Saturday, April 18, 2009

Poem a Day, April 18

April 18, 2009

nothing to say, an arid landscape
of thought, an emptiness deeper
than the Mariana Trench

nothing to say

so say nothing

too late, the poetry demands
words as an offering, yet nothing
weighs more than infinite matter

so, why are you still writing?

good question - forcing the words
when night calls for sleep
is not poetry, but ego, the false
self - whose face in the mirror?

so shut up already


All in the Mind - Thomas Szasz speaks (Part 2 of 2)

Here is part two of the controversial and interesting All in the Mind interview with Thomas Szasz.

Thomas Szasz speaks (Part 2 of 2)

In 1961 maverick psychiatrist and libertarian Professor Thomas Szasz published his controversial and influential epic, The Myth of Mental Illness. Half a century later he maintains we live in a therapeutic state—a 'pharmacracy'—and that psychiatry is a 'pseudoscientific racket'. On the eve of his 89th birthday he joins Natasha Mitchell in conversation. Next week, psychiatrists respond.

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Professor Thomas Szasz
Professor of Psychiatry Emeritus
State University of New York Health Science Center
Syracuse, New York

Further Information

Part 1 of 2 - Thomas Szasz speaks
The first part of this broadcast with Professor Thomas Szasz

Thomas Szasz - Psychiatrists respond
Part 3 of this series about Thomas Szasz' legacy and work

Comment on Professor Szasz's interview and ideas - join Natasha Mitchell in the All in the Mind blog
Your email address is not made public, and you can use your first name or a pseudonym if you choose. Scroll down to the end of the list of comments underneath Natasha's blog post, to contribute your own. Blogs are moderated.

Email the program
Have a go at posting your comments to the blog too, to share your thoughts with others. It's easy to do.

All in the Mind on twitter

Mind and Mood on the ABC's Health and Wellbeing's Online gateway


Title: Coercion As Cure: A Critical History of Psychiatry
Author: Thomas S. Szasz
Publisher: Transaction Publishers, 2007

Title: Psychiatry: The Science of Lies
Author: Thomas Szasz
Publisher: Syracuse University Press, 2008

Title: Szasz Under Fire: The Psychiatric Abolitionist Faces His Critics
Author: Edited by Jeffrey A Schaler
Publisher: 2004

Contributors include Thomas Szasz, R.R Kendell, K.W.M Fulford, Ray Scott Percival, Ralph Slovenko, Stanton Peele, Rita J. Simon, E. James Lieberman, Margaret A. Hagen, Margaret P. Battin and Ryan Spellecy, Richard Bentall, Ronald Pies, H. Tristam Engelhardt, Jr.

Title: The Medicalization of Everyday Life - Selected Essays
Author: Thomas Szasz
Publisher: Syracuse University Press, 2007
ISBN-13 978-0-8156-0867-7

Title: The Myth of Mental Illness (original journal paper)
Author: Thomas S. Szasz
Publisher: American Psychologist, 15, 113-118. 1960
This became the basis of Thomas Szasz's book of the same title, published the year later.

Title: The Myth of Mental Illness: Foundations of a Theory of Personal Conduct
Author: Thomas Szasz
Publisher: 1984 Harper Perennial (Revised edition), first published 1961.

Title: The Myth of Psychotherapy
Author: Thomas Szasz
Publisher: Syracuse University Press, 1988.
ISBN-10: 0815602235


Natasha Mitchell

Shambhala Sun - Wisdom for Difficult Times

Shabhala Sun has posted a collection of previous articles offer us heart wisdom to get through these challenging times. Many great articles here, especially Pema Chodron, my favorite teacher.

Wisdom for Difficult Times

Though some 2,500 years old, Buddhism has always offered wisdom for tough times, and it's as pertinent now as ever -- if not more so, what with the near-universal sense of concern that's been heightened by the global economic crisis. The whole world, it sometimes seems, is on edge, and that feeling is only exacerbated when we don't step back and look how we can each individually play a positive, peacemaking role -- instead of contributing more negativity and stress.

Here are some of the finest examples of Buddhist wisdom for difficult times, from the names you've come to trust -- all from the pages of the Shambhala Sun and Buddhadharma. Just click on any article's title to read further.

Fear & Fearlessness: What the Buddhists Teach

So much of our suffering — as individuals and as a society — is caused by fear. In fact, according to Buddhism, fear is at the very root of ego and samsara. The Shambhala Sun and Omega Institute brought together four outstanding Buddhist teachers — Judy Lief, John Daido Loori, Sylvia Boorstein, and Robert Thurman — to discuss the vital practice of working with our fears.

Forum: How to Work with Emotions

In this forum, Buddhadharma’s Barry Boyce speaks with Sharon Salzberg, Judith Simmer-Brown, John Tarrant, and the Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche about their views on skillful and unskillful involvement with our emotions. Their descriptions of Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana practices open new perspectives on how to think about and engage with our emotional lives.

From Pema Chödrön:

What to Do When the Going Gets Rough

Pema Chödrön on four ways to hold our minds steady and hearts open when facing difficult people or circumstances.

Three Methods for Working with Chaos

Times of chaos and challenge can be the most spiritually powerful . . . if we are brave enough to rest in their space of uncertainty. Pema Chödrön describes three ways to use our problems as the path to awakening and joy.

Bodhichitta: The Excellence of Awakened Heart

The mind of enlightenment, called bodhichitta, is always available, in pain as well as in joy. Pema Chödrön lays out how to cultivate this soft spot of bravery and kindness.

The Answer to Anger & Aggression is Patience

We can suppress anger and aggression or act it out, either way making things worse for ourselves and others. Or we can practice patience: wait, experience the anger and investigate its nature. Pema Chödrön takes us step by step through this powerful practice.

Turn Your Thinking Upside Down

We base our lives on seeking happiness and avoiding suffering, but the best thing we can do for ourselves—and for the planet—is to turn this whole way of thinking upside down. Pema Chödrön shows us Buddhism’s radical side.

