and the ideas/issues it raises."

Daily Om: Aware And Awake

This was yesterday's Daily Om, a nice look at intention and ways we can improve our sense of well-being simply by becoming more aware of our intention and keeping it focused.

Aware And Awake

We tend to associate the energy of intent with complicated or profoundly meaningful actions that require our full attention and effort in order to succeed. For example, walking a tightrope, taking a test, and taking a vow are all tasks that call us to be fully present and single-minded. However, intent can also be applied to everyday events, like eating breakfast or going to work. In fact, everything we do benefits from the presence of intent, which has the power to transform seemingly mundane tasks into profound experiences. You only have to try it to find out.

Intent is one of the cornerstones of the Zen tradition of Buddhism in which monks work for years to develop the stillness and sharpness of mind to do only one thing at a time. Most of the time we are doing one thing and thinking of something else, or even doing three things at the same time, such as talking on the phone, doing dishes, and boiling water for tea. There is nothing inherently wrong with multitasking, which seems necessary at times, especially in the midst of family life. However, balancing this with a healthy dose of intentional activity can provide valuable insight into the benefits of doing one thing at a time, being fully present with whatever the task at hand happens to be.

From the moment we wake up, we can apply intent to our situation by simply saying to ourselves, "I am aware that I am now awake." We can use this simple tool throughout our day, saying, "I am aware that I am driving to work." "I am aware that I am making dinner." Or even, "I am aware that I am breathing." As we acknowledge what we are doing in these moments, we come alive to our bodies and to the world, owning our actions instead of habitually performing them. We may realize how often we act without intention and how this disengages us from reality. Applying the energy of intent to even one task a day has the power to transform our lives. Just imagine what would happen if we were able to apply that power to our entire day.

The ABC's of Dada

I love Dada, one of those truly rebellious art and literary movements that transcended art into politics, philosophy, and many other areas of human experience. This is an interesting look at the movement, which generally arose as a protest to the horrors of WWI.

Via: VideoSift

Sam Harris - Believing the Unbelievable

I have my issues with Harris, but he is often entertaining. This is long, but I found it interesting -- Harris is his usual offensive, reductionist self.

Believing the Unbelievable: The Clash Between Faith and Reason in the Modern World. Sam Harris at the 2007 Aspen Ideas Festival.

Via: VideoSift

Lewis Black - It's Time for a Dead President [NSFW]

Lewis Black talks about abortion, Democrats and Republicans, and endangering the lives of monkeys to further the political process.

Via: VideoSift

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Gratitude 7/19/07

Some things I am grateful for today:

1) There is a hell of a storm brewing outside -- the skies are dark, the wind is blowing, the temperature has dropped about 20 degrees, and some rain is starting to fall. Very cool!

2) Speaking of temperatures, tomorrow will tie a record for consecutive days at 100+ degrees -- 39 days. The good news is that Saturday is only supposed to be 96 degrees, so we may not set a new record for hellish heat.

3) This is one of those [somewhat] rare days when I am glad to have been born. Life is an amazing adventure, and today at least, I am glad to be on the journey.

What are you grateful for?

Yeah, But Can He Play Defense?

Mad skills . . . .

Via: VideoSift

Speedlinking 7/19/07

Quote of the day:

"You cannot make a man by standing a sheep on its hind legs. But by standing a flock of sheep in that position you can make a crowd of men."
~ Max Beerbohm

Image of the day:

