March 29th, 2013
Join some of the West's great adepts of Jhana, Concentration Meditation Practice. Jhana is an extraordinary human potential of the mind with deep and lasting rewards of peace, freedom, clarity, agility . . . and mastery. However, Jhana is especially exquisite in its preparatory role in the life of a meditator, bringing about capacities and factors of mind that prepare us for insight knowledge; direct, unshakeable experiential knowledge of the nature of reality.
Our jhana teachers and guides are, in order of their photographs, above:
Shaila Catherine, who has been practicing meditation since 1980, with more than eight years of accumulated silent retreat experience. She has taught since 1996 in the USA, and internationally. Shaila has dedicated several years to studying with masters in India, Nepal and Thailand. Shaila Catherine has practiced under the guidance of Venerable Pa-Auk Sayadaw since 2006. She is author of Focused and Fearless: A Meditator’s Guide to States of Deep Joy, Calm, and Clarity and Wisdom Wide and Deep: A Practical Handbook for Mastering Jhana and Vipassana. Shaila Catherine founded Insight Meditation South Bay, a Buddhist meditation center in Silicon Valley (www.imsb.org). Click here for Shaila's schedule of retreats.
Leigh Brasington, a former computer programmer and now teacher of Jhana retreats, is currently at work on his first book, the working title of which is The Buddha's Jhanas. Click here for Leigh's resume and find all his resources and his retreat schedule at his website leighb.com
Dr. Judson Brewer, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine and Medical Director of the Yale Therapeutic Neuroscience Clinic, is a board-certified psychiatrist who has been investigating the neural underpinnings of Mindfulness Training and its clinical efficacy for disorders such as addictions. Dr. Brewer received his AB from Princeton University and MD/PhD from Washington University in St. Louis. After training in mindfulness meditation during medical and graduate school, he shifted his focus from animal models of stress, to the elucidation of neurobiological mechanisms underlying the interface between stress, mindfulness and the addictive process.
Tina Rasmussen, PhD, learned to meditate in 1976, at the age of 13. In 2003, she completed a year-long silent solo retreat. In 2005 she was ordained as a Theravadan Buddhist nun by Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw of Burma who later authorized her to teach. Tina is the co-author of Practicing the Jhanas (with Stephen Snyder). She has worked as a professional coach and OD consultant for more than 25 years. She completed her Ph.D. in 1995, and has authored several published books on humanistic business practices.
Stephen Snyder, JD, began practicing Buddhist meditation in 1976, and has had a daily meditation practice since. He practiced for 20 years with several Western Zen masters, participating in more than 50 retreats and receiving several ordinations. In 2005, he completed a retreat with Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw of Burma, who later authorized him to teach. Stephen is the co-author of the book Practicing the Jhanas (with Tina Rasmussen). Stephen has been a practicing lawyer and mediator since 1987.
Tina and Stephen are a married couple, and offer teaching and retreats to students worldwide. For more information about them, please visit their website at www.JhanasAdvice.com.
March 4th, 2013
"It's so wonderful and beautiful to feel light inside and not heaviness." -- Jim Merkel
Jim Merkel is an American author, volunteer, and engineer who moved from involvement in the military industry to pioneering in simplicity. His book, Radical Simplicity: Small Footprints on a Finite Earth offers a path to a deeply sustainable way of living respectful of all life. His work helped Dartmouth College earn high grades on the Sustainability Report Card issued by the Sustainable Endowments Institute. Jim founded the Global Living Project, teaches at Unity College, writes, lectures and consults with campuses and municipalities on sustainability initiatives. His loves include gathering wild edibles, being in the wilds, playing bass and digging potatoes. Visit Jim Merkel's website
January 14th, 2013
Listen as experts speak about how psychedelic plants found in rainforests are being used in the treatment of addiction in, Trips Beyond Addiction, featuring the voices and stories of ex-addicts, researchers and treatment providers sharing their experiences and fascinations with these medicines. Show produced by Living Hero Radio Show and Podcast producer, Jari Chevalier.
With Dimitri Mobengo Mugianis, Bovenga Na Muduma, Clare S. Wilkins, Brad Burge, Tom Kingsley Brown, Susan Thesenga, Bruce K. Alexander . . . and other important voices active in the field of healing with these native medicines.
Trips Beyond Addiction first aired as the first half hour of the inaugural Living Hero Radio show on WGDR-WGDH fm in North-Central Vermont on January 12, 2013. The complete 90-minute show is available for streaming here and on Soundcloud (search: WGDR Living Hero 01.12.13).
Trips Beyond Addiction has a score of tunes by Jari Chevalier, riffed on and performed by Cosmo D from the band Archie Pelago.
Also with music by The Cinematic Orchestra. The Living Hero station ID music bed is from the start of Terry Riley's In C. And musician Bovenga Na Muduma played the sample of the native Bwiti instrument the Mugongo.
INTRODUCTION: Ayahuasca and Iboga are rainforest hallucinogens. They are traditional sacraments used in the tribal cultures of the Amazon and of Central West Africa, respectively, and in the past, these tribal medicines were taken by many members of the traditional societies of the regions where they naturally grow.
Now, these same compounds, sometimes referred to as entheogens for their power to evoke "mystical experiences," spiritual awakenings, powerful self-confrontation and aroused conscience, are being investigated scientifically to gain understanding of their extraordinary power and efficacy in treating addiction in contemporary Western society.
Musical Works in Trips Beyond Addiction
Title Artist Album Label Year
All Things, The Cinematic Orchestra, Man with a Movie Camera, Ninja Tune, 2003
Needle and the Damage Done, Indra, In Between, Self-produced, 2012
Trips Beyond Addiction, Jari Chevalier ~ Improvisations and Performance by Cosmo D (unpublished/self-produced), 2013
Reel Life, The Cinematic Orchestra, Man with a Movie Camera, Ninja Tune, 2003
Dawn, The Cinematic Orchestra, Man with a Movie Camera, Ninja Tune, 2003
TAGS: ayahuasca iboga addiction psychedelics hallucinogens MAPS entheogens “Dimitri Mobengo Mujianis” “Clare Wilkins” “Bovenga Na Muduma” podcast “transcending dependence” “Brad Burge” “psychedelic research studies” sobriety healing “overcoming addiction” conscience “personal growth” wisdom “rainforest medicines” “shamanic medicines” “opiate addiction” “opiate withdrawal” “get off opiates” “spiritual transcendence” “pain medication dependence” “prescription opiate dependency” heroin oxycontin “drug addiction”
PHOTO CREDIT: Ashley Fisher
January 5th, 2013
Hello Living Hero People!
In contemporary life, people who effectively take a creative and unconventional path, who find ways to resist that which is destructive, unwholesome or lacking in integrity are to be considered heroic and visionary!
Artists, researchers, activists, authors, wisdom figures ~ with musical accompaniment and interludes ~
May we enjoy moving from a toxic, alienated and fragmented culture to one of holistic integrity and social cohesion.
Join The Living Hero Radio Show and Podcast Facebook page to comment on and contribute to our shows!
@LivingHeroPod on Twitter!
See you there! Share ~
For the greater good,
June 22nd, 2012
Image: As Above #4
Are you experienced? Sharing this personal essay about tripping as a teenager, which came out in Reality Sandwich this week. Bring back any memories for you? Thoughts? I wish to engage in dialogue with people about transcendent personal experiences. I find people are shy to speak of such things. But please do speak of them anyway!
Read it here
Comment here or on the Reality Sandwich site.
February 29th, 2012
Hankering for a whole new world? Well, Dr. Marcy Axness' Parenting for Peace: Raising the Next Generation of Peacemakers is your ticket: it highlights all that's amiss in how we currently raise children in America and models an emerging holistic worldview in which human beings can blossom into confident, benevolent people.
Dr. Axness reminds us that "we are the soil in which our children grow." Are we spiritually developed and psychologically mature enough to provide the conditions that truly nourish our babies and children?
Discussing every aspect of parenting from how biological life unfolds to how teenagers can be respectfully supported in their pressures, challenges and growth, Axness' brilliant synthesis makes it clear that parenting must be front and center in any successful movement for widespread social wellness. By "taking responsibility for how we invite in, welcome and incarnate our next generation" we engage in social action, and put ourselves in charge of change.
This witty, poetic, fact-loaded and wise book reveals and exposes all the ways people are currently damaging youth, specifically in contemporary Western-style society. It also suggests just how swiftly and comprehensively mothers and fathers who are parenting for peace can revolutionize our world through a conscious, concerted approach.
You'll also understand the details of why we must revise the way we carry, birth, and engage with children at every stage of their development and, to do so, how we must swim against strong social currents that have deliberately undermined the holistic health of children to make for good workers and consumers, to ensure social stability for a corporate state.
Dr. Axness' deep, comprehensive and effective questioning of contemporary medical, educational, and ideological social mores and establishments calls upon parents to turn the tide.
