Archive for September, 2012

A Moment of Eating

Sunday, September 30th, 2012

Tracking your “mindfuls” (your mindful eating moments) is simple: notice and share.

Here’s mine from this Sunday breakfast:

Black beans.

White teeth.

Transparent mind.


That’s all.

Share your own mindful eating moment at Mindful Eating Tracker

Try This With Me (Step 1)

Friday, September 28th, 2012

just sitI like the PsychCentral community: it’s vibrant, dynamic, interactive.  There are many online forums for a blogger to post his/her musings.  But here, something’s always hopping.

Try this with me…

Step 1: Just sit down today.

No, not to meditate.  Not to watch TV.  Not to eat.  Not to rest.  But just to sit.  No need to close your eyes.  No need to watch your breath.  Just try “just sitting.”  Sometime now.  You see, “now” is a very elastic concept.  In fact, “now” is the only time that exists.  There never was a “past” time.  There never will be a “future” time.  There is nothing but now, one continuous life-long now per person.  So, some time in the Near Now, try “just sitting.”  I might or might not come with a step 2.  We’ll just have to see…

At any rate, be well.

Woman sitting photo available from Shutterstock

Noticing the Noticer

Saturday, September 22nd, 2012

Notice the body that you are

(and you aren’t).

There is nothing else

(to notice).

Notice the mind that you are

(and you aren’t).

There is nothing else

(to notice).

And now notice the Noticer:

Is it the Body witnessing its own Mind?


Is it the Mind witnessing its own Body?







related: Lotus Effect


Creative Commons License photo credit: rvelazquezsfo


Mindfulness as Craving Control

Friday, September 21st, 2012

Valenting-a-LingI’ve been offering mindfulness-training as a form of impulse control and craving control to my clients for years.  Here’s one way to introduce mindfulness as a craving control strategy for overeating:

See the Dissatisfaction (of the Desire) as It Passes (Rather Than Looking for Satisfaction)

A craving is a desire.  Desire – as strange as it sounds – is a state of frustration.  To want is to feel incomplete, to feel agitated and thwarted until a given desire is satisfied.  Wanting is restlessness.  Wanting is dissatisfaction.

Mindfulness involves two essential mechanisms: applying a certain kind of attention and practicing dis-identification. Attention can be active or passive: that of an active observer or that of an uninvolved witness. This distinction is easy to understand through contrasting such verbs as “to look” versus “to see.” “To look” implies an active visual scanning, a kind of goal-oriented visual activity. “To see” implies nothing other than a fact of visual registration. Say I lost my house keys. I would have to look for them. But in the process of looking for my house keys, I might also happen to see an old concert ticket.

Mindfulness is about seeing, not looking. It’s about noticing or witnessing without attachment to or identification with what is being noticed and witnessed. This is where dis-identification comes in.

Cravings (for dessert or something specific to eat, or just to keep eating) come and go. Mindfulness—as a meditative stance—allows you to recognize that craving as a transient, fleeting state of mind, and just one part of your overall experience. Mindfulness teaches you to realize that this impulse to keep on eating is but a thought inside the mind. Yes, it’s part of you, but it isn’t all of you—which is exactly why you can notice it and see it without having to stare at it. In sum, mindfulness—as a form of impulse control—is a strategy of controlling by letting go of control.

In sum, mindfulness allows you to see through the …

Being in Time

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

Leura CascadesA sense of being involves a degree of separateness from the rest of the world.  After all, the verb to “exist” literally means to stand out.  When you are present, your awareness of your own existence happens on the backdrop of time.  Time is really just perception of change, of processes, of movement, of information flow.  So to be, we have to experience ourselves as apart from all this flow.

Being is a contrast between our subjective permanence and the objective impermanence of everything that is around us, between our (subjective) timelessness and the constant timing (changing) of reality outside of us.

Like stillness, being exists in contrast with movement.

When we experience ourselves, there is a feeling that while we are fundamentally the same from moment to moment, the world outside of is changing.  We begin to be.  We feel reborn.  We pop out of the incessant stream of “recycled consciousness” and mindless behavior.  We reconnect with that immutable sense of “am-ness.”  No longer lost in the world, we begin to experience ourselves in a relationship with it.  We begin to register the experience.  We remember that we are alive.  We feel glad that we woke up and marvel at how time has slipped away.

