Feb 26, 2014
Gravity and entropy are powerful processes in the natural world. Gravity draws things together, toward a center, while entropy scatters them into disorder. In much the same way, in our own lives, some things bring us to center, while others disturb and disperse us.
In terms of centering, be aware of your whole body as you take a long slow breath, or think of something you’re glad about. You’ll probably feel more at home in yourself, more drawn into your own core rather than feeling like Garfield the cartoon cat, spreadeagled up against a pane of glass.
In terms of feeling scattered, notice what it’s like to …
Feb 16, 2014
In this last part of the discussion we’ll examine the neural correlates and morality and summarize the discussion.
Do Neural Correlates Mean There’s No Soul?
The last sentence in the article on the NPR site really caught my eye: “If something as complex as morality has a mechanical explanation, [the scholar said], it will be hard to argue that people have, or need, a soul.”
First, to repeat the point made in the previous blog post, it’s simplistic to claim that morality …
Feb 15, 2014
In Part I we discussed the meaning of the words mind, brain and God and saw how the mind and the brain are interdependent.
In this segment we’ll go into the popular arguments for and against God and further into the link between the mind and the brain.
Proofs and Disproofs
Lately, numerous authors have tried to rebut beliefs in God (e.g., The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins), while others have tried to rebut the rebuttals (e.g., Answering the New Atheism: Dismantling Dawkins’ Case against God). The intensity of these debates is often startling; people commonly talk past each other, arguing at different levels; and the “evidence” marshaled for one view or another …
Feb 14, 2014
With all the research on mind/brain connections these days – Your brain in lust or love! While gambling or feeling envious! While meditating, praying, or having an out-of-body experience! – it’s natural to wonder about Big Questions about the relationships among the mind, the brain, and God.For instance, some people have taken the findings that some spiritual experiences have neural correlates to mean that the hand of God is at work in the brain. Others have interpreted the same research to mean that spiritual experiences are “just” neural, and thus evidence against the existence of God or other supernatural forces. These debates are updated versions of longstanding philosophical and religious wrestlings …
Feb 10, 2014
We all know this fear. You’re walking down a street, someone you don’t know comes toward you, and there’s a second or more of wariness, scanning, apprehension, and tension or bracing in the body: a barely conscious assessment of possible threat. Or you step into a meeting with people you know and still there could be a watchfulness, a restraint, a certain carefulness in how you speak that comes more from subtle anxiety than reasonable prudence. Perhaps someone disagrees with you in this meeting – and you feel uneasy, off balance, unprotected; maybe later you worry what others thought about how you responded …
Feb 06, 2014
One could rightly ask: How can intangible thoughts affect tangible matter (i.e., the brain)? This question is at the heart of the longstanding “mind-body problem,” and related questions include: How can mind arise from matter? Is mind reducible to matter? Does matter determine mind?
These are important, non-trivial questions, and they’ve occupied philosophers for millennia – and now, neuroscientists. Increasingly, their research is suggesting that the account of dependent origination (particularly, related to the moment of “contact”) given by the Buddha long ago is profoundly insightful: based on preceding conditions, mind and matter co-arise, co-causing each other, distinct but intertwined domains, empty of independent self-nature, …
Jan 16, 2014
Choose to love.
Many years ago, I was in a significant relationship in which the other person started doing things that surprised and hurt me. I’ll preserve the privacy here so I won’t be concrete, but it was pretty intense. After going through the first wave of reactions – Wha?! How could you? Are you kidding me?! – I settled down a bit. I had a choice.
This relationship was important to me, and I could see that a lot of what was going through the mind over there was really about the other person and not about me. I began to realize …
Dec 06, 2013
We’re pulled and prodded by financial pressures, commuter traffic, corporate policies, technology, advertising, politics, and the people we work with and live with. Also, internal forces yank the proverbial chains, including emotional reactions, compelling desires, “shoulds,” and internalized “voices” from parents and other authority figures.
Sometimes these pressures are necessary, like a flashing light on your car’s dashboard telling you to get gas. Even a broken clock is right two times a day.
But on the whole these pressures are stressful and breed a sense of helplessness. Plus, a lot of the internal forces come from childhood, irrational fears, unfair self-criticism, ancient tendencies in the brain (e.g., its negativity bias), or the darker …
Nov 27, 2013
By “sobriety,” I mean healthy self-control, a centered enjoyment of life, and an inner freedom from drivenness. We typically apply this sense of balance and self-care to things like food, drugs and alcohol, sexuality, money, and risky behaviors. And if you like, you could bring sobriety to other things as well, such as to righteousness, contentiousness, over-working, or controlling others.
At bottom, sobriety is the opposite of craving, broadly defined: you’re not going to war with what’s unpleasant, chasing after what’s pleasant, or clinging to what’s heartfelt.
Personally, I think of sobriety in terms of the big picture, and in the context of a life well-lived. Pigging out over a luscious meal with friends once a month is one thing, but over-eating …
Nov 04, 2013
When you try to change your life for better, sometimes you bump into a block, such as distracting thoughts. Blocks are common. They’re not bad or wrong—but they do get in the way. What works is to explore them with self-acceptance, and see what you can learn about yourself. One valuable aspect of taking in the good is that it often reveals other issues, such as an underlying reluctance to let yourself feel good. Then you can address these issues with the suggestions below. With practice and time, blocks usually fade away.
Blocks to Any Inner Practice
• Distractibility—Focus on the stimulating aspects of positive experiences, which will keep your attention engaged with them.
• Just not in touch with your body …