Saturday, March 21, 2009

Science Daily - The Human Brain Is On The Edge Of Chaos

Interesting article.

The Human Brain Is On The Edge Of Chaos

ScienceDaily (Mar. 19, 2009) — Cambridge-based researchers provide new evidence that the human brain lives "on the edge of chaos", at a critical transition point between randomness and order. The study provides experimental data on an idea previously fraught with theoretical speculation.

Self-organized criticality (where systems spontaneously organize themselves to operate at a critical point between order and randomness), can emerge from complex interactions in many different physical systems, including avalanches, forest fires, earthquakes, and heartbeat rhythms.

According to this study, conducted by a team from the University of Cambridge, the Medical Research Council Cognition & Brain Sciences Unit, and the GlaxoSmithKline Clinical Unit Cambridge, the dynamics of human brain networks have something important in common with some superficially very different systems in nature. Computational networks showing these characteristics have also been shown to have optimal memory (data storage) and information-processing capacity. In particular, critical systems are able to respond very rapidly and extensively to minor changes in their inputs.

"Due to these characteristics, self-organized criticality is intuitively attractive as a model for brain functions such as perception and action, because it would allow us to switch quickly between mental states in order to respond to changing environmental conditions," says co-author Manfred Kitzbichler.

The researchers used state-of-the-art brain imaging techniques to measure dynamic changes in the synchronization of activity between different regions of the functional network in the human brain. Their results suggest that the brain operates in a self-organized critical state. To support this conclusion, they also investigated the synchronization of activity in computational models, and demonstrated that the dynamic profile they had found in the brain was exactly reflected in the models. Collectively, these results amount to strong evidence in favour of the idea that human brain dynamics exist at a critical point on the edge of chaos.

According to Kitzbichler, this new evidence is only a starting point. "A natural next question we plan to address in future research will be: How do measures of critical dynamics relate to cognitive performance or neuropsychiatric disorders and their treatments?"

Journal reference:
  1. Kitzbichler et al. Broadband Criticality of Human Brain Network Synchronization. PLoS Computational Biology, March 20, 2009; 5 (3): e1000314 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000314
Adapted from materials provided by Public Library of Science, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

Druids Committed Human Sacrifice, Cannibalism?

Contrary to our popular image of early peoples, many were not so peaceful and in-tune with their world as anthropologists might have us believe. Many were violent and warring people, not simply singing odes to the beauty of nature.

The lastest myth to fall is that of the nature-loving, peaceful Druids, who also seemed to love a little human flesh.

Druids Committed Human Sacrifice, Cannibalism?

James Owen in London
for National Geographic News
March 20, 2009

ON TV Secrets of the Druids airs Sunday, March 22, at 10 p.m. ET/PT on the National Geographic Channel. Details >>

Recent evidence that Druids possibly committed cannibalism and ritual human sacrifice—perhaps on a massive scale—add weight to ancient Roman accounts of Druidic savagery, archaeologists say.

After a first century B.C. visit to Britain, the Romans came back with horrific stories about these high-ranking priests of the Celts, who had spread throughout much of Europe over a roughly 2,000-year period.

Julius Caesar, who led the first Roman landing in 55 B.C., said the native Celts "believe that the gods delight in the slaughter of prisoners and criminals, and when the supply of captives runs short, they sacrifice even the innocent."

First-century historian Pliny the Elder went further, suggesting the Celts practiced ritual cannibalism, eating their enemies' flesh as a source of spiritual and physical strength.

But with only the Romans' word to go on—the ancient Celts left no written record of their own—it's been easy for historians to dismiss such tales as wartime propaganda.

Until now, that is.

Gruesome Druid Discoveries

Recent gruesome finds appear to confirm the Romans' accounts, according to Secrets of the Druids, a new documentary airing Sunday on the U.S. National Geographic Channel.

VIDEO: Caesar Meets the Druids (Dramatization)

Perhaps the most incriminating evidence is the 2,000-year-old, bog-mummified body of Lindow Man, discovered in England in the 1980s. Lindow Man's manicured fingernails and finely trimmed hair and beard suggest that he may have been of high status—possibly even a Druid himself.

At least one thing appears nearly certain about the ancient twentysomething: He was the victim of a carefully staged sacrifice. Recent studies have revealed that Lindow Man's head had been violently smashed and his neck had been strangled and slashed.

Druid Fountain of Blood

"You've got a rope tightened round his neck, and at the moment where the neck was constricted, the throat was cut, which would cause an enormous fountain of blood to rise up," said archaeologist Miranda Aldhouse-Green, an archaeologist at Cardiff University in Wales and an expert on the Druids.

Another clue lay inside the body's well-preserved gut: pollen grains from mistletoe, a plant that was sacred to the Druids. (Romans wrote that Druids cut mistletoe from trees with golden sickles.)

Lindow Man's death is dated to around A.D. 60, when the Romans launched a new offensive in the island of Great Britain, currently part of the United Kingdom.

He may have been sacrificed to persuade the Celtic gods to halt the Roman advance, Aldhouse-Green said.

"Something had to be done to stop them in their tracks," she said in the documentary. "And what better way than sacrificing a high-status nobleman?"

The idea jibes with something Julius Caesar wrote: In times of danger, the Celts believed that "unless the life of a man be offered, the mind of immortal gods will not favor them."

VIDEO: Lindow Man, Druid Sacrifice? (With Dramatizations)

Mass Druid Sacrifice?

Other grisly clues come from a cave in Alveston, England.

Skeletons belonging to as many as 150 people and dating back to about the time of the Roman conquest were discovered in 2000.

Druids may have killed the victims—who show evidence of skull-splitting blows—in a single event. It may have been the Roman invasion itself that escalated the Druids' ritualized slaughter, researchers say.

Mark Horton, an archaeologist at the University of Bristol, thinks the pile of bodies suggests savage resistance to the Romans, either on the battlefield or through deadly ritual.

"Maybe the whole thing is a gigantic sacrifice ... an appeasement to the gods in order that they will get ultimate victory against the Romans," Horton said.

The Alveston cave bones hint at something even more sinister—cannibalism.

A human thighbone in the cave had been broken open in exactly the same method people use to get at the nutritious bone marrow of nonhuman animals.

But if the bone is proof of Celtic cannibalism, the practice was probably extremely rare, Horton said. It may be evidence of increasing hunger and desperation as Roman invaders closed in, he added.

"Least Bad Evidence"

Researchers have struggled in the past to link any archaeological evidence to the Druids, let alone signs of human sacrifice or cannibalism, said archaeologist Simon James of the University of Leicester, U.K.

"There has always been a suspicion that what the Romans were saying was atrocity propaganda. But some recent finds like Lindow Man suggest that there were dark and bloody goings-on," said James, who was not involved in the new documentary.

The mistletoe pollen from Lindow Man is the "least bad archaeological evidence we've got that fits in with these stories about the Druids," he added.

"Maybe mistletoe plants had been dusted on his food ritually, a bit like spraying holy water around, or dunked in his drink," James said.

If Lindow Man and others were in fact sacrificed in a bid to stop the Romans, their lives were lost in vain.

By the early centuries of the first millennium A.D., the Celts' defeat and absorption into the Roman Empire was nearly complete across Europe.