~ Nutrition For Newbies -- "We've no doubt you'll be printing this article to hand to friends and relatives, along with cute chicks you want to woo with your nutritional wiles. Even though it's presumably for newbies, the article contains a lot of "I didn't know that," moments for vets."
~ Low Glycaemic Index Diets The Most Successful In Fighting Obesity -- "You have a greater possibility of losing weight if you eat a diet that is high in foods like lentils that release energy slowly once they have been consumed, rather than one that is high in foods that rapidly release sugar into the blood stream such as white bread, a Cochrane Systematic Review has concluded. When foods are eaten the body breaks them down into their components, and one component will be sugar. Different foods break down at different rates."
~ Exercise The Best Prescription For Adults With Type 2 Diabetes -- "There are no high quality data to assess how well dietary treatments for type 2 diabetes work in people who have just been told they have the disease, but there is evidence that taking on exercise seems to be one way of improving blood sugar levels, according to the findings of a Cochrane Systematic Review. Type 2 diabetes leaves a person at danger of having elevated levels of sugar (glucose) in their blood."
~ The 125 Best Foods for Men -- "We don't know what's better, the fact Biotest was finally recognized by the outside world for its quality, or that Tim Patterson agreed to a rare interview! We call it a coin toss."
~ Sore muscles should guide your exercise program -- "Your muscles should feel sore on some days after you exercise. If you go out and jog the same two miles at the same pace, day after day, you will never become faster, stronger or have greater endurance. If you stop lifting weights when your muscles start to burn, you won't feel sore on the next day and you will not become stronger. All improvement in any muscle function comes from stressing and recovering."
~ Key to a long life -- less insulin in the brain -- "Good, old-fashioned diet and exercise might keep you young by reducing the action of insulin in the brain, researchers reported on Thursday." Our bodies were not meant to deal with the high insulin levels caused by the modern diet, so this makes perfect sense.
~ 75 percent of Americans overweight by 2015 -- "If people keep gaining weight at the current rate, fat will be the norm by 2015, with 75 percent of U.S. adults overweight and 41 percent obese, U.S. researchers predicted."

~ Hostility linked to artery-clogging plaque -- "People who seem to always be looking for a fight may find themselves at greater risk of heart disease, a new study suggests." The bodymind is a curious creature.
~ Exercise may help with hard-to-treat depression -- "Regular exercise may improve depression symptoms in people who've failed to get better with antidepressant medication, the results of a small study suggest."
~ Self Discovery Through Journal Writing -- "Keeping a journal isn’t just for teenage girls. The benefits of writing in a journal on a daily basis are various and great. You can get true insights into hidden parts of yourself, look back and notice patterns or habits, and receive wonderful therapeutic benefits. It’s a wonderful way to release anger, or other emotions that you need an outlet for. Let’s take a look at some information about self discovery through journal writing."
~ Amma's cosmic squeeze -- "My journey into the arms of Amma the hugging saint reminded me that humans are far more than neurologically programmed DNA machines."
~ Perfect Timing Doesn’t Exist. Stop Waiting For It -- "It bothers me when I hear people describe a personal set of conditions that need to be met before they can make the next move in their life."
~ LSD assisted psychotherapy study to start in Switzerland -- "The Royal Society of Chemistry reports that a research project investigating the potential benefits of LSD assisted psychotherapy for people with terminal illnesses has been given the go-ahead by the Swiss authorities." It's about time research on psychotropics gets restarted.
~ Managing the Self -- "Constant management of our social personas can backfire."
~ Oxytocin for Shyness [The Corpus Callosum] -- "There is new information indicating that an oxytocin nasal spray could be used to treat shyness. Oxytocin is a peptide hormone best known for its role in childbirth and breastfeeding. These are known as peripheral actions, meaning they take place outside of the central nervous system (CNS)."
~ Career Chemistry: The Best Jobs for Six Personality Types -- "When seeking your true love, you had better look for someone with a compatible personality. The same thing is true when choosing your career. "
~ See also: Career Chemistry: Best Jobs for Enterprising People, Career Chemistry: Best Jobs for Social People, Career Chemistry: Best Jobs for Orderly People, Career Chemistry: Best Jobs for Hands-On People, Career Chemistry: Best Jobs for Investigative People, Career Chemistry: Best Jobs for Artistic People.

~ Bush: No Deal on Children's Health Plan -- "'President Bush yesterday rejected entreaties by his Republican allies that he compromise with Democrats on legislation to renew a popular program that provides health coverage to poor children,' reports Christopher Lee of The Washington Post."
~ CIA Dissenters Aided Secret Prisons Probe -- ""Dissident US intelligence officers angry at former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld helped a European probe uncover details of secret CIA prisons in Europe, the top investigator said on Tuesday," reports Reuters."
~ Fairness in the American media -- "The case for keeping the airwaves unfair and unbalanced."
~ Ron Paul, libertarian Republican -- "Is this would-be president brave or crazy?"
~ How to Leave Iraq -- "If done right, a withdrawal could save American lives, contain the violence and restore U.S. credibility."
~ Pentagon Rebukes Clinton on Iraq -- "The Pentagon has issued a stinging rebuke to Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton, arguing that she is boosting enemy propaganda by asking how the U.S. plans to eventually withdraw from Iraq." Bullshit logic -- this country was founded upon the right to dissent.

