Saturday, February 16, 2008

Daily Dharma: Pain is inevitable

Today's Daily Dharma looks at the concept of pain. I've seen this passage condensed into a nice pith saying: Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.

Pain is inevitable

The First Noble Truth declares unflinchingly, straight out, that pain is inherent in life itself just because everything is changing. The Second Noble Truth explains that suffering is what happens when we struggle with whatever our life experience is rather than accepting and opening to our experience with wise and compassionate response. From this point of view, there’s a big difference between pain and suffering. Pain is inevitable; lives come with pain. Suffering is not inevitable. If suffering is what happens when we struggle with experience because of our inability to accept it, then suffering is an optional extra.

I misunderstood this when I started my practice and believed if I meditated hard enough I would be finished with all pain. That turned out to be a big mistake. I was disappointed when I discovered the error and embarrassed that I had been so na├»ve. It’s obvious we are not going to finish with pain in this lifetime.

The Buddha said, “Everything dear to us causes pain.”…Those of us who have chosen relational life have made the choice that the pain is worth it.

-Sylvia Boorstein, It’s Easier Than You Think; from Everyday Mind, edited by Jean Smith, a Tricycle book.

The Dalai Lama on Evolution

This week's Dalai Lama quote from Snow Lion looks at evolution.

As to what might be the mechanism through which karma plays a causal role in the evolution of sentience, I find helpful some of the explanations given in the Vajrayana traditions, often referred to by modern writers as esoteric Buddhism. According to the Guhyasamaja tantra, a principal tradition within Vajrayana Buddhism, at the most fundamental level, no absolute division can be made between mind and matter. Matter in its subtlest form is prana, a vital energy which is inseparable from consciousness. These two are different aspects of an indivisible reality. Prana is the aspect of mobility, dynamism, and cohesion, while consciousness is the aspect of cognition and the capacity for reflective thinking. So according to the Guhyasamaja tantra, when a world system comes into being, we are witnessing the play of this energy and consciousness reality.

...Despite the success of the Darwinian narrative, I do not believe that all the elements of the story are in place. To begin with, although Darwin's theory gives a coherent account of the development of life on this planet and the various principles underlying it, such as natural selection, I am not persuaded that it answers the fundamental question of the origin of life. Darwin himself, I gather, did not see this as an issue. Furthermore, there appears to be a certain circularity in the notion of "survival of the fittest." The theory of natural selection maintains that, of the random mutations that occur in the genes of a given species, those that promote the greatest chance of survival are most likely to succeed. However, the only way this hypothesis can be verified is to observe the characteristics of those mutations that have survived. So in a sense, we are stating simply this: "Because these genetic mutations have survived, they are the ones that had the greatest chance of survival."

From the Buddhist perspective, the idea of these mutations being purely random events is deeply unsatisfying for a theory that purports to explain the origin of life. ...One empirical problem in Darwinism's focus on the competitive survival of individuals, which is defined in terms of an organism's struggle for individual reproductive success, has consistently been how to explain altruism, whether in the sense of collaborative behavior, such as food sharing or conflict resolution among animals like chimpanzees or acts of self-sacrifice. There are many examples, not only among human beings but among other species as well, of individuals who put themselves in danger to save others.

...From the scientific view, the theory of karma may be a metaphysical assumption--but it is no more so than the assumption that all of life is material and originated out of pure chance.

~ From The Universe in a Single Atom: Convergence of Science and Spirituality by H.H. the Dalai Lama.

Snow Lion's Dharma Quote of the Week

A nice bit of wisdom from Thubten Chodron.

Praising others should be part of our daily life and a component of our Dharma practice. Imagine what our life would be like if we trained our minds to dwell on others' talents and good attributes. We would feel much happier and so would they! We would get along better with others, and our families, work environments, and living situations would be much more harmonious. We plants the seeds from such positive actions on our mindstream, creating the cause for harmonious relationships and success in our spiritual and temporal aims.

An interesting experiment is to try to say something nice to or about someone every day for a month. Try it. It makes us much more aware of what we say and why. It encourages us to change our perspective so that we notice others' good qualities. Doing so also improves our relationships tremendously.

A few years ago, I gave this as a homework assignment at a Dharma class, encouraging people to try to praise even someone they didn't like very much. The next week I asked the students how they did. One man said that the first day he had to make something up in order to speak positively to a fellow colleague. But after that, the man was so much nicer to him that it was easy to see his good qualities and speak about them!

~ From Taming the Mind by Thubten Chodron, published by Snow Lion Publications.

Satire: Expert On Anteaters Wasted Entire Life Studying Anteaters

The Onion's Today Now! segment for this week.

Today Now! host Jim Haggerty consoles a severely depressed zoologist on the latest Critter Corner installment.

Expert On Anteaters Wasted Entire Life Studying Anteaters

Friday, February 15, 2008

Daily Dharma: The essence of the Buddha's message

Today's Daily Dharma:

The essence of the Buddha's message

The essence of the Buddha’s message is contained in the Four Noble Truths. The first of these is the truth of suffering…The Buddha declared that all our experiences of joy, indifference, and pain are unsatisfactory. Are not even our greatest mundane pleasures tainted with dissatisfaction? When these pleasures pass away are we not left with unfulfilled longing and discontent? But in spite of this, we tend to cling to the pleasures of life, ignoring their transient nature…

The suffering we must recognize includes not only the kind we experience at the loss of a loved one, or when we lose our job, for example, but also includes the more fundamental conditions of our human existence, namely, aging, sickness, and death.

