Posts tagged ‘Buddhism’

April 30, 2011

Loving kindness meditation

A couple of good videos on loving kindness or ‘metta’ meditation.

April 24, 2011

Peter Lieberson, Composer Inspired by Buddhism, Dies at 64

Peter Lieberson, a searching, inventive American composer whose works were often inspired by his Tibetan Buddhist practice, died on Saturday morning in Tel Aviv, where he had gone for medical treatment. He was 64 and lived in Santa Fe, N.M.

Mr. Lieberson was an eloquent voice in the generation of composers seeking to infuse the thorny rigors of academic music with a more accessible, lyrical sound. Reviewing a 2008 concert of Mr. Lieberson’s works in The New York Times, Allan Kozinn praised his “cohesive, energetic and intensely communicative style, with brainy, atonal surfaces that attest to his post-tonal pedigree and a current of lyricism and drama that gives this music its warmth and passion.”

While at Columbia, he began to practice Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism, and in 1976, he moved to Boulder, Colo., to continue his studies with the Buddhist master Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. There, Mr. Lieberson met and married Ellen Kearney, another of Trungpa Rinpoche’s students; together, they moved to Boston to direct Shambhala Training, a meditation and cultural program. Mr. Lieberson received a Ph.D. from Brandeis University and taught composition at Harvard University from 1984 to 1988.

Mr. Lieberson served for several years as international director of Shambhala Training in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he and his family moved in 1988. After 1994, Mr. Lieberson devoted all his time to composition, but his Buddhist practice remained a central theme in his work. His first opera, “Ashoka’s Dream,” was based on the life of an emperor of India in the third century B.C. who renounced violence after converting to Buddhism.

Read more…

5/6 – Fukačová plays Lieberson – The Six Realms: The Human Realm

Tags: ,
April 23, 2011

Mindfulness – Right Focus


The Molly Lama

Every morning at about 9:00, I take our dog Molly out for a walk around the neighborhood. Molly is a German Shepard/Chow mix – a beautiful, feisty (at times a bit goofy looking) animal. I’ve gotten into the habit of practicing mindfulness on our walks and it sets the tone for the rest of my day.

This morning was sunny and mild – in the mid 50s, but windy. We’ve been having a windy spring here in Denver this year. Part of global climate change, I guess.

So Molly and I left the house a little after 9:00. As usual, she was anxious to explore the neighborhood. She ran down the walkway from our front porch and yanked me forward when she got to the end of her retractable leash.

“Hold on, Molly,” I told her. She looked down the street with a big smile on her face, tail wagging, as if to say, “Oh, boy! We’re going for a walk!” Dogs derive so much pleasure from the simple things in their lives. They live almost completely in the present, although I think she dreams of chasing rabbits when she sleeps.

As we started off on our walk around the neighborhood, I focused on my breath flowing in and out of my nostrils. It was windy and I observed the sensation of the cool air on my face and hands. The sun was beginning to heat the ground and occasionally a bit of warm air caressed the exposed parts of my body. So many things to be mindful of on this splendid morning in Denver.

The whistling from the steady breeze overpowered the traffic sounds from the busy street a few blocks away. Our neighborhood is a little oasis in Denver proper, with its two story houses and majestic, half-century old trees lining the streets. The sounds of traffic typically seem like an invader into our peaceful community, but on this day it was inaudible.

Molly suddenly started barking frantically as she lunged from the sidewalk into the street. I pressed my thumb down firmly on the leash brake to stop her progress, but she was already a good ten feet into the road. A German Shepard sat peacefully on the other side of the street – the object of Molly’s aggression. I backed up in a tug-of-war attempt to pull her out of the street with everything I had. At about 70 pounds of muscle, she’s a handful.

Just then I saw a van speeding down our side of the street directly towards Molly. I spun my body around, pulling on the leash. The van came within a foot of hitting Molly and continued down the street without slowing, seemingly oblivious.

