Saturday, September 24, 2011

Wendy Zukerman - Resurrected ancient protein is a potent antibiotic

Here is an example of looking to the past - the way back distant past - to solve current and future problems.

This is adapted from New Scientist.

Resurrected ancient protein is a potent antibiotic

The researchers looked at the tammar wallaby, Macropus eugenii, which is born after 26 days, then takes up residence in its mother's pouch to continue its maturation. When they examine the environment of the pouch, they found a variety of "superbugs" that currently haunt human hospitals

How clean is my pouch? <I>(Image: Tom Brakefield/Getty)</I>

The wallaby genome contains code for "14 cathelicidin peptides, a component of the innate immune system. Lab tests revealed that many of the peptides could kill a range of multidrug-resistant pathogens - without damaging human cells."

Of the 14, researchers identified five of the cathelicidins that were similar enough to likely have evolved from a common ancestor. The thought was that if they could identify the older version that it might have a broader range of action.

Ben Cocks of La Trobe University in Bundoora, Australia, "worked backwards to predict the genetic sequence that codes for the original peptide. His team then used it to produce a synthetic version of the peptide, effectively resurrecting it."
"The amazing thing was that it worked well against a broad range of pathogens," he says. Lab tests showed it destroyed six of seven multidrug-resistant bacteria, and was 10 to 30 times more potent than modern antibiotics such as tetracycline (PLoS One, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0024030).
Here is the full abstract and citation from PLoS ONE:
Ancient Antimicrobial Peptides Kill Antibiotic-Resistant Pathogens: Australian Mammals Provide New Options

Jianghui Wang1, Emily S. W. Wong2,3, Jane C. Whitley1,Jian Li4, Jessica M. Stringer3,5, Kirsty R. Short6, Marilyn B. Renfree3,5, Katherine Belov2,3#*, Benjamin G. Cocks1,7#


To overcome the increasing resistance of pathogens to existing antibiotics the 10×'20 Initiative declared the urgent need for a global commitment to develop 10 new antimicrobial drugs by the year 2020. Naturally occurring animal antibiotics are an obvious place to start. The recently sequenced genomes of mammals that are divergent from human and mouse, including the tammar wallaby and the platypus, provide an opportunity to discover novel antimicrobials. Marsupials and monotremes are ideal potential sources of new antimicrobials because they give birth to underdeveloped immunologically naïve young that develop outside the sterile confines of a uterus in harsh pathogen-laden environments. While their adaptive immune system develops innate immune factors produced either by the mother or by the young must play a key role in protecting the immune-compromised young. In this study we focus on the cathelicidins, a key family of antimicrobial peptide genes.

Principal Finding
We identified 14 cathelicidin genes in the tammar wallaby genome and 8 in the platypus genome. The tammar genes were expressed in the mammary gland during early lactation before the adaptive immune system of the young develops, as well as in the skin of the pouch young. Both platypus and tammar peptides were effective in killing a broad range of bacterial pathogens. One potent peptide, expressed in the early stages of tammar lactation, effectively killed multidrug-resistant clinical isolates of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Klebsiella pneumoniae and Acinetobacter baumannii.

Conclusions and Significance
Marsupial and monotreme young are protected by antimicrobial peptides that are potent, broad spectrum and salt resistant. The genomes of our distant relatives may hold the key for the development of novel drugs to combat multidrug-resistant pathogens.

Wang J, Wong ESW, Whitley JC, Li J, Stringer JM, et al. (2011) Ancient Antimicrobial Peptides Kill Antibiotic-Resistant Pathogens: Australian Mammals Provide New Options. PLoS ONE 6(8): e24030. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0024030

Our SUBJECTIVE Experience EXPLAINED by Shinzen Young only he can

I was sent to this video by my buddy C4Chaos - good stuff as usual from Shinzen Young. He is one of the few teachers I know of who has done extensive training in all three of the major Buddhist meditative traditions: Vajrayana, Zen and Vipassana.
During a morning session at an April 2011 retreat, Shinzen Young thoroughly explains the SUBJECTIVE EXPERIENCE - as he outlines his "Focus In" (i.e. "See In/Hear In/Feel In) technique - as well as strategies for how to gain skill that helps you in your daily life.

Stephanie Nash just happened to have a camera (which she quickly pulled out when she realized he was 'in the zone') and thus this is handheld with no microphone or lights - but Shinzen's brilliance comes through quite clearly.

