Creating The Enemy

 

 

“The enemy!” If you passed through the town near my home on a recent weekend you might have seen about two hundred Harleys parked around the local tavern and café. Black leather clad riders lounged among the bikes. You might even have felt your body stiffen as you pegged them as an enemy and your mind told you, “Look at all those dangerous bikers! Who will they attack next?If you felt that way, you probably wouldn’t have stopped to exchange a few friendly words with any of them. You might not have noticed that many had gray or white hair. That’s long past the age at which violence is common. You might never have learned that participants had to pay a fee to join the ride, with proceeds donated to a local charity. And since you saw the picture in your mind instead of the reality behind it, your thoughts and feelings about that gathering probably remained unchanged—and wrong.

That’s one small example of an everyday phenomenon. Many fixed mental, emotional, and body reactions shrink the amount of your mind that is open, receptive, and able to tell what’s going on. Taking advantage of that pattern, a very old manipulative tactic is to create an “enemy” to unite against. An enemy is not just an opponent, since you and a competitor can still be friends. Rather, an enemy is seen as someone irrevocably opposed to you and yours. Your enemy is out to do bad things to you. It’s someone toward whom you feel ill will, animosity, or even hate. Once you’ve classified people as enemies, you can easily be tricked into doing terrible things to them. You may even condone truly evil acts carried out against them by those on “your side.” So for example, presidents, premiers, prime ministers and legislators stir up wars that benefit them or the corporations that line their pockets with campaign contributions. They spend your taxes on weapons and send other people’s children (very seldom their own) to fight and get wounded or die. Several intriguing socila psychological studies have shed light on why and how it can be easy  to do that.

In the U.S.. the escalated antagonism associated with the most recent presidential election and its aftermath could not please the plutocracy more. As long as black and whites and latinos are hostile to each other,  our attention is distracted from the people and tactics in the power elite who are the ones who are really screwing us.  We need to step out those old antagonisms and unite to take back the country for the working class and most of the rest of the people. White vs. Black plays right into the hands of the great manipulators. Pretty much the same as political parties. Now we have a president who ran as a “defender of the people” who has turned out to be  a defender of he fossil fuel billionaires.

For more information see the experiments by Muzafer and Carolyn Sherif.

VERBAL “DRIVE-BY-SHOOTINGS”

COMMUNICATION: SIMPLE RESPECT. This is the first new post about  everyday communication. Most of these will not be big, deep comments, but small ones that can improve and brighten everyday dialogues.

In a drive-by-shooting someone in a car or on a cycle or scooter passes someone, fires a shot, and vanishes. The person who is shot has no chance to protect himself or herself or to retaliate.

One kind of comment has something in common with this. A person makes a mean,  insulting or otherwise hurtful comment to another and then vanishes. Maybe in a car, a crowd, into an elevator or room as the door closes, or anywhere else where there is no chance for  a reply. The remark may be right, wrong, or a complete misunderstanding, but the recipient has no chance to explain or correct it.

The recipient may feel feeling demeaned, angry, violent depressed or something else—usually negative. Occasionally he or she feels forgiveness or pity for the small mindedness of the person who made the remark and sped away, but injured feelings are more often the orm,

Why are verbal drive-by-shootings destructive? First, often they cause avoidable pain or suffering for the hearer. Often, of course, the “shooter” doesn’t care. Second, they often trigger a craving for revenge. “I’ll get that S.O.B. back!” If you’re that S.O.B., the reprisal just might come when you least want it. Passive-aggressive intentions to embarrass you terribly or stab you in the back are commonplace. Third, positive feelings that may have existed between the two of you are likely to be shredded or diminished.  This can send a relationships downhill fast.

Sometimes such actions are unintentional, A person may not expect their remark to be hurtful. Or they may be in a big hurry to go and just not think to wait for the other’s reply. Such incidents can often be repaired by later conversation and / or apology. But until then at least one of the people is likely to feel bad.

Also, some people in some situations may just think “FY too” and forget it. Or  may have enough self esteem that the comment just rolls off like water from a duck’s back.

But many people don’t. In the meantime, this communication tactic, habit, or error is best avoided. Leave space for a reply!

SOCIAL SECURITY — WHAT’S REAL?

 

elderly woman

elderly woman

Social Security — In the United States, of all government programs, it is one of the most successful and best run. Now well-offright wingers are trying to destroy it.

