Saturday, October 31, 2009

John L. Petersen: New Human - New World

Hmmm . . . interesting.

by John L. Petersen

New Human - New World

We need to start the discussion about how a new world might operate. We need to get going. We're already late. One of the most profound historical transitions defining how humans will live on this planet is fully underway and it's about time that those of us who intend to shape the emergence of the new world start seriously thinking about how things might work after the dust of change settles.

This extraordinary shift gives every indication that it is going to produce both a new human and a new world. The new humans will see themselves differently, both in terms of who they are and how they relate to the rest of reality. The essential defining characteristic appears to be understanding that we do not exist apart from or independently of anything else around us. We're all part of the same experience. Many call it oneness.

This is distinctly unlike the way almost all of us were raised. We were taught (both directly and implicitly) that humans stood apart from the planet, the environment and of course, other people. We were separate.

Now, it is quickly coming clear in very tangible terms, that we are all interconnected and interdependent. The behavior of the environment and climate, the global financial system, geopolitical groups, and certainly the Internet show us daily that human behavior in one isolated place affects significant change in other, very unanticipated locations. These initial, physical indicators are harbingers of a much more broadly defined paradigm that is already flowering all over the world.

Many good individuals and groups are working on the new human issue - the elevation of the human spirit and consciousness. Call it what you'd like - enlightenment, awakening, ascension - the idea is a rising new level of awareness and being.

The world we'll live in after this transition is a different issue.

If the new human has different perspectives, values, and objectives, then all of the world's institutions, concepts, and processes - governments, corporations, the idea of national security, education, the economic system - will fundamentally change as well. They will be structured differently around new purposes using a fresh set of incentives. People will be seen and valued differently by and within organizations. The role of money will probably shift. Maybe the whole definition of work will evolve to something new. It's really big, multidimensional change . . . all happening at the same time.

The whole system, which was designed around and for old ideas and principles that have existed for centuries, will need to be re-imagined.

Designing the New World - Two Initiatives

So, the question is, should we wait until the old system fails and the necessity for designing the new world is pressing in all around us? Or, should we begin thinking about how this new world might work now - while we have the time and space to fully consider the many possible options?

I vote for starting the design process now. Not only do we have the time, but as the new model starts to come together we can hold it up for millions to see as an alternative to the world that will be eroding around them. It will provide much needed hope. It will show a way to a new world.

I don't know if there's anyone else trying to comprehensively evolve a model of a new world, but here at The Arlington Institute we are smartly moving in that direction.

December Workshop

The workshop that Don Beck and I are holding on December 11-12 is the first concrete step toward summoning up the thinking that will support a larger global design initiative. If being a creator of this new world appeals to you, then you should consider being with us next month. If you plan to come, you should register now. Participants are signing up fast. Half of the places are already taken, and we only announced it two weeks ago.

Also, if you're in the Washington area and want to hear more about some of these ideas, come spend the day with us at Unity of Fairfax on the 14th of November. You'll find more info here.

New World Project

The larger initiative is a project that we've been calling the New World Project - a six-month process to bring together a relatively small group of extraordinary thinkers to rapidly build an initial, tentative model of the essential framework of a possible new world . We want to come up with something that when it is held up for all to see, people say, "Yeah, that could work!"

The model will be designed only to function as a discussion/debate starter. I call it a "logical seed" that can be put on the table in a virtual environment in front of many thousands of people as a straw man concept that they can begin to shoot at and modify. We'd like to start - and encourage - a global, evolutionary and emergence process. This is about planting the clear idea of a tangible, reasonable, achievable, new world in the collective consciousness of those who know that they are here to contribute to, design, and help build such a place.

Our plan then, is to provide a novel environment where very large numbers of people from across the world can come together to systematically design the beginnings of this new world. Imagine many thousands of "transitioneers" collaborating together in a very fun and highly incentivized environment. That's the idea, and we have a very well thought out approach to making it happen. This is an initiative that can literally change the world.

We're looking for funding for this project - the first priority being to build the discussion-starting model, which is something less than $400,000. If you think the time is right to start a global movement to design a new world and you would like to learn more about the New World project and how you might get involved in supporting it, send me a note at with your name and email address (and telephone number, if you'd like to talk) and I'll get back to you directly.

Be well. I'm off to carve pumpkins.

Edgar Allen Poe - The Raven

Happy Halloween!

Rob Preece - Dharma Quote: Sense of Self

Great quote this week from Snow Lion Publications.

Buddhist Practices for
Opening to Others

by Rob Preece

Dharma Quote of the Week

When we have a poor sense of self we can easily become formless in the sense that we do not express our boundaries or our "shape" and may then be taken advantage of to our detriment. I have known a number of Buddhist friends who had a disposition to be self-effacing and self-negating in a particularly unhealthy and detrimental way. They would often find themselves being taken advantage of and feeling powerless to do anything about it. They would tell themselves that they had to give up "self-cherishing" and so let what was happening continue. I found this very sad and frustrating to watch because it became increasingly clear that they were struggling inside with something they had been told was a taboo--looking after themselves. In the case of these friends, it was clear that their lack of self-assertion was actually a cause of more suffering. In many ways, it was actually reinforcing their wounding. It also meant that those who took advantage were being quite abusive in what they were doing.

We should not confuse a healthy self-regard and self-assertion with [selfish concern, or self-preoccupation, in which the mind becomes disturbed and tight, reacting to conflicting or challenging situations with defensiveness, anger, jealousy, greed, embarrassment, or worry, contracting into oneself.]

...Learning to let go of the disposition to be self-preoccupied is not an easy step to take because it will challenge us where we defensively still hold on. Once we become aware of the disposition, we will see it time and again in relatively insignificant as well as in major ways. I saw this in a small way as I walked to work one morning. I saw a worm struggling to cross the footpath and in danger of drying up and dying. I had a moment of choice in which I could have picked up the worm and placed it in the grass, potentially saving its life. I didn't, I regret to say, because there were some people coming towards me and I suddenly felt embarrassed about what they would think about me.

...Letting go is not the same as doing nothing or letting everyone walk over you. But when we go into the contracted space [of obsessive thinking and self-preoccupation], it hurts. When we let go, there is the possibility of doing something about our situation, but not from the same emotional place.... When we have let go of the contracted self-preoccupation, we begin to have a choice.

...Letting go of self-preoccupation does not imply passivity. It means recognizing that the cause of suffering is the contraction into ourselves in a way that actually increases the pain. When we stay open, we can still assert what is important for us. It requires a certain kind of inner strength to keep our heart open.

--from The Courage to Feel: Buddhist Practices for Opening to Others by Rob Preece, published by Snow Lion Publications - Dan Siegel: The Brain and the Developing Mind

Excellent video from - Dan Siegel rocks. As far as I know, he is one of the few neuroscientists who is also a practicing Buddhist. His book The Mindful Brain is a great look at the ways in which mindfulness practice can rewire our brains.

