Saturday, March 08, 2008

Integral Praxis: Metalinking

I appreciate that many of my readers came to IOC for the speedlinks, and I regret that I can no longer offer that service to my readers -- I miss it, too. I feel like I am so much less informed without the time I spent reading and posting cool links.

Fortunately, the good folks at Integral Praxis are stepping up to fill the void. This is the logical/spiritual evolution of speedlinking -- and I look forward to what they have planned for us.

Today we are introducing something new on Integral Praxis: 'MetaLinking'.

Recently Bill Harryman discontinued his amazing "Speedlinking" on the Integral Options Café blog. We were huge fans of Bill’s daily offering of interesting & informative articles and weblinks. With Speedlinking, Bill was able to provide his readers with links to a wide range of easily accessible and relevant information. Although Bill’s Speedlinking was not the only incarnation (similar features can be found on SEED and various science blogs) of this type of blogging.

Therefore the IRG has decided to offer our readers our version of easy access linking. We hope readers find MetaLinking informative and rigorous in the promotion of innovative research, debate and public interest stories - addressing topics that span the whole spectrum of integral thinking.

Links will reflect IRG’s 4 main strategic research domains:
1) Bodymind Dynamics – human development, consciousness, cognition, physiology and personal health.

2) Communication, Culture & Discourse - collective discourse, information, art, values, ideas, semiotics

3) Environment, Health & Sustainability - habitat, ecology, technology, community and collective health

4) Polity, Justice & Organization – governance, war, social movements, power, resistance and law.
Individual links will not necessarily provide integrally-informed content; however, when the various streams of information are considered in relationship to each other integral patterns emerge.

We sincerely hope that you enjoy and make ample use of this new feature. Feedback and comments about MetaLinking or this weblog as a whole are always welcome.

Look for more positive changes here at Integral Praxis in the near future…

Go check out the cool links they have assembled in their first offering.

The weekly quote from the Dalai Lama, courtesy of Snow Lion Publications.

Dalai Lama Quote of the Week

To solve the problems humanity is facing, we need to organize meetings of scholars, educators, social workers, neuroscientists, physicians, and experts from all fields to discuss the positive and negative sides of what we have done thus far, as well as what needs to be introduced and what needs to be changed in our educational system. Proper environment plays a crucial role in the healthy growth of a child. All problems, including terrorism, can be overcome through education, particularly by introducing concern for all others at the preschool level.

Living in society, we must share the suffering of our fellow citizens and practice compassion and tolerance not only toward our loved ones but also toward our enemies. This is the test of our moral strength. We must set an example by our own practice. We must live by the same high standards of integrity we seek to convey to others. The ultimate purpose is to serve and benfit the world.

--from How to See Yourself As You Really Are by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, translated and edited by Jeffrey Hopkins, Ph.D.

Daily Dharma: Three Friends and a Monk

Today's Daily Dharma from Tricycle:

Three Friends and a Monk

There's a story of three people who are watching a monk standing on top of a hill. After they watch him for a while, one of the three says, "He must be a shepherd looking for a sheep he's lost." The second person says, "No, he's not looking around. I think he must be waiting for a friend." And the third person says, "He's probably a monk. I'll bet he's meditating." They begin arguing over what this monk is doing, and eventually, to settle the squabble, they climb up the hill and approach him. "Are you looking for a sheep?" "No, I don't have any sheep to look for." "Oh, then you must be waiting for a friend." "No, I'm not waiting for anyone." "Well, then you must be meditating." "Well, no. I'm just standing here. I'm not doing anything at all." ...[S]eeing Buddha-nature requires that we... completely be each moment, so that whatever activity we are engaged in--whether we're looking for a lost sheep, or waiting for a friend, or meditating--we are standing right here, right now, doing nothing at all.

--Charlotte Joko Beck, Everyday Zen

Michael Pollan: Don't Eat Anything That Doesn't Rot

AlterNet has an interview with Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food.

Here is the first page of seven -- go read this if you care at all about what you eat. I don't agree with everything he says, but on the whole he is an important voice in reconsidering how we view our foods.

Acclaimed author and journalist Michael Pollan argues that what most Americans are consuming today is not food but "edible foodlike substances." His previous book, The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, was named one of 2006's ten best books by the New York Times and the Washington Post. His latest book is called In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto.

Amy Goodman:"You are what to eat." Or so the saying goes. In American culture, healthy food is a national preoccupation. But then, why are Americans becoming less healthy and more overweight?

Michael Pollan joined me for a wide-ranging conversation about nutrition, food science and the current American diet. I began by asking him why he feels he has to defend food.

Michael Pollan: Food's under attack from two quarters. It's under attack from the food industry, which is taking, you know, perfectly good whole foods and tricking them up into highly processed edible foodlike substances, and from nutritional science, which has over the years convinced us that we shouldn't be paying attention to food, it's really the nutrients that matter. And they're trying to replace foods with antioxidants, you know, cholesterol, saturated fat, omega-3s, and that whole way of looking at food as a collection of nutrients, I think, is very destructive.

Goodman: Shouldn't people be concerned, for example, about cholesterol?

Pollan: No. Cholesterol in the diet is actually only very mildly related to cholesterol in the blood. It was a -- that was a scientific error, basically. We were sold a bill of goods that we should really worry about the cholesterol in our food, basically because cholesterol is one of the few things we could measure that was linked to heart disease, so there was this kind of obsessive focus on cholesterol. But, you know, the egg has been rehabilitated. You know, the egg is very high in cholesterol, and now we're told it's actually a perfectly good, healthy food. So there's only a very tangential relationship between the cholesterol you eat and the cholesterol levels in your blood.

