Sunday, January 28, 2024

Going With the Flow

     "Going with the flow" has a far more profound and surprisingly more practical meaning than might be assumed. It involves cultivating continuous respectful mindful curiosity about present-moment reality, moment-by-moment, as it unfolds.
    We block this wondrous capacity as soon as we
prioritize "self-concern." The primitive, survivalist part of our brain is meant to take over when our life is in danger. BUT today, our life is rarely if ever in danger. Today, it kicks in many, many times per day, for the most minimal of threats to our ego, and when there's even a chance that our preferences will not be met (Michael Singer). This constant chronic over-reaction has the same negative effect on us as if our lives were actually continuously threatened! This is how most of us live - trapped in the survivalist perspective of "personal mind" (Michael Singer) "separate, small self".

    “It’s our erroneous belief in a separate selfhood, with its insistent refrain of 'I, me, mine,' that keeps us from hearing & seeing directly.” Shinge Sherry Chayat Roshi

    "Taking the backward step," a well-known Zen phrase, is the act of shifting from the usual, "personal mind" (Michael Singer) or "separate, small self" perspective with its "noisy ego," to the transpersonal, Unitive Consciousness perspective. Advanced beings of all traditions are well-known to be able to shift seamlessly, as needed, between the "quiet ego" of optimally-functioning "regular folk" and transpersonal, Unitive Consciousness.
dearly wish to be happy YET most of us are ignorant of the fact that
advanced beings are consistently the happiest of all people.

    The excellent 39 minute podcast (below) delves deeply into this & closely related matters.
include a bit of information to hopefully provide a bit of context & perspective. The "noisy ego" of our "separate, small self" is activated very easily, as mentioned above. One of the many triggers for this activation is perceiving anything that makes us feel uncomfortable: something different from our usual experience, something "foreign," something we don't understand, can't be bothered to delve into & investigate, and are apt to immediately label "crap" etc.
this category, "spirituality" is right up there among topics that shut us down & make us move on to 'lighter,' more entertaining distractions.

    Spirituality, broadly defined, is “the basic desire to find ultimate meaning & purpose in one’s life.
    Spirituality I take to be concerned with those qualities of the human spirit – such as love & compassion, patience tolerance, forgiveness, contentment, a sense of responsibility, a sense of harmony – which brings happiness to both self & others.”
Dalai Lama
    The beginning of freedom is the realization that you are not the possessing entity – the thinker. Knowing this enables you to observe the entity. The moment you start watching the thinker, a higher level of consciousness becomes activated. You then begin to realize that there is a vast realm of intelligence beyond thought, that thought is only a tiny aspect of intelligence. You also realize that all the things that really matter – beauty, love, creativity, joy, inner peace – arise from beyond the mind.”
Eckhart Tolle .
    "Spirituality is the innate human need to connect with something larger than ourselves, something that is considered sacred or divine. Inherent in this definition is the assumption that the need to transcend the limited self is just part of who we are as a species – it is ‘innate.

    Not everyone ‘wakes up’ to this self-transcending facet of human nature & acts on it. But we tend to be miserably unhappy when we do not address this need. We need an active process – a relationship – with whatever we call the Divine.

    Spiritual intelligence is the ability to behave with altruistic love through wisdom & compassion while maintaining inner & outer peace (equanimity) regardless of the circumstancescoupled with the skill, competence, or ability to comprehend or make sense of things or situations & then bring adaptive, creative approaches to solve problems that humans face.
    L.W.Fry & C.G Wigglesworth. “Toward a Theory of Spiritual Intelligence and Spiritual Leader Development.” International Journal on Spirituality and Organizational Leadership Vol 1, No 1, 2013, pp47-79.

