Saturday, December 10, 2011

Documentary - Manna Psilocybin Mushroom

Manna Psilocybin Mushroom
A beautiful, profound, and passionate documentary by Simon G. Powell; Author of Darwin’s Unfinished Business and The Psilocybin Solution. This documentary will be a joy to watch for Psilocybin lovers and informative for those who have still not been introduced to this mystical fungus.

After graduating from UCL in 1992, Simon G. Powell suffered an extended bout of ‘mushroom fever’ brought on by excessive psilocybin use. After this ‘mushroom fever’ subsided, he was left with a curious case of chronic biophilia. This soon developed into chronic gaiaphilia. This condition, which turned out to be permanent and quite stimulating, led him to write a number of unorthodox books – including The Psilocybin Solution and Darwin’s Unfinished Business. He also felt compelled to write and direct two radical film documentaries: Manna and Metanoia.

Rick Hanson, Ph.D. - Science of Mindfulness

This is an old lecture that Rick Hanson has just made available on his website.

This blog comes from Rick Hanson, Ph.D., neuropsychologist, author, founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom, and meditation teacher.
Science of Mindfulness

Rick Hanson presents on the Science of Mindfulness at Awakening Joy in February, 2008. Awakening Joy is an engaging and highly regarded Internet course, with an add-on option to attend onsite recording sessions in Berkeley, California. The fun and nourishing material gradually, but deeply, impacts one’s life, resulting in increased well-being and joy. Joy is not for just the lucky few–it’s a choice anyone can make.

Visit the podcast on iTunes –

Shaolin Monks: Jedi Knight of Buddhism

ABC News ran this story - kind of cool for mainstream television.

Shaolin Monks: Jedi Knight of Buddhism

For 15 centuries, these Chinese monks use martial arts to find enlightenment.

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

Friday, December 09, 2011

Review - Crazy Wisdom: The Life and Times of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

I have been privileged to see a review copy of Crazy Wisdom, the new film about the life and teachings of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche (XI Trungpa Tulku). Among the many people interviewed for the film are Diana Mukpo, his widow, and Sakyong Jamgon Mipham Rinpoche, Jampal Trinley Dradul (born Osel Rangdrol Mukpo in 1962), his son and now the Shambhala lineage holder.

In addition, there are interviews with Robert Thurman, Pema Chodron, Judith Lief, Anne Waldman, Ram Dass (Dr. Richard Alpert,), as well as clips of Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Bateson, and many others. 

Most importantly, there are many, many clips of Rinpoche teaching and interacting with students.

Here is a brief trailer for the film:

"Chogyam Trungpa, the brilliant ‘bad boy of Buddhism,’ fled the invasion of Tibet, studied at Oxford, and shattered Westerners’ notions of how an enlightened teacher should behave."

The following is a synopsis provided at the film's official website:

Buddhism permeates popular culture worldwide - we speak casually of good parking karma, Samsara is a perfume, and Nirvana is a rock band.  A recent survey by Germany's Der Spiegel revealed that Germans like the Dalai Lama more than their native-born Pope Benedict XVI; the biggest Buddhist monastery outside of Asia is in France, and Tibetan Buddhism is doubling its numbers faster than any other religion in Australia and the U.S.A.  How did this happen?

Crazy Wisdom explores this through the story of Chogyam Trungpa, the brilliant "bad boy of Buddhism," who was pivotal in bringing Tibetan Buddhism to the West.  Trungpa shattered our preconceived notions about how an enlightened teacher should behave.  Born in Tibet, recognized as an exceptional reincarnate lama and trained in the rigorous monastic tradition, Trungpa fled his homeland during the Chinese Communist invasion.  In Britain, realizing a cultural gap prevented his students from any deep understanding of Buddhism, he renounced his vows, eloped with a sixteen year-old, and lived as a westerner.  In the U.S., he openly drank alcohol and had intimate relations with students. Was this crazy wisdom?

Trungpa landed in the U.S. in 1970 and legend has it that he said to his students: "Take me to your poets."    He drew a following of the country's prominent avant-garde artists, spiritual teachers, and intellectuals - including R.D. Laing, John Cage, Ram Dass, and Pema Chodron.  Poet Allen Ginsberg considered Trungpa his guru; Catholic priest Thomas Merton wanted to write a book with him; music icon Joni Mitchell wrote a song about him.  Trungpa became renowned for translating ancient Buddhist concepts into language and ideas that Westerners could understand. Humor was always a part of his teaching - "Enlightenment is better than Disneyland," he quipped, and he warned of the dangers of the "Western spiritual supermarket."

Trungpa's work contributed to a radical cultural shift that brought Tibetan Buddhism to hungry Western audiences, disillusioned with the violence and materialism in their own world.  How did Americans, dedicated to the relentless pursuit of success, come to embrace the philosophy of a teacher who taught them to meditate for hours at a time without expecting anything in return?

Initially judged harshly by the Tibetan establishment, Trungpa's teachings are now recognized by western philosophers and spiritual leaders, including the Dalai Lama, as authentic and profound. Today, twenty years after his death, Trungpa's books have been translated into thirty-one languages and sell worldwide in millions.  His organization thrives in thirty countries and five continents.  Yet Trungpa's name still evokes admiration and outrage.  What made him tick, and just what is crazy wisdom anyway?

Director Johanna Demetrakas uses archival footage, animation, interviews, and original imagery to build a film that mirrors Trungpa's challenging energy and invites viewers to go beyond fixed ideas about our teachers and leaders.

With unprecedented access to Trungpa's inner circle and exclusive never-before-seen archival material, Crazy Wisdom looks at the man and the myths about him, and attempts to set the record straight.
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Before getting into the ethical issues that are raised in the film around Rinpoche's use of "crazy wisdom," especially his drinking, I want to focus on the physical human being who was born in Tibet (1940), educated in the Tibetan monastic tradition (1944-1959), escaped into India as a young man (1959-1960), left India for Oxford University (1963-1967), renounced his monastic vows (1970) then came to the United States (1970).

When Rinpoche came to the West, he apparently wanted to fully experience the Western lifestyle, including smoking, drinking, and having sex. Putting aside the idea that the Vajrayana allows and even encourages the exploration of the senses as a part of the path to enlightenment, this new diet and consumption of alcohol was experienced by a body unable to cope with the new surge in simple sugars and saturated fats.

Just as the native American cultures have become ill with diabetes and heart disease with these foods and alcohol, so too did Rinpoche. He died of heart failure, technically, but this was a function of the bad food, the alcoholism, and the smoking. His wife believes it was the diabetes that killed him.