A year-in, year-out right-wing Republican agenda is to take a meat cleaver to the social security payments for old people and the disabled. Why?  Because, we are told, “eventually the system will bo broke.” You may or may not recall that the system was put in because many of the old and disabled had no source of income, They either lived on the edge of starvation or under bridges or depended their families for support. Depending on their families is the  opposite of what the we need today. It causes people to have larger families so they will have someone to support them when they can no longer support themselves. In turn that pushes population upward, Instead,  the world now badly needs to stabilize and eventually even reduce population. Resources and are declining and in some places overcrowding is incredible?

Why do the extreme right-wingers relentlessly push this agenda? For four reasons.  First, so the rich can get richer than they already are. Too bad for the suckers in the middle and lower classes. It’s a classical plutocratic, anti-democratic classist agenda. The attack has four prongs. 1) Cut taxes on the very very rich so they can get even richer. 2) End the  “defined benefit” system that guarantees that people will receive a specified amount no matter what the stock market does. Replace it with  a “defined contribution” system that specifies how much people have to pay in each month but leaves how much they’ll get to the tender mercies of  the economy is doing. “If the economy goes upward, they could get more than they expected,” say advocates. (But if the economy tanks, they could get zilch, or nearly zilch Tough luck, sucker. But the stockbrokers and insurance companies that would handle the “defined contribution” accounts and their stockholders would make a bundle. How nice! Really? ( like a slick salesman, they hope they can con enough people into supporting the proposals anyway.) 3) Carefully avoid mentioning that small adjustments in how much people contribute to the system now can easily provide them with a dependable defined benefits far into the forseeable future. And 4) Sshhh — be completely silent about the fact that half the country’s budget goes into war and other military spending. Just one example: the fleet of incredibly expensive new F35s that most of the top generals say is a s a rotten plane. A small cut in unnecessary “defense” (i.e. war – most “defense” spending does nothing at all to protect the U.S. itself)  spending could easily make up for projected shortfalls in social security funding.

These are, of course, the truths I see. They’re the way it looks to me. So is anything anybody says or writes about anything. As for those who (usually falsely) claim to have THE truth — beware the snake-oil salesmen!

Tarot at a Crossroads: The Unexpected Meeting of Tarot and Psychology

tarotcoverwhiteNEW!   NOVEMBER RELEASE, 2016

A UNIQUE NEW TAROT AND PSYCHOLOGY BOOK  HIGHLIGHTS METHODS OF USING VISUAL IMAGERY TO STIMULATE HEALING IN READINGS, COUNSELING, AND PSYCHOTHERAPY

THIS UNPARALLELED RESOURCE CAN BENEFIT TAROT READERS, PSYCHOTHERAPISTSCOUNSELORS,  ART THERAPISTS, LIFE COACHES, SOCIAL WORKERS AND OTHERS
.
IF YOU’RE A TAROT READER,  you’ll find insights and understandings that are in no other work on the Tarot. The book addresses the relationship between reader and client. It shows how to uncover thoughts, feelings, and sensations that underlie first reactions to a card, It presents ways of working through both outer conflicts and inner dilemmas to help make your readings more effective. Using psychological knowledge it descibes ways to read the cards as they uniquely apply to a given person, as well as how to help people create the future they want for themselves. You will also find a number of unique new spreads that can add additional dimensions and depth to your readings for both yourself and others.

IF YOU’RE A HUMAN SERVICES PROFESSIONAL, suddenly you’re no longer limited to words. Much of our thinking occurs as mental pictures and mind-movies.  In our “representational” approach you don’t have to know traditional Tarot card interpretations. The meanings are mostly supplied by the clients, who select images to represent their concerns from a face-up deck.  The book also details how to work with visual imagery of almost any kind, in addition to or as an alternative to Tarot cards.  It  describes how to use a collection of visual images as a substitute for psychodramatic enactment, empty chair dialogues, sand trays, or artistic media. It describes how to use identification, projective dialogues, and enactive movement with the images your clients select  Finally, it shows how to use images to work through issues or foster creativity in relationships with multiple others, such as family constellations or work groups.  It also helps population like children, teenagers, and the very shy to open up and discuss their concerns. 

For all readers, Tarot At A Crossroads tells how to do readings or use the cards for therapy in a group, and how to use them for meditation in inner work. Methods of  using tarot imagery for couples as well as individuals are included. It integrates traditional tarot interpretations with psychological insights to create meaningful interpretations and useful directions for personal work. The book is useful whether you do readings for yourself, for friends, or professionally — or if you want to explore the value of using a symbolic language in your work. Perhaps you will even enjoy just browsing through the book and reflecting on its 208 wonderful color images and what they evoke in you.

The engaging style draws you right in. GET IT NOW at your favorite bookstore or click below on:

AMAZON           BARNES & NOBLE         SCHIFFER PUBLISHING  

Hardcover only — no e-edition yet.  Schiffer has created a beautiful book design that we’re sure you’ll enjoy.