Today, their once wide-ranging culture lives on mainly in the traditional languages of Ireland, Wales, and Brittany, France.

(Read "The Celtic Realm" from National Geographic magazine.)

Julian Walker - The Masks of God: New Introduction to My Forthcoming Book!

Pretty damn cool - Julian Walker is a very interesting man. I look forward to seeing the book.

The Masks of God: New Introduction to My Forthcoming Book!

Posted on Mar 19th, 2009 by Julian : integral healer Julian
Introduction: Masks of God

masks of god

Spirituality has to do with the core of our lives, with how our minds and hearts experience meaning, create values and open themselves to expansive states of consciousness. Throughout human history spirituality has been infused with mythology and this serves a dual purpose:

1) It attempts explain what is mysterious to us, and
2) It attempts to bring us into a sense of deep communion with our society, our inner depths, and the natural world as doorways into and awe-filled experience of that mystery.

Mythologies are the dream-like stories used by different cultures to explain what is beyond their knowledge. Myths exist in relationship to ritual. Rituals can be ways both of:

1) Enacting an attempted control of both the scary and beautiful faces of the mystery, and
2) Opening us to a sense of insight, healing, expansion or freedom.

But myth and ritual are man-made. They rise out of the collective psyches like elaborate, vividly remembered dreams. They carry our darkest fears, our deepest longings, our hidden secrets, highest potentials and most creative imaginings. They are in equal measure light-filled and shadowy – because spirituality is the mirror to both self and culture.


All religion, story-telling, literature, visual art (including cinema) and philosophy can be traced back to myth, and all spiritual practice, psychology, music and dance can be traced back to ritual.

The church service, the wailing wall, the graduation, ceremonial prostrations, the yoga class, the nightclub, the meditation hall, the rock concert, the Academy Awards, the therapy couch, the candle-lit bedroom are all examples of arenas in which contemporary humans still participate in forms of ritual. But for many of us the mythologies of the past no longer serve their function – they don’t feel relevant or impacting, and we have either given up on conventional ritual altogether or sought out alternative forms because the old traditions began at some point to feel empty.


The spiritual dimension of our human lives has to do with the meeting place between our inner and outer, personal and collective worlds. Mythology - like a collective dream, carries potent symbolic energy and information back and forth. Ritual has served to take us into the state of mind where we have access to that inner language – one of rich feeling and imagery, symbol and metaphor, insight and meaning. Myth gives the tribe a story and ritual allows the tribe to enter a shared experience of that story.

One more thing though - from the heightened state of consciousness created in the ritual the story will, over time, keep transforming to meet the needs and reflect the reality of the tribe. Or so it should.

This introduction takes you on a short journey through the evolving history of the spiritual dimension of human life. Great mythology scholar Joseph Campbell called myths the “masks of God.” He said “when myths function correctly they become transparent to transcendence.” We start then with the earliest known forms of myth and ritual and follow a thread all the way to our present spiritual situation. Think of it as a creative tour of the evolving perspectives, concerns and experiences that have held central meaning to human societies and individuals.

In this creative offering you will experience some remarkably consistent themes as well as others that will be quite different. You will also see ideas and practice disappear and then return. This is not intended to be a complete and final history, but it does include many of the most significant expressions of our evolving spirituality. As such it includes both the sublime and the grotesque, for such are the forces we have always been seeking to reconcile. It is also not a strictly linear process, as growth evolution occurs in part through both a kind of spiral motion and the punctuated equilibrium of sudden change.

As you take the journey consider humanity’s ongoing relationship to four essential things:


The Swiss Alps – 49, 000 B.C.E.

cave bear skull

We gather in the cave as the sun rises, before the bones of the bear. The light comes in through the high opening and casts shadowy figures on the wall. We are alive and the animals offer their meat and fur, but we have to fight hard for it. We open the stone chest to reveal the seven bear skulls, muzzles facing the cave’s opening, and thank the Great Sky Bear as we sharpen our thrusting spears and stone axes – preparing for the hunt. We survive mainly on meat from the red deer, bear, bison, and occasionally – the great wooly mammoth. We speak in a simple sing-song cadence and wear hide coverings. Ours is a world of instincts, primal needs, magical forces, animal spirits, and a spirituality that deals with the hunt and the animals we depend on for life.

France – 20,000 B.C.E.


I go down into the deep cave. The paintings on the wall tell the story of my journey into the spirit world. I fly there. Fly to the place where the animals gather, to find out where they will be when we hunt. The paintings are about the shaman - the birdman, and our tribe’s sacred relations with the animal-people. The animals are our friends - they bleed like us and cry out in pain like us, our faces are not so different. We must honor the deer and bison and put their bodies back together after we have taken them apart. When we gather in the cave we sing and dance with the animal spirits. In this way we know it is good that we eat them and feel strong when we go out to hunt. When we bury the dead we include the body of a sacrificed animal – for we will still be together in the world beyond.

Kenya – 15,000 B.C.E.

The invading gods have taken us from our mothers. Taken us from the village to this strange place. They looked like monstrous animals and our mothers wailed and clutched us close – but they dragged us away. I know the other boys are in here with me, but it is pitch black and we have been told not to make a sound. We can hear the screams of individual boys who have been dragged from the hut to be killed as the deep loud songs are sung. When I feel the rough hands on me I go limp, surely I will die now and never see my mother or the village again. My eyes are covered. The pain is unbearably intense, but right when I am convinced the end is near and I will be food for the hyenas on the way to the spirit world – they pull the blindfold from my face. The men of the tribe take off their scary masks and lead me in procession to where the other boys are standing, blood still drying on their thighs, exposed swollen penis heads, fresh burn scars – one on each cheek. You are a man now, a warrior - says my uncle’s voice close to my head as I join the others. You have survived the death of your boyhood, you have a new face and a new penis. Now you can hunt and fight and take your place in the tribe – and you are worthy to be with your bride.

Circumcision History 4

Egypt - 8,000 B.C.E.

karnyak pilars

We gather in the stone circles of the temple, surrounded by pillars carved with animals, insects and birds. It is time for the sacrifice. The priests have used the stars to calculate the Winter Solstice and we know we must give sacred blood back to the Earth to participate in the arrival of Spring. The ritual dagger and bowl lie in wait on the north-facing altar. The goats are led in to be slain. They will be cut up and buried in the earth. The sacred bowl is used to pour warm blood first on the hearth and then into my priestess mouth taking me into the trance. Then we feast and dance. We survive by agriculture, our spirituality has to do with the cycles of the Earth, fertility and the growing of crops.
Go read the whole interesting post.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Michelle Obama Breaks Ground on White House Garden

This is pretty damn cool, whether you like Obama's politics or not.

Michelle Obama Breaks Ground on White House Garden

Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 20, 2009; 5:00 PM

With the help of local elementary school students, Michelle Obama broke ground for a White House garden and initiated a public campaign to help Americans better understand where their food comes from.

On the sunny but chilly first day of spring, Obama joined about 25 fifth-graders from Bancroft Elementary on the South Lawn at three picnic tables set with baskets of apples and thermoses of hot cider. The children, who also work in a garden at school, were given shovels, pitchforks and wheelbarrows to help prepare the garden, where as many as 55 fruits and vegetables will be grown year round for use in the White House kitchen. The students will be invited back to the White House to plant seedlings, then again to harvest and learn how to cook with the fresh produce.