I have to wonder what he could have accomplished with his obvious enlightenment had he not short-circuited its continued evolution through addiction and early death.

That said, the issue of his teachings, the use of crazy wisdom, is a big part of the film. Although there are no strong condemnations of his lifestyle, other than perhaps Robert Thurman's piece about the way the alcohol shortened his life, there is an honest assessment of his teaching style. Many students and close friends suggest that his drinking had no impact on his teachings - their assumption is that his consciousness or awareness was not affected by the alcohol.

The other issue that is brought up often is his "womanizing," about which he was fully open and transparent. Pema Chodron offers that most teachers (Western or Eastern) who are brought down by "improper" sexual relationships with students (and this is a serious issue to me) are brought down not because of the relationships themselves, but because of the lies or secrecy - the real issue is the sense of betrayal felt by the community as a result of the lies and secrets. Rinpoche was completely open (even with his wife) that he found himself drawn to attractive women and would sleep with them.

The point is also made that at that time in history there was nothing shocking about drinking and having sex. The move that shocked his students (and some even left him over this) was when he began wearing suits.

In an old interview, Rinpoche said that when he wore his monastic robes, no one listened to him or looked him in the eye - their attention was focused on the robes. For him, putting on a suit, the antithesis of spiritual men in that era, was his most profound act of crazy wisdom.

Another area that was touched on briefly (and I would like to know more about it) was Rinpoche's interest in maintaining a Tibetan Buddhist military. Many students did not understand how a man who was so much about peace could have such an interest in the military. Rinpoche argued that if we ever hope to transform the world, we need to penetrate the heart of aggression and transform it into a heart of peace.

I could keep going for a while here. There is no simple narrative about Rinpoche - he is presented in all his complexities and paradoxes, without which he would not have been the teacher he was.

From my perspective, it is impossible to overstate his impact on Western Buddhism. A simple list of his students reveals the power of his legacy: David Bowie, Pema Chödrön, Allen Ginsberg, Anne Waldman, Diane di Prima, Peter Lieberson, José Argüelles, David Nichtern, Ken Wilber, David Deida, Francisco Varela, and Joni Mitchell.And many thousands more who try each day in simple ways to embody the tender warrior heart of Shambhala.

If this film screens near you, be sure to see it.

Ven. Gyatrul Rinpoche - Good cheer in the face of adversity

by Ven. Gyatrul Rinpoche,
trans. by B. Alan Wallace and Sangye Khandro


Dharma Quote of the Week
Developing a sense of good cheer in the face of adversity, you can specifically use adversity as the support for refuge and true spiritual development. I am discussing how you relate to your suffering, how you relate to your adversity, as it affects you in life and on the path. 

Now, as you know, whenever you are suffering by way of the body, speech, and mind, be it physical illness or a mental affliction, this is a very big deal to you. Usually it appears as something major. Even if it's minor, you make it into some great distress. If you lose a little money or if someone speaks nastily to you, it invokes a strong reaction. This is called "appearances arising as the enemy." When your habituation to adversity reaches such a point that you actually fall prey to appearances arising as the enemy, it means that you no longer have patience for suffering.

...If you can't bear the minor aspects of adversity in this, the best rebirth in cyclic existence, the precious human rebirth, what will you do when you're reborn in the three lower realms? Samsara is so vast, so deep and limitless, and the number of sentient beings within samsara are equal to that. All of them want to be free; all of them desire liberation. You should consider then how unnecessary or pointless it is to think that your small problems in this fortunate life are so great, when in fact they really are not.

Any rebirth in this ocean of cyclic existence will by nature bring this type of discontent or suffering. Since you've been in this cycle of rebirths from beginningless time until now and you are still not free, it points out the fact that help is needed. Refuge is necessary. Adversity then becomes the support for training in refuge, which demonstrates that adversity is used to your advantage.

--from Meditation, Transformation, and Dream Yoga by Ven. Gyatrul Rinpoche, trans. by B. Alan Wallace and Sangye Khandro, published by Snow Lion Publications

Meditation, Transformation, and Dream Yoga • Now at 5O% off!
(Good until December 16th).

Documentary - Is the Universe Infinite?

This is an interesting, though short, documentary on the question of an infinite universe - found it at Documentary Heaven.

Is the Universe Infinite?

December 8th, 2011

Is the Universe Infinite?The shape of the universe is determined by a struggle between the momentum of expansion and the pull of gravity. The rate of expansion is expressed by the Hubble Constant, Ho, while the strength of gravity depends on the density and pressure of the matter in the universe.

If the pressure of the matter is low, as is the case with most forms of matter we know of, then the fate of the universe is governed by the density. If the density of the universe is less than the “critical density” which is proportional to the square of the Hubble constant, then the universe will expand forever. If the density of the universe is greater than the “critical density”, then gravity will eventually win and the universe will collapse back on itself, the so called “Big Crunch.”

However, the results of the WMAP mission and observations of distant supernova have suggested that the expansion of the universe is actually accelerating which implies the existence of a form of matter with a strong negative pressure, such as the cosmological constant. This strange form of matter is also sometimes referred to as the “dark energy.”

If dark energy in fact plays a significant role in the evolution of the universe, then in all likelihood the universe will continue to expand forever.

Gary Pritchard, Ph.D. - Ways of Seeing – Ourselves

Here is yet another segment from the Science and Nonduality Conference hosted by - in this talk, Gary Pritchard, Ph.D., discusses John Berger's material on cultural semiotics and its relationship to mindfulness as a way toward working with nonduality.

Gary Pritchard, Ph.D. - Ways of Seeing – Ourselves

Ways of Seeing - Ourselves from Science and Nonduality on

Ways of Seeing – Ourselves: How John Berger's seminal arts theory text foreshadowed the mindfulness movement and remains hugely relevant today

Gary Pritchard, Ph.D University of Wales

Almost forty years after John Berger's polemic on cultural semiotics, his treaty to review art history via shape-shifting contemporary cultural conventions remains strangely relevant. His words however, now have to compete for an audience living in a very different cultural and spiritual landscape than when he originally wrote them. The emergence of the mindfulness movement has drawn heavily on Kabat-Zinn's definition: "Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally." This resonates profoundly with Berger's framework for encouraging a new Way of Seeing. While Berger himself would probably baulk at this association, his arts pedagogy provides a profound framework for scanning the world – on purpose and in the moment.