Axness acknowledges that parenting for peace is the most important and challenging job of your life; "this ideal of parenting for a generation of peacemakers is so demanding, so sophisticated, and demands such a level of maturity, we are culturally only now barely up to the task."
And yet, in many ways, this daunting and demanding task calls upon us merely to be more loving, aware, easeful and natural. Axness teaches us how to gauge ourselves in the midst of our greatest challenges. At the end of each chapter, there are age-specific tips for embodying and practicing the central principles of her teaching: presence, awareness, rhythm, example, nurturance, trust, and simplicity (P.A.R.E.N.T.S.).
By the end of this paradigm-busting book, you will know that every opportunity to bring physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual security and well-being to a child is a powerful action in service to the living world.
Listen to our interview with Marcy (September 2008) here.
She also appears in our special program Where's the Imagination?
©2012 Jari Chevalier
Paperback: 443 pages
Publisher: Sentient Publications (January 30, 2012)
April 25th, 2011
Narcissists and Sociopaths live to dominate and thrill to win. They can excel marvelously anywhere ruthlessness is rewarding.
And recent research brings us new understanding of just what these serious emotional disabilities are; what causes them, how prevalent they are, and how studying them helps us to draw the connections between psyche and society.
Join host/producer Jari Chevalier as she talks with experts Dr. Nina W. Brown, Dr. Linda Martinez-Lewi, social worker Lisa Charlebois, Dr. Philip Zimbardo, Gabor Maté, MD, Dr. Sandy Hotchkiss, Dr. Scott Baum, and Dr, Martha Stout. Narration includes in-depth research and synthesis of the work of these and many other researchers and healers.
Learn just how and why narcissists and sociopaths might be a bigger part of your life than you imagine. We focus on the many factors of unreality inherent in these personality structures and how they spin unreality into the world.
April 6th, 2011
Four thousand people attended the largest annual conference of left and progressive intellectuals in the world over the weekend of March 18-20, 2011. It was the 7th annual Left Forum, at Pace University in lower Manhattan. A thousand speakers, 300 workshops, panels and dialogues on international politics, class war, social justice issues, corporate abuse of power and the ravages of financial deregulation attracted academics, anti-capitalists, socialists, artists, journalists, activists and anarchists to forge bonds of solidarity for social change. They had their choice of up to 45 panel discussions per seven program periods, plus two stellar plenary presentations covering the conference theme “Towards a Politics of Solidarity”.
Internationally known presenters such as Richard Wolff, Stanley Aronowitz, Cornel West, Laura Flanders, Barbara Ehrenreich, Francis Fox Piven, Benjamin Barber, John Nichols and The Yes Men, keen-sighted and eloquent in their analyses and reportage of problems, activists working for change, graced the conference mainstage.
So why were only a few presentations really strong on inspiration and insight for how to foster growing unity among progressives, how to build consensus on outlook and method to bring unity of action to fruition?
For the most part, I heard the need for solidarity answered with a call for solidarity, a need for a new paradigm with a call for a new paradigm. In the face of mounting world catastrophes and collapses, this is just a little like singing, “100 bottles of beer on the wall” together.
I suspect even right-wing spies who no doubt sat among us were underwhelmed by such tautologies. What could they report back that the leftists were planning to do? Top secret: They say they’re going to get together and take down power systems, make demands for multiracial, multicultural harmonious living, end top-down ersatz democracy, rid societies of oppression and exploitation, create equal opportunity and abundance for all . . . .
But there we all were, “together” at the conference, and if there were any coherent plans for how this vast harmonious concert of united humanity is to subsume current power structures and create a better world, I didn’t catch wind of them. Maybe I just went to the wrong rooms.
Because, in fact, I witnessed several quite bristly moments of disharmony, one among panelists on stage and one among audience members, the latter threatened physical aggression, with me shouting “stop!”
And throughout the weekend, there was more accord on explicating societal ills and defining authoritarian power structures than on fresh orientations or practical strategies for building a just and fair society.
Also, to my chagrin, I did not hear discussed what is actually the most significant divide among progressives, the rift between secular atheists and spiritually-oriented progressives. The latter were tellingly under-represented in the Left Forum programming. It appears the two groups do not break bread together, nor smoke the peace pipe around the same campfires.
And, of course, there are those progressives who wouldn't be caught dead or alive at either the Left Forum or at a gathering of, say, the Institute of Noetic Scientists, whose conference attracts the “conscious evolutionary” progressives.
And so the palpable spiritual desertification of our culture, if we could even be said to have a culture at all here in the US, was not considered a key part of the discussion of political, economic or social problems at either of the two Left Forums I’ve attended (2010 and 2011).
But I wonder if spiritual poverty and spiritual heartbreak is of central and essential relevance to our movement and to the urgent global problems so eloquently elucidated and enumerated at the Left Forum.
There were only a couple of classroom panels focusing on spiritual topics. One featured three Christian ministers speaking to a relatively small audience about the radical nature of their congregational work. Another panel, which I did not attend, featured Gary Null, et. al., who may have approached some of the issues I am pointing to here.
The very fact that the spiritual left and the academic left do not, for the most part, speak to each other in public (and that this fact was not deliberately brought forth in the widely attended plenary talks at this year’s Left Forum) speaks volumes about just how intractable a problem achieving solidarity really is among progressives.
How can we speak about solidarity or lack thereof without coming to grips with this glaring dissonance? Not only was this, our biggest rift, left unaddressed as a central topic in any panels I attended, I heard no direct conversation about any of the perennial divisions among progressives—all the little fractures and slices of worldview from Marxists to progressive democrats, to Green Anarchists—and so, where could be the insightful analyses of what human needs give rise to strong ideological identifications and encampments or how such divisions might be transcended? And without such understanding, how are we to begin to approach a more global vision for connecting with those who are not the least bit progressive at this time?
Instead, the need for solidarity was addressed through kudos for Egyptian and Wisconsin demonstrators, through applauding these truly heroic examples and models of solidarity for social justice and regime change, but at a time when neither of these groups have lasting victory to show for their efforts, the kind of social progress that can deal with human greed, aggression, power, supremacy . . . .
There were accolades and strong applause for the solidarity represented by pizza orders called in to feed Madison, WI demonstrators, from unknown ideological comrades watching Madison protests via internet and TV around the US and the world.
Yes! hot pizza pies are significant and meaningful gestures of solidarity, and yet eerily disappointed was I that radicals at the Left Forum did not dig up and chew on the roots of what lasting solidarity really is, the metaphysical elements of brotherhood and sisterhood and what gives rise to them beyond the common enemy, those intangibles that provide persistent courage and energy to power through and prevail in the face of destructive forces that oppose the best in us.
In my experience of the conference only Cornel West went there and so it thrilled me when he said, in speaking of the people of Iraq and Afghanistan: “We actually love those brothers and sisters. And isn’t it something that to believe that is to be radical.” That’s it; that’s right! He actually used the L-word, the seemingly forbidden word that represents a force that knows no bounds or divisions and no obstacles, a force more powerful than all the evils in our way. Bravo, Cornel West! The audience exploded with applause for him.
Why not speak of this in depth and more often? Why the separation of intellect and soul? Can't we get over this?
Is it because this is what gets you good and killed if you start talking about it as an unmediated birthright (Lennon, MLK, Jesus . . .) and start speaking of its lack as the root cause of social injustice?
Other than West’s statements, the general disengagement from the L-word and its meaning as the clarifying, fundamental aspect of life that we must exercise, strengthen and engage in ourselves and each other to full capacity, is the daunting fact that left me bereft, because only by addressing the lack of love amongst progressives and others will we be set to balance and transform our stagnation and galvanize a metaphysics of solidarity. This is how to arrive at a resolute set of actions, with strong and flexible bonds of brotherhood, with loving care and tenderness as our foundation; this is what's necessary for us to overcome rampant toxicity at every level—all of this was crystalized for me by what was lacking at the conference, an understanding of just why progressives are in their perennial underdog position in the struggle for justice.
Are we embarrassed or afraid to love big, bold and colorful? Are we ashamed to speak of abiding love as the energy of our bonds? Are we all just too depressed, anxious and desiccated inside? Can we wholeheartedly live up to taking care of ourselves and each other? Are we too heartbroken by life experience to let love flow and overspill, to beam love in the direction of the future where we will pioneer into 21st Century and excite all those around us to do the same? Are we paralyzed by the evil we have witnessed and continue to witness every day around us? All I can say is that if love is flowing in our hearts and nervous systems, let it not be confined, disguised, or kept too private now; we need it now more than ever.
I am listening for it, looking for it (the L), and yet I hear rampant cynicism, depression and despair. Love is lively, confident and bright. I appreciated the moment when Joel Kovel said in his presentation that “you need faith if you’re going to transform the world.” This is correct. But what is faith?
Faith is not religion, emotion or belief. Faith is a basic trust in life and the forces of existence, a trust in one’s organic sense of what is real and correct, and a trust in the underlying forces and processes of a universe of implicate law and intelligence, exceeding our feeble comprehension. We have to reawaken our capacities to listen, intuit and trust in life's true essentials.