The Wondrous Path of Difficulties

A conversation with Pema Chödrön and Jack Kornfield about the everyday difficulties that provoke us, reveal our habitual patterns, and ultimately transform us.
Go check out the site to see many, many more articles.

Jack Kornfield's Bibliography for The Wise Heart

The Wise Heart, by Jack Kornfield, is a great book - here are some of the books and papers he read and references in the creation of his own work. This was posted at My Mind on Books, a great site for readers of psychology, philosophy, and self-help books.

If you're looking for something new to read, this is a great resource.

Buddhism and psychotherapy bibliography from Jack Kornfield’s ‘Wise Heart’

Written on August 22, 2008

Among its many virtues, Jack Kornfield’s new book The Wise Heart: A Guide to the Universal Teachings of Buddhist Psychology has a “related readings” section (p. 402-407) that provides a good comprehensive bibliography of the intersection of Buddhism and psychotherapy. I hope the author doesn’t mind that I’ve copied it here with links to Amazon for further book information. (Probably the link doesn’t always match the edition given in the bibliography.)

Aronson, Harvey. Buddhist Practice on Western Ground: Reconciling Eastern Ideals and Western Psychology Boston: Shambhala Publications, 2004.

Baer, Ruth A. Mindfulness-Based Treatment Approaches: Clinician’s Guide to Evidence Base and Applications Burlington, Mass.: Academic Press, 2006.

Begley, Sharon. Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain: How a New Science Reveals Our Extraordinary Potential to Transform Ourselves New York: Random House, 2007.

Bennett-Goleman, Tara. Emotional Alchemy: How the Mind Can Heal the Heart New York: Harmony Books, 2001.

Bien, Thomas, and Bien, Beverly. Mindful Recovery: A Spiritual Path to Healing from Addiction New York: John Wiley, 2002.

Brach, Tara. Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha. New York: Bantam Dell, 2003.

Brazier, David. Zen Therapy: Transcending the Sorrows of the Human Mind New York: John Wiley, 1995.

Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York: HarperCollins, 1990/2002.

Davidson, Richard J. and Harrington, Anne. Visions of Compassion: Western Scientists and Tibetan Buddhists Examine Human Nature Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Epstein, Mark. Thoughts Without A Thinker: Psychotherapy from a Buddhist Perspective New York: Basic Books, 1995.

Epstein, Mark. Psychotherapy without the Self: A Buddhist Perspective New Haven: Yale University, 2007.

Fishman, Barbara Miller. Emotional Healing through Mindfulness Meditation: Stories and Meditations for Women Seeking Wholeness. Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions, 2002.

Germer, Christopher; Siegel, Ronald D.; Fulton, Paul R., eds. Mindfulness and Psychotherapy New York: Guilford Press, 2005.

Gilbert, Paul. Compassion: Conceptualisations, Research and Use in Psychotherapy. London: Routledge, 2005.

Glaser, Aura. A Call to Compassion: Bringing Buddhist Practices of the Heart into the Soul of Psychology Berwick, Maine: Nicolas-Hays, 2005.

Goleman, Daniel. Destructive Emotions: A Scientific Dialogue with the Dalai Lama New York: Bantam Dell, 2003.

Goleman, Daniel. The Meditative Mind New York: Tarcher/Putnam, 1988.

Kabat-Zinn, Jon. Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness New York: Dell, 1990.

Kornfield, Jack. A Path with Heart: A Guide Through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life New York: Bantam, 1993.

Kumar, Sameet M. Grieving Mindfully: A Compassionate And Spiritual Guide To Coping With Loss Oakland, Calif.: New Harbinger, 2005.

Ladner, Lorne. The Lost Art of Compassion: Discovering the Practice of Happiness in the Meeting of Buddhism and Psychology New York: HarperCollins, 2004.

Langan, Robert. Minding What Matters: Psychotherapy and the Buddha Within Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2006.

Linehan, Marsha M. Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder New York: Guilford Press, 1993.

Linley, P. Alex, and Joseph, Stephen, eds. Positive Psychology in Practice Hoboken, John Wiley, 2004.

Magid, Barry. Ordinary Mind: Exploring the Common Ground of Zen & Psychotherapy Somerville, Mass.: Wisdom Publications, 2002.

Marlatt, G. Alan. Mindfulness for Addiction Problems (APA Psychotherapy Videotape Series) Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association, 2005.

Martin, Philip. The Zen Path Through Depression New York: HarperCollins, 1999.

McQuaid, John R., and Carmona, Paula E. Peaceful Mind: Using Mindfulness and Cognitive Behavioral Psychology to Overcome Depression Oakland, Calif.: New Harbinger Publications, 2004.

Miller, Alex L.; Rathus, Jill H.; Linehan, Marsha M. Dialectical Behavior Therapy with Suicidal Adolescents New York: The Guilford Press, 2007.

Molino, Anthony, ed. The Couch and the Tree: Dialogues in Psychoanalysis and Buddhism New York: North Point Press, 1998.

Mruk, Christopher J., with Hartzell, Joan. Zen and Psychotherapy: Integrating Traditional and Nontraditional Approaches New York: Springer Publishing Co., 2003.

Nauriyal, D.K.; Drummond, Michael S.; Lal, Y.B.; eds. Buddhist Thought and Applied Psychological Research: Transcending the Boundaries New York: Routledge, 2006.

Rosenbaum, Robert. Zen And The Heart Of Psychotherapy New York: Plenum Press, 1999.

Rubin, Jeffrey B. Psychotherapy and Buddhism: Toward an Integration (Issues in the Practice of Psychology) New York: Plenum Press, 1996.

Safran, Jeremy. Psychoanalysis & Buddhism: An Unfolding Dialogue Somerville, Mass.: Wisdom Publications, 2003.

Salzberg, Sharon. Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness Boston: Shambhala Publications, 1995.

Schwartz, Jeffrey M., and Begley, Sharon. The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force New York: HarperCollins, 2002.

Segal, Zindel V.; Williams, J. Mark G.; Teasdale, John D. Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression: A New Approach to Preventing Relapse New York: The Guilford Press, 2002.