"I've been able to have my kids eat so many different things that they would have never touched if we bought it at a store,"Obama said before picking up a shovel and digging in. "Because they met the farmer that grew it or they saw how it was grown, they were curious about it and they tried it. And usually they liked it and they'd eat more and more of it."

The Mount Pleasant students appeared to enjoy raking and piling grass in wheelbarrows, though at least one girl seemed far more interested in taking pictures of the first lady with her camera phone than actually gardening. After about 15 minutes of work, the children sat down at the picnic tables for apples, hot cider and sugar cookies made in the shape of shovels by White House pastry chef Bill Yosses.

"Have fruits and vegetables as much as you can, all right? At every meal. What do you think?" Obama asked students, who answered with nervous laughter. "Let's hear it for vegetables! Yay! Let's hear it for fruits! Yeah!" There was a pause. "Did I hear a boo?" she said seamlessly morphing into the mom-in-chief. "Do you want me to take your cookie shovel away from you?"

Chefs and farmers have long yearned for a garden on the White House lawn, and they have found a receptive audience in Michelle Obama. Since the inauguration, the first lady has emerged as a vocal proponent of healthful eating. One of her early official appearances was at the Department of Agriculture, where she told staff she was a "big believer" in community gardens. Last month, she invited local culinary students to the White House kitchen where she talked about her own challenges trying to persuade her children to eat vegetables. No matter what you do, she said, "sometimes kids are like, 'It's green!'"

The 1,100-square-foot garden, the first of its kind since Eleanor Roosevelt planted a victory garden during World War II, will grow dozens of vegetables, berries and herbs. The collection of crops, a wishlist from White House kitchen staff, will include lettuces, squash, fennel, rhubarb, cucumbers and sweet and hot peppers. White House chefs will use the produce to prepare meals for the family and for official functions, and some of the produce will be donated to Miriam's Kitchen, a soup kitchen near the White House. There will also be a beehive near the garden.

Dale Haney, the White House grounds superintendent, and Sam Kass, the assistant White House chef who previously worked as a personal chef for the Obama family in Chicago, will oversee the garden, which is visible to passersby on the street. The rest of the White House kitchen staff, executive staffers and the first family also are expected to help.

"This sends a message that food is really important," Kass said. "Taking a real look at what we're eating is critical, particularly in the health crisis that we're in. We have to take a bigger role in our lives. And this is a first step along that road."

Liberal and Conservative Are Types . . .

They are NOT stages of development. This image from Drexel University does a good job of explaining the differences between the two.

Just like introversion vs. extroversion, or thinking vs. feeling, liberal vs. conservative is an axis spectrum in typology, not in development. Obviously, I am talking more about philosophical perspective than political party, since Democrats and Republicans have very little correlation to being a liberal or a conservative.

Too many people (it seems to me) think of liberal as more developed and conservative as less developed (and I am guilty of this, too, on occasion). That's a false perspective.

I fully believe you can hold a conservative tribal worldview or a liberal tribal worldview, same deal with mythic, rational, and postmodern.

I'm sure many will disagree with this, but it's my theory (until proven false) and I'm sticking to it.

Video Fun With Dan Dennett

I like Dennett, even though I often wish he would think more integrally - he's surely capable, but likely hasn't been exposed to the material. Maybe someday.

Here are few recent videos from Big Think.

Daniel Dennett Reveals the Mechanics of Studying Consciousness

Daniel Dennett Discusses the Future of Rationality

Daniel Dennett Explains How People Are Like Robots

This last one is true, but very partial - doesn't explain the way consciousness arises in the brain as the synergistic sum of all neural processes - the whole is greater than the parts.

Can We Trust the Efficacy of Our Pharmaceuticals?

Furious Seasons is a great blog to follow if you want to keep up with the various scandals involving psychological drugs and their researchers/developers/marketers. Philip isn't a doctor, but he does his research.

His latest post details the falsification of research involving the highly prescribed seroquel. If you read his blog regularly, he has been one of the best "watch dogs" on the next in keeping tabs on how the FDA and pharmaceutical companies are NOT watching out for our health as much as they are for their pocketbooks.

Seroquel Research Scandal At Univ. Of Minnesota

The St. Paul Pioneer Press has a fine article out today detailing how one University of Minnesota psychiatry professor, Charles Schulz, claimed that Seroquel's performance was superior to older drugs like Haldol when in fact the research data he was working with showed Haldol to be more efficacious. Schulz made this claim in 2000. From 2002 to 2007, he receieved $112,000 in fees from AstraZeneca, the drug's maker, plus about $450,000 from Eli Lilly, the paper reports.

The details of this are stunning, so read the article and remember that the anonymous blog referred to in the paper's account of Schulz, who defends his work, is none other than Clinical Psychology and Psychiatry: A Closer Look, authored by none other than CL Psych, which broke the news around Schulz on March 2. And that news came out of the Seroquel documents, which CL Psych got from this website.

Check out how the paper attributed to Cl Psych:

"An Internet psychiatry blog first raised questions March 2 about the research Schulz presented at the APA conference and why it lacked any of the company's findings.

"'It raises troubling questions when an independent academic author presents results that are in direct opposition to the underlying data,' wrote the blogger, an anonymous academic."

I've never before seen a paper attribute to an anonymous blog, except for some of those satirical blogs such as the one allegedly detailing Steve Jobs' life.

Meanwhile, AZ spokesman Tony Jewell issued this statement, which says in part:

"AstraZeneca believes the totality of the science around Seroquel – including company-sponsored studies, research sponsored by the federal government, and physician experience – confirms it is an effective and appropriate treatment choice for patients with serious mental illness."

Would AZ like to include unpublished studies and buried studies in the "totality of the science around Seroquel?" Or is the company planning to make Study 15 available to the public?

Here are a few other posts he has run on seroquel recently.

Washington Post Claims Uproar Over Seroquel, Cites No Evidence
How To Testify To FDA On Seroquel
Seroquel User Testimony
Seroquel Documents: Sex For Positive
Seroquel Studies Included Bondage, Corporate Espionage
Defending Seroquel, AstraZeneca Plays Race Card

Patricia von Papstein - Are You Ready to Play the Integral Way? The Next Evolution of Leadership

Patricia von Papstein's "Are You Ready to Play the Integral Way? The Next Evolution of Leadership" appears in the new issue of The Integral Leadership Review. It's a very cool article about using playfulness as the foundation for creative problem solving in leadership.

Are You Ready to Play the Integral Way?
The Next Evolution of Leadership

Patricia von Papstein

For Victoria and Julian


patricia von papstein

As conscious leaders, we feel responsible for the life quality on this planet. We invent and design products and services that are sustainable and provide deep support, i.e., they are tools for life assistance. We initiate social responsibility projects. We fund creative industries. We invest in water protection, healthcare prevention and e-learning. We support projects for understanding and forgiveness between sexes, generations, political and cultural belief systems. From our individual perspective, we want to create satisfaction and peace of mind for everybody.