Goodman: How is it that the food we eat now, it takes time to read the ingredients?

Pollan: Yeah.

Goodman: You actually have to stop and spend time and perhaps put on glasses or figure out how to pronounce words you have never heard of.

Pollan: Yeah, it's a literary scientific experience now going shopping in the supermarket, because basically the food has gotten more complex. It's -- for the food industry -- see, to understand the economics of the food industry, you can't really make money selling things like, oh, oatmeal, you know, plain rolled oats. And if you go to the store, you can buy a pound of oats, organic oats, for 79 cents. There's no money in that, because it doesn't have any brand identification. It's a commodity, and the prices of commodity are constantly falling over time.

So you make money by processing it, adding value to it. So you take those oats, and you turn them into Cheerios, and then you can charge four bucks for that 79 cents -- and actually even less than that, a few pennies of oats. And then after a few years, Cheerios become a commodity. You know, everyone's ripping off your little circles. And so, you have to move to the next thing, which are like cereal bars. And now there's cereal straws, you know, that your kids are supposed to suck milk through, and then they eat the straw. It's made out of the cereal material. It's extruded.

So, you see, every level of further complication gives you some intellectual property, a product no one else has, and the ability to charge a whole lot more for these very cheap raw ingredients. And as you make the food more complicated, you need all these chemicals to make it last, to make it taste good, to make -- and because, you know, food really isn't designed to last a year on the shelf in a supermarket. And so, it takes a lot of chemistry to make that happen.

Goodman: I was a whole grain baker in Maine, and I would consider the coup to be to get our whole grain organic breads in the schools of Maine for the kids, but we just couldn't compete with Wonder Bread which could stay on the shelf -- I don't know if it was a year.

Pollan: That's amazing.

Goodman: Ours, after a few days, of course, would get moldy, because it was alive.

Pollan: Right. And, in fact, one of my tips is, don't eat any food that's incapable of rotting. If the food can't rot eventually, there's something wrong.

Goodman: What is nutritionism?

Pollan: Nutritionism is the prevailing ideology in the whole world of food. And it's not a science. It is an ideology. And like most ideologies, it is a set of assumptions about how the world works that we're totally unaware of. And nutritionism, there's a few fundamental tenets to it. One is that food is a collection of nutrients, that basically the sum of -- you know, food is the sum of the nutrients it contains. The other is that since the nutrient is the key unit and, as ordinary people, we can't see or taste or feel nutrients, we need experts to help us design our foods and tell us how to eat.

Another assumption of nutritionism is that you can measure these nutrients and you know what they're doing, that we know what cholesterol is and what it does in our body or what an antioxidant is. And that's a dubious proposition.

Read the whole interview.

TED 2008 -- Two Lectures

TED Talks are always great . . . here are two new ones. There are many more new ones to come.
[Hat tip to]

Roy Gould: WorldWide Telescope

Howard Rheingold: Way-new collaboration

Friday, March 07, 2008

New Poem: Love Poem III

Love Poem III

Don't look, she said, and I mistake
the directive, not wanting to look down
from this height, as though hovering
high above the city's roofs,
as though our bodies have learned
the subtlety of eluding gravity,
how to breathe outside its domain,
that in the polarity of flesh and flesh
some magic is unleashed
more powerful than all the laws
of nature, and yet nothing
is more natural, the raw scent
of two bodies joined, seemingly outside
the sorrow of time, so high, so tangled
in these bed sheets . . . . Don't look,
she said, and I notice her blushing,
that I shouldn't watch her dress
after having seen into her heart,
seen into and through her eyes,
this woman who untethered me,
who assisted our ascent,
this spirit in woman's skin
who is just a little shy.

Favorite Core Exercise - Unilateral Overhead Dumbbell Squats

I cycle through a lot of core exercises, depending on my mood and my attention span. Since I seldom do crunches or sit-ups anymore, I'm always looking for something to challenge my core muscles.

I've been having my clients do overhead squats, which is exactly what it sounds like. Press a barbell overhead and commence to squatting. This really doesn't put much stress on the legs with the weights they can use for this exercise, although it does work well to finish off the legs after a good workout. Rather, this is all about the core.

Any time we hold weight overhead, our core muscles (abdominals, obliques, and spinal erectors) are all activated to keep the trunk from collapsing under the weight. Add any kind of movement, such as squats or lunges, and they have to work even harder. This is a better way to build core strength than any combination of sit-ups and crunches ever will.

So, in my workout today, I decided to do unilateral overhead dumbbell squats. Fun! Here is the description at T-Nation:

This one has to be experienced to truly appreciate its effectiveness. If you want to train core stability, then lift heavy objects over your head! Use two dumbbells for this exercise — a heavy one and a lighter one (50-60% of the load of the first dumbbell). Taking a shoulder-width stance, hold the heavier dumbbell in your left hand by your side, and the lighter dumbbell pressed up over your head.

Now, maintaining an erect torso, squat down, keeping your body weight in the center. The offset load will create a large torque through your back and midsection. Fight your body's natural tendency to want to lean to one side!

I did 15 reps on each side with a 50 lb overhead and a 60 lb at my side (I'm sure I could do more) -- I could feel my obliques and lower back working hard.

