“Life Without Growth Ought to Be Possible”

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D. • 1 min read

A few weeks ago, as I was making room for a Christmas ornament on a book shelf, I spotted a book that I haven’t visited in a while – a book by Christopher Milne, “The Path Through the Trees.”  The last time I took a walk through Milne’s word-trees, so to say, was when I was working on my book Present Perfect.  Back then (as I typically do when I read) I had dog-eared some pages to mark a few favorite hangouts of my mind.  So, as I took the book off the shelf, this forest of words, I knew exactly where I wanted to go… To this place:

“Everything in the man’s world must grow.  Yet nowhere outside his world does this happen.  All living creatures, plants and animals alike, reach eventually the particular size that suits them best and there they stop.  Of course it is our burning ambition for better and still better, our insatiable appetite for more and yet more that has taken us to the top of the ladder.  But now and again it does no harm to look down at the others and see how they manage their affairs.  We may be different from them. But are we so very different?  So it seemed to me then and still seems to me now that life without growth ought to be possible.”

Yes, life without growth ought to be possible.  Maybe you, reader, are already well enough – even if you are not as well as you would ideally like …

It’s Time We “Legalize” Emotional Eating

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D. • 4 min read

MeeMindful Emotional Eating (MEE) has been nearly a taboo both in self- help and clinical literature on emotional eating. I first wrote about mindful emotional eating in Eating the Moment in 2008 and have had a chance to pilot this material clinically in my practice and through a series of workshops for mental health professionals.

My experience reveals that while the idea of mindful emotional eating makes a lot of sense to my clients, surprisingly, the mental health professionals often bristle with objections, barricading behind the all-or-nothing belief that any emotional eating is self- destructive and to be avoided at all costs. These clinicians say that they are afraid to “enable” their clients. By that they mean that they don’t want to “join in” or “to collude” in the “clearly self-destructive” behavior of emotional eating. Not so: emotional eating is not self-destructive. Emotional eating is self-care. Dare to “enable” your client’s self-care.

A humanistic clinician operates on the following two assumptions:

• He/she takes it as a given that we are always pursuing wellbeing; I call this “motivational innocence.”

• He/she takes it as a given that we are always doing our coping best (even if it doesn’t seem so to an uninformed mind of an observer). I call this “ordinary perfection.”

With this in mind, a humanistic clinician doesn’t believe in self-destructive behavior. All behavior is seen as a motivationally innocent attempt at self-regulation, i.e. as homeostatic. A humanistic clinician’s role is not to …

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A Review of a Review of Paul Brunton’s Book on Meditation

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D. • 2 min read
Paul Brunton - a British philosopher, mystic, traveller - a mind to learn from

Paul Brunton – a British philosopher, mystic, traveller – a mind to learn from

With a few minutes to kill before the day starts, I go to Amazon to post a review of Paul Brunton’s very excellent “Notebook 4″ on meditation (which I have recently been re-reading) … only to realize that I was there ALREADY once at that Amazon page back in 2006 when I had posted a review of his book.

So, I am now reading my own review that I (?) wrote in 2006. That’s 7 years ago – there is not an atom in my body now that I had in 2006. No, I didn’t write this – not the “I” that I right now am.

So, I read on Amazon: “13 or 14 people” have “found this review useful” – for whatever that means. Not too bad, I think. Do I (today) find this review useful – the review that I (7 years ago) wrote? Maybe, maybe not.

So, here I am, reviewing a review – and thinking to myself: that’s how we so often are: self is always in a process of self-review… That is, until you escape this cognitively recursive self-consciousness by breaking the orbit and climbing up to a higher Self.  Some call it “soul,” some call it “metacognitive distance.”  Some call it the “original face.”   I no longer have a name for it: I …

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Mindful Emotional Eating

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D. • 3 min read

MeeHere are some early reviews of my new book on Mindful Emotional Eating.

“Don t be fooled by the seeming contradiction in the title of Mindful Emotional Eating. The book makes the case to troubled eaters and their treaters that if we re going to turn to food when we re stressed or distressed, we best do it not with guilt, shame, self-hatred, or detachment from our bodies and their cravings, but with a keen mindfulness that will satisfy our appetites and foster emotional well-being.” –Karen R. Koenig, LCSW, M.Ed., psychotherapist, eating coach, and author of Outsmarting Overeating.

“This wonderfully creative book teaches us that we don’t need willpower to overcome our unruly eating habits, but mindfulness skill power. It shows that freedom doesn’t come from stopping emotional eating, but when we learn how to eat emotionally in moderation, more effectively and without self-judgement or self-loafing. Pavel Somov has put together a fun mindfulness toolbox for not only healthcare professionals, but anyone who struggles with emotional eating.” –Alexa Frey, Co-Founder, The Mindfulness Project, London

Pavel’s Mindful Emotional Eating is a gem of a toolkit that will be invaluable both to individuals seeking a mindful eating self-help option and to practitioners looking to infuse more mindfulness into their work…” –foreword by Linda Craighead, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology & Director of Clinical training, Emory University, author of The Appetite Awareness Workbook.

“Dr. Pavel Somov’s newest book, Mindful Emotional Eating, offers individuals struggling with eating concerns a revolutionary guidebook for …

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Mind is a Pigsty of Opinions

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D. • 1 min read

Truth is a pig!

I came upon this graffiti on a Pittsburgh sidewalk and it caught my clinical-philosophical eye – a face of a pig (from what I can tell) with the word “truth” inscribed on it.  Enigmatic, I thought.  I snapped a photo and continued on with my walk.