~ BACKWARD RESEARCH GOES FORWARD -- "University of Washington physicist (and science-fiction author) John Cramer is moving forward with his experiment in backward causality, thanks in part to tens of thousands of dollars in contributions sent in by his fans. Although Cramer emphasizes that his lab is looking at “nonlocal quantum communication” rather than backward time travel per se, the gadgetry he’s assembling could settle a controversy surrounding a seemingly faster-than-light effect that Albert Einstein thought was downright spooky."
~ Ice Age survivors in Iceland -- "Many scientists believe that the ice ages exterminated all life on land and in freshwater in large parts of the Northern Hemisphere, especially on ocean islands such as Iceland."
~ High-tech bionic hand invented in England -- "The new, high-tech i-LIMB bionic hand, with five motorized fingers, will soon be sold in Britain for about $17,000, The Telegraph reported Thursday." But will it give the user super strength?
~ German City Pioneers Use of Solar Energy -- "Rolf Disch has harnessed the sun in his city of Freiburg, starting with his own house. It looks like an upside-down Apollo spacecraft and serves as a testing ground for ideas dreamed up by the 63-year-old solar architect. The home slowly turns with the sun to charge a billboard-sized solar panel on the roof, and the waterless toilet emits an occasional malodorous whiff."
~ Measuring the unseeable: Researchers probe proteins' 'dark energy' -- "Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine are the first to observe and measure the internal motion inside proteins, or its “dark energy.” This research, appearing in the current issue of Nature has revealed how the internal motion of proteins affects their function and overturns the standard view of protein structure-function relationships, suggesting why rational drug design has been so difficult."
~ Scientists work to create nanogenerator -- "U.S. scientists are developing a nanogenerator -- a tiny device that produces electricity from flowing blood, pulsating blood vessels, or a beating heart."
~ Study: Glaciers And Ice Caps To Dominate Sea-Level Rise Through 21st Century -- "Ice loss from glaciers and ice caps is expected to cause more global sea rise during this century than the massive Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, according to a new University of Colorado at Boulder study."

~ STRESS....! and Meditation -- "It all amounts to.... S.T.R.E.S.S.S.S.S!!! I don't know about you, but I feel it in the gut. A kind of continual seething, a perpetual sense of something left undone without being able to focus quite exactly on what it is."
~ Explorations and goals -- "Many of the spiritual traditions are heavily goal oriented. There is a shorter term goal of living a life that works better for oneself and others, in terms of reducing suffering. And a longer term and over arching goal of Ground awakening to itself, at least in some parts of the traditions. There is nothing wrong in this, but it is also only part of the picture, and can create some problems if taken as all there is to it."
~ On Integral Service -- "From Chapter 3 of the book, “Patterns in Clouds and Other Nonsense: A Primer for Integral Life Practice in Psychotherapy” by David M. Zeitler"
~ Big Love Integral: 3 -- "The guided practices I'm teaching, which include my own meditation called Big Love, the Relationship Meditation (no surprise, huh?), involves discovering the truth about your relationship, and how you know this other soul. I also include Tonglen, the Buddhist compassion meditation, guided imagery, Focusing and Felt Sense, and Soul Linking."

Daily Dharma: Fundamental Dharma

Today's Daily Dharma from Tricycle is very good -- this is something everyone can try, a kind of Buddhist experiment where we can confirm with each other the results we get.

Fundamental Dharma

If you pay attention for just five minutes, you know some very fundamental dharma: things change, nothing stays comfortable, sensations come and go quite impersonally, according to conditions, but not because of anything that you do or think you do. Changes come and go quite by themselves. In the first five minutes of paying attention, you learn that pleasant sensations lead to the desire that these sensations will stay and that unpleasant sensations lead to the hope that they will go away. And both the attraction and the aversion amount to tension in the mind. Both are uncomfortable. So in the first minutes, you get a big lesson about suffering: wanting things to be other than they are. Such a tremendous amount of truth to be learned just closing your eyes and paying attention to bodily sensations.