Investigative journalism, accurate assessments and indictments, as well as multiple forms of resistance are surely needed, but we also need more time to be quiet, to be outdoors in wild places, to welcome our own changes, to be creative and make mistakes, to refresh ourselves and to get over our pasts, so that we’re not projecting personal rage from offenses of long ago onto current outrageous situations. Because all that makes for is conflagration, not skillful, creative and radical means that can show the way to the unwise.
The super-communicators of this year’s Forum were Cornel West and John Nichols. The old adage that “it’s not what you say, it’s the way you say it,” reasserted itself fully in the delivery of these orators. They activated bonding forces of solidarity, speaking emphatically with grace, rousing emotion, tempered to below the boiling point.
And yetl, did we not still long for gifts of real imagination at this conference? The cutting-edge is dull, getting perennially stuck at a horizon all too familiar, with too many conflicting views and goals, too much in-fighting. What will cut through to a higher order, to overcome dysfunction in our world.
Lip service is often given to the role of artists and creatives, but were there any artists on the Left Forum plenary panels? No!
At the scale of global society, with nearly seven billion people on the planet now, and with enormous challenges and forces in play, why are all these brilliant thinkers not entirely engaged with just how human beings will function, seven billion strong, as the current imperialist and plutocratic structures are disabled and dismantled, as we would like them to be?
The most clearly desirable practical ideas mentioned were worker cooperatives and relocalization, breaking up of multinational conglomerate financial systems, such as the IMF and the World Bank, reregulating investment banks, decentralizing governments into smaller regional entities and a global redistribution of wealth and power.
These are all ideas in common currency on the left. For those of us not invited to the table at progressive think tanks, it would be galvanizing to us to get feasible pictures of how the society we ideologically want would actually work, how things would be different in our daily lives and how those differences would make dangers we now face shrink back and resolve, how the redistribution of wealth and power would actually be achieved.
And if the answer is that nobody really has such things worked out, even in in their own minds, then how smart is it, really, to convene at this time, to have all these people burning all this fossil fuel to come together just to criticize the yellow brick road and the men behind the curtain? Shouldn’t we all be working locally and personally to open up our visionary capacities so we can see the way forward and then get together to share views and arrive at plans?
The word revolution was certainly in the air at the Forum, but it takes a whole lot more than a word to convince significant numbers of people to revolt. Combat revolutions require sacrifices of lives and materials; and history has shown that even successful people's revolutions can be followed on by regression to old ways.
This is exactly why “the spiritual left” calls for inner revolution, for psychological change, for freedom from addiction, for personal authority and integrity, so that social progress springs from authentic habits of holistic thinking and living, from the resolution of inner conflicts, and freedom from the irritation, discontent and wanting of the immature human spirit.
Everywhere on the Left we are inundated with daunting facts rather than energizing tactics. Facts about the toxicity of what we breathe, drink and eat, stats on the alarming rate of wealth being sucked up the ladder, rallying calls for the redistribution of wealth – So where is the unified, coordinated redistribution-of-wealth strategy? "Tax the rich"? Is this it?
Did anyone at the Left Forum say international general strike? I didn’t hear it. How much personal and moral authority would it take for, say, 25% of people around the world to shut down the global economy and governments and take charge of every aspect of their own lives, as a group, in solidarity? We could do this, just as soon as we are actually ready to handle it.
But how do unemployed people living on government checks strike? Are they going to refuse to pick up their government checks? Are they really interested in bringing down the government that is the teat they’re attached to for food and drink?
And what about employed people or entrepreneurs, up to their eyeballs in debt, kids, cars . . . what would get them to step out of line to bring down the system and build a new world? What do you think? That going to happen if we have no solidarity or plan that encourages these people to drop out of this way of life and stand together?
In which rooms at the conference were they talking about all this?
There were many details given about corporate abuses of power and how Citizens United will effect elections and bring even more corporate power to lawmaking and military authority, more evidence that we are being strangled and poisoned notch by notch, that while we hem, haw, dilly and dally, Fascism is taking hold and tightening its grip.
We were also privy to many specifics and particulars of the escalating environmental devastation of our biosphere and the denial of corporate/governmental power to recognize the urgency and respond. To be environmentally responsible means abandoning a legacy of exploitation and greed with biblical underpinnings, as well as high-stakes investments in growth and expansion of businesses based on extraction, domination and exploitation of natural ecosystems. To be truly environmentally responsible would mean that predatory capitalist system would be finished and the elite standards of living that everyone in the Left Forum audience is used to would be cut way, way back. Ready to rally for that? Just how many people would be put out of work in that scenario? Even if workers were to take over those businesses as coops, how would they run such businesses if they weren’t going to exploit land or other people?
We want to end the wars, close nuclear power plants, stop hydrofracking and tar sands operations, stop offshore drilling. Are you ready to live without fossil fuels? Ever gone hiking and camping? Ever live like a monk or a nun? No? Do these things now and then let's have a radical conversation.
We were told that Fox News is the most watched television news program and that the Wall Street Journal is the most read newspaper; that the messengers on the Right are ever-so-disciplined, consistent and pervasive in their backward messaging.
But isn’t it also true that Republicans are divided on many issues? We were told that half of Republicans identify as Tea Party supporters and the other half poll more like Democrats on the subject of social programs. So, the truth is that they don’t know what to do either and they don’t agree with each other or stand together on a lot of issues. There are pro-choice, pro gay marriage, fiscal Republicans, for example.
So why were there not concentrated analyses of just what our central messages are and why we are so unclear, undisciplined, inconsistent and ineffectual? Why were we not looking judiciously at ways to create lasting solidarity across platforms, across aisles, across all the blurred and shifting lines of the masses of suffering humanity? Why can’t we think bigger and more holistically than we do?
Artists, spiritual elders, and futurists are the visionary systems thinkers with big-picture capacity, long-range vision, and inner resources of satisfaction, but there were no artists or futurists on the plenary stage. Why not?!
Ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, prodigious minds of erudition and passion, where was the much-needed attention to remedying ideological territorialism, which so afflicts the movement for justice and for sanity? Are we to remain defined primarily by what we are not, by what we oppose, by our anti-corporate and anti-capitalist rage, slogans and declarations?
Must it be our destiny to be in the role of yelping underdogs, fighting with our softie-hearted kid gloves in a class war that is totally rigged, where nothing can be done without capital and where we are perennially undercapitalized and forced to fight a losing battle, when in fact we are lovers not fighters? Why was there not more talk along these lines?
I say we've got to change the game in our own lives and who wants to hear that?! Let us no longer recognize the value of paper currency! Let us be defined by our creative vision and leadership, making obsolete, in both word and deed, the shackles of unwholesome societal projects! Disengage! Pull out! Disobey! Divest yourself of everything you've got sunk into the toxic, unreal world. Occupy the land. Leave the cities and get with the land to learn from and work with those who know how to live in harmony with the land.
Laura Flanders said something very important at the conference. She said, “Reality is what we need to grapple with.” This is truly of the essence. And it’s the same reality for progressives, as it is for those on the right. Dissociation from reality is the most pervasive human problem we are called to overcome now, in every social class, at every age, and in every culture and country on Earth.
Our true unity is actually found in our ignorance and weaknesses, in the pain of our confusion, ineptitude, psychological immaturity and disengagement from the Earth, in our not knowing what to do. The energetic network for mass solidarity is actually the shared experience of modernity and industrial civilization and its discontents, its craziness, its falsities, and our shared struggles of being neither here nor there.
Meanwhile everyone is pretending to know more than they do know and to be stubbornly right in that! We are together in our hidden existential pain. We will be strong when we can present a viable structuring of society that gives everyone the time and resources to address their dissociation from reality, to deal with hurt and the possibility of deep healing for future generations, to approach reality afresh, as ones who have learned a great deal since the start of the industrial era, with only perhaps a few elements of it worth keeping. Let us be eclectic about what we have learned; let's keep gems of wisdom and abolish all our many errors of ways and means.
No one can do this while they are on a rat-wheel “workin’ for the man,” when they are caught up in competition, envy and fear. And “the man” can’t do it either, not when he’s in domination mode, waging war, exploiting underlings, setting policies that don’t serve the universal needs of people, scarring the land and pillaging seas for profit. These are people sadly out of touch.
All too few of us can approach and stay engaged with reality if we are living within today’s world structures, which are so very damaging to the spirit. This is why monks and nuns are given protection to be reclusive; they are doing the work of inner alignment with reality. More and more of us could disengage from academia and all forms of institutional and establish work and turn inward to contact reality, living very simply and without fanfare. As we do, we need less and less of what the techno-monopoly world has to offer, seeing it as a sorrowful waste of the gift of life. All people might be touched by reality and therein find rest, peace.
Are we willing to lay down our careers, positions and possessions if that’s what needs to be done to reach our most cherished goals?
