Book Title: “I Stumbled Upon a Jewel: a Collection of Essays by a Lay Sangha” by Margaret Peterson
About the book (from Publisher):
Virtually everything written in English about Buddhism has been written by scholars, ministers, or formal leaders, no matter whether it is Tibetan, Zen, Shin or any other Buddhist sect. This book is written by lay people about their own experiences with Shin Buddhism, which is after all, the Buddhism of the common people. The sangha or the community of fellow seekers is the backbone of Buddhism, providing a structure, encouragement, and nurturing of the development of one’s beliefs, yet it is not represented in Buddhist literature. Perhaps it is understandable that this is so since Buddhism began as an oral tradition, at a time when few people besides scholars could read or write. However, it is very often the sharing of one’s concerns and ideas with members of the sangha which makes Budddhism or any spiritual endeavor alive and relevant to one’s life. The sense of sharing and intimacy are captured in the essays presented here, with the special richness of poetry and visual images to enhance the heartfelt message of the book’s intent. It represents a breath of fresh air, bridging the gap between the point of view of the expert and the experience of the ordinary follower of the Buddhist path.
My (PS) review:
“Dogma blinds us: it sterilizes the once lived experience with intellectualization and conceptualization. “Stumbled Upon a Jewel” is Buddhist …
In my approach to anger management, I see anger as fear (of invalidation, of disapproval, of various ego threats, etc). Until it dawned on me that anger was fundamentally a form of fear, I was lost at sea as a clinician. But as soon as I rethought anger as fear, all of my trial-and-error bag of tricks suddenly acquired an internal logic of an actual method (see Anger Management Jumpstart for details).
Anger-as-fear – as an idea – is however counterintuitive. So, here’s a sample of some opinions on the matter from the experts in the field.
In terms of many threatening situations it may be wise to think of anger and fear as one combined emotional reaction. (Potter-Effron, 2012, p. 46)
By defining anger as the emotion of self-preservation of your worth, needs, and convictions, it is easier to detect your moments of vulnerability to it. (Carter & Minirth, 1992, pp. 8–19)
Feeling threatened can easily lead to feelings of anger and hostility, and from there to outright aggressive behavior, driven by deep instincts to protect your position and maintain your sense of things being under control. (Kabat-Zinn, 1990, p. 4)
The seed of defense brings offence. (Krishnamurti, 1975, p. 84)
When seriously threatened and unable to escape, animals often become enraged and attack out of desperation. This is fear-induced aggression. Fear-induced aggression demonstrates that anger and fear are very closely related emotions. Their common bond is a perceived threat. (Potter-Efron, 2012, p. 46)
Darwin argued that rage is a …
Anger is older than our thoughts and theories about it. Anger is primordial survival know-how. It was made for the jungle.
Anger commands immense psychosomatic energies in a flash of time. Anger is a miracle of body-mind synchronization for self-defensive action.
Anger is a counterintuitive evolutionary innovation: Unlike fear, which takes us away from the threat, anger moves us toward the threat. It puts us on a path of confrontation with what scares us. How amazingly creative!
Anger has its own logic—it’s not irrational; it’s pre-rational.
Adapted from Anger Management Jumpstart (Somov, PESI, 2013)
When paranoia has exhausted its evolutionary utility, there comes a crossroads of choice: to keep on fearing or to fearlessly accept the new normal (i.e. to recalibrate the understanding of what is now normal). The momentum of fear usually pre-determines the direction we take.
Mind is a perfectly fine thing to waste. From a meditative standpoint, that is. Indeed, mind comes, mind goes, recycling itself from one fleeting state to another.
Point is: mind wastes itself, leaving absolutely nothing of permanence to hold onto.
The real conservation question is: what remains?
Look into this cosmic mystery that you are.
more: Lotus Effect
The following are the seven Present Perfect habits that, in my opinion, comprise the basis of existentially vibrant living:
(1) the habit of making one’s own meaning
(2) the habit of noticing ordinary perfection
(3) the habit of being present in the moment
(4) the habit of making conscious choices
(5) the habit of self-acceptance
(6) the habit of accepting uncertainty
(7) the habit of forgiving and compassion
These seven vital signs of conscious, meaningful, and mindful living are the goals of the program of existential rehabilitation. Developing these habits will help you feel freer and more alive, more at ease and psychologically invulnerable, more attuned to yourself and more connected with others, and, most importantly, less preoccupied with what should be and more in awe of what already is.
Adapted from Present Perfect (P. Somov, New Harbinger Publications, 2010)
Perfectionism isn’t cheap. In fact, it is existentially unaffordable. Here’s a review of these costs and of the possible ways of cutting them.
