Saturday, August 1, 2020

An Unusual Book on Meditation

     I just finished an interesting book on meditation with an unusual twist:  it uses music as a bridge to meditative states.  No, I'm not talking about listening to New Age music while meditating, but rather using certain musical principles to help induce meditative states.  Interested?  Read on.

     Written by Richard Wolf, In Tune: Music as the Bridge to Mindfulness could be a valuable resource for a people who would like new and different methods for their meditative practice.  Richard Wolf, by the way, is an Emmy Award-winning composer, music producer, and professor at UCLA's school of music.

     Of course, I think this book would be best suited for people who have at least some musical training and know what a beat is, what a 4-beat measure is all about, and have some familiarity with intervals (measuring the distance between two pitches).  I've had a bit of musical training, so most of this book made sense to me.

     First, this is not at all like Anthony de Mello's books on meditation, where he gets right to it and describes one method after another, along with helpful hints and caveats.  No.  Wolf gently leads the reader from one concept to another, sometimes offering inside looks at his interactions with various famous musicians over his long career.  This is a gentle, leisurely book.  However, I did find a few of his meditation techniques very helpful and I often come back to them again and again.

     A recommended book, especially if you have a little musical training and want some new and unique techniques for your meditation practice.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

To Free Minds

A couple of quotes for today:

"Think for yourself . . . or others will gladly think FOR you."
 (Dana Gore)

"Nothing threatens a corrupt system more than a free mind."  
(Suzy Kassem)

(photo courtesy of

Saturday, July 18, 2020

For Free Minds: How to Avoid Mind Control, Part 2

     Last week we were examining how people try to control our minds through fear, anger or outrage, and greed.  Today we will look at how often-anonymous people in social media try to influence what we think and do.

     I have a friend who gets almost all of his news from a prominent social media site.  Sadly, much of the news that he chooses to click on is fake.  They have provocative headlines that are designed to elicit fear, anger or outrage, or greed.  One of his favorites are conspiracy theories, which mix fear and outrage.  The problem is, whenever he clicks on one of these stories, the website remembers and generates more articles along that vein.  So, he clicks on more, and more appear.  In a sense, he is creating his own hall of mirrors.  The sad thing is that these fake news articles are designed not only to get him to read more like them, but they are also created to influence how he votes, how he views certain ethnic groups, and how he becomes more ingrained in a certain world view.  It's very sad.

     Stay free of this.  Do not click on articles that you can tell are appealing to your lower emotional centers.  Check "facts" in these articles with or other fact-checking sites.  Be objective.

     Similarly, the non-anonymous talking heads on the daily news channels, especially the ones that run 24/7, use your base emotions to continue watching.  Anger, fear and outrage are particularly common emotions that they elicit in order to keep you glued to the TV.  After all, they are in the business of selling commercial time, and the longer you watch, the more commercials you will see.  Of course, I am not saying that you should avoid being informed and watching the news, but be aware of how the different news organizations make you feel.  Do you feel angry, afraid, or upset?  Do those emotions make it hard for you to pull away from the TV?  Or do you feel informed, where the news is presented in a logical, even-handed way?  That is probably the better choice for getting your information.

     We all make choices in how we stay informed in this world.  By making wise choices, we can avoid the chance that we might come under someone's influence through the manipulation of our emotions.  Be wise.  Stay free.


Saturday, July 11, 2020

For Free Minds: How to Avoid Mind Control

     Since July is a month to celebrate freedom, how about if we discuss how to keep our minds free?  There are several ways that people, organizations, and the media try to control our minds, and we are so often easily swayed by them.  Through awareness, however, we can avoid coming under their control and stay free.  Freedom is good; wouldn't you agree?

     First, let's look at how individual people try to influence us to their advantage.  We have all received phone calls from scam artists who try to control us by using our emotions to our disadvantage.  Scammers call this "getting them under the ether."  They say things to elicit the strong emotions that are based in our reptilian brains, getting us out of our logical, objective higher brain.  And the emotions they love to use are fear or urgency, anger or outrage, and greed.

     For example, a scammer might want to scare you to believe that your computer has been hacked and you only have minutes to take care of it.  They are using fear and the pressure of time to hook you into doing what they want, such as providing them with your credit card number.  The best thing to do is to take a deep breath and hang up.  (Better yet, never answer a number you do not recognize.)

     But leaders also do the same thing, don't they?  Whether it's religious leaders who scare you with talk of eternal damnation or governmental leaders who vilify a minority ethnic group, saying that they are out to take your job or are a threat to your safety, these leaders are using fear to control you so that you will do what they want.  Stop.  Take a deep breath.  Go back to watching and listening to them objectively.  Ask yourself:  What do they want from me?  Decide for yourself if that's something that is in your best interest and the best interest of those you care about.

     Stay free, friends, stay free.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Happy Independence Day

May you be free of fear.
May you be free of pain.
May you be free to develop
the best that's in you.

Happy Independence Day!

(photo courtesy of

Saturday, June 27, 2020

A Useful Book on Meditation

     Continuing on a run of book recommendations for summer reading, today's feature is Anthony de Mello's Sadhana, a Way to God: Christian Exercises in Eastern Form.  If you would like to expand your repertoire of meditation practices, this is a great book to have.

     I've written about Anthony de Mello before.  He was a Jesuit priest, born in India, received his higher education in Great Britain, and prolific writer and teacher.  Given his background, he was uniquely able to meld Christian beliefs with Indian meditative practices.  This book is the result.

     Like many meditation books, he starts with concentration exercises, such as focusing on the breath or body sensations, and advances to practices which he called meditations based on fantasy.  By this he meant meditative practices which use the imagination to access spiritual insights, promote relaxation, heal past trauma, and bring peace.  For me, these were the most interesting and useful practices.

     The last section deals with meditative practices that are strictly Christian in nature.  If you are Christian, you will have no issue with this section, but if you are not, you may have difficulty transferring the practices to your own spiritual viewpoint.  But no matter, the rest of the book is well worth the money.  A highly recommended book for those wanting to deepen their meditations.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

An Informative Historical Book, Part 2

     Last week I was praising my latest read, Joel F. Harrington's Dangerous Mystic: Meister Eckhart's Path to the God Within.  While it is not an easy-breezy read, it is definitely worth the effort. 

     While it is valuable for its historical insights, I think I appreciated most how Dr. Harrington explained Meister Eckhart's spiritual teachings.  Meister Eckhart believed that the masses to whom he preached could be taught how to unite with the God within and would sometimes use phrasing that bordered on pantheism and other non-orthodox beliefs.  One such statement was, "Therefore I pray to God to make me free of God."  He also stressed that the inward state is much more valuable to God than good works.  Of course, this eventually brought him unwelcome notice for the religious authorities and he was called in to explain his allegedly heretical statements.  I won't ruin the ending for you, but it cost him both his reputation as well as his being officially "forgotten" for many centuries.

     I think that what is important about this book is that Dr. Harrington worked to present Eckhart's teachings within the framework of his time and place.  As we have seen in the last several decades, several authors have taken some of Eckhart's words and used them to promote their own viewpoint, but Dr. Harrington clearly counteracts that.  Meister Eckhart taught important spiritual insights that must be taken within their context and, once understood, can provide useful nuggets for spiritual wisdom in our times.