I'm guessing that this might be hard if you don't already have good core strength, so start light and see what you can handle before going to the heavier weights. Add this into your program twice a week (with hanging leg raises and/or floor-wipers on the other days) and I promise you will have a solid and sexy core (assuming good diet) by summer.

2007 National Book Critics Circle Award Winners

The National Book Critics Circle has announced its 2007 award winners:

Here is the list of this years winners and finalists:

Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award: Emilie Buchwald
Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing: Sam Anderson


2007 Winner: The Rest is Noise, by Alex Ross

2007 Finalists:
Joan Acocella, Twenty-Eight Artists and Two Saints: Essays
Julia Alvarez, Once Upon a Quinceañera: Coming of Age in the USA
Susan Faludi, The Terror Dream: Fear and Fantasy in Post-9/11 America
Ben Ratliff, Coltrane: The Story of a Sound


2007 Winner: Elegy, by Mary Jo Bang

2007 Finalists:
Matthea Harvey, Modern Life
Michael O'Brien, Sleeping and Waking
Tom Pickard, The Ballad of Jamie Allan
Tadeusz Różewicz, New Poems, trans. by Bill Johnston


2007 Winner: Stanley, the Impossible Life of Africa's Greatest Explorer, by Tim Jeal

2007 Finalists:
Hermione Lee, Edith Wharton
Arnold Rampersad, Ralph Ellison: A Biography
John Richardson, The Life of Picasso: The Triumphant Years, 1917–1932
Claire Tomalin, Thomas Hardy

General Nonfiction

2007 Winner: Medical Apartheid, by Harriet Washington

2007 Finalists:
Philip Gura, American Transcendentalism: A History
Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America 1815-1848
Tim Weiner, Legacy of Ashes: A History of the CIA
Alan Weisman, The World Without Us


2007 Winner: Edwidge Danticat, Brother, I'm Dying

2007 Finalists:
Joshua Clark, Heart Like Water: Surviving Katrina and Life in Its Disaster Zone
Joyce Carol Oates, The Journals of Joyce Carol Oates, 1973–1982
Sara Paretsky, Writing in an Age of Silence
Anna Politkovskaya, Russian Diary: A Journalist's Final Account of Life, Corruption and Death in Putin's Russia


2007 Winner: The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz

2007 Finalists:
Vikram Chandra, Sacred Games
Hisham Matar, In the Country of Men
Joyce Carol Oates, The Gravedigger’s Daughter
Marianne Wiggins, The Shadow Catcher

Lewis Black - Televangelists

Lewis Black always makes me laugh.


Satire: Relationship Tragically Enters Going-To-Bathroom-With-Door-Open Stage

From The Onion, of course.

Relationship Tragically Enters Going-To-Bathroom-With-Door-Open Stage

March 7, 2008 | Issue 44•10

SCHAUMBURG, IL—Tragedy struck an otherwise ideal love affair between Frank Langford, 31, and Amy Diamond, 28, Monday, when Diamond used the toilet directly in front of her beloved for the first time. "Deep down, I knew this awful development was inevitable, but it still hurts to see the black day finally come," Langford said. "The most crushing part is that I didn't even mind that much. After all, I stopped bothering to suck in my gut around her months ago." Although it only began two years ago, the couple's relationship has already experienced such cataclysmic events as the no-longer-hiding-morning-breath stage and the slapping-each-other-on-the-ass-in-an-entirely-nonsexual- manner stage, and is now rapidly approaching the final indignity of the actual-love-based-on-mutual-understanding- and-respect stage.

A Man Among Wolves

This is pretty damn cool.

Shaun Ellis is an animal researcher, expert in wolf behaviour. He adopted a pack of three abandoned wolf cubs and by mimicking wolf behavior, he was able to raise them to maturity in a nature reserve, and becoming the pack's alpha male.


Teaching a cub to howl (sound is quiet on this one)

Poetry by Langston Hughes - The Weary Blues

I was just telling a friend the other day that I wanted to do a kids' book on Langston Hughes, but she didn't know much of his work. So then this popped up in the sift. Perfect.

The Weary Blues was written by Langston Hughes in 1923 and recited in the film by author and Harvard Professor Dr. Allen Dwight Callahan.

The speaker of Langston Hughes's "The Weary Blues" describes an evening of listening to a blues musician in Harlem. With its diction, its repetition of lines and its inclusion of blues lyrics, the poem evokes the mournful tone and tempo of blues music and gives readers an appreciation of the state of mind of the blues musician in the poem.

Langston Hughes was an American poet, novelist, playwright, short story writer, and columnist. Hughes is known for his work during the Harlem Renaissance.


Thursday, March 06, 2008

Christopher Hitchens Understands Me

I'm always relieved when I find out that there are others out there like me. Book addicts. We are those who have piles of books all over the apartment, in odd places, in the car, and most often, piled on top of other books on the bookshelves. They breed while we sleep.

If one is lucky, like Hitchens, people send you good new books just because your name is Christopher Hitchens. No such luck for the rest of us -- we have to buy our books. No problem, though, we know all the good used bookstores around the country and online (but actually visiting the books is better -- sometimes you have to hold it in your hands before you know you want to take it home).

Anyway, here is Hitch riffing on his bibliomania (from City Journal).

I live in a fairly spacious apartment in Washington, D.C. True, the apartment is also my office (though that’s no excuse for piling books on the stove). But for some reason, the available shelf space, which is considerable, continues to be outrun by the appearance of new books. It used to be such a pleasure to get one of those padded envelopes in the mail, containing a brand-new book with the publisher’s compliments. Now, as I collect my daily heap of these packages from my building’s concierge, I receive a pitying look.

