Saturday, 30 June 2012

#144 Wound of the heart - part 2

     "Sometimes the wounding or separation from love happens in more subtle ways. Some parents seem loving enough, yet they covertly or unconsciously dispense their love in controlling or manipulative ways. Or they may not be attuned to the child as someone different from them, a separate being in his or her own right. Such children may feel loved for certain attributes – but not for who they really are. In their need to please their parents and fit in, they come to regard love as something outside of themselves, which they have to earn by living up to certain standards.

         Children naturally try to protect themselves from the pain of inadequate love as best they can. They learn to separate and distance themselves from what causes them pain by contracting and shutting down. The technical term for this is dissociation.
          Dissociation is our mind’s way of saying no to and turning away from our pain, our sensitivity, our need for love, our grief and anger about not getting enough of it, and from our body as well, where these feelings reside. This is one of the most basic and effective of all the defensive strategies in the child’s repertoire.  Yet it also has a major downside: It constricts or shuts off access to two main areas of our body: the vital center in the belly – the source of desire energy, eros, vital power, and instinctual knowing – and the heart center – where we respond to love and feel things most deeply. In saying no to the pain of unlove, we block the pathways through which love flows in the body and thus deprive ourselves of the very nutrient that would allow our whole life to flourish. And so we wind up severing our connection to life itself."

     Welwood J. Perfect love, imperfect relationships. Healing the wound of the heart. Trumpeter, Boston, 2006.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

#143 Wound of the heart - part 1

         "If we take an honest look within, we may notice a certain guardedness around our heart. For some people, this is a thick, impenetrable barricade. For others, it is a thinner, subtler protective shield or contraction that only emerges under threatening conditions. And nothing triggers this sense of threat so strongly as the suspicionthat we are not truly loved or accepted as we are. Numbing or shutting down the heart is an attempt to deflect pain of that.
         Not knowing that we can be loved for who we are prevents us from trusting in love itself, and this in turn causes us to turn away from life and doubt its benevolence. We may tell ourselves that love is not really available. But the deeper truth is that we don’t entirely trust it, and therefore have a hard time fully opening to it or letting it all the way into us. This disconnection from love most often grows out of not feeling fully embraced or accepted in our family or origin – whether through neglect, lack of attunement, or outright abuse. Not feeling securely held in the arms of love, we fall into the grip of fear. Inadequate love and nurturance directly impact the child’s sensitive nervous system, resulting in a certain degree of shock or trauma that will affect us for the rest of our life."

     Welwood J. Perfect love, imperfect relationships. Healing the wound of the heart. Trumpeter, Boston, 2006.

Photo: Nitin Gera

Saturday, 16 June 2012

#142 Substitute gratifications

         "While women generally recognize the central place of love in everything, men are more often more reluctant to acknowledge this. ‘Please don’t reduce everything to that,’ I can hear many male readers groaning. ‘I have more important business to attend to than feeling loved.’ But think about it: The author who writes a best-seller, the politician who wins an election, the businessman who gains a promotion or an important contract – all feel good about themselves because a little love has flowed their way, in the form of recognition, praise, or appreciation. Even the trader who reaps a stock market windfall feels that the gods are smiling on him.
           At bottom, most of the things we strive for – security, success, wealth, status, power, recognition, validation, praise – are ways of trying to fill a gaping hole within us, a hole formed out of our separation from love. As ways of trying to win love indirectly, these substitute gratifications do not truly nourish us, because they do not deliver the real thing. In that sense, they are like junk food. Their failure to truly nourish only intensifies our inner hunger, driving us to run all the harder on the hamster wheel of success, desperately hoping to win some reward that will truly satisfy.
         Yet if love is so central to who we are, why do we often feel so separated from it? All the great spiritual traditions have addressed the question of why people treat each other so badly and the world is such a mess. They have provided various explanations for this, such as ignorance, bad karma, original sin, egocentricity, or the failure to recognize love as our very nature. Yet what is the root cause of these afflictions?"

     Welwood J. Perfect love, imperfect relationships. Healing the wound of the heart. Trumpeter, Boston, 2006.

Photo: Greg Burke

Sunday, 10 June 2012

#141 The Ultimate Reminder to Prioritize

     As I get older, the frequency with which loved ones, friends and acquaintances die is accelerating. The ones that die suddenly, unexpectedly, really grab my attention. Death is very real, and as they say, "nobody gets out of this one alive".
     So much of what we spend our rare and precious life on is meaningless distraction and compulsive nonsense. See also:

     The force of our habits ("momentum of our lives") is so strong, that death has to be close at hand to inspire us to live consciously, on purpose, with meaning.
     Aging, sickness and death are natural, normal, and universal. It surely comes to all of our loved ones and ourselves. In mindfulness practice we train to be aware and compassionate, to seize the precious opportunity to minimize suffering and maximize happiness for all living creatures, for every one of us bears this heavy load.


Photo: David Kilabuk

Friday, 8 June 2012

#140 Love!