Imagine if 85% of the world’s population were highly educated and psychospiritually mature. Anarchy might work. It would not be such a chaotic situation. But if 85% of the world’s population is ignorant, dependent and immature, anarchy is completely untenable, because people cannot self-manage and they will not be trustworthy to look after each other and other forms of life.
A favorite slogan of the Situationists during the European social upheavals in 1968 was "Be Realistic. Demand the impossible.”
Reality itself is demanding that we transcend, create, surpass former limits and that is the natural way of the universe anyway, with or without us. What seems “impossible,” out of reach, is so because our psychospiritual development and its conditions are too undeveloped to live up the moral sense or the creative potential that is ours, but which is very intimate. This demand for alignment with intimate reality is knocking inside all of us but the most severely crippled souls, those very people who so often find their way into positions of power. When are we going to answer to the intimate truth instead of to the magnetic psychopaths who dominate and manipulate through ignorance and lies?
The growth humanity needs now has nothing to do with the growth of an economy or the provision of “creature comforts,” nor with rallies and the fall of governments. It is about deepening and strengthening of our capacity to meet reality and be wholeheartedly aligned with it, to be realized people, working with natural law as our law.
Can we imagine that the basis of our entire global culture is to achieve what is generally considered “the state of enlightenment,” but which is simply alignment with reality?
Will the academic left get with this? If so, you might just be out of a job, professors. How would you like to build a cob house with a bunch of us and put in some gardens and greenhouses?
And, will “the spiritual left” please leave off with the UFOs and aliens, crystals and runes, drug trips, crop circles, reptilian humans, astrology, mystery cults, power of attraction workbooks, drum circles, fortune tellers, pagan rites . . . and meet with intellectuals and just folks around the campfire for some practical architecture?
Now, will the evangelists and the rednecks, addicts, doctors, pharmacists, lawyers, gangsters, secret agents and casino owners turn away from false doctrines, false flags, guns and poisons? What? No? Will you be ransacking our brand new mud and straw villages? Really?
Don’t you want to admit that the native peoples were the advanced minds, the wisdom figures, and that the Europeans were the neurotic, puerile savages?
Can we get a wee bit smarter and more radical now?
Making our demand Life’s demand, taking this upon ourselves as a species, across all borders, boundaries and divisions, is deeply political in nature and also deeply spiritual: these go together. Once you’re fully involved in reality, you won’t have time anymore for consumer business or celebrities, nor will you harbor a shred of interest in the circus of electoral politics.
Bio-psycho-social-spiritual integration and development, dynamic growth, holistic health and clear mind-sight into and through the old and the present has the potential to bring not only the fractured left together, but humanity as a whole.
The imperative for reality changes the human project entirely. We simply cannot go back to sing Jack and Jill, play musical chairs and Ring around the Rosy now. We simply cannot sing anthems, run marathon rat races or have the fruits of our love and work go to war and waste.
The whole stage-set will be dismantled when we are over the silly stories of this theater! All of us, together, over it, over it now! Dull, ditzy, dusty old stories!
Victor Hugo famously said "Greater than the tread of mighty armies is an idea whose time has come." And the time as come, fellow human beings, to acknowledge that when enough of the human race grows up and perceives reality, the seemingly endless cycles of invasion, exploitation and domination of peoples and planet will be obsolete.
There are not enough jails, money or uniformed men to contain, hold back and push down an idea whose time has come.
It is the whole construct of reality that is crumbling and dying around us. Goodbye. Good night. Good luck. Awaken.
©2011 Jari Chevalier
January 28th, 2011
"Addiction is helping to teach us what's important."
Bruce Alexander is an expert in the field of addiction. He joined the psychology department at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada in 1970. He has counseled hard-core heroin addicts, conducted psychopharmacological research (the “Rat Park” experiments), supervised field research on cocaine use for the World Health Organization, studied the history of drug law and drug policy, documented the diverse addictions of university students, studied the “temperance mentality” in several countries, served on the Boards of NGOs in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, and published two controversial books, Peaceful Measures: Canada’s Way Out of the War on Drugs (University of Toronto Press, 1990) and The Globalization of Addiction: A Study in Poverty of the Spirit (Oxford University Press, 2008). Since retiring from the university as Professor Emeritus in 2005, Dr. Alexander continues to write, conduct research and teach neighbourhood addiction seminars in Vancouver. He lectures frequently across Canada and in Europe. He was awarded the Sterling Prize for Controversy in 2007.
Visit Bruce Alexander's website: globalizationofaddiction.ca
And since we speak about Martin Luther King and his rousing last speech, here is a link to the recent special program in celebration of Dr. King, which aired on Democracy Now, on January 17, 2011. It includes part of his "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech in the second half of the program, beginning at minute 29:32.
Listen at your convenience!
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Thanks for listening!
November 3rd, 2010
" . . . understanding this problem [sociopathy] creates an entire paradigm shift in the way we view human nature."
--Dr. Martha Stout
This episode of our program brings you an interview with Dr. Martha Stout, clinical psychologist and bestselling, award-winning author on the subject of sociopathy. For twenty-six years, she served as a Psychology Instructor in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and also taught at the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology, Wellesley College, The New School for Social Research, and the National Institute of Mental Health. Dr. Stout has worked at Massachusetts General Hospital and McLean Psychiatric Hospital. She is author of The Myth of Sanity, The Paranoia Switch, and The Sociopath Next Door: The Ruthless Versus the Rest of Us, a National Bestseller and winner of a Books for a Better Life Award.
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October 1st, 2010
Several hundred people gathered for the 4th annual Horizons: Perspectives on Psychedelics conference at the Judson Memorial Church on Washington Square South on September 24-26.
This conference surveys the current research and social issues in the field of psychedelics. Readings by John Perry Barlow from Birth of a Psychedelic Culture and Don Lattin, author of The Harvard Psychedelic Club, provided historical context and Cosmo D set the atmosphere with a performance of textured cello improvisation over original electronic rhythms to open the weekend.
Why has psychedelic research been discriminated against in academia? Dr. Torsten Passie took us through the reasons. He showed slides of tribal people lying back all together with their eyes closed: not very productive! A Western capitalist worldview, which requires relations with nature to be utilitarian and depth of feeling to be kept private is not likely to embrace the potential value of trance states, the sharing of dreams, or the hallucinogenic experience.
Furthermore, ecstatic experience through psychedelics can engender direct, unmediated experience of the divine in oneself and in all of nature. This does not comport particularly well with the teachings of the Christian church, which holds forth that each and every one of us needs Jesus Christ to mediate our salvation.
Psychedelics deconceptualize and deconstruct entrenched value systems and, therefore, authority over truth is destabilized. So let's add that those who socially engineer and control populations don’t much care for that sort of thing. It becomes a real problem for those in power when people tap into a larger, more satisfying and holistic sense of reality, endemic to their own true natures, accessed intuitively.
Dr. Passie does not expect interest in psychedelics to spread beyond a small, secret society in the foreseeable future.
Dr. Jeffrey Guss, who heads up a current study at NYU on psychedelics in the reduction of cancer anxiety with very positive psychospiritual results, agrees with Dr. Passie that psychedelics will not become mainstream in society and he doesn’t believe that they should, that they are not for everyone.
But, standing in disagreement with these men on this point is independent Manhattan and Sag Harbor-based psychologist in private practice, Neal Goldsmith, PhD. Along with organizer Kevin Balktic, Dr. Goldsmith facilitates the conference. His sense is that to move into an age beyond post-modernism, one integrating the Cartesian split, psychedelics may play an important role.
He speaks of his own transformation through psychedelic experiences and how it altered his personality theory and views on personal growth and change. He describes a step-wise developmental process with dramatic growth to a new level of development after periods on a plateau. In essence, he says the issue is not to change a pathology, but to form genuine trusting relationships through which his clients can re-identify with their core selves. The person you were born, before you “punted” to a compensatory Plan B, personality, to get by in early childhood, is who you really are. Healing is getting back to that core self.
He's seen that transformative developmental change takes a long time and is very difficult to sustain in this culture. A combination of transcendent and cathartic approaches are most effective, and in this, psychedelics can be catalysts to insight, although insight alone, he says, only goes so far.
The large-scale collective process of what he calls psyche-ology, the study and healing of soul, is really concerned now with successfully joining mechanistic, scientific and technological knowledge with the realities of human psychosocial needs.
Eric Davis, a current PhD candidate, author, speaker and radio host discussed inner and outer Cartesian dualities by way of a metaphor, a mobius strip on which the material at some point turns over into the spiritual, the secular into the sacred and vice versa, in a flow.
There is a hunger in our culture (with its resistance to all things mystical) for the ritual and ceremonial context in which the hallucinogen Ayahuasca is taken by tribal peoples from the rain forests of South America; and this is likely why Ayahuasca has become so popular in North America in recent years.