It ought to be easy to deal with this excess, at least with the superfluous new arrivals: give them away to friends or take them to a secondhand bookseller. But the thing is, you never know. Two new histories of the Crusades have appeared in the past year, for instance, and I already have several books on those momentous events. How often, really, do I need to mention the Crusades in a column or a review? Not that often—but then, it suddenly occurs to me, not that seldom either. Best be on the safe side. Should all these books sit on the same shelf? Or should they be indexed by author? (“Index” is good: it suggests that I have a system.) Currently, I pile the Crusades books near titles on the Middle East—an unsatisfactory arrangement, but I have no “History” section as such, because then I would have to decide whether to arrange it chronologically or geographically.

Bibliomania cripples my social life. In order to have a dinner party, I must clear all the so-far-unsorted books off the dining-room table. Either that, or invite half the originally planned number of people and just push the books temporarily down to one end of it. In the spring, my wife and I host the Vanity Fair party that follows the White House correspondents’ dinner, and this means that I can get professional help with rearranging the furniture and the books. This past year, the magazine’s omnicompetent social organizer, Sara Marks, gave me some ingenious vertical shelf units, allowing me to stack books on their sides. Alas, there wasn’t time before the festivities to sort these useful display units by author or subject, so I’ve only been able to alter the shape of my problem, not solve it.

The units also make it easier to read the titles on the spines and thus to suffer reproach for their randomness. And let’s say I did decide to organize these books: Should I start with A for Kingsley Amis? But wait, here’s a nonfiction work by Amis, on language. Shouldn’t it go on the reference shelf with the lexicons and dictionaries? And what about the new biography, and the correspondence between Kingsley and Philip Larkin?

Read the whole article.

Brett Favre Tribute Video

It's sad to see Favre retire after such a great season. But I can understand the mental and physical strain he endures each year to be that great -- and never miss a game since becoming a starter. All of us who love sports will miss his love and passion for the game -- and his brilliance.

I did a bit of looking around before I found this tribute video (one without dumbass music) -- 8+ minutes of the best of Brett Favre. Enjoy.

Do You Trust Your Intuition?

Researchers think that you should.

Intuition Is More Than Just A Hunch, According To Leeds Research

Most of us experience 'gut feelings' we can't explain, such as instantly loving - or hating - a new property when we're househunting or the snap judgements we make on meeting new people. Now researchers at Leeds say these feelings - or intuitions - are real and we should take our hunches seriously.

According to a team led by Professor Gerard Hodgkinson of the Centre for Organisational Strategy, Learning and Change at Leeds University Business School, intuition is the result of the way our brains store, process and retrieve information on a subconscious level and so is a real psychological phenomenon which needs further study to help us harness its potential.

There are many recorded incidences where intuition prevented catastrophes and cases of remarkable recoveries when doctors followed their gut feelings. Yet science has historically ridiculed the concept of intuition, putting it in the same box as parapsychology, phrenology and other 'pseudoscientific' practices.

Through analysis of a wide range of research papers examining the phenomenon, the researchers conclude that intuition is the brain drawing on past experiences and external cues to make a decision - but one that happens so fast the reaction is at a non-conscious level. All we're aware of is a general feeling that something is right or wrong.

"People usually experience true intuition when they are under severe time pressure or in a situation of information overload or acute danger, where conscious analysis of the situation may be difficult or impossible," says Prof Hodgkinson.

He cites the recorded case of a Formula One driver who braked sharply when nearing a hairpin bend without knowing why - and as a result avoided hitting a pile-up of cars on the track ahead, undoubtedly saving his life.

"The driver couldn't explain why he felt he should stop, but the urge was much stronger than his desire to win the race," explains Professor Hodgkinson. "The driver underwent forensic analysis by psychologists afterwards, where he was shown a video to mentally relive the event. In hindsight he realised that the crowd, which would have normally been cheering him on, wasn't looking at him coming up to the bend but was looking the other way in a static, frozen way. That was the cue. He didn't consciously process this, but he knew something was wrong and stopped in time."

Prof Hodgkinson believes that all intuitive experiences are based on the instantaneous evaluation of such internal and external cues - but does not speculate on whether intuitive decisions are necessarily the right ones.

"Humans clearly need both conscious and non-conscious thought processes, but it's likely that neither is intrinsically 'better' than the other," he says.

As a Chartered occupational psychologist, Prof Hodgkinson is particularly interested in the impact of intuition within business, where many executives and managers claim to use intuition over deliberate analysis when a swift decision is required. "We'd like to identify when business people choose to switch from one mode to the other and why - and also analyse when their decision is the correct one. By understanding this phenomenon, we could then help organisations to harness and hone intuitive skills in their executives and managers."

Buddhists Meet Mind Scientists in Conference on Meditation and Depression

This conference happened in October of last year (2007), but Psychiatric Times is just getting around to reporting on it. Still, it's a good article. Psychology, more than any other field, is beginning to get that Buddhism offers valuable tools and understanding about how the mind works, and how to re-balance a mind that is damaged by life experience or chemical imbalances. Mindfulness and meditation aren't the only answers, but they are increasingly becoming central parts of many therapy programs -- even cognitive-behavioral therapists have added a mindfulness component (MBCT).