    I HIGHLY RECOMMEND LISTENING TO THIS excellent 39 minute podcast :


Friday, January 19, 2024


    Sporadically, I've unintentionally triggered an over-the-top, enraged reaction from more than one long-time friend. What horrible offence did I commit? I questioned their worldview!
    The surprising
intensity of their reaction was that of a trapped creature fighting for its life. Their verbal response voiced their adament resistance to change.
I surmised their worldview from their chronically pessimistic outlook, cynicism, aversions & nihilism. Most people seem to lack training, knowledge & interest in psycho-social-spiritual matters, but this outburst suggested a real gut-level aversion to spirituality, philosophy & worldviews in general.
why would anyone defend, as SERIOUSLY, as if their life depended on it - what appears to be a sad, hopeless worldview?

    An old taboo cautions against 'discussing money, politics & religion in polite company.' Even today, some still quickly avoid such topics by labeling them, 'Too deep!' At the same time, some (wiser?) cultures maintain that these are the only topics worth discussing!
there are well-known cases of children being removed from abusive homes by child-care services. But when offered the choice between going to a foster home or returning to their abusive home, these children most often choose 'the hell they know' - at least in part due to fear of the unknown (foster home).
    In the same vein
, one of the reasons we resist change is due our tendency to cling to an 'identity' - even one that's (mostly) miserable & heading for disaster. "But if I'm no longer 'the drunken party animal,' who will I be?" No matter how vague, uncomfortable & confining a self-concept & worldview is, 'it's how & who I am, so don't mess with what ain't broke - broke real bad!' - reminiscent of, "My country - right or wrong!"

    I'm always excited to see something I’ve been teaching in my MBSR courses for a long time, expressed in a more easily accessible, and hopefully more widely credible language.
also happy to see the clearest explanation for my friends' violent reactions to my attempts to point them towards imho a far healthier worldview & wellbeing*** :

    "Since 2006, Jeffery Martin PhD & his team have collected data from thousands of people across six continents who have extraordinary levels of wellbeing, trying to figure out what makes them so different from everyone else. What this first of its kind global academic research project has revealed is nothing short of remarkable. Outwardly, these individuals form a true cross section of humanity."
    Dr. Jeffery A. Martin. “The Finders.” Integration Press, 2019.

    "The gist of Fundamental Wellbeing (Awakening, Persistent Non-Symbolic Experience, etc) is a shift in the human nervous system away from what we think of as a kind of old, outdated wiring.
    So if you’re sitting in a cafĂ© and a bird lands near your table, and you toss it a crumb, what happens? Well, the bird generally looks around first and makes sure it’s not going to get killed; and then it pecks at the crumb; and then it looks around again to make sure it’s not going to get killed; and it takes another peck at the crumb.
    As humans, we think, ‘Ah, what primitive behavior. Look how the bird is so jittery.’ What we don’t realize is that we have the same wiring inside of us. All animals have the same wiring, we have the same cycle playing out in our nervous system that is in every moment – in our case, at least every 90 seconds or so – basically checking in & making sure, ‘Hey, is the ceiling I’m under right now, raining plaster – do I need to run for my life?’ or whatever else, right? So there’s the sense that something is just not quite right in this moment, or potentially not quite right in this moment. And that’s at a very foundational level of the nervous system. That’s in birds, and everything else, in those old parts of the nervous system, and it’s been built on, layer over layer over layer, as our nervous systems modernize, as our brain grew, as new structures grew on top of old structures, to a point where now, when we live relatively safe lives. I mean, I’m not really thinking the roof is actually going to fall in while I’m sitting here. You’re probably not worried about some wild animal ripping your arm off or somebody rushing in with a gun and killing you where you are. We live safe lives, our food is safe, right? I’m not worried about food poisoning from my next meal, or anything like that.
    We are living fundamentally safe lives, with the programming that says, ‘Wait a minute, you might not be safe in this moment,’ right? So what happens, this program basically maps over other areas of our life. So when your boss says, ‘You’re fired,’ or your spouse says, ‘I’m leaving you,it feels like a tiger is ripping your arm off, or somebody emptied a shotgun into your chest. So we have these inappropriate nervous system responses that are all based & grounded in survival
*** THIS is how my friends MISTOOK mere questioning of their sad worldview (about which they seamed to know little) for a
DEADLY SERIOUS ATTACK!*** This must be the same primitive reaction pathway by which merely "looking at someone the wrong way," especially in a bar, can result in being severely beaten, or worse! As Michael Singer suggests, we tend to take simple preferences far too seriously. ]]]