~ Sylvia Boorstein, Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, Vol. II, #1

10 Virtually Instant Ways to Improve Your Life

[Seems this post has been noted on reddit -- please hang around to check out the rest of my blog, then head over to Life Hack to see where this post came from. Thanks!]

From Life Hack, some good advice on how to improve our lives right now. Some of these are easier said than done, however. While I agree with all of them, I think a few of these are issues that need a lot of attention and mindfulness to implement.

10 virtually instant ways to improve your life


Many of our problems come from within our own minds. They aren’t caused by events, bad luck, or other people. We cause them through our own poor mental habits. Here are 10 habits you should set aside right away to free yourself from the many problems each one will be causing you.

  • Stop jumping to conclusions. There are two common ways this habit increases people’s difficulties. First, they assume that they know what is going to happen, so they stop paying attention and act on their assumption instead. Human beings are lousy fortune-tellers. Most of what they assume is wrong. That makes the action wrong too. The second aspect of this habit is playing the mind-reader and assuming you know why people do what they do or what they’re thinking. Wrong again, big time. More relationships are destroyed by this particular kind of stupidity than by any other.
  • Don’t dramatize. Lots of people inflate small setbacks into life-threatening catastrophes and react accordingly. This habit makes mountains out of molehills and gives people anxieties that either don’t exist or are so insignificant they aren’t worth worrying about anyway. Why do they do it? Who knows? Maybe to make themselves feel and seem more important. Whatever the reason, it’s silly as well as destructive.
  • Don’t invent rules. A huge proportion of those “oughts” and “shoulds” that you carry around are most likely needless. All that they do for you is make you feel nervous or guilty. What’s the point? When you use these imaginary rules on yourself, you clog your mind with petty restrictions and childish orders. And when you try to impose them on others, you make yourself into a bully, a boring nag, or a self-righteous bigot.
  • Avoid stereotyping or labeling people or situations. The words you use can trip you up. Negative and critical language produces the same flavor of thinking. Forcing things into pre-set categories hides their real meaning and limits your thinking to no purpose. See what’s there. Don’t label. You’ll be surprised at what you find.
  • Quit being a perfectionist. Life isn’t all or nothing, black or white. Many times, good enough means exactly what it says. Search for the perfect job and you’ll likely never find it. Meanwhile, all the others will look worse than they are. Try for the perfect relationship and you’ll probably spend your life alone. Perfectionism is a mental sickness that will destroy all your pleasure and send you in search of what can never be attained.
  • Don’t over-generalize. One or two setbacks are not a sign of permanent failure. The odd triumph doesn’t turn you into a genius. A single event—good or bad—or even two or three don’t always point to a lasting trend. Usually things are just what they are, nothing more.
  • Don’t take things so personally. Most people, even your friends and colleagues, aren’t talking about you, thinking about you, or concerned with you at all for 99% of the time. The majority of folk in your organization or neighborhood have probably never heard of you and don’t especially want to. The ups and downs of life, the warmth and coldness of others, aren’t personal at all. Pretending that they are will only make you more miserable than is needed.
  • Don’t assume your emotions are trustworthy. How you feel isn’t always a good indicator of how things are. Just because you feel it, that doesn’t make it true. Sometimes that emotion comes from nothing more profound than being tired, hungry, annoyed, or about to get a head-cold. The future won’t change because you feel bad—nor because you feel great. Feelings may be true, but they aren’t the truth.
  • Don’t let life get you down. Keep practicing being optimistic. If you expect bad things in your life and work, you’ll always find them. A negative mind-set is like looking at the world through distorting, grimy lenses. You spot every blemish and overlook or discount everything else. It’s amazing what isn’t there until you start to look for it. Of course, if you decide to look for signs of positive things, you’ll find those too.
  • Don’t hang on to the past. This is my most important suggestion of all: let go and move on. Most of the anger, frustration, misery, and despair in this world come from people clinging to past hurts and problems. The more you turn them over in your mind, the worse you’ll feel and the bigger they’ll look. Don’t try to fight misery. Let go and move on. Do that and you’ve removed just about all its power to hurt you.

