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Below are the 10 most recent journal entries recorded in the "michaeldee" journal:
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JUST A THOUGHT|
Joe Hazelwood and Tony Hayward
Joe Hazelwood was drunk when the Exxon Valdez ran aground. I wonder what Tony Hayward's excuse is?
I don't mean to be petty, but this is a serious problem. We have these leadership cadres who are morally and emotionally immature. In the financial sector, it really looks like they are driven by narcissistic anxieties. And, who is holding them accountable? (Nobody is asking, "And so, Mr. Hayward, you made a mistake. It seems to be a mistake in judgment on your part, so the queston is, how did it come about, and what personal revisions of your decison-making are you engaged in?" Duh! Congress just doesn't grasp the personal dimension of major catastrophic decisions.)
So, we have made these guys so powerful, that their personal emotional inadequacies can wreak massive destruction.
The irony is that now we know much more about personal emotional inadequacy than we did even twenty years ago. So, if we were to quiz the Tony Haywards and Loyd Blankfeins of the world very closely about their personal value pirorities we might get them to take the meditation cure. But NOOO! This culture is so completely terrified of introspection, there does not seem to be anybody capable of doing that.
In which case, we are in some trouble here.
No, really. Osama bin Laden and Loyd Blankfein have exactly the same delusion. They both are serenely convinced they are doing God's work.
And while we're at it, we might as well add the Pope and Hassan al Bashir to the list.
Of the four, Blankfein is probably the only one we could possibly imagine taking the cure: "Just SHUT UP for a minute and listen to yourself."
A Defect of Consciousness|
Goldman Sachs and the Taliban
The two most dangerous forms of consciousness on the planet today are Goldman Sachs and the Taliban.
In each case we have a defect of consciousness. A failure to appreciate the whole picture. Certain atavistic compulsions.
What if, in this day and age, we have the tools to alleviate a defect of consciousness?
Ah, that might be interesting.
But, we would have to look at consciousness, without blanking out completely.
We Westerners sometimes think of the goal of spiritual work as "enlightenment". But I like the term many Buddhists use for it, and that is simply "Sanity".
I think calling it Sanity makes it less exotic, more normal, more accessible, which it should be, since its primary quality is simply an awareness of how things actually are.
Trungpa makes this wry comment in The Myth of Freedom: " The play between hesitation and impulse is beautiful to look at. So delightful in itself is the approach of sanity."
The Paradox of Transitoriness.
The paradox is that the idea of transitoriness can be depressing, but the experience of transitoriness is inspiring.
This is a clue as to the fact that meditation is not thinking.
Thinking is an activity of the neo-cortex. "Experiencing" is an activity of the sub-cortex. Recent research on trauma has clarified this: "The most self-regulating of all systems are the lower brain structures that govern life in the body.”
So, the very essence of "spiritual work" is trauma treatment. When you are successful in neutralizing trama imprints, you become open to your ultimate self-hood. Your ultimate self-hood is transitory. Yes, Jesus rose from the dead, but the account reports that the disciples were in the upper room, "the doors being locked for fear of the Jews (John got anti-semitic in his old age), and Jesus came and stood in their midst." So, do you have a body like that? I don't think so. So, whatever was going on there, it was not this body, it was not life-as-usual.
Waking the Tiger|
By the way, probably the best, most convincing, introduction to "the felt sense" -- which is the key to fully clarifying meditation -- is not actually the work of Eugene Gendlin, but Waking the Tiger, by Peter A. Levine.
There is this really basic question about the best foundation for "spirituality". The organized Christianity I have observed uses what is essentially sedatives. Think : ritual (the Mass being a real biggie), chanting, hymns, sermons that hypnotize. These instruments make people just a little bit sleepy, so they are happy enough to function and do a lot of social work. But it does not lay a glove on the foundation of emotional pain -- which is why there is such a thing as religious violence.