This paper seeks to map Berger's semiotic structure onto several of the key tenets of mindfulness approaches to engaging time and space. Those of us who aspire to negotiate the non-dual through arts education and practice, can use this framework in attempting to navigate the everyday contexts we face. In a climate of postmodern diffidence, new ways of articulating old values has become critical. Reflective arts practice demands movement by the practitioner - into the moment, and has a rich heritage within arts education. David Thomas describes it as: "…a way of researching through the practice of making art. Such making is not just doing, but is a complex informed physical, theoretical and intellectual activity where public and private worlds meet." This study adds 'spiritual discovery' to Thomas's list of creative complexity, and also draws upon Ken Wilber's integrated approach to human creativity to forge a compelling argument for a new way of seeing. It posits that reflective arts practice becomes infused with a dynamic heuristic when it is accompanied by pedagogic strategies that promote psychosocial and transpersonal self-reflective intelligences.

TEDxMindStreamAcademy - Dr. Howard Rankin - How Balancing Your Brain Balances You

Good stuff.

TEDxMindStreamAcademy - Dr. Howard Rankin - How Balancing Your Brain Balances You

Dr. Howard Rankin B.A., M.Phil., Ph.D, has published over thirty-five scientific papers on addictions and eating disorders and for ten years was the associate editor of the scientific journal Addictive Behaviors. At the Institute of Psychiatry, University of London, he conducted groundbreaking research on the subject of temptation and self-control and was part of the team that redefined the scientific concept of dependence. Dr. Rankin has authored or co-authored 10 books on communication, relationships, wellness and weight loss, including the best selling Inspired to Lose.

Dr. Rankin has held academic appointments at the universities of London, Oxford and South Carolina. In his clinical practice Dr. Rankin was the Chief of the Eating Disorders Unit, St.Andrews Hospital, Northampton, England, as well as consultant to drug and alcohol treatment units both there and at the Maudsley Hospital, London. He was formerly the clinical director at the Hilton Head Health Institute, the leading residential weight loss program in the country. He has a practice in Hilton Head, South Carolina, and in 2010 opened the Rankin Center for Neuroscience and Integrative Health.

MindStream Academy is a fun, innovative co-ed boarding program where teens achieve healthy weight, get fit and build self esteem by nurturing their Mind, Body, and Spirit.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

George Lakoff - Words That Don’t Work

One of the biggest issues facing progressives, in my opinion, is their failure to understand how important words are to realizing their agenda. George Lakoff keeps trying to convince them - to little success thus far.

Think of some recent political buzz words: Obamacare, death tax, big government (refers exclusively to social programs), government handouts (social safety nets), tax relief (cutting taxes on the wealthy, so that most people who pay taxes pay at the same rate, regardless of income), job creators (supposedly the wealthy), defense of marriage (anti-gay marriage), and the list can go on and on, for example, most Americans equate socialism with communism because of the GOP/Fox News management of memes. This is how the GOP controls the national conversation and programs the voters.

Progressives have yet to understand that this is how they lose - over and over again. When is the last time the progressives controlled the conversation in the same way? The Great Society?

Common Dreams posted this recent article from Lakoff - I am including below it an interview from UC Berkeley done in 2003.
Progressives had some fun last week with Frank Luntz, who told the Republican Governors’ Association that he was scared to death of the Occupy movement and recommended language to combat what the movement had achieved. But the progressive critics mostly just laughed, said his language wouldn’t work, and assumed that if Luntz was scared, everything was hunky-dory.  Just keep on saying the words Luntz doesn’t like: capitalism, tax the rich, etc.

It’s a trap.

When Luntz says he is “scared to death,” he means that the Republicans who hire him are scared to death and he can profit from that fear by offering them new language. Luntz is  clever. Yes, Republicans are scared. But there needs to be a serious discussion of both Luntz’s remarks and the progressive non-response.

What has been learned from the brain and cognitive sciences is that words are defined by fixed frames we use in thinking, frames come in hierarchical systems, and political frames are defined in moral terms, where “morality” is very different for conservatives and progressives. What lies behind the Occupy movement is moral view of democracy: Democracy is about citizens caring about each other and acting responsibly both socially and personally. This requires a robust Public empowering and protecting everyone equally. Both private success and personal freedom depend on such a Public. Every critique and proposal of the Occupy movement fits this moral view, which happens to be the progressive moral view.

What the Occupy movement can’t stand is the opposite “moral” view, that Democracy provides the freedom to seek one’s self-interest and ignore what is good for other Americans and others in the world. That view lies behind the Wall Street ethic of the Greedy Market, as opposed to a Market for All, a market that should maximize the well-being of most Americans. This view leads to a hierarchical view of society, where success is always deserved and lack of success is moral failure. The rich are the moral, and they not only deserve their wealth, they also deserve the power it brings. This is the view that Luntz is defending.

Referring to the rich as “hardworking taxpayers” ignores the fact that a great percentage of the rich do not get their wealth from making things, but rather from investments in other people’s labor, and that most of the 1% are managers, not people who make things or directly provide services.  The hardworking taxpayers are the 99%. That is not the frame that Luntz wants activated.

But Luntz is not just addressing his remarks to Republicans. He is also looking to take Democrats for suckers.  How? By choosing his frames carefully, and getting Democrats to do the opposite of what he tells Republicans. There is a basic truth about framing. If you accept the other guy’s frame, you lose.

Take “capitalism.” It arises these days in socialist discourse, and is seen as the opposite of socialism. To attack “capitalism” in this frame is to accept “socialism.” Conservatives are trying to cast Progressives, who mostly have businesses or work for businesses or are looking for good business jobs, as socialists. If you take the Luntz bait, you will be sucked into sounding like a socialist. Whatever one thinks of socialism, most Americans falsely identify it with communism, and will reject it out of hand.

Luntz would love to get Democrats using the word “tax” in the conservative sense of taking money from the pockets of hardworking folks and wasting it on people who don’t deserve it.  Luntz doesn’t want Democrats pointing out how private success depends on public investment – in infrastructure, education, health, transportation, research, economic stability, protections of all sorts, and so on.  He doesn’t want progressives talking about “revenue” which is defined in a business frame to mean money needed for any institution to function and flourish. He doesn’t want Democrats talking about the rich paying their fair share for the massive amount they have gotten from prior investments in a robust Public. Luntz would love to lure progressives into talking about government “spending” rather than investments in education, health, and infrastructure that will benefit most Americans.

He doesn’t want progressives pointing out that corporations govern our lives far more than any government does — and for their profit, not ours. He doesn’t want any discussion of corporate waste, or military waste, which is huge.