For info of Shinzen's Teachings:

For info of Stephanie's Teachings & Non-Profit:

The Dalai Lama - Negative actions or unwholesome deeds cannot result in joy and happiness

The Power of Patience
from a Buddhist Perspective

by the Dalai Lama,
translated by Geshe Thupten Jinpa


Dalai Lama Quote of the Week

Question: Your Holiness and other teachers tell us to be sincerely joyful about others' worldly achievements, happiness, and acquisitions. But if we know with certainty that a person has acquired or achieved something through unskillful or non-virtuous means, such as lying, stealing, cheating, harming, in what manner should that happiness for them be experienced and expressed?

Dalai Lama: One's attitude toward superficial successes that are achieved through wrong means of livelihood such as lying, stealing, cheating, and so on, should not be the same as for achievements and happiness which are genuine. However, here you must bear in mind that if you examine this carefully, you will find that although the immediate circumstances that gave rise to a person's joy and happiness may be a wrong means of livelihood, that is merely the immediate circumstance: the actual cause of that happiness is the individual's merit in the past.

So one has to see the difference between immediate circumstances and long-term causes. One of the characteristics of karmic theory is that there is a definite, commensurate relationship between cause and effect. There is no way that negative actions or unwholesome deeds can result in joy and happiness. Joy and happiness, by definition, are the results or fruits of wholesome actions. So, from that point of view, it is possible for us to admire not so much the immediate action, but the real causes of joy. (p.119)

--from Healing Anger: The Power of Patience from a Buddhist Perspective by the Dalai Lama, translated by Geshe Thupten Jinpa, published by Snow Lion Publications

Healing Anger • Now at 5O% off
(Good until September 23rd).

Quays Focus 'Weeping Glass' On The Mutter Museum

NPR did a segment on the new Brothers Quay film, Weeping Glass, filmed in the Mutter Meseum in Philadelphia. "The Mutter houses a collection of 19th century medical curiosities. The film brings to life the way medicine used to be, and the stories of the long-dead."

Timothy and Stephen Quay, perhaps the best known stop-motion animators, are amazing artists - among my favorite film makers in any genre. According to the article, Terry Gilliam has called the Brothers Quay film Street of Crocodiles (see below) one of the best animated films of all time. High praise from Gilliam.

Listen to the Story
All Things Considered
[6 min 15 sec]
September 21, 2011          
The notion of "beauty" can mean many different things to artists. For the Brothers Quay — identical-twin filmmakers — it often means dimly lit black and white images of animated dolls, screws, cogs — any manner of inanimate object brought to life. They're so good at it that fellow filmmaker Terry Gilliam called the Quays' Street of Crocodiles one of the best animated films of all time.

The Quay Brothers, filming Through The Weeping Glass at the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia. The Quays started filming without a script or a storyline.
Edward Waisnis/Behind the Scenes with the Quay Brothers

The Quay Brothers, filming Through The Weeping Glass at the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia. The Quays started filming without a script or a storyline.

Timothy and Stephen Quay are American-born stop-motion animators who do most of their work in Europe. Their latest film brought them back to the U.S. — to the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia. The Mutter houses a collection of 19th century medical curiosities. The film brings to life the way medicine used to be, and the stories of the long-dead.

The Quays are lean, fashionable in a comfortable way, with long, graying hair. They're in their 60s but don't look it. It's hard to tell them apart, and they like it that way. To make the film, they turn a museum room into a darkened studio. They fill it ominously with the soundtrack from David Lynch's TV series, Twin Peaks, and they place museum specimens on a table under shimmering lights: a fetus in a jar, or a terrifying sort of metal plunger for removing kidney stones. At the start, they have no script, no storyline.

"What we most like are the accidents," they say. "They," because the brothers usually share sentences, one finishing what the other starts. They prefer to be undifferentiated.

"The accidents bend the direction of the film," they continue, "because the whole thing about this museum is discovering that one little kernel or that one strange event."

'Where Reality And Fiction Tremble With A Nice Favorable Wind'
They rotate and film the objects from different angles, conferring quietly, building mood. The Quays say this museum is both heart-rending and beautiful. Museums figure in their other films. For them, these places contain objects with occluded histories.
What we most like are the accidents. The accidents bend the direction of the film, because the whole thing about this museum is discovering that one little kernel or that one strange event.

"For us," says a brother, "it's always been the in-between world where it's an ambiguous state, and it hovers on, or shimmers in a kind of half-state. Maybe it's a little bit where reality and fiction tremble with a nice ..." He searches for the right word.

"Favorable wind," the other finishes with a laugh.

It's worth noting that the Quays usually keep lots of Belgian beer nearby when filming or doing interviews.

Before the Quays begin filming, they usually decide on the music and let it guide them. They say it "releases and closes down" images. Tim Nelson composed the music for the Mutter film.