Thus, to be – we have to slow down enough to notice ourselves being in time.

Adapted from Present Perfect

Creative Commons License photo credit: VernsPics

Heterotroph’s Dilemma

Monday, September 17th, 2012

There are those who produce energy and those who consume it. Plants are energy producers. They are known as autotrophs because they are nutritionally autonomous, requiring only sunlight, air, water, and minerals. Self-feeding, they don’t have to kill for living (with the rare exception of carnivorous plants, such as the Venus flytrap). And then there are the rest of us. Animals of any kind—mammals, birds, insects, fish, and us humans—consume others, we are heterotrophs (hetero meaning “other”). That’s our existential hell: to live we have to kill, and there’s no way around it (at least not yet).

This dynamic is too natural to be an issue of ethics. Nature is beyond ethics. Ultimately, I see heterotrophic eating not as a matter of ethics, but as an existential predicament: we’re trapped in a death-propagating cycle. But—and this is going to sound like science fiction—we don’t have to stay on this circuit of existential hell. We can evolve. In our dim, distant origins, we share a lineage with plant life. This opens the door to the possibility that we can, at least in theory, also learn to produce energy. We can learn (or relearn) how to photosynthesize (see related post, Metabolic Independence).

In the meantime, I leave you with a call for ahimsa—not with a call for nonharm or nonviolence (at this point, that’s only possible for plants, not for animals), but with a call for harm reduction. Kill (to eat) only as much as you need, and do it with compassion and gratitude, whether you are of the meat-eating or plant-eating persuasion.

Let me close this with the words of Jiddu Krishnamurti:

“A person is not virtuous because he doesn’t eat meat, nor is he any less virtuous because he does.” (1977, 166)

A person is virtuous because he or she is conscious of others. And wherever there is consciousness of others, there tends to dwell compassion.

Adapted from Reinventing the Meal



Metabolic Independence

Sunday, September 16th, 2012


What is the future of eating?

This is one of the questions that I try to answer in  my new book, Reinventing the Meal: How Mindfulness Can Help You Slow Down, Savor the Moment and Reconnect With the Ritual of Eating.

Transhuman Fermentation

Still a cultural underground, transhumanism is a gradual churning of techno-genetic possibilities. As a social movement, transhumanism is still in the stages of fermentation. From the evolutionary standpoint, transhumanism is an attempt at self-guided evolution, a project of customizing the body to meet the needs of the mind.

But what does the mind fundamentally need from the body? Faster information processing would be nice. An extended health span would be nifty. Who wouldn’t like faster legs, sharper vision, or more acute hearing? Heck, having a functional pair of wings wouldn’t hurt either. Top all of this off with bulletproof skin, and it might seem as though this human dream of functional augmentation was complete. But it isn’t. It’s lacking the most fundamental piece: greater metabolic independence. Indeed, what minds seem to really like is sovereignty. And sovereignty is synonymous with greater energy independence. Of course, all metabolic independence is relative. No life is ultimately independent of its environment.

As I see it, a transhuman project of metabolic independence could take one of two general paths: that of direct human photosynthesis at a cellular level (let’s call it the path of Homo solaris) or the path of the Energizer Bunny. The former is a path of genetic modification and perhaps surgical augmentation or a wholesale nanosurgical alteration on a cellular level. The latter path might involve some sort of “future skin,” a kind of biotech chimera project of swapping elastic solar panels for patches of skin. The specifics are beyond me. In fact, it’s likely that there are solutions that lie beyond the capacity of my imagination. But one thing seems clear to me: Whether motivated by compassion (for the life that we consume) or by self-determination, we will—if we are fortunate to survive as a civilization—seek greater energy autonomy on an individual …

Presidential Psychopathy

Friday, September 14th, 2012

psychopath presidentFood for thought (to go along with my 2010 post Psychology of Presidential Ambition):

“Overall, the study found, presidents tended to be more like psychopaths than the general population in their level of fearless dominance, but they didn’t show a psychopathic excess of impulsive antisocial behavior.”