Supreme Court Justices – 3 thoughts

photo of Oliver Wendell Holmes

Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes

 A few thoughts on the Supreme Court.

One of the issues in this year’s presidential elections is the appointment of new Supreme Court judges.  Long ago Plato wrote, “Justice in the life and conduct of the State is possible only as it firs resides in the hearts and souls of the citizens.

      That’s an admirable ideal. It is also often violated. French poet, journalist, and novelist Anatole France said, “Justice is the means by which established injustices are sanctioned.” In a similar spirit,  U.S. Supreme Court Justice Olier Wendell Holmes once told a young man who had a case before ethe court, “This is a court of law, young man, not a court of justice.”

       But justice is possible at all only if the Justices aspire to it.  Article III, Section I  of the U.S. Constitution declares, “The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their Offices during good behavior.” “Good behavior” must surely include fairness. Fairness must surely include removing oneself from being a judge in cases where the judge owes something to one of the parties in a case before him. Two recent and present justices have violated this principle. Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas have both refused to recuse themselves from cases in which they or their spouses had received substantial sums, primarily in cases that involved the promotion and defense of extreme right wing ideology.

       This is odd for two reasons:  One, their personal gain from imposing their ideological biases on the country; Two, because the Supreme Court was not meant to “legislate from the bench.” It gave itself that power when John Marshall was the first Supreme Court justice, with no checks or controls on its opinions, and Thomas Jefferson declared himself horrified by this action and precedent.

         Failure to recuse in a case that involves a supreme court justice’s conflict of interest must certainly be termed “bad behavior.” The Constitution specifies that a Justice shall hold office “during good behavior,” but unfortunately does not specify a mechanism for removing a judge who engages in bad behavior. And in the country’s entire history, no Supreme Court judge has ever been impeached or otherwise removed for bad behavior.

           Therefore it seems clear that a brief Constittional Amendment is needed that clearly specificies the conditions under which a Justice shall be removed and exactly how he or she shall be removed — and what constitutes an acceptable defense against such removal. With such a provision, Alito and Thomas would both have been off the court long ago.

           Furthermore, consider the contradiction between right wing extremists’ screams that the Court shoudl not “legislate from the bench” and their calls for the appointment of a justice to replace Scalia who is at least as ultra right-wing as Scalia himself. That’s not a call for impartial justice, but rather exactly a call for legislation from the bench in accord with their own agenda.

Finally, there is the pathetic disgrace of the Republican majority in the U.S. Senate refusing to engage in confirmation hearings for the President’s  nominee to replace Scalia. This complete dereliction of their constitutional duty is unprecedented in the entire history of the United States. There ought to be a provision for the removal from his responsibiiities of any Senate leader who acts in such a disreputable manner. When there is more than enough work for nine justices, and one of the eight who remain is checked out much of the time (Thomas),  then it is absolutely incumbent on the Senate to put confirm someone in his place. I advocate a provision that if the Senate has failed to act after a specified time,  the President’s nominee will automatically assume the position.

For more detailed thoughts about the judiciary and Supreme Court, see “Justice for Whom — Down the River of No Return?” in The Radical Wrong: Lies Our Founding Fathers Never Told Us (online booksellers — e-book or hardcopy,

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/Daniels%20the%20radical%20wrong:%20lies%20our%20founding%20fathers%20never%20told%20us/_/N-w

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=daniels+-+the+radical+wrong

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Ostrich Syndrome – Self-Deception or Duplicity?

When someone studiously avoids noticing what anyone with eyes and ears can see, I call it “The Ostrich Syndrome,” my favorite name for self-deception. Candidate Trump provides examples. An interesting question is whether he actually believes what he says or whether he’ll say anything his audience wants him to hear.  Or maybe he’ll say anything and then convince himself he believes it to avoid noticing that he’s lying to both himself and others, and doesn’t want to feel bad about himself due to his dishonesty.  Psychologist Leon Festinger dubbed this pattern “cognitive dissonance.” Here are three examples.

This past week he declared that “There is no drought in California.” No matter that my spring that’s been reliable for 45 years dried up and I had to truck water in for a year and a half and then drill a well and put in a new water tank and system, for instance.  Or that the ferns on our south-facing hillside were al drying up and dying for the first time ever, and pulled through for now due to this year’s El Nino rains that finally came after many dry years. They usually drop about 2 1/2 times normal rain when they come but this year dropped a blissfully welcome normal rainfall. The previous winter there was ZERO snowpack in the high Sierra where they usually measure multiple feet to estimate what the Spring runoff will be. Trump doesn’t live out here and I guess he just didn’t bother to look at the numbers.   