Davis also pointed to Roland Griffiths’ 2008 Johns Hopkins study which proved that the use of psychedelics gives rise to religious experience (“No shit, Sherlock,” he said, “we knew that!”) And so the open question is: what does a secular, materialistic research model do with this scientific confirmation? And does moving the psychedelic experience into the psychopharmaceutical, clinical environment of the lab, perhaps diminish its potential for healing self and society?
The scientific approach is valuable, Davis upholds, because of the nagging questions it prompts us to ask about the brain. For instance, if you’re going to coin terms like “neurotheology” as a way to account for the experience of God, then you must also account for déjà vu, clairvoyance, and many other experiences of the mind.
For scientists to be seriously engaged in psychedelic research they eventually must take the psychedelics themselves. And that could just stimulate changes in the scientific approach itself. We may find ourselves up against our culture’s addictions to limiting ideas.
Psychedelic use for the treatment of addiction was reported on by researchers Matthew Johnson and Mary Cosimano of Johns Hopkins University who are currently investigating psilocybin in the treatment of nicotine dependence.
Most striking was the presentation by Clare Wilkins, director of Pangea Biomedics in Tijuana, Mexico on the remarkable properties of Ibogaine, a hallucinogenic root from Gabon, Africa that reverses addictions to opiates; such as heroine and methadone, as well as to cocaine, methamphetamine, alcohol, nicotine, and all manner of addictive behaviors and neurotic thoughts.
Ninety-two percent of clients who enter the clinic leave free of their chemical dependency, and without any withdrawal symptoms. Eighteen percent are still living without their drug of choice after six months, and this is a remarkable liberation rate. The hallucinogen gives addicts a real chance at choice. While exactly how ibogaine works is still unknown, there is clearly repair to brain receptors and an adjustment in neurochemistry.
She describes Ibogaine as a “relationship interrupter,” accomplishing “shame washing, empowerment, and the reawakening of the body’s intelligence.” Ibogaine “enables you to look at your life and eliminate anything that is not serving you.” Self-harm becomes self-care. “You fall back in love with yourself, with others and with life. It brings love back into the equation.”
Several of the non-academic speakers praised visionary experience and its influence on art, music, fashion, film, eco-consciousness and the integration of Eastern and Western mysticism. Annie Oak spoke about her grant-making organization, the Women’s Visionary Congress, and how this multigenerational community of “psychedelic women” support one another in their ongoing catalytic work as artists, healers, activists and visionaries.
But some brought up the dark side and limitations of psychedelics. Associate producer of the annual Bioneers conference, J.P. Harpignies, reminded us that in the 60s many a psych-ward and hospital was packed with LSD casualties. And poet, Dale Pendell, while acknowledging that we have yet to complete the psychedelic revolution, that the Earth is in need of a deep and radical cure, also cautioned us to consider that psychedelics are not effective on narcissism. In fact, with their tendency to stimulate messianic fantasies in some people, psychedelics may have contributed to the rapid rise of Me-ism in society.
Jill Harris of the Drug Policy Alliance urged the Horizons audience to come out about their psychedelic experiences, to break the taboo and share stories. “They have been important to us; they have mattered.” Let’s be vocal about how transformative these drugs can be and about the fact that prohibition doesn’t work. At the 40th anniversary of the War on Drugs, “it’s time to set the exit strategy.”
Heading home through Washington Square park at twilight, the great stone arch with its bold, engraved quotation was all lit up:
“Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair. The event is in the hand of God.”
Washington spoke those words to inspire his delegates to aim high in the writing of the Constitution of the United States. It was crafted, in this spirit, over the next 17 weeks.
And I thought, yes, here it is, the time Washington expected for the wise and honest to repair to those standards. And it will be, indeed, up to the wise and the honest to do the job.
“There are methods for changing social policies,” Neal Goldsmith tells us, “and we’ve got to power through, shoulder to the wheel, and do the work.”
©2010 Jari Chevalier
July 18th, 2010
Living Hero Gabor Maté, M.D. appeared on July 7th at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York City to kick off a seven-part series of live events related to The Tibetan Book of the Dead.
Dr. Ramon Prats, curator of the contemporaneous Bardo exhibition, conversed with Dr. Maté on stage and then invited questions from the audience.
Dr. Maté is author of In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction. He explained that the hungry ghost realm is a symbol for a state of being, part of the Wheel of Life, described in The Tibetan Book of the Dead. This is a state of unquenchable longing and craving, a state well-known to the addicts Dr. Maté treats in Vancouver, British Columbia’s downtown eastside.
Maté began by stating that 2500 years ago Buddhism presaged almost every discovery of contemporary neuroscience. For example, it has been scientifically corroborated that neurologically there is no abiding self to be found in body or brain. This is one of the central teachings of the Buddha. What we perceive as a continuity of self is but a stream of micro-second mind-states, which can be remembered; electrical information that follows patterns conditioned by former mind-states.
These brain circuits were fundamentally conditioned by our earliest experiences. Maté says that the “anti-infant North American ethic,” which permits a parent to just let their infant cry and cry to exhaustion, conditions that infant to become a human being resigned to a world that “just doesn’t give a damn.”
The addicts he works with have all been severely abused, and without exception all the women have been sexually abused. These people’s minds and brains have been deeply conditioned to expect to live in a hostile, dangerous, uncaring world.
Gabor Maté says there are two fallacies currently operating in the treatment of addicts in our society and that both of these fallacies erroneously take society off the hook of responsibility. The first one is the fallacy of choice, the idea that addicts choose to be addicts. They don't, he says, and the whole legal structure, the systems that punish them would have to come apart if you correct this fallacy.
And the second fallacy is the genetic disease fallacy. Addiction is not a result of genetic potentiality, but of the combination of nature and nurture, of genetic potential and the conditioning forces of the environment.
All of Dr. Maté’s various books underscore the importance of early attachment relationships in the formation of human lives. A healthy attachment in early life brings about a self-regulated, satisfied, and socially connected adult. In the abused child, these circuits don’t form properly and the person is then likely to replace those necessary healthy attachments with self-destructive ones.
The Buddha taught that habit energies wrestle the untrained mind. And so, strengthening the mind with the training of concentration, of self-observation, gives people an opportunity to perceive their own thinking-and-feeling processes and thereby realize that there’s more to us than our conditioning.
The consistent observation of one’s own mind can have the power to create new neural circuits that can override the conditioned patterns established in early experience. Based upon actual self-awareness, such mindfulness helps to create emotional balance, spiritual ease, and an increased capacity for self-regulation.
Dr. Maté reminded the audience that Christ had said: you can do everything I can do; and that Buddha nature and Christ nature are actually human potentials. What makes these potentials realizable is getting the conditioned mind and false attachments out of the way.
One of the questions posed by an audience member was about free will. “Freedom of choice is relative and it’s conditioned,” Maté said. What promotes free will? What liberates people? When it comes to individuals working on their own, what promotes choice is awareness; among people it is compassion. Stress hormones, on the other hand, interfere with our power of choice.
In the spirit of compassion, Dr. Maté acknowledged the difficulties people, especially Westerners, have in cultivating mindfulness. He confessed that he, himself, has not sustained a meditation practice and admitted that he is actually terrified of his own mind because of the traumas he endured as an infant.
Speaking further of Western culture, he referenced Sogyal Rinpoche, who wrote The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, based on the traditional Tibetan Book of the Dead. Sogyal Rinpoche says that Westerners, in general, have an active form of laziness, one in which they cram their minds so full of stimuli that there’s no time at all to confront their relationships.
Maté turned things around a bit and asked the audience a question, “What would you think if someone in your life kept on boasting: ‘I’m the greatest; I’m the most creative; everyone wants to be like me’? You’d think this person is really insecure! At the heart of the American dream there’s a terrible insecurity.”
Can we get over our vain insecurity? Both Dr. Prats and Dr. Maté spoke of how the term “rebirth,” found in Buddhist literature, refers to a process of recreating ourselves (our patterns of thought and perception) moment by moment. The Buddha taught humanity how to not rebirth that same pattern of self; how to free our minds; how to die without dying, to let the painful conditioning of our minds die back as our bodies live on, so that we may realize a liberated state and live out of our deeper nature.
How common it is to live without living. But to die without dying is rare.
July 7th, 2010
Ellen Bryson is the author of The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno, a novel about being different, being human, and finding redemption. She holds a BA in English from Columbia University and an MA in creative writing from Johns Hopkins in Washington DC.
Ellen Bryson began as a professional modern dancer, working in Cleveland Ohio and Boston Massachusetts during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, then shifted her focus to the philanthropic field where she worked for over a decade in both private and community foundations, culminating in national work for the Council on Foundations in Washington DC. A world traveler, she has lived in the middle eastern country of Bahrain and in Argentina South America, where being an outsider both in language and culture, helped inform the message of this, her first novel. She currently lives in San Diego, CA with her husband and is considering a move to France.