- B. Alan Wallace, Tibetan Buddhism from the Ground Up, from Everyday Mind, edited by Jean Smith, a Tricycle book.

Daily Om: Being Clear About Desires

This was yesterday's Daily Om.

Being Clear About Desires
Getting What We Want

The best way to get what we want from life is to first know what we want. If we haven’t taken the time to really understand and identify what would truly make us happy, we won’t be able to ask for it from those around us or from the universe. We may not even be able to recognize it once it arrives. Once we are clear about what we want, we can communicate it to those around us. When we can be honest about who we are and what we want, there is no need to demand, be rude or aggressive, or manipulate others that are involved in helping us get what we want. Instead, we know that we are transmitting a signal on the right frequency to bring all that we desire into our experience.

As the world evolves, humanity is learning to work from the heart. We may have been taught that the way to get what we want is to follow certain rules, play particular games, or even engage in acts that use less than our highest integrity. The only rules we need to apply are those of intention and connection. In terms of energy, we can see that it takes a lot of energy to keep up a false front or act in a way that is counter to our true nature, but much less energy is expended when we can just be and enjoy connections that energize us in return. Then our energy can be directed toward living the life we want right now.

Society has certain expectations of behavior and the roles each of us should play, but as spiritual beings we are not bound by these superficial structures unless we choose to accept them. Instead, we can listen to our hearts and follow what we know to be true and meaningful for us. In doing so, we will find others who have chosen the same path. It can be easy to get caught up in following goals that appear to be what we want, but when we pursue the underlying value, we are certain to stay on our right path and continue to feed our soul.

Satire: Asian Markets Fall Like Cherry Blossoms In Gentle Spring Rain

Business news from The Onion:

Asian Markets Fall Like Cherry Blossoms In Gentle Spring Rain

February 15, 2008 | Issue 44•07

TOKYO, HONG KONG, SEOUL—Asian stocks closed one of the worst and most mournfully reflective months on record last week, with the falling American dollar negatively impacting trade volume and causing the markets to drift, like the faded cherry petals of spring blossoms, downward towards the shadowed sea of burgeoning recession, Eastern market analysts warned Monday.

"Our worst monthly drop; rate cuts make investors flee—to commodities," Nikkei Index vice commissioner Fukako Mishima said, claiming job creation by Mitsubishi, Kawasaki Heavy Industries, and Sony failed to provide confidence in a market already as skittish as the aging husband of a teenage bride, forcing investors to shore up cash reserves with orders of durable goods and agricultural products. "Fading dollar's gleam, a feeble warning beacon: Seek bellies of pork."

Enlarge Image Cherry Blossoms

Currency devaluation reflects silently on still and glassy water.

Hong Kong reported similar woes. Analysts there said the slow chrysanthemum's bloom of gains from foreign investment had entered a season of cold mists that sent tendrils creeping, creeping among the reeds, stagnant equity, and low-hooting owls from which nothing but fever, longing, and gradually downgraded credit ratings were expected to result.

By the end of trading Monday, the Hong Kong dollar was trading at .13 USD, close to a record low, and currency brokers were exchanging subtle barbs and veiled insults as do former lovers. Volume was only moderate in both cases.

"Our speculation economy was spring wine to those who believed the Middle Kingdom could support an emerging middle class, and that while American and European currency stimulated growth, all would prosper," said Jin Fusen, an executive investment director for ING at the Hong Kong bourse. "But it seems that we were attempting to ascend to the Monkey King's Heaven by treading upon a bridge cunningly crafted of obedient birds; and lo! In our haste, one foot falls too heavily; now through a clouded sky, roiled with feathers and harsh cries of alarm, we plummet."

In addition, durable-goods inventories gathered dust in Asian warehouses while salesmen sought buyers, and buyers sought more favorable credit, and all concerned adopted the aspect of a light-thirsting silk moth wavering between the cold celestial glory of a waxing moon and the sudden treacherous heat of the lantern's flame.

Enlarge Image Asian Markets

Portents of great woe appeared in the Hong Kong stock exchange last week.

"At sun's crimson dawning, storm grumbles, mounting, ripples of the sky and sea reflected in late trading," said Lee Woo-hyun, a strategist at Kyobo Securities in Seoul who had warned bankers in 2004 that the American real estate bubble was as artificially inflated and volatile as a gaily painted pig's bladder played with by dust-covered street urchins. "Now the rain comes, from trees striking leaf and blossom both, uncaring. Not to mention gold will soon crest $950 U.S. an ounce as I grow old without grandsons."

Still, some traders refuse to be affected by the gloom that hovers over the Eastern markets like mulberry smoke over an autumn hearth, maintaining that dramatic market corrections in an era of increasing globalization are only to be expected.

"Panic's first impulse: Fear freezes traders solid, whispers of rate cuts. Quick fix attempted, the currency devalued…instability!" Morningstar Japan's Hideyuki Suzuki intoned. "But putting our trust in rate cuts won't work in the long term, and blind faith in the overprotective vertical structure of the zaibatsu system is simply wrong.

"The plain fact is, we have to break the rigid pattern of 5 percent market drop, 7 point rate cut, 5 percent market rise, which has become almost an Asian stereotype, and start looking elsewhere for inspiration."

"What Asian businessmen are being forced to realize is that we have to adopt a more global, perhaps even a more Western, way of thinking," Suzuki added. "Two financial roads are about to diverge, and we must take the one less traveled by. When the books close on fiscal 2008, it may make all the difference."

