Mar 26, 2014
Of course, the first question regarding intention is, for what?
All the great wisdom traditions of the world, and all the great moral philosophers, have grappled with this question. What should we want?
There are many ways to approach this question. Some try to answer it in terms of discerning the will or desires of their sense of a Divine influence, of God. Others through resort to certain ideals or abstractions. And others through reliance on some kind of authority, such as a priestly class or a scripture.
In the case of the Buddha – and also some moral philosophers – he approached this question pragmatically, in terms of what leads to more or …
Mar 25, 2014
In my early 20′s, I went through Rolfing, a form of deep-tissue bodywork, and I nervously anticipated the 5th session, the one that goes deep into the belly. But instead of gobs of repressed emotional pain, what poured out was love – waves and waves of love that I’d pushed down due to embarrassment, fears of closeness, and my struggles with my mother.
It felt fantastic to let love flow freely. Compassion, empathy, kindness, liking, affection, cooperation, and altruism are all in our nature, woven into the fabric of human DNA, the most social – and most loving – species on the planet. Love is a natural upwelling current inside us all. It …
Mar 20, 2014
A ”buddha brain” is one that knows how to be deeply happy, loving, and wise. We develop ourselves in this way by cultivating wholesome qualities and uprooting unwholesome ones. In a sense, we plant flowers and pull weeds in the garden of the mind – which means that we are gradually changing the brain for the better.
Gratitude is a powerful tool in this “garden” since what you rest your attention upon is what will shape your brain the most. That’s because “neurons that fire together, wire together.” Gratitude shifts your attention away from resentment, regret, and guilt – and therefore stops you from building up the neural substrates of these …
Mar 17, 2014
Our intentions arise in the brain, are represented in the brain, and are pursued in the brain. Where else?
Therefore, a basic understanding of how intentions work in the brain – and thus in your mind – is a very useful thing to have.
The Executive Functions
The brain is like a committee, with many parts or “members” working together – or at cross purposes! – and the frontal lobes are like the chair of that committee. Or, to use a different metaphor, if the psyche altogether is a vast land, with a capital and many provinces, the frontal lobes are like the city manager of the capital.
But of course that does not mean …
Mar 16, 2014
Visit Part I of this blog post here.
- Concentration has two central factors: applying attention to an object and sustaining it there, like an ice skater plants her foot (applying) and then glides along (sustaining).
- When you practice formal concentration, keep returning attention to the object (e.g., breath, sensation, emotion, memory of your mother), fully aware of it, absorbed in it. If other thoughts, concerns, plans, etc. bubble up, let them arise but don’t follow them, and keep giving your full attention to the object.
- When doing concentration, don’t be tense or hard on yourself, but serious and intent, like a cat watching at a mousehole. Set a bit of your attention to watching
Mar 15, 2014
Keys to Awareness
- Feel that your own well-being and functioning matters. Get on your own side; be for yourself. Question: How many people does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: Only one. But the light bulb has to want to change.
- Cultivate wanting to be in reality, to know the facts of the inner and outer worlds. Know and trust that your greatest safety and hope is in seeing what’s true, no matter what it is. Whenever you move into awareness/observation mode, you instantly distance yourself from things (inside or outside yourself) that are painful, and center yourself in a place that is inherently calmer and wiser than just reacting. And the
Mar 14, 2014
These statements about reality, about the way things really are, are central to Buddhism, and you can test them for yourself:
- Everything happens because of preceding causes. Everything, both inside our minds and outside in the world.
- Those causes lead to results that are either beneficial or harmful, for ourselves and others.
- Causes originate within yourself and outside yourself.
- The primary source of the causes that originate inside you are your own intentions. As one teacher put it, “Everything rests on the tip of motivation.”
- Some of our intentions are very deliberate and conscious, while others are shadowy or altogether hidden. Multiple intentions dance, join with, and oppose each other in the mind, some have more
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 …