We talked about:
The world's thinnest man, Bartholomew Fortuno ● Working back from the ending ● The dream that prompted the book ● The perception of beauty ● Freedom or captivity ● Maternal impression ● Iell Adams, the mysterious bearded woman ● P.T. Barnum's Fiji Mermaid ● The symbolic birds ● What art does for us ● The will to change ● The comic layer of a strange, dark world ● The author's future plans
Enjoy the show! (The interview is about 28 minutes.)
Listen at your convenience!
Click through to buy The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno right from this site in the Amazon sidebar widget to the left.
Ellen Bryson's website.
May 3rd, 2010
"We used to have wisdom without science; now . . . we have science without wisdom."
—Dr. Gabor Maté
Physician, activist, author, educator and public speaker, Gabor Maté, MD, is widely recognized for his contributions to the field of mind-body medicine. He has eloquently and persuasively called for a reevaluation of our most pervasive and debilitating ills in light of whole-systems stressors so often borne in utero, infancy and early childhood and the attendant, recurrent patterns of suppressing emotions of hurt and anger into adulthood. Gabor Maté is a compassionate doctor whose 20-year career as a family physician and his current work with HIV-positive addicts in Vancouver, BC, equips him with direct knowledge and empathic experience. He is the author of In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction, When the Body Says No: Understanding The Stress-Disease Connection and Scattered: How Attention Deficit Disorder Originates And What You Can Do About It.
We talked about:
Whole person nourishment and attunement ● Why early life quality is so critical to society ● Stressed parents, emotional repression and disease ● What is the role of addiction? ● The mind-body supersystem and why modern medicine won’t recognize it ● Maté’s definition of addiction ● Free will and free won’t ● Denial and our addicted society ● Consciousness-raising and the miracle of a healing path ● The divine feminine and gut feelings ● Sensitivity and resilience or hardening and rigidity ● The Bully Syndrome and the truth about bullies ● Stuck where our needs were not met ● Ayahuasca and the swift road to healing and liberation ●
Enjoy the show! (The interview is about 46 minutes.)
Listen at your convenience!
Click through to buy Gabor Maté's books right from this site in the Amazon sidebar widget to the left.
Dr. Maté's website.
April 1st, 2010
"We never heard of another wild animal coming out of the jungle and saving a life of a human. But there are many stories of dolphins doing that. That's communication. That is communication. That is altruism."
Ric has devoted the last 40 years of his life to freeing dolphins from captivity and to educating people throughout the world about these highly conscious, intelligent, and emotional creatures. Most recently his campaign to end the annual dolphin hunt and slaughter in Taiji, Japan, became the subject of The Cove, a brilliant film that won the Oscar for best feature documentary this year.
As a young man, O'Barry captured, trained, and lived with the dolphins who played Flipper in the popular TV series. He experienced a powerful epiphany when the lead dolphin died in his arms. Ever since that day in 1970, he has been arrested many times and risked his life in his quest to protect dolphins from hunters and to release captive dolphins back into the wild. He is author of To Save a Dolphin and Behind the Dolphin Smile. I urge you to listen to this amazing man!
We talked about:
Dolphins in the wild and in captivity ● A man in a tank and living with Flipper ● Communicating with dolphins ● Flipper's death and Ric's epiphany ● Going to jail for liberating dolphins ● The Big Lie and the Schizophrenic Cove ● Why the slaughter? ● Toxic dolphin meat and contaminated oceans ● Rehabilitating dolphins (or not) ● Dolphin trauma and madness ● Making The Cove documentary ● The Japanese cover-up and the power of "Gaiatsu" ● Activism: what works? ● How can we listeners help stop the slaughter? ●
Enjoy the show! (The interview is about 46 minutes.)
Listen at your convenience!
Click through to buy Ric O'Barry's books right from this site in the Amazon sidebar widget to the left.
Earth Island Institute;
The Cove movie site;
The Oceanic Preservation Society
Read a great article on Ric here.
December 4th, 2009
“Death costs a fortune, but life is free,” writes Living Hero Terry Riley, in a lyric for his composition Missy Gono. Riley is a true original, recognized worldwide for first bringing minimalist musical composition into circulation in 1964 with his now classic In C and thereby influencing a new generation of avant garde composers and acid rock bands. Dedicated to a life of deep listening, composition, and inspired performance, Terry joins us to share his insights into art, a healing spirit and life.
We talked about:
The inner experience of originality ● Terry’s Time Lag Accumulator ● Dipping into a sound current ● Music and altered states ● Creativity, discipline, spirit and nature ● Psychedelics and spiritual practice ● Our world and our path to healing ● Urban sound and sensitivity ● Raising kids in a creative household ● Terry's ongoing relationship with his works ● His creative influences ● Imagination as an aspect of intelligence ● Music as philosophy and a model of the world ● The story of Missy Gono ● 6500 pipes in the wee hours at Disney Hall
Enjoy the show! (The interview is about 40 minutes.)
Listen at your convenience!
Click through to buy some of Terry's CDs on Amazon right from this site in the sidebar to the left.
Visit Terry's website at terryriley.net
November 1st, 2008
The Living Hero program presents an interview with celebrated neuroscientist, Dr. Richard Davidson. Dr. Davidson is a William James and Vilas Research Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He directs the Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior where he conducts research on the short- and long-term effects of meditation practices on human emotion and the circuitry of the brain.
He holds a doctorate from Harvard University and has published more than 250 articles, chapters and reviews. The founding co-editor of the new American Psychological Association journal, EMOTION and he has also edited 13 books.
One of Dr. Davidson's most valuable findings is that happiness and compassion are trainable skills that can be developed, just as we can learn to play a musical instrument; that it is possible to train a mind to be happy and peaceful.
We talked about:
• What prompted Dr. Davidson's career path
• Meditation as a path of transformation
• The different forms of meditation
• How meditation changes the brain
• Meditation in health and in education
• Long-term effects of meditation on brain function and gene expression
• Meditation and Christianity
• How to learn more about Dr. Davidson's work
Numerous honors and awards of distinction have come to Dr. Davidson, including the most distinguished award for science given by the American Psychological Association – the Scientific Contribution Award. He has also received the Research Scientist Award and the MERIT Award from the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH); and many other honors recognizing his groundbreaking contributions.
In 2003, Dr. Davidson was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and in 2004, to the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters. In 2006, he was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time Magazine.
Davidson maintains a close, collaborative relationship with Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, the world's best-known practitioner of Buddhist meditation. The Dalai Lama first invited Davidson to his home in Dharamsala, India, in 1992 after learning about Davidson's innovative research into the neuroscience of emotions. Dr. Davidson has had the opportunity to study the brains of many of the world’s most advanced meditation practitioners.
Visit these websites for more information:
Waisman Lab website
U of Wisconsin Psychology Department website
Enjoy the show! (The interview is about 25 minutes)
Listen at your convenience!
September 1st, 2008
The Living Hero show is very proud to present an interview with Marcy Axness, Ph.D.
Dr. Axness is an early development specialist who writes and speaks internationally on parenting, society, and the needs of children. She is an authority in such wide-ranging fields as neurobiology (brain development), prenatal and developmental psychology, attachment theory, and consciousness research. Marcy’s particular specialization is in very early development--beginning even before conception--and she is one of the world’s few experts in prenatal / neonatal issues in adoption. She is a professor at Santa Barbara Graduate Institute and has a private practice in Los Angeles, counseling parents and prospective parents.
We talked about:
• Raising generation PAX
• Quantum parenting
• The fundamental question every human is always asking
• The peace-creativity connection
• P-A-R-E-N-T-S, Marcy's parenting To-Dos
• The surprising single strongest predictor of a child's healthy attachment
• The dominant reality engine of our time
• How to behaviorally reduce ADD and ADHD
• What drives the viscious human cycle
• Tapping into the unseen dimensions of experience
Visit Marcy's website at http://www.marcyaxness.com
Enjoy the show!
Listen at your convenience!
April 7th, 2008
I am writing to you from The Ragdale Foundation in Lake Forest, Illinois, a lovely northern suburb of Chicago. Ragdale is an artist residency program that grants support to working artists by providing work/live space and meals (the chef is great here!) so they can concentrate on creating new work.
Immersing myself again in the making of visual art has been healing, surprising, and nourishing. I’m here for a month with other visual artists, fiction writers, and poets. Many of those here since I got here on March 27th will be leaving on Wednesday, opening the space for another group of ten whom I’ll meet, since I will stay on until April 23rd. I’ve met Anne LeClaire, Debra Darvick, Lucy Ferriss, Larry Thomas, Johnny Horton, Anita Garza, Katie Rodrigues, Rone Shivers, Lori Kagan and Amy Walsh. . . I am honored to be in this fine company.
Places like Ragdale acknowledge the need for free time and space to simply BE, to allow oneself to enter a passive-receptive state, a state of quiet engagement and inquiry, which provides the prime conditions for insight, intuitive leaps, and breakthroughs in composition.
You know, all artists are composers: it’s all about composition.