Thursday, February 14, 2008

New Poem: Love Poem

Love Poem

The poet says, Speak, and the clouds
offer only a slowly moving silence.

But I poke a hole in the silence
big enough for just a single

word: Surrender. A simple request
to be sure, easier said than lived.

Yet that is exactly what I seek.
To know her lips on my scars,

the fragrance of her hair, to feel
her slim waist beneath my hand.

All of this is surrender on my part,
giving up the sense that anything

not this makes sense. She dreamed
my dark wings wrapped around her body

and I swear it was me, my wings,
my black feathery self comforting

her in the dream's truth. Each of us
surrendering to a voice flowing

in our blood, a cellular knowing
that this time the clouds are wise.

My Blog Is Down

No speedlinking today. Blogger seems to have disappeared my blog to most viewers. Traffic is a fraction of what it would normally be, so some people are getting through -- if anyone can tell me what you are seeing when you open this page, I'd appreciate it.

Hope to be back online soon.

Daily Dharma: The force of love

Today's Daily Dharma from Tricycle:

The force of love

The practice of metta, uncovering the force of love that can uproot fear, anger, and guilt, begins with befriending ourselves. The foundation of metta practice is to know how to be our own friend. According to the Buddha, “You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” How few of us embrace ourselves in this way! With metta practice we uncover the possibility of truly respecting ourselves. We discover, as Walt Whitman put it, “I am larger and better than I thought. I did not think I held so much goodness.”

- Sharon Salzberg, Lovingkindness; from Everyday Mind, edited by Jean Smith, a Tricycle book.

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The Danish Poet -- Oscar-winning short film



Quiz - What's Your Romantic Attachment Style?

From, a look at how attachment styles impact our romantic relationships. Attachment theory is one of the hot areas in psychology right now, and there is a lot to learn about how the way we attached to our parents can impact our future relationships.

Attachment is a special emotional relationship that involves an exchange of comfort, care, and pleasure. Researcher John Bowlby described attachment as an emotional bond that impacts behavior "from the cradle to the grave."

Researchers have also found that attachment plays an important role in romantic love and can have an effect on our relationships.

This attachment style quiz is based upon measurement instruments developed by several different researchers. Learn more by taking the quiz: What's Your Romantic Attachment Style?

My results:

Based upon your quiz answers, you appear to have a secure attachment style. People with secure attachments tend to feel comfortable with themselves and their relationships. Securely attached individuals tend to have happier, long-lasting relationships. You feel comfotable sharing your feelings with your partner and are able to turn to your partner for support.

Woo Hoo! I'm saner than I thought.

Alan Watts Podcasts -- Hinduism

There are a series of six podcasts of Alan Watts speaking on Hinduism at a (new?) site called Alan Watts Podcast. I just started listening to them -- classic Watts.

Alan Watts is one of the most widely read philosophers of the 20th century. In addition to his 28 books, Alan Watts delivered hundreds of public lectures and seminars the recordings of which have been preserved in the archives of the Electronic University, a non-profit organization dedicated to higher education. For the past two years Alan's eldest son, Mark Watts has reviewed and cataloged these talks to prepare them for public broadcast. The Electronic University is now pleased to present the highlights of the spoken works of Alan Watts.

Check them out

New U2 - Supernatural Superserious

Via Pitchfork:

"Supernatural Superserious", the first single from R.E.M.'s Accelerate, has people excited that the band may have some energy again. "Producer Jacknife Lee-- you know him from Snow Patrol, Editors, and Bloc Party albums-- makes each element stand out, suggesting the democratic sound of the band's I.R.S. years. Mike Mills inhabits the low and high ends with a pulsing bassline and high careening backing vocals, while Peter Buck's guitars scribble around in the middle, pushed along by a double-time drum beat. There's even a little old-school jangle in the background," is what Stephen M. Deusner wrote in this space last week, but Mike Mills' harmonies are what take me back to the band's younger days. The official video looks to be comprised of some of the footage the band shot for an upcoming "Take Away Show", as Michael Stipe described in this interview.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Speedlinking 2/13/08

Quote of the day:

"Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future
~ Niels Bohr

Image of the day (John Craig):


~ How to Build The Habit of Eating Breakfast -- "You wake up. Kick off the day with a coffee. Then don’t eat until lunch time. For some of you this will sound familiar. Which is a shame because breakfast remains the king of meals." Ideally, one-third of the day's calories should come at breakfast.
~ Are You Man Enough for this Workout? -- "Think you have what it takes to be a Marine? Watch their intense combat training program and learn the 4 rules of building a strong, powerful body that's ready for any challenge."
~ Burn Fat With The Thermic Effect of Food -- "When it comes to losing fat and building muscle, eating less food is not the answer to getting lean and cut. Others will try to tell you that losing excess fat is simply a matter of using more calories than you eat. What they don’t tell you is that eating less will slow your metabolism." This is why the high-protein diets work.
~ One Drink Of Red Wine Or Alcohol Is Relaxing To Circulation, But Two Drinks Are Stressful -- "One drink of either red wine or alcohol slightly benefits the heart and blood vessels, but the positive effects on specific biological markers disappear with two drinks, say researchers at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre of the Toronto General Hospital."
~ Why Care? Take Care Of Your Heart Now! -- "It's been scientifically proven that there are certain activities, super foods and supplements that you can do and or take on a daily basis to increase your heart health quality. Learn more."
~ 4 Ways Alcohol Hinders Muscle Growth -- "My last article focused on how alcohol will seriously impede your fat loss goals. Here, I’ll give you the skinny on alcohol’s affects on muscle growth, and it ain’t pretty."
~ Recovery Methods 101 -- "Dan John's been dragging his calloused butt across Terra Firma for a relatively long time, but he only recently realized he'd been wasting a lot of time on assistance exercises and aerobics."
~ Scientists see promise in new way to fight viruses -- "Scientists have discovered a promising new method to fight a range of diseases by boosting the body's natural defenses against viruses."