"They're looking more for the moments where there might be something that sticks out," Nelson says, "that little sound there that might inspire a reflection off glass, or when a camera angle might change. They find the rhythms within the music."

And the music helps give meaning to the objects.
Read the whole article.

Here is the 21 minute short film, Street of Crocodiles, by the Brothers Quay.

Street of Crocodiles (1987) by BFIfilms

Friday, September 23, 2011

Back in Black - Threats to America's Children

Lewis Black tells it how he sees it - a little off-kilter and right to the point.

Back in Black - Threats to America's Children

Lewis black takes a look at good and bad arsenic and wonders what makes Chaz Bono more controversial than a bunch of criminals and freaks.

Authors@Google: Dana Priest - Top Secret America

Dana Priest (with William Arkin) has written an expose of Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State, the hidden part of our government created by the Bush/Cheney cabal in response to the 9/11 event.

Authors@Google: Dana Priest

Dana Priest visits Google's San Francisco office to present her book 'Top Secret America'. This event took place on September 15, 2011, as part of the Authors@Google series.

The top-secret world that the government created in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks has become so enormous, so unwieldy, and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs or exactly how many agencies duplicate work being done elsewhere. The result is that the system put in place to keep the United States safe may be putting us in greater danger. In TOP SECRET AMERICA, award-winning reporters Dana Priest and William Arkin uncover the enormous size, shape, mission, and consequences of this invisible universe of over 1,300 government facilities in every state in America; nearly 2,000 outside companies used as contractors; and more than 850,000 people granted "Top Secret" security clearance.

A landmark exposé of a new, secret "Fourth Branch" of American government, TOP SECRET AMERICA is a tour de force of investigative reporting-and a book sure to spark national and international alarm.

Dharma Quote from Wisdom Nectar: Dudjom Rinpoche's Heart Advice

Dudjom Rinpoche's Heart Advice
trans. by Ron Garry
A Tsadra Foundation Series book

Dharma Quote of the Week

At all times, do not lose courage in your inner awareness; uplift yourself, while assuming a humble position in your outer demeanor. Follow the example of the life and complete liberation of previous accomplished masters (siddha). Do not blame your past karma; instead, be someone who purely and flawlessly practices the Dharma. Do not blame temporary negative circumstances; instead, be someone who remains steadfast in the face of whatever circumstances may arise.

In brief, taking your own mind as witness, make your life and practice one, and at the time of death, with no thought of anything left undone, do not be ashamed of yourself. This itself is the pith instruction of all practices.

Eventually, when the time of death arrives, completely give up whatever wealth you possess, and do not cling to even one needle. Moreover, at death, practitioners of highest faculty will be joyful; practitioners of middling faculty will be without apprehension; and practitioners of the lowest faculty will have no regrets. When realization's clear light becomes continuous day and night, there is no intermediate state (bardo): death is just breaking the enclosure of the body.

If this is not the case, but if you have confidence that you will be liberated in the intermediate state, whatever you have done in preparation for death will suffice. Without such confidence, when death arrives, you can send your consciousness to whichever pure land you wish and there traverse the remaining paths and stages to become enlightened. (p.58)

--from Wisdom Nectar: Dudjom Rinpoche's Heart Advice trans. by Ron Garry, a Tsadra Foundation Series book, published by Snow Lion Publications

Wisdom Nectar • Now at 5O% off
(Good until September 23rd).

Bookforum - Putting philosophy to the test

Here is a cool collection of philosophy links from yesterday's issue of Bookforum. One of the more interesting articles linked to below is this one:
Tobia, Kevin, Buckwalter, Wesley and Stich, Stephen. (2011, September 6). Moral Intuitions: Are Philosophers Experts? Available at SSRN:
 Here is the whole collection:
Kevin Tobia and Stephen Stich (Rutgers) and Wesley Buckwalter (CUNY): Moral Intuitions: Are Philosophers Experts? From Essays in Philosophy, a special issue on Philosophy's Future: Science or Something Else, including Clinton Golding (Otago): A Conception of Philosophical Progress; James Tartaglia (Keele): Philosophy between Religion and Science; Duncan Richter (VMI): Philosophy and Poetry; Richard Kamber (CNJ): Philosophy’s Future as a Problem-Solving Discipline: The Promise of Experimental Philosophy; Ian James Kidd (Durham): The Contingency of Science and the Future of Philosophy; and Eric Dietrich (Binghamton): There Is No Progress in Philosophy. Putting Philosophy to the Test: A new breed of thinkers takes the search for wisdom to the street. What is philosophy? Philosophy is what you do when the facts do not fix the solution. A review of A Little History of Philosophy by Nigel Warburton (and a reading list). Timothy Williamson on naturalism and its limits: The dogma of naturalism, which claims to embrace the scientific spirit, can actually lead us into an unscientific view of the world (and a response by Alex Rosenberg). Major movements in philosophy as minimalist geometric graphics: From relativism to absolutism, or what the geometry of knowledge has to do with negative space. How computational complexity will revolutionize philosophy: The theory of computation has had a profound influence on philosophical thinking, but computational complexity theory is about to have an even bigger effect, argues computer scientist Scott Aaronson. Julian Baggini takes stock of the trade in rare philosophy books. What’s so great about Kant? A critique of Dinesh D’Souza’s attack on reason. From Hilobrow, Wittgenstein whimsical? Absolutely not — I mean just look at the man.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