The artist combines and arranges elements to produce a harmonious whole through non-analytical means; a piece of work that has a formal coherence is born of synthesis (as opposed to analysis), which includes both conscious and unconscious layers of experience and that reconciles, in a fresh and new way, the multivalent human experience. This happens through the artist's own visceral and emotional powers of deduction, which are cultivated with practice, enabling something ordered and fixed to be born from the most general, encompassing and ineffable aspects of existence.
Whereas philosophers and scientists seek to encapsulate themes of the human universe and experience through mathematical equations and contextual theories; artists do so through their compositions. In any case, the construct is meant to stand in, reductively, for that which is overwhelming and mysterious, yet ever-present.
Composition provides a resting place for the viewer or listener, a place of contemplation, recollection, absorption. It can do so because it represents and displays a synthesis of the artist’s own many hours of reflection, self-confrontation, and composure.
Works of art thereby become highly fertile common ground for fresh perspectives and cultural progress, not as objects in and of themselves, but as catalysts for insight and understanding: the artwork is where the strange seeds of consciousness, of both artist and audience, meet and take root. This is perhaps why dictators and tyrants seek to either squelch or use the artists.
But in the complicit tyranny of our society, people have allowed themselves to become so busy and distracted that so much of art goes unperceived and thereby rendered impotent and inconsequential. Because even the greatest music, art, books, and dances are nothing if no one is sensitively and receptively listening, watching, reading, and engaging with them. Artist and audience are of equal importance to the enterprise of realizing art. It is vital to take the time to compose yourself and reflect on what is real, true, and beautiful in life; it’s crucial to civilization and human care.
©Jari Chevalier, 2008
March 8th, 2008
When you focus and hold your attention on a single object or on your own mind-body processes, you are meditating. An age-old metaphor for thought, captured in the phrase “a train of thought,” can be helpful in differentiating thought from meditation.
If you are riding inside a train of thought, carried along in it, you are thinking; but in meditation, you are watching multicolored train-cars passing through the station of your mind. You are observing thought, rather than being carried within it.
When you become adept at meditation, the station may be quiet for stretches of time: no trains. Sometimes you faintly hear a train approaching from a distance, yet it does not end up coming through . . . your attention dissolves it and it never arrives.
Why set aside time in our busy lives to recondition our minds through meditation?--To be awake, yet quiet, peaceful, aware and focused. Peace. Awareness. Focus.
So, why aren’t more people meditating? Well, actually, we are. But for those who aren't, it may be because changing our habits is hard, even when new habits can mean the difference between life and death. For instance, in many studies of patients who have undergone coronary bypass surgery, only one in nine people, on average, adopts and stays with a new exercise and dietary program.
Trying to change our habits requires a lot of attention. At first, looking closely and steadily at things as they are, as one does in meditation, can lead to feelings that many people find uncomfortable. So they opt to avoid really looking. But, if you will persist, stay with yourself, hang in there and refine your observational abilities through the practice of meditation, you will find that the mind is, in fact, not as hardwired as you thought.
Aside from the many health benefits of meditation, which are now widely known and accepted, meditation strengthens your ability to modulate your own reactivity, so that you do not resort to self-destructive coping mechanisms; such as, drinking alcohol or other palliative forms of escape from the feelings that can arise while facing reality. You also are less reactive to others, kinder, more compassionate.
Meditation gets to the root of distress and equips you to live a more wholesome, meaningful, relaxed and insightful existence, even when uncertainty, hurt feelings, or doubt come through the station.
In a world of meditators, we would find many social problems dissolving and evaporating. Big-picture and long-view thinking, grounded in wisdom, would be commonplace. Consideration of and reverence for the natural world would be central. Enjoyment and fulfillment in life’s simple pleasures would be written on our faces. Appreciation of diverse cultures, habitats, spiritual expressions and perspectives would be manifested in steadfast investment in and preservation of them. A large-scale maturation of the human animal, a new evolutionary stage would be evident everywhere.
©Jari Chevalier, 2008
February 29th, 2008
Our fingerprints and faces tell us we are each “sui generis,” (one-of-a-kind), although most of us were raised to conform to, and plug into, a social structure, rather than encouraged to discover and display our distinctive gifts.
I often imagine a world of people brought up to shine as one-of-a-kind, creative expressions of humanity and wonder what such a world would be like. Each child would be approached with utter curiosity and a sense of reverence for the unforeseen gifts they might bring to both family and society. Their sui generis idiosyncracies would be nurtured by parents, teachers, leaders and the culture at large.
Would this approach help to bring about whole and fulfilled people, people who feel unashamed, confident, and appreciated for who they truly are?
Most kids have jumping-for-joy natures, abounding life energies and strong emotions. Yet, their unusual thoughts and insights, self-love, love of pleasure and of life are considered, at best, adorable in the cute way, rather than the worthy-of-adoration way. They are asked, in so many instances, to conform to what’s expected of them, to apply themselves to finding their place (a.s.a.p.!) in existing models, roles and societal structures, rather than to engender new systems and create new forms.
We may, in fact, be asking children to thwart their natural love of life to better fit into a system that is stressful, unhealthy and inhumane. Young people, whose heart-intelligence and innate compassion are still very much in tact, are one day treated to a movie about how sweet and wonderful penguins are and the next day informed of the destruction of the penguin habitat due to human profligacy. What tools do we provide them for dealing with their feelings about such ironies and inconsistencies?
When children object to societal emotional confusion, in their immature sui generis way, their rebellions are often attacked, shamed, undermined. I recently witnessed a young boy of about seven with his mother in front of a fish counter at Whole Foods. I saw him looking up at her and overheard her say, dismissively, unwilling to look down to meet his eyes, "There are plenty of fish in the sea, Johnny; it’s perfectly fine for us to eat them."
The point is not the fish here, the point is this boy’s heart and how his mother responded to his heart’s cry. And we wonder how the steep rise of childhood mental health disorders, and all the consequences associated with them, could be happening in such a wonderful place as the suburbs of the United States!
The erroneously attributed Chinese dish named Chop Suey is a bland, overcooked, and unpalatable dish of cheap, canned vegetables and water chestnuts held together with corn starch, invented in America and passed off as Chinese.
Do American adults turn their children into Chop Sui, while worrying that the Chinese are taking away their opportunities and wealth, spoiling their American Dream?! Would the children, if they knew what the choices were in our world, even choose the values of the American Dream?
The futurist author Daniel Pink details Six Senses needed in the coming generations in his book, A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future. These senses are Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play, and Meaning. I believe Empathy is the most important one of these senses to encourage and develop in the lives of children. Empathy is the ability to feel what another is feeling, to really meet other people and other creatures where they live, so to speak. Just imagine what a world this would be if empathy were an aptitude highly developed and prized in society at large, right from the way children are conceived, carried and birthed!
Imagine how that value of tenderness and care would naturally change the nature and aptitudes of their imaginations and contribute to the sensitivities of their other senses. And extend this imagining to how the products and services that drive the economy would also, organically, change in response to increased and concerted empathy in mass culture.
Imagine how a robust sense of empathy would influence the questions each individual would be asking about society; such as: Just what are we putting ourselves in service to? Are our enterprises honest and caring? How are we making and interpreting meaning in our educational and media presentations? How are we putting all the informational pieces of our society together? What are our fundamental narratives about? What are we designing and for what purposes?
In the presence of pervasive and abiding empathy, all our activities are in service to a healthier, more integrated way of life. And, I might dare to add, true empathy is what makes it possible for the sui generis nature of each face, each individual, each living thing, to truly shine and be held dear.
©2008 Jari Chevalier
January 28th, 2008
In our language, we have two similarly named thresholds of awareness. One is the subliminal, “that which lies below,” that which we generally refer to as the subconscious. The other is the sublime, which we speak of mostly at times when we have briefly transcended that upper limit, when we are momentarily sent “over the top” with feeling, with awe, surprise or beauty, surpassing our usual realm of sensation and awareness. People have been known to faint from being unable to sustain the sublime.
We would not know these boundaries if we didn’t, in unusual states and circumstances, access what is beyond them. Symbols, metaphors and buried memories do break into consciousness from the unconscious. And we do have wondrous and sublime experiences in nature, through love, in beholding our own newborn child, in moments of discovery, and through the experience of insight.
These thresholds of awareness frame not where you have been and what you have done, but the range of perception and feeling you were fit to bear, whereever you went and whatever you did.
Our ability to access both the subliminal and the sublime is integral to our capacity to accept and bear their truth and their gifts. These thresholds in the self are not fixed. They can go from brick walls to accessible doorways to a mere change in the landscape within yourself. As you develop yourself as a human being and become someone more psychologically mature, of greater spiritual fortitude, your range of awareness and capacity to feel into both the subliminal and the sublime will grow. You will be able to experience more feeling without fear, awkwardness, overwhelm or discomfort. You will also be much more in touch with the tremendous creative and integrative forces that are within you.
How do you open the range of your awareness and enlarge your capacity to feel and know more of your own life’s forces and riches? The best ways I know involve yoga, creativity and meditation.