Buddhists Meet Mind Scientists in Conference on Meditation and Depression

On October 20, 2007, leading researchers in the fields of mood disorders and meditation discussed the promise—and limitations—of meditation for the prevention and treatment of major depression. Participating in a day-long symposium titled "Mindfulness, Compassion, and the Treatment of Depression" was His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The event, which drew an audience of more than 3000, was cosponsored by Emory University in Atlanta and the Mind & Life Institute and was the 15th time that the Dalai Lama has met with Western scientists under the aegis of the Mind & Life Institute to engage in dialogue about points of intersection and divergence between Buddhist and scientific worldviews.

The conference focused on the role that meditation might play in promoting cognitive, emotional, and physiological states that are protective against depression. This issue was examined within the broader context of whether developing mindfulness and greater compassion through meditation training in adulthood might help individuals compensate for the depressogenic effects of adversity, trauma, and lack of nurturance early in life, all of which are primary environmental contributors to major depression.

During the conference, researchers presented data that suggested that mindfulness practices may help prevent the recurrence of major depression and that meditation practices specifically designed to promote compassionate cognitions and emotions toward others may have effects on the brain and body that are directly relevant to depression.

The Dalai Lama opened the conference by acknowledging the unique relationship that exists between Emory University and several leading institutions of higher education within the Tibetan exile community, a relationship that has culminated in the Dalai Lama joining the Emory faculty as a Distinguished Presidential Professor. He expressed his conviction that Western physical sciences and Buddhist traditions of studying the mind have much to offer each other in better understanding mind-body interactions relevant to health.

To set the stage for a discussion of the therapeutic potential of meditation, Charles B. Nemeroff, MD, PhD, Reunette W. Harris Professor and chairman of the Emory department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, and Helen S. Mayberg, MD, professor of psychiatry at Emory, provided the Dalai Lama with an overview of current scientific understandings of the risk factors for, and neurobiology of, major depression.

Dr Nemeroff recounted the tremendous cost in human suffering inflicted by depression and noted that people with major depression are more than twice as likely to die, not just of suicide, but of medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease. He reviewed data that showed that most of the risk for depression comes from environmental factors and highlighted the importance of a history of trauma, adversity, and/or lack of parental nurturance early in life, especially in individuals with vulnerability genes for depression. He showed evidence that individuals who were exposed to early adversity have lifelong biological changes relevant to depression, including hyperactivity of stress-response pathways and reductions in CNS oxytocin, a hormone known to contribute to social bonding.

Dr Mayberg reviewed recent findings regarding the neurobiology of depression, focusing on her team's work with deep brain stimulation (DBS) in the white matter surrounding the subgenual anterior cingulate cortex as a treatment for severe, treatment-resistant major depression.1 In addition to showing remarkable video footage of rapid and sustained mood improvements brought on by DBS, Dr Mayberg made the stronger point—with which the Dalai Lama very much agreed—that when depression reaches a certain degree of severity it may require biological interventions to normalize the brain to a degree sufficient to engage in behavioral strategies such as meditation.

Read the rest.

Starless Night

This is a painfully cute little video about a cat who sneezes away the stars, and a dog who knows how to fix it. Enjoy.


Fry & Laurie - Psychiatrists

A classic skit from Fry & Laurie. (There are some other skits embedded in this video as well, for those who enjoy British humor.)

Video Flashback: 4 Non Blondes - What's up?

This was a great album. Too bad they never followed through on their promise as a band.


Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Daily Om: Finding Peace Within

Today's Daily Om:

A Full Embrace Excluding Nothing
Finding Peace Within

Most people agree that a more peaceful world would be an ideal situation for all living creatures. However, we often seem stumped as to how to bring this ideal situation into being. If we are to have true peace in this world, each one of us must find it in ourselves first. If we don’t like ourselves, for example, we probably won’t like those around us. If we are in a constant state of inner conflict, then we will probably manifest conflict in the world. If we have fighting within our families, there can be no peace in the world. We must shine the light of inquiry on our internal struggles, because this is the only place we can really create change.

When we initiate the process of looking inside ourselves for the meaning of peace, we will begin to understand why it has always been so difficult to come by. This in itself will enable us to be compassionate toward the many people in the world who find themselves caught up in conflicts both personal and universal. We may have an experience of peace that we can call up in ourselves to remind us of what we want to create, but if we are human we will also feel the pull in the opposite direction—the desire to defend ourselves, to keep what we feel belongs to us, to protect our loved ones and our cherished ideals, and the anger we feel when threatened. This awareness is important because we cannot truly know peace until we understand the many tendencies and passions that threaten our ability to find it. Peace necessarily includes, even as it transcends, all of our primal energy, much of which has been expressed in ways that contradict peace.

Being at peace with ourselves is not about denying or rejecting any part of ourselves. On the contrary, in order to be at peace we must be willing and able to hold ourselves, in all our complexity, in a full embrace that excludes nothing. This is perhaps the most difficult part for many of us, because we want so much to disown the negative aspects of our humanity. Ironically, though, true peace begins with a willingness to take responsibility for our humanity so that we might ultimately transform it in the light of our love.

Mind Matters: Emodied Cognition

A cool article from the Scientific American Mind Matters blog.

About 15 years ago, I began to suspect that the body is the unconscious mind. At the time, there was very little scientific evidence, but a lot of experiential proof. Now the science is catching up with that body workers and mystics have known for centuries.

Really, from a developmental perspective, it makes sense. We live in our bodies and know the world with our bodies long before we become rational beings. That knowing doesn't stop, it just gets buried beneath rational thought. All the while, our bodies sense the world around us, store emotions and memories, and we seldom pay attention to what the body can teach us.