    What happens in Fundamental Wellbeing is that there’s a shift in that. So instead of the nervous system cycling through & saying, ‘Hey, something might not be right, right now; something might not be right, right now;’ with the corresponding cascade of worry & anxiety, and all the things that are kind of endemic in normal human society building & sitting on top of that rising to conscious awareness, and so on; instead, you have a sense that everything is fundamentally okay, even if your boss did just say, ‘You know what, you’re fired, and I’m going to make sure you never work in this industry again,’ or your spouse says, ‘I’m leaving you, and I’m taking the kids, and I’m taking everything.’ These things that would normally, at a surface level, understandably produce concerns, fears, worries, sadness – it’s not that they can’t still do that in Fundamental Wellbeing, but deep down, instead of it feeling like a tiger is ripping your arm off or a shotgun just went off into your chest, somehow, paradoxically, things seem okay. So even in extreme situations, there’s this peace if you go and look for it.
    At its core, Fundamental Wellbeing is basically a rewiring in the nervous system in how it looks at & deals with survival, & how it makes us feel in the moment.”

    Dr Jeffery Martin on A Scientific Approach to Awakening and Fundamental Wellbeing: Part 1

    So how does one acquire this exceptional level of wellbeing, so we won't need to bite a friend's head off for trying to help, and perhaps not starting all those bar-room brawls? Well, immersing oneself in Michael A. Singer's bookLiving Untethered" is a superb practical start.

"Seek Stillness" - by Molly Hahn

Wednesday, January 10, 2024


    When we hear about "objectifying" we immediately think of knuckle-dragging men who see & treat women "like a piece of meat." Google tells us, "The sexual objectification of women involves them being viewed primarily as an object of male sexual desire, rather than as a whole person." Other forms of objectification of women would be seeing them mainly for other self-serving uses (bearing children, cooking, cleaning, etc), instead of as complex human beings with inherent worth. So being objectified feels demeaning, like other forms of prejudice, which is always based on a shallow stereotype or classification system that denies human dignity.
a critical underlying presumption: if we get to know any individual well, then we'll realize that everyone has far, far greater depth than we assumed, and also, that we have a great deal more in common than our differences. I fully agree with this presumption, BUT MOST WOULD NOT!

    Why not? Because most will not rise above our society's prevailing 'glass ceiling': scientism's materialist dogma that, life itself, everyone & everything is nothing more than a meaningless accident in a cosmos of matter - stuff, and only stuff. If everything, including ourselves, is mere matter, then we are all in fact, objects. So women, like ourselves, have NO depth, NO inherent worth, NO dignity, and 'a whole person' is literally just meat. And of course relationships are merely 'transactional,' or at best 'relational.' Again Google: "... transactional means you expect something in return for your contribution in a short time frame and if not, you will not provide your contribution. Relational means you are willing to be patient for a longer-term mutual benefit and it is okay if you don't get the full return in the short-term." Such mechanical arrangements work fine for model railway sets & robots, and so so for us 'meat.' This same level of thinking proposes that AI is a great improvement over the human mind. AI would be better BUT ONLY IF human beings were mere meat-puppets.
    Those who make do with
materialist dogma as their guiding light actually have FAR more in common with the much-maligned knuckle-dragging male than they realize.

    HOWEVER, HUMAN LIFE ONLY BEGINS to FLOURISH ABOVE scientism's GLASS CEILING! Life below this ceiling is "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." Even in Canada - a paradise compared to most countries - how many live in utter despair, as expressed through the many forms of depression / anxiety, addiction, cruelty & violence inflicted on ourselves, others, the environment? Why?

