Saturday, November 30, 2013

Mindfulness Research - Footprints in Melting Snow

     "What is so special about Wittgenstein’s methods is that they do not work in terms of abstract concepts. They work by focusing our attention on certain kinds of events occurring in the situation surrounding us. Indeed, they work by sensitizing us to the fleeting & momentary events that we are ‘struck’ by in some way, events which are novel and unrepeatable, events ... only ‘once-occurrent’ ... occurring for yet ‘another first time’. And what is important about such events, is that instead of a representational–referential understanding which can be formulated in terms of laws, principles, or rules supposedly governing repetitive events, they provoke a wholly different kind of understanding: a relational–responsive kind of understanding, not to do with what something ‘is’ in itself, but with a practical grasp of the changing, moment-by-moment links & relations between such events and their surroundings as they unfold.

     A footprint may be a very fragile & minor indentation – yet they are the imprint of & so capture something of, the living creature that has already passed by. Unlike analysis that, as it were, lays open the animal on the dissecting table, the footprint is the passing trace of something live, a trace of a moment that has already passed, beyond grasping, intangible."

        Moss D, Barnes R. Birdsong and footprints: tangibility and intangibility in a mindfulness research project. Reflective Practice 2008; 9(1): 11-22.


Friday, November 29, 2013

Mindfulness Research - Tracking Mind's Footprints

There is no place to seek the mind:
it is like the footprints of the birds in the sky 
                    from the Zen poem of Zenrin Kushu

     "Our journey has left us with questions about how one approaches research material and the dilemmas involved in trying to grasp something tangible or in trying to capture what is intangible.
     In Roland Barthes work Camera Lucida on photography completed just before his death, he describes his struggle to articulate a way of being with photographs, his own ‘way of reading’: 
       Some [books about photography] are technical; in order to ‘see’ the photographic signifier they are obliged to focus at very close range. [Other books] are historical or sociological; in order to observe the total phenomenon of the photograph, they are obliged to focus at great distance. I realised with irritation that none discussed precisely the photographs which interest me, which give me pleasure.

     Barthes went on to describe his sense of engagement with photographs as akin to a ‘wounding’ – a sense of being drawn to aspects of an image, that in that meeting between the image itself & his own engagement leaves its mark, but is not observable or reducible to some kind of analytic logic.
     For us the wound or mark could also be a footprint – tangible yet also intangible at the same time – much, as is suggested by the Zen quote that begins this paper, as the mind itself."
       Moss D, Barnes R. Birdsong and footprints: tangibility and intangibility in a mindfulness research project. Reflective Practice 2008; 9(1): 11-22.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

With Gratitude

timeless gatekeepers – one-or-two?
welcome us in
to their energy field
of red & gold
far away places
and places to dream of
are all at home

Steve McCurry

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

"Am I Dreaming, Underwater?"

Joyously running ahead
Exploring & playing
In her element
My dog
In-breath, out-breath
What’s in? What’s out?
What’s it all about?
What is this?
Who am I?
With amness all about

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Civilization Depends on Every Individual's Evolution of Consciousness

     Confucius reasoned that society's political & civil harmony, depends entirely on each individual achieving moral harmony. Unless large sheep herds are normally composed of individual horses, Confucius is correct.

     "The ancients who wished to illustrate illustrious virtue throughout the Kingdom, first ordered well their own states. Wishing to order well their states, they first regulated their families. Wishing to regulate their families, they first cultivated their persons. Wishing to cultivate their persons, they first rectified their hearts. Wishing to rectify their hearts, they first sought to be sincere in their thoughts. Wishing to be sincere in their thoughts, they first extended to the utmost their knowledge. Such extension of knowledge lay in the investigation of things.
      Things being investigated, knowledge became complete. Their knowledge being complete, their thoughts were sincere. Their thoughts being sincere, their hearts were then rectified. Their hearts being rectified, their persons were cultivated. Their persons being cultivated, their families were regulated. Their families being regulated, their states were rightly governed. Their states being rightly governed, the whole kingdom was made tranquil and happy.
      From the Son of Heaven down to the mass of the people,
all must consider the cultivation of the person the root of everything besides." Confucius (551 – 479 BC)

Steve McCurry

Monday, November 25, 2013

Attachment to People, Memories, Concepts, Theories, Dogmas ...