Emodied Cognition

Art Glenberg, Arizona State University

It has become commonplace in neuroscience - and even in everyday conversation - to compare human cognition to that of computers. We know that computers work by using rules to manipulate symbols composed of zeros and ones. According to this metaphor, people also use rules to manipulate abstract and arbitrary symbols. The brain, in other words, was a computer that processed data largely independently of the body. A newer theory that is gaining ground among neuroscientists, embodied cognition, departs from the "computer-as-mind" metaphor. Instead, the body is seen as playing an important role in cognitive processes. Cognition evolved to guide real bodies in the real world, argue the researchers in favor of this idea. Our thoughts are constrained and influenced by the details of our flesh. How you move your arm or leg actually shapes the way you perceive, think and remember.

The latest research in embodied cognition demonstrates just how entangled the body and brain are. Holt and Beilock's research plays the embodiment card in two ways. First, they show that when trying to understand written language, people invoke perceptual and action experiences. The words we use when reading (and perhaps also when listening) point to particular shared bodily experiences, and these experiences, in turn, are used by the reader to understand sentences. In the second important advance, Holt and Beilock also show that when people have had different personal experiences they will understand the same sentences differently.

A Picture vs. A Thousand Words
How did they show this? Holt and Beilock had people read sentences (for instance, "The child saw the balloon in the air") and then determine whether a picture that they were shown depicted an object named in the sentence. Sometimes the picture depicted an object as it would look in the context described by the sentence (an inflated balloon), and sometimes the picture depicted the object differently (a deflated balloon). The scientists demonstrated that people had a faster response time when the picture corresponded to real world scenarios, as in the first sentence. (Deflated balloons don't float.) This suggests that, when trying to comprehend the sentence, people were invoking their actual experiences with real balloons.

Holt and Beilock then looked at more specialized domains of body knowledge. They demonstrated that athletes bring to bear their sport-specific knowledge when comprehending written sentences about that sport. In other words, hockey players rely on their bodily experiences playing hockey when reading about hockey.

Body English
At first glance, this might not sound very surprising. But the implications of embodied cognition extend far beyond balloons and hockey plays. Consider what happens to your thought process when you wiggle your hand. Most of us learned to count using our fingers. It turns out that we rely on these early bodily experiences when we make rudimentary mathematical judgments, such as whether a number is even or odd. Or consider the act of smiling. If we are smiling, it is actually easier for us to understand sentences that describe pleasant events. We have even been able to demonstrate that fatiguing a particular action system (for example, the system that controls the arm when it moves in a "giving" motion) changes the way we understand language about giving and receiving both concrete objects (say, a pencil) and abstractions (such as responsibilities). Apparently, the same neural systems used in guiding action are also used in comprehending language about these actions. This research has numerous applications.

Look, for instance, at the field of education. If thinking requires bodily experiences and bodily action, it might be possible to take advantage of embodied cognition in order to facilitate the learning process.

Read the rest.

Daniel Goleman @ Sharp Brains

Daniel Goleman is the man most people associate with emotional intelligence. He's a highly sought-after author and speaker, so it is quite impressive that Sharp Brains got him to do a guest post.

Here is the beginning of his article, called The Power of Mindsight:

How can we free ourselves from prisons of the past?

-- By Daniel Goleman

When you were young, which of these did you feel more often?

a) No matter what I do, my parents love me;

b) I can’t seem to please my parents, no matter what I do;

c) My parents don’t really notice me.

The answers to such questions don’t just reveal truths about our childhood. They also tend to predict how we act in our closest relationships as adults.

Our childhood shapes our brain in many ways—and so it determines our most basic ways of reacting to others, for better and for worse. When parents consistently practice empathy toward a child—that is, they tune in to the way that child views and feels about her world—they help instill in that child a sense of security and an ability to empathize with others later in life. But when parents act dismissively toward a child, they can make it harder for that child to be in touch with her emotions and connect with other people.

Daniel Siegel has done years of research to support these conclusions. Siegel, a psychiatrist at the University of California, Los Angeles, founded the field of “interpersonal neurobiology,” which explains the brain basis for our habits of bonding with others. His research shows how we can overcome emotional disadvantages that might have arisen from difficult childhoods.

Read the rest

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Jeff Healey: 1966-2008

Jeff Healey died Sunday as a result of the cancer he has had since the age of one, and that took away his sight.

It was a rare type of eye cancer that robbed guitarist Jeff Healey of his eyesight when he was only one year old, and a cancer that spread to his lungs would eventually take his life on March 2, but the prodigiously talented blues and jazz guitarist managed to fit an impressive amount into his 41 years of life.

Healey was best known to film fans as the house band leader in the Patrick Swayze cult favorite Road House (1989), but the Toronto native found considerable success with the resulting label contract and his hit single "Angel Eyes." He released a popular cover of "My Guitar Gently Weeps," played alongside the likes of George Harrison, Stevie Ray Vaughn and B.B. King, and even nabbed a Grammy nomination for the song "Hideaway," before returning eventually to his first love: vintage jazz. He released several albums on this theme, and in addition to playing a weekly jam session in Toronto, he occasionally hosted the CBC show My Kinda Jazz, which allowed him to showcase his collection of 30,000-plus jazz records. A father of two, Healey was readying the release of Mess of Blues, his first rock-blues album in eight years. As B.B. King told EW, "Jeff’s passing is a tragic loss to the world of blues. His life was cut short. He was courageous throughout his battle with cancer, and his special talent will be greatly missed."