~ I Love You, but You Love Meat -- "In an age when many people define themselves by what they will eat and what they won’t, dietary differences can put a strain on a romantic relationship." ~C4Chaos responds.
~ Gals make passes at guys who wash glasses -- "A guy who pulls his own weight around the house isn’t just hot, he’s a boon for his lady’s health and happiness."
~ Neurocognitive Impairment in Borderline Personality Disorder? -- "Borderline personality disorder (BPD) has been described as bordering on 3 DSM classifications: schizophrenia and the psychoses, mood disorders, and impulse control disorders."
~Are 'soul mates' real? -- "Are "soul mates' real? Now there's an interesting question on the day before Valentine's Day! And my happy answer is: Yes!" OK, this is a little left of center, but it's Valentine's Day, so loosen up.
~ 6 kinds of love -- "we’re all familiar with eros – the heady, emotional high of romance, sexual love and infatuation. it makes the world go round; or, more specifically, it twirls the world in a spin...."
~ 20 Things I'm Glad Life Taught Me -- "How many times have you heard someone say, "Hindsight is always 20/20"? If you are like me, you hear it a lot and think it a lot more. Last year Jay wrote an article listing things he wished he'd known earlier. It got me thinking that the most crucial lessons in life and success aren't taught in books or written on blogs, but they are found by living life itself."
~ You Remind Me of Me -- "Trying to decode the subtle cues that lead to human rapport, scientists have trained their focus on mimicry."
~ A Sense of Scarcity: Why it seems like all the good ones are taken -- "Singles’ bars, classified personals and dating websites are a reflection, not only of the common human desire to find a mate, but of the sense of scarcity that seems to surround the hunt. Many people participate in dating activities in the hopes of finding that special someone, yet feel as though it is an impossible task. However, thanks to an international team of psychologists, the solution may be closer than we think -- within ourselves, to be exact."
~ Review - Coercion as Cure -- "In Coercion as Cure, Szasz covers an extensive history of the use of coercion throughout psychiatry, including the early use of various mechanical restraints (e.g. the tranquilising chair), moral treatment, the 'resting cure', insulin shock therapy, ECT, lobotomy, and finally the development of modern-day drug therapies. He maintains throughout that each one of these breakthrough 'discoveries' in psychiatric medicine are simply a reworking of old ideas, all share in common the act of coercion, that is, the depriving of innocent persons of liberty."

~ Government, Bound or Unbound? -- "This paper is a sequel of an article I wrote twenty years ago that I now think can be put more tightly and clearly.[1] That early paper was born of the irritation I felt, and continue to feel, at much of the classical liberal discourse about limited government. At least since Locke, that discourse sets out a normative ideal of government: the protector of “rights” its citizens are in some fashion endowed with, and the guarantor of liberty that ranks above rival values. Such government uses coercion only to enforce the rules of just conduct."
~ What Life Says to Us · Stephen Burt on Robert Creeley -- "For a spell during the 1960s, Robert Creeley's 'I Know a Man' may have been the most often quoted, even the most widely known, short poem by a living American. Written around 1954, the poem got wide notice after For Love (1962), Creeley's first trade collection, and it is not hard to see why."
~The Coming American Matriarchy: The fairer sex gets ready to take over -- "The number 1.5 is, in this case, a ratio. According to projections by the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2017 half again as many women as men will earn bachelor's degrees. In the early 1990s, six women graduated from college for every five men who did so; today, the ratio is about 4-to-3. A decade from now, it will be 3-to-2—and rising, on current trends."
~ Robert Scheer: Aboard the Condoleezza Rice -- "Clearly, what's good for big oil isn't good for most Americans. So why are the interests of oil companies mistaken for those of the nation?"
~ Paul Loeb: Behind Obama's Wave of Victories: The More They Know Him..... -- "But as Obama began winning, voters who'd been paying only peripheral attention have started taking him seriously. The more familiar they've become with him, the more they've liked his message and chances, while their reservations about Clinton have only grown. Now, she and her surrogates are in a position of trying to rationalize eight straight Obama wins, including his 29-point Virginia victory in a state where she was up by 24 points less than four months ago, and her-23 point loss in Maryland, which she also led by roughly the same margin."
~ Gary Hart: Politics as Transcendence -- "Periods of transformation require experimentation, innovation, and daring. America is a nation much more conservative than it thinks itself to be. Thus, its default position is to resist a forward leap even while applauding itself for its creativity. Al Capone said it best: "We don't want no trouble." But transformation is trouble in the best sense of the word, trouble that causes us to adapt to new conditions and circumstances and create new ways of governing."
~ Obama Sells His Narrative -- "The accolades for Obama couldn’t have scaled higher heights last night. At one point on CNN, Donna Brazile pronounced him “a metaphysical force in American politics.” Praise was heaped upon praise, and it’s no wonder. As the race has narrowed, it’s impossible not to be struck by the contrast between an Obama speech and the geriatric grumblings of McCain...."
~ The Senate offers amnesty to the telecom companies -- "Republicans scored a victory yesterday—with the help of many Democrats and independent Joe Lieberman—with the Senate's spy bill. The legislation would give retroactive immunity to telecom companies who have shared customer data with the government in violation of the law, and it would expand the government's ability to spy on Americans' international phone calls without court oversight. Conservatives were ecstatic." Uh, privacy, anyone?
~ Editors: Truce! -- "Conservatives and McCain should neither pretend that we have no differences nor obsess about those differences. We should instead work on the common task of building a center-right majority in this election year and future ones...."