“Damn it Molly!” I yelled, pulling her back to the sidewalk.

“Sorry about that,” came a voice from across the street. The owner of the well behaved German Shepard stood next to his dog, obviously concerned.

“That wasn’t your fault,” I replied, angry with myself for not being vigilant of my companion.

Molly is generally fairly well behaved, but she sometimes lets the Chow in her come out and can be a bit aggressive – never towards people, but often towards other animals. She likes to play by jumping on the other dog. That’s just her disposition. When the other dog responds in kind, the two have a good-ol’ time wrestling and play biting. Sometimes the other dog gets agitated, though, and they wind up fighting. She also goes after squirrels, rabbits, skunks (she’s gotten sprayed a few times), and I need to be mindful of her while we’re out on our walks. It’s not difficult to anticipate her moves. An attack is always preceded by an intense stare and a crouched stance, and generally, all that’s required is a firm “no” and my thumb on the leash brake to stop her from getting out of control. To do that, though, requires my mindfulness to be focused on her.

So this was a good lesson for me. While it’s important to be mindful, what’s also important is what we’re mindful of, especially when it involves the people and animals we love.

April 22, 2011

Meditation May Help the Brain ‘Turn Down the Volume’ on Distractions

ScienceDaily (Apr. 21, 2011) — The positive effects of mindfulness meditation on pain and working memory may result from an improved ability to regulate a crucial brain wave called the alpha rhythm. This rhythm is thought to “turn down the volume” on distracting information, which suggests that a key value of meditation may be helping the brain deal with an often-overstimulating world.

Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology report that modulation of the alpha rhythm in response to attention-directing cues was faster and significantly more enhanced among study participants who completed an eight-week mindfulness meditation program than in a control group. The report will appear in the journal Brain Research Bulletin and has been released online.

“Mindfulness meditation has been reported to enhance numerous mental abilities, including rapid memory recall,” says Catherine Kerr, PhD, of the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at MGH and the Osher Research Center at Harvard Medical School, co-lead author of the report. “Our discovery that mindfulness meditators more quickly adjusted the brain wave that screens out distraction could explain their superior ability to rapidly remember and incorporate new facts.”

Read more…

April 21, 2011

Mindfulness Meditation Changes Decision-Making Process

ScienceDaily (Apr. 21, 2011) — If a friend or relative won $100 and then offered you a few dollars, would you accept this windfall? The logical answer would seem to be, sure, why not? “But human decision making does not always appear rational,” said Read Montague, professor of physics at Virginia Tech and director of the Human Neuroimaging Laboratory at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute.

According to research conducted over the last three decades; only about one-fourth of us would say, “Sure. Thanks.” The rest would say, “But that’s not fair. You have lots. Why are you only giving me a few?” In fact, people will even turn down any reward rather than accept an ‘unfair’ share.

Unless they are Buddhist meditators, in which case — fair or not — more than half will take what is offered, according to new research by Ulrich Kirk, research assistant professor with the Human Neuroimaging Laboratory at Virginia Tech; Jonathan Downar, assistant professor with the Neuropsychiatry Clinic and the Centre for Addition and Mental Health at the University of Toronto; and Montague, published in the April 2011 issue of Frontiers in Decision Neuroscience.

Their research shows that Buddhist meditators use different areas of the brain than other people when confronted with unfair choices, enabling them to make decisions rationally rather than emotionally. The meditators had trained their brains to function differently and make better choices in certain situations.

The research “highlights the clinically and socially important possibility that sustained training in mindfulness meditation may impact distinct domains of human decision making,” the researchers write.

The research came about when Montague wondered whether some people are capable of ignoring the social consideration of fairness and can appreciate a reward based on its intrinsic qualities alone. “That is,” he said, “can they uncouple emotional reaction from their actual behavior?”