Luntz would love to have Democrats talking about “entrepreneurs,” which evokes a Republican view of the market as a tool for self-interest. His proposal to discuss “job creators” instead hides the fact that the business community has not been hiring despite record profits. He certainly does not want discussion of outsourcing and minimizing pay for work, which leads corporations to eliminate or downgrade jobs and hence keep wages low when profits are high.

Hidden behind his proposal to substitute “careers” for “jobs” is his attempt to appeal to young people just out of college and grad school who expect more — a profession — not just a mere “job.”  But of course, corporations are downgrading positions away from professional careers and more toward interchangeable McJobs requiring minimal ability and with minimal pay and benefits.

Luntz is right about not saying “sacrifice.” He is right that most Americans are already hurting more than enough. They want a viable present and a future for themselves and their children and grandchildren. He is right to suggest “talking about how 'we're all in this together.' We either succeed together or we fail together." But that is the opposite of conservative morality. It is the progressive view of a moral democracy that all of Luntz’s conservative framings contradict. It is an attempt at co-opting the progressive moral system, because the Occupy movement is showing that it is an idea of Democracy that makes sense to most Americans. And it is an attempt to take Obama’s strongest moral appeal away from him.

Unfortunately, Luntz is still ahead of most progressives responding to him. Progressives need to learn how framing works. Bashing Luntz, bashing Fox News, bashing the right-wing pundits and leaders using their frames and arguing against their positions just keeps their frames in play.

Progressives have a basic morality, which is largely unspoken. It has to be spoken, over and over, in every corner of our country. Progressives need to be both thinking and talking about their view of a moral Democracy, about how a robust Public is necessary for private success, about all that the Public gives us, about the benefits of health, about a Market for All not a Greed Market, about regulation as protection, about revenue and investment, about corporations that keep wages low when profits are high, about how most of the rich earn a lot of their money without making anything or serving anyone, about how corporations govern your life for their profit not yours, about real food, about corporate and military waste, about the moral and social role of unions, about how global warming causes the increasingly monstrous effects of weather disasters, about how to save and preserve nature.

Progressives have magnificent stories of their own to tell. They need to be telling them nonstop.

Let’s lure the right into using OUR frames in public discourse.

George Lakoff
George Lakoff is the author of Moral Politics, Don't Think of an Elephant!, Whose Freedom?, and Thinking Points (with the Rockridge Institute staff). He is Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley, and a founding senior fellow at the Rockridge Institute.
* * * * * * * 

From UC Berkeley News, a 2003 interview with Lakoff.

Framing the issues: UC Berkeley professor George Lakoff tells how conservatives use language to dominate politics

George Lakoff

– With Republicans controlling the Senate, the House, and the White House and enjoying a large margin of victory for California Governor-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger, it's clear that the Democratic Party is in crisis. George Lakoff, a UC Berkeley professor of linguistics and cognitive science, thinks he knows why. Conservatives have spent decades defining their ideas, carefully choosing the language with which to present them, and building an infrastructure to communicate them, says Lakoff.

The work has paid off: by dictating the terms of national debate, conservatives have put progressives firmly on the defensive.

George LakoffGeorge Lakoff dissects "war on terror" and other conservative catchphrases
Read the August 26, 2004, follow-up interview
In 2000 Lakoff and seven other faculty members from Berkeley and UC Davis joined together to found the Rockridge Institute, one of the few progressive think tanks in existence in the U.S. The institute offers its expertise and research on a nonpartisan basis to help progressives understand how best to get their messages across. The Richard & Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor in the College of Letters & Science, Lakoff is the author of "Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think," first published in 1997 and reissued in 2002, as well as several other books on how language affects our lives. He is taking a sabbatical this year to write three books - none about politics - and to work on several Rockridge Institute research projects.

In a long conversation over coffee at the Free Speech Movement Café, he told the NewsCenter's Bonnie Azab Powell why the Democrats "just don't get it," why Schwarzenegger won the recall election, and why conservatives will continue to define the issues up for debate for the foreseeable future.

Why was the Rockridge Institute created, and how do you define its purpose?

I got tired of cursing the newspaper every morning. I got tired of seeing what was going wrong and not being able to do anything about it.

The background for Rockridge is that conservatives, especially conservative think tanks, have framed virtually every issue from their perspective. They have put a huge amount of money into creating the language for their worldview and getting it out there. Progressives have done virtually nothing. Even the new Center for American Progress, the think tank that John Podesta [former chief of staff for the Clinton administration] is setting up, is not dedicated to this at all. I asked Podesta who was going to do the Center's framing. He got a blank look, thought for a second and then said, "You!" Which meant they haven't thought about it at all. And that's the problem. Liberals don't get it. They don't understand what it is they have to be doing.

Rockridge's job is to reframe public debate, to create balance from a progressive perspective. It's one thing to analyze language and thought, it's another thing to create it. That's what we're about. It's a matter of asking 'What are the central ideas of progressive thought from a moral perspective?'

How does language influence the terms of political debate?

Language always comes with what is called "framing." Every word is defined relative to a conceptual framework. If you have something like "revolt," that implies a population that is being ruled unfairly, or assumes it is being ruled unfairly, and that they are throwing off their rulers, which would be considered a good thing. That's a frame.

'Conservatives understand what unites them, and they understand how to talk about it, and they are constantly updating their research on how best to express their ideas.'
-George Lakoff
If you then add the word "voter" in front of "revolt," you get a metaphorical meaning saying that the voters are the oppressed people, the governor is the oppressive ruler, that they have ousted him and this is a good thing and all things are good now. All of that comes up when you see a headline like "voter revolt" - something that most people read and never notice. But these things can be affected by reporters and very often, by the campaign people themselves.

Here's another example of how powerful framing is. In Arnold Schwarzenegger's acceptance speech, he said, "When the people win, politics as usual loses." What's that about? Well, he knows that he's going to face a Democratic legislature, so what he has done is frame himself and also Republican politicians as the people, while framing Democratic politicians as politics as usual - in advance. The Democratic legislators won't know what hit them. They're automatically framed as enemies of the people.

Why do conservatives appear to be so much better at framing?

Because they've put billions of dollars into it. Over the last 30 years their think tanks have made a heavy investment in ideas and in language. In 1970, [Supreme Court Justice] Lewis Powell wrote a fateful memo to the National Chamber of Commerce saying that all of our best students are becoming anti-business because of the Vietnam War, and that we needed to do something about it. Powell's agenda included getting wealthy conservatives to set up professorships, setting up institutes on and off campus where intellectuals would write books from a conservative business perspective, and setting up think tanks. He outlined the whole thing in 1970. They set up the Heritage Foundation in 1973, and the Manhattan Institute after that. [There are many others, including the American Enterprise Institute and the Hoover Institute at Stanford, which date from the 1940s.]