Example Two:  The famous proposed U.S.—Mexican Great Wall.  For many years now there has been a tunnel for rapid transit beneath San Francisco Bay.  Far more ambitious is the tunnel beneath the English Channel between France and England.  The Air Force has had an armada of tunnel-boring machine every since it was building ICBM silos. Now it is said to have a remarkable network of underground bases. And not long ago Mexican drug lord “El Chapo”s followers created a mile-long tunnel to break him out of a Mexican jail.  The obvious conclusion:  Both sides of a Great Wall with Mexico (what a multibillion-dollar windfall for the cement an steel industries!) would resemble colonies of gophers, moles, and prairie dogs with holes popping up everywhere heaven knows how far from the wall. Personally I agree that there is too much immigration too fast to the USA, just judging by the jammed highways and beaches near my home that didn’t used to be that way,  but the largest share of it is legal, by-the-rules immigration.  A well thought-through national immigration policy that doesn’t put Americans out of work—yes, by all means lets have one—but that proposed Wall is Just Plain Dumb.

Oh, and I hear he wants to give more money to the military, which already spends more than the second-through-eighth highest spending countries in the world.  He says the poor old armed forces are badly strapped for cash. I think we’ve heard that before, from Edward Teller (father of the H-bomb) telling Ronald Reagan to dump billions of our tax dollars into outer space (“Star Wars)—which Reagan did. How about spending that money on job-creating environmental restoration projects instead, just as for instance, Franklin D. Roosevelt did?

Pay attention, friends.  If something just does’t sound right, whoever says it, there’s a good chance that it’s not.  It may be a straight-out lie, or a half truth (Benjamin Franklin said, “A half-truth is sometimes a great lie),  or self-deception (which Sigmund Freud showed us in detail that most of us do a fair amount of. He even did a some himself, retreating from his observations about child abuse and molestation when his colleagues gave him the cold shoulder about them.) So when you think you’re seeing the Ostrich Syndrome, you probably are.

An Abortion Rights Manifesto

Betty Ford on Abortion Rights

Betty Ford, First Lady of President Gerald Ford

“Any woman should have the right to a safe and legal abortion,”  — First Lady Betty Ford, wife of President Gerald Ford

“If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.”  — Seen on a T-shirt

On March 30, 2016 presidential candidate Donald Trump said that in his America abortion would be banned and “there has to be some sort of legal punishment” for women who have abortions. After fierce criticsm from both left and right, he flip-flopped and said that not the women but the doctors who perform the abortions should be punished. Whether fines or prison time he didn’t say. Sounds like Fascism to me. And many Republicans talk about being “libertarian?” Despite their disavowals, Ted Cruz’ and Marco Rubio’s views sound pretty similar to me.

Let’s step back into history and hear what “Mr. Conservative” Barry Goldwater said. “I am frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in ‘A,’ ‘B,’ ‘C,’ and ‘D.’ . . . I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of ‘conservatism.’  . . . I believe a woman has a right to an abortion, That’s a decision that’s up to a pregnant woman, not up to the pope or some do-gooders on the religious right.'”

In 1964 Democrat Harry S. Truman and Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower served together as honorary co-chairs of Planned Parenthood. That organization actually prevents a huge number of abortions by its extensive contraceptive counseling (which the Vatican and the American politicians who follow its script don’t like either.)

The Religious coalition for Reprocuctive Choice, a nationwide alliance of more than forty mainstream Protestant, Jewish, and other religious groups agrees. It says, “every woman must have the right to consider all options when she faces a problem prenancy and the freedom to allow her to come to a decision that is in harmony with her own moral and religious values–without government intrusion. . . .  The abortion debate in America is not a conflict between the ‘God-fearing’ and the ‘Godless’ but is instead a struggle between those determined to undermine religious freedom and those determined to preserve it.”

Jesus Christ was totally silent on both contraception and abortion, taking no position about either.

I dislike name-calling –especially in online comments where people hide in anonymity.  I’m all for owning your own likes and dislikes instead of pretending that they’re reality. (Unfortunately manyi people can’t tell the difference.) But I’m pissed off. At the whole ultra-right-wing extremist Republican establishment. And a name that seems to fit some of what I like least about them just popped into my mind: Pesudo-Libertarian Fascism. These days that’s what extremist radical right-wing Republican politics (and that seems to be most of it) seems to boil down to, Unlimited freedom ( equals libertarianism) for big corporations, for the plutocrats (the very rich few who basically run things), and for religious imperialists who want to impose their ideology on everybody else.  Meanwhile, they wrap themselves in the flag, play the national anthem loudly, and act like that justifies their views.