Dan Siegel, executive director of the Mindsight Institute gives a lecture entitled Mindsight: The Power of Connection The Science of Reflection as part of the Chautauqua Institution's 2009 Summer Lecture Series.

Siegel serves as the Executive Director of the Mindsight Institute, an educational organization that focuses on how the development of insight, compassion and empathy in individuals, families and communities can be enhanced by examining the interface of human relationships and basic biological processes.

An award-winning educator, Dr. Siegel is currently an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine where he is a Co-Investigator at the Center for Culture, Brain, and Development and is Co-Director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center.

He received his medical degree from Harvard University and completed his postgraduate medical education at UCLA with training in pediatrics and child, adolescent and adult psychiatry. He served as a National Institute of Mental Health Research Fellow at UCLA, studying family interactions with an emphasis on how attachment experiences influence emotions, behavior, autobiographical memory and narrative.

Dr. Siegel is the author of the internationally acclaimed text, The Developing Mind: Toward a Neurobiology of Interpersonal Experience (1999). He serves as the Founding Editor for the Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology. His book with Mary Hartzell, M.Ed., Parenting from the Inside Out: How a Deeper Self-Understanding Can Help You Raise Children Who Thrive (2003) explores the application of this newly emerging view of the mind, the brain, and human relationships. His latest book is The Mindful Brain: Reflection and Attunement in the Cultivation of Well-Being (2007).

Friday, October 30, 2009

Zach Alexander - Zach Alexander Why More Humanists Should Meditate

From The New Humanism site. Sam Harris is a fan of meditation, while most well-known atheists aren't. Really, everyone should engage in some form of contemplation, whether it's meditation, tai chi, contemplative prayer, or something else.
Still Atheists Run Deep
Why More Humanists Should Meditate

by Zach Alexander

"There is a god—his love surrounds us," a woman sings, standing up from a silent assembly of hundreds.

"There is no god—our love surrounds us," she continues, and sits back down to resume meditating.

Much is contained in this moment, which took place at a recent gathering of Quakers in New England—the draw of contemplative practices, even for the agnostic or godless; the ambivalence about supernaturalism within liberal religions; and the need for secular communities where people support and care for each other, like they do in the best churches.

All three motivated me to start an enterprise called the Humanist Contemplative Group, inspired by a similar group started by D.T. Strain, former president of the Humanists of Houston. The idea is to bring more people into the Humanist community and to serve existing members in new ways, by creating a space that's a little deeper, more personal and less academic than most Humanist events. In Cambridge we're accomplishing this by meeting twice a month to meditate, making space before and after to share what we're experiencing, both in the silence and in the rest of our lives.

Since June, we've met about twice a month on Saturday mornings at the Harvard Science Center. After introductions and personal check-ins, we meditate for about half an hour, and then talk about what the experience was like, and what we think about it.

The format is intentionally eclectic—it's in the spirit of Humanism to experiment with different approaches, and examine them all critically. One common way of classifying meditative practices is along a spectrum from "mindfulness" to "concentrative," depending on the use of attention. Mindfulness meditations involve awareness of one's perceptual field, noticing sensations, thoughts and emotions as they arise, without stopping to analyze or dwell on them. Concentrative meditations involve directing one's focus to a particular object, such as one's breath. So far we've tried meditations along this spectrum, including awareness of breath, mindfulness of bodily and internal sensations, walking meditation, compassion or loving-kindness meditation, and a secularized form of Quaker meditation. Other activities are under consideration, including sitting with other contemplative groups.

We're walking a fine line here, trying to appropriate practices associated with religions without buying into their discredited metaphysics or otherwise losing our secular bearings. We welcome debate about how to separate the wheat from the chaff—what we should and shouldn't make use of as Humanists. Equally up for discussion should be the potential risks of meditation, especially long stretches undergone by novices, as detailed by the writer Mary Garden in The Humanist in 2007.

So why meditate to begin with? Because people who meditate report many positive effects—like greater calm and emotional balance, greater mental clarity and focus, and a greater capacity for compassion.

To speak personally, I started meditating at 18 at Gordon College, a Christian liberal arts school near Boston. I was very confused that year, because for the first time I was able to think critically about the fundamentalism I was brought up with, and the doomsday cult my family's church became in my teens (really). A key turning point came when I picked up Lawrence LeShan's classic (if somewhat dated) How to Meditate at a church rummage sale. Compared to the theological abstractions I was still being inundated with, the experience of meditating seemed so much more substantial and this-worldly. The more I meditated, the more mental clarity and emotional stability I felt—and the more my confidence grew about rejecting religion.

So much for testimony—the scientific evidence is more ambiguous, in part because there is a wide variety of mental exercises falling under the same term. But studies do suggest several positive benefits.

Much research indicates that meditation mitigates stress and anxiety. For example, one study in 2007 by University of Oregon and Chinese researchers found that after only 20 minutes of mindfulness-related meditation for five days, participants showed less anxiety, depression, and anger than a control group that received relaxation training. A study by Sara Lazar of Harvard Medical School gave subjects an attention-related test in the afternoon when people tend to get sleepy; meditating for 40 minutes prior to the test was found to significantly increase performance. Some recent research suggests that compassion-based meditation may increase activity in regions of the brain related to empathy.

Evidence like this is merely suggestive; the jury is still out on what kinds of practices produce exactly which effects. But these kinds of results—less stress, greater attention, greater compassion—should interest anyone concerned with human happiness and fulfillment.

Humanists in particular should support forming contemplative communities for the following reason: despite the reasons to meditate, and the many who wish to do it, there are few secular opportunities to practice.

Today, an atheist looking for a contemplative community might first look into local Buddhist sanghas. Some traditions, notably Zen and Vipassana, are light enough on dogma to be appealing to some Humanists. Some Buddhists are working to make Buddhism even more secular, such as Stephen Batchelor, author of Buddhism without Beliefs. But in the meantime, for many, even the mildest trappings of religion remind them of everything about religion they oppose. In Sam Harris's words, "the wisdom of Buddhism is currently trapped within the religion of Buddhism."

On the Western side, atheists are welcome to join the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in many parts of the country. Quakers resemble Buddhists in certain ways, and meet to practice a unique form of group meditation called "meeting for worship." I became a Quaker in college while still a Christian, and throughout my journey to atheism, no one has ever tried to make me feel unwelcome (not counting blog wars—which even the otherwise peaceful Quakers aren't immune to).

But again, for many, being welcome isn't enough if we still have to listen to supernatural nonsense and treat it with more respect than it deserves. In the meeting where the above impromptu song was sung, for example, several people voiced support for the godless, but others defended traditional theism—one even claiming that genocide is part of a divine plan we mere mortals cannot comprehend. Only the most long-suffering nontheists can be expected to stay in a community where execrable notions like this are acceptable.