John Dupuy - My Opinion on the Marc Gafni Situation

I may not be involved with the Boulder version of Integral anymore, but I have not abandoned the people to whom I promised support in the efforts to expose Marc Gafni's manipulations and lies. So here is the latest.

Integral Recovery expert and psychotherapist John Dupuy has offered (on his Integral Life blog) the most compassionate, honest, and psychologically accurate perspectives on the Marc Gafni situation from anyone in the Integral community. If there were more leaders like Dupuy in the community, more of us would have remained involved.

But then there is Robb Smith, CEO of Integral Life, who made this comment on his Facebook page:
I gave Marc a chance many said I should not have. It was probably a mistake to give him leadership authority, but I wanted first hand experience of his character. I read all the material that he presented in his defense and it was convincing. It took me about a year to figure out how he put it all together, and that's when I started to make the separation.
Really, it only took you a year? And yet Gafni kept teaching for two more years - often highlighted as a leader and featured speaker - with no warning to members or his students that he had lied about the Israel situation, that he manufactured the "evidence" that he claimed cleared him? Where is the leadership in that?

I want to believe you are coming from the best interest of the community Robb, but then you reveal how you really weren't stepping up. I'm struggling to understand your actions . . . .

Anyway, here is John's statement:

My Opinion on the Marc Gafni Situation

Posted September 22nd, 2011 by john dupuy in Spiritual Leadership

This is a post that I wrote about 3 days ago, concerning Marc Gafni and the latest debacle. As a courtesy, I sent this post to Marc, saying that I am posting this and quoted the biblical reference Proverbs 27:6: Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful. I immediately received a call from Marc, in which he threatened me with legal action and an internet campaign to discredit my character based on all of the personal information that he has found out about me during our years of friendship. To which I say good luck on the legal action and stay posted for the character assassination, which is either going to be very boring or very creative.

In the last few days I have consulted with many friends and colleagues over the nature of this post, to include Ken Wilber and Sally Kempton, and I have decided that I will not be silenced. Ultimately, what influenced my decision to post this was the realization that came out during a conversation with Sally Kempton, myself and my wife, Pam - and that is, I think I owe this to the younger generations of our world-wide Integral community. As this latest sexual scandal emerged with Marc, I have heard from many people who are very hurt by Marc's actions and generally feeling very disillusioned with our Integral spiritual teachers and role models. Based on that, I am posting this. I do this after much reflection and prayer, with sadness and clarity. I still hold out the hand of friendship to Marc but as a real friend, and not as an enabler. And let me be clear, it is not we who are speaking about this who are causing this problem, it is Marc's behaviors and choices that has brought this on. As I teach to my recovery students, the truth hurts, but it doesn't kill, and ultimately, lies kill. So with much love to Marc and all those concerned, and to our worldwide Integral family.
That is the introduction to the post. The threat of lawsuits and character assassination is normal operating procedure for Gafni. A senior student of Marc's named MartyC is currently doing his best to attack me and discredit me wherever he can on the web, so Hey John, join the club! 

Here is the most important passage from John's statement - he confirms and restates what many of us have been saying for years:
It appears to be all part of a single pattern, starting long before Israel, and continuing into the present. As I have struggled with this latest debacle and scandal, I have experienced myriad emotions, from being heartsick, feeling helpless, to being righteously pissed. As I write this, I feel sadness, as I am very loyal to my family and friends. But I believe that Marc has behaved in a way that is unworthy of the position of leadership and authority that he has been granted in our Integral circles. His behaviors, his absolute incapacity to own anything, and his incredible ability to manipulate and play the victim, are simply beyond the pale and unacceptable. I believe Marc is in panic mode right now and his behaviors have caused catastrophic events in his life: losing a major publishing deal, losing his connection as a major personality and teacher at Integral Life, and the questioning by people around the world about his fitness to be a leader in the world spirituality arena. Yet Marc continues to play the victim and spin new angles and even new dharmas to justify his very unwise and dysfunctional behaviors.