The Pachelbel Rant - Never look at the Canon in D the same way again

Funny . . .

Via: VideoSift

Satire: AMA: Plastic Surgery 'Only A Few Years Away' From Making Someone Look Better

From The Onion:

AMA: Plastic Surgery 'Only A Few Years Away' From Making Someone Look Better
July 19, 2007 | Issue 43•29

NEW YORK—American Medical Association spokeswoman Dr. Marlene German told reporters at a press conference Tuesday that, after nearly a half-century of advancements in the field, doctors are now only "a few years away" from being able to make patients look better, rather than worse, following plastic surgery.

"Soon, a person will leave the hospital with an appearance that is younger, healthier, and more attractive, instead of looking like some horrific, pinch-faced thing from another world," German said. "We thank the hundreds of thousands of plastic surgery patients who have helped us get to this point. Without trial and error, and the inevitable freakish failures that result, there could be no progress."

Following the announcement, women nationwide made appointments for second and third plastic surgery procedures, hoping that the new techniques might eventually help them look halfway normal again.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Gratitude 7/18/07

Some things I am grateful for today:

1) I am learning some better mindfulness skills. I am still training my most recently ex-girlfriend, and I am getting some good practice in compartmentalization. It's very useful to catch my thoughts and emotions as they come up and to be able to stop them from escaping my lips.

2) Several people sent me the story about the albino ravens. I'm grateful for their thoughtfulness.

3) I like my new zafu and cushion. It fits my body well, and it's nice to have a good incentive to sit more regularly.

What are you grateful for today?

White Ravens

From the Daily Mail (via Neatorama, and others):

The rare white ravens which are starving to death

Birds of a feather stick together. But helpers at the Weardale Animal Sanctuary in County Durham were still astonished to find these three rare white ravens huddled close in a nearby churchyard.

The birds, which have snow-white colouring and blue eyes instead of ravens' usual jet black plumage, were starving to death and showed signs of being attacked by other crows.

Sanctuary manager Sally Rowley said the fledglings, named Tic, Tac and Toe, were "skin and bone and were just sitting, not moving".

The rare white ravens are said to be starving to death after being attacked by other crows

"They just sat in a bush and you could pick them off like an apple," she said.

It is thought the trio had been abandoned by their parents. But thanks to a diet of mince and parrot food at their new home, they look to have left their ravenous days behind them.

Poor birds -- looks like ravens have their own form of racism.

Speedlinking 7/18/07

Quote of the day:

"Technology adds nothing to art. Two thousand years ago, I could tell you a story, and at any point during the story I could stop, and ask, Now do you want the hero to be kidnapped, or not? But that would, of course, have ruined the story. Part of the experience of being entertained is sitting back and plugging into someone else's vision."
~ Penn Jillette

Image of the day:

~ Chronic Fatigue No Longer Seen as ‘Yuppie Flu’ -- "For decades, people suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome have struggled to convince doctors, employers, friends and even family members that they were not imagining their debilitating symptoms. Skeptics called the illness 'yuppie flu' and 'shirker syndrome.'"
~ 15 Things I Thought I Knew -- "Mike used to like Functional Training. He used to think Mike Mentzer was kind of a bonehead. Now he's not so sure about the former or the latter, along with a whole lot of other things. If his current rate of "unlearning" continues, he soon won't know anything!"
~ Vitamin C Does Not Stop Most People Catching Colds -- "A new review of the scientific literature says that taking regular supplements of Vitamin C to prevent colds is not justified unless you are exercising hard or living in an extremely cold place, in which case taking about 200 mg a day may cut your risk by 50 per cent. So it probably works for marathon runners, skiers, soldiers and arctic explorers, but not for most adults." This is a flawed study -- try using 2,000 mg and see what happens.
~ Men Lose Weight faster than women -- "I am paraphrasing this article from Health 24 that I thought many men would like and many women would be a little disgusted with on how men can lose weight faster than women."
~ Obesity Emerging As Possible Risk Factor For Prostate Cancer -- "Evidence is emerging that excess weight may impact the chances of surviving prostate cancer. "Evidence that weight is a risk factor is not quite conclusive, but it's close," says David Penson, M.D., associate professor of urology at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC)." Fat makes estrogen, and estrogen causes cancer -- case closed.
~ Can A Pint Of Milk A Day Keep The Doctor Away? -- "Consuming a pint of milk a day or eating yogurt could help to prevent conditions such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, suggests research published by Cardiff University. 2,375 men aged between 45 and 59 without diabetes took part in the study which ran over a 20-year period as part of the Caerphilly Prospective Study. 15 per cent had metabolic syndrome, or insulin resistance."
~ Insulin Resistance -- Not Belly Fat -- to Blame for Metabolic Syndrome -- "Researchers at Yale University School of Medicine have found that insulin resistance in skeletal muscle is the main culprit that sets the stage for the metabolic syndrome, not belly fat in and of itself." This is a chicken and egg issue -- condependent arising.
~ How Stress Erases Your Exercise Gains -- "When It Comes to Fitness, Your Own Stress Could Be Holding You Back."

~ A nasal spray to shed your shyness! -- "The researchers say that the spray harnesses the powers of a feel-good hormone called oxytocin, a neurotransmitter in the brain that is involved in social recognition and bonding."
~ Bipolar Disorder: Psychiatrists Are Taking A New Approach That Aims To Treat Not Just Symptoms But The Whole Person -- "Bipolar disorder is the name now used to describe Manic Depression - the condition where mood veers between two poles or extremes - one of euphoria (mania) and the other of despair (depression). Most of us know of it - if only because of famous sufferers such as Vincent van Gogh - but although bipolar disorder is as common as diabetes, much of it goes unrecognised and inadequately treated."
~ Antidepressants: Who Needs Them? -- "The Answer: More People Than You Might Think; One Expert Explains Why."
COMMENT: There's a bigger issue here that has to do with our culture. The article says 7% of Americans have clinical depression, but I'm guessing that a higher percentage than that are using the drugs. We have become so disconnected from ourselves and others that depression and anxiety are becoming much more common. Until we learn to actively unplug from the daily stress through meditation, nature walks, or any number of other ways, the problem will get worse. We need to learn to reconnect with ourselves and others in ways that a fast-paced, work-filled life often don't allow. I'm one of these people.
~ Weight loss is all in your head -- "In the battle against fat, the heroes achieve what most of us only long for -- lasting weight loss. They're so unusual, they've become the subjects of ongoing research by scientists trying to finger just what it is that makes them stand out from the rest of dieting humanity."
~ Study Of Twins Connects Smoking Addiction With Major Depression -- "Ever wonder why smoking and depression seem to go together? A Saint Louis University School of Public Health researcher finds the connection is genetic."Some people with a history of depression may become smokers as a way of self-medicating," said Qiang John Fu, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of community health in biostatistics at Saint Louis University School of Public Health. "Some people who are smokers might become depressed when they try to give up cigarettes and can't."
~ This Wednesday: Seven tips for having an original thought or finding a solution -- "Here are seven tips for having an original thought. Some are backed up by hard science, some are folk strategies that I keep hearing about."
~ Ageing and the Positivity Effect -- "As we get older lots of depressing things start happening to our brains. We can't simultaneously manipulate as many items as we once could. We find it more difficult to retrieve memories. Our attention degrades, and so on. Essentially our brains are slowing down, just like the rest of our bodies. But, in this discouraging picture, there is one ray of hope: our emotions."
~ Bashful Psychiatrists Urged To Talk Sex -- "Just over a century after Freud 'invented' sexuality as a leading cause of psychiatric symptoms, a new survey shows that the majority of young psychiatrists feel uncomfortable about asking their patients about their sex lives and regard it as a subject best avoided. In 1905, Freud published Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality forcing the discussion of sex drive and the impact on mental health of early sexual experience into the public arena."