In short, consider an analogy. Imagine most of the gyms in the world were religious—crosses or Shivas adorning the walls, personal trainers sprinkling their advice with Qur'anic verses. Wouldn't it be imperative to support the creation of normal, secular gyms, where people could exercise in peace? That's what we're trying to do.

And beyond the exercises themselves, what makes me excited about this group is the kind of community it's becoming. People are enthusiastic about it, and about getting to know each other in a deeper way. Despite everything wrong with religion, one thing many churches get right is meeting the need most people have for authentic, accepting community. Perhaps knowing we have no god who loves us makes it even more pressing.

The Jewish Daily Forward - Six Takes on God, Books

Interesting review of some well-known books and authors.

Six Takes on God



By Gordon Haber

Published October 21, 2009, issue of October 30, 2009.

God According to God: A Physicist Proves We’ve Been Wrong About God All Along
By Gerald L. Schroeder
HarperOne, 256 pages, $25.99.

The Evolution of God
By Robert Wright
Little, Brown and Company, 567 pages, $25.99.

Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate
By Terry Eagleton
Yale University Press, 200 pages, $25.00.

Saving God: Religion After Idolatry
By Mark Johnston
Princeton University Press, 248 pages, $24.95.

The God Question: What Famous Thinkers From Plato to Dawkins Have Said About the Divine
By Andrew Pessin
Oneworld Publications, 352 pages, $14.95.

The Case for God
By Karen Armstrong
Knopf, 432 pages, $27.95.

Regular readers of the book review pages (or even of books) are no doubt familiar with the so-called New Atheists — Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, in order of increasing shrillness — and how they’ve been raising hackles with their screeds. After reading their books last year, I could see why people were ticked off. The New Atheists like to conflate any kind of religion with extremism, as if all believers were boneheaded fundamentalists. Similarly, they rail against a cruel, straw-man God, as if the fundamentalist projection of brutality onto the Creator is the only way to conceive of Him.

Still, I say, God bless the New Atheists. The thing to remember is that they are good for religion — at least for those of us who see faith as an ongoing inquiry. “The God Debate” is often portrayed as a screaming match between nonbelievers and fundamentalists, but there is a vast area of religious feeling in between. And the success of the New Atheists is prodding those in that broad zone to articulate their beliefs. This year has brought a number of notable responses, in particular to the oversimplified perception of God shared by both nonbeliever and Bible beater. Recently I read a half-dozen such books, and though at times I was frustrated, overall it was an enlightening experience.

Any marathon reading session needs an organizing principle, so I moved to the least religious books from the most. (Maybe that’s why it began inauspiciously: The religiously observant can be remarkably unobservant about other things.) In “God According to God: A Physicist Proves We’ve Been Wrong About God All Along,” Gerald L. Schroeder argues that skeptics have “a stunted perception” of God as “a sinister monster.” When we look at scripture more carefully, however, we see that He is loving and merciful. Which is nice to point out, but really the book is a jumbled attempt to reconcile scripture and science. Instead of a considered response to the real questions raised by atheism, “God According to God” is a mishmash of Intelligent Design, junk metaphysics and passable Jewish theodicy.

Karen Armstrong’s “The Case for God” is, baruch HaShem, much better, even if the title is misleading. Her book is not so much a brief on behalf of a specific divinity as it is an investigation of the “apophatic tradition” — namely, that God is beyond human comprehension, so it’s better not to talk so much about Him. Instead we should look to a “spirituality of silence,” a religious practice that, through “spiritual exercises and a dedicated lifestyle,” reveals His transcendence. And anything that “elevates an inherently limited value to an unacceptably high level,” like the contemporary obsession with creationism or the “Holy Land,” is idolatrous.

In “Saving God: Religion After Idolatry,” Mark Johnston also has choice things to say about the “idolatrous urge to contain God in an image or representation.” Johnston, like Armstrong, is not talking about icons or statues: He’s talking about applying any anthropomorphic qualities to God, like ethnocentrism or vengeance. He’s also talking about the obsession with “outer ritual forms” and the afterlife, the selfish “quest for meaning,” even theodicy. All are “forms of resistance to the Divine.” According to Johnston, the better path is panentheism, or “God in all and all in God.” But what is God? Well, “the outpouring of Existence Itself by way of its exemplification in ordinary existents for the purpose of the self-disclosure of Existence Itself.”

Which is difficult to imagine on a sampler. Look, both Armstrong’s and Johnston’s books are brilliant. But their alternative paradigms are too intellectual, too rarefied. I had to read parts of Johnston’s book twice, some even three times. Which I didn’t mind — after all, that’s my job. But the other day I also read that Hondurans have been praying to the Virgin of Suyapa, a statuette of Mary, in the hopes that she’ll intercede in their political crisis. And I recall the Hasidim I saw in Poland who left notes at the graves of departed tzadikim. What would they make of “panentheism” or the “apophatic tradition”?

I also found it interesting that while both authors call for a radical re-imagining of monotheism, both still exhibit a kind of Christo-centrism. Armstrong is impressed by midrash, but her greater enthusiasm is for the Christian thinkers who developed a “spirituality of silence.” And Johnston, whose book is a rigorously constructed philosophical argument — one against anthropomorphism and against an unquestioning reliance on scripture to reveal the true nature of God — ends by telling us that “Christ conquers death on our behalf by ideally exemplifying agape, and stimulating it in us.” Of course they should write from any tradition they like, and who would argue against brotherly love? Still, this Jewish reader felt somewhat marginalized.

But when it comes to mistaking Christo-centrism for monotheism, nothing beats Terry Eagleton’s “Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate.” He scores some points at the expense of the New Atheists, referring to Hitchens as “petit-bourgeois” and Dawkins as an “old-fashioned, crassly reductive system builder straight out of George Eliot’s ‘Middlemarch.’” Eagleton’s own religious views, however, are an admixture of Marxism and a fixation on the “the murdered, transfigured body of Jesus.” All right, there is an ideological connection, as in liberation theology. But much of this book is muddled, a collection of almost random thoughts about Jesus, faith and civilization. And it’s rife with the tiresome anti-Americanism of the British left, with the usual schadenfreude about September 11. (Note, though, that Eagleton’s book is based on lectures he gave at Yale, so clearly he’s not averse to American money.)

We have now reached the not-so-religious side of the list, as evidenced by a book that puts the words “God” and “evolution” in the title. But Wright has no Dawkinsian hostility. Instead, in “The Evolution of God” he provides a clear-eyed description of how animism developed into organized religion, and how the conception of God developed in monotheism. The trick is to see that gods are “products of cultural evolution,” and that “the tone of scripture is set by the circumstance of its creator.” In other words, when groups of humans engage in “win-win” behavior, God is tolerant and loving; when one group loses (like the Hebrews often did), God starts talking about enemy-smiting.