Segall, Seth Robert, ed. Encountering Buddhism: Western Psychology and Buddhist Teachings Albany, New York: State University of New York Press, 2003.

Siegel, Daniel. The Mindful Brain: Reflection and Attunement in the Cultivation of Well-Being New York: Norton and Co., 2007.

Suler, John R. Contemporary Psychoanalysis and Eastern Thought Albany, New York: State University of New York Press, 1993.

Suzuki, D.T.; Fromm, Erich; De Martino, Richard. Zen Buddhism and Psychoanalysis New York, Harper & Row, 1960.

Thera, Nyanaponika. Abhidhamma Studies: Buddhist Explorations of Consciousness and Time Somerville, Mass.: Wisdom Publications, 1998.

Thondup, Tulku. The Healing Power of Mind Boston: Shambhala Publications, 1998.

Tsering, Geshe Tashi. Buddhist Psychology: The Foundation of Buddhist Thought Somerville, Mass.: Wisdom Publications, 2006.

Unno, Mark, ed. Buddhism and Psychotherapy Across Cultures: Essays on Theories and Practices Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2006.

Wallin, David J. Attachment in Psychotherapy New York: The Guilford Press, 2007.

Welwood, John. Toward a Psychology of Awakening: Buddhism, Psychotherapy, and the Path of Personal and Spiritual Transformation Boston: Shambhala Publications, 2000.

Wilber, Ken; Engler, Jack; Brown, Daniel P. Transformations of Consciousness Boston: Shambhala Publications, 1986/2008.

Young-Eisendrath, Polly, and Muramoto, Shoji, eds. Awakening and Insight: Zen Buddhism and Psychotherapy New York: Taylor & Francis, 2002.

IEET - Jon Kabat Zinn’s Science of Mindfulness

Nice discussion with mindfulness innovator Jon Kabat Zinn.

Jon Kabat Zinn’s Science of Mindfulness

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Speaking of Faith

Posted: Apr 17, 2009

Krista Tippett interviews secular meditation teacher and clinical researcher Jon Kabat-Zinn. (MP3)


Friday, April 17, 2009

Poem a Day, April 17

April 17, 2009


bee stings, self-inflicted,
the concentration camp
of self-loathing

why not escape
on Ariel, why not ride
to freedom?

the words piled as bones
beside a fire, futile
fuel for death

there was never
any doubt, the oven
was pre-ordained

I regret your choices,
the daddy inside you,
black shoe on your heart

Natalie Angier - Taxing, a Ritual to Save the Species

Taxes are a part of nature, all of nature, so why do some humans think they are so unfair?

Taxing, a Ritual to Save the Species

Published: April 13, 2009

On these taxing days, when we become a defiantly bipartisan nation of whiners convinced that we are handing over to the Internal Revenue Service our blood and sweat and mother’s milk, our pound of flesh and firstborn young, maybe it’s time for a little perspective.

Legions before us have donated all these items and more to the public till, and not just metaphorically speaking, either. Benjamin Franklin was right to equate paying taxes with a deeply organic behavior like dying. It turns out that giving up a portion of one’s income for the sake of the tribe is such a ubiquitous feature of the human race that some researchers see it as crucial to our species’ success. Without ritualized taxation, there would be precious little hominid representation.

Moreover, plenty of nonhuman animals practice the tither’s art, too, demanding that individuals remit a portion of their food, labor, comfort or personal fecundity for the privilege of group membership. And just as the I.R.S. depends on threat of audit as much as it does on anybody’s sense of civic responsibility, so do other toll-collecting species ensure compliance by meting out swift punishment against tax cheats. For example, Marc Hauser of Harvard University has found that when a rhesus monkey is out foraging and comes upon a source of especially high-quality food, like, say, a batch of ripe coconuts, the monkey is expected to give a characteristic food call to alert its comrades to the find. “The bad thing about doing a food call is that it means others will come and take some of the food,” said Laurie R. Santos, who studies the primates at Yale University. Yet a monkey who opts to keep mum about its discovery could face worse. Should other group members happen by while the private feast is under way, they will not only claim the food for themselves, but the most dominant among them will also beat the cheater indignantly.

Not everybody is subject to a big macaque attack. Adolescent males that have only recently transferred into the group are not required to issue food alerts. They are, as yet, on probation, and only upon gaining the rights of full citizenship will the young males be expected to shoulder its duties.

The more closely knit an animal society is, and the more interdependent its members, the higher the rate of taxation. Among bell miner birds of Australia, for example, pairs of breeding adults are assisted at the nest by several youthful helpers, usually male. The helpers provision the couple’s fledglings with a steady supply of lerp, sugary casings secreted by plant-sucking insects. And though some scientists had wondered whether lerp wasn’t basically a junk food, offered up to the young bell miners as much for show as for substance, researchers report in the March issue of Animal Behaviour that lerp is, in fact, as important to the fledglings’ growth as is the meatier arthropod prey supplied by their parents. By all evidence, the helper birds are honestly “paying to stay,” trading a valuable currency for the right to remain within the aggressively guarded precincts of a bell miner breeding colony, with the hope of better times and personal propagation opportunities ahead.

Or at least of averting personal injury. Among another Australian species of cooperatively breeding birds, the superb fairy-wren, dominant males notice when their helpers are less than superb about paying their taxes. Should a helper fail to feed and groom the dominant’s nestlings, or to give an alarm call on seeing intruders enter the territory, the dominant male will angrily chase, harass and peck at the helper, for up to 26 hours at a time. In the case of the highly social cichlid fish, fear of punishment inspires delinquent helper fish to ostentatiously redouble their contributions to the communal nest, their digging in the sand, their cleaning and fanning of the eggs — rather like politicians who suddenly pony up three years of back taxes for themselves, the nanny and the gardener. “If they don’t pay their bill, there will be punishment,” said Michael Taborsky of the University of Bern, “so they try to pre-emptively appease the dominant individuals in the group.”

