I am what you might call a slow learner. I managed to make it all the way through high school, despite an eating disorder I couldn’t pray away, and all the way through college, despite a suicidal depression triggered by the same eating disorder, and almost all the way through grad school …
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In “Distant View of a Minaret,” the late and much-neglected Egyptian writer Alifa Rifaat begins her short story with a woman so unmoved by sex with her husband that as he focuses solely on his pleasure, she notices a spider web she must sweep off the ceiling and has time …
Thinking about death can actually be a good thing. An awareness of mortality can improve physical health and help us re-prioritize our goals and values, according to a new analysis of recent scientific studies. Even non-conscious thinking about death – say walking by a cemetery – could prompt positive changes …
On March 18, Pastor John Hagee’s Christians United For Israel, an organization founded in 2006 with the goal of “realizing the political potential of tens of millions of evangelical Americans who support Israel,” announced the registration of its millionth member. CUFI, which has as much influence with the Republican-controlled Congress as does …
ODE MAGAZINE, September 15, 2011,
I’m lying in a bed that’s as hard as nails with a series of strings along the sides and two gongs above my head. It’s known as a gong bath, and Gwen de Jong, a practitioner of sound healing at Spirit Connection in Amsterdam, assures me it can help clear my mind. “Just give in to it, and don’t try to analyze it,” she says before we begin.
Then she asks, “What do you hope to achieve?” When I say I want to relax, De Jong puts a mask on my eyes and begins to play. While I enjoy the sounds at first, they soon become unpleasant. The increasingly intense vibrations feel like screeches; my head fills with dark thoughts. I’m this close to ending the session, but I struggle to give in to it. When the vibrations soften, I feel better. A few times, I even reach a mindless state—if only for a fraction of a second.
Afterward—my session lasted 20 minutes; they usually last an hour—Spirit Connection’s founder, Harry van Dalen, comes in and explains that the unpleasant sensation I felt is the internal battle between thoughts and the “I.” “Your ego is resisting. Some people can give themselves over right away; others take longer.” Internal battle or no, I feel remarkably relaxed afterward. Though I usually turn on my iPod after an interview, I decide this time to travel home in silence.
Most people are probably unaware that the body consists of vibrations. External sounds resonate with the sounds in our bodies; think of the sensation you feel near a speaker at a concert. It’s not so crazy, then, to imagine that external sounds might also have a therapeutic, healing effect. Anyone who listens to birds singing knows sound can relax us. But it can also heal, accomplishing everything from reducing stress to helping autistic children.
ODE MAGAZINE, August 31, 2011
Research shows that a compassionate attitude towards others improves mental and physical health.
The Dalai Lama has been telling us for years that it would make us happy, but he never said it would make us healthy, too.
“If you want others to be happy,” reads the first part of his famous formula, “practice compassion.” Then comes the second part of the prescription: “If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
Maybe the Dalai Lama knew all along or maybe he’s just finding out like the rest of us, but science is starting to catch up with a couple millennia of Buddhist thought. In recent years, the investigation of compassion has moved beyond theology and philosophy to embrace a wide range of scientific fields, including neurology, endocrinology and immunology. And while the benefits of being the recipient of compassion are obvious, new research shows that the practice of compassion has beneficial effects not only on mental health but on physical health, too.
Which is good news for everyone on the planet, as you can never have too much compassion. Job layoffs and home foreclosures, the cultural erasure of Tibet and the abscess that is Gaza, the sorrows of disease, natural disasters and death that are always with us: To create a short list makes one guilty of omission. Despite all the progress and advances we have made, there is still plenty about which to feel compassion.
Times of India | Dec 11, 2011
Researchers from the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University tested children on their ability to read and to recognize words.
This was compared to the extent of their auditory working memory (remembering a sequence of numbers and then being able to quote them in reverse), and musical aptitude (both melody and rhythm).
The electrical activity within the children’s brains was also measured as auditory brainstem responses to rhythmic, or random, sounds based on speech.