Wright’s book is irreverent without being dismissive, and packed with interesting (if often unverifiable) ideas about how religions are created. My only criticism, really, is that I found it insanely difficult to finish. Wright is an over-explainer. He consistently provides an unnecessary level of detail, which creates a book that refuses to end. It’s 567 pages long, which, to be fair, includes the index; but it also includes detailed footnotes, an afterword and an appendix. And there’s an online appendix. Days after I finally got through it all, I flinched whenever I got a text message, for fear that it was Wright with further elucidation.

I had no such concerns about “The God Question: What Famous Thinkers From Plato to Dawkins Have Said About the Divine.” Andrew Pessin concisely summarizes what dozens of sages have written about God, which makes his book a useful companion to those previously discussed. It’s also the only one that I am likely to consult again — partly because Pessin is not out to convince anyone of anything. Every book mentioned above has the implicit message that its author has an answer, the suggestion that this is the way it is; believe what I believe. Only Pessin’s is designed to inspire further reading.

Still, whatever their faults, these books will teach you much about religion, if not so much about God. (Schroeder’s book teaches that Jews, too, can be dumb enough to swallow Intelligent Design.) But I’m not so concerned if I remain confused about the nature of God. Unlike fundamentalists or atheists, I can live with a certain amount of confusion. There is spiritual sustenance in food for thought. And, as I mentioned, we should be encouraged to see that smart people are articulating alternatives to atheism and fundamentalism.

One last thought. I await a book that might convince fundamentalists to respect the separation between church and state — indeed, that this separation was what allowed their ideas to flourish in the first place. And I await a book that reminds atheists of the stabilizing virtues of religious tolerance. Neither book would be about God, of course. Nor would either resolve the real problems of life, the “arbitrary suffering, the decay of corrosive aging, our profound ignorance of our condition,” as Johnston puts it. But they might end a lot of wasteful bickering.

Gordon Haber is a frequent contributor to the Forward.

Bhante Henepola Gunaratana - Mindfulness and Concentration

A good article from the Tricycle archives.

Mindfulness and Concentration

By Bhante Henepola Gunaratana

BHANTE HENEPOLA GUNARATANA on the difference between Mindfulness and Concentration

The Thousands

VIPASSANA MEDITATION is something of a mental balancing act. You are going to be cultivating two separate qualities of the mind-mindfulness and concentration. Ideally, these two work together as a team. They pull in tandem, so to speak. Therefore it is important to cultivate them side by side and in a balanced manner. If one of the factors is strengthened at the expense of the other, the balance of the mind is lost and meditation becomes impossible.

Concentration and mindfulness are distinctly different functions. They each have their role to play in meditation, and the relationship between them is definite and delicate. Concentration is often called one-pointedness of mind. It consists of forcing the mind to remain on one static point. Please note the word force. Concentration is pretty much a forced type of activity. It can be developed by force, by sheer unremitting willpower. And once developed, it retains some of that forced flavor. Mindfulness, on the other hand, is a delicate function leading to refined sensibilities. These two are partners in the job of meditation. Mindfulness is the sensitive one. He notices things. Concentration provides the power. He keeps the attention pinned down to one item. Ideally, mindfulness is in this relationship. Mindfulness picks the objects of attention, and notices when the attention has gone astray. Concentration does the actual work of holding the attention steady on that chosen object. If either of these partners is weak, your meditation goes astray.

Concentration could be defined as that faculty of the mind which focuses singlemindedly on one object without interruption. It must be emphasized that true concentration is a wholesome one-pointedness of mind. That is, the state is free from greed, hatred, and delusion. Unwholesome one-pointedness is also possible, but it will not lead to liberation. You can be very single-minded in a state of lust. But that gets you nowhere. Uninterrupted focus on something that you hate does not help you at all. In fact, such unwholesome concentration is fairly short-lived even when it is achievedespecially when it is used to harm others. True concentration itself is free from such contaminants. It is a state in which the mind is gathered together and thus gains power and intensity. We might use the analogy of a lens. Parallel waves of sunlight falling on a piece of paper will do no more than warm the surface. But that same amount of light, when focused through a lens, falls on a single point and the paper bursts into flames. Concentration is the lens. It produces the burning intensity necessary to see into the deeper reaches of the mind. Mindfulness selects the object that the lens will focus on and looks through the lens to see what is there.

CONCENTRATION SHOULD BE regarded as a tool. Like any tool, it can be used for good or for ill. A sharp knife can be used to create a beautiful carving or to harm someone. It is all up to the one who uses the knife. Concentration is similar. Properly used, it can assist you toward liberation. But it can also be used in the service of the ego. It can operate in the framework of achievement and competition. You can use concentration to dominate others. You can use it to be selfish. The real problem is that concentration alone will not give you a perspective on yourself. It won't throw light on the basic problems of selfishness and the nature of suffering.

Really deep concentration can only take place under certain specific conditions. Buddhists go to a lot of trouble to build meditation halls and monasteries. Their main purpose is to create a physical environment free of distractions in which to learn this skill. No noisc, no interruptions. Just as important, however, is the creation of a distraction-free emotional environment. The development of concentration will be blocked by the presence of certain mental states which we call the five hindrances. They are greed for sensual pleasure, hatred, mental lethargy, restlessness, and mental vacillation.

A monastery is a controlled environment where this sort of emotional noise is kept to a minimum. No members of the opposite sex are allowed to live together there. Therefore, there is less opportunity for lust to arise. No possessions are allowed. Therefore, no ownership squabbles and less chance for greed and for coveting. Another hurdle for concentration should also be mentioned. In really deep concentration, you get so absorbed in the object of concentration that you forget all about trifles. Like your body, for instance, and your identity and everything around you. Here again the monastery is a useful convenience. It is nice to know that there is someone to take care of you by watchillg over all the mundane matters of food and physical security. Without such assurance, one hesitates to go as deeply into concentration as one might.

Mindfulness, on the other hand, is not dependent on any such particular circumstance, physical or otherwise. It is a pure noticing lactor Thus it is free to notice whatever comes up—lust, hatred, or noise. Mindfulness is not limited by any condition. It exists to some extent in every moment, in every circumstance that arises. Also, mindfulness has no lixed object of focus. It observes change. Thus, it has an unlimited number of objects of attention. It just looks at whatever is passing through the mind and it does not categorize Distractions and interruptions are noticed with the same amount or attention as the formal objects of meditation. In a state of pure mindfulness your attention just flows along with whatever changes are taking place in the mind. "Shift. shift. shift. Now this, now this, and now this."