If hope and fear don’t guarantee compliance, there’s always embarrassment. Vampire bats are famous for their willingness to regurgitate a blood meal to feed fellow bats that are down on their luck. In fact, hiding one’s wealth is a problem. A fully fed vampire bat is as bloated as a fraternity water balloon, and the bats appear to rub bellies to see who is in a position to share. “It’s hard to cheat when your stomach is obviously distended,” Dr. Santos said.

It’s also hard to cheat when you live in a small band of big-brained, sharp-eyed individuals, as humans did for vast stretches of our past, which may help explain why we are so easily taxed. “There’s not a human society in the world that doesn’t redistribute food to nonrelatives,” said Samuel Bowles, director of the behavioral sciences program at the Santa Fe Institute. “Whether it’s through the state, or the chief, or a rural collective, or some other mechanism, food sharing of large nutritional packages is quite extensive and has been going on for at least 100,000 years of human history.” In hunting and foraging cultures, the proportional tax rate is so high, said Dr. Bowles, that “even the Swedes would be impressed.”

Take the case of the Ache tribe of Paraguay. Hunters bring their bounty back to a common pot. “The majority of calories are redistributed,” he said. “It ends up being something like a 60 percent income tax.”

Pastoral and herding societies tend to be less egalitarian than foraging cultures, and yet, here, too, taxing is often used to help rectify extreme inequities. When a rich cattle farmer dies among the Tandroy of southern Madagascar, Dr. Bowles said, “The rich person’s stock is killed and eaten by everyone,” often down to the last head of cattle. “That’s a 100 percent inheritance tax.”

Modern taxes are just a “newfangled version of commitment to the group,” said David Sloan Wilson of Binghamton University, the result of the invention of money. Yet even with our elaborate, abstracted tax code, fear of public opprobrium remains an impressive motivator. “It’s expected that powerful, high-status members of society should be contributing more,” Dr. Wilson said. “If they don’t, they won’t remain high status for long.” And for the fat bats among us who just won’t cough up the goods — there’s always jail.

The Left Learns to Deal with Obama the Centrist

And they feel betrayed and disappointed. But the evidence was there all along - Obama was NEVER the leftwing liberal savior the Dems wanted or thought he was. From day one, he has been a centrist and a pragmatist, a sure way to be a one-term president.

Neither party likes him right now, which is probably a sign that he is doing the right thing. If you piss off your base and your opposition on a daily basis, it does not bode well for your re-election.

Naomi Klein is the latest to feel the pain of having her projections betrayed.

Hopebroken and Hopesick: A Lexicon of Disappointment

by Naomi Klein

All is not well in Obamafanland. It's not clear exactly what accounts for the change of mood. Maybe it was the rancid smell emanating from Treasury's latest bank bailout. Or the news that the president's chief economic adviser, Larry Summers, earned millions from the very Wall Street banks and hedge funds he is protecting from re-regulation now. Or perhaps it began earlier, with Obama's silence during Israel's Gaza attack.

Whatever the last straw, a growing number of Obama enthusiasts are starting to entertain the possibility that their man is not, in fact, going to save the world if we all just hope really hard.

This is a good thing. If the super fan culture that brought Obama to power is going to transform itself into an independent political movement, one fierce enough to produce programs capable of meeting the current crises, we are all going to have to stop hoping and start demanding.

The first stage, however, is to understand fully the awkward in-between space in which many US progressive movements find themselves. To do that, we need a new language, one specific to the Obama moment. Here is a start.

Hopeover.Like a hangover, a hopeover comes from having overindulged in something that felt good at the time but wasn't really all that healthy, leading to feelings of remorse, even shame. It's the political equivalent of the crash after a sugar high. Sample sentence: "When I listened to Obama's economic speech my heart soared. But then, when I tried to tell a friend about his plans for the millions of layoffs and foreclosures, I found myself saying nothing at all.I've got a serious hopeover."

Hoper coaster. Like a roller coaster,the hoper coaster describes the intense emotional peaks and valleys of the Obama era, the veering between joy at having a president who supports safe-sex education and despondency that single-payer health care is off the table at the very moment when it could actually become a reality. Sample sentence: "I was so psyched when Obama said he is closing Guantánamo. But now they are fighting like mad to make sure the prisoners in Bagram have no legal rights at all. Stop this hoper coaster-I want to get off!"

Hopesick. Like the homesick, hopesick individuals are intensely nostalgic. They miss the rush of optimism from the campaign trail and are forever trying to recapture that warm, hopey feeling-usually by exaggerating the significance of relatively minor acts of Obama decency. Sample sentences: "I was feeling really hopesick about the escalation in Afghanistan, but then I watched a YouTube video of Michelle in her organic garden and it felt like inauguration day allover again. A few hours later, when I heard that the Obama administration was boycotting a major UN racism conference, the hopesickness came back hard. So I watched slideshows of Michelle wearing clothes made by ethnically diverse independent fashion designers, and that sort of helped."

Hope fiend.With hope receding, the hope fiend, like the dope fiend, goes into serious withdrawal, willing to do anything to chase the buzz. (Closely related to hope sickness but more severe, usually affecting middle-aged males.) Sample sentence: "Joe told me he actually believes Obama deliberately brought in Summers so that he would blow the bailout, and then Obama would have the excuse he needs to do what he really wants: nationalize the banks and turn them into credit unions. What a hope fiend!"

Hopebreak.Like the heartbroken lover, the hopebroken Obama-ite is not mad but terribly sad. She projected messianic powers onto Obama and is now inconsolable in her disappointment. Sample sentence: "I really believed Obama would finally force us to confront the legacy of slavery in this country and start a serious national conversation about race. But now he never seems to mention race, and he's using twisted legal arguments to keep us from even confronting the crimes of the Bush years. Every time I hear him say‘move forward,' I'm hopebroken all over again."

Hopelash. Like a backlash, hopelash is a 180-degree reversal of everything Obama-related. Sufferers were once Obama's most passionate evangelists. Now they are his angriest critics. Sample sentence: "At least with Bush everyone knew he was an asshole. Now we've got the same wars, the same lawless prisons,the same Washington corruption, but everyone is cheering like Stepford wives.It's time for a full-on hopelash."