Me, I care about your Aunt Sadie and Sister Sue. Even if they’re dumpster divers. For that matter, even if they’re plutocrats. And I don’t want Trump, Cruz, Rubio, or misguided fundamentalist male chauvinists who are contemptuous toward the separation of church and state bending the government to make it force you to follow their agendas.

For the record, here are the views of some of America’s founding fathers about religious views and politics.

Revolutionary war hero Ethan Allen: “While we are under the tyranny of Priests, it will ever be their interest, to invalidate the laws of nature and reason, in order to establish systems incompatible therewith.”

Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence: “The priests have so disfigured the simple religion of Jesus that no one who reads the sophistications they have engrafted on it . . . would conceive these could have been fathered on the sublime preacher of the Sermon on the Mount. . . .   It behooves every man who values liberty of conscience for himself to resist invasions of it in the case of others. “

James Madison, a principal writer of the U.S. Constitution:  “In no instance have… the churches been guardians of the liberties of the people. . .  Religion and government will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.”

Thomas Paine, patriot and advocate for independence: “I fully and conscientiously believe that it is the will of the Almighty that there should be a diversity of religious opinions among us. . . . My mind is my own church.”  And, “Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”  Let’s keep it out of our private lives.

Abraham Lincoln said, “No man is good enough to govern another without that other’s consent.”

George Washington accompanied his wife Martha to Church but waited outside in the carriage while she went in to Mass.

In recent times, Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm observed, “Women know, and so do many men, that two or three children who are wanted, prepared for, reared amid love and stability, and educated to the limit of their ability will mean more for the future. . . than any number of neglected, hungry, ill-housed and ill-clothed youngsters.”

Finally, opposition to contraception and abortion is a male agenda. Half the people of our nation are women. President John Adams’ wife, First Lady Abigail Adams said, “If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice, or representation. . .  If we mean to have heroes, statesmen and philosophers, we should have learned women. . . .  All history and every age exhibit instances of patriotic virtue in the female sex.”

NO POLITICIAN  OUGHT TO DARE OPPOSE WOMEN’S SELF-DETERMINATION BY WOMEN OVER THEIR OWN LIVES. IT IS TIME TO RATIFY AN EQUAL-RIGHTS AMENDMENT BY ALL STATES THAT ENSURES THAT NO FUTURE POLITICIAN IN ANY STATE CAN EVER AGAIN PURSUE AN ANTI-WOMAN, ANTI-CONTRACEPTION, ANTI-ABORTION PROGRAM.

Note:  Some of the material in this blog is cribbed from my own book, THE RADICAL WRONG: LIES OUR FOUNDING FATHERS NEVER TOLD US — Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Others Refute Right-Wing Extremists.  It is readily available as an e-book or hardcopy at many online booksellers. See http://www.amazon.com/The-Radical-Wrong-Washington-Right-Wing-ebook/dp/B0085XYI9S or http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-radical-wrong-victor-daniels-phd/1111323061?ean=9781620957844

       

Two Minute Meditation

Shiva


TWO-MINUTE MEDITATION. (YES, REALLY!)

This is for you if you’ve heard that meditation can have positive effects but just haven’t brought yourself to spend the 15 or 20 minutes a day required for a minimal regular meditation session.


This mini-meditation is useful when you:

1.  . . .feel stressed-out
2.  . . .are emotionally upset and want to calm down. Any kind of emotional upset –sad, angry, jealous, aggressive, etc. — choose your state of mind and body.
3.  . . .would like to feel just a little more centered and focused before you set out
on your day. . . or go into an important meeting . . . or would like to feel more
focused or present before -whatever.  
4.  . . . know it would be best to keep your mouth shut but have a hard time stopping yourself from saying something that will cause trouble for you or make someone feel bad.
5.  . . . would like a tiny tast of meditation to see whether you’re willing to put a bit more time into it.  
6.  . . .are waiting for somebody or something and have nothing else to do
7. . . . feel bored but you forgot your smartphone or ipad or it has run out of juice
and you want something — anything– to do.
8. . . . “just feel like it — no special reason.”

Okay, let’s go.  Just two minutes. Enjoy!

Whether you’re sitting or standing, begin by centering yourself as completely as you can in relation to gravity. Lean slightly forward, backward, left, and right, and find the place where if you were a pendulum you’d come to a stop,  You can do that in about 20 seconds. Already you’ve begun your meditation!

Then inhale deeply through your nose and silently count “1” on your incoming breath as you inhale. Sense your breath coming in through your nose and going down into your lungs. At the same time, hold your hands so that the thumb and first or second finger of each hand are close together — just about an eighth of an inch apart.  