You can't develop mindfulness by force. Active teeth-gritting willpower won't do you any good at all. As a matter of fact, it will hinder progress. Mindfulness cannot be cultivated by struggle. It grows by realizing, by letting go, by just settling down in the moment and letting yourself get comfortable wlth whatever you are experiencing. This does not mean that mindfulness happens all by itself. Far from it. Energy is required. Effort is required. But this effort is different from force. Mindfulness is cultivated by a gentle effort. Persistence and a light touch are the secrets. Mindfulness is cultivated by constantly pulling oneself back to a state of awareness, gently, gently, gently.

Read the rest of the article.

Marsha Lucas - Mindfulness Meditation + Neuroscience = Healthier Relationships

Cool article - couldn't agree more.

Mindfulness Meditation + Neuroscience = Healthier Relationships

You can re-wire your relationship brain. You have the technology.

I'm a big fan of David Rock, whose recent post spoke very compellingly about mindfulness, neuroscience, and how we think and experience the world. His focus is on how your brain works in a work setting, which he has recently written about in his very engaging and informative book, Your Brain at Work. I know that his science-based approach is key in getting hard-boiled executives on board the mindfulness train for changing how people do their best work.

And how about mindfulness and neuroscience in that other big realm: Personal relationships? In my psychology practice, I see similar hard-boiled types, as my office is located only a few blocks from the White House. Many of the people I see are incredibly smart, and phenomenally successful in their careers, but are completely stuck when it comes to their emotional life, most especially their relationships.

If they're so smart, why can't they figure out relationships? For that matter, why can't millions of people figure out relationships?

They haven't, and perhaps you haven't, because all too often our brains are wired to keep doing relationships the wrong way.

Mis-wired from the start

Graphic of neurons connecting

Much of the basic wiring that strongly influences how we deal with relationships begins to form when we're still helpless babies, dependent upon on our relationships with our caregivers for our very survival, and continues to grow throughout our childhood. It creates the foundation for how we respond in every relationship we have.

For the most part, if we had a healthy, attuned relationship with our parents (or "primary caregivers" in psych lingo), we're good to go; we've got neural connections that were nurtured in ways that support healthy relationships. "Attuned" means that your primary caregivers were paying attention in a meaningful way to your experiences, to who you were, and responding in ways which were contingent on what was going on in you, not just based on their own feelings or needs.

Early childhood didn't go that way for most people. It doesn't mean everyone's parents were evil; it means that being a mindful parent is a big challenge.

It also means, though, that finding our way to an emotionally satisfying relationship is often a struggle, because of our history. Our childhood experiences set in place some of the biggest boulders on the path to healthy connections.

Okay, then. If we had less-than-perfect experiences in childhood, we simply need to understand that, and our relationships will bloom, right?

Unfortunately, that's wrong for at least one big reason: Your early relationship wiring is deep in the brain and not subject to logic and insight. It isn't readily accessible through the usual thinking, problem-solving, overt attempts at behavioral change. It would be a bit like doing a search on Google as a way to get into and change the coding in the underlying operating system on your computer.

So, if your wiring pathways weren't optimized for healthy successful relationships when your brain was developing, you're stuck?

Thankfully, that doesn't seem to be the case.

If you can't think of the answer, grow some new brain

In the last five years, there have been a growing number of scientific findings which show that mindfulness meditation stimulates and develops new connections in key integrative areas (for example, the middel prefrontal cortex), laying the foundation for new patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving. (If you're interested, take a look at a 2005 study out of Harvard, by Sara Lazar and colleagues, published in Neuroreport; David Creswell and colleagues' 2007 study at UCLA, published in Psychosomatic Medicine; and Eileen Luders' research at the UCLA Neuroimaging Lab, published earlier this year in NeuroImage.)

This is very good news - you're not stuck with a brain that doesn't grow or change. You can potentially give yourself a second chance for successful relationship brain wiring. You can't go back in time and do your early life over, but you can re-wire the circuits that would have been laid down and powered up by optimal early experiences.

Put another way, when you practice mindfulness meditation, you boost your amperage for relationships. Your brain gets better at making sense of incoming emotional information without jumping to conclusions, reacting out of old habits, or getting stuck in emotional dead-ends like worry or grudges. It does the right stuff with that incoming information, helping you to wisely tell the difference between what's happening in the moment, and what's your "old stuff" pulling your strings like some predictable marionette.

Your better-wired brain can then allow you to perceive and respond to others in balanced, mindful ways that support solid, healthy relationships.

The "M" Word

"But," you say, "I have to... meditate?"

I know, I know. If you say "meditation" to most people, they picture folding their bodies into some pretzel-like shape as they sit on the floor and try to empty their head of any thoughts while their feet go numb. (And, as David Rock and others have pointed out, having something like meditation embedded in an unfamiliar culture or religion can make it difficult to consider trying it ourselves.)

Monks on roller coaster

Learning how to practice mindfulness meditation from a scientifically-grounded understanding clears much of the avoidance of meditation that so many of us top-down, "just the facts" success-chasers have. (Navel-gazing? Bald-headed monks in bathrobes? Ten-day retreats on a mountaintop? Uh, no thanks.)

Mindfulness meditation is actually about noticing your mind's rapid-fire thoughts, but not getting tangled up or misled by them. That's basically it. (Really and truly, neither contortionism nor religion are necessary for re-wiring you brain using meditation.)

There's no stressing or straining about having a busy brain that won't stay still. What you're doing while meditating is simply noticing that your puppy-mind has wandered away, and then gently and lovingly bringing that inquisitive, busy pup back to you over and over again.* I've even got a short video about how your "too-busy" brain can, indeed, meditate.

Mindfulness meditation, at its simplest, is about focusing your attention on something in the moment, like your breathing, or the feeling of where your feet touch the floor - even an itch - and then noticing when (not if) your mind has drifted (or lunged) into its usual busy-ness and distraction, and then bringing your attention back to that simple focus. Lather, rinse, repeat. There! You're doing some basic re-wiring.

Number 9, number 9, number 9...

Doing that simple (but not so easy) task does some vitally important things that will help you "re-wire your brain for love" -- current thinking suggests that there are nine things, in fact.

I was introduced to these nine factors by Daniel Siegel, MD, author of The Mindful Brain and the soon-to-be-released Mindsight. He noticed that the emotional and psychological changes reported in the research on mindfulness meditation looked remarkably like the things seen in people who had healthy, attuned attachments with their primary caregivers in early childhood. (Dan's background includes specialization in parent-child attachment.)

In my next post, I'll walk you through those nine factors. (Hint: They include things like having more flexibility in your reactions, and recovering from intense feelings more easily.) Until then, I hope you'll consider giving mindfulness meditation a try.

Marsha Lucas, PhD is a psychologist / neuropsychologist in Washington, DC. Learn more about rewiring your brain at, where she offers a free mindfulness meditation download and a monthly e-newsletter with meditation tips. You can also follow @DrMarsha on Twitter, and join her on her Facebook page.