In my work with addicts, over the years, I have become very used to seeing lives ruined by addictive acting out. It’s kind of par for the course in the disease of addiction. I have also seen many lives come back from the brink of death and complete dishonor. Not only have I seen lives come back, but I have seen them come back with renewed strength, compassion, devotion, and humility. But it ain’t easy and it takes a lot of work. The first step is to admit that you have a problem and take responsibility. I don’t see this with Marc. Marc is always the victim and always the martyr.

As I have sat with this, talked and emailed with my friends and colleagues in the Integral movement from around the world, I have realized a deep pattern of dysfunction, manipulation, and narcissism in Marc’s case. These are three words that, interestingly enough, characterize the disease of addiction. I had hoped against hope that Marc would learn from his past mistakes and sense of calling, as he brought forth his important teachings of the Unique Self and World Spirituality, and that this would keep his dysfunctional and apparently compulsive behaviors in check. That has obviously not happened. He has hurt his family, his friends, his supporters and our Integral community.
He concludes with this statement, which is both loving and hopeful:
I offer this in the spirit of personal sadness as well as hope that Marc can repent and heal. And I hope that we all can grow up a little bit, though we may have been hurt and disillusioned by the behaviors of our role models and spiritual teachers in the past—that we will not use this as an opportunity to become cynical but that we will challenge ourselves to become those leaders that we had wished we had. God help us all.
But I have already become cynical. So I guess I am one of the lost ones.

Perhaps the only thing that might change my perspective is a direct, video statement from Ken Wilber himself. I'd like to hear an apology for allowing Marc back into the Integral limelight, and for his comments comparing Gafni's accusers to neo-Nazis (the letter was attributed to Sally Kempton and Ken Wilber - it used to be featured on Gafni's blog, but is now gone):
The evidence makes it abundantly clear that the horrendous claims made about Marc on what can only be described as Internet vendetta or hate sites hidden beneath the fig leaf of victim advocacy, are without a shred of truth. To even need say this is in some sense offensive. It is somewhat like a Jewish person needing to deny anti–Semitic claims on a neo–Nazi site.
I was asked to post that letter last summer on the comments section of a post I wrote critical of Gafni being featured at the Integral Theory Conference.There is still a letter on Gafni's site attributed to Robb Smith and Ken Wilber (used to only be Robb) - I wonder if that will also come down?

Brain Science Podcast - Neurobiology of Placebos with Fabrizio Benedetti (BSP 77)

Strangely, the placebo effect has been getting stronger over the last couple of decades. But it's not some kind of magic or voodoo, a mere power of belief kind of thing - rather, Dr. Fabrizio Benedetti is the world's leading scientist in the neurobiology of the placebo effect. There are distinct neurochemical mechanisms behind the placebo effects (yes, plural, according to Dr. Benedetti).

There is a full transcript of the conversation available (see below).

And a BIG THANK YOU to Dr. Campbell for continuing to have these excellent and informative conversations and making them available for free to brain geeks like me. This is episode #77 - so there are 76 more episodes that you will thoroughly enjoy.

Neurobiology of Placebos with Fabrizio Benedetti (BSP 77)


Fabrizio Benedetti, MD (click photo for podcast)Dr. Fabrizio Benedetti is one of the world's leading researchers of the neurobiology of placebos. In a recent interview (BSP 77) he explained to me that he believes that "today we are in a very good position to describe, from a biological and from an evolutionary approach, the doctor-patient relationship, and the placebo effect, itself."

To appreciate Dr. Benedetti's work one must first realize that his approach differs from that of the typical clinical trial. As he observed, "To the clinical trialist, a placebo effect means any improvement which may take place after placebo administration.  To the neurobiologist, a placebo response, or placebo effect means only something active in the brain happening after placebo administration: learning, anxiety reduction, activation of reward mechanisms."

In contrast, he explains "The real placebo response, the real placebo effect is a psychobiological phenomenon.  It is something active happening in the brain after placebo administration: like learning, like anxiety reduction, and such like." Brain Science Podcast 77 provides an introduction to this complex, but fascinating topic.