Next exhale (preferably through your mouth) and to the best of your ability let everything that was in your mind “flow out” on your exhalation. As you do, continue to sense your breath, going out now,  and at the same time scan your body for any muscle tension or tightness and let go of it as much as you can while you are exhaling. Also, as you exhale close that eighth of an inch gap between each of your thumbs and fingers so that each thumb and finger just touch. This is a “moving mudra.” You’ve now seriously begun your two minute medidtation.

Now, simply repeat what is described in the two paragraphs just above, but this time silently count “2” as you inhale. Do everything else just as above.

Then repeat what you just did for eight more breaths. On the third breath count “3” as you inhale, on the fourth breath count “4,” and so on up to 10.  After the tenth breath you’re finished.  Then look around, listen, and be as present as you can with your more relaxed body and your immediate surroundings and less caught up in your mind. Yep, you can do this in two minutes.

Of course, if you feel like it, you’re likely to deepen your meditation if you do another sequence of ten breaths, and as many more as you like until you’re ready to stop. But not more than ten.  If at some point you want to get a little deeper into meditation, look at the other blog posts here.  And if you’d like to get into it in a more deeply enriching way, you’ll find this book or e-book just plain amazing.  It might even become your lifelong friend. (If you want to check out samples, go online to the address just below.

Learn more: <http://www.matrixmeditations.com>

 

MEDITATION III – Mindfulness or Witness Consciousness

      Hookena rocks & sand


MEDITATION INSTRUCTIONS, PART III: MINDFULNESS OR WITNESS CONSCIOUSNESS

“Mindfulness” has become a catch-word in some circles in recent years. Some of those who use the term understand it and some don’t. It’s a Buddhist term that is differs very litttle from the Yogic term “witness consciousness.” Both involve noticing, moment-by-moment, what your mind is doing.

Many who try to meditate with witness consciousness or mindfulness get stuck because they have overlooked the previous step, concentration. Only when you have the ability to notice your mind in action and focus it where you want to does real mindfulness actually become possible. Its essence is the ability to, in a sense, “stand behind” your mind and notice what it is doing. Most of us most of the time are caught up in our thoughts that are darting here and there like clothes that are caught up inside a washing machine, going this way and that as the washer spins or agitates them.  In other words, we are identified with our thoughts. As a result, we have little choice about what we think  and feel. Our thoughts run in old patterns, like an old fashioned record player’s needle stuck in the same old groove, replaying the same thought pattern over and over again. A problem with this is that we see and think only what we already think we know. When new information comes along, we tend to reject it, in order to be able to think that we were “right” all along. Sometimes it’s an ego thing to protect our self-esteem. Other times it’s just easier for our neural impulses to follow their usual paths (see the blog on Tolman’s cognitive maps.)

By contrast, with witness consciousness or mindfulness, at each moment we notice what our mind is doing (whether it is focused on a thought, feeling, physical sensation, or event outside ourselves, which includes other peoples’ actions, opinions, and attitudes). In a sense, I detail one small part of my mind to watch / listen to / witness / be mindful of / what the rest  is doing. (This is called “two-pointed attention” in the Zen tradition.)  When I am actually aware of what my mind is doing, I can choose whether to let it keep on doing that in the same way,  or examine it and what lies beneath it more deeply, or do something else. This is useful both when I am with myself and in conversations with others. The reason people often sit in a particular position without moving for a period of time while meditating is because that makes it easier to watch the mind. Watching it  (or if you prefer, listening to it) opens many windows on the world that I didn’t know were there.  It makes it possible to move from being a denier (of everything I didn’t already believe) to being an inquirer (who’s interested in finding out what’s actually going on, inside or outside himself or herself.

So just sit. Balance, then breathe, then release unneeded tension. Then count your breaths or recite your mantra until you feel as centered and focused as you sense that you’re likely to get right then. Then do nothing but observe and listen. You’ll probably want something like a flower or candle flame six feet or more in front of you to bring your attention back to when it drifts off. Notice what you think, feel, and sense.  When you notice your body drooping instead of sitting straight up, it’s a signal that you’re no longer witnessing or being mindful.  Regain your centered sitting position and bring your gaze back to the physical object in front of you (unless you’re using an eyes-closed meditative practice.)  If you do this for more than ten or fifteen minutes, your body may start to feel painful and uncomfortable. That’s good. It makes it hard to think about anything else. Just notice the pain — where and how you experience it. Continue in this way until the end of your session, “just noticing” everything that occurs inside you or outside you.   Then again count ten breaths as you did during the starting sequence, moving your eyes to a different object with each breath, as you make the transition back to everyday consciousness.