*(Thanks to Jack Kornfield, PhD for the puppy metaphor -- and much other wisdom.)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Upaya Zen Center - MOUNT KAILASH JOURNEY with Roshi Joan Halifax and friends in 1987

Nice clip - great pictures of an amazing trip.

MOUNT KAILASH JOURNEY with Roshi Joan Halifax and friends in 1987

Roshi Joan and three close friends, made a remarkable Pilgrimage to Mt. Kailash in 1987. They hitchhiked across the Tibetan plateau where Roshi Joan did a retreat in a cave north of Lake Manasarovar. She and her friends circumabulated Mt. Kailash and then hitchhiked back across the plateau. The photos are by Roshi Joan, video was put together by John Madison. This is an extraordinary film. Enjoy! rjoan
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Tim Parks - Beauty and the Brain: The Puzzle (NYRB)

Very cool article/review from the New York Review of Books blog. Sounds like it would have been a great conference for people like me who enjoy the neuroscience geekiness.

Beauty and the Brain: The Puzzle

Tim Parks

Isia Leviant: Enigma, 1981

What happens in the brain when we look at a painting, listen to music, read a book? This was the subject of Neuroesthetics: When Art and the Brain Collide, a workshop conference at IULM University Milan bringing together a mix of neurobiologists and art historians. The atmosphere was tense and expectant, the art folk anxious that they wouldn’t understand a word, the biologists concerned that their work would seem underwhelming and wrongheaded.

Philosophical Perplexities - Is morality just relative?

It's interesting to have a philosopher (Peter Cave) blogging at Psychology Today - I appreciate the different perspectives philosophy can offer on cultural and psychological issues. Not that I necessarily agree - but it's thought-provoking.

Is morality just relative?

It's not all relative.

'Without God,' goes conventional wisdom, 'morality is just convention.' And, to expand on that conventional so-called wisdom: in a godless universe with godless believers, anything goes; morality is relative, a matter of conventions relative to a particular society.

Now, I know little of psychological researches, but philosophical reasoning and the need for consistency can debunk that so-called wisdom.

First, the claim that morality is relative and conventional is itself a moral claim - yet it is put forward as an objective and non-conventional fact. Minimally, this shows that not all morality is relative, whether or not there is a god.

Secondly, people who put forward such relativism often draw the conclusion that therefore we 'ought' not to interfere in the practices of other cultures. But if morality is all relative, then there can be no objective 'ought' about not interfering in other cultures. Relativism does not offer support for toleration. If all morality is relative, then toleration is no more objectively the answer than authoritarianism.

Thirdly, do religious believers really think that if there were no God or gods, it would be perfectly morally acceptable - objectively - for them to rape, pillage and murder? I doubt it.

These are just some of the considerations that should lead us to beware claims such as 'It's all relative, isn't it.'

I have focused on moral claims, but some even claim that all truth is just 'relative'. That is even more bizarre - and if you are inclined to think that truth is relative, then do you really think it's just a relative matter that you are alive and that if you threw yourself under a fast oncoming train, just a relative matter that you would probably be killed?

Ode Magazine - How suppressed emotions cut us off from loved ones and ourselves

Excellent article - very timely - we all tend to suppress emotions we do not want to see and feel, yet these are exactly the emotions that make us fully human. We have less shadow the more of ourselves we allow into the light.

Real family values

How suppressed emotions cut us off from loved ones and ourselves.

David Servan-Schreiber | September/October 2009 issue
Photograph: David Servan-Schreiber

Tom had a successful career... in the mafia. He'd been a millionaire, able to have any woman he wanted, and rubbed shoulders with influential people. Yet when he came to see me after a lifetime of alcohol, drugs and crime, he was like a lost child who needed direction. To "succeed" in his world, he'd had to learn to block his emotions, and didn't know who he was any more.

Tom told me about the time he was a new recruit and he'd agreed, for a substantial sum, to cut his best friend's ear off because his friend owed money to the Mafia. As he used all his weight to pin his friend down, Tom repeated mechanically, "It's nothing personal, Jimmy. It's just business." Back home, he collapsed into bed and stayed there for two days. When he recovered, he swore to himself he'd never let himself get emotional like that again. He never did cry after that, and moved rapidly through the ranks of "the family." But after years of that type of life, he couldn't sleep at night unless he'd had a few drinks, and his only real pleasure came from prostitutes or cocaine, or both.

At 55, broke and alone, Tom started to recognize the Faustian pact that dominated his life. Having cut off his emotions to block out the pain he inflicted on others, he was no longer able to experience the kind of wholesome pleasures essential to growth. After a few months of trying to listen to what his heart was telling him, Tom finally rediscovered his lust for life. He described the warmth of a child's smile, something he'd never noticed before, and the tears he shed when a young woman whom he'd protected from the Mafia said to him: "Tom, no man has ever done what you just did for me. I'll never forget that." Said Tom: "It's better than winning a hundred grand at poker."

How many of us have fallen into the same trap as Tom, without realizing it? A manager who no longer cares about the devastating effect of losing a job, who tells himself that the severance package is more than reasonable compensation. A doctor who bows to pressure from the family and forces an old lady into a retirement home, even though he knows that staying in her own home is the most important thing left in her life.

How many of us are suppressing the emotions that make us human? It may have helped us climb the corporate ladder, gain status at work or among our friends, but it has also cut us off from the consequences of our actions. Nowadays we're discovering how our behavior toward those close to us, whether colleagues or family members, often leads us to cut ourselves off from our feelings. Yes, it's only through contact with our emotions that we can become whole and fulfilled. That's the lesson I learned from Tom, and I try to apply it every day of my life.

David Servan-Schreiber is a French psychiatry professor and the author of Healing without Freud or Prozac and Anticancer .

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Shambhala Sun Space - “What Mindfulness Does” — An excerpt from Mindful Teaching and Teaching Mindfulness

Nice teaching from what seems to be a very cool new book.

“What Mindfulness Does” — An excerpt from Mindful Teaching and Teaching Mindfulness


In this excerpt from Deborah Schoeberlein’s new book, Mindful Teaching and Teaching Mindfulness: A Guide for Anyone Who Teaches Anything, we learn what mindfulness is, what it isn’t, and how the benefits of its practice might show themselves.

Mindfulness isn’t a panacea for the world’s problems, but it does provide a practical strategy for working directly with reality. You might not be able to change certain things in your life, at work, or at home, but you can change how you experience those immutable aspects of life, work, and home. And the more present you are to your own life, the more choices you have that influence its unfolding.

With mindfulness, you’re more likely to view a really challenging class as just that, “a really challenging class,” instead of feeling that the experience has somehow ruined your entire day. Purposefully taking a mental step back, in order to notice what happened without immediately engaging with intense emotions and reactions, provides a kind of protection against unconstructive responses and the self-criticism that can slip out and make a hard thing even harder. Even just pausing to take a breath can help you slow down, see a broader perspective and redirect the energy of the situation.