      "One of the basic tenets of Bowlby's attachment theory is interactions with significant others who are available & supportive in times of stress facilitate the formation of a sense of a "secure base," or ... felt security. This sense can be viewed as the cognitive-affective aspect of an interpersonal prototype or script
     Theoretically, the script includes something like the following if-then propositions: If I encounter an obstacle or become distressed, I can approach a significant other for help; he or she is likely to be available and supportive; I will experience relief and comfort as a result of proximity to this person; I can then return to other activities. 
     In Bowlby's terms, the sense of having a secure base provides an individual with a framework for maintaining well-being, formulating effective emotion-regulation devices, developing positive models of the self & others, and engaging in exploration & risk-taking activities.
     Although the sense of having a secure base may be formed during early interactions with primary caregivers, Bowlby contended that every meaningful interaction with significant others throughout life may affect a person's beliefs about others' availability & supportiveness. Moreover, although the sense of having a secure base may be quite general, it is also common for people to develop relationship-specific beliefs organized around actual experiences with a specific partner. These beliefs do not necessarily fit with the more general, chronic sense of having (or not having) a secure base. In fact, like every cognitive-affective representation, the sense of having a secure base can be contextually activated by actual or imagined encounters with available & responsive others, even among persons who have chronic doubts about their secure base." 
       Mikulincer M, Shaver PR. Attachment theory and intergroup bias: Evidence that priming the secure base schema attenuates negative reactions to out-groups. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 2001; 81(1): 97–115.

     "There are two remarkable things about the empirical findings summarized (in the paper above). One is that meaningful benefits emerge not only from actual secure attachments in real-life relationships, but also from the mere activation of attachment-connoting concepts into working memory. The second remarkable finding is that these beneficial effects are found across such a diverse range of meaningful outcomes. The cognitive priming of attachment security makes people healthier. It leads them to be more compassionate and helpful to others. It reduces prejudice. Future research will, no doubt, discover yet more benefits that emerge from the simple priming of attachment security. I’m tempted to believe that a sense of secure attachment may be the psychological equivalent of a broad-spectrum antibiotic — a sort of universal antidote to everything that ails us."

       Schaller M. Is secure attachment the antidote to everything that ails us? Psychological Inquiry 2007; 18(3): 191-193.

       There's a problem with this "universal antidote." Wisdom traditions agree that serious evolution of consciousness begins with LETTING GO of ATTACHMENT - to everything, without exception.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Happy 80th Barbara!

Five A.M. in the Pinewoods - by Mary Oliver

I'd seen
their hoofprints in the deep
needles and knew
they ended the long night

under the pines, walking
like two mute
and beautiful women toward
the deeper woods, so I

got up in the dark and
went there. They came
slowly down the hill
and looked at me sitting under

the blue trees, shyly
they stepped
closer and stared
from under their thick lashes and even

nibbled some damp
tassels of weeds. This
is not a poem about a dream,
though it could be.

This is a poem about the world
that is ours, or could be.
one of them - I swear it! -

would have to come to my arms.
But the other
stamped sharp hoof in the
pin needles like

the tap of sanity,
and they went off together through
the trees. When I woke
I was alone,

I was thinking:
so this is how you swim inward,
so this is how you flow outward,
so this is how you pray.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Crime Against YOUR Humanity

     The greatest crime against humanity occurs every time, throughout the ages, that an amazing human being is put up on a pedestal & merely idolized like a freak sacred cow. 

