Looking for the silver lining of our dysfunction

October 23, 2012
“A mess in process”
One of the indisputable realities about being human is that we all have weaknesses. No one escapes this.

Some of us are able to acknowledge these less attractive aspects without being unduly fazed. Others tend to cultivate strategies to help hide the cracks. Yet others convince themselves that their weaknesses are inherent aberrations, with this view then becoming a rationale for indulging in aberrant behaviour. It is the last of these views that I tend to work with in addiction.

Some of us convince ourselves that we are such a waste of space that really, we should commit ourselves to a life of substance-induced mayhem or simply rid the rest of … Read more »

Business Insight: To lead, don’t be afraid to pause

October 15, 2012

Dawn House, The Salt Lake Tribune: Kevin Cashman, a business coach and author of “The Pause Principle: Step Back to Lead Forward,” says economic and personal crashes can be tied to addiction for constant action.

Why is it important to step back?

In our 24/7 globally connected culture with a deluge of information and so much coming at us at once, the loss of pause potential is epidemic.

If leaders do not step back to stop momentum, gain perspective, to transcend the immediacies of life and to accelerate their leadership, we will continue to crash economically, personally and collectively.

Pause is the antidote to …

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How to kill a thought (in a good way): more on mindfulness

June 26, 2012

A friend recently said to me, “I often feel like my thoughts are hammers, and they keep on hammering down on this thing known as my brain.” This is a pretty apt description of how a lot of people feel every day; I’ve certainly experienced it.

I’ve written, here and there, about how the brain copes and how to dial down the background level of stress. But an even more fundamental question is how to deal with the negative, or otherwise undesirable, thoughts we have, on a moment-to-moment basis.

In other words, when just you and your brain are alone together, how do …

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Give your head a rest from thinking

May 22, 2012

“Rest your weary head.” The traditional saying that’s this week’s practice has been sinking in for me lately. Thoughts have been swirling around like a sandstorm about work, things I’ve been reading, household tasks, finances, concerns about people, a yard that needs mowing, loose ends, projects, etc. etc. The other day I told my wife: “I’m thinking about too many things.” Know the feeling?

By “head” I mean the cognitive aspects of experience such as planning, analyzing, obsessing, considering, worrying, making little speeches inside, going back over situations or conversations, and trying to figure things out. “Weary” means being fatigued due to continued exertion or endurance, sometimes also with a sense of being dismayed, even … Read more »

Tips for Type A’s who can’t meditate

April 23, 2012

Adriana Barton: Meditation can change the brain from a mass of neurons twitching with anxiety to grey matter humming on a Zen wavelength. And you needn’t be a Buddhist monk to benefit.

Neuroscientists have discovered that after just eight weeks, non-meditators who start a mindfulness practice show decreased brain activity in the amygdala – the brain region that controls anxiety – and increased grey matter in regions involved in perspective-taking and regulating emotions.

Too bad the idea of meditation stresses people out.

People think they have to sit in a formal cross-legged pose and “get rid of their thoughts,” says Dee Willock, the …

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Making Wise Decisions

September 6, 2011

Decisions shape our lives, but psychologists say we are remarkably bad at making them. That’s true of strategic decisions, tactical decisions and decisions made in the heat of the moment. Typically, we are poor at assessing risk, understanding probabilities and anticipating consequences. We overestimate our capacity to make good decisions and underestimate the true influence of emotion, bias and assumptions in what we do.

We need to learn for ourselves how to make good decisions and that’s where the Buddha comes in. His teachings won’t help with the specifics, but they offer insights into the process of how to make a wise decision. And the starting point is clearing our minds of the approaches that … Read more »

Study: Buddhist meditation promotes rational thinking

August 11, 2011

Michael Haederle: It’s no secret that humans are not entirely rational when it comes to weighing rewards. For example, we might be perfectly happy with how much money we’re making — until we find out how much more the guy in the next cubicle is being paid.

But a new study suggests that people who regularly practice Buddhist meditation actually process these common social situations differently — and the researchers have the brain scans to prove it.

Ulrich Kirk and collaborators at Baylor Medical College in Houston had 40 control subjects and 26 longtime meditators participate in a well-known experiment called the Ultimatum Game. It goes like this…

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How to stop your mind from wandering

July 24, 2011

The mind is made to wander – just take a few minutes to sit quietly and watch the mind flit around like a butterfly going from flower to flower.

With all that thinking, worrying, justifying, wondering, story telling, imagining, assuming, compulsive activity – it is a wonder we actually get anything done in a mindful way. But there is hope.  There is a way to stop your mind from wandering.

Meditation and mindfulness are two buzz words that nearly everyone is familiar with. In a world where multitasking is considered a positive trait necessary for working, it is fascinating that there is so much interest in meditation and mindfulness – which are the opposites of … Read more »

“Thought is gazing onto the face of life, and reading what can be read.”

December 29, 2010

buddha faceAt the climax of the 2001 movie Vanilla Sky, Tom Cruise’s character, playboy David Aames, comes to realize that he’s been in suspended animation for 150 years and is trapped in a dream. He makes this discovery on top of an improbably tall building, apparently miles high, with the guidance of Edmund Ventura, a “Support Technician” who is trying to guide him back to waking reality.

Before he entered suspended animation, David had made the decision to awaken from this dream by facing his fear of heights. In order to wake up, he must now leap from the top of the building. Also on the rooftop is someone who has been a father figure … Read more »

Meditation: Catch and release

June 7, 2010

fish tailAn accidental purchase presented Ponlop Rinpoche with a valuable teaching.

I once bought a shirt at the airport because I had been traveling a long time and was in need of a change. I found one in a nice deep blue color and put it on without looking closely at it. Then, when I was sitting on the airplane, I saw it had a fish on it along with a caption down the sleeve: "Catch and release." I felt very good about that. It was like a message from the universe — somehow, I was wearing instructions for working with the mind in meditation. That was my teaching for that trip.

You can use that … Read more »