And now, as the New York Times Magazine quoted Paul Weyrich, who started the Heritage Foundation, they have 1,500 conservative radio talk show hosts. They have a huge, very good operation, and they understand their own moral system. They understand what unites conservatives, and they understand how to talk about it, and they are constantly updating their research on how best to express their ideas.

Why haven't progressives done the same thing?

There's a systematic reason for that. You can see it in the way that conservative foundations and progressive foundations work. Conservative foundations give large block grants year after year to their think tanks. They say, 'Here's several million dollars, do what you need to do.' And basically, they build infrastructure, they build TV studios, hire intellectuals, set aside money to buy a lot of books to get them on the best-seller lists, hire research assistants for their intellectuals so they do well on TV, and hire agents to put them on TV. They do all of that. Why? Because the conservative moral system, which I analyzed in "Moral Politics," has as its highest value preserving and defending the "strict father" system itself. And that means building infrastructure. As businessmen, they know how to do this very well.

Meanwhile, liberals' conceptual system of the "nurturant parent" has as its highest value helping individuals who need help. The progressive foundations and donors give their money to a variety of grassroots organizations. They say, 'We're giving you $25,000, but don't waste a penny of it. Make sure it all goes to the cause, don't use it for administration, communication, infrastructure, or career development.' So there's actually a structural reason built into the worldviews that explains why conservatives have done better.

Back up for a second and explain what you mean by the strict father and nurturant parent frameworks.

Well, the progressive worldview is modeled on a nurturant parent family. Briefly, it assumes that the world is basically good and can be made better and that one must work toward that. Children are born good; parents can make them better. Nurturing involves empathy, and the responsibility to take care of oneself and others for whom we are responsible. On a larger scale, specific policies follow, such as governmental protection in form of a social safety net and government regulation, universal education (to ensure competence, fairness), civil liberties and equal treatment (fairness and freedom), accountability (derived from trust), public service (from responsibility), open government (from open communication), and the promotion of an economy that benefits all and functions to promote these values, which are traditional progressive values in American politics.

The conservative worldview, the strict father model, assumes that the world is dangerous and difficult and that children are born bad and must be made good. The strict father is the moral authority who supports and defends the family, tells his wife what to do, and teaches his kids right from wrong. The only way to do that is through painful discipline - physical punishment that by adulthood will become internal discipline. The good people are the disciplined people. Once grown, the self-reliant, disciplined children are on their own. Those children who remain dependent (who were spoiled, overly willful, or recalcitrant) should be forced to undergo further discipline or be cut free with no support to face the discipline of the outside world.

So, project this onto the nation and you see that to the right wing, the good citizens are the disciplined ones - those who have already become wealthy or at least self-reliant - and those who are on the way. Social programs, meanwhile, "spoil" people by giving them things they haven't earned and keeping them dependent. The government is there only to protect the nation, maintain order, administer justice (punishment), and to provide for the promotion and orderly conduct of business. In this way, disciplined people become self-reliant. Wealth is a measure of discipline. Taxes beyond the minimum needed for such government take away from the good, disciplined people rewards that they have earned and spend it on those who have not earned it.
Read the rest of the interview.

Scott Anderson - The Time Spectrum Unlocks the Spiritual Psychophysics

Here is another offering from the Science and Nonduality Conference hosted by This is a short but heady segment.

The Time Spectrum Unlocks the Spiritual Psychophysics from Science and Nonduality on

The Time Spectrum Unlocks the Spiritual Psychophysics

Since Capra’s Tao of Physics in 1975, we’ve been standing before the door to a psychophysics of consciousness — a genuinely spiritual science. Collective anticipation of such a hybrid has grown in successive waves over the two centuries since Swedenborg and Mesmer first proposed the possibility. The Time Spectrum key unlocks this door. Spanning the sixty orders of magnitude between Planck’s “shortest possible time” and the apparent current age of the universe, the Time Spectrum is naturally depicted logarithmically. As such, it opens before us the vast range of time frames nested within the average human heart beat that are otherwise hidden — time frames we propose ALL relate to experience in an observer-centered cosmology. Electromagnetism occupies a mid-range third of this span defining three roughly equal domains of twenty orders of magnitude each: an OUTER domain of the environment of the body out to the furthest reaches of the cosmos; an INNER domain of embodied experience; and an INNERMOST domain where we posit individuated time-bound awareness connects with non-individuated timeless awareness. The phenomena characterizing these three domains relate to a cutting-edge tool of mathematical physics, the complex division algebras, the next extension of which attains “non-division” — an elegant model of ultimate nonduality. Finally, these four domains — three of time plus a timeless context — bear striking parallels to the ancient sciences of mind found in the Indo-Tibetan yogas (among others). These traditions observe that our total reality embraces “gross, subtle, causal, and nondual” domains. These alignments will be correlated with the leading contemporary theory in the science of consciousness — the Hameroff-Penrose model. Yoga science thus suggests how spirituality and science can begin to shed new light upon and enrich each other. The Yoga Science Foundation has launched the exploration of this new opening.

Scott Anderson

As a biology student at Harvard, Scott met Yogiraj Swami Satchidananda who encouraged him in both spiritual practice and scientific study. He went on to become student of Adi Da Samraj, obtain his MD at UCONN, and serve as Adidam Clinic Director of Research for 20+ years. "The unexpected hybrid" -- Yoga Science -- was born in meditation in 1987. Scott is currently Director of the Yoga Science Foundation that is engineering a conceptual bridge between science and spirituality based on the discovery of previously neglected features in the scientific conception of time.

Kristen Neff - Self-Compassion: The Key to Psychological Well-Being

A while back I posted a video presentation by Dr. Kristin Neff on The Science of Self-Compassion. I am a fan of her work, so I thought I'd post this interview from Noetic Now, conducted by Dr. Cassandra Vieten, who is also quite cool (saw her at the Toward a Science of Consciousness Conference here in Tucson in 2010).

The Noetic Now people are strict about quoting their articles, so here is one especially important section of which I think a LOT more people (especially in education) should be aware.

Self-Compassion: The Key to Psychological Well-Being

Self-Compassion: The Key to Psychological Well-Being
Self-esteem is judging yourself positively—“This is me; I am good.” Self-compassion has nothing to do with judgment or evaluation. It’s a way of relating to yourself kindly and with concern, in an interconnected way.
Vieten: What's the difference between self-compassion and self-esteem?