But we seldom utilize our playfulness when there is need to create next level solutions. This is astonishing, because playfulness is the most powerful driver for all species, including mankind, to innovate. The attentive attitude, a state with no obvious or hidden agenda in thought and action, is the most impressing expressions living creatures can produce. We can’t even imagine that this is the attitude we need to shape a future worth living for. Perhaps we dream to be enlightened managers (Aburdene, 2005), but we have not cultivated our senses for humor, sensuality and magic in our business routines. Most of the time, we feel ashamed to do things playfully. This is where integral playfulness can offer relief and create a new freedom for thought and action.

Why We Reach Out for Integral Playfulness

Playfulness is the most innovative human expression for creating a high quality of life. In history there has been no lasting improvement of economic wealth and cultural prosperity out of pain and loss. War and environmental catastrophes brought out ways of survival. Times of peace and understanding made us presents like technological breakthroughs and cultural exchange. Play is the catalyst to create progress and is the mother of culture (Huizinga 1971) Through play creations that appeal like a holy ritual, e.g., Olympic games, carnival) societies cultivated their relationships and encounters.

Today, we realize our interdependencies around the globe. We face “chronic” challenges (Martin, 2006). Explosion of population, lack of energy, pollution of food, poverty and crime are not regional issues any longer. In this situation, playfulness can help to transform us. It is a powerful vision to proceed to become integrative players (Gordon and Esbjörn-Hargens, 2007), who initiate our next social metamorphosis: noble playfulness at any time for anybody.

If our minds stay “greed or sacrifice” fixated and if we see only scarcity and betrayal around us, we will produce closed-minded solutions, too rigid to create liberation from rude forms of cooperation. We have to refrain from a thought pattern that traps us in games in an either live or die modus. Human playfulness is suppressed, if we only play head games. Integral playfulness is thinking and acting. Integral playfulness focuses our attention on unexpected opportunities. We need integral playfulness to unblock our behavior when faced with anxiety and insecurity. The current global financial catastrophe shows how cheaters, who don’t dare to play with our lives and possessions have paralyzed our decision possibilities. It is not enough to throw cheaters out of the game, again and again. We badly need to ennoble play rules to enter a global level of creative wealth.

table 1

Table 1: Our View of the World Creates the Rules of Our Games

Our view of the world results in play rules for life. Basic play rules are our benchmarks for success and integrity. With them we frame and judge our actions. But, even if I have left behind a view of the world as a battlefield, this does not automatically mean that I play games with the expertise and smartness of an ironist or a magician (Cook-Greuter, 2000). A new dimension of courage is needed to initiate green and yellow play settings (See Table 1), according to Spiral Dynamics levels of development represented by colors (Beck and Cowan, 1996). Being able to play the integral way is a matter of initiating level yellow playful missions and of being very smart in convincing people whose playfulness ranges in blue and orange to change to green and yellow play rules that add value. If our play partners are not willing to share yellow play joys, we leaders have not installed integral playfulness quality.

Today a new league of business people has entered the stage. You find them engaged in open source cooperation, e.g., or The protagonists of these networks agree upon the play rule of “sharing nicely”. They create new rules for intellectual property and joint ownership within creative industries.

new attitudes

Thirty years ago the formula for win-win strategy was very en vogue among managers. The Harvard negotiation project tried to obey the same play rule: share nicely. Researchers worked on a new approach to conflict resolution. They believed that a conflict of interests could be resolved if each party to the conflict could receive some kind of reward for cooperating. The Harvard project became cult in management literature, but never entered the top management decision-making culture (Arrow et al, 1995).

The old and young pioneers of cooperation have done a great job—but we can go further. A new dimension of playfulness is what we need! Cooperation fails if we play on playgrounds where mental and real play territories provide few options to change our perspective. If there are only a few switches of perspective and experience possible, we know the level of playfulness is low. The best playgrounds are there where science, economy and culture meet. Refraining from insider games and inventing manifold cross interest group games is the kind of playfulness that we need to invent.

recognize play

The established leaders I am working with tell me that they reject being called players. Some reject the expression player, because they think that they already left the dirty playgrounds of dominance and humiliation. They believe that they don’t fall back into cheating and blaming games. “Player” for them has a connotation of being ridiculous and risk driven. Some reject the expression, because they think that playfulness is an attitude about life that is inappropriate after passing the age of 20. For them, a player has no chance to survive competitive business games. They look upon players as unproductive dreamers.

The young generation of decision-makers I am working with have a more laid back attitude towards playing—they see products as toys. The world of mobile phones and laptops is a world created by managers who have become toymakers. For them, gaming is a matter of survival. If there is no entertainment value, products will not survive in the market.

Whenever playfulness comes up in a discussion among leaders, they have no vision of what conscious, enlightened, sustainable gaming could look like. The typical approach to this phenomenon is “first we have to solve problems, then we can take care of cultural issues”. Ken Wilber’s Integral Theory suggests that we have to proceed along many lines of our development. I agree. From a playful point of view, it is a waste of capacities and a strangulation of human expression, if we develop our cognitive and moral abilities and show no excellence in an aesthetic or psychosexual line of development (Huizinga, 1955). Integral playfulness has the goal to activate as many lines of development as possible at the same time. Playful minds are prototypes of “all in one spirited” leaders. The leaders of the 21st century are individuals who love to develop in an uncommon way. They put emphasis on unleashing their psychosexual, aesthetic and transpersonal potential. In order to make a contribution to inventing and shaping a good future, a person with leadership talents needs to develop a playful mind.

The leadership literature is filled with descriptions of the ideal leading approaches, as a coach, as a mentor, as an individual with endless caring capabilities, acting like a healer. But, our leading routines tell another story. We know how it hurts to make strong decisions and see the gap between reality and vision every day. Very often we feel like tragic heroes. Our tragedy is that we make other people and ourselves believe that (business) games can be controlled and regulated. This is the state of an ordered or a status-oriented player. (Gordon and Esbjörn–Hargens, 2007)

Listen to this song!

song 1 cold play viva la vida

A leader as a playful mind reaches out for the next evolution of leadership. The next evolution of leadership is beyond practices of work life balance. It is beyond training camps for intuition and creativity. It is beyond sustainable global strategies. The secret lies in three new ways of acting:

  • Ready to act with no agenda!
  • Ready to handle creative destruction!
  • Ready to see life as a universal play space!

Listen to this song!

song 2 robby williams feel

A playful mind is a smart leader, a person with a sense for vulnerability. That is one big reward for becoming a playful mind: you can show weaknesses and doubt without losing your authority.

The social community founders (,, and the inventors of modern fabrics like www.skysails,info, and nanotech clothing like give us a taste of a new leader attitude. They show to the public what they love to do and involve people in sharing their visions, their acts of responsibility, playfully. These eco-entrepreneurs give us hope. I love to invite them to take a further step to enter the joys of integral playfulness.

Integral play is a catalyst to encourage leaders to invent a modern charisma that is not based on making people feel frightened or seduced, but supporting them to feel ready to play. Utilizing the impact of integral playfulness, a leader can cultivate a visible expression of leadership talent that is urgently needed to push society from a conventional way of living to a post conventional state: hospitality.