In trying to name these various hope-related ailments, I found myself wonderingwhat the late Studs Terkel would have said about our collective hopeover. He surely would have urged us not to give in to despair. I reached for one of his last books, Hope Dies Last. I didn't have to read long. The book opens with the words: "Hope has never trickled down. It has always sprung up."

And that pretty much says it all. Hope was a fine slogan when rooting for a long-shot presidential candidate. But as a posture toward the president of the most powerful nation on earth, it is dangerously deferential. The task as we move forward (as Obama likes to say) is not to abandon hope but to find more appropriate homes for it-in the factories, neighborhoods and schools where tactics like sit-ins, squats and occupations are seeing a resurgence.

Political scientist Sam Gindin wrote recently that the labor movement can do more than protect the status quo. It can demand, for instance, that shuttered auto plants be converted into green-future factories, capable of producing mass-transit vehicles and technology for a renewable energy system. "Being realistic means taking hope out of speeches," he wrote, "and putting it in the hands of workers."

Which brings me to the final entry in the lexicon.

Hoperoots. Sample sentence: "It's time to stop waiting for hope to be handed down, and start pushing it up, from the hoperoots."

Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist and syndicated columnist and the author of the international and New York Times bestseller The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, now out in paperback. Her earlier books include the international best-seller, No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies; and the collection Fences and Windows: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Globalization Debate (2002). To read all her latest writing visit

Jonathan Rauch - Caring for Your Introvert

As a serious introvert, I found this article by Jonathan Rauch - Caring for Your Introvert - from The Atlantic interesting.

Caring for Your Introvert

From Atlantic Unbound:

Interviews: "Introverts of the World, Unite!"

(February 14, 2006)
A conversation with Jonathan Rauch, the author who—thanks to an astonishingly popular essay in the March 2003 Atlantic—may have unwittingly touched off an Introverts' Rights revolution.

Follow-up: The Introversy Continues

Jonathan Rauch comments on reader feedback about introvert dating—and poses a new question
Do you know someone who needs hours alone every day? Who loves quiet conversations about feelings or ideas, and can give a dynamite presentation to a big audience, but seems awkward in groups and maladroit at small talk? Who has to be dragged to parties and then needs the rest of the day to recuperate? Who growls or scowls or grunts or winces when accosted with pleasantries by people who are just trying to be nice?

If so, do you tell this person he is "too serious," or ask if he is okay? Regard him as aloof, arrogant, rude? Redouble your efforts to draw him out?

If you answered yes to these questions, chances are that you have an introvert on your hands—and that you aren't caring for him properly. Science has learned a good deal in recent years about the habits and requirements of introverts. It has even learned, by means of brain scans, that introverts process information differently from other people (I am not making this up). If you are behind the curve on this important matter, be reassured that you are not alone. Introverts may be common, but they are also among the most misunderstood and aggrieved groups in America, possibly the world.

I know. My name is Jonathan, and I am an introvert.

Oh, for years I denied it. After all, I have good social skills. I am not morose or misanthropic. Usually. I am far from shy. I love long conversations that explore intimate thoughts or passionate interests. But at last I have self-identified and come out to my friends and colleagues. In doing so, I have found myself liberated from any number of damaging misconceptions and stereotypes. Now I am here to tell you what you need to know in order to respond sensitively and supportively to your own introverted family members, friends, and colleagues. Remember, someone you know, respect, and interact with every day is an introvert, and you are probably driving this person nuts. It pays to learn the warning signs.

What is introversion? In its modern sense, the concept goes back to the 1920s and the psychologist Carl Jung. Today it is a mainstay of personality tests, including the widely used Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Introverts are not necessarily shy. Shy people are anxious or frightened or self-excoriating in social settings; introverts generally are not. Introverts are also not misanthropic, though some of us do go along with Sartre as far as to say "Hell is other people at breakfast." Rather, introverts are people who find other people tiring.

Extroverts are energized by people, and wilt or fade when alone. They often seem bored by themselves, in both senses of the expression. Leave an extrovert alone for two minutes and he will reach for his cell phone. In contrast, after an hour or two of being socially "on," we introverts need to turn off and recharge. My own formula is roughly two hours alone for every hour of socializing. This isn't antisocial. It isn't a sign of depression. It does not call for medication. For introverts, to be alone with our thoughts is as restorative as sleeping, as nourishing as eating. Our motto: "I'm okay, you're okay—in small doses."

How many people are introverts? I performed exhaustive research on this question, in the form of a quick Google search. The answer: About 25 percent. Or: Just under half. Or—my favorite—"a minority in the regular population but a majority in the gifted population."

Are introverts misunderstood? Wildly. That, it appears, is our lot in life. "It is very difficult for an extrovert to understand an introvert," write the education experts Jill D. Burruss and Lisa Kaenzig. (They are also the source of the quotation in the previous paragraph.) Extroverts are easy for introverts to understand, because extroverts spend so much of their time working out who they are in voluble, and frequently inescapable, interaction with other people. They are as inscrutable as puppy dogs. But the street does not run both ways. Extroverts have little or no grasp of introversion. They assume that company, especially their own, is always welcome. They cannot imagine why someone would need to be alone; indeed, they often take umbrage at the suggestion. As often as I have tried to explain the matter to extroverts, I have never sensed that any of them really understood. They listen for a moment and then go back to barking and yipping.

Are introverts oppressed? I would have to say so. For one thing, extroverts are overrepresented in politics, a profession in which only the garrulous are really comfortable. Look at George W. Bush. Look at Bill Clinton. They seem to come fully to life only around other people. To think of the few introverts who did rise to the top in politics—Calvin Coolidge, Richard Nixon—is merely to drive home the point. With the possible exception of Ronald Reagan, whose fabled aloofness and privateness were probably signs of a deep introverted streak (many actors, I've read, are introverts, and many introverts, when socializing, feel like actors), introverts are not considered "naturals" in politics.