     “I would define love very simply: as a potent blend of openness and warmth, which allows us to make real contact, to take delight in and appreciate, and to be at one withourselves, others, and life itself. Openness – the heart’s pure, unconditional yes – is love’s essence. And warmth is love’s basic expression, arising as a natural extension of this yes – the desire to reach out and touch, connect with, and nourish what we love. If love’s openness is like the clear, cloudless sky, its warmth is like the sunlight streaming through the sky, emitting a rainbowlike spectrum of colors: passion, joy, contact, communication, kindness, caring, understanding, service, dedication, and devotion, to name just a few.
     According to the saints and mystics, love is the very fabric of what we are; we are fashioned out of its warmth and openness. We don’t have to be great sages to recognize this. All we need to do is take an honest look at what makes our life worthwhile. When the presence of love is alive and moving in us, there is no doubt that our life is on target and meaningful, regardless of our outer circumstances. We feel that we’re in touch, connected with something larger than our small self. This lifts the burden of isolation and alienation off our shoulders, filling us with peace and well-being. But when the presence of love is absent, something often feels sad, not quite right; something seems to be missing, and it’s hard to find much joy, even in the midst of favorable circumstances. We easily fall prey to meaninglessness, anxiety, or despair.
     These simple truths are also upheld by neuroscience research, which confirms that our connections with others affect the healthy development and functioning of the brain, the endocrine and immune systems, and our emotional balance. In short, love is the central force that holds our whole life together and allows it to function.
     Welwood J. Perfect love, imperfect relationships. Healing the wound of the heart. Trumpeter, Boston, 2006.

     See also:

Photo: Dana Reed

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

#139 Anomie vs Morals

     “freedom and wealth almost inevitably foster anomie, the dangerous state where norms are unclear and people feel that they can do whatever they want.

     Moral systems are interlocking sets of values, practices, institutions, and evolved psychological mechanisms that work together to suppress or regulate selfishness and make social life possible.”

Jonathan Haidt PhD

      Mindfulness has no dogmas nor commandments. Mindfulness is about exploring reality and how to relate to it in a harmonious manner ie minimizing suffering and maximizing deep long-term happiness for ourselves and others. As such, Mindfulness requires one to be in harmony with existence ie to live a moral life.
     For example, if one earns a living by defrauding others, s/he should not expect to be able to achieve peace and equanimity through Mindfulness practices. Why not? Simply because reality doesn't work that way. See also:

Photo: Ko Cheng

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

#138 Intuitive primacy vs Mindfulness

     The first of Jonathan Haidt's four principles of moral psychology is "intuitive primacy but not dictatorship ... the idea that the mind is driven by constant flashes of affect in response to everything we see and hear.
     Our brains, like other animal brains, are constantly trying to fine tune and speed up the central decision of all action: approach or avoid. You can't understand the river of fMRI studies on neuroeconomics and decision making without embracing this principle. We have affectively-valenced intuitive reactions to almost everything, particularly to morally relevant stimuli such as gossip or the evening news. Reasoning by its very nature is slow, playing out in seconds.
     Studies of everyday reasoning show that we usually use reason to search for evidence to support our initial judgment, which was made in milliseconds. But ... sometimes we can use controlled processes such as reasoning to override our initial intuitions. I just think this happens rarely, maybe in one or two percent of the hundreds of judgments we make each week."
       above from Jonathan Haidt's excellent online article:

    An important aspect of Mindfulness training is progressively increasing the above dismally low percentage, in all situations, and thus behaving increasingly more consistently as mature fully-evolved human beings.

Photo: Rithwik Virunnukandi

Friday, 1 June 2012

#137 Egotism, Self-transcendence & Wisdom - "Get over yourself" - please!

     Wisdom can be defined as “a developmental process involving self-transcendence. Self-transcendence refers to the ability to move beyond self-centered consciousness, and to see things as they are with clear awareness of human nature and human problems, and with a considerable measure of freedom from biological and social conditioning. This ability to move beyond a self-centered perspective is certainly an important component of wisdom. Consistent with this idea, … transcending the self is needed to move beyond ingrained, automatic ways of thinking, feeling, and acting, and to connect empathetically with the experiences of others.”
     “Contemporary Western literature has revived (the centrality of self-transcendence to wisdom) through discussion of moral development as in Kohlberg’s seventh stage in which the individual begins to question the meaningfulness of existence as a rational being and the limits of formal operational thought to obtain the answer. This stage ... requires a transcendental experience and perspective. Likewise, the ability to see through illusion, through awareness of one’s own cognitive biases, has been advanced as a cornerstone in the development of wisdom. … overcoming cognitive limitations is not exclusively the province of childhood but involves a lifelong process of overcoming limited conceptions and understandings. … the process of seeing through illusion ultimately leads to recognizing the familiar self as illusory, consistent with the teachings of contemplative systems such as Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta.”
     Le TN, Levenson MR. Wisdom as self-transcendence: What's love (& individualism) got to do with it? Journal of Research in Personality 2005; 39(4): 443-457.

     “Egotism is in. For the past few decades, it has been okay to ‘look out for Number 1,’ with the assumption that ‘Number 1’ refers to an individualistic notion of the person – and then mostly in the immediate moment, without regard for the individual’s own long-term interests. Advertising and marketing campaigns feed our cultural obsession with egoistic pursuits, and political and economic forces help make many self-indulgent behaviors and expectations a perceived necessity. The burgeoning business of self-help books in pop psychology has contributed to the cultural endorsement of excessive self-interest, selling advice on how to be, or get, anything one wants.
     What is wrong with that? To start, excessive self-interest is not entirely in the interest of the self … the problems of egotism include not only social disharmony but also diminished personal well-being, health, productivity, and self-esteem.” 
     Wayment HA, Bauer JJ eds. “Transcending Self-Interest: Psychological Explorations of the Quiet Ego.” American Psychological Association, Washington DC, 2008.

Photo: Geza Radics