©Jari Chevalier, 2008
January 23rd, 2008
Control. Constraint. Inhibition. Constriction. Fear. Tension. Anxiety. Angst. Anger. Angina . . . these last four all share the same Latin root, angere, which means to strangle or choke.
Do you know how to release the grip, to relax, unbind, let go, let down, and "uninhibit" your mind and body? Let me ask this again: do you know how to relieve and relax your own mind?
I have discovered that we can learn to relax right in the midst of fear or pain and, in doing so, more permanently influence and change the state of our minds and bodies.
In the early 1990s I suffered from acute sciatica. The sciatic nerve is the largest bundle of nerves in our bodies and mine was severely inflamed. This ranked right next to childbirth in intensity of pain. I had to ice the area constantly and I lived on Vicodin (Tylenol with codeine) for days.
I had two of these severe attacks before I learned how to use yoga on a regular basis to prevent them, and also how to completely relax both my mind and my body whenever I first started to feel the nerve clenching up. Prior to this time, the nerve would tend to tighten up even further, then go into spasm and have me close to screaming.
But I taught myself to apply consciousness, awareness and intention to muscles and nerves. Then, having experienced the success of this in relation to the sciatica, I began applying this same technique, whenever anxiety and worry started tightening its debilitating grip on me. And I’m here to say that it works quite well.
I do credit this ability to the kind of awareness that develops through the practice of meditation. Meditation develops one’s sense of aliveness and attunement to mind-body processes to an extraordinary degree. We can catch ourselves thinking and feeling with quite a different sensibility than we used to have, or that non-meditators have. This provides a greater freedom of choice, moment to moment, on how life will go for us and those around us, and what we will experience.
In her book The World I Live In (which was out of print for nearly a century and published again just in 2003) Helen Keller says: “The sense of smell has told me of a coming storm hours before there was any sign of it visible. I notice first a throb of expectancy, a slight quiver, a concentration in my nostrils. As the storm draws nearer, my nostrils dilate the better to receive the flood of earth-odors which seem to multiply and extend, until I feel the splash of rain against my cheek. As the tempest departs, receding farther and farther, the odors fade, become fainter and fainter, and die away beyond the bar of space.”
I believe that just as Helen Keller could sense the coming of a storm through her sense of smell, we can sense the coming of anxiety through our awareness. And, before it comes on full strength, we can dissipate it so the storm doesn't happen, or if it does, it may rain, but not be torrential.
Whenever you first sense anxiety’s presence and its encroachment into your mind and body processes, acknowledge it, take a full breath and, staying with yourself, let it out, relaxing completely. This, of course, will not remit the inner or outer conditions that may be giving rise to the anxiety or pain. But, you can head off the intensity of the debilitation in the moment and be better able to function, so as to discern, and then remedy or remove the inciting causes and bring yourself more peace of mind.
January 15th, 2008
Welcome to the Inaugural Living Hero Podcast!
Sleep, Memory, Creativity and Dreams, an interview with Dr. Robert Stickgold
• How sleeps helps us learn
• Creativity and stress
• Meaning and insight
• Deep sleep and consciousness
• Sleep and meditation
• Lucid dreaming
• Symptoms of sleep deprivation
Enjoy the podcast! (you can download the mp3 file, which will play in iTunes, RealPlayer, Windows Media Player and other media players). The interview is 57 minutes. You can also listen to it right here by double clicking on the purple media player below.
AND SOME BREAKING SLEEP RESEARCH NEWS:
By demonstrating that worms sleep, David M. Raizen, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Neurology, in collaboration with other researchers at the Penn Center for Sleep have not only demonstrated the ubiquity of sleep in nature, but also propose a compelling hypothesis for the purpose for sleep.
They propose that sleep is a state required for the nervous system to grow and change, there must be down time of active behavior.
Other researchers at Penn have shown that, in mammals, synaptic changes occur during sleep and that deprivation of sleep results in a disruption of these synaptic changes.
Listen whenever it's convenient!
Want the 21-page transcript of this first Living Hero interview in PDF format? Just ask! Please use the questions/comments box on the right side bar and leave me your name and email so I can send it to you.
January 13th, 2008
We have a biological and psychological need to sleep and dream; and in our dreams we synthesize life experience through symbolic, metaphorical and associative imagery. If denied this activity for even a few days, we become irritable, imbalanced and upset. Eventually, we will start hallucinating (dreaming while awake), dissociating from reality for awhile.
In our waking lives, as in our dream states, it is a support to our mental and physical well-being to process our experience metaphorically. In our society, however, the preoccupations of thought, the constant influx of music, TV and other media, the noise of our busy lives, prevents the active circuitry of the brain from receiving deeper, more subtle intimations of the self and engaging creatively with them.
Given the opportunity, these intimations and their imagery will surface and become active in the brain. Allowing for such opportunities, and actually encouraging, cultivating and nurturing them, brings joy, enthusiasm, understanding, and a sense of well-being, as well as bearing forth powerful new raw material for innovative, artistic and creative projects.
Lynn White, Jr., in her Frontiers of Knowledge in the Study of Man tells us "We are beginning to see that the distinctive thing about the human species is that we are a symbol-making animal, homo signifex, and that without this function we could never have become sapiens. We have not only the capacity to make symbols; we are under the necessity to create them in order to cope humanly with our experience."
This post is my prelude to our upcoming Podcast featuring sleep and dream researcher Dr. Robert Stickgold, scheduled for this Wednesday, January 16th.
December 31st, 2007
What is a personal vision? It's the way you see the world, the power of your own individual perception, the mix that is uniquely you. In Eastern languages, such as Japanese, adjectives always have "for-me-ness" built into the linguistic expression. (For me) this flower is beautiful.
In English, this personal view is supposed to be implicit, but we often forget to acknowledge our subjectivity in every perception.
Our bodies and minds are processors, synthesizers. We take in all kinds of stimuli the way plants take in sunlight; we convert those stimuli into thoughts, expressions and actions, revealing our own natures in particular and human nature in general.
Think of a large studio drawing class with a model, easels set up all around the room. Each artist is positioned at a different angle to the model and each will bring to the subject interpretive, stylistic and technical qualities. One artist may fill the canvas with large, broad minimal lines to capture the figure. Another may work with great precision to get the proportions as realistic as possible. Yet another may use pointillistic daubs to create a dot-matrix impression of the model.
Similarly, at a cocktail party (which many people may be attending as I write this) each person in the room has a different approach to and perception of the party, a different physical and interpretive angle on it.
We are all positioned exclusively as ourselves, with our own particular perceptions. The artist is the unusual person who revels in this uniqueness and finds strength in it and the will to render it authentically.
Artists convey impressions, images, ideas and views to others, many of whom they will never, otherwise, meet. But how many artists deeply question what's being conveyed by their works? Are you aware of and pleased by what you are conveying, whether or not you are an artist? Are you aware of what you stand for? Do you want to establish a more mature understanding of what it is you convey and what it means to your life and the lives you touch?
You arrive at this type of maturity through inquiry, and through experimentation, and ultimately, through developing a sense of accountability in relation to your work and life.
A person with a strong personal vision has realized his fingerprint, the signature of his being, and thus, wherever he goes, presents a recognizable vision and voice, a style. A friend of the painter Miro once said: "When I pick up a stone it's a stone, when Miro picks up a stone, it's a Miro." There are people in every walk of life who make the world their own, and whose works and expressions we would know anywhere. These are our visionaries.
It will be a happy new year for you and yours, I believe, if you tend to the vision that is yours and yours alone.
November 12th, 2007
I have recently read Howard Gardner's Five Minds for the Future. His role in this book, I think, is as a futurist, steering educators, administrators, parents--all of us--towards evaluating curricula in terms of the Five Minds, so as to meet the pressing global human challenges ahead successfully. Einstin's adage: "Imagination is more important than knowledge" strikes me as being along the same lines. Similarly, it's not what you say but how you say it, as in one's tone of voice and the look on one's face. Imagination, and the tone & feel & spirit of things are aspects of the right brain and are typically associated with "feminine values." If you look closely at the Five Minds and what it would actually mean to develop and apply them universally, as paramount in education and society, you are looking at a profound shift in cultural and commercial values. Disciplined, Respectful, and Ethical minds are all more mature and spiritually engaged than what we find in the current competitive paradigm of big business and the "military-industrial complex." Synthesizing and creative minds are more right brain in nature and are, therefore, considered "feminine" in their values. If you actually get to the heart of what he is saying and listen closely, you hear the voice of an enlightened thinker calling for wisdom. If you are also able to synthesize and extract the essence here, you meet him where he lives, in his deep commitment to human development and the hope of realizing greater human potential through education. I'll leave you with a quotation from the book (sorry, no page number handy): "As far as I can see, short of peace pills or widespread extirpation of those brain nuclei or genes that support aggressive behaviors, the only possible avenue to progress lies in education, broadly conceived."