Psychotherapy Networker Magazine, December 2011
Twenty-five years ago, when our small group of Boston therapists began meeting to discuss how we might apply ancient Buddhist meditation practices in our work, we didn’t often mention it to our colleagues. Most of us had trained or were working in Harvard Medical School facilities, and the atmosphere there was heavily psychoanalytic. None of us wanted our supervisors or clinical teammates to think of us as having unresolved infantile longings to return to a state of oceanic oneness —Sigmund Freud’s view of the meditation enterprise.
At that time, Buddhist meditation was becoming more popular in America, and intensive meditative retreat centers were multiplying. The new centers often were staffed by Western teachers, many of whom had first encountered meditation in the Peace Corps and later trained in monastic settings in the East. Some of our group had studied in Asia; others had been trained by these newly minted Western teachers. Regardless of our backgrounds, what we shared was that we’d all experienced how radically meditation practices could transform the mind.
Therapists of the day typically viewed meditation as either a fading hippie pursuit or a useful means of relaxation, but of little additional value. Meditation teachers had their own biases toward psychotherapy, typically regarding it as a “lesser practice,” which might prepare someone for meditation but couldn’t really liberate the mind. So those of us who were involved in both domains, and viewed them as complementary, largely kept to ourselves.
Posted on Dec 5, 2011
By Chris Hedges
Chris Hedges gave an abbreviated version of this talk Saturday morning in Liberty Square in New York City as part of an appeal to Trinity Church to turn over to the Occupy Wall Street movement an empty lot, known as Duarte Square, that the church owns at Canal Street and 6th Avenue. Occupy Wall Street protesters, following the call, began a hunger strike at the gates of the church-owned property. Three of the demonstrators were arrested Sunday on charges of trespassing, and three others took their places.
The Occupy movement is the force that will revitalize traditional Christianity in the United States or signal its moral, social and political irrelevance. The mainstream church, battered by declining numbers and a failure to defiantly condemn the crimes and cruelty of the corporate state, as well as a refusal to vigorously attack the charlatans of the Christian right, whose misuse of the Gospel to champion unfettered capitalism, bigotry and imperialism is heretical, has become a marginal force in the life of most Americans, especially the young. Outside the doors of churches, many of which have trouble filling a quarter of the pews on Sundays, struggles a movement, driven largely by young men and women, which has as its unofficial credo the Beatitudes:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall possess the earth.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons and daughters of God.
Blessed are they who suffer persecution for justice sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Public release date: 30-Nov-2011
Jerusalem, Nov. 30, 2011 – What distinguishes information processing with conscious awareness from processing occurring without awareness? And, is there any role for conscious awareness in information processing, or is it just a byproduct, like the steam from the chimney of a train engine, which is significant, but has no functional role?
These questions – which have long puzzled psychologists, philosophers, and neurobiologists – were recently addressed in a study by Hebrew University of Jerusalem researchers and published by the journal Psychological Science.
The study was headed by Prof. Leon Deouell from the Hebrew University’s Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences (ELSC) and Department of Psychology and Prof. Dominique Lamy from the Department of Psychology at Tel Aviv University, and conducted by research student Liad Mudirk of Tel Aviv University with collaboration of research student Assaf Breska from the Hebrew University.
When the Martin Luther King Jr. monument was dedicated recently in Washington DC, I was reminded that the civil rights movement in America was led not by a politician fulfilling campaign promises, nor by a popular evangelist bent on saving souls, but by a highly trained theologian who put his religious teachings into practice with a demand for justice for those who had suffered at the hands of the rich and the powerful.
The Rev. King was a Baptist preacher who took his religion into the arena of racism, economics and social disparity. However, hatred caught up with him, and he was killed.
Now, nearly a half century later, there is another broad-based protest that is gaining momentum. The Occupy Wall Street protests echo some of King’s complaints about economic inequality and social injustice – and the message can no longer be ignored.
The significance of this latest public protest movement, erupting all over the country, may eventually rival the impact of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, yet when comparing the two movements, there is one glaring difference: priests, pastors and clergy of every stripe are rarely in the forefront of Occupy protests.