But, meditation using the felt sense is a wake-up instrument. When you complete that regimen, you have dissolved the deepest foundations of emotional pain.
And Waking the Tiger, is a good introduction to all this.
My main personal practice is "inner body sensing". a process of turning inward and noticing what is going on in your body. I have found that it is a sort of revisionist version of Zen, Gurdjieff (via Charlie Tart), Focussing (Gendlin's work) and Hakomi.
I am not concerned with samadhi. I am pretty sure it is a delusional out-of-body state. So, I am also not interested in “higher centers”. If I can be existentially healthy, that is enough.
I look at the situation this way:
I am in fact transitory. I have no choice, no out, no appeal from that.
Getting transitoriness is the basis of existential health.
“Understanding” is not “getting”. Transitoriness is not a concept, it is a condition.
And it is ok. And if it is not, that doesn’t matter.
I sit. Things happen. I reflect.
That helps interpret what happens.
I sit some more.
I review the ways to take care of the scary stuff.
They mostly consist in going very slow, very very slow.
Then the moment comes from time to time when I realize that everything is just a flashing into the vast universe, and then I become very strong and my existence becomes very meaningful.
THE SCIENCE CONNECTION|
Emotions and the Body
My work with IBS is derived from several schools of clinical trauma treatment, such as Gendlin’s Focusing, Peter Levine’s Somatic Experiencing and Kurtz and Ogden’s Hakomi. One practitioner, who is working with tsunami survivors in India, makes this observation: “It doesn’t matter what the treatment is as long as people are paying attention to the body and working with the nervous system directly to help bring back self-regulation. And the most self-regulating of all systems are the lower brain structures that govern life in the body.” [Raja Selvam, Santa Barbara Graduate Institute]
This is the key observation. Recently science has discovered the role of the sub-cortex in gaining access to trauma imprints. This is a paradigm shift from older methods of therapy, in which verbal processes are presumed to be the only mode of such access.
There is a meditation you can do that will access trauma imprints.
It is called "inner body sensing".
Why would anyone want to do that?
The reason is that trauma imprints are what make you uncomfortable in your body.
Three symptoms of being uncomfortable in your body (there are others) are:
(a) sex is your deepest bodily experience;
(b) you love those out-of-body-experiences like channeling and communion with "manifesting masters"; and
(c) you like the philosophy of Jacques Derrida.
Alice Miller gives the overview of where trauma imprints come from: harsh child-rearing practices.
Animal ethology gives the theory of how trauma imprints work. They are mammalian programs of the body designed to free us from threat.
The core of the meditation is a zen-like stillness (actually, "zen" is the Japanese word for the Sanskrit word "dhyana", which simply means "attention") in which you access, not reality in general, not just "anything", but you narrow the focus of your attention to what is going on in your body.
You make yourself open to the sensory traces of trauma imprints.
It takes a little training to get good at this.
There is a cautionary note. You have to be very relaxed and go very slowly. If you are careless about accessing these sensory traces, you can trigger a re-enactment of the original event.
But if you are careful, you can allow the body to complete the escape response that was frustrated in the original trauma. This produces a significant whole-body relaxation, a much fuller access to all your native abilities.
Inner Body Sensing|
Trusting the Body
Inner body sensing starts with the basic learning process of becoming familiar with inner body sensations, and trusting them. In our culture we appear to have a generic mistrust of the body. Inner body sensations in general are unwelcome (since they so often, apparently, give us “bad news”). Eugene Gendlin calls this work Focusing, and he calls its instrument “the felt sense”. I found a wonderful description of the importance of generic trust of the body in a piece by the Focusing teacher Ann Wieser Cornell, “Three Key Aspects of Focusing”. I have liberally, but not substantially, modified Ms. Cornell’s presentation in order to make it fit the language of inner body sensing.
“The bottom line” here, as we are wont to say sometimes, is that if you want to do ibs with maximum ease and success, it is useful to precede that exercise by diagnostic and training exercises in generic trust of the body.