~ The Preservation Predicament -- "Conservation organizations that work to preserve biologically rich landscapes are confronting a painful realization: In an era of climate change, many of their efforts may be insufficient or beside the point."
~ Better Biofuels: The Short Story and the Long Story -- "Before we need more biofuels, writes Alex Farrell in an op-ed in today's San Francisco Chronicle, we need better biofuels. Two articles appeared in Science last week suggesting that the "use of U.S. croplands for biofuels increases greenhouse gas emissions from land use changes." Farrell explains the basics...."
~ World's Largest Science Gathering Promises New Discoveries, Global Impacts -- "Thousands of scientists will spend five days in Boston discussing global climate change, disease and the future of the developing world. It's the world's largest general science conference."
~ Is the Government Pushing Ethanol Too Aggressively? -- "The government says we must use 9 billion gallons of ethanol this year. Some lawmakers worry federal ethanol mandates are 'taking the biofuels industry backward rather than pushing it ahead.'"
~ Dramatic Declines In Wild Salmon Populations Linked To Exposure To Farmed Salmon -- "Comparing the survival of wild salmonid populations in areas near salmon farms with unexposed populations reveals a large reduction in survival in the populations reared near salmon farms. This study shows evidence on a global scale illustrating systematic declines in wild salmon populations that come into contact with farmed salmon."
~ Use of Rogue DNS Servers on Rise -- "They're called "servers that lie." Mendacious machines controlled by hackers that reroute Internet traffic from infected computers to fraudulent Web sites are increasingly being used to launch attacks, according to a paper published this week by researchers with the Georgia Institute of Technology and Google Inc."
~ The need for fossil fuels will last for decades, according to BP's chief scientist -- "The world is almost certainly going to remain hooked on fossil fuels—oil, coal, natural gas—for decades to come, despite our best efforts to cut back, the chief scientist for British Petroleum said during a recent campus talk."

~ The trap and the dream of freedom -- "'The Trap' by Adam Curtis, or "What happened to our dreams of freedom" (for info, see detailed entry at Wikipedia, from which descriptions below are taken). On liberty, individual freedoms, illussions, control, and politics. Watch at Google video, links for each of the three programs below. Each program 1 hour. Enjoy!"
~ What I Like About Polysemy -- "Great conversation, Polysemy plants seeds for great discussion. Artists spend too much time in the woodshed. You show me an artist that spends 8 to 10 hours a day practicing alone and I will show you an artist who cannot communicate. Art is a language; a language is only of use if it communicates."
~ Trusting and Opening -- "Your loving is an art that deepens as your life grows through phases. Sometimes your masculine directionality will step to the fore, perhaps when you decide to cultivate your career. Sometimes your feminine force of love-energy’s hugeness will move you. Since you are composed of both masculine and feminine aspects, you will naturally demonstrate different parts of yourself at different times throughout your life."
~ Wonder -- "For you nerds out there (I guess - is a sociologist considered a nerd?) I'd just like to take a moment to reflect on my chosen major - Sociology. I have been taking classes for about two semesters now, and hopefully am gaining somewhat of an idea of what it's all about. What is it, essentially? The study of the human collective. It's psychology, plural."
~ OSCAR WILDE: THE TRIUMPH OF LOVE -- "Ever since our remotest ancestors began to cover the walls of the caverns they inhabited with their primitive paintings, beautiful as they were in their simplicity, Life and Art have had at best an uneasy relationship."
~ Change your thoughts and change your life – The Art of Cognitive Reframing -- "We never, ever, see the world as it is. Our awareness – our beliefs, past conditionings, upbringing, the list goes on – these distort everything we see. They creep into every interpretation and misinterpretation."

Single and Happy

Being a 40 year old single guy who has never been married, I thought this article was interesting.

Single and Happy

It’s the norm, not the exception

By Bella DePaulo

I’m fifty-four years old and I have always been single. I love my single life. But for a long time I rarely said that out loud. I thought I was the only happy single person.

I didn’t love everything about my single life. I didn’t like that “poor thing” look I’d get when others first learned that I was single. I didn’t like their assumption that I must be miserable and lonely and pining for a partner.

There were other things I didn’t like that I thought I could pin on my single status, but I wasn’t really sure. For example, sometimes at work colleagues with partners would assume that I could cover the tasks that no one else wanted. Maybe they presumed that since I was single, I didn’t have a life and so had nothing better to do with my time. Socially, I was invited to lunch with my coupled colleagues during the week but not to their dinner and movie outings over the weekends.

Tentatively at first, I began asking other single people if they thought they were viewed and treated differently than coupled people just because they were single. The responses were overwhelming. It was time to proceed beyond anecdotes.

Years later after I had read hundreds of scientific studies about marital status, happiness, and discrimination, and after I conducted my own program of research, I realized that much of the conventional wisdom about people who are single was either grossly exaggerated or just plain wrong. The place of singles in society and the significance of getting married have changed dramatically over the past decades. But our views of single and married people have not yet caught up. I wrote about this in my book Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After. The subtitle captures what I learned about singles. Let me explain.