Episode Transcript (Free PDF
Subscribe to the Brain Science Podcast: itunes-badge-30 zunelogo-70 feed-icon32x32 mail-sticker-tiny 


  • Benedetti F, Mayberg HS, Wager TD, Stohler CS, Jon-Kar Zubieta J (2005) Neurobiological Mechanisms of the Placebo Effect. The Journal of Neuroscience, 25,10390-10402. (Full article)
  • Benedetti F (2009) Placebo Effects: Understanding the mechanisms in health and disease. Oxford University Press.
  • Benedetti F (2011) The Patient's Brain: The neuroscience behind the doctor-patient relationship. Oxford University Press.
  • Levine JD, Gordon NC and Fields, HL (1978) The mechanisms of placebo analgesia. Lancet, 2, 654-7. (Abstract)
  • Levine JD, Gordon NC and Fields, HL (1978) “The mechanisms of placebo analgesia.” Lancet, 2, 654-7. (Abstract). See also a follow-up paper: Levine JD, Gordon NC, Bornstein JC, and H L Fields HL (1979) “Role of pain in placebo analgesia.” Proc Natl Acad Sci 76(7): 3528–3531. (full text)
  • Volkow, ND, Wang JG, Ma Y, Fowler JS, Zhu W, Maynard L et al. (2003) Expectation enhances the regional brain metabolic and the reinforcing effects of stimulants in cocaine abusers. Journal of Neuroscience, 23, 11261–8. (Full text)
  • de la Fuente-Fernández R, et al. (2001) Expectation and Dopamine Release: Mechanism of the Placebo Effect in Parkinson's Disease. Science 293, 1164. (Abstract)
  • Benedetti F, Colloca L, Torre E et al. (2004) Placebo-responsive Parkinson patients show decreased activity in single neurons of the subthalamic nucleus. Nature Neuroscience, 7, 587-88. (Abstract)
  • Herrnstein RJ, (1962) Placebo Effect in the Rat. Science 138, 677-678.
  • Linde K, Witt CM, Streng A et al. (2007) The impact of patient expectation in four randomized control trials of acupuncture in patients with chronic pain. Pain, 128, 264-71. (Abstract)
  • See Episode Transcript for additional references.



  •  32:48 only NON-members are eligible to get a free audiobook download from our sponsor at
  • Dr. Benedetti’s first book is called Placebo Effects, not Placebo “responses”.
  • Special Thanks to Lori Wolfson for finding this mistakes and correcting them in the episode transcript.
Episode Transcript (Free PDF)

Creating a Mindful Society Conference

Sounds True is one of the sponsors of the Creating a Mindful Society event, held in conjunction with the Omega Institute in New York City. Not only that, Tami Simon is one of the featured teachers, along with conference headliners Jon Kabat-Zinn, psychologist Richard Davidson, Buddhist teacher and author Barry Boyce, and U.S. Congressman Tim Ryan, among others.

Sounds True is offering live (and free) video streaming of the event, as well as on-demand viewing for 30 days post-conference. Details here.

Here is the full email notice:

Mindfulness is a simple yet profound practice that changes lives. If you’re committed to mindful living, eager to learn more about its growing influence across all facets of society, or only beginning to discover the transformative power of mindfulness, join us on September 30 and October 1, 2011, for a historic conference on Creating a Mindful Society.

This pioneering event in New York City will feature keynote presentations by four outstanding leaders in the mindfulness field—Jon Kabat-Zinn, Richard J. Davidson, Janice Marturano, and US Congressman Tim Ryan—plus a rich program of dialogue and practice sessions. Together, we will explore all the proven, practical ways that mindfulness can transform our lives from the inside out—and help reshape society, from health, work, and family to education, leadership, and policy.

There are two ways you can participate:
Please note: By registering for either the free live stream or for tickets to the event in New York City, you will be added to the email lists of the four organizations who have partnered to make this conference possible: The Center for Mindfulness, Mindful: Living with Awareness and Compassion, Omega Institute for Holistic Studies, and Sounds True.

We look forward to spending this exciting time together with you.

P.S. Feel free to invite your friends—Just forward this email.

Sounds TrueOmega Institute
Minful.orgCenter for Mindfulness

NPR - Understanding The Mysterious Teenage Brain

The teen brain is not as short-sighted as we have tended to believe. Rather, they prioritize differently, in that they know the risks but see whatever intrinsic benefits may adhere to risk-taking outweigh the potential harm. This is a long and interesting discussion from NPR's Talk of the Nation.

Understanding The Mysterious Teenage Brain

September 20, 2011  

It's a question that has plagued parents for generations: Why do teenagers act the way they do? Why the angst, anger and unnecessary risks? Many scientists say a growing body of research may provide some answers.

After his son was pulled over for driving 113 mph, science writer David Dobbs set out to understand what researchers know about the teenage brain. The resulting story, "Beautiful Brains," is the cover story in the October 2011 issue of National Geographic magazine. Dobbs and brain researchers B.J. Casey and Dr. Jay Giedd share their findings on what science can tell us about the teenage brain.