~ Psst! Gossip may be good for you -- "Stop feeling so guilty about gossiping. Researchers say that a little bit of gossip is what keeps the culture going, greasing the social machinery."
~ Can Poverty Define John Edwards? -- "Traveling on his "poverty tour," Eric Pooley assesses the risky strategy of a candidate who tells the press: don't talk about me."
~ How to fix executive privilege -- "Something is rotten in the state of congressional challenges to executive privilege. The time it takes to move a challenge through the federal courts makes any potential congressional victory either stale or irrelevant. By forcing a lawsuit, the president wins politically whether or not he wins legally."
~ Sleepless in the Senate -- "The Democrats launched an all-night offensive to force the Republicans to break with Bush on Iraq, but come morning the Republicans held firm."
~ Mark Malkoff, Comedian/Filmmaker Visits 171 Starbucks in Manhattan in One Day -- "Some people go to Starbucks every day. Comedian/Filmmaker Mark Malkoff did the unthinkable. He made a short film in which he visited and made purchases at 171 Starbucks stores in Manhattan in one day."
~ NFL's Vick faces media outrage in dog-fight case -- "Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick faced condemnation in the media on Wednesday and an uncertain future following his federal indictment on Tuesday over alleged involvement in a dog-fighting operation." There is no legal punishment that fits this crime.
~ Obama tries to peel away Clinton backers -- "Barack Obama says people are sure to love him once they get to know him. For now, though, Democrats seem to love Hillary Rodham Clinton more, so Obama is trying to turn heads with select jabs at his chief rival."

~ Organics for Everyone -- "Innovative programs are taking organics down from pricey co-op shelves and putting them into the hands of those in need."
~ The Superfund Is Now a Super-Letdown -- "Toxic sites are still rampant across the United States, yet legislators have let the Superfund trust dry up and have allowed corporate polluters to get away cleanup-free."
~ Skulls confirm we're all out of Africa -- "An analysis of thousands of skulls shows modern humans originated from a single point in Africa and finally lays to rest the idea of multiple origins, British scientists said on Wednesday."
~ Researchers develop inexpensive, easy process to produce solar panels -- "Researchers at New Jersey Institute of Technology have developed an inexpensive solar cell that can be painted or printed on flexible plastic sheets."
~ Huge Flood Cut Britain From Europe -- "The British Isles exist thanks to an ancient megaflood."
~ A new dawn for climate prediction -- "Scientists must develop new, more adaptive approaches to predicting and monitoring climate, say climate modellers from the University of Exeter. In a 'perspectives' article published in leading journal Science, Professor Peter Cox and Professor David Stephenson argue that new prediction tools are required to help us to limit and adapt to climate change."
~ The future of biofuels is not in corn -- "The future of biofuels is not in corn, says a new report released today by Food & Water Watch, the Network for New Energy Choices, and the Vermont Law School Institute for Energy and the Environment. The corn ethanol refinery industry, the beneficiary of new renewable fuel targets in the proposed energy legislation as well as proposed loan guarantee subsidies in the 2007 Farm Bill, will not significantly offset U.S. fossil fuel consumption without unacceptable environmental and economic consequences."

~ I-I's CEO Robb Smith Responds -- "I was happy to see that Robb Smith, Integral Institute’s new CEO since ~May 1, 2007, responded, in his eponymous blog, to Blogmandu’s review of I-I’s disclosed finances, through August, 2006. He provides some additional insight that nonattentive outsiders, like me, didn't know or hadn’t understood."
~ Mantras and Meditation -- "Buddhists recite mantras for various reasons--though some eschew mantras altogether."
~ Drop karma (2) -- "A basic point of teaching karma is ethical awareness, i.e. responsibility, and with it the possibility of self-reliance, a strength of character necessary for any serious spiritual work. Being responsible, however, is not something you learn from a sutra, nor do you grow a spine by reciting sacred verses. Such development is deeply conditioned by socio-cultural factors, that is, by internalizing the basic notions of good and bad."
~ How Complete and Effective is your Spiritual Practice and Spiritual Lifestyle? -- "What makes a complete and balanced spiritual practice and lifestyle? How does your current spiritual practice measure up to the 18 key forms for building an effective spiritual lifestyle? Check out the 18 forms and see."