Read the rest.

Daily Dharma: Busy Work

Today's Daily Dharma from Tricycle.

Busy Work

Some people think that they will practice the dharma once they have finished with their worldly business. This is a mistaken attitude because our work in the world never finishes. Work is like a ripple of water continually moving on the surface of the ocean. It is very difficult to break free from our occupations in order to practice dharma. The busy work with which we fill our lives is only completed at the time of our death.

- Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, Meaningful to Behold; from Everyday Mind, edited by Jean Smith, a Tricycle book.

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Barack Obama - 60 Minutes (Feb 10th)

I missed this on Sunday. Maybe you did too.


Hitchens and Boteach Debate on God

Full version of the Christopher Hitchens and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach Debate on God and religion at New York's 92nd Street Y.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Divine Love

Here is a quote by Saint Teresa:

I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the iron's point there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart, and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great, that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it. The soul is satisfied now with nothing less than God. The pain is not bodily, but spiritual; though the body has its share in it. It is a caressing of love so sweet which now takes place between the soul and God, that I pray God of His goodness to make him experience it who may think that I am lying.[3]

Few people familiar with this sculpture think that the spear is aimed at her entrails. For many, this is an erotic sculpture and her experience is a sexualized union with God -- divine love.

Some modern critics have derided the semi-syncopal religious experiences as veiled orgasmic phenomena rather than spiritual encounters; in particular, the body posture and facial expression of St. Teresa have caused some to assign her experience as one of climactic moment.[4] However, Robert Harbison has expressed his doubt that Bernini, a follower of the mystical exercises of followers of St. Ignatius of Loyola, would have intended to depict here an episode of lust fulfilled[5]. Instead, Bernini aims to express the facial and body equivalents of a state of divine joy. It is arguable that in the seventeenth century, it was possible to draw distinctions between religious and erotic experience that are more difficult to make today.

As an addendum to yesterday's post, this sculpture seems to unite the Eros and agape forms of love (despite the objections of some critics). True spiritual, soulful love will often have a sexual component to it. This is as it should be.

When Eros and agape occur together, I think we are approaching the ideal of integral love or relationship. The physical and spiritual often are closely linked. But we generally don't allow the spiritual, soulful element into our experience of sexuality. Our loss.

And moreover, we can have this experience without engaging sexually with another person. We can feel the purity of divine love, with all its sexual undertones, without attaching to any form of bodily experience.

If we do engage sexually, it's important to honor the source of this form of love. It is not sexual. But because it is soulful, it has a sexual element to it. The true source of divine love transcends the bodily, is bigger than and purer than the physical. But through the physical, we can experience it and express it with another person.

But this isn't necessary in all circumstances. Sometimes it is enough simply to feel and honor the love. Just as Teresa experienced her love of God.

Speedlinking 2/12/08

Quote of the day:

"Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened."
~ Sir Winston Churchill

Image of the day

~ Dumbell Exercises to Deem Worthy: Chest Incline Press -- "This article is part 5 of my series on dumbbell exercises every guy should deem worthy. Today’s exercise focuses on the chest. This exercise will improve your pec strength, and secondarily works your biceps."
~ The Ankle Paradox: Building Indestructible Ankles -- "Okay, we know you bare-bones basics guys are asking, "Ankles? WTF?" Truth is, it's all part of the cosmic weightlifting puzzle. If you've got bad knees or an impaired gait, it could be because of your ankles."
~ How to Deal with Shoulder Injuries: The Infraspinatus -- "The Infraspinatus. One of your 4 rotator cuff muscles. The Infraspinatus is a dynamic stabilizer & assists in outward arm rotation. It’s located behind your shoulder & covers your shoulder-blade."
~ Regular exercise - not your genes - will help you live to 90 -- "The secret of enjoying a long life lies in your own hands, claim doctors. Looking after your health and exercising regularly is three times more important than your genes for improving your chances of having an active life in your 90s, according to new research."
~ Health Effects Of Obesity May Be Related To Body Image -- "The difference between actual and desired body weight is a stronger predictor of health than body mass index (BMI). In a secondary analysis of the 2003 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) data set, researchers looked at a sample of 150,577 participants to examine the impact of desired body weight, independent of actual BMI, on the number of physically and mentally unhealthy days subjects report over one month."
~ Training to Run Faster -- "If you don’t run very fast in practice, you won’t be able to run very fast in races. The following article is written by Dr. Gabe Mirkin, MD, who explains that jogging will decrease your chances for injury, but will not improve your run time."
~ Artificial Skin Mimics the Real Thing -- "A new, nanotube-based artificial skin responds to temperature and pressure."
~ Attention to heart health good for the brain -- "A recent survey found that two out of three African Americans worry about developing heart disease and two out of five are concerned about developing Alzheimer's disease, yet only one in 20 are aware that heart health is linked to brain health."