Neff: I can talk for a long time about this one. One of the reasons I got interested in studying self-compassion is because it changed my life personally when I started learning about it in my Buddhist meditation group. As luck would have it, I did a postdoc with Susan Harter, one of the country’s leading researchers on self-esteem. I learned that psychology has fallen out of love with self-esteem. Certainly if you don't have it, you’ll be depressed and anxious, which is not a good thing, but the big question is how do you get it? There’s an epidemic of narcissism in our culture. All the emphasis on self-esteem over the last twenty years or so has led to the highest levels of narcissism ever recorded, especially among college students—and this is a problem. People who are prejudiced, for example, have very high self-esteem; that’s how they get their self-esteem—“I’m better than you.” Bullies often have high self-esteem, which they get in the same way.

There’s something called the better-than-average affect, which refers to how everyone needs to feel special or above average just to feel okay about themselves. For example, let’s say I meet up with you, Cassie, and say, “Oh wow, your outfit looks really average today,” you’d be horrified, right? You’d be insulted. If someone calls us average, it feels like a blow to our egos. What that shows is that we all have to feel better than average in order to feel okay about ourselves. How do we do that? We subtly put other people down, and we subtly puff ourselves up. We subtly find ways to feel we’re better than others to maintain our self-esteem. Self-esteem is actually problematic, and the research is now very clear on that.

Self-esteem is judging yourself positively—“This is me; I am good.” Self-compassion has nothing to do with judgment or evaluation. It’s a way of relating to yourself kindly and with concern, in an interconnected way. Self-compassion isn’t about good or bad—in fact, when you fail, that’s exactly when self-compassion is needed. That’s one important difference: self-esteem is a kind of judgment, while self-compassion is a way of relating.

I think the research is encouraging because it shows that self-compassion does all the good things self-esteem does. In other words, if you have high levels of self-compassion, or self-esteem, you won’t be depressed or anxious, and it’s unlikely to get so bad that you would fall into a psychological abyss and think about suicide. But self-compassion doesn’t include the problems self-esteem brings. Self-compassion is not at all associated with narcissism. It’s associated with interconnectedness as opposed to feelings of isolation. People who are self-compassionate don’t feel better than other people. Self-compassion also manifests better in relationships than self-esteem does. If you think about the fights we have, they’re often about our egos, right? And they’re often with the people we love. I could go on and on, so to sum it up, I would say self-compassion has the benefits of self-esteem without self-esteem’s drawbacks.
Read the whole interview.

About the Authors

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Chuck Collins - The Case for Taxing the Wealthy

Yes! Magazine posted this TED Talk by Chuck Collins - he argues that the rich did not get to be rich all on their own, so they owe it to the society to pay a little more taxes than the not wealthy. Works for me.

The Case for Taxing the Wealthy

The 1% didn’t get there by themselves. Chuck Collins offers a TED Talk on why the wealthy should pay it forward.

Chuck Collins TED still

Chuck Collins is a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and author of several books including Economic Apartheid in America: A Primer on Economic Inequality and Insecurity as well as Wealth and Our Commonwealth: Why America Should Tax Accumulated Fortunes, which he co-wrote with Bill Gates Sr.

In October 2011 he participated in a TEDx event at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, where he spoke about the importance of taxing the wealthy.

YES! Magazine encourages you to make free use of this article by taking these easy steps. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons License

UCTV - Uniquely-Human Features of the Brain: Plasticity Social Nature Unified Mind

Who says school is boring? This lecture comes form UCTV, from the UC San Diego Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny (CARTA).

Uniquely-Human Features of the Brain: Plasticity Social Nature Unified Mind

Leading brain researchers Todd Preuss, MIke Gazzaniga and Katerina Semendeferi explore unique specialization in the human brain that may be keys to the brain's plasticity, our social nature, and the coordination of the functions in both sides of our brains.

Google TechTalks - Our Place in the Cosmos

Interesting talk by Raja GuhaThakurta, an astrophysicist, on the origins of of all life from the "cosmic web."

Google Tech Talk: Our Place in the Cosmos

December 1, 2011

Presented by Raja (Puragra) GuhaThakurta.


The lecture "Our Place in the Cosmos" explains how we (and, for that matter, all complex life forms) are connected to the Universe around us. This connection relies on the fact that our Milky Way and other galaxies like it play host to cosmic recycling processes that involve the formation of stars and their planetary systems inside nebulae (dense gas/dust clouds), nuclear fusion reactions that occur within stars, and the death of massive stars in explosions known as supernovae. As a result of these processes the Earth contains elements like carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen, all of which are essential ingredients of protein molecules that are basic building blocks of life on Earth. To understand our origin we must therefore understand how galaxies form as part of the so-called cosmic web and evolve via galaxy cannibalism: merging and destruction of small satellite galaxies whereby their stars are incorporated into larger galaxies. This portion of the story will take us back to the earliest imaginable times in the history of the Universe. The talk will be illustrated with the latest astronomical images obtained using space-/ground-based telescopes and state-of-the-art computer simulations.

Speaker Info:

Raja (Puragra) GuhaThakurta received a bachelor's degree in Physics at Saint Xavier's College in Kolkata, India and a Ph.D. in Astrophysical Sciences at Princeton University in 1989. He was a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ and at Princeton University. He worked briefly at NASA's Space Telescope Science Institute in Balitmore, MD (operational headquarters of the Hubble Space Telescope), before joining the faculty of the University of California Santa Cruz in 1994 where he is currently a professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics. The primary focus of GuhaThakurta's research is the formation and evolution of galaxies, including the Andromeda galaxy. He has authored/coauthored ~350 journal articles and meeting abstracts, and has given dozens of lectures, both non-technical and technical. He received an Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship in 1997 and the Herzberg Memorial Prize and Fellowship in 2001.

This talk was hosted by Jeff Dean and Boris Debic.

Authors@Google: Penn Jillette

Penn Jillette visited Google's Santa Monica office on August 19, 2011 to discuss his book God No! Signs You Already May Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales. This talk took place as part of the Authors@Google series. Warning: This talk contains adult language.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Understanding the Concept of Time in Maharaj & Heidegger

Here is yet another segment from the Science and Nonduality Conference - Mila Makal speaks about the Concept of time in Maharaj and Heidegger.