     Each of these great ones is teaching us that WE CAN & MUST LIVE the SAME or BETTER QUALITY of LIFE that they are living. Timeless persistence inevitably wears away all obstacles to doing precisely that.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

It's Just Bubble Gum - Not Quicksand

gradual uncoupling
from magnetic charges
as if gravity were lost
and freedom found
floating ungrounded
choices once hidden
hidden & tainted
I see more clearly
much less addicted
so much less addicted
to all that's around


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Living the Question

     We're energized & motivated to control, fix, grab, run from, stabilize - anything but embrace - liminality, uncertainty, the unknown, randomness, any form of change. Instead, we do our best to make the external environment pleasant & stable, assuming that this will make our internal environment happy for the long run.
     This controlling impulse is so automatic, that we even try to control life with mindfulness practice - turn it into a simple tool to fix & control - at times, even long after we think we've transcended the initial "getting rid of stress" phase of our practice. See:
     Life IS liminal, uncertain, unknown, unpredictable, fluidly changing, shifting, flowing energy ... We are an integral part of - one with - this mysterious sacred process - NOT external to NOR victims of it. Mindfulness is waking up to this mysterious reality - who we are & how we're part of this - living this open question - a timeless opening process.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

For Those Who Nourish Love

Mists of my childhood
When spirits glided
Wise & sour-hearted
Spoke straight to my heart

Sorrowed the sour &
Searched all my life
For the wise

Blessings & thanks
To the wise


Saturday, November 16, 2013

On a Journey, with No Place to Rest

     Don't we crave security, certainty, safety, stability, predictability, the idea of being able to control our external & internal environment?

     How do we relate to the fact that none of these are real?

     What if the only "home" were a loving, conscious openness to the mystery of timeless, unpredictable, uncontrollable internal & external change?

Friday, November 15, 2013

Silence AND Sound, Emptiness AND Form

     "Ma is a Japanese word which can be roughly translated as 'gap', 'space', 'pause' or 'the space between two structural parts.' The spatial concept is experienced progressively through intervals of spatial designation. In Japanese, ma, the word for space, suggests interval. It is best described as a consciousness of place, not in the sense of an enclosed three-dimensional entity, but rather the simultaneous awareness of form and non-form deriving from an intensification of vision. Ma is not something that is created by compositional elements; it is the thing that takes place in the imagination of the human who experiences these elements. Therefore ma can be defined as experiential place understood with emphasis on interval."

Hasegawa Tōhaku, 1539 - 1610, Pine Trees (left hand screen)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Healing - Complete Healing, Namaste

     "Healing comes only from that which leads the patient beyond himself and beyond his entanglements with ego." C. G. Jung

     "When the sense of separate self is transcended and no boundaries are seen, there is neither shadow nor fear. Wherever there is other there is fear. When nothing is perceived as other than Self, there is nothing to fear. This state is attained only in awareness of absolute Spirit. ... evolution is the process of the self-actualization of Spirit. Awakening to the awareness of absolute Spirit is the culmination of the evolutionary journey to wholeness."
        Vaughn F. The Inward Arc. Healing in Psychotherapy and Spirituality. Inc, Lincoln NE, 1995, 2000.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Fowler’s Six Stages of Faith

     "Fowler’s six stages of faith *** span the spectrum of development from childhood to maturity:
     a) In childhood, faith is based on fantasy & imagination;
     b) in the mythic literal stage, stories are interpreted literally;
     c) at the conventional stage, beliefs tend to be conventional & unexamined;
     d) the individuated reflective stage is characterized by demythologizing and individual responsibility for values & beliefs;
     e) the conjunctive stage, which usually emerges in midlife, involves a recognition of the unconscious and a more paradoxical understanding of truth;
     f) universalizing faith is inclusive of all being and free from ideological shackles.

     Although development does not necessarily progress in a neat, linear fashion from one stage to another, spiritual maturity implies adequately negotiating all these stages of faith. Spiritual experiences may be interpreted very differently by people at different stages of faith."
       Vaughan F. "What is Spiritual Intelligence?" Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 2002; 42(2): 16-33.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Spiritual Intelligence

     "Spiritual intelligence is concerned with the inner life of mind & spirit and its relationship to being in the world. Spiritual intelligence implies a capacity for a deep understanding of existential questions and insight into multiple levels of consciousness. Spiritual intelligence also implies awareness of spirit as the ground of being or as the creative life force of evolution. If the evolution of life from stardust to mineral, vegetable, animal, and human existence implies some form of intelligence rather than being a purely random process, it might be called spiritual. Spiritual intelligence emerges as consciousness evolves into an ever-deepening awareness of matter, life, body, mind, soul, and spirit.
     Spiritual intelligence, then, is more than individual mental ability. It appears to connect the personal to the transpersonal and the self to spirit. Spiritual intelligence goes beyond conventional psychological development. In addition to self-awareness, it implies awareness of our relationship to the transcendent, to each other, to the earth and all beings."