~ Well: Reinventing Date Night for Long-Married Couples -- "Brain and behavior researchers say many couples are going about date night all wrong."
~ Why perfect dates make lousy partners -- "The best "catches" in dating land may be the worst choices in the long-run, new research shows."
~ Implicit associations -- "You might have prejudices you won't admit to, or, don't even know about. The Implicit Attribution Test claims to measure this hidden associations and it's been one of the most important psychological developments during the last decade."
~ Homomorphism Theory and the Mental Attitudes -- "So, before my ADD kicked in I was addressing Josh and Rosenthal’s response to my question about the difference between conscious pains and conscious thoughts that results in one being qualitative while the other isn’t. Their response is that the difference between the two cases is the result of the difference between the kind of property that one attributes to oneself. I argued that they still haven’t told me why one isn’t like anything at all for the creature and that it is inconsistent with Rosenthal’s view about the emotions."
~ What is Love Anyway? -- "People love each other all around us, all the time. If I had to place a bet, love is probably essential to the human condition. We all need attachments to others; we all need to love and be loved. If not, why would people write love songs?"
~ Exploring Relationships with the Single Weirdo -- "One of the many interesting things about being a life-long, single male in his early forties is people’s reactions to that single-ness (yep, a word). Everyone has an opinion on it. Depending on the person’s thinking, it can place me anywhere on the scale from ‘complete social outcast’, to ‘coolest bloke on earth’ and ‘luckiest man alive’. And elicit responses ranging from pity and ridicule, to envy and admiration." I can totally relate.
~ Is Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy Effective? -- "Mindfulness cognitive therapy (or mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, MBCT) is a blend of two very different approaches — cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) which focuses on changing our thoughts in order to change our behaviors, and the meditative practice of mindfulness, a process of identifying our thoughts on a moment-to-moment basis while trying not to pass judgment on them. While cognitive behavioral therapy has always emphasized the end result of change of one’s thoughts, mindfulness really looks at how a person thinks — the process of thinking — to help one be more effective in changing negative thoughts."
~ The Fear of Fear Itself -- "Don't panic, it's not a heart attack."
~ Its Hard To Know At Times If Your Dating Partner Is Happy -- "Research tends to focus on the positives of self-monitoring -- a personality characteristic that accounts for how attuned individuals are to societal conventions as well as the degree to which "appropriateness" controls their behavior and moderates how they present themselves to others." High self-monitors are social chameleons," says Northwestern University researcher Michael E. Roloff."
~The Differences in Gender -- Sealed With a Kiss -- "As Valentine's Day approaches, research has begun shedding light on that most basic of all human expressions of love -- the smooch -- which has received surprisingly little scientific scrutiny."

~ Sam Harris: The Secular Fundamentalist -- Big Think presents a series of videos featuring Sam Harris.
~ No Children's Tale -- "Little in literature seems smaller or simpler than Aesop. People assume that everyone has read the fables, or had the fables read to them. Thanks to Aesop, we have a common understanding of a wolf in sheep's clothing, the lion's share, the hare versus the tortoise, the playful grasshopper, sour grapes, squeaky wheel, and much more."
~ Christian Right's Emerging Deadly Worldview: Kill Muslims to Purify the Earth -- "Christian extremists are preaching a war against tolerance to target and persecute all Muslims, including the 6 million who live in the U.S."
~ Every Year Brings Us Closer to 1984 -- "In the beginning, the government just collected fingerprints -- now they want eye scans and a host of other biometrics. Where will it stop?"
~ The Next Great Awakening -- "Understanding faith communities, especially understanding the complexities of the evangelical and Catholic worlds, is now an easier task, thanks to two new books, The Great Awakening by Sojourners Editor Jim Wallis and Souled Out by syndicated columnist E. J. Dionne. Though written in different styles—the preacher (Wallis) and the political journalist (Dionne)—together offer insight into religious activism and the possibilities for a more progressive approach to religious engagement in the public square."
~ All Problems of Notation Will be Solved by the Masses -- "If relational aesthetics and open source were always commercial, can the musical score provide a way of thinking through different relationships between creativity and code? The return to improvisation in 'livecoding' draws parallels with experimental practices developed by maverick musicians, programmers and educators from Sun Ra, The Art Ensemble of Chicago and the Scratch Orchestra to Seymour Papert. Simon Yuill argues that these 'distributive practices' are worth extending today."
~ Absolutism vs. Relativism in Abortion -- "The NYTimes published two articles about abortion in the last couple days. The first was a review by William Saletan of the book Embryo, A Defense of Human Life by Robert P. George and Christopher Tollefsen. The second was an article about the science of trying to detect pain in infants and possibly fetuses as well. The two juxtaposed reminded me of the tendency of the abortion debate in this country to degenerate into moral absolutes -- and simplistic ones at that. This is the subject of the Saletan article, but I believe it also applies to discussions of fetal pain."
~ Taking Obama seriously -- "The United States presidential race is the most exciting and energising in years. Barack Obama has made it so, and in a way that opens a new era of political possibility, says openDemocracy's founder Anthony Barnett."
~ Can Liberal Arts Colleges Be Saved? -- "This year, a Special Commission appointed by U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings “to consider how best to improve our system of higher education” completed a year long study. Its 55-page report of analysis and recommendations does not even mention liberal education or the liberal arts."