Extroverts therefore dominate public life. This is a pity. If we introverts ran the world, it would no doubt be a calmer, saner, more peaceful sort of place. As Coolidge is supposed to have said, "Don't you know that four fifths of all our troubles in this life would disappear if we would just sit down and keep still?" (He is also supposed to have said, "If you don't say anything, you won't be called on to repeat it." The only thing a true introvert dislikes more than talking about himself is repeating himself.)

With their endless appetite for talk and attention, extroverts also dominate social life, so they tend to set expectations. In our extrovertist society, being outgoing is considered normal and therefore desirable, a mark of happiness, confidence, leadership. Extroverts are seen as bighearted, vibrant, warm, empathic. "People person" is a compliment. Introverts are described with words like "guarded," "loner," "reserved," "taciturn," "self-contained," "private"—narrow, ungenerous words, words that suggest emotional parsimony and smallness of personality. Female introverts, I suspect, must suffer especially. In certain circles, particularly in the Midwest, a man can still sometimes get away with being what they used to call a strong and silent type; introverted women, lacking that alternative, are even more likely than men to be perceived as timid, withdrawn, haughty.

Are introverts arrogant? Hardly. I suppose this common misconception has to do with our being more intelligent, more reflective, more independent, more level-headed, more refined, and more sensitive than extroverts. Also, it is probably due to our lack of small talk, a lack that extroverts often mistake for disdain. We tend to think before talking, whereas extroverts tend to think by talking, which is why their meetings never last less than six hours. "Introverts," writes a perceptive fellow named Thomas P. Crouser, in an online review of a recent book called Why Should Extroverts Make All the Money? (I'm not making that up, either), "are driven to distraction by the semi-internal dialogue extroverts tend to conduct. Introverts don't outwardly complain, instead roll their eyes and silently curse the darkness." Just so.

The worst of it is that extroverts have no idea of the torment they put us through. Sometimes, as we gasp for air amid the fog of their 98-percent-content-free talk, we wonder if extroverts even bother to listen to themselves. Still, we endure stoically, because the etiquette books—written, no doubt, by extroverts—regard declining to banter as rude and gaps in conversation as awkward. We can only dream that someday, when our condition is more widely understood, when perhaps an Introverts' Rights movement has blossomed and borne fruit, it will not be impolite to say "I'm an introvert. You are a wonderful person and I like you. But now please shush."

How can I let the introvert in my life know that I support him and respect his choice? First, recognize that it's not a choice. It's not a lifestyle. It's an orientation.

Second, when you see an introvert lost in thought, don't say "What's the matter?" or "Are you all right?"

Third, don't say anything else, either.

New Scientist - Mirror Neurons Reflect Personal Space

Mirror neurons are all the rage in neuroscience research, and here's another new study that reveals how these neurons help us decide how we create our personal space.

Mirror neurons reflect personal space

16 April 2009 by Helen Thomson

If somebody is in your personal space, you can thank a bunch of "mirror neurons" in your frontal lobes for helping you to decide how you should respond.

That's the conclusion of a study by German researchers that suggests mirror neurons, which fire both when you perform an action and when you watch someone else perform it, have greater responsibilities than were previously realised.

Antonino Casile from the Hertie Institute for Clinical Brain Research at the University of Tübingen in Germany and colleagues probed the personal space of two rhesus monkeys, while monitoring their mirror neurons that respond to seeing a human grasping an object some distance away.

Monkey do

The team compared how the neurons fired when a person grabbed a metallic object within a monkey's reach and again from a greater distance. They found that rather than simply responding to the action, the mirror neurons also responded to whether or not the action was close enough for the monkey to intervene.

Specific subsets of neurons responded to grasping actions inside and outside of a monkey's reach. Of the mirror neurons that fired when a monkey grabbed an object for itself around a quarter fired only in response to seeing a person grasp an object within the monkey's reaching distance while a different quarter responded to actions outside that space.

To show that those differing responses were to do with what the monkey could reach rather than how close an object was, the experimenters placed a panel in front of the primate's chair, preventing the monkey from reaching objects close to its body.

In this situation, the neurons that previously reacted to reachable objects no longer responded to the human's actions at all, suggesting that mirror neurons change their properties according to the possibility that one can act.

Decision time

"The mirror neurons extract features of actions that are important for generating behaviours. They're not only important to understanding what someone is doing, but they also generate a question of 'what can I do to respond? Shall I interact, shall I leave?'" says Casile.

Mirror neurons are located in the premotor cortex, a region that spans the top of the brain in the middle of the head, roughly where someone might wear an Alice band. In both humans and monkeys, the region engages in programming actions, which have always suggested that mirror neurons could be involved in taking action, says Christian Keysers, of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. "So the finding that they are differentially affected by whether the observed action can be acted on immediately or has to be postponed till the monkey gets close enough makes perfect sense."

Journal reference: Science (DOI: 10.1126/science.1166818)

Incognito - Conscious and unconscious thought

[image from Brain Mysteries]

The Economist takes a look at our less than fully conscious decision making processes. Nothing new here, but it's a good reminder that we are not the rational beings we like to think we are.

Conscious and unconscious thought


Apr 16th 2009
From The Economist print edition

Evidence mounts that brains decide before their owners know about it

EVERYONE has had the experience. You are confronted by a complex problem, with a not-so-obvious solution. You pore over it, engrossed, but still the answer will not come. Fearing you will be stuck for ever, you take a walk. Then suddenly, from nowhere, there it is. Eureka!

But did it really come from nowhere? A piece of research about to be published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, by Joydeep Bhattacharya at Goldsmiths’ College in London and Bhavin Sheth at the University of Houston, in Texas, suggests that although people are not consciously aware of it, their brains have to be in a certain state for an insight to take place. Moreover, that state can be detected electrically several seconds in advance of the “aha!” moment itself.