And then a possible meaning of this dawned on me: “Truth is a pig!”

“Why is that?” you might ask.  Because truth is messy: everyone has their own version (interpretation) of it and, when the truth comes out, it tends to be rather devastating to our neat little illusions about reality.

In these blog-posts I often talk about epistemology and how it applies to the psychology of daily living.  Epistemology is a branch of philosophy that studies what can and cannot be known.  Truth – as I tend to think – is mostly a myth.  Our minds are fundamentally and inevitably subjective.  And, thus, incapable of apodictic (absolute) knowing.   So, it seems to me that we are all believers – we worship our own minds, our ideas about reality.  So much so that we even believe in truth.

Jains, an ancient Indian school of thought, have a doctrine of Sayadvada – a doctrine of tentativeness, essentially.  A doctrine of epistemological non-violence, if you wish.  A style of engaging which is lubricated with such parentheticals and caveats as “in some way this is and in some ways this isn’t” or “in some ways this …

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Anger Management: Know-How of Eastern Equanimity

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D. • 16 min read

Anger_04When anger becomes the mood of human societies, the quality of fire (or the primitive and destructive intent of the frustrated ego) invades the plane of humanity. That fire is expressed as all of the aggression and competitiveness of humankind, including all of the ego-based politics of confrontation. And that ego-fire is, finally, summarized in the acts of war…. The fiction of separateness—and the denial of the universal characteristic of prior unity—is a mind-based illusion, a lie, a terribly deluding force, and a profoundly and darkly negative act.

—Adi Da, Not-Two Is Peace

The only means for realization of Truth is Ahimsa….I must reduce myself to zero.

—M. K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth

Philosophically, existentially, and spiritually, there used to be an East and a West on this planet—a Western (Occidental) and an Eastern (Oriental) way of living and viewing life. However, the cultural globalization of the past century nearly reversed these psychospiritual polarities. No longer does a person need to go to Tibet for enlightenment: The West has been churning out its own lamas and gurus with the same production intensity as it once did with Model Ts. And yet it still makes sense to speak of the difference between the Eastern and Western worldviews, particularly in the context of anger management. The Eastern, or mindfulness-based know-how of anger management, is a rich and still largely untapped goldmine of therapeutic ideas. I wish to offer you a cursory …

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Wherever You Experience Yourself In the Body, There You Are

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D. • Less than a min read

We are everywhere in the body: wherever your nerves are, so is your brain.

About a year ago I read in New Scientist: “One tiny spider has even had to let its brain spill into its legs, because its head is too small to accommodate it.”

We keep thinking of our brain as being inside our skulls. But brain isn’t an organ – it’s an organization – an organization of neurons (nerve cells). And these nerves are not just inside your head – they are everywhere in your body.  Therefore, wherever you experience yourself in your body, there – as a brain – you are.

Play with this idea to expand (spatially) your sense of self (as a distributed field of awareness).

Spill your mind into your body.

Neural Tribe:  http://neuraltribe.squarespace.com


Book Review: “Firing God” by Cheryl Abram

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D. • 1 min read

I recently had a chance to read and review an excellent book “Firing God” by Cheryl Abram. I met Cheryl through PsychCentral (she read one of my blogs and wrote to me).  At that time I went to her website and read some of her own blogs and found a lot of existentially courageous and iconoclastic wisdom. Here’s the information about the book (from Non-Duality Press) and the author, and my review.

About the Book/Editorial Review

firinggodCheryl Abram was at the end of her rope: her life was falling apart on every level and she had ‘succeeded’ in making herself unworthy, incomplete and separate. Then, one day this practicing Christian took a ‘leap of doubt’ and fired God, or at least the God she had created. Cheryl’s outward circumstances did not miraculously improve – this is not a fairy-tale story of allowing abundance into her life. Rather, as she puts it: I’m no longer afraid, anxious or expectant. It’s still about me, but the “me” is not the “me” that I thought it was. It’s not a little limited human being that was born and will die. I am not that. As a human being, I can see that I am connected to everything around me. I am a whole part of the tapestry of this world. We are all here for and as each other. To read how that came about and what it means in an everyday life for Cheryl and the implications for you …

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Woods of “What Is”

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D. • Less than a min read

On a walk through the woods a thought pops into my mind: “There is a lot of trash in the woods. And I am a piece of it.”

A thought of humility, not of self-deprecation.

Woods do that to you: they gently put you down and, in so doing, root you in Whatever Is.

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Info-Processing View of Eating

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D. • Less than a min read

shutterstock_65649088We tend to think of metabolism in purely physiological terms. I invite you to think of metabolism in a broader sense, as information processing. Take the act of eating, for example. We can think of eating in purely physiological, metabolic terms… or we can think of eating as an informational process in which an act of tasting is an act of knowing. I describe this info-experiential view of eating in Reinventing the Meal.

Here’s a similar perspective from Dr. Hari Sharma, MD, a Western trained proponent of ancient Vedic approaches to healing:

“When the taste receptors first experience the different taste and textural properties of a meal, an enormous amount of information is delivered through the body (primarily through the limbic system), triggering basic metabolic processes.”

“The body eventually metabolizes the molecular constituents of the food, but it first metabolizes the sensory experience of taste.”

“Long before the food is digested, its influence has spread throughout the body. A delicious meal is more than a treat; the taste can be nourishing in itself.”

“The body metabolizes the emotional content of every experience that it has,” writes Dr. Sharma. And that includes the experience of taste.

In sum, to taste is to experience, to experience is to feel, and to feel is to know.

Metabolize that!

Strawberry tasting image available from Shutterstock.

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

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