I’ve had moments (as I’m sure have you) when a cascade of little annoyances gathered momentum and I lost it—only to regret my outburst later. Developing mindfulness promotes awareness of the cascade, but from a distance. This way, I have a better chance of working with my assumptions without losing my perspective. Annoyances can be events that don’t have to gain momentum, rather than triggers for more and more difficulty. Mindfully noticing the discrepancy between what I wanted to accomplish and what I actually achieved provides useful information without the distraction of unproductive anger, frustration, or disappointment.

I’ve also known days when one challenging class rattled me to my core and poisoned whatever came next. Even after school, such experiences often lingered—as if the actual class weren’t bad enough, the ongoing mental repercussions were worse. If this has happened to you, then you’ll know exactly how painful and frustrating this feels. It’s easy to torment yourself by questioning your competence as a teacher when a forty-five minute class can cause you to take students’ poor behavior personally and lose your center. Even reflecting, “I should have handled that differently since I’m a professional after all—and I’m the adult in a room full of kids!” doesn’t really provide any practical guidance for the future.

So what’s the answer? Put simply, part of it is all about mindfulness: practice and application, and more practice and yet more application. Practice begins with developing mindfulness in a calm, quiet place, a place where the practice is comparatively easy. Application is about walking into a more challenging situation in real life, like your most difficult class, with increased skills and the confidence to help you stay focused, present, flexible, and available. Should you lose the quality of mindfulness you’ll eventually notice what’s happened. And when you do, you can practice returning your attention to paying attention, and redirect your awareness onto the experience of awareness. As you practice and apply mindfulness, you’ll gain skills that will help you accurately assess challenges and handle them with greater ease.

Having techniques that help you manage your own experiences and emotions is more comfortable than feeling powerless as a result of your emotions and habits or, worse, buffeted about by the changing winds of other people’s behaviors and the environment. It’s a simple fact of life that we cannot change other people to suit our will. Yet you can change your own habits and your relationship to your reactions—but reaching that goal requires effective strategies.

From Mindful Teaching and Teaching Mindfulness: A Guide for Anyone Who Teaches Anything, by Deborah Schoeberlein, with Suki Sheth, Ph.D. Excerpted with permission from Wisdom Publications. For more, visit this book’s page on the Wisdom Publications website.

And keep an eye on SunSpace for “Take 5: Beginning Your Personal Practice of Mindfulness,” a second excerpt from the book. That’s coming soon.

In the meantime: see our special selection of teachings and instruction on practicing mindfulness.

This entry was created by Sun Staff, posted on October 27, 2009.

U2 on YouTube - Live from the Rose Bowl

This was actually live the other night, but I missed it, so here is the whole concert. Very cool.
The world's greatest band on the world's largest stage - U2 on YouTube. Watch the rebroadcast of the full live streaming performance from the Rose Bowl. Recorded on Sunday, October 25th.

All in the Mind - Addiction, Free Will and Self Control

Interesting discussion.

Addiction, free will and self control

Heard the one about the psychiatrist, the Supreme Court judge and the philosopher who walked in to a radio studio...? Join Natasha Mitchell and guests in a round-table interrogation of how the brain sciences are changing our understanding of addiction, and the powerful consequences for notions of free will, responsibility and culpability.

Show Transcript | Hide Transcript

Transcripts are available on Wednesdays. Downloadable and streaming audio are published directly after broadcast on Saturdays.


Professor Jeanette Kennett
Joint appointment,
Departmentof Philosophy
Macquarie Centre for
Cognitive Science
Macquarie University
Sydney, Australia

Justice David Hodgson
Appeals Court Judge
New South Wales Supreme Court

Dan Lubman
Associate Professor
Centre for Youth Mental Health
Orygen Youth Health Research Centre
Melbourne University
Victoria Australia

Further Information

All in the Mind blog - Add your comments and contribute to the discussion about the show
NB: Email addresses are not made public. The All in the Mind blog is subject to ABC Online Conditions of Use.

Tweet about the show! You can find Presenter Natasha Mitchell on Twitter here

Addiction, Identity & Responsibility: Perspectives from Neuroscience, Social Science,Philosophy and Law
Held at Macquarie University, October 2009

Addiction: Dis-ease over diseased brains
All in the Mind, ABC Radio National, 18 August 2007

You are not a SELF!...Bodies, brains and the nature of consciousness
All in the Mind, ABC Radio National, 10 October 2009

Addiction - What if It's Genetic? (Part 1 of 2)
All in the Mind, ABC Radio National, 13 July 2003

Addiction - What if It's Genetic? (Part 2 of 2)
All in the Mind, ABC Radio National 20 July 2003


Title: Agency and Responsibility: A Common-Sense Moral Psychology
Author: Jeanette Kennett
Publisher: Oxford: Clarendon Press. 2001 *Reissued in paperback 2003
ISBN: 9780198236580

Title: Drugs, mental health and the adolescent brain: implications for early intervention (editorial)
Author: Dan I Lubman, Murat Yücel
Publisher: Early Intervention in Psychiatry, 2008, 2: 63-66

Title: Addiction: a condition of compulsive behaviour? -Neuroimaging and neuropsychological evidence of inhibitory dysregulation
Author: Dan I. Lubman, Murat Yücel, Christos Pantelis
Publisher: Addiction, 99, 1491-1502, 2004

Title: Neurocognitive and neuroimaging evidence of behavioural dysregulation in human drug addiction: implications for diagnosis, treatment and prevention
Author: Murat Yücel, Dan I. Lubman
Publisher: Drug and Alcohol Review, January 2007, 26, 33-39

Title: Understanding drug addiction: a neuropsychological perspective
Author: Murat Yücel, Dan I. Lubman, Nadia Solowij, Warrick J. Brewer
Publisher: Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry. 2007; 41:957-968

Title: Substance use and the adolescent brain: A toxic combination
Author: Dan I Lubman, Murat Yücel, Wayne Hall
Publisher: Journal of Psychopharmacology 21 (8), 2007, 792-794

Title: Responsiveness to Drug Cues and Natural Rewards in Opiate Addiction: Associations with Later Heroin Use
Author: Dan I Lubman, Murat Yücel, Jonathan W.L Kettle, Antonietta Scaffidi, Trudi MacKenzie, Julian G. Simmons, Nicholas B. Allen
Publisher: Arch. Gen. Psychiatry, Vol 66 (No. 2), Feb 2009

Title: Making Our Own Luck
Author: David Hodgson
Publisher: Ratio, 2007, 278-292

Title: The Mind Matters: Consciousness and Choice in a Quantum World
Author: David Hodgson
Publisher: Oxford University Press, 1991
ISBN-10: 0198240686

Title: Consequences of Utilitarianism
Author: David Hodgson
Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1ST edition (October 1, 1967)
ISBN-10: 019824312X