The question of where insights come from has become a hot topic in neuroscience, despite the fact that they are not easy to induce experimentally in a laboratory. Some researchers have used getting the punch line of a riddle as an example of an insightful outcome. Critics complain, however, that this is less an insight than an “outsight”. Other experiments have used word tasks. In these, a person might be given three seemingly unrelated words, such as “skirts”, “black” and “put”, and asked to come up with a fourth that can link to each of the other three. (In this case, “out”.) But those tasks may say more about lexical ability than true insight.

Dr Bhattacharya and Dr Sheth have taken a third approach. They have selected some brain-teasing but practical problems in the hope that these would get closer to mimicking real insight. To qualify, a puzzle had to be simple, not too widely known and without a methodical solution. The researchers then asked 18 young adults to try to solve these problems while their brainwaves were monitored using an electroencephalograph (EEG).

A typical brain-teaser went like this. There are three light switches on the ground-floor wall of a three-storey house. Two of the switches do nothing, but one of them controls a bulb on the second floor. When you begin, the bulb is off. You can only make one visit to the second floor. How do you work out which switch is the one that controls the light?

That light-bulb moment

This problem, or one equivalent to it, was presented on a computer screen to a volunteer when that volunteer pressed a button. The electrical activity of the volunteer’s brain (his brainwave pattern, in common parlance) was recorded by the EEG from the button’s press. Each volunteer was given 30 seconds to read the puzzle and another 60 to 90 seconds to solve it. If he had not done so in the time allotted, a hint appeared. In the case of the light-switch puzzle, the suggestion was that you turn one switch on for a while, then turn it off.

Some people worked it out; others did not. The significant point, though, was that the EEG predicted who would fall where. Those volunteers who went on to have an insight (in this case that on their one and only visit to the second floor they could use not just the light but the heat produced by a bulb as evidence of an active switch) had had different brainwave activity from those who never got it. In the right frontal cortex, a part of the brain associated with shifting mental states, there was an increase in high-frequency gamma waves (those with 47-48 cycles a second). Moreover, the difference was noticeable up to eight seconds before the volunteer realised he had found the solution. Dr Sheth thinks this may be capturing the “transformational thought” (the light-bulb moment, as it were) in action, before the brain’s “owner” is consciously aware of it.

There is a precedent for such observations of unconscious thought in action. In the 1980s Benjamin Libet of the University of California, San Francisco, showed that simple decisions, such as when to move a finger, are made about three-tenths of a second before the brain’s owner is aware of them, and subsequent work has found that the roots of such decisions can be seen up to ten seconds before they become conscious. But this is the first occasion that such a long lead time has been shown for more complex thought processes.

This finding, combined with Libet’s, poses fascinating questions about how the brain really works. Conscious thought, it seems, does not solve problems. Instead, unconscious processing happens in the background and only delivers the answer to consciousness once it has been arrived at. Food for further thought, indeed.

Shinzen Young - Expansion and Contraction - Graduate Level Version - Part 3

Part three of this very cool series from Shinzen.
Shinzen talks about manifesting a self, zero, transcending life and death, integration of the no-self, giving your-self to expansion and contraction, merging with the totality, living nirvana, utter fulfillment, being torn apart by the forces of nature, and the absolute present. Filmed in Santa Barbara in Jan. 2009.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Poem a Day, April 16

April 16, 2009


. . . because thoughts ride breath
and the rattle keeps her quiet

. . . why blue? the dress hugs
her hips so seductively . . .

life . . . a house of cards
in a stiff breeze, built on
a teeter-totter . . .

so little logic . . . simply a mind
buried in media fragments

buddhist carnival: april 2009, poetry month

This month's Buddhist Carnival over at Change Therapy honors National Poetry Month. Two of my favorite things, Buddhism and poetry, collected at one cool site.

buddhist carnival: april 2009, poetry month

April 15th, 2009

chaos in kanjithe 15th, buddhist carnival time. it’s april, poetry month, so i’ll post only poems and poetry-related articles.

from last month’s montreal zen poetry festival

i longed to visit the eastern cliff
countless years until today
i finally grabbed a vine and climbed
but halfway there met mist and wind
the trail was too narrow for clothes
the moss too slick for shoes
i stopped beneath this cinnamon tree
and slept with a cloud for a pillow

– han shan (translated by red pine)

if you have time …

from danny fisher’s blog

if you have time to chatter
read books
if you have time to read
walk into mountain, desert and ocean
if you have time to walk
sing songs and dance
if you have time to dance
sit quietly, you happy lucky idiot

– nanao sakai

the role of poetry in zen and meditation

zen mirror has an interview with zen master sŭngsan about the role poetry plays in meditation practice as well as in teaching and conveying zen mind to the western world.

dc: thank you very much for all your wonderful gifts! that’s a very good answer. i was wondering about when you compose a poem, do you actually reflect on the situation and then write using “beautiful language?”

zmss: no. only whatever situation comes up or appears, then i will compose a poem. not so much checking situations, and not so much making something.

go here for the restof the interview.

Go read more.

Satire - Obama Proposes New Tea Control Policy

Some humor from IMAO: Unfair. Unbalanced. Unmedicated.

Obama Proposes New Tea Control Policy

Posted by Harvey on April 16, 2009 at 11:14 am

WASHINGTON (AP) - Responding to the rising threat from right-wing extremist groups, President Barack Obama today proposed a bill that would implement strict controls on the use of tea, a weapon favored by domestic terrorist groups.

Artists conception of crazed, right-wing extremists plotting the violent overthrow of the US government

“One of this country’s founding principles is the right to keep and bear tea,” said Obama, “but with that right comes certain responsibilities. Some radical extremist groups are not living up to their responsibilities, and have used their tea in a criminal and irresponsible manner to disrupt the democratic process and threaten our government offices, our waterways, and even our lawns with acts of criminal tea-dumping.”

The President emphasized that he has no problem with groups that use tea for legitimate purposes.

“Old women, effeminate Brits, and bored housewives who like a cup of chamomile to wash down their Prozac are not the problem,” said Obama. “The problem is that, too often, tea can fall into the wrong hands, and I think that yesterday the whole nation witnessed the tragic results of that. What this country needs is reasonable, common-sense restrictions on tea to ensure the safety of ALL Americans.”