Hospitality—inviting the stranger to your house—is a highly developed expression of generosity and well known in every culture and country of the world. Societies with no fear of strangers or the foreign prosper in comparison to societies where the foreign is excluded, controlled or neglected. The ability to act like a host shows that a leader has an awareness of playful action. Look around at how few invitations are issued among business people to cooperate beyond ego and you see how playfulness is imprisoned in games of dominance and submission. Begin to invite your business partners, customers, employees, and citizens to meet you on neutral playgrounds. Obey the basic rule, “I am here to add lasting value”. Free yourself from cheating and blaming and you will experience the impacts of integral playfulness: people develop creative wealth.

Integral playfulness triggers three important motivations for individuals and groups to proceed: the longing to

  • Improve in all lines of development
  • Unleash modern expressions of hospitality
  • Combine goal directedness with transpersonal rewards.

Listen to this song!

song 3 India Arie

So where to start? Most of our business procedures are a mess in terms of playfulness. The rituals we share at conferences and meetings seem still to be acts of power demonstration and submission or celebrations of camaraderie, totally denying a difference in heritage and life habits of our play partners. I am sad if I look at all the beautiful progressive initiatives like or People share mind boosting ideas and manifests, but the celebration culture is still the one of mass events—speeches in front of large audiences. The new culture of playfulness has not yet created new symbols and celebration techniques.

We are arrogant if we think that we need no cultivation of our human playfulness. Integral playfulness guides us to enable our holistic view of the world. There are first glimmers of hope, which show that we can link our readiness to play with our longing to transform to higher levels of consciousness and our longing to create beauty and meaning at the same time in our lives. Playing the integral way means to follow through: the dreamer’s attitude (thinking with no boundaries and no pressure) matures to the attitude of a visionary with excellence in reflecting about our human delusions of grandeur with a twinkle in our eyes. The realist’s attitude (actions must create sensible results) can mature to the attitude of an artist with excellence in combining craftsmanship with reliability.

Read the rest of this fascinating article to get to the meat of her ideas.

Kenneth Sørensen - Integral Psychosynthesis: Integral Perspectives on Psychosynthesis

I've been a fan of psychosynthesis for years (psychosynthesis was where I first came across subpersoanlity theory). Roberto Assagioli's model was the first truly transpersonal psychological system in the West. I haven't been as a big a fan of some of the third generation work in the field, but it's a thriving, diverse community of therapists working to apply the psychosynthesis model in the field.

Sorensen's integral approach is interesting, so I thought I'd point it out.

Integral Psychosynthesis
Integral Perspectives on Psychosynthesis

By Kenneth Sørensen, MA


This MA-study shows that Roberto Assagioli's original conception of Psychosynthesis is fully aligned with Ken Wilber's Integral Psychology. A careful research into all Assagioli's English publications gives clear evidence of Levels, Lines of development, States, Types and to some degree the four Quadrants.

It also demonstrates that John Firman/Ann Gila's adapted version of Psychosynthesis operates with a very different developmental model, when seen through an Integral lens. The study also explores the benefits of implementing the Integral Approach to Psychosynthesis psychotherapy.

All articles and interviews related with Assagioli has been made available in an online version here.

Background and acknowledgement
This article is an extended and adapted (two case studies is omitted) version of my MA Thesis from 2008 at the Psychosynthesis and Education Trust in London and the University of East London (formal award in June 2009). It is offered to the public with the hope that it can foster a deeper understanding of the Integral features of Psychosynthesis and perhaps facilitate an open debate about the future development of Psychosynthesis and for that matter: Integral psychotherapy.

I wish to thank John Firman and Ann Gila for permission to print his revised Egg Diagram, to Jean Hardy for allowing me to include her model and to Ken Wilber and Brad Reynolds for their contributions. I also wish to thank my tutor Martin Egan for many good advices and Annabritt Jakielski for proofreading it all.


This article will investigate the question: Is Psychosynthesis an Integral Psychology?

Ken Wilber is an influential writer in our time within the field of psychology and psychotherapy. His Integral Psychology provides a framework and an overall perspective on human develop­ment that is synthetic in its nature. Owing to its inclusive comprehensive developmental approach it may be argued that Integral Psychology resembles the approach of Psycho­synthesis. His model provides a method to examine or validate the integral nature of any psychotherapeutic discipline and this will be the main focus for this article in relation to Psychosynthesis.

Wilber works with five basic elements that characterise what he calls an Integral Approach and the AQAL model: Quadrants, Levels, Lines, States and Types, and through that lens I shall investigate whether or not Psychosynthesis is Integral.

I will take the five basic concepts one by one, define them and research into how well Psychosynthesis theory embodies the Integral features and how it can improve Psycho­syn­the­sis Psychotherapy.

It is a great challenge to cover such a comprehensive theory as Wilber’s on the basis of an article. Due to the broad focus that I have chosen, there are some limitations that I have to implement.

It will not be possible to have an in-depth discussion of all the details associated with the Integral status of Psychosynthesis; I will only give enough evidence to make an assumption based on a few relevant facts.

I will not investigate whether Wilber is correct in his assumptions about human development. I will take his findings for granted and focus on testing Psychosynthesis for its fulfilment of the Integral criteria as set out by Wilber.

This is not an article on Integral Psychology, so I will only define the broad perspectives in the Integral Approach in order to use it as a lens in my research.

In order to create a clear focus throughout this article, let me start with an outline of the essential conclusions from my research.

I will demonstrate that I have found several new aspects related to the nature of Psychosynthesis when I applied the Integral model. The most relevant new discoveries are found when we compare Assagioli’s and Firman/Gila’s writings. My conclusions so far are as follows:

  • There is not only one version of Psychosynthesis but at least two very different versions with respect to especially the developmental theory: Assagioli’s original conception and the revised one by Firman/Gila.
  • Assagioli’s version is a height psychological and hierarchical stage model where the self develops through higher and higher levels of consciousness. Firman/Gila’s version is more a depth psychological and a ‘healing the past and recovering the lost potential’ approach.
  • Assagioli’s version of Psychosynthesis includes all the five Integral elements in more or less degree, modern Psychosynthesis is only partly Integral and in Firman/Gila’s version almost none of the Integral concepts are found.
  • Assagioli is well aware of what Wilber calls the Pre/Trans Fallacy, the confusion of higher and lower consciousness. Firman/Gila’s version sometimes falls into this confusion when viewed through an Integral lens.
  • Applying the Integral model to Psychosynthesis, psychotherapy can help us define the hierarchical stages of development, identify the pathology on each level, avoid the Pre/Trans Fallacy, so we offer the appropriate type of therapeutic intervention to a given problem. This is crucial when deciding the type of therapeutic intervention in a clinical session and in order to create a more synthetic approach to human develop­ment.

In the following I will show that the above assumptions can be validated through a careful analysis of the research literature andby applying themto psychosynthesis psychotherapy.

Read the whole paper, which was his MA thesis.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Beyond Belief - Science, Reason, Religion & Survival

Cool - Francisco Ayala is great - interesting discussion here with Richard Dawkins, Joan Roughgarden, and Carolyn Porco - from 2006.