Interview Highlights

On why teens need to push limits
Dobbs: "The hardest thing we ever do is leave home. It's hard emotionally. It's extremely hard intellectually and logistically. It's a real challenge. So the disincentives to do it are very strong. And as both B.J. and Jay pointed out to me at different times, if you look at the things that characterize adolescence in almost all cultures — risk, novelty-seeking and the affiliation of peers — that's the perfect menu to actually motivate you if you are 14 or 15 or 16 or 18 years old to get out and explore the world, even though it's hard to do and the risk is tremendous. You have to have taste for risk at that time of your life."

On how teens measure risk differently from adults
Dobbs: "Researchers have actually found that they don't think they're invincible. They know they can die. And they also don't underestimate risk. What they do is they overestimate risk less than adults do. If you screen them for if they understand risk, they understand [it] actually better than adults do. They just don't exaggerate the risk as much.

"And the big difference, there are rewards in some situations — like driving fast down the highway with your friends — that they care more about than adults will, which is why it's not that they don't understand the risk. It's the balance changes. They see more benefit in certain things."

On why teens shouldn't see the research as license to run wild
Casey: "I think it's very important that you acknowledge accountability, because we don't want teenagers to think that they're just free to be risk-takers and that there is no other way. This is a time when they need to explore, but they also need to recognize the limits within society of what they can and they cannot do. That's part of transitioning from dependence on parents to independence and being a pro-social adult."

On how moms and dads can use these developments to parent better
Giedd: "Our brains are better at learning by example and by modeling. And so as a parent, we're often much more effective in just little things, how we treat our spouse, how we treat strangers, how we deal with the stresses and time management of our day-to-day life. So it's not always, sort of, sitting down and having these big talks. It's the little things every day that you're modeling. And I think it's good for us parents ... to realize ... we're always on. And whenever we're with them, that's how their brain is learning how to be an adult, how to take the next step."

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

TED - It’s World Peace Day! What will you do this Sept. 21?

From the good folks at TED Talks.

It’s World Peace Day! What will you do this Sept. 21?

September 21, 2011, is World Peace Day — dreamed up by Jeremy Gilley, as he explains above, as a day when combatants take a day off. It seems a simple, crazy idea, but on this past World Peace Day, in regions of Afghanistan, more than a million children were able to be immunized during the lull in fighting.

Today, Gilley is kicking off a yearlong runup to Global Truce 2012 — “a day of ceasefire and nonviolence observed by all sectors of society globally.” Not just countries at war, but neighborhoods, communities. Sign up to show your support.

Improving Lifestyle Factors for those with Severe Mental Health Issues

As goes the body, so goes the brain. Or something like that.

The image above is from a study looking at the brains of adolescent smokers. Clearly, smoking is bad for the brain - and the brain is already malfunctioning, adding smoking just makes it worse (imo).

This article looks at the high incidence of poor lifestyle choices in the severely mentally ill (smoking, drinking, drug use, obesity, etc.). The paper suggests "the benefits of lifestyle interventions based on diet and exercise designed to minimize and reduce the negative impact of these risk factors on the physical health of patients with severe mental illnesses."

I would add that a healthier body can contribute to a healthier brain - it's time to end the body/brain split (mind = body/brain and a whole lot more), and this is a small step in the right direction.

Efficacy of lifestyle interventions in physical health management of patients with severe mental illness

Fernando ChaconFernando MoraAlicia Gervas-Rios and Inmaculada Gilaberte

Annals of General Psychiatry 2011, 10:22. doi:10.1186/1744-859X-10-22
Published: 19 September 2011

Abstract (provisional)

Awareness of the importance of maintaining physical health for patients with severe mental illnesses has recently been on the increase. Although there are several elements contributing to poor physical health among these patients as compared with the general population, risk factors for cardiovascular disease such as smoking, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, dyslipidemia, metabolic syndrome, and obesity are of particular significance due to their relationship with mortality and morbidity. These patients present higher vulnerability to cardiovascular risk factors based on several issues, such as genetic predisposition to certain pathologies, poor eating habits and sedentary lifestyles, high proportions of smokers and drug abusers, less access to regular health care services, and potential adverse events during pharmacological treatment. Nevertheless, there is ample scientific evidence supporting the benefits of lifestyle interventions based on diet and exercise designed to minimize and reduce the negative impact of these risk factors on the physical health of patients with severe mental illnesses.

The complete article is available as a provisional PDF. The fully formatted PDF and HTML versions are in production.

Duff McDuffee - Beyond Critique

Cool change of direction at Duff's Beyond Growth blog. Is there something in the air?