Once you become quite skilled at this, you may be able to do it in the midst of some of your everyday activities. Also, when you can do it fairly reliably, you will be ready to put your concentration and mindfulness or witness consciousness together and move into a contemplative meditation.  (If you try contemplative meditation without having first developed these abilities, your mind is likely to use all kinds of clever avoidance tactics when you feel uncomfortable.  Concentration and mindfulness give you a method to notice and releace that avoidance.)

And remember two points. First, often it’s at least as more important to notice your emotions and physical sensations as your thoughts. Second, a runner in training will have days when everything seems easy and to go well and days when everything seems difficult. Meditation is the same way.  Whether a session seems “good” or “bad” is not important. Each moment of each session is just how it is. It’s all training. It’s all useful.

For much greater depth and detail about all this, see <http://www.matrixmeditations.com> 

cover of Matrix Meditations

cover of Matrix Meditations

 

Trans Pacific Partnership

Thaistacls 

  WARNING:Mind-Exploding Outrage (that is, the Trans Pacific Partnership) Ahead,” writes the Hightower Lowdown. “Unbeknownst to most people, a cabal of corporate and political elites (including Presidents Clinton, Bush II, and Obama has stealthily negotiated international trade deals during the past two-plus decades that have fabricated, piece by piece, what now amounts to a privatized world government. It’s a secretive, autocratic, plutocratic, bureaucratic government of, by, and for the multinational corporations.” Its 29 huge chapters include “rules limiting what our domestic governments are permitted to do, plus new rights and privileges for corporations enforced through supranational closed-door tribunals. This adds up to a privately gated ‘government.’”

 Wolves in sheep’s clothing? For a long time some folks have been worrying about a “world government.” Well, its closing in on us. And it’s a corpocracy. Obama is also promoting a Trans Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the European Union.

But the TPP is closer. Negotiations have been going on since 2005. It’s almost done. And who wrote it? CEO’s of giant multinational corporations, and their lawyers and lobbyists, in secret, behind closed doors. These include Halliburton, Chevron, PHRA, Comcast, and other such companies you know and love. Congress is being intentionally kept in the dark about what the TPP document says. U.S. Senator Ron Wyden says, “More than two months after receiving the proper security credentials, my staff is still banned from viewing the details of the proposals that USTR is advancing. Economist Robert Reith states, “It is incomprehensible that the leaders of major corporate interests who stand to gain enormous financial benefits . . . are actively involved in the writing of the TPP while at the same time, the elected officials of this country. . have little or no knowledge as to what is in it.”

Shhhh!—the remarkable media blackout

There is an almost complete news blackout about the negotiations. I did find one 2013 article in the Washington Post. Otherwise, silence, Almost everyone I mention it to says, “The TPP—what’s that?” It would change our society forever—but almost no one has even heard of it, despite great daily coverage of such events as a cat rescued from a telephone pole. But then, who owns the media? Maybe some of the folks who are writing the agreement—but that’s not for you and me to know.

What are the benefits—and what aren’t?

All of the above is presented to “We, the People” as a Very Good Thing. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative touts the TPP as a step “to enhance trade and investment among the TPP partner countries, to promote innovation, economic growth and development, and to support the creation and retention of jobs.” Doesn’t that resemble a replay of NAFTA, of which there have been far more complaints than kudos? Just a for instance—all those new jobs it promised—well, just as many old jobs have dematerialized as the new ones that materialized. Perhaps President Obama has not seen the figures that show that the income gap between the rich and the rest of us has widened since he took office. Not his doing, but reality nonetheless. Economists who have seen leaked drafts of TPP chapters say it would accelerate that trend. Economic growth, yes. But for whom? It would supercharge the growing gap between the great corporations and the very wealthy on one hand and working people and the poor. And between the nastiest of the Great Corporations and their competitors. For instance, in the U.S. Big Coal and Big Oil have already gotten penalties enacted to make biosolar energy less competitive. Some solar panel manufacturers are going broke, Almost everywhere the interests of giant corporations and those of ordinary citizens conflict, the megacorporations manage to slap The People and their smaller business competitors down (despite all those pretty ads you see on TV).

A short list of what’s wrong with the TPP proposal.