Some of the restrictions proposed by Obama:

* mandatory safety locks on tea cups

* registration of fully automatic teamakers

* halting the sale of boxes of tea that contain more than 10 bags

* requiring permits for carrying concealed tea.

* banning the sale of any tea equipped with a pistol grip, bayonet mount, or flash suppressor

“I believe,” said Obama “that with these few prudent and sensible limitations, we can reduce tea violence in our cities, protect our children from accidental over-caffeination, and halt the uncontrolled flow of our tea into Mexico, all while still fully respecting our Founding Fathers’ admiration for warm, leaf-based beverages that has made this country great for over 200 years.”

"Depression and Creativity" Symposium

Very cool.

"Depression and Creativity" Symposium

Launch in a new window

TITLE: "Depression and Creativity" Symposium

SPEAKER: Kay Redfield Jamison, Terence Ketter, Peter Whybrow
EVENT DATE: 02/03/2009
RUNNING TIME: 124 minutes


Kay Redfield Jamison, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and co-director of the Johns Hopkins Mood Disorders Center at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, convened a discussion of the effects of depression on creativity. Joining Jamison were two distinguished colleagues from the fields of neurology and neuropsychiatry, Dr. Terence Ketter and Dr. Peter Whybrow. The Music and the Brain series is co-sponsored by the Library's Music Division and Science, Technology and Business Division, in cooperation with the Dana Foundation.

The "Depression and Creativity" symposium marks the bicentennial of the birth of German composer Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847), who died after a severe depression following the death of his sister, Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel, also a gifted composer.

Speaker Biography: One of the nation's most influential writers on creativity and the mind, Kay Redfield Jamison is a noted authority on bipolar disorder. She is the co-author of the standard medical text on manic-depressive illness and author of "Touched with Fire," "An Unquiet Mind," "Night Falls Fast" and "Exuberance: The Vital Emotion."

Speaker Biography: Dr. Terence Ketter is known for extensive clinical work with exceptionally creative individuals and a strong interest in the relationship of creativity and madness. He is professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and chief of the Bipolar Disorders Clinic at Stanford University School of Medicine.

Speaker Biography: Dr. Peter Whybrow, an authority on depression and manic-depressive disease, is director of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He is also the Judson Braun Distinguished Professor and executive chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

“The Essential Sangharakshita” by Urgyen Sangharakshita, edited by Karen Stout

My review of “The Essential Sangharakshita” by Urgyen Sangharakshita, edited by Karen Stout is now up at Wildmind Buddhist Meditation, so go check it out.

Shinzen Young - Expansion and Contraction - Graduate Level Version - Part 2

Part two of the video posted yesterday morning.
Shinzen continues talking about his teacher Sasaki Roshi and his list of metaphors for expansion and contraction, not getting caught up in the literal meaning of the words, being born in between fundamental flow, getting to "the still point of the turning world" by paradoxically surrendering to any antipodal pair of activities of nature, arising from zero as an enlightened self, the taste of positive, negative and zero.

Timothy A. Pychyl - Increasing emotional intelligence, decreasing procrastination

A great article on emotional intelligence from the Psychology Today blogs.

Increasing emotional intelligence, decreasing procrastination

Emotional Intelligence puzzle

A study published this month demonstrated that a 4-week program increased emotion identification and management. Our most recent research revealed a strong negative relation between emotional intelligence and procrastination. This may be a new avenue for procrastination intervention.

My blog today brings together two studies. The first was recently published by Belgian colleagues in the journal Personality and Individual Differences. In this study, they demonstrated that emotional intelligence can be enhanced with a short, empirically-derived training program. The second study is one from my own research group conducted by Eric Heward. Eric has been studying the relation between emotional intelligence and procrastination; a study we'll be presenting at the 6th Biennial Conference on Counseling the Procrastinator in Academic Settings this summer. I present a little about each of these studies and conclude with some thoughts about how we might best manage procrastination from an emotional intelligence perspective.

Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence (EI) refers to an individual difference in the perception, processing, regulation and utilization of emotional information. It's a construct that captures emotional competencies. These individual differences have been conceived of as knowledge, abilities and traits. I won't get into these distinctions here except to say that EI includes: what we know about emotions (our own and others'), what we can do with this knowledge (e.g., strategies for managing emotions), and how typical it is for us to act in an emotionally intelligent fashion (a trait perspective).

The most important thing about EI no matter how it's construed is that it is related to a variety of measures of well-being, quality of life, occupational success, health and relationship quality. EI is an essential ingredient of life success and happiness.

Increasing Emotional Intelligence
Four colleagues from Belgium (Delphine Nelis, Jordi Quoidbach, Moira Mikolajczak & Michel Hansenne) collaborated on an interesting intervention study. They enlisted the participation of 37 psychology students (average age 20.5 years), and assigned them randomly to one of two conditions: 1) Training group (15 men, 4 women) who received a 4-week program designed to increase their EI (and they completed a battery of questionnaires), and 2) Control group (15 women, 3 men) who simply completed the questionnaires. The questionnaire package was administered 3 times: 1) prior to the 1st session, 2) at the end of the 4th session for the training group, and 3) 6 months later (post-training follow-up). The questionnaires included measures of emotion regulation, regulation of others' emotions, emotion identification and emotional understanding.

The EI training intervention consisted of 4 sessions of 2.5 hours each over 4 weeks with participants divided into two smaller groups (10 and 9 participants, respectively). The training was based on Mayer and Salovey's model of EI, with an emphasis on: 1) perception, appraisal and expression of emotion; 2) emotional facilitation of thinking; 3) understanding and analyzing emotions; 4) reflective regulation of emotion. During the program, particular emphasis was placed on techniques to enhance emotional regulation and emotional understanding. These sessions were based on short lectures, role plays, discussions and readings. Participants also completed a daily dairy of emotional experience that they analyzed in light of the theory explained in class as part of their learning.

Read the whole article to see how this relates to procrastination.