Just 40 years after a famous TIME magazine cover asked "Is God Dead?" the answer appears to be a resounding "No!" According to a survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life in a recent issue of Foreign Policy magazine, "God is Winning". Religions are increasingly a geopolitical force to be reckoned with. Fundamentalist movements - some violent in the extreme - are growing. Science and religion are at odds in the classrooms and courtrooms. And a return to religious values is widely touted as an antidote to the alleged decline in public morality. After two centuries, could this be twilight for the Enlightenment project and the beginning of a new age of unreason? Will faith and dogma trump rational inquiry, or will it be possible to reconcile religious and scientific worldviews? Can evolutionary biology, anthropology and neuroscience help us to better understand how we construct beliefs, and experience empathy, fear and awe? Can science help us create a new rational narrative as poetic and powerful as those that have traditionally sustained societies? Can we treat religion as a natural phenomenon? Can we be good without God? And if not God, then what?

This is a critical moment in the human situation, and The Science Network in association with the Crick-Jacobs Center brought together an extraordinary group of scientists and philosophers to explore answers to these questions. The conversation took place at the Salk Institute, La Jolla, CA from November 5-7, 2006.

Howard Bloom - Reinventing Capitalism: Putting Soul in the Machine - (A Quick Re-Vision of Western Civilization)

This article is from a while back in EnlightenNext (formerly What Is Enlightenment?). Howard Bloom is an amazing thinker - and considering the current economic crisis, Capitalism might need some reinventing.

Capitalism is flawed in many ways, but it is also the best system available, until someone invents something better - here Bloom looks at the upside of Capitalism.

Reinventing Capitalism: Putting Soul in the Machine

A Quick Re-Vision of Western Civilization

by Howard Bloom

Howard Bloom

The early part of the twenty-first century gave the Western world one skull-cracking slap after another. The downing of New York's World Trade Center; the battle with militant Islam's holy warrior; the crash and scandal of major corporations like Enron, Worldcom, and Arthur Andersen; and the growth of China to superpower status—these were wakeup punches. They handed us what may be our greatest opportunity and our greatest responsibility since the Great Depression and the Nazis threatened to topple the Western way of life in the 1930s.

Osama bin Laden's threats against America and against the “false religion” of freedom of speech, secularism, spiritual eclecticism, human rights, women's rights, and gay rights have the potential to nuke us into a new dark age. As you read this page, over ten thousand Wahhabi madrassas, “suicide bomber factories,” salted on every one of this planet's continents, are teaching children to make holy war against you and me. The West, these kids are told, has nothing left to give the world but immorality and decay. The teachers in these madrassas peddle passion brilliantly. They feed the hunger for meaning with the junk food of emotion—violence and righteous fury. But could the madrassa teachers be right? Do we in the Western system have nothing worth struggling for? Do we have nothing that's worthy of idealism and belief?

Our civilization is under attack. But many of us don't want to defend it. Why? There's a void in our sense of meaning. We've been told that “the Western system” is one in which the rich stoke artificial needs to suck money, blood, and spirit from the rest of us. We've been told that the barons of industry work overtime to turn us from sensitive humans into consumers—mindless buyers listlessly watching TV while growing obese on the artificial flavors, chemical preservatives, and cheap sugars of junk food. And some of that is true.

But the problem does not lie in the turbines of the Western way of life—it does not lie in industrialism, capitalism, pluralism, free speech, and democracy. The problem lies in the lens through which we see. Capitalism works. It works for reasons that don't appear in the analyses of Marx or in the statistics of economists. It works clumsily, awkwardly, sometimes brilliantly, and sometimes savagely. So we need to dig down to find out why.

We need to reveal the deeper meaning beneath what we've been told is crass materialism. We need to see how profoundly our obsessive making and exchanging of goods and services has upgraded the nature of our species.

The Western system is not at all what we've been taught to believe. This is not a mindless consumer culture destroying the planet in an orgy of greed. It is the most creative and potentially idealistic bio-engine this planet has ever seen. But if we fail to open our eyes and spot this reality fast, everything we believe in may easily disappear.

We need to stare a blunt fact in the face: Many of today's corporations are creatively and morally asleep. But you and I can wake them in a most ironic way—through a strange-but-vital upgrade in the richness of our lives. We can re-perceive the tale of capitalism's rise. We can lay out a new and far more insight-saturated story of our origins—a factual creation myth. And we can use this genesis story, this re-perceived tale of our history, as a key to the quandaries of work and daily living. We can use it as a cornerstone of a new view of our future in a world of instant change.

We can reveal a central secret of the Western system—we're not mere digits in a numbers game; we're feeling people woven in emotional exchange.


Here's a basic fact of the Western way of life: Hard as we may find it to conceive, capitalism offers more things to believe in than any system that has come before. Nearly every faith, from Christianity and Buddhism to Islam and Marxism, promises to raise the poor and the oppressed. But only capitalism delivers what these ideologies and religions profess, century after century. Capitalism lifts the poor and helps them live their dreams. The proof is in the mega-perks we tend to take for granted. Here are some examples.

In the early 1700s, cotton clothes were a luxury import that only the super-rich could afford. The masses worked from day to day in stiff fabrics that housed insects and that scratched and tortured the skin. Changing into new clothes every few days or laundering them regularly was impossible. There was little sense in bathing if your shirt carried last month's stench. In 1785, capitalism introduced the power loom and changed the very nature of the shirt on man's back. By the twentieth century, capitalism had made a T-shirt of cotton—the fabric of kings—the norm for even the poorest sub-Saharan African.

In the nineteenth century, capitalism gave us another universal: soap. Statistics show that Westerners grew dramatically healthier and added decades to their lives beginning in roughly the 1840s, when the soap-and-cotton revolution kicked in.

In the early 1800s, sending an urgent letter to a relative on a distant coast took months or weeks. Then capitalism built the telegraph system and made sending messages across continents and seas a matter of hours. In the 1990s, a mesh of multinational corporations took another leap. They built the mobile phone system and made it second nature to ring Taipei from Tampa and Bangalore from Boston while you were walking down the street.

In the mid-1840s, a trip from New York to California took over half a year either by wagon or by sailing ship. Your odds of dying on the way were roughly one in five. Then in 1869 there came a capitalist masterpiece, the transcontinental railway, that snipped the trip down to a week. In the twentieth century, capitalism gave the average citizen jet wings and slivered the New York to LA trip from roughly one hundred hours down to five.

The Western system accomplished in three hundred years what it would have taken evolution over three hundred million to achieve—it gave us the equivalent of new arms, legs, ears, eyes, and brains.

No other civilization in the history of this planet—not the Egyptian, the Roman, the Muslim, the Chinese, or the twentieth-century Marxist Russian—has ever come close to lifting the downtrodden in these ways. None has ever done so much to elevate, empower, and create a brand-new category of humanity, a brand-new niche of comfort and prosperity: a massive and productive middle class.

The middle class is an economy-and-culture engine that even Karl Marx, in his Communist Manifesto, praised for creating “wonders far surpassing Egyptian pyramids, Roman aqueducts, and Gothic cathedrals.” Yes, the same Karl Marx who hated the middle class. The same Karl Marx who turned the word for middle class into a curse word: the “bourgeoisie.”