Understanding the Concept of Time in Maharaj & Heidegger from Science and Nonduality on

ONE WHO IS AFRAID OF TIME BECOMES A PREY OF TIME: Radicalization of understanding of the concept of time in Nisargadatta Maharaj and Martin Heidegger
by Mila Makal

If for us humans, life is a disease with a very poor prognosis, for philosophers the certainty of death opens up possibilities and thus time. Only for mortals does time pass. For God, years neither go nor come – they are, according to Saint Augustine, “completely present all at once.” “Time is the child of a barren woman,” states Nisargadatta Maharaj. “One who is afraid of time becomes a prey of time. But time itself becomes a prey of that one who is not afraid of it.” To fear time is like fearing an unborn child. For Martin Heidegger, being is time. Time is only because we are mortal. Our being finds its meaning in death. Authentic existence is the courage ‘for anxiety in the face of death’. Time itself is the presence in the unity of presence and absence. What defines our very existence, indeed, what gives the sum of Descartes’ ‘cogito sum’ meaning is that it is ‘sum moribundus’. We humans are destined for death and Heidegger believes that this ultimate limit or end makes all possibilities eo ipso time intelligible. Plato argued that the task of philosophy is to charm away the fear of death. Maharaj insists that if you meet a lion, “You threaten the lion since either way it is going to kill you. So why die like a coward out of fear? Attack it bravely and knock out some of its teeth. If you are certain of your death, why suffer a lowly death? Die nobly and honorably.” The philosopher and the sage triumph over death, they do not run away from it, but look it straight in the face.

Alva Noë - Do Plants Have Minds?

Here is a follow-up to Alva Noë's recent article comparing Watson, the IBM super computer, to plants. Some people seemed to think he underestimated the plants.
Plants do seem to have a sense of where they want to go.

Plants do seem to have a sense of where they want to go.

In my last contribution to 13.7, I suggested that Watson has the mind of a plant; he just sits there, plugged in, responding to what he is fed. Watson sees nothing, seeks, hides, wants and fears nothing. He has nothing to think about. Watson, like a plant, I suggested, is without understanding or interest.

On reflection — and as readers and colleagues were quick to point out to me — I may have been unfair to plants. There is, in fact, a substantial and developed scientific literature — one I was by-and-large unfamiliar with, but which I have now dipped into — on plant behavior and intelligence, a literature that sometimes goes under the heading "plant neurobiology!"

For excellent surveys, see here and here.

The guiding idea of this literature seems to be, first, that plants do in fact act, and they act in ways which, when animals act that way, we are disposed to think of as signs of intelligence. Some examples: plants orient and react appropriately not only in response to light, but also wind, water, predators, quality of soil and the volume of available soil, among many other factors.

Plants reshape themselves — extending, growing, opening, closing, altering leaf size, etc — in direct response to what they need, what they have good reason to shun and to a broad range of local conditions. In developing underground networks of roots, they show sensitivity to obstacles in the ground, and there is evidence that they differentiate their response to the roots of other plants from their response to their own roots.

Granted, by human and animal measures, plants are very slow. But surely it is prejudice to think that only movements and responsiveness that occurs on time scales that seem natural to us count as legitimately expressive of intelligence and mind.

Wittgenstein once remarked that it is only of what looks and acts like a human being that we say that it thinks, it sees, it wants. Wittgenstein was not advocating chauvinism; he was calling attention to the ways in which our conception of intelligence — of mind — is bound up with ways of acting, coping and responding. Indeed, we see this idea at work in discussions of plant intelligence. Scientists are assembling cases that bring out clearly the ways in which plants do look and act like human beings. You just need to look carefully.

Is it correct to say that plants forage for light, or that they actively avoid shade? Should we say that plants decide where to send out their roots, that they know that they should send roots down into the ground and stems up toward the sky? Is the plasticity and growth of plants to be compared with the free movement and action of animals? These are interesting and important questions that deserve our attention. I won't comment on them any further here other than to notice that if plants have minds, then perhaps they show that you don't need a brain to have a mind, and that's a strange and exciting possibility.

I mentioned there was a second guiding idea of the plant intelligence literature. This is the idea that plants can be viewed as complex information processing systems in the way that computers are; plants, the thinking goes, build models of themselves and their environment and compute courses of actions and possible outcomes. The study of plant minds, like the study of human and animal minds, is shaped and guided by the computer model of the mind, the idea that to have a mind is, in effect, to be a computational system that takes data received by receptors, builds representations of the environment and on this basis computes what to do.

And so we confront a lovely irony. Plants are intelligent, it is claimed, because they are, in effect, robots! I began by criticizing claims that Watson is intelligent by comparing Watson to a mere plant. But defenders of plant intelligence argue that plants are intelligent, that they have minds because they are, really, computational systems; they are, in effect, like Watson!

But this seems misguided. No robot exhibits anything like the sorts of behavioral complexity that we see in plants. That is, no robot or computer — not even Watson — exhibits anything like the behavior that seems to warrant, in the case of plants, thinking they might have minds after all.

We need to look elsewhere. At the end of my post last week, I made a suggestion in this direction. Plants are living beings, I wrote, and:
" ... living beings, even the simplest ones, even the cell, are already engaged in an autonomous struggle to maintain themselves and survive. Living beings, even the simplest ones, already have something like rudimentary minds — motivated sensitivities and useful interests — and so they are way beyond Watson."
This idea that mind and life go together is the central theme of Evan Thompson's important work Mind in Life, and it is also defended in my own Out of Our Heads.

If we want to understand plants, and their minds, we need to start not with computation, but with the fact that they are alive.

You can keep up with more of what Alva Noë is thinking on Facebook, Twitter and over at The Atlantic.

Daniel Leonard Everett - Language: The Cultural Tool

From Daniel Everett is author of the entertaining and intriguing Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle. I enjoyed that account of his experiences and discoveries made while living with the Pirahã, a small tribe of Amazonian Indians in central Brazil. The video lecture is cool, too.

Language: The Cultural Tool

Language: The Cultural Tool from Grand River Forum on

Grand River Forum University Lecture. Daniel L. Everett, Dean of Arts and Sciences at Bentley University, is a U.S. author and academic best known for his study of the Amazon Basin's Pirahã people and their language.

As of July 1, 2010 he serves as Dean of Arts and Sciences at Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts. Prior to Bentley University, Everett was Chair of the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures at Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois. He has taught at the University of Manchester and is former Chair of the Linguistics Department of the University of Pittsburgh. He is married to Linda Ann Everett. He has three children from his first marriage of 35 years to Keren Graham: Dr. Caleb Everett (Assistant Professor of Anthropology, University of Miami); Dr. Kristene Diggins (DrNP in Charlotte, North Carolina); and Ms. Shannon Russell (missionary with SIL International in Porto Velho, Brazil). 

All in the Mind - Mind the gap! The seduction of the synapse

In this episode of All in the Mind, Natasha Mitchell speaks with several neuroscientists about synapses, the tiny gaps between brain neurons.