    Most of us are, to some degree, psychologically & spiritually wounded & stunted. But instead of recognizing this as a cry for psychotherapy & deeper, more meaningful spiritual practice, we instinctively run & hide, angrily branding anything of depth, meaning & real significance (above the 'glass ceiling') "too deep, confusing, unscientific, unsubstantiated, subjective, etc," and sink back into the familiar grim 'ordinary unhappiness,' assuming that this is 'as good as it gets.' We simply cannot see how woundedness locks us into a 3-year old's level who yells, 'I hate you Mommy & Daddy! I'm running away from home now!'

    “We become disabled, unable to function in areas of our lives that evoke feelings we’ve never learned to tolerate. Turning away from this primary pain creates a second, ongoing level of suffering: living in a state of contraction & constricted awareness.”
John Welwood
    SUPERB 53-minute Michael A. Singer podcast: "Your Highest Technique: Relaxing Behind Your Inner Disturbance."

“The salvation of this human world lies nowhere else
than in the human heart,
in the human power to reflect, in human meekness,
and in human responsibility.”
Vaclav Havel, President of the Czech Republic, in his historic address to the U.S. Congress

    How few of us experience our birthright: the joy of knowing our true nature, feeling 'at home,' and spontaneously nurturing people, creatures & the environment so we may all thrive?
    We may
have a vague sense of this possibility, BUT the momentum of our individual lives & that of our culture powerfully pushes us towards immediate comfort & distraction; and away from depth & meaning. So we wrongly become resigned that our anxious, twitchy, 'ordinary unhappiness' is 'as good as it gets.'

     Living a deep, meaningful life, with increasing consistency, IS ABSOLUTELY POSSIBLE. It does require that we start freeing ourselves from our neuroses - blocked energies, trapped in our bodies, from past unprocessed emotions. Freeing ourselves MUST become our FIRST PRIORITY.
    Michael A. Singer “Living Untethered: Beyond the Human Predicament.” Sounds True, 2022 - a WISE, DETAILED GUIDE to a LIFE WORTH LIVING! Immerse yourself in the skills required to BE MORE THAN A SAD, HOPELESS MEAT-PUPPET!

    "Beyond the clouds, the sun never stops shining.”
Gavin Pretor-Pinney

Monday, January 8, 2024

The Body Keeps the Score

“Yesterday I was clever,
so I wanted to change the world.
Today, I am wise
so I am changing myself.”

    An ancient myth tells us of a queen who one day orders her people to cover the earth with leather, so that she may comfortably walk everywhere in her bare feet. A very brave subject gently suggests to her that perhaps covering her feet with leather might be a better solution.

    This metaphor is about our instinctual drive to control the outside world for survival. But in our affluent Western culture, it's almost entirely about 'preferences' seeking comfort & pleasure eg the perfect cup of coffee, and avoiding discomfort eg a disappointing vacation spot. Usually we're totally wrapped up in our preferences because we (wrongly) assume that this will make us feel OK.

    A part of us gets “triggered” many times each day, to varying degrees, even by (to an outside objective observer) trivial daily experiences, which happen to remind us of past events, that at the time we were unable to handle (could not fully ‘physically process’). The physically felt energy of most emotions – happy or sad – can feel disturbing to a very young child. As a result, these intolerable energies are pushed down into our bodies. Bessel van der Kolk describes this in major trauma – ‘the body keeps the score’ – but Singer (below) imho very convincingly argues that this same process occurs with ANY emotion one is unable to fully process while experiencing it.

    Furthermore, Singer argues that much of our life is devoted to attempting to control the external environment so that it will not trigger our many stored blockages. So we are either living our lives as slaves to our unresolved emotional issues (neuroses) - or we can intentionally learn to release these blockages
is NOT common knowledge. Most will continue to chase after happiness from the external world, and settle for "ordinary unhappiness." HOWEVER,

“Everything is workable.”
"Only have no preferences." 