“[B]old leadership isn’t just a quality found in psychopaths — or presidents. Everyone falls somewhere along the scale, from timid to bold, from follower to leader. And psychopathic traits like fearless dominance — or others like impulsivity, callousness and dishonesty — also appear in varying degrees in the general population.”

“Shadings of potential pathology are found in everyone.”


Source: The Psychopathic Trait Successful Presidents Have in Common

(by Maia Szalavitz,

President photo available from Shutterstock

Weight Management Motivation Booster

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

I can do it !What is inoculation?  Inoculation introduces an organism to a nominal threat with the purpose of hardening the organism.  Motivational inoculation is a series of challenges (in the form of questions) that help crystallize intrinsic, fail-proof motivation.  Here’s some motivational inoculation for weight management.

Inoculation 1:   What is my stated motivation for this weight management attempt?

Inoculation 2:   Have I tried to lose weight for this reason before?  If yes, then on what basis do I believe that a reason that wasn’t strong enough for me to stick to the plan before would be sufficient this time?

Inoculation 3:  is my reason to lose weight for me or for somebody else?  If for somebody else, then what reason will I have to keep on track if my relationship were to change with this other person?  What if my relationship ends?  What if my relationship stabilizes and he/she no longer cares how I look, how much I weigh? What reason will I use then to stay on track weight-wise?  And why am I not using that reason now?!

Inoculation 4:  Is my reason for this weight management project situational in nature?  Am I trying to lose weight so that I look good at somebody else’s wedding?  Shine at a school reunion?  Get a date?  Competitively snub somebody else?  Am I trying to impress random minds on a spring break beach?  Is my weight management attempt part of my seasonal body-transformation as I get out of the “weight camo” winter clothes into a more revealing wardrobe?  If so, what will help me stay on weight management track when the situation changes?  And why am I not using that reason now?

Inoculation 5:  Is my motivation for weight management in line with my definition of psychological health?  Is my motivation for weight management in line with my life-values, my priorities, my spiritual/existential compass?  If not, why am I misguiding myself?  What would be a motivation for weight management that would express and extend the rest of my life-values and life-priorities?

Inoculation 6:  Would …

Same Am-ness, Different Skulls

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

MauiThe First Patriarch of Zen, Bodhidharma, was an Indian guy on a mission to spread Mahayana Buddhism to China.  Here’s what he preached:

“I don’t talk about precepts, devotion, or ascetic practices… These are fanatical, provisional teachings.  Once you recognize your moving, miraculously aware nature, yours is the mind of all buddhas.” (1).

What does this mean?  What’s he saying?  Bodhidharma is saying: “Hey, you, you aren’t just this conceptual you that you think you are, you aren’t just this self-concept.  No!  You are Conscious Matter.  You are Living, Breathing, Moving, Dynamic Nature itself.”

At least, that’s what I get from this.

Here’s what Emperor Wu (of Liang dynasty, 6th century) got from Bodhidharma.  Emperor Wu bragged to Bodhidharma about what a great sponsor of Chinese Buddhism he is and then asked: So, have I acquired any merit?

Bodhidharma’s reply was: Nope!  No merit!

This, of course, confused the Emperor.  But hopefully the lesson is not lost on you: Buddha-mind cannot be bought.  Why?  Because you already have it: “Buddha mind, the state of consciousness discovered through meditation, is the same for all people, peasants and kings alike.” (2)


Same am-ness, different skulls.

Let me clarify before we part ways for now: when you think-feel “I am…” and I think-feel “I am…,” the am-ness that we experience, the presence of our existence that we tune into, this very ground of our being that we stand on… is the same.  We are of the same root consciousness.

Put differently:

Same ground, different trees.

Grok it?




Resources: Lotus Effect

(1) Pine, 1989, 42-43

(2) C. A. Simpkins & A. Simpkins, Simply Zen, 1999, 11

Creative Commons License photo credit: Bananawacky

Select books by Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.:
Mindful Emotional Eating Reinventing the Meal
Present Perfect
Eating the Moment

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