While My Guitar Gently Weeps

I Think I Love You Too Much (live 1999)

Daily Dharma: Our unsubdued mind

Today's Daily Dharma from Tricycle:

Our unsubdued mind

If we let a wild elephant loose in a populated area it will cause massive destruction, but the uncontrolled wild mind can cause much more harm than such a crazed beast. If the deluded, wild elephant of our mind is not subdued, it will create much suffering for us in this life and will cause us to experience the sufferings of the deepest hell in the future. In fact, if we investigate we can see that the creator of all the sufferings of this and future lives is nothing but our unsubdued mind. To subdue this wild beast is much more important than bringing a jungle elephant under our control.

Many benefits follow from taming our mind. If we take the rope of mindfulness and tie our elephant mind securely to the post of virtue, all of our fears will swiftly come to an end…

If we do not develop mindfulness, our meditations will be hollow and empty. There will be nothing to keep our wild elephant mind from running back and forth in its customary, uncontrolled manner between objects of attachment, anger, jealousy and so forth.

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

Chad Waterbury - 5 Ways to Boost Testosterone

OK, this one is for the guys out there. But if you are woman with a man who works out, pass this along -- you'll love the difference a little attention to testosterone can make in his physique.

Chad Waterbury is the man -- I've been using his training programs for years now with great success. None of the points he makes here are new to me, but he provides a good overall approach, and throws in a program for training at the end.

Testosterone is the father of all muscle-building hormones, because it promotes protein synthesis. Whether you're training to get bigger, faster, leaner, or stronger, Testosterone is the steroid hormone that can make a world of difference. Too little of it and you'll get nowhere, too much of it (synthetically) and you'll end up with some nasty side effects.

The human body doesn't like supra-physiological levels of anything, much less Testosterone. But if you maximize it naturally you'll see newfound strength, size and leanness faster than ever.


Testosterone makes you bigger, leaner, stronger, smarter, more energetic, and better in the sack.

The role of Testosterone goes far beyond big biceps and a monstrous deadlift. When it's high you'll boost libido, have more energy, and protect yourself against osteoporosis. The brain loves Testosterone, too. When you have high physiological levels of T it boosts cognitive functions such as memory and attentiveness.

Of course, that means when T levels are low you're heading down a cognitive slope. Slide down far enough and you might be susceptible to all kinds of nasty neurological disorders.

So it probably doesn't warrant any real arm-twisting to convince you that you need to maximize Testosterone to reap all of the health, athletic, and aesthetic benefits you surely desire.

Here are the five steps you should follow.

Go read the whole article.

Satire: FCC Okays Nudity On TV If It’s Alyson Hannigan

The Onion reports -- and I agree with the FCC on this one.

FCC Okays Nudity On TV If It's Alyson Hannigan

Monday, March 03, 2008

Liquid Inspiration

Matthew mentioned this article from the LA Times on writing and drinking, and the linking thereof. I had been meaning to say something about it because, well, honestly, been there and done that.

Intoxication, if not the source of literary creation, creates a cerebral aura congenial to it. It recasts the glare of life in a softer hue. It soothes anxiety and other stultifiers of reflection. It warms the mind and thaws thoughts frozen in timidity. The fruit of the vine does not give us insight but aids our discovery of it; it can allow you to eavesdrop on yourself.

The trick is to find the golden mean between exhilarating and dulling the intellect. Cratinus' belief that only bad verses were written without wine seems too appealing to be untrue. But the best verses no doubt arise when, the wine low in the bottle, Dionysus is still steady enough to dance to the tune of Apollo's lyre.

For years, I believed this was true, and I suspect I still might. When I quit my daily drinking many years ago, I also quit writing for the next six or seven years. Well not completely -- I could still write good academic stuff, but not poetry or fiction.

I thought I needed a few drinks to write well. Not too many, however, that my mind gets dulled, but just enough to free the words.

I'm not alone in this belief -- many writers have held this belief, as the article details. But many have also died a result of this belief:

But there can be a dark side. Booze was the downfall of Hemingway and Fitzgerald, after it “pickled their brains,” in the words of John Irving. Ditto for William Faulkner, Eugene O'Neill and Dylan Thomas, drinkers with writing problems all. "I'm Catholic, and I can't commit suicide," said Jack Kerouac, "but I plan to drink myself to death." Which he did, checking out from liver cirrhosis at the age of 47.

Great company to be in, aside from the dying part. There's no better way to avoid making good art than to be so dead that you can no longer write.

I've written more good poetry while drinking (not drunk) than while sober, so I think there might be some truth to the idea that alcohol can free the mind, or at least loosen the inhibitions. Still, there is always the possibility that what I think is good writing is really crap that my addled mind can't see as crap.

I don't know. But I do know that no poem or publication is worth drinking myself to death -- there's too much other good stuff to live for. Maybe that's why I was never "really" a writer.

In These Times - The American Left

In These Times takes an interesting look at Leftist politics in America, and how the left has moved through a variety of terms to describe itself over the years.

The American Left: Liberals, Progressives and the Left

By Ken Brociner

The term “progressive” has evolved a great deal over the past 35 years.

By the ’70s, many ’60s veterans had concluded that working “within the system” had become a viable option. As a result, many leftists stopped using rhetoric and slogans that had marginalized them from the political mainstream. Labels like “radical”, “leftist”, and “revolutionary” sounded stale and gratuitously provocative. And so, gradually, activists began to use the much less threatening “progressive.” Today, “progressive” is the term of choice for practically everyone who has a politics that used to be called “radical.”