But the middle class is something we usually don't notice—a sea of humans the Western system has raised from the ranks of the downtrodden . . . and has uplifted permanently. How have the Western system and its sidekick, capitalism, pulled off deeds of this magnitude? How has the Western system done it without really knowing its own nature? And if capitalism is such a miracle worker, why does it need a radical upgrade?

Because while the West does far more than it gets credit for, that's nothing compared to what it can ultimately achieve. Yes, the capitalist system has performed its share of miracles—and its share of atrocities. The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in New York City in 1911 killed 146 women—most of them younger than twenty-three years old—in less than fifteen minutes. In 1984, a nighttime leak of forty tons of methyl isocyanate gas from a Union Carbide pesticide factory in Bhopal, India, sent a toxic cloud crawling across a forty-square-kilometer residential area housing half a million people. The result was death for 28,000 and lasting illness for another 120,000. And by 2001, one Texas company, Clear Channel Communications, Inc., had offices in 63 countries and owned 1,200 radio stations; 135 clubs, theaters, arenas, and stadiums; 19 television stations; and 770,000 outdoor advertising displays. In 2004, Clear Channel was on the verge of bridging the gap from the free market to monopoly and was capable of determining what information you and I do and do not get to see.


We have to retell the history of Western civilization in a way that hints at the rich ore beneath the slopes and plains of our history's terrain. We have to peel back the lumpy outer skin of capitalism and show the beating heart within. A semi-brain-dead capitalism has given vast new powers to humanity—powers like the ability to light our homes at night with electricity and add five hours a day to the normal human's waking life. A capitalism that knows its mission, a capitalism propelled by the troika of empathy, passion, and reason, can work far greater wonders.

Imagine what it would be like if at every staff meeting you were expected to put the care of the multitudes we mistakenly call “consumers” first. Imagine what it would be like to go to work each morning in a company that saw your passions as your greatest engines, your curiosities as your fuel, and your idealisms as the pistons of your labors and of your soul. Imagine what it would be like if your superiors told you that the ultimate challenge was to tune your empathic abilities so you could sense the needs of your firm's customers even before those customers knew quite what they hankered after. Imagine what it would be like if your superiors asked you to do what artists and psychics do—find your hidden selves in the hidden hungers of those you serve. There is an implicit code by which we in the Western system live—a code that demands that we uplift each other . . . and that we do it globally.

The “human resources” creed—the real business of business—should be one that comes from the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay:

A man was starving in Capri;
He moved his eyes and looked at me;
I felt his gaze, I heard his moan,
And knew his hunger as my own.

Mine every greed, mine every lust.
And all the while for every grief,
Each suffering, I craved relief.

The world stands out on either side
No wider than the heart is wide;
Above the world is stretched the sky,
No higher than the soul is high.

People are the ones who demand. We do it because we desire, we hanker, we hunger, we're eager, we're roused. Or we're deadened, we're hurt, we're unsatisfied, we need. Consumerism—that wretched sin—isn't what it seems. Capitalism is what we do each day, and it can generate in our daily lives and in the place we work the exuberance of satisfying others, the exhilaration of feeling wanted, the elation of creativity, and the knowledge that we've contributed to something far, far bigger than ourselves.

We desperately need a reinvention and a re-perception of the system that has given Western civilization its long-term strength and its recent weaknesses. We need to wake up capitalism to its mission—a set of moral imperatives and heroic demands that are implicit in the Western way of life. By reinventing capitalism and injecting our own souls into the machine, you and I can raise the bar of human possibility.

We stand at a choice point in history. We can wake up and smell the coffee of our civilization—its pep, its drive, and its power to add to human lives. We can see the ideals and the creative imperatives that capitalism now hides. Or we can go with the flow of the current zeitgeist and condemn all that we have as mere consumerist trash and every workday move we make as an attempt to pick the pockets of the poor. If we fail to see the force of secular salvation, the power of messianic capitalism, in what we do each day, then we will yield the planet up to those who insist on taking the Western system's transformative powers away.

Howard Bloom, a recent visiting scholar at the Graduate Psychology Department at New York University and a Core Faculty Member at The Graduate Institute, is the author of two books: The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition into the Forces of History and Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century.

Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche - The Wisdom of the Body & the Search for the Self

A great article from Shambhala Sun - they are making older articles freely available (which they always have been) in their RSS feed. Very fluffy. This is great article on how Buddhism deals with the body in its various schools.

The Wisdom of the Body & the Search for the Self


From the impermanent to the heroic to the sacred—The Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche on how the view of body changes and evolves in the three vehicles of Buddhism.

From the Buddhist perspective, our spiritual journey begins here—with this very body and mind. Who we are now consists of these two, body and mind, and who we might become will also be expressed through body and mind. Yet what is the true nature of these two?

Our present experience of life can be viewed as a long dream, arising from our lack of understanding about who we truly are and the actual nature of our world. What we usually refer to as a “dream” is only a short-term fantasy that we wake up from every morning. The real dream we are having is our “waking life,” a delusion that continues on and on. When we are in this dream and do not recognize that we are dreaming, then everything we see appears as solid and real, and we do not see any possibilities for transforming our painful experiences. However, when we recognize that we are dreaming, then everything becomes spacious, transparent and free, and all of our confusion and suffering can be easily transformed.

All the teachings of the Buddha are taught for the purpose of developing the penetrating knowledge that sees through this illusion and wakes us up. It is important to realize that these teachings do not constitute a religion in the conventional sense. Rather, they represent a genuine science of mind, a science of insight that uncovers the pure nature of the mind and world that we experience. They also portray a philosophy of life—an approach to life that deals with its meaning and helps us understand how we can overcome the suffering of the world.

When we say that Buddhism is a “science,” we are talking about going into the depths of our inner world using the methods of the path to explore the two basic states of confusion and wisdom. Our resulting understanding of mind brings us greater clarity about how to lead our lives effectively and meaningfully. The spiritual journey is nothing more and nothing less than his.

We may not accept the view that we are “dreaming.” However, most of us recognize a personal sense of self, a familiar face, so to speak, that looks out on the world and reacts habitually to each experience. This sense of self, of “I,” pervades each moment, each interaction, perpetuating itself infinitely. Yet how often or how closely do we look at it?

The two aspects of this self are always together: body is the ground for mind, the stabilizing element that brings mind to the present. The embodied mind can settle, be tamed and be trained, whereas mind without body can go anywhere in an instant. It is when we work with our mind that we overcome whatever we experience physically or mentally as negative or disturbing. So when we discover the actual nature of the body, we are on a genuine path to experiencing the pure nature of mind and its world.

The Body in the Three Yanas

The Buddhist path is divided into three yanas, or vehicles, which represent levels or progressive stages of Buddhist teachings. The Hinayana focuses on individual liberation and the teachings of the Four Noble Truths and dependent origination. The Mahayana focuses on the teachings of emptiness, compassion and buddhanature, and introduces the ideal of the bodhisattva, who is dedicated to the liberation of all sentient beings. The Vajrayana (also called Tantrayana or Mantrayana) is known as the “diamond vehicle,” and also the “path of skillful means.” By taking the state of fruition as the path, this “rapid vehicle” can result in liberation in one lifetime.