Perfectionism is a Psychological Liability
Flett and Hewitt (2002) write: “perfectionists are more likely than nonperfectionists to experience various kinds of stress” (p. 257) and list four perfectionism-specific mechanisms that contribute to and exacerbate stress:
- Perfectionists generate stress by pursing unrealistic goals (stress generation mechanism).
- Because of their future time perspective, they anticipate future with worry and anxiety (stress anticipation mechanism).
- Perfectionists perpetuate stress by coping with stress in such maladaptive ways as rumination or re-doubling of the effort to avoid mistakes and prevent failures (stress perpetuation mechanism).
- And, finally, due to their cognitively-distorted perfectionistic appraisal strategies, they enhance stress by overgeneralizing, catastrophizing, and dichotomizing (stress enhancement mechanism).
Brown and Beck (2002) make a convincing summary of how a perfectionistic cognitive style with its rigid thinking constitutes a vulnerability to depression.
Perfectionists and compulsives are a tormented, unhappy lot. William Reich referred to compulsives as “living machines,” highly productive but not enjoying what they produce (Maxment & Ward, 1995), typically presenting with symptoms of anxiety, worry, depression, and dysthymia.
One of the goals of existential self-rehabilitation is to redefine perfection in a manner that would allow you to leverage an unconditional self-acceptance and to become invulnerable to others’ disapproval of you. Furthermore, an effective existential rehab would help you become more accepting of uncertainty in order to reduce your anxiety about the aspects of your life that you cannot …
Today, in Science Daily I read: ”This is a relatively new technique for neuroscience, called a population and dimensionality analysis. Its goal is to understand how neurons work together in entire regions of the brain.” (my italics, from Researchers Discover How Brain Neurons Work Together, or Alone).
What stands out for me here is language. You see, each of us is a “we” – a neural colony (of a Greater Neural Tribe). A brain, as I have written before, is not an organ but an organization! An organization of billions of stand-alone sentient cells – neurons. Each neuron is its own mind. Once again, each of us is a “we.” And this “we” (that each of us is) is composed of neural networks. At least that’s what we used to call them – networks.
The new technique of “population analysis” finally somewhat anthropomorphizes neurons – a population of entities sounds more humanistic than a network of… neural processors. That’s right: a population, not a network! We seem to be – in our analysis of ourselves – finally shifting away from a computer view of self to a view of self that recognizes neurons as sentient. After all, if they (neurons) aren’t, then how can we be?
The amazing thing about this whole issue is that we – the neurons – look at ourselves (through microscopes) and we fail to see ourselves: instead of seeing our selves, we see our cells. But we are these cells. These …
The focus on wellness, particularly on the management of overeating, in therapy can be a double-edged sword. While clients often readily embrace the vector of self-care, goal-specific treatment planning and clinical homework can trigger the games of avoidance. Suddenly, the validating therapist is thrown into the role of a wellness expert and becomes an accountability check.
Before too long, mere inquiry into the client’s progress runs a discordant parallel to punitive supervision. With this actual or perceived change of hats, the process of the therapy changes, the wellness goals are eventually abandoned and the closet of therapy fills up with the skeletons of failed objectives. This – in my experience – has been an inherent complexity of problem-focused treatments such as behavioral medicine.
Such experiences have taught me that a non-directive, harm-reduction, humanistic angle of engagement works best in facilitating clients’ wellness goal of weight management. In particular, I have enjoyed better “compliance luck” from the clinical position in which I frame success in overcoming overeating as more of a know-how issue than a motivational issue. With this in mind, as part of the role-induction to behavioral weight management, I let clients know that I am aware of a variety of behavioral exercises that can help them transition from mindless reactive eating to a more mindful and more conscious eating stance, and I then offer the client to look at their weight management “homework” as a kind of experiential journey of gradual acquisition of …
Mindful eating (at least the way I teach it) has its own version of “portion control” – it’s got to do not with how many mouthfuls you can have but with how many mindfuls you need to feel full; it’s got to do with shifting from a serving to a savoring.
What’s a mindful? A mindful, to coin a term, is a unit of mental absorption in whatever it is that you are doing. For example, as you look back at a typical day, perhaps most of it was spent in a state of robotic, mindless monotony, with the exception of a couple of moments when you were really present, thoughtful, and mindful of something. Maybe you found yourself scratching your head over some challenging problem. Maybe, at the end of your lunch break, you caught a glimpse of a bird swaying on a tree branch. Maybe, when finally home, sitting in your car in the driveway, you had a sense of perspective. Whatever their content, these moments of being mindful are just that: states of being attuned to the moment, absorbed in the here and now.
In application to eating, a Mindful is a moment of being conscious of eating. Maybe it will last ten seconds, maybe half a minute. But however long, it is a unit of awareness, a serving of mindfulness.
A Savoring, to coin another term, is a unit of mindful appreciation, a moment of conscious enjoyment, a highlight. To have a savoring, you first have to …