On a somewhat parallel track, in the ’80s, liberal politicians found themselves under attack by the Reagan inspired right-wing of the Republican Party. Soon, conservatives succeeded in changing “liberal” into something akin to a dirty word and liberal politicians began to avoid any association with the term whatsoever.

By the early ’90s more and more Democratic politicians began referring to themselves as being “progressive.” For most of the ’90s, though, this shift was so gradual that only the closest political observers seemed to even notice it. Notably, the progressive label was not only picked up by liberals like Ted Kennedy, but also by centrists like Bill Clinton and his cohorts in the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC).

In fact, during the Clinton administration a tug of war ensued between centrists, liberals, and the left over who owned “progressive.” But by the end of the ’90s, “progressive” belonged to the left-wing of the Democratic party as well as to those activists who had one foot in the party and one foot outside of it—to its left.

Since 2001, “progressive” has become considerably more vague in its meaning and application. With a hard right-wing administration in power, the differences between various left of center groups and politicians became less important than the need to stand up in opposition to Bush’s disastrous policies.

Read the rest, in which the author then considers how to push a potential Obama administration more to the left. Not sure that is a good idea -- Obama will likely win by being a centrist, and should govern the same way.

The Album Leaf - Time-Lapse Video

Very nice - and the music works with the images.


Satire: Ad Campaign Appeals To Young, Hip, Influenced-By-Ad-Campaigns Demographic

From The Onion:

Ad Campaign Appeals To Young, Hip, Influenced-By-Ad-Campaigns Demographic

March 3, 2008 | Issue 44•09

NEW YORK—According to new market research, a multimillion dollar broadcast, radio, print, billboard, and online viral campaign launched Monday by the Axiom Marketing Agency tested "off the charts" among its target market of hip, urban 18- to 34-year-olds who base their actions and opinions entirely on the suggestions of ad campaigns. "This is exactly the type of customer we're looking to reach," said the campaign's chief strategist Ben Jacobs, 28. "It's showing tremendous impact on the cool, media-savvy rebels who distrust authority, prize alternative culture, think outside of the mainstream, and are willing to base their actions entirely on advertising images presented to them on TV. How dope is that?" The campaign, which advertises a new, youth-oriented version of Raisinets called Raisin d'Etre, is expected to make an impressive showing at the upcoming Counterculture Ad Fair sponsored by Procter and Gamble and held at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Daily Om: Connect with the present

This is today's Daily Om from Tricycle, a reminder that being present is the primary goal of daily practice.

Connect with the present

It is often the case that whatever we are doing, be it sitting, walking, standing, or lying, the mind is frequently disengaged from the immediate reality and is instead absorbed in compulsive conceptualization about the future or past. While we are walking, we think about arriving, and when we arrive, we think about leaving. When we are eating, we think about the dishes, and as we do the dishes, we think about watching television.

This is a weird way to run a mind. We are not connected with the present situation, but we are always thinking about something else. Too often we are consumed with anxiety and cravings, regrets about the past and anticipation for the future, completely missing the crisp simplicity of the moment.

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

This is a great point that Wallace makes, as usual.

One way that I practice this in my daily life is when I am working out with weights. There are few other times in my life when being fully in the present moment is so crucial. A failure to do so can get me hurt very badly.

While focusing the mind with 365 lbs on my back is pretty easy, comparatively speaking, it can be harder to do so when I am with my clients. Still, this is another opportunity for me to practice being present. My clients can tell if I am not present -- and they are paying me to be fully there with them.

Generally, I am counting reps, checking their form, or changing weights. But more than anything else, I am listening ... being present to their stories about their lives. I ask questions, share my own experience when appropriate, but mostly I simply listen with as much presence as possible.

This, it seems to me, is the key to therapy. My best therapists listened well and asked good questions. Sometimes, they offered suggestions or insights, but as often as not, the insights came from me simply through thinking out loud with a good listener.

How much better might our relationships be if we simply applied this skill there? Skillful listening and being fully present are two of the most important things we can do with our partners. We all want to know that we are heard and understood, and that when we are with the one person who means most to us in the world, that person is fully with us, not creating a grocery list or planning tomorrow's wardrobe.

Finally, in the realm of relationships, how great would your sex life be if you were fully present for every moment of that shared experience? No thinking about what to do next, no focus on climaxing, no worries about technique or performance -- just full presence in each breath, each kiss, each touch of skin on skin.

No matter what we are doing, connecting with the present is as good as it gets.

2008 TED Prize Winners

Robb Smith has been blogging this year's TED gathering, but I wanted to add that the three winners of the annual TED Prize have been announced -- a diverse and deserving selection.

The links will take you to their TED page.

Neil Turok - Cosmologist and education activist

Dave Eggers - Author, philanthropist and literary entrepreneur

Karen Armstrong - Authority on comparative religions

I know very little about Turok, but I have been following Eggers since he first came onto the scene back in the early 1990s. I used to think he was a bit full of himself, but over the years I have seen what he has tried to do as a philanthropist and have been very impressed.

I've been a huge fan of Karen Armstrong ever since her first book, back in the 1980s I believe. A History of God should be required reading for all Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

Here is their announcement of the winners:

The TED Prize was created as a way of taking the inspiration, ideas and resources that are generated at TED and using them to make a difference. Although the winners receive a prize of $100,000 each, that's the least of what they get. The real prize is that they are granted a WISH. A wish to change the world.

Watch the video.