Friday, December 29, 2006

Sunrise & Sunset Digital Alarm Clock for Seasonal Affective Disorder treatment

Discovery Sunrise & Sunset Digital Alarm Clock

Discovery Sunrise & Sunset Digital Alarm Clock

Sleep and wake to the setting and rising sun with this unique and exclusive backlit LCD clock. The perfect relaxation aid and wakeup alarm Large, backlit LCD display for easy early-morning viewing. Four soothing nature sounds including gentle bird songs or wake to a traditional alarm.

Sleep timer

Tap the sun for 10 minutes snooze.

Wake to the sights and sounds of nature from the comfort of your own bedroom.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Air flight and the opportunities to buy into fear, or not

At the moment I'm flying home from visiting my family for Christmass. While many travelers are being affected by the snow in Denver, my flight is being affected by a completely different thing. The airplane is coming from St. Louis, and the airline intends to use this plane to take us to San Francisco. But the plane has been delayed, twice, due to mechanical problems, twice, in leaving from St. Louis to come to us in Chicago. We were originally scheduled to leave Chicago at 8:30 PM but the delays have slipped our departure to 12:00 or later.

It is these mechanical problems which is making for the lesson I'm seeing at this moment.

Many of my fellow passengers are understandably worried. Some are asking This plane has had mechanical problems twice and you're planning to let us fly in it? Are you crazy? The gate agent has been patient and understanding, and explaining how the mechanics check the plane and only allow it to fly if they're confident it is safe.

The lesson is, who to believe, and whether to let fear run the show.

It's easy to let the fear take hold here. We know there's a pair of problems with this plane, why would we want to trust it? On the other hand do any of us know the safety history of any of the planes we've flown in? No. Maybe all the planes we've flown in have had minor mechanical problems, which the mechanics fixed. I, for one, have had zero problems with safe airplanes and that's with three (now) international flights under my belt.

Can one carefully listen to the evidence before them and trust? It is a life and death issue, trusting that the plane will safely get me to my destination. On the other hand driving on highways at highway speeds involves a lot of trust, trust that the others on the road want to drive safely, that they will pay attention to the traffic laws, they'll pay attention to the lane markers, etc. Life involves a lot of trust in others in every moment of every day.

And then in the final analysis perhaps the fear and worry doesn't matter. The gate agent just announced the plane we are to fly on just landed, and that in St. Louis they had changed planes and the one we are to fly on is not the one which had the mechanical problems.

This is so much like many things we can choose to worry about. Often we don't have complete information, the specifics haven't been told to us, etc. In the absence of real information the mind wants to supply the missing information. For example we might hear a neighbor crying repeatedly, screaming, sounding like they're in a lot of anguish. The mind might make up a story without knowing the truth that the neighbors wife is beating him, and that's why he's crying and screaming. But do we know that's the truth? Similarly in this case we did not know the plane had been replaced, we only knew there were delays due to mechanical problems. The mind perhaps thought the airline is a big business, cutting corners, running unsafe airplanes, and we're all going to die because they chose to fly us in an unsafe airplane. But that's not at all what was happening, and instead the airline had responsibly grounded the airplane and sent us a better one.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Another Reason Not To Drink Soft Drinks

Another Reason Not To Drink Soft Drinks is a story linking to a video clip detailing a finding by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that soft drinks generally are containing Benzene. Which just reminds me of a recent story from India where Coca Cola was banned due to containing some hazardous chemical. Anyway, in this case there are two chemicals that are commonly added, Sodium Benzoate and Ascorbic Acid which, when mixed together and left in the right conditions, will do a chemical reaction that makes Benzene. The problem is that Benzene is a carcinogen, and these soda's are containing Benzene levels well above the accepted maximum amount.

FDA REPORT: Data on Benzene in Soft Drinks and Other Beverages

The results are preliminary and warrant further study. One detail is that the standardized maximum for Benzene levels are specified for drinking water, and are based on drinking 2 liters per day over a long period of time. I wonder how many people drink 2 liters of soft drinks per day? And it isn't known how often soft drinks end up containing benzene.

Soda Causing CANCER?

Friday, December 22, 2006

The boy who lived before

The boy who lived before is a story about a young boy in Glasgow who vividly remembered his former life, and kept badgering his family retelling stories from his life on the island of Barra, one of the Scottish Isles. He had an amazingly detailed recollection of that former life, of the house he lived in, the name of the family, and on and on. Eventually his current family brought him to Barra and was able to confirm everything.

This is not an unknown phenomenon. The article discusses a researcher named Jim Tucker who is investigating this phenomenon. Ian Stevenson also studies this same phenomenon.

Ian Stevenson: Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation, Children Who Remember Previous Lives

Jim Tucker: Life Before Life: A Scientific Investigation of Children's Memories of Previous Lives

Thursday, December 21, 2006

What would you do if you didn't have a job telling you what to do?

This is the thought that came to mind as I drove to work this morning: What would you do if you didn't have a job telling you what to do?

Like most of us I have fallen into this pattern where the corporation I work for determines what I do in my life. Working in Silicon Valley means living here, even though it's so expensive to buy a house I've never been able to get past sticker shock. Working in the job I have means performing the set of activities the boss wants me to do. For both there is the threat of being fired if I don't do what they say.

I feel highly motivated to do work that would affect the process of global warming and/or the political awareness of the fiascos brought to us by the Bush Administration. But working for a living in a full time job leaves little free time. And neither of those topics help the corporation I work for and therefore my boss would not appreciate if I spent work hours on those activities.

Then as I stayed with the statement another version formed in my thinking. What actions would you take if you were not in reactive mode?

In other words, I'm probably not alone in this, but the pattern I follow includes looking at the world around me and reacting to what I see. My life taught me to ignore the ideas flickering (or burning) inside me, and instead my life taught me to look at what others say or do, and then make sure that my statements and actions are compatible with my perception of what other people are doing and saying. It's a very subtle thing to notice and requires careful self-observation of the kind that meditators develop.

This, however, is like looking at life through the wrong end of the telescope. Rather than choosing my own destiny I've been letting others determine it for me. I know that I'm not alone in this predicament.

In Light Emerging: The Journey of Personal Healing Barbara Brennan discusses this predicament as one of the five character structures taught in the Reichian-inspired psychological theory she teaches. The Masochist learns in childhood to do anything they can to please other people, because one gets love and attention by doing as others say. The Masochist has poor self boundaries, and generally does not know their own essence. The Masochist also learned to stop the flow of their life.

Clearly as Barbara recommends in her book, the human need is to learn to be free to feel and express the self, and the spiritual need is to recognize ones core essence and to live it. The specific path she recommends is to first recognize those who use the Masochist character structure may well have a very complicated set of ideas to bring out. That it may take quite a while, several years perhaps, of carefully recording ideas and thoughts and piecing it together over time. She suggests writing ideas in a journal and to take ones time, that it might be two years or more.

I have found that idea, to journal and reflect over a long time, very helpful for myself. However I recently have been developing a practice which also helps one gain familiarity with their core essence. Inner Homeopathy is a meditative practice that helps one experience their divine self in an authentic fashion. It is a simple practice of breathing and calling from inside yourself the divine presence within you.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Contemplative Prayer

Consider the phrase Be still, and know that I am God. It's a popular verse in the Bible. It is one of the instructional phrases in the Bible, and is the core of a form of prayer known as Contemplative Prayer.

A recent DVD, Be Still offers explanation and examples of what is Contemplative Prayer. The movie is done as a series of interviews with Christian authors, pastors and educators, explaining this.

One way they explain Contemplative Prayer is as the difference between listening to God, and talking to God. If, they suggest, you want to hear what God has to tell you, then stop talking and listen. Very simple, eh?

The movie is presented very much in the mold of Christianity. This concept of stilling the mind so you can listen to God, that transcends Christianity just as God actually transcends Christianity. God is a universal being, so why would God be limited to being expressed through one religion? But I digress.

Several times the speakers describe the Bible as the Word Of God. Therefore, they say, the Bible is a means for God to speak to us. One describes a practice of leafing through the Bible and letting your eye alight on specific passages, a practice I know as a form of divination.

An analogy the speakers use is Benjamin Franklin discovering electricity while flying a kite. Specifically, Benjamin Franklin represents the human ego, the kite represents Jesus (probably), the string represents our prayer, and the storm and electricity represents God. In other words their model is that God is outside us, that we have to reach elsewhere in order to connect to God, that God is far remote from us, and perhaps that we require an intecessor to channel God into us, that we cannot reach God on our own.

They do not give explicit instruction for Contemplative Prayer. They describe the process in general as to find a phrase in the Bible you wish to connect with, and then "lean into" the phrase.

One speaker described becoming quiet, and then listening to the voices talking. I wish to raise a little caution at this moment. If one simply stops and listens to the voices they hear in their consciousness, most of the time that is the ego mind chattering away about concerns of the ego mind. The ego is clearly not God, so if one simply follows the face value of what that speaker said one might be hearing their ego chatter and decide that chatter is God. In some cases that can result in disastrous consequences along the lines of the Son Of Sam murder spree where a fellow kept hearing this voice that told him to kill people.

However, one can first prepare their space to be receptive to hearing the thoughts of God. Rather than simply become quiet and listen, one first spends some time praying, praying to connect with the highest, to connect with and be God. As you practice divine connection then it will be easier for you to hear the voice of God as you stop and listen. Over time you may develop discernment over which voice is the ego, and which is the Divine voice.

One branch of modern Contemplative Prayer is the work of Father William Menninger who found the medieval text, The Cloud of Unknowing and Other Works, and from it developed a teaching he called Contemplative Prayer. The site includes discussion and tools related to this form of prayer.

Cloud of Unknowing @ Christian Classics Ethereal Library is an online copy of that book.

Websites related to: Centering Prayer, and Contemplative Prayer

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Deep compassionate forgiveness

Former Christian Peacemaker Teams Hostages Harmeet Singh Sooden and James Loney Remember Murdered Colleague Tom Fox and Explain Why They Forgive Their Captors is a Democracy Now interview and story which begins in November 2005, over a year ago. A team of Christian oriented peacemakers was kidnapped while they worked for peace in Iraq. They were held for 118 days, and one of the team members was killed by the kidnappers. A few days ago Authorities captured one or more of the people who kidnapped and held these people. The team members have, as a response to being asked to testify in an upcoming trial, called for unconditional forgiveness of their captors and forgiveness of all involved with the conflict with Iraq.

These people are giving us an interesting and very public demonstration of forgiveness in action. They were clearly "wronged" by the standards of any human. In the interview you can clearly hear their struggle between the desire for some kind of retribution, for the payment of the time during which their liberty was denied, and the depth of their spiritual stand.

Since September 11, 2001 this idea has returned to me over and over: Violence piled upon violence only begets more violence

The use of the word begets is purposeful, in that there is a biblical element to the struggle in the middle east. And as we think back over time we see how none of the retributions conducted for past aggressions managed to prevent future aggressions.

The principle of forgiveness is very well stated by the people in this interview. There is a futility in seeking retribution for some act of violence. Seeking retribution only continues the cycle of violence and it cannot erase the past act of violence. The moving finger having writ the deeds which occur now, move on and no act of Man can undo the truth of what happened in the past.

Consider ... something happens to you .. you seek "justice" and "retribution" .. you get to confront your attacker, smack them around a bit or worse .. and then, what? How do you feel afterwards? Have you managed to erase anything? Or have you instead stooped to the depths to which they sank in attacking you? What does attacking them say about you? Would they feel justified in attacking you again because you attacked them?

The continuing Israel and Palestinian war is a huge example of retribution gone awry. They are continually attacking one another over past grievances, and after nearly 60 years of conflict have not been able to resolve anything. An eye for an eye is quickly leaving them all very blind.

Instead forgiveness is a divine process of healing. You begin by realizing the extent of the harm done to you, and then you let go, you give up all thoughts of retribution or repayment.

It is a difficult path to follow. The human ego really wants retribution.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Re: How feminism destroyed real men

How feminism destroyed real men offers an interesting glimpse into male-female relations. Women don't like wimps is the writers claim. But I wonder if he's overgeneralizing.

In the 1990's it was popular for men to try and embrace their feminine side. As the author says, the idealized relationship was for the man to cry along with their partner while watching a chick flick and then cook up a decent dinner. But, he says, that merely created a generation of spineless and sexless men. Hmmm..?? Instead the "real man" is strong, powerful, decision-making, etc.

Some choice quotes: A true Amazon couldn't stand the company of a supplicant male, let alone marry one. Real alpha-women are the ones who can more than hold their own with an alpha-man...women love men who stand up to them, who won't be pushed around....women secretly long for a man with swagger, who is cocky and selfassured and has the cheek to stand up them and make fun of their feminine foibles...They long for the rakish charm of a man who knows there's a whole ocean of fish out there, who isn't afraid of being himself in case he is rejected....

What he's actually describing is power plays. In the Reichian-psychology inspired model I learned at the Barbara Brennan School of Healing, this was labeled Psychopathy. To explain what this means, BBSH teaches a form of studying human characteristics based on how they disconnect with their true essence. One who practices Psychopathy tends to dominate others, generally with mental domination.

This is the kind of person who demands the other acknowledge them as the boss, who prefers to dominate the people around them. They think that if they are in control, then everything will be okay. That you assure the best outcome by being in control. One thing the Psychopathy practitioner wants is to be met in equal power. They want their partner to meet them (metaphorically) on the field of battle and be tested strength-for-strength. Reading that article is a great example of Psychopathy in action.