Beyond Critique

Critique is of vital importance to self-development. Our vision at Beyond Growth was to make a space for intelligent critique of the frequently shallow ideas and manipulative marketing in personal development culture to expand the field. In the past two years of writing we have featured articles on many topics, but overwhelmingly the most popular articles were our critiques of self-help gurus.
While I think it is a valuable thing to root out corruption and critique shallow ideology, it has never been my intention to be the self-help police, nor is that the focus of this group blog project. (Other people do it better anyway.) As a philosophically minded person, I am more interested in general principles, in seeing the pattern.
In particular, I see several problems with focusing too much on a critique of individuals . . . .
Read the whole post.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I am Not 2nd Tier, Nor Am I Integral

Since Blogger (and Facebook, for that matter) took it upon itself to change my blog template without my consent, it seems like the perfect sign from the Kosmos to redefine my mission here.

I am not 2nd tier, nor am I integral.

That's it. That is my new manifesto.

So maybe now Joe Perez can find something better to do with his time than to continually write negative things about me and this blog (see here, here, here, here - there's probably others, but I really don't care).

I'm done with the integral community, with integral people, with integral blogging, and so on.

Seriously, the number of people who have even heard of Ken Wilber and AQAL is embarrassingly small and that won't change for the better. Over the last 10-15 years I have watched the integral community become a parody of dysfunctional spiritual communities, which is likely what will always happen when stage chasing (and tier bigotry) becomes more important than the work. I don't need that kind of ass-backward elitism in my life.

If the world is currently at or near 7 billion people, there are about 6.9999 billion of them who could not possibly care any less about integral theory. Many of them need clean water, food, shelter, medicine, and mental health care.

You want to change the world? Go help those people live better lives.

On Point - The Science Of Willpower

Interesting topic - willpower has been an area of interest in psychology for ages. In Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, John Tierney (New York Times columnist) and psychologist Roy Baumeister look at the topic of self control and how to increase our ability in this area.
The science of willpower. How to build it. What it can and cannot do.

Listen to this story
In this book cover "Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength," by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney, is shown. (AP) 
The world is an unpredictable place. It’s comforting to think we at least have some self-control. Willpower.

But willpower itself is slippery. Some days, some times we may have it. Some days, some times we may not. To eat or not eat the doughnut. Study the extra hour. My guests today have studied what willpower is. What bolsters it. What cuts it down. What influence it has in lives when starting places and circumstances can be so wildly different.

This hour On Point: we’re looking at the science and circumstances of willpower.

-Tom Ashbrook


John Tierney, New York Times columnist and co-author of Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength.

Roy Baumeister, psychology professor at Florida State University and co-author of Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength.

From Tom’s Reading List

The New York Times “Ever since Adam and Eve ate the apple, Ulysses had himself tied to the mast, the grasshopper sang while the ant stored food and St. Augustine prayed “Lord make me chaste — but not yet,” individuals have struggled with self-control. In today’s world this virtue is all the more vital, because now that we have largely tamed the scourges of nature, most of our troubles are self-inflicted. We eat, drink, smoke and gamble too much, max out our credit cards, fall into dangerous liaisons and become addicted to heroin, cocaine and e-mail.”


You can find a PDF excerpt here.

Buddhist Geeks 231: The Dark Side of Dharma w/ Willoughby Britton

Cool topic - I am always interested in the intersection between neuroscience and Buddhism.
Willoughby Britton received a B.A. in Neuroscience from Colgate University, a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Arizona, and completed her clinical internship at Brown Medical School. She received sleep/EEG technician training at Harvard Medical School and was a Research Fellow at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA/NIH) and at Andrew Weil's Program in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona. She spent several years in Asia studying meditative techniques and received her mindfulness instructor certification training at the Center for Mindfulness at the UMASS Medical School. Dr. Britton's research includes sleep, emotional disturbances, and new treatment/prevention strategies. She recently completed a 3-year NIH-funded clinical trial on the neurophysiological effects of mindfulness meditation in depression, and continues to examine the link between sleep, affective disturbance and emotional regulation strategies.
Enjoy the talk - Vince asks some good questions.

BG 231: The Dark Side of Dharma

Episode Description:

BG 231: The Dark Side of DharmaWe’re joined this week by Brown University neuroscience researcher Willougbhy Britton. In this episode Dr. Britton shares some of the details of a research project that she’s working on called, “The Difficult Stages of the Contemplative Path.” She goes into the purpose of the research project and also some of the research methods she’s using to establish a helpful subjective phenomenology for these difficult stages.

She also speaks about how she has collaborated with both meditation teachers and Buddhist scholars to help determine what the common experiences are for practitioners, and whether they have textual references in the Buddhist canons. And to make matters even more interesting, she shares what her personal experiences have been like, as she’s a committed meditation practitioner herself.

This is part 1 of a two-part series. Listen to part 2 (airing next week).

Episode Links: