Saturday, May 18, 2019

Some Guided Mindfulness Practices

     Last week I was recommending Ronald Siegel's book The Mindfulness Solution: Everyday Practices for Everyday Problems.  What a terrific resource for all situations and stages of life, and how to use mindfulness practices to help guide you through them with minimal bruising.

     Dr. Siegel also has a website that ties in to this book and has a page that offers different mindfulness practices that he talks you through.  Although there is no background music, his voice is gentle and reassuring as he guides you to relax, to deal with your reactions to issues, or to feel more compassion toward yourself or others.  You can visit the guided meditations page on his website here.  You'll be glad you did.

(photo courtesy of pixabay.com)

Saturday, May 11, 2019

A Terrific Book to Re-Read

     I was looking through a book catalog to see if there were any new books to purchase (something I do all too frequently) and found a book on mindfulness.  I read the description and did a little research about it, and realized that I already had a better book at home.  So, I re-read that one.  It's The Mindfulness Solution: Everyday Practices for Everyday Problems by Ron Siegel.

     Upon re-reading this book, I realized what a treasure it really is.  Not only does it address real-life problems, but does so in a practical, accepting way.  There is nothing airy-fairy about this book.  It gets down and dirty where you are, accepts the human condition, and offers fairly simple solutions to get you back on track.  I rediscovered ways to address some situations in my life and was glad I took the time to revisit this book.  You may, too.  Highly recommended.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Thought for Today

Here's a thought that goes with last month's theme.  It's from the renowned (and much missed) astronomer Carl Sagan:
One of the saddest lessons of history is this:  If we've been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle.  We're no longer interested in finding out the truth.  The bamboozle has captured us.  It's simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we've been taken.  Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.

(photo courtesy of pixabay.com)

Saturday, April 27, 2019

How Not to Be an (April) Fool, Part 4


     Last week we learned how neuromarketers purposely craft their message to get you to do something – buy their product, believe their message, keep them in power.  Since they are experts at crafting their message with this goal in mind, and since we are constantly bombarded by these messages, what can we do?
     First, realize that it’s happening.  Then, breathe.  Yes, breathe.
     Why?  Because when you purposely take a deep breath, you are getting out of the autonomic nervous system and getting into the rational brain.  In other words, you are taking back control of your reactions.
     Next, mentally take a step back and observe both the message and your emotional reactions.  Yes, sometimes it’s almost impossible not to react emotionally.  What we’re trying to do instead is to keep from allowing those emotions to run our behavior.
    I think of this in many ways as how our brain works when we meditate (you are meditating, aren’t you?  Please do.  It will help).  We first cue our brain by taking a few deep breaths.  We’re saying to our brain, “It’s time to focus and stop reacting all the time.”  Then we concentrate on our breath.  This calms us and helps us get into observer mode.  Then, we sit back and observe our thoughts as they pass by.  We watch them come and go, like leaves floating on a stream, or clouds drifting in the sky.  We watch our reactions to these thoughts come and go.  We pull ourselves back when we start following the narrative and emotional content of these thoughts.  We continue breathing and observing.  
     I think that meditation is one of the best ways to combat neuromarketing.  For your sake, for the sake of our society and our world, I encourage you to keep at it.  
(photo courtesy of pixabay.com)

Saturday, April 20, 2019

How Not to Be an (April) Fool, Part 3


  Did you know that there are certain groups who purposely use our brain structure to influence our thinking and behavior?  Pretty scary, right?  Let me explore with you the world of neuromarketing.
     As you know, marketers – whether they are trying to sell you products via commercial advertisements or people promoting certain ideas (on social media or on public platforms) – want you to act in a certain way.  If they show you a bottle of ketchup, they want you to buy their brand.  If they post a biased article, they want you to support their cause.  If they repeatedly say certain untruths in a public forum, they want you to believe them and work to keep them in power.
     Here’s how it works:  the reptilian brain is the most primitive part of the brain.  If you remember last week’s lecture, this is the part that is involved in survival and instinct.  It wants to avoid pain.  Interestingly, it also is responsible for making many of our decisions.  Neuromarketers purposely aim their message at this part of the brain.
     And how do they do this?  First, they realize that the reptilian brain is reached best through strong emotions.  The limbic system, processor of emotions, acts as the doorway to the reptilian brain.  Then, neuromarketers target the reptilian brain in seven ways:
  • They tap into your pain points – those areas which cause you pain, whether through comparison with others or such survival instincts as hunger or desire for sex (yes, that’s why the voluptuous woman is draped over the hood in the sports car commercial)
  • They appeal to your innate selfishness – they will talk directly to “you” in the message
  • They will use contrast – such as showing the situation which causes pain and their solution which eases the pain (think of teeth-whitening commercials)
  • They emphasize the value of their message – they demonstrate how their message has worked in the past for others, and will work for you
  • They focus on the beginning and end of their messaging – since the reptilian brain tends not to focus on details, they make sure the beginnings and ends pack the most punch
  • They use a visual metaphor – they know that the optic nerve goes directly to the reptilian brain, making it more visual than verbal 
  • They strike an emotional chord – they know that keeping the emotions involved will tend to circumvent any involvement by the neocortex, or rational, brain; interestingly, the reptilian brain tends to be more activated by negative than positive emotions

   So what can we do to keep from becoming manipulated by these forces?  More on that next week.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

How Not to Be an (April) Fool, Part 2


     Welcome to Biology and the Brain 101, class.  Sit yourself down and learn about how emotions affect behavior.
     In the 1960s, neuroscientist Paul MacLean put out the theory that the human brain is comprised of three parts, encompassing one another like Russian nesting dolls.  The innermost part is the reptilian brain, which is enclosed by the limbic system, which is then surrounded by the neomammalian brain, or neocortex.
     Each part of the brain has its own function.  For example, the neocortex is the section involved in higher-order thinking processes, such as language, planning, perception, and abstraction.  The limbic system houses such structures as the amygdala, the hippocampus, and hypothalamus, which are involved in memory, emotion, and motivation.  And finally, the reptilian brain is involved in instinctual behavior such as survival, territoriality, aggression, and dominance.
     And what does this have to do with the encounter with my friend which I wrote about last week?
     Here’s my theory:  News media and other groups (whether in print, on TV, or in social media) sometimes purposely use our brain structure to affect our emotional response and then our behavior. 
     Next week, class, we’re going to delve into the wild world of neuromarketing.

(image courtesy of pixabay.com)

Saturday, April 6, 2019

How Not to Be an (April) Fool

     I was talking with a friendly acquaintance the other day when, in the midst of our pleasantries, she erupted into a diatribe about a new law in a distant state that alarmed her and how certain groups are trying to reduce morality in our country and so on.  I had not heard about this new law, or about how these groups were trying to take over our country, and repeatedly said so.  I knew that my friend watched a very conservative cable news channel and wondered if this was the source of her information, and whether this information was even true.  

     Being an empath, I was bombarded by her anger and outrage.  I was also struck by the deep feeling of fear in her as well.  It took me a long time to get over the emotional punch of our encounter.

     Which brought me to a thought – do news media and other public voices – whether in print, on TV, or on social networks – purposely appeal to one’s emotions first?  And if so, to what purpose?
     And the search for answers brought me to explore what brains and reptiles have in common.  More on this next week.
(photo courtesy of pixabay.com)

Saturday, March 30, 2019

An Uplifting Quote for Our Times

     Sometimes I read the news and just want to hang my head and cry.  I feel so powerless, you know?  But I ran across a quote from 1932 which I believe applies to today.  It's from Franklin D. Roosevelt:
Out of every crisis, every tribulation, every disaster, mankind rises with some share of greater knowledge, or higher decency, of purer purpose.
     Well, if we could steer ourselves out of the Great Depression, we can steer ourselves out of this depressing time of tribalism, ethnic hatred, injustice, greed, narcissism, ecological disaster, and so on.  Let's keep our head up high, hold on to our power, and work for that better world.

     Keep on keeping on.  

Friday, March 22, 2019

Some Thoughts for the Spring Equinox

     It is the time of the spring equinox, when night and day are equal.  Readers of this blog know that one of the central themes of The Gemini Bond  is that in order to be ready to be joined with our Twin Soul, we need to balance the masculine and feminine aspects within ourselves first.  Here are some quotes which illustrate this:
Each one of us needs to discover the proper balance between the masculine and feminine energies, between the active and the receptive.  (Ravi Ravindra)
There is a collective force rising up on the earth today, an energy of the reborn feminine... This is a time of monumental shift, from the male dominance of human consciousness back to a balanced relationship between masculine and feminine. (Marianne Williamson)
The world in the past has been ruled by force, and man has dominated over woman by reason of his more forceful and aggressive qualities both of body and mind. But the balance is already shifting—force is losing its weight and mental alertness, intuition, and the spiritual qualities of love and service, in which woman is strong, are gaining ascendancy. Hence the new age will be an age less masculine, and more permeated with the feminine ideals—or, to speak more exactly, will be an age in which the masculine and feminine elements of civilization will be more evenly balanced.  (Abdu'l-Bahá )
     We all have work to do -- within ourselves, within our families and communities, and within our world -- to balance the masculine and feminine.  Let's dedicate ourselves to this greater goal.  

(image courtesy of pixabay.com)


Saturday, March 16, 2019

Another Terrific Book from a Master

     We now call to order another meeting of the Deng Ming-Dao fan club (hear! hear!).  I picked up another one of his books, beautifully designed and thoughtfully presented, as all his books are.  It is The Wisdom of the Tao: Ancient Stories that Delight, Inform, and Inspire.  What a wonderful resource!

     If you aren't interested in investing in all sorts of esoteric and expensive Taoist tomes, this book might be for you.  It gleans pithy stories from various sources -- the writings of Liezi, Zhuangzi, the I Ching, historical records, folktales, and various other Taoist classics.  Each story is one or two pages long and is presented in easy, modern language.  My only regret is that Deng did not add any commentary to some of the more opaque stories.  Some of them required extra pondering, but they were worth the thought.

     If you are interested in exploring more of the Taoist tradition, this book is for you.  Highly recommended.


Saturday, March 9, 2019

A Pearl of a Book, Part 2

     Last week I was lauding a recent find, 1,001 Pearls of Life-Changing Wisdom: Insight on Identity, Truth, and Success by Elizabeth Venstra.  One of the great things about this book is the wide range of topics that are covered.  Another great thing is how within each topic, Venstra offers quotes that may seemingly contradict each other.

     Here's an example:
I'm finally ready to won my own power, to say "This is who I am."  If you like it, you like it.  And if you don't, you don't.  So watch out, I'm gonna fly.   (Oprah Winfrey)
We must learn the power of living with our helplessness.  (Sheldon B. Kopp)
     Live with these quotes for a bit, and you'll see that they are not 'either-or', but' both-and' in terms of addressing the truth of personal power.   Wonderful!
 

Saturday, March 2, 2019

A Pearl of a Book

     You know I'm a sucker for pithy, thought-provoking quotes.  I recently found a book that's full of them.  A quote-lovers heaven!  It's called 1,001 Pearls of Life-Changing Wisdom: Insight on Identity, Truth, and Success by Elizabeth Venstra.

     It ranges in topics from identify and the self, to character, to truth, to emotions, to dreams and desires, to success, to time, and relationships.  What I really like about how Venstra put the quotes together is that she was not afraid to place two (or more) contradicting quotes next to each other.  It's like a built-in debate on a topic, which broadens one's understanding and opens one's mind to other ways of looking at things.  Wonderful.  Highly recommended.


Saturday, February 23, 2019

A Couple of Thoughts for Today

Here are some pithy quotes to chew on for the week.  Enjoy.
The longest day must have its close -- the gloomiest night will wear on to a morning.  An eternal, inexorable lapse of moments is ever hurrying the day of the evil to an eternal night, and the night of the just to an eternal day.  (Harriet Beecher Stowe)
And:
The ultimate sense of security will be when we come to recognize that we are all part of one human race.  Our primary allegiance is to the human race and not to one particular color or border.  I think the sooner we renounce the sanctity of these many identities and try to identify ourselves with the human race the sooner we will get a better world and a safer world.  (Mohamed ElBaradei) 

(image courtesy of pixabay.com)

Thursday, February 14, 2019

A Poem for Lovers Across Time

     I recently read a lovely poem by Walt Whitman, which talks about how soul can recognize soul, across the limits of gender and the confines of time, even as Twin Souls do.  I hope you enjoy this on Valentine's Day.

To a Stranger

Passing stranger! you do not know how longingly I look upon you.
You must be he I was seeking, or she I was seeking, (it comes to me as of a dream.)
I have somewhere surely lived a life of joy with you,
All is recall'd as we flit by each other, fluid, affectionate, chaste, matured,
You grew up with me, were a boy with me or a girl with me,
I ate with you and slept with you, your body has become not yours only nor left my body mine only.
You give me the pleasure of your eyes, face, flesh, as we pass, you take of my beard, breast, hands, in return,
I am not to speak to you, I am to think of you when I sit alone or wake at night alone,
I am to wait, I do not doubt I am to meet you again,
I am to see to it that I do not lose you.

(image courtesy of pixabay.com)




Saturday, February 9, 2019

Another Wonderful Book

     I picked up a book last week which I think will prove very helpful.  Perhaps you would, too.

     Entitled Real World Mindfulness for Beginners: Navigate Daily Life One Practice at a Time and edited by Brenda Salgado, it features a chapter addressing a different life issue with some simple mindfulness practices to help face that issue.  Some of the topics include:  dealing with anxiety and stress, facing hurt or anger, enduring grief and loss, breaking bad habits or negative behaviors, promoting patience and compassion, and accepting aging and illness.  Each chapter, written by a different mindfulness teacher, is clear and concise and easily applicable in minutes.  A very useful book.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

A Gorgeous Book

     I was recently gifted with a book that has proved to be both inspiring and beautiful.  It is a small book, where I read a page or two before bed, but the stunning photos and the pithy sayings from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition stay with me into the next day.  Perhaps you would enjoy it as well.  It's entitled Offerings: Moments of Mindfulness from the Masters of Tibetan Buddhism (Mini) and features photos from Tibet, northern India, and Nepal.  It shows the grittiness and beauty of everyday life there.  And the quotes come from the Dalai Lama, Pema Chodron, Chogyam Trungpa, Jack Kornfield, Milarepa, and many others.  Gift yourself with this book.


Saturday, January 26, 2019

A Few More Wonderful Quotes

     Some more great quotes:
The true test of faith is how we treat those who can do nothing for us in return.  (Dillon Burroughs)
The time has come to worship with our lives as with our lips, in the streets as in the sanctuaries.  (Maurice Davis) 
Because we all share a wish for happiness and an identical need for love, it is possible to feel that anyone we meet, in whatever circumstances, is a brother or sister.  We do not need to become religious; nor do we need to believe in an ideology.  I believe that at every level of society the key to a happier and more successful world is the growth of compassion.  (The Dalai Lama)
(image courtesy of pixabay.com)

 

Saturday, January 19, 2019

A Couple of Great Quotes

     This last week was the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.  In honor of his life, I'd like to share a quote from him:
Many people fear nothing more terribly than to take a position which stands out sharply and clearly from the prevailing opinion.  The tendency of most is to adopt a view that is so ambiguous that it will include everything and so popular that it will include everybody.  Not a few men who cherish lofty and noble ideas hide them under a bushel for fear of being called different.
     And since Martin Luther King, Jr. modeled much of his philosophy on those of Mahatma Gandhi, I'll share one from Gandhi as well:
Those who believe religion and politics aren't connected don't understand either.
(image courtesy of pixabay.com)

Saturday, January 12, 2019

An Old Motto for New Times? Part 2

     Class is back in session, and I've been seeing your hands wave all week.  Have a seat and let's continue our discussion.

     Last week I was promoting the idea of adopting "E Pluribus Unum" as a motto for everyone because I think that the next step in our earthly evolution is learning to recognize that we are all one.  Each contributes to the whole.  Each deserves respect.  Each has unique gifts and viewpoints which makes the whole stronger.

     But, you ask, what about the other motto, "In God We Trust"?  Are you throwing out God in this equation?

     Not at all.  I believe in God and talk to Her every day.  But when we say, "In God We Trust," some may argue:  "Whose God?" or "Which religious tradition?"  Is it the God with white skin and a long, white beard?  Or the one that exists inside every cloud and under every rock?  Is it the God whose Name cannot be named?  Or is it the one that lives within our ancestors?  Religions often promote a tribalism which has not proved beneficial through our history.

     My second issue with "In God We Trust" is that it can be disempowering.  It can make one feel as if we are handing God all our problems and saying, "Here.  Fix it."  That is, in my opinion, a form of magical thinking.

     The motto "E Pluribus Unum" recognizes, I believe, the contribution we each can make toward fixing our world problems.  And there are many.

     A sub-motto to "E Pluribus Unum" might be:  "Get to work."

(photo courtesy of pixabay.com)

Saturday, January 5, 2019

An Old Motto for New Times?

     Sit right down, class, for today's history lesson.  Make yourself comfortable.

     Many years ago, when my country was young, the founders created a Great Seal and adopted the motto "E Pluribus Unum" in 1782. What does that phrase mean?  It means, in Latin, "out of the many, one."  They recognized, even then, that honoring our diversity and respecting everyone's contribution to our nation made us stronger.

     Then what happened?  Let me tell you.

     Back in the 1950s, during the Red scare and the start of the Cold War, our country decided to set ourselves apart from communism and its atheism and adopted an official motto, "In God We Trust."  By order of President Eisenhower in 1956, this new motto replaced "E Pluribus Unum," which had never been made the official motto by law.

     I think that, during these difficult times, we need to go back to "E Pluribus Unum."  And we need to make it the motto for every person everywhere.  Why?  Because if we recognize and honor the contribution of every person and every tradition and every ethnicity, we become stronger.  The opposite -- to push away others who are different -- creates ill-will on both sides, and this creates instability and chaos.  We need to open our hearts and minds and honor the best of what everyone has to offer.

     I honor you.  We honor each other.  From many, we can be one.

(image courtesy of pixabay.com)