    Meditation practice - formal sitting & informal daily life - is essentially about experiencing, learning to stabilize in & live as, that other part of us which CAN objectively perceive & handle ANYTHING the world presents us, AND learn from it.

    We stabilize in this higher Self by intentionally releasing blockages each time these arise. Now, as mature adults, the physically-felt unpleasant disturbed energy associated with a blockage that arises is NOT so difficult.  
    Each time we stay with the physical feel of an old or new emotion, until it resolves naturally (less than a minute to complete the physical processing) we diminish its power over our lives (much like a transient hunger pang while dieting).

    You will deeply appreciate how much better life becomes as you progressively free yourself from the tyranny of blocked emotions
    While most of us are unfamiliar with & somewhat averse to delving deeply into new, unfamiliar areas, I nevertheless HIGHLY RECOMMEND slow, careful, immersive reading of this imho wise, practical, well-written book:
    Michael A. Singer “Living Untethered: Beyond the Human Predicament”
    The Halifax public library has a copy; but well-worth owning $29. from Bookmark on Spring Garden or

Monday, January 1, 2024

Starting Fresh

    Welcome to a brand new year! This can be the best year we've ever lived. And yes, it is entirely up to each one of us.

about past New Year's resolutions. What I'm suggesting is on an entirely different level than losing weight, or consuming less booze or weed. How about initiating a radically positive shift in your life?

    How often do we catch ourselves repeating a set of thoughts, speech or other behaviors that we regret, feel ashamed of - that make us feel like bratty kids rather than mature, evolved adults? These tend to start as critical, disparaging, demeaning thoughts about others. It's best to intercept & stop these frequent slips at the earliest thinking stage.

    So what's with all this criticizing self talk? We're very, very familiar with these story lines, because we repeat them many times every single day! They're like a trail we walk many times each day, where there are very slippery downhill slopes, and we know where these are, can feel the downward incline immediately, and know that if we take just one additional step, we'll slide all the way down to the bottom.
we start criticizing, we have unconsciously assumed a separate identity - our 'small self' (neurotic pain body), from which we can look down on inferior 'others.' It's an embarrassingly dumb, messed-up sense of self, but it's the only one most of us (incorrectly assume we) have.
is very much like children who've been removed from abusive homes. When asked whether they wish to be placed in a foster home, or return to their abusive family, most choose the latter - because they fear the unknown more than 'the devil they know.'
e also get a sick sense of comfortable familiarity, as we sink into our crappy little assumed 'separate self' - almost a sense of 'being right' - like a destitute homeless person crawling back into a crumbling, wet cardboard box under a bridge. The question, 'Would you rather be right or happy?' applies here. When strong emotions like fear, anger or hatred take over, we may (briefly) feel absolutely sure we're 'right' but are actually miserable.

    Most of us are completely unaware how incessantly we tell ourselves what we don't like vs what we do like - our 'preferences' - the chief purpose of which is to reassure ourselves that we have a solid, permanent identity - which deep down we know is false.
we gradually learn to notice & keep letting go of self-talk about preferences, we gradually learn to become intimate with everyone & everything, rather than remaining alienated, due to reality being severely distorted & edited by our preferences.

    “… live in reality and enjoy the moments that are unfolding in front of you. That’s what you can do. Use your mind to be creative, inspiring, and do great things. Don’t let the mind always be thinking about itself and what it wants. Learn to enjoy life as it isinstead of limiting the ways you can enjoy it to serve your past impressions.”
    Michael A. Singer “Living Untethered: Beyond the Human Predicament” Sounds True, 2022. A VERY USEFUL GUIDE TO LIVING

    We can only appreciate reality when we no longer look at it through the dense fog of our preferences. We can gradually learn to recognize, accept, and stop being slaves to our preferences.
    We are free to choose the quality of our lives because it is independent of external conditions
as perceived through our preferences.


Portrait in L'Harmattan gallery Baie-Saint-Paul, Quebec