Each of the yanas presents a specific view of the body and corresponding methods for investigating and discovering its essence.

The Hinayana view of body focuses on the relative existence of one’s own body as a product of karma and as an impure and impermanent collection of aggregates. The body is taken as an object of meditation to induce the state of renunciation and spur the renunciate to the full state of cessation.

The Mahayana view of body, from the absolute point of view, focuses on the nonexistence of both the body itself and the mind that fixates on the body as a self. From the perspective of relative truth, the Mahayana views the body as inseparable appearance and emptiness. This illusion-like body becomes the basis for understanding the suffering of samsara more deeply and the ground for cultivating a genuine heart of love and compassion for all sentient beings. Moreover, the Mahayana meditation practices take not only one’s own body as an object of consideration, but also the bodies of all sentient beings.

The Vajrayana view of body is that the state of enlightenment is present within one’s physical form at this very moment. Body, speech and mind are regarded as sacred and are seen as the three kayas, or bodies, of buddha—primordially pure expressions of wisdom and compassion.

By looking at the view of the body from the perspective of the three yanas, beginning with the Hinayana, we can see how, through the application of methods of investigation such as the practice of the four foundations of mindfulness and analytical meditation, we can expose this “self” further and further—the self that is pure fabrication, the no-self that is appearance-emptiness, and the state of primordial purity manifesting as the three buddha kayas.

The Four Foundations of Mindfulness

The Four Foundations of Mindfulness are meditations that cultivate a correct knowledge of the natures of four specific objects: the body, feeling or sensation, the mind and phenomena. (Phenomena here refers to the six objects of our six sensory perceptions: forms, sounds, smells, tastes, touch and mental objects.) In this context, knowledge is primarily that which correctly recognizes relative truth, or the relative characteristics of these four things. However, on the basis of this, there is a gradual development of the higher knowledge that recognizes absolute truth. The Hinayana emphasizes these four mindfulness practices as meditations upon the nature of relative reality, while the Mahayana approach makes use of these practices as a way of realizing the absolute truth.

These four meditations work with the five collections of physical and mental components (known as the five skandhas, or aggregates) that comprise sentient beings: physical forms, sensations, perception, concept or mental formations, and consciousnesses. Among these five, the form skandha relates to the body and the next four are all related to mind. In short, we can say that there are two observed objects of self-clinging: body and mind.

Essentially, the practice of mindfulness consists of investigating these individual objects of meditation in order to discriminate between or distinguish the actual characteristics of the things themselves from the abstractions we create in dependence upon them. For example, the abstraction or concept of “my body” can be distinguished from the aggregate of body itself. The actual body is a physical thing composed of various elements, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with my name for it, my image of it, and so on.

The Hinayana Approach: Reversing Attachment to Self

From the Hinayana point of view, the body is the basis for the self-clinging that is said to be the cause of suffering. At the same time, the body is viewed as the main basis for the path that leads to the transcendence, or cessation, of suffering. Thus, the body is both a fundamental cause of suffering as well as that which suffers; in addition, it is a fundamental cause of liberation because it is that which engages in the path of transcendence.

In a basic way, the mindfulness of body relates to our fundamental sense of existence. Due to our samsaric tendencies, our existence is normally not very stable or grounded; it is very wild, like a mad elephant. For that reason, at the first stage of mindfulness practice, we work with the existence of form. In particular, we work with three different levels of form: the outer form of our physical existence, the inner form of our perceptions, and the innermost form, which is related to the Mahayana understanding of the selflessness of body.

We work with the outer form of our physical existence by bringing our complete attention to the physical body, which is the primary basis for our clinging. When we work with mindfulness of body, we work with the basic root of emotions, which is attachment. The method of practice is to feel the body within the state of calmness, or shamatha. We simply experience the skandha of form without adding anything to it—without adding any labels, judgments or thoughts, such as, “This is my body,” “This is a good body,” “This is a beautiful body,” “It is so healthy,” “It is so unhealthy,” and so forth. The instruction here is just to drop it all. At this point, we are simply being open. By bringing body into the present, we come into contact with what body actually is, rather than continuing to think about what it actually is.

What we are working toward is seeing the actual nature of the outer form of our body, without concern for speculations, such as, “Is the body mind or matter? Is the body a projection of mind or not?” At this level, we should forget about such philosophical or theoretical divisions. The Buddha teaches this basic approach in the sutras when he says such things as, “When you see, just see. When you smell, just smell. When you touch, just touch. When you feel, just feel.”

Once we are able to simply sit and be with our body, then it is possible for us to have a sense of the profound nature of our physical existence. That experience takes us to the inner state of physical existence, allowing us to see the true nature of our body, the reality of the relative existence of self. At this stage, we experience the impermanent nature of our body, which is the subtle experience of the mindfulness of body. It is said that as a result of this technique, we begin to feel our body in a way that is completely different from our ordinary experience. We actually begin to feel the empty nature of the body. The body naturally leads us to the experience of shunyata, or emptiness. Usually, we experience only the labels we impose on our body. When we look at ourselves in a mirror, we see nothing more than our conceptual mask. What is the problem with putting on this mask? We forget that we are wearing a mask and we scare ourselves. Practicing mindfulness of body is a way to experience the true self—the true body—without any barrier.

Reversing Attachment to Body

In the Hinayana tradition, mindfulness of body is also practiced using the method known as the “meditation on ugliness,” or the “meditation on that which is repulsive.” The object of one’s meditation, in this case, includes both one’s own body and the bodies of others. Traditionally, one reflects on how our bodies are impure or unclean, to counteract the perception of our bodies as pure, and the five skandhas are viewed as “aggregates of filth.” This meditation engenders a sense of disgust toward the body and strengthens our sense of renunciation, of wishing to be free of samsara.

This attitude of revulsion is generated in stages by means of the “ten perceptions of the body.” The first of these is the perception of the body as mortal, the recognition that death could occur at any time. The next meditation works with the perception of the body as being ugly or gross by reflecting on all of the unpleasant things that are inside our body, such as blood, lymph, phlegm and other foul and revolting things. The remaining eight perceptions are based on considering what happens to a body after death.

Although we are very attached to our bodies right now, if we think about these a great deal, then our perception of our bodies will change. Essentially, we are attempting to divest ourselves of whatever it is that we are fixating on as “I” or as a self through contemplating the dissolution of the body, until finally we realize that there is no basis in the body for the concept “I.” This meditation should only be done under the guidance of a qualified Buddhist teacher.

Contemplating impermanence is another method for reversing our attachment to the body and inspiring us to take advantage of the precious opportunity of this life that allows us to cut attachment. When we reflect on death and impermanence, we reflect on the certainty of death as well as the uncertainty of the moment of death. We also contemplate the kinds of experiences we will have at the time of death, and what will truly help us through them. We consider what we are leaving behind—our physical body, our family and friends, all our possessions and power, and even our teachers.

When we reflect in this way, we see that this reality is not frozen—it is flowing like a river. Every moment is new, fresh and profoundly awakening. We can take full advantage of this moment or let it slip from our hands, just as each moment in the past has slipped away. That is seeing impermanence: seeing the transitory nature of our lives and the fragile nature of our existence.
Go read the whole article.