       Vaughan F. What is Spiritual Intelligence? Journal of Humanistic Psychology,
2002; 42(2): 16-33.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Learning to Inhabit the Current Operating System

     Notice early and gently let go of: 
• arising tension in mind / body
• arising urge to close down the heart & armor
• arising sense of lack & incompleteness
• arising urge to chase after or flee from

     Let go of the noisy struggle of the superficial egocentric level. Learn to settle deeper within - in timeless, effortless stillness & silence. Being porous to the energies that flow through us and are us.

     "Healing comes only from that which leads the patient beyond himself and beyond his entanglements with ego." C.G. Jung

        Vaughn F. The Inward Arc. Healing in Psychotherapy and Spirituality. Inc, Lincoln NE, 1995, 2000. 


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Active Engagement with Life

     We're on a continuous evolutionary journey, individually and inextricably along with all living beings. Each fraction of a second is a reset, a brand new beginning, a rebirth of sorts. Open awareness, porousness, psychological flexibility, and love are basic requirements for consciously, actively, directly taking part.

     "As human beings we are made to surpass ourselves and are truly ourselves only when transcending ourselves."     Huston Smith

        Vaughn F. The Inward Arc. Healing in Psychotherapy and Spirituality. Inc, Lincoln NE, 1995, 2000. 


Friday, November 8, 2013

Out of Fearful Pessimism, We Isolate & Diminish Ourselves

     "The desire and pursuit of the whole is called love."          Plato

     Sadly, "men and women have lost their souls, their belief in their souls, especially in the West. Since the rest of the world is profoundly influenced by the West, the catastrophe is global - and spreading daily.
     By 'lost their souls' I mean that the old and widespread idea of an inherent nobility of humanity, created by a just and benevolent God or Higher Order, and of consequently having the opportunity to live a meaningful life in the world with a purpose beyond survival and sensual gratification, died. Yes, the idea, in its many variations, is still around, but it has lost its vitality and has been totally rejected by many, especially those who are supposed to be 'educated,' and is paid only lip service by millions more. The modern belief is that somehow 'science' disproved the idea of any kind of god or divine order of things, and what we have left is only the material world, with humans as the superior (but badly flawed) dominant animal.
     The results are too obvious: living only for 'Number 1,' a sneering at idealism of any sort, increasing psychopathology, the increasing gap between the rich and the poor nations, and the insane, uncaring destruction of the environment in the frenzied pursuit of material wealth, to name only a few." Charles T. Tart
       Vaughn F. The Inward Arc. Healing in Psychotherapy and Spirituality. Inc, Lincoln NE, 1995, 2000.

Dale Chihuly

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Less Likely to be Blown Off Course by the Winds of Life

     "A new study from the University of Toronto Scarborough shows that people who are aware of their own thoughts and emotions are less affected by positive feedback from others.
     The study, authored by UTSC PhD candidate Rimma Teper, finds that individuals high in the trait known as mindfulness show less neural response to positive feedback than their less mindful peers.
     'These findings suggest that mindful individuals may be less affected by immediate rewards and fits well with the idea that mindful individuals are typically less impulsive' says Teper.
     Mindfulness is characterized by an ability to recognize and accept one’s thoughts and emotions without judgment. Mindful individuals are much better at letting their feelings and thoughts go rather than getting carried away.
     Using electroencephalography (EEG) the brain activity of participants was recorded while they completed a reaction time task on a computer. The authors were interested in participants’ brain activity in response to receiving performance feedback that was rewarding, neutral or negative in nature. Not only were mindful individuals less responsive to rewarding feedback compared to others, they also showed less difference in their neural response to neutral versus rewarding feedback.
     'Many studies, including our own past work, have shown that people who meditate, and mindful individuals exhibit improved self-control. If mindful individuals are also less affected by immediate rewards, as our study suggests, this may help explain why,' says Teper’s PhD supervisor and UTSC psychology professor Michael Inzlicht.
     The findings also reflect further clinical research that supports the notion of accepting one’s emotions is an important indicator of mental well-being.
     'Individuals who are problem gamblers for instance show more brain reactivity to immediate rewards, because they are typically more impulsive,' says Teper."