1. Emotions vs. ibs.
If you’re operating purely with emotions, then fear is fear. It’s just fear, no more. But if you’re operating on the felt sense level, you can sense that this fear, the one you’re feeling right now, is different from the fear you felt yesterday.
As you stay with today’s fear, you get the feeling that if you sit with it long enough, you might even find out the real reason that it is there. As you pay attention to a felt sense, you discover that it is intricate. It has more to it. We have a vocabulary of emotions that we feel over and over again, but every felt sense is different.
Imagine being on the phone with someone you love who is far away, and you really miss that person, and you just found out in this phone call that you’re not going to be seeing them soon. You get off the phone, and you feel a heaviness in your chest, perhaps around the heart area.
Or let’s say you’re sitting in a room full of people and each person is going to take a turn to speak, and as the turn comes closer and closer to you, you feel a tightness in your stomach, like a spring winding tighter and tighter.
Or let’s say you’re taking a walk on a beautiful fresh morning, just after a rain, and you come over a hill, and there in the air in front of you is a perfect rainbow, both sides touching the ground, and as you stand there and gaze at it you feel your chest welling up with an expansive, flowing, warm feeling. These are all felt senses.
2. Trusting inner sensation.
After you are aware of an inner body sensation, you bring to it a special quality of attention: “interested curiosity.” You are open to sensing what is there but not yet in words. This takes time – it is not instant. So you have to have a willingness to take that time, to wait, at the edge of not-yet-knowing what this is. Slowly, you sense more.
This can be a bit like coming into a darkened room and sitting, and as your eyes get used to the lower light, you sense more there than you had before. You could also have come into that room and then rushed away again, not caring to sense anything there. It is the caring to, the interest, the wanting to get to know it, that brings the further knowing.
There is not a trying to change anything. There is no doing something to anything. In this sense, this process is very accepting. We accept that this felt sense is here, just as it is, right now. We are interested in how it is. We want to know it, just as it is. There is also trust that this felt sense will change in its own way. The world of inner sensing is never static.
A woman is Focusing, let’s say, on a heavy feeling in her chest which she feels is connected with a relationship with a friend. The Focuser recently left her job, and she has just discovered that the friend is applying for the position. She has been telling herself that this is not important, but the feeling of something wrong has persisted. Now she sits down to Focus. She brings awareness into the throat-chest-stomach area of her body and she soon discovers this heavy feeling which has been around all week. She says hello to it. She describes it freshly: “heavy… also tight… especially in the stomach and chest.” Then she sits with it to get to know it better. She is interested and curious. Notice how this interested and curious is the opposite of the telling herself that this is not important which she had been doing before. She waits, with this engaged accepting attention. She can feel that this part of her is angry. …… In a minute she begins to sense that this part of her is also sad. “Sad” surprises her; she didn’t expect sad. If she stays with the felt sense, more discoveries will come. The Focusing process is a series of steps of change, in which each one brings fresh insight, and a fresh body relief, an aha!
3. A theory of change.
One theory is that to have something change, you must make it change. You must do something to it. We can call this the Doing/Fixing way. The other way, which we can call the Being/Allowing way, recognizes that change and flow are the natural course of our bodily process. When something seems not to change, what it needs is attention and awareness, with an attitude of allowing it to be as it is, yet open to its next steps.
Our everyday lives are deeply permeated with the Doing/Fixing assumption. Cognitive therapy methods, for example, ask you to decide to change. The Being/Allowing philosophy turns around cognition-based expectations. It grasps “the wisdom of the body”. The felt sense knows what it needs to become next, as surely as a baby knows it needs warmth and comfort and food. As surely as a radish seed knows it will grow into a radish. We never have to tell our body what to become; we never have to make it change. We just need to provide the conditions which allow it to change.
[Adapted from The Radical Acceptance of Everything: Living a Focusing Life by Ann Weiser Cornell Berkeley, CA: Calluna Press, 2005.]
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