Title: Reasons, Reverence and Value
Author: Jeanette Kennett in The Neuroscience of Morality: Emotion, Disease, and Development edited by Walter Sinnott-Armstrong
Publisher: The MIT Press, 2008
ISBN 978-0-262-19561-4

Title: Understanding drug addiction: a neuropsychological perspective
Author: M Yücel, D. Lubman, N Solowij, WJ Brewer
Publisher: The Australian and New Zealand journal of psychiatry (2007) vol. 41 (12) pp. 957-68

Title: Neuroscience and Criminal Responsibility
Author: David Hodgson
Paper given at the National Judicial College of Australia Conference on the Australian Justice System in 2020 Sydney, Saturday 25 October 2008

Title: Guilty Mind or Guilty Brain; Criminal Responsibility in the Age of Neuroscience
Author: Justice David Hodgson
Publisher: The Australian Law Journal 74, 661-80 2000

Title: Why I (still) believe in Free Will and Responsibility
Author: David Hodgson
Publisher: Times Literary Supplement 6 July 2007


Natasha Mitchell

Chief Arvol Looking Horse - Concerning the deaths in Sedona

A Lakota Sioux elder responds to the "sweat lodge" deaths in Sedona, from Indian Country Today.

I think it's very useful to hear the perspective of one of the peoples most closely associated with doing "sweats." Many other tribes on this continent - and others - have used this spiritual technology, but many people associate it with the Sioux peoples.

Concerning the deaths in Sedona

Photo by David Melmer

Chief Arvol Looking Horse leadin prayer at a gathering to protect the sacred site, Bear Butte in the northern Black Hills of South Dakota.

Concerning the deaths in Sedona

By Arvol Looking Horse

As Keeper of our Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe Bundle, I am concerned for the two deaths and illnesses of the many people who participated in a sweat lodge in Sedona, Ariz. that brought our sacred rite under fire in the news. I would like to clarify that this lodge, and many others, are not our ceremonial way of life because of the way they are being conducted. My prayers go out to the families and loved ones for their loss.

Our ceremonies are about life and healing. From the time this ancient ceremonial rite was given to our people, never has death been a part of our inikaga (life within) when conducted properly. Today, the rite is interpreted as a sweat lodge. It is much more than that. The term does not fit our real meaning of purification.

Inikaga is the oldest ceremony brought to us by Wakan Tanka (Great Spirit). Nineteen generations ago, the Lakota/Dakota/Nakota oyate (people) were given seven sacred rites of healing by a Spirit Woman, Pte San Win (White Buffalo Calf Woman). She brought these rites along with the sacred Canupa (pipe) to our people, when our ancestors were suffering from a difficult time. It was also brought for the future to help us for much more difficult times to come. They were brought to help us stay connected to who we are as a traditional cultural people.

The values of conduct are very strict in any of these ceremonies, because we work with spirit. The Creator, Wakan Tanka, told us that if we stay humble and sincere, we will keep that connection with the inyan oyate (the stone people), who we call the Grandfathers, to be able to heal ourselves and loved ones. We have a gift of prayer and healing and have to stay humble with our Unci Maka (Grandmother Earth) and with one another. The inikaga is used in all of the seven sacred rites to prepare and finish the ceremonies, along with the sacred eagle feather. The feather represents the sacred knowledge of our ancestors.

What has happened in the news with the makeshift sauna called the ‘sweat lodge’ is not our ceremonial way of life.

Our First Nations people have to earn the right to pour the mini wiconi (water of life) upon the inyan oyate in creating Inikaga by going on the vision quest for four years and four years to Sundance. Then you are put through a ceremony to be painted, to recognize that you have now earned the right to take care of someone’s life through purification. They should also be able to understand our sacred language, to be able to understand the messages from the Grandfathers, because they are ancient, they are our spirit ancestors. They walk and teach the values of our culture in being humble, wise, caring and compassionate.

What has happened in the news with the makeshift sauna called the “sweat lodge” is not our ceremonial way of life.

When you do ceremony, you can not have money on your mind. We deal with the pure sincere energy to create healing that comes from everyone in that circle of ceremony. The heart and mind must be connected. When you involve money, it changes the energy of healing. The person wants to get what they paid for. The Spirit Grandfathers will not be there. Our way of life is now being exploited. You do more damage than good. No mention of monetary energy should exist in healing, not even with a can of love donations. When that energy exists, they will not even come. Only after the ceremony, between the person that is being healed and the intercessor who has helped connect with the Great Spirit, can the energy of money be given out of appreciation. That exchange of energy is from the heart; it is private and does not involve the Grandfathers. Whatever gift of appreciation the person who received help can now give is acceptable. They can give the intercessor whatever they feel their healing is worth.

In our prophecy, the White Buffalo Calf Woman told us she would return and stand upon the earth when we are having a hard time. In 1994, this began to happen with the birth of the white buffalo. Not only their nation, but many animal nations began to show their sacred color, which is white. She predicted that at this time there would be many changes upon Grandmother Earth. There would be things that we never experienced or heard of before: Climate changes, earth changes, diseases, disrespect for life and they would be shocking. There would also be many false prophets.

My Grandmother who passed the bundle to me said I would be the last Keeper if the oyate do not straighten up. The assaults upon Grandmother Earth are horrendous, the assaults toward one another was not in our culture, the assaults against our people have been termed as genocide, and now we are experiencing spiritual genocide.

Because of the problems that began to arise with our rebirth and being able to do our ceremonies in the open since the Freedom of Religion Act of 1978, our elders began talking to me about the abuses they have seen in our ceremonial way of life, which was once very strict.

It is forbidden to film or photograph any of our ceremonies.

After many years of witnessing their warnings, we held a meeting to address the lack of protocol in our ceremonies. After reaching an agreement to address the misconduct of our ceremonies and to remind of the proper protocols, a statement was made in March 2003. Every effort was made to ensure our way of life of who we are as traditional cultural people, because these ways are for our future and all life upon Grandmother Earth (Mitakuye Oyasin, all my relations), so that they may have good health. Because these atrocities are being mocked and practiced all over the world, we even made a film called “Spirits for Sale.”

The non-Native people have a right to seek help from our First Nation intercessors for good health and well-being. It is up to that intercessor. That is a privilege for all people that we gift for being able to have good health and understand that their protocol is to have respect and appreciate what we have to share. The First Nations intercessor has to earn that right to our ceremonial way of life in the ways I have explained.

At this time, I would like to ask all nations upon Grandmother Earth to please respect our sacred ceremonial way of life and stop the exploitation of our Tunka Oyate (Spiritual Grandfathers).

In a Sacred Hoop of Life, where there is no ending and no beginning, namahu yo (hear my words).

Chief Arvol Looking Horse is the 19th generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe Bundle.