~ The Chikungunya Question -- "Before the summer of 2007, Castiglione di Cervia, Italy, was known as a quiet village near Ravenna. In July, however, doctors noticed complaints of excruciating joint pain, fever, headaches, and rash. Their patients were experiencing a fever called "chikungunya"; the word originates in the Makonde language in Tanzania and Mozambique and means "to dry up or become contorted." This epidemic had two years previously raged unexpectedly through islands in the Indian Ocean. But it was new to Europe."
~ Complexity Theory Takes Evolution to Another Level -- "A group of scientists wants to revise Darwin's theory of evolution to better explain jumps in biological complexity, like that from single-celled to multicellular organisms."
~ U.S.: Arctic Oil Deposits May Be Ours, All Ours -- "New mapping data that shows Alaska's continental shelf extending farther out to sea than previously believed may bolster U.S. claims to oil and gas reserves contained in areas currently the subject of an international dispute."
~ New duck-billed Dinosaur From Mexico Offers Insights Into Ancient Life On West America -- "A new species of dinosaur unearthed in Mexico is giving scientists fresh insights into the ancient history of western North America. The new creature -- aptly dubbed Velafrons coahuilensis -- was a massive plant-eater belonging to a group of duck-billed dinosaurs, or hadrosaurs. In addition to isolated skeletons, the researchers found large bonebeds of jumbled duck-bill and horned dinosaur skeletons."
~ 'Junk DNA' Can Explain Origin And Complexity Of Vertebrates, Study Suggests -- "'Junk DNA' could hold the secret of the evolutionary origin of complex animals, according to new research. Vertebrates - animals such as humans that possess a backbone - are the most anatomically and genetically complex of all organisms, but explaining how they achieved this complexity has vexed scientists since the conception of evolutionary theory. Now researchers have traced the beginnings of complex life, i.e. vertebrates, to microRNA."
~ Lake Mead, Key Water Source For Southwestern US, Could Be Dry By 2021 -- "There is a 50 percent chance Lake Mead, a key source of water for millions of people in the southwestern United States, will be dry by 2021 if climate changes as expected and future water usage is not curtailed, according to new research. Without Lake Mead and neighboring Lake Powell, the Colorado River system has no buffer to sustain the population of the Southwest through an unusually dry year, or worse, a sustained drought. In such an event, water deliveries would become highly unstable and variable, said research marine physicists and climate scientists."
~ Android Prototypes Debut in Barcelona -- "Google Inc.'s profile was relatively low as the World Mobile Congress opened, but chip makers eager to help develop the first phones using Google's Android operating system were not so quiet."

~ Openness on the Forest Path -- "One thing that I realized was that I grasped at my self-image as a friendly Buddhist that had never said or done anything to offend this guy, therefore undeserving of his verbal onslaught. But, is this self-perception accurate? And even if it is, is it worth clinging to as an absolute truth about myself?"
~ No value beyond the practical -- "Any story is a tool. One that helps our human self orient and function in the world. And as any other tool, it has no value beyond the practical."
~ The UU Blog Awards -- "The fourth annual UU Blog Awards, honoring Unitarian Universalist blogging in 2007, is past its nomination stage and is now in an open voting stage that determines winners in fifteen categories."
~ Letting Go of Body Armor II: The Alexander Technique -- "The Alexander Technique is another healing modality that focuses on body-mind integration; although, Alexander stressed that "doing" is not the focus; non-doing is. In fact, healing is not the goal either; stopping ineffectual, habitual movement is. I took my first lesson in the Technique last Thursday, and it has already profoundly affected the way I move in the world."
~ SDi Training for Palestinian Women -- "Dr. Don Beck and Elza Maalouf, CEO of the Center for Human Emergence – Middle East presented a 2-day Spiral Dynamics Integral training for Palestinian women January 25 and 26, 2008. Participant came from Jericho, Nablus, Ramallah, Bethlehem, Tulkarm, Khalil and many other areas of the West Bank."
~ Recently Online Dissertations (IV) -- "In the past two or three years many universities have made an effort to systematically put their dissertations online. A quick glance at what is available shows that North America, Northern Europe (German world, Netherlands, Sweden), Japan, overseas China and Australia lead the way. Coverage remains less than exhaustive, and a surprisingly high number of institutions still block outside access. But generally starting an embarrassment of riches is starting to emerge, available to anyone with an internet connection.

The Issue: Superdelegates

This cool site, The Issue, takes on topics of interest and presents multiple points of view. Last night they posted an entry on Super Delegates, a rather arcane and misunderstood element of the primary process for the Democrats.

Here is the intro:

Superdelegates and the Democratic Nomination

The close race for the Democratic presidential nomination has focused national attention on the Democratic superdelegates, elected officials and committee members who comprise about one-fifth of all delegates, and the possibility that they could function as tiebreakers. While skeptics argue that superdelegates have never voted against the frontrunner after the primaries and won’t start now, many question whether, in this election cycle, the party elite could overrule the popular will.

Check out the rest of the points of view.

Daily Dharma: State of Being Lost

This is today's Daily Dharma from Tricycle, a very good and basic introduction to mindfulness in our daily lives.

State of being lost

Most of the time we go through the day, through our activities, our work, our relationships, our conversations, and very rarely do we ground ourselves in an awareness of our bodies. We are lost in our thoughts, our feelings, our emotions, our stories, our plans.

A very simple guide or check on this state of being lost is to pay attention to those times when you feel like you are rushing. Rushing does not have to do with speed. You can rush moving slowly, and you can rush moving quickly. We are rushing when we feel as if we are toppling forward. Our minds run ahead of ourselves; they are out there where we want to get to, instead of being settled back in our bodies. The feeling of rushing is good feedback. Whenever we are not present, right then, in that situation, we should stop and take a few deep breaths. Settle into the body again. Feel yourself sitting. Feel the step of a walk. Be in your body.

The Buddha made a very powerful statement about this: “Mindfulness of the body leads to nirvana.” Such awareness is not a superficial practice. Mindfulness of the body keeps us present.

-Joseph Goldstein, Transforming the Mind, Healing the World; from Everyday Mind, edited by Jean Smith, a Tricycle book.

Extreme - More Than Words

I remember really liking this once upon a time.


Winter Nature Photography by Monique Bogaerts

From Linkinn, Winter Nature by Monique Bogaerts.