Instead, secular young people are doing the very work that Jesus from Nazareth would urge us to do. Just as Jesus condemned the injustices of his own day – and overturned the money-changing tables at the Temple – the Occupy protesters are challenging how Wall Street bankers and today’s rich and powerful are harming the masses of people.
by Staff Writers
New Delhi (UPI) Nov 21, 2011
The Dalai Lama said he doesn’t encourage self-immolation by monks and nuns protesting China’s control over Tibet and questions the usefulness of the acts as a protest tool.
In an exclusive interview with the BBC, the 76-year-old Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader denied accusations by Chinese authorities that he is actively encouraging Tibetans to set themselves on fire in public places.
He said “the question is how much effect” the self-immolations have on the Chinese authorities and their more than 50 years of rule in Tibet.
“There is courage — very strong courage” by the people who set themselves on fire. “But how much effect? Courage alone is no substitute. You must utilize your wisdom.”
He said many Tibetans of all walks of life have died for a more free Tibet and the Chinese authorities response is to clamp down harder on the population.
Meditation improves the immune system, reduces blood pressure and even sharpens the mind, according to research.
The Telegraph, UK, 01 Nov 2011
The practice – an essential part of Buddhist and Indian Yoga traditions – has entered the mainstream as people try to find ways to combat stress and improve their quality of life.
Now new research suggests that mindfulness meditation can have benefits for health and performance, including improved immune function, reduced blood pressure and enhanced cognitive function.
The study, published in the latest issue of the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science, draws on existing scientific literature to attempt to explain the positive effects.
The goal of this work, according to author Britta Hazel, of Justus Liebig University and Harvard Medical School, is to “unveil the conceptual and mechanistic complexity of mindfulness, providing the big picture by arranging many findings like the pieces of a mosaic.”
The Occupy movement is bringing deep moral questions that many religions confront to the forefront of national conversation. How faith groups are joining in.
by Adam DeRose
posted Nov 11, 2011
The Rev. Faith Ballenger wears her collar at Zuccotti Park in New York City. Amidst the banging of drums, chants for change, and urban noise, she talks with protesters about their politics, their economics, and especially about their spirits.
Ballenger is the interim pastor at Transfiguration Lutheran Church in Harlem. She knew right away she’d be spending time at Occupy Wall Street, which is, she says, a tense place to be—there is a heavy police presence and the occupiers are often very tired.
“ Clergy should be down there,” Ballenger says. “When people don’t go to church, you go to where the people are.”
Ballenger encourages religious communities to join the movement and spend time on Wall Street or in the financial districts in cities across the world. “Faith is an action word,” she says. “This is what faith in action looks like.”
By Mitchell J. Rabin
Yes…there was a big, beautiful planet called Earth. And running all around her, as well as swimming inside her, were all types of interestingly shaped, sized and colored beings, each making their own unique sounds, hums and noises while moving about in their own unique ways. SSome walked, others crawled, some swam and yet others slithered. Despite the fact that some ate others for their sustenance, they all had a way of finding time to frolic, pro-create, rest, and those who were on land, bask in the warmth and rays of the sun. And in a strange, somewhat abstract way, all were somehow, more or less, co-existing on this beautiful, blue-green planet.
At a certain point along the way of the multi-billion-year history of this marvel of an Earth, a green gem of the solar system, appeared a being known initially as Neanderthal, and who later, much later, came to be known as a chimpanzee, oh wait, excuse me, as homo sapiens. Yes, in one of his now considered ancient languages, this meant “rational, or wise man” with a brain volume of a minimum of 1,350 cubic centimeters. What we have learned from biology and history, it is apparently not size that most matters.
He was a playful if mischievous creature, and due to his larger brain than that of his neighbors in the animal kingdom, in different ways, began to lord over them. He lived in accordance with the beauty and abundance of this amazing and extraordinarily rich, beautiful planet during which period, he was considered, according to another of his ancient languages from the other side of the Earth, living in the Tao, that is, the flow of life.