But what he says is not the entire picture of human relationships.

For example there are men whose authentic expression is to be a pushover, there are men whose authentic expression is to talk and talk and talk and be very emotional, etc. In fact the human characteristics are shared by both men and women.

Psychologists understand that all of us have both feminine and masculine aspects to our personalities. These aspects come in different proportions for different people. It's not that females are only feminine and males are only masculine. We both have each. The yin-yang symbol demonstrates this very well, with having black and white swirling around each other, but in the center of black there is a spot of white, and in the center of white there is a spot of white.

I would agree with him that any person who buries their true self. If someone's true self (as they understand it) is more dominant, then perhaps that's how they should live.

But what of those who dominate for dominations sake? Who let domination of others run rampant over the feelings and boundaries of those around them? This is one of the ways that relationships are a training ground for us to find our true selves. The overzealous dominator is a challenge to all those around him or her, for those other people to find enough power from within themselves to at least meet the dominator in equal power.

At the same time it is very likely the overzealous dominator is overstepping their own true self. As I said earlier, BBSH teaches about several character patterns, Psychopathy is just one of the five of them. These character patterns are ways in which humans disconnect from their true self.

The real quest is to learn to live from your true self.

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Contemplative Science, bringing together scientific method with spiritual experientialism

Contemplative Science: Where Buddhism And Neuroscience Converge makes for an interesting line of thinking. In our modern times we think of Science and Religion as occupying two non-overlapping worlds of study. Science is to stay with its rigorous method of proof based on testable hypothesis, while Religion is to stay with matters of the divine, that transcend material existance, and deal with matters of ethics and the like.

But that split exists only in Europe and in relation to the Catholic church. In other regions of the world, at other periods of history, spiritual and religious seekers also studied the material world. The great flowering of learning in Islam, while Europe was in the clutches of Christianity imposed anti-learning dogma, was because the early Islamic practitioners were enamored with getting to know the Divine through studying the material world created by Allah. And what an amazingly intricate creation this world is. The detail in this world which has been revealed to us by science is truly mind-boggling vast in scope, depth, breadth, detail and in every other descriptive measure I could muster.

Another spiritual tradition of the world that did not split reason and spiritual practice is Buddhism. The Buddha himself told his followers "Do not take my statements to be true simply out of reverence for me. But rather, put them to the test." In other words he challenges Buddhist practitioners to test the teachings he presented to us, test them and prove them for ourselves.

In this Salon.COM interview, Buddha on the brain, B. Allan Wallace, the author of Contemplative Science is interviewed at depth about his proposal, Dogma and Science. The difference between Dogma and Science is a poignant observation here. Dogma is a ritualistic acceptance of what you are told, no critical reasoning, no testing, just a blind acceptance of what others claim to be truth. The Scientific method is all about testing everything, and a key aspect is the formation of testable hypothesis.

A testable hypothesis is refutable, that is you can prove the hypothesis is wrong, just as you can prove it to be right. The existence of God is, for example, an untestable hypothesis because you cannot disprove God's existence. In the realm of Spiritual experience there are many an untestable hypothesis.

An interesting idea to ponder is this:

At the same time, science is not just science. This very notion that the mind must simply be an emergent property of the brain -- consisting only of physical phenomena and nothing more -- is not a testable hypothesis. Science is based upon a very profound metaphysical foundation. Can you test the statement that there is nothing else going on apart from physical phenomena and their emergent properties? The answer is no.

Science is full of dogma, that is it's full of ideas that are accepted by rote rather than proved by scientific method. For example the idea of the mind and consciousness. Neuroscientists have found all sorts of correlations of emotions and chemicals or locations in the brain, but what have they proved? Have they disproved any claim made by mystics? Have they been able to form a testable hypothesis around mind and consciousness solely being a byproduct of the chemicals and brain activity? No.

B. Allan Wallace suggests bringing Buddhists practices of studying the mind into cooperative work with those who can drive the instruments of science. The Buddhists have a couple millennia of experience and teachings to draw upon related to a rigorous system of studying the mind. That is what Buddhists do as they meditate is to observe the function of the mind, and deep Buddhist practice has a lot in common with psychological theories.

It is my experience that the actions of spiritual practices are very real and can cause real effects. That is what healing is about. Healing is to access spiritual states and through spiritual practice bring about beneficial change of a physical condition. This tells me that spiritual forces are part of the world and ought to be measurable by appropriate instruments. Until now the appropriate instruments have been living beings such as you and me. But these forces ought to be measurable by other kinds of instruments, the kind that give objective measurements, that can be quantified, etc.