       Don Campbell is a writer with the University of Toronto Scarborough.

       Teper R, Inzlicht M. Mindful Acceptance Dampens Neuroaffective Reactions to External and Rewarding Performance Feedback. Emotion 2013; epub 2013/10/09.

     See also:

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


sitting suspended
between earth and sky
between heart and all directions
expanding vertically
radiating warmth all around
listening to the silence
the ground of all things

     "A person is neither a thing nor a process, but an opening or a clearing through which the Absolute can manifest."                    Ken Wilber


Tuesday, November 5, 2013


"Though utterly dependent on one another, 
most found the other's maps unsettling. 
They denied one's perspective 
by charting the land incomprehensibly, 
calling into question 
one's very being. 
Still, when they met on the lonely roads, 
the explorers would present one another with their maps. Some seemed to say so plainly, directly, 
the world is like *this*. 
Others were more oblique; 
skating, impressionistic, unstable. 
They froze mere slivers of the infinite earth 
as is skittered by in orbit. 
If ever these maps could be gathered together, 
they would comprise an atlas of unsettling vision. 
A final proof 
that truth is conjecture."

from the 2011 movie "Here"


Monday, November 4, 2013

and they all pass through ...

he plays and sings 
what grabs our hearts
young children jumping 
up & down
all versions of one 
keep passing by
completely through 
my heart
oh see them as 
the one and same
each different one
who plays the game

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Eight Winds Agitate & Inflame the Heart & Mind

     "Nichiren Daishonin (advised) 'A wise person is one who is not swayed by the eight winds.' 
     The 'eight winds' are eight influences that agitate and inflame the human heart and mind. They consist of four favorable circumstances (prosperity, honor, praise, and pleasure) and four setbacks (decline, disgrace, censure, and suffering). Their contents are roughly as follows:

• Prosperity: to obtain what one desires 

Decline: to suffer loss
Honor: to be admired and praised in one’s absence
Disgrace: to be criticized and defamed in one’s absence (behind one’s back)
Praise: to be admired and praised directly
Censure: to be criticized and defamed directly
Pleasure: to be happy in body and mind
Suffering: to suffer in body and mind

     People naturally seek out the four favorable circumstances and try to avoid the four setbacks. This is why their defenses can be penetrated by these eight winds. The four favorable circumstances are viewed as rewards of the world of Heaven and the four setbacks as retributions of the three evil paths. For the most part, life consists of repeated encounters with these eight winds, what is termed in Buddhism 'transmigration of the six paths.'"


Saturday, November 2, 2013

Perseverance, Perseverance, Perseverance ...

     “Again and again we are challenged to return to this moment, however painful or pleasant or boring, and to let it into our heart – to greet it with balance. Often we are knocked off balance. Yet equanimity is but another moment away.”

        Goldstein J, Kornfield J. “Seeking the Heart of Wisdom. The Path of Insight Meditation.” Shambhala, Boston, 2001. 

Friday, November 1, 2013


     “When you teach, you have to pierce the human heart and take away the flag of ego. So your compassion must extend beyond the words you use. Then your penetrating words will teach and not injure. 
     To teach people how to go beyond, your attitude must be soft yet stable, like the center of a ball. No matter where it rolls, the ball’s center never changes. You must always stand alone and unmoved. You can’t get carried away by the eight winds of gain and loss, public defamation and eulogy, private praise and ridicule, sorrow or joy. Most people are easily tossed about by these winds. If people praise you, you smile. My teacher often scolded me, but once he praised me, and I smiled. Immediately he said, ‘How stupid you are!’ I didn’t understand at the time how these winds can get us into trouble.”
        Katagiri D. “You have to say something. Manifesting Zen insight.” Shambhala, Boston, 1998.