Mind the gap! The seduction of the synapse

Saturday 3 December 2011 

Bah! All that talk about brain cells and grey matter!  Let’s focus on where the real interesting action is inside your head: the connections between your brain cells—synapses. From the ancient past to the frenzied future—it's all about making connections.


Seth Grant
Professor of Molecular Neuroscience Director, Genes to Cognition Program (G2C) Edinburgh University Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Cambridge University
Geoffrey Goodhill
Professor, Computational Neuroscience Queensland Brain Institute and School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences University of Queensland.
Huda Akil
Co-director and Research Professor Professor of Neurosciences Distinguished University Professor and Quarton The Molecular and Behavioural Neuroscience Institute Department of Psychiatry University of Michigan USA

Further Information

All in the Mind blog with Natasha Mitchell
Look out for occasional extra audio and program information on the All in the Mind blog
All in the Mind Facebook page
The Melbourne Brain Symposium, 2010
Molecules to Mind: Challenges for the 21st Century
Session at the AAAS Conference 2011, Washington DC
Genes to Cognition Program, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and partners.
The Blue Brain Project
The Blue Brain Project is "reconstructing the brain piece by piece and building a virtual brain in a supercomputer".
The Human Connectome Project
From the connectome to the synaptome: an epic love story
Javier DeFelipe, Science Nov 26, 2010;330(6008):1198-201.
The early history of the synapse: from Plato to Sherrington
Max Bennett; Brain Research Bulletin, 1999 Sep 15;50(2):95-118.
The origin and evolution of synapses
Tomas J. Ryan and Seth G.N Grant. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2009 Oct;10(10):701-12.
A general basis for cognition in the evolution of synapse signalling complexes
Seth Grant, Cold Spring Harb Symp Quant Biol. 2009;74:249-57.
Computing behaviour in complex synapses
Seth Grant, The Biochemist, Volume 32 No 2 April 2010
Neurotransmitters Drive Combinatorial Multistate Postsynaptic Density Networks
Marcelo P. Coba, Andrew J. Pocklington, Mark O. Collins, Maksym V. Kopanitsa, Rachel T. Uren, Sajani Swamy, Mike D. R. Croning, Jyoti S. Choudhary, and Seth G. N. Grant, Sci. Signal., 28 April 2009 Vol. 2, Issue 68, p. ra19
Challenges and Opportunities in Mining Neuroscience Data
Huda Akil, Maryann E. Martone, David C. Van Essen; Science 331, 708 (2011)l. (PDF file).
Theoretical Models of Neural Development
Hugh D. Simpson, Duncan Mortimer, and Geoffrey J. Goodhill, Current Topics in Development Biology, 87, 1-51, 2009.
A simple model can unify a broad range of phenomena in retinotectal map development
Simpson, H.D. & Goodhill, G.J. (2011). Biological Cybernetics, 104, 9-29 (PDF file).


Natasha Mitchell / Maria Tickle
Natasha Mitchell

Monday, December 05, 2011

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. - From Trauma to Transformation: An Interview with Jack Kornfield

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D., who writes for Psych Central at the Mindfulness and Psychotherapy blog, interviewed Jack Kornfield on trauma, transformation through mindfulness practice, and his collaboration with Dr. Dan Siegel. This seems to be from a while back (Siegel's Mindsight is mentioned as forthcoming), but it is an interesting (though too brief) interview.

Jack Kornfield stands alongside an esteemed group of elders such as Thich Nhat HanhSharon SalzbergPema Chodron, and Joseph Goldstein in bringing mindfulness to the west. Not only that, he also holds his PhD in clinical Psycholog,y which makes him so relevant to the connection between mindfulness and psychotherapy.

He co-founded Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts and is a founding teacher of the well known retreat center Spirit Rock, in Woodacre, Ca. He has taught in Centers and University settings worldwide with teachers such as Thich Nhat Hanh and the Dalai Lama. He is also author of many widely popular books translated in over 20 languages, his most recent are Bringing Home the Dharma and A Lamp in the Darkness. Others include, A Path with HeartThe Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness, and PeaceAfter the Ecstasy, the Laundry and his newest book The Wise Heart: A Guide to the Universal Teachings of Buddhist Psychology.

Today he talks with us about the connection between East and West psychology, his work with Dr. Dan Siegel, and how his own trauma in life has influenced his work with himself and others.

 Elisha: You are a well known as a leader in the continuing dialogue of Eastern and Western psychology and are very skillful in how you marry the two. With all of the suffering that many of our readers experience, how do you see each supporting the other and where do you see this dialogue heading in our culture?

Jack: The suffering that is experienced by people is described in the Buddhist tradition as the first noble truth of the Buddha. The Buddha says that life entails a certain measure of suffering and no one is exempt from that. There is pleasure and pain, gain and loss, praise and blame, fame and disrepute. Human happiness and mental well-being doesn’t come from avoiding these changing circumstances, they happen to all of us. True happiness comes from the openness of heart, compassion, resiliency and mindfulness, the wisdom that we bring to it, that gives perspective and meaning. In eastern and Buddhist psychology there are many kinds of trainings in compassion, in mindfulness and a balanced perspective that make it possible to hold our suffering in a wise way. We can also learn how to release suffering from the body and emotions and transform its energy.

In Western psychotherapy, much of the same is true. The biggest complementary difference between east and west is that most of western psychotherapy is done together with another person. At best we can call it a kind of paired attention or paired mindfulness in which another person is helping to direct your attention and encourage your capacities to be with your experience with greater wisdom, greater balance, greater understanding, and greater compassion.

With Eastern practice you can have the same paired experience working with a teacher to a certain extent, but then much more emphasis is put on continued trainings and practices that you do regularly and frequently on your own. These capacities develop strongly through practice over and over again. East and West complement one another in this way.

Elisha: Speaking of marrying East and West, can you tell us a bit about your work with Psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Siegel, author of The Mindful Brain and upcoming book Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation. I heard you were running a new online 6-week online course on Mindfulness and the Brain through Sounds True.

Jack: The beautiful work that I’m able to share with Dan Siegel describes this same wedding of East and West and particularly of modern neuroscience and the neurological basis for the capacity for resilience, authentic presence, and for interpersonal attunement,demonstrated in a lot of the neuroscience research. The capacities for wisdom and compassion that I teach about can also be understood from Interpersonal Neurobiology how all this happens and how it fits both in eastern and western perspective. Dan too teaches how it can be developed and learned, changing us and changing our lives.
Read the whole interview.

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