Read more…

April 20, 2011

Quote of the day

Meditation means learning how to get out of this current, sit by its bank and listen to it, learn from it, and then use its energies to guide us.” – Jon Kabat Zin

April 20, 2011

Buddhism In A Nutshell (free ebook)

Good introductory book on Buddhism from BuddhaNet.net

April 20, 2011

In the Rhelm of Hungry Ghosts – Close Encounters With Addiction (Gabor Maté)

In this new book, bestselling writer and physician Gabor Maté looks at the epidemic of addictions in our society, tells us why we are so prone to them and what is needed to liberate ourselves from their hold on our emotions and behaviours.

The mandala, the Buddhist Wheel of Life, revolves through six realms. Each realm is populated by characters representing aspects of human existence–our various ways of being. In the Beast Realm we are driven by basic survival instincts and appetites such as physical hunger and sexuality, what Freud called the Id. The denizens of the Hell Realm are trapped in states of unbearable rage and anxiety. In the God Realm we transcend our troubles and our egos through sensual, aesthetic or religious experience, but only temporarily and with an ignorance of spiritual truth. Even this enviable state is tinged with loss and suffering.

The inhabitants of the Hungry Ghost Realm are depicted as creatures with scrawny necks, small mouths, emaciated limbs and large, bloated, empty bellies. This is the domain of addiction where we constantly seek something outside ourselves to curb an insatiable yearning for relief or fulfillment. The aching emptiness is perpetual because the substances, objects or pursuits we hope will soothe it are not what we really need. We don’t know what we need and so long as we stay in the hungry ghost mode, we’ll never know. We haunt our lives without being fully present.

[…]

There are a host of questions to be considered. Among them:

• What are the causes of addictions?
• What is the nature of the addiction-prone personality?
• What happens physiologically in the brains of addicted people?
• How much choice does the addict really have?
• Why is the “War on Drugs” a failure and what might be a humane, evidence-based and approach to the treatment of severe drug addiction?
• What are the some of the paths for redeeming addicted minds not dependent on powerful substances-that is, how to approach the healing of the many behaviour addictions fostered by our culture?

The narrative passages are based on my experience as a medical doctor in Vancouver’s drug ghetto and on extensive interviews with my patients, more than I could cite. Many of them volunteered the hope that their life histories may be of assistance to others who struggle with addiction problems or that they will help enlighten society regarding the experience of addiction. I present information, reflections and insights distilled from many other sources, my addictive patterns among them. Also given here is a synthesis of what we can learn from the research literature on addiction and the development of the human brain and personality.

Read more…

April 20, 2011

Brain Development & Addiction – Talk by Gabor Maté

“Only in the presence of compassion will people allow themselves to see the truth.” – Gabor Maté

A recurring theme in [the books by Gabor Maté] is the impact of a person’s childhood on their mental and physical health through neurological and psychological mechanisms; which he connects with the need for social change. In the book In the Realm of the Hungry Ghosts, he proposes new approaches to treating addiction (e.g. safe injection sites) based on an understanding of the biological and socio-economic roots of addiction.

Dr. Maté describes the significant role of “early adversity” i.e. stress, mistreatment and particularly childhood abuse; in increasing susceptibility to addiction. This happens through the impairment of neurobiological development, impairing the brain circuitry involved in addiction, motivation and incentive.

He argues the “war on drugs” actually punishes people for having been abused and entrenches addiction more deeply as studies show that stress is the biggest driver of addictive relapse and behavior. He says a system that marginalizes, ostracizes and institutionalizes people in facilities with no care and easy access to drugs, only worsens the problem.

Gabor Maté also argues the environmental causes of addiction point to the need to improve child welfare policies (e.g. U.S. welfare laws that force many single women to find low-paying jobs far away from home and their children) and the need for better support for families overall, as most children in North America are now away from their parents from an early age due to economic conditions. As well as the need to change policies that disadvantage certain minority groups, causing them more stress and therefore increased risks for addictions.

Read more…

April 20, 2011

Free Mindfulness Magazine

This comes from the Shambhala Sun

Download