  • Protections against toxins and other unhealthy ingredients in food are weakened.
  • Laws requiring “country of origin” labeling on many foods vanish.
  • Freedom of speech is reduced, such as a company putting “Not GMO” on its labels.
  • Safety laws can be invalidated.
  • A law to protect people or the environment can be struck down, in the Lowdown’s words, simply if it shows that “the expected future profits” of corporate investors might be lower.
  • States or countries with environmental or health standards higher than the TPPs can be sued for lost “expected future profits.”
  • Present laws to favor local businesses are weakened or vanish. A company can sue a town that wants to keep its local character instead of getting overrun by big chain stores
  • The approval process for generic drugs is slowed down.
  • Some drugs will be delayed for years, such as one to fight cancer
  • It makes it easier for big multinational corporations to swallow up smallr local corporations and companies worldwide.
  • S., state and local governments could not have “buy equipment made in USA” when possible policies. The same thing goes for other countries.
  • The document is being written in secret behind locked doors.
  • Corporate challenges to laws protecting people or the environment are decided by   secret tribunals with almost nothing to prevent conflicts of interest.
  • A decision by such a tribunal is FINAL, with no appeal possible
  • The conflict of interest is blatant. It is being written by those who stand to gain from it.
  • All aspects of its negotiation, adoption, and implementation are designed to prevent citizen participation.
  • It is written in obtuse, complicated language that appears designed to confuse.

The Devil in Disguise: Fast Track

Only one U.S. Congressman, Colorado Republican Hank Brown, read the full text of the 1994 GATT agreement. He had previously favored the agreement, but changed his mind after reading it. He didn’t have much time to read it. In 1974 President “Tricky Dick” Nixon devised a uniquely undemocratic ploy to bypass congressional consultation, one that appears unconstitutional to me, and conned congress into buying it. The U.S. Constitution charges congress with giving advice and consent on trade agreements. It says,

[The President] shall have power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the senators present concur.

Fast Track requires congress to act on legislation sent to it by the White House with a simple “yes” or “no” response, and no chance to offer any amendments, It never goes to congressional committees. It must be voted on within 90 days, with minimal debate. To me that doesn’t look much like the “Advice of the Senate” required by the Constitution. The Constitution also says,

All treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution of laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding. (Article VI, Clause II)

Secretary of State John Foster Dulles reinforced that point: “Treaties make international law and also they make domestic law. Under our constitution, treaties become the supreme law of the land.

President Bush the First lobbied heavily to renew Fast Track, which had expired. With its assistance, President Clinton managed to get NAFTA approved. It expired in 2007. Now Obama is asking congress to resurrect it for the TPP deliberations. In other words, congress would vote for or against whatever the corporate lobbyists put into the Treaty.

Trade is not an end in itself but a means to other ends. To declare that completely unrestricted trade is appropriate everywhere, in all circumstances, is like saying, “Penicillin is a great drug, so lets use it to cure everything.” France knows all this. It has “stubbornly” refused to lower certain tariff barriers that protect its farmers, because its farms don’t just provide food, but they’re part of the whole structure of French society.

The Lowdown goes one step farther. It says, “This is not a decision about trade—the TPP represents a tectonic shift in public policy that would radically alter the fundamental structure of our society and thrust a global corporate plutocracy on us. Shouldn’t we have something to say about that?

It looks to me like leaked sections of the agreement show that the god its drafters worship above all others is to gain the maximum possible profits for their corporations. Period. That attitude takes us along a path likely to end in a world where any form of democracy can exist. With the multinationals calling the shots, I do not imagine that the proposed treaty would be more advantageous for the smaller, poorer countries that would be part of it than for the U.S., and typically much less so.

There are always politicians and technocrats ready to show that the invasion of ‘industrializing’ foreign capital benefits the area invaded. In this version, the new-model imperialism comes on a genuinely civilizing mission, is a blessing to the dominated countries, and the true-love declarations by the dominant power of the moment are its real intentions. Guilty consciences are thus relieved of the need for alibis, for no one is guilty: today imperialism radiates technology and progress, and even the use of this old, unpleasant word to define it is in bad taste.” Eduardo Galeano, Uruguayan journalist and author.

Instead of Fast Track, I suggest a SLOW TRACK procedure in which the entire draft that is to be submitted to congress must be posted on both White House and all Congressional websites so that every interested citizen can read it and communicate concerns and suggestions to his or her congresspersons. Perhaps it could be put up at the rate of 50 pages a week, giving people time to digest it—and perhaps meet and discuss it in community groups. How about moving toward democracy rather than away from it? After all, it has been ten years since TPP was proposed. If there is going to be one, it ought to be one that benefits the people and protects the earth.

What you can do now: Derail FAST TRACK. The vote may be as soon as March. The first link below will tell you which congressperson to contact if you’re not sure.

See also www.cwa-union.org/no-tpp

http://www.hightowerlowdown.org/ (January 2015)