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)

 

 

 

George Washington on Political Parties

picture of George Washington

George Washington, who did not like political parties

George Washington refused to join or take part in any political party. He deeply distrusted them. He said explicitly that parties intensify antagonisms and make wise government more difficult. “The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism.” We see that today.
Indeed, George Washington REALLY disliked parties. He wrote, “However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government . .  . which have lifted them to unjust dominion. . . The common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it. It serves always to distract the public councils, and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one part against another; foments occasionally riot and insurrection, and opens the odor to foreign influence and corruption, which find a facilitated access to the government through the channel of party passions.”
When there is an extreme (or in recent years, sometimes even fanatical) commitment to a political party or faction of a party,, its members all too easily forget about justice, decency, reason, humanity, kindness, and the rest of the finer human virtues. They WANT TO WIN AND RULE, and too often all else takes second place.
Even with his  comments above, Washington was not finished. He added, “All obstructions to the execution of the laws . . . serve to organize factions, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force. [This puts] in place of the delegated will of the nation, the will of a party, often a small, but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the will of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans, digested by common counsels, and modified by mutual interests.”
We see it all too well today.  (We may note that the Constitution says nothing about political parties.) What Washington, Lincoln, and others feared, writes philosopher Jacob Needleman, was “the spirit of party.” This meant the attitude that one’s own faction or part is more important than the whole, or what came to the same thing, and that the best interests of the whole is the same as the interests and program of one’s party.  In other words, “We know best, and you shut up and do what we say.” The “spirit of party” meant the commitment to . . . overcome or even destroy, rather than learn from the opposition. (This view, of course, is intimately related to the adversarial structure of our legal system, in which prosecutors and defense attorneys get ahead not by ensuring that the truth is revealed and justice is served but by winning the case, regardless of what happens to be true and just. We saw that writ large when a 5-4 Republican majority of the Supreme Court appointed George W. Bush present rather than letting the votes from a heavily Democratic district, which surely have thrown Florida and the election to Al Gore. We see it now when a 5-4 majority declares that unlimited spending in campaigns by incredible rich people and corporations is the same as free speech. We see it when the same party-line majority maintains that a corporation “is a person.” That’s a bid odd, isn’t it? A tanker car is not a person. A diesel engine is not a person. How than can many tanker cars and many engines that are part of a corporation be a person. Obviously they are not. Obviously the Court is “legislating” for the partisant interests of its party rather than
acting with the impartiality that is supposedly a court’s hallmark.
Washington sums up one big reason why such miscarriages of justice occur is rules that govern elections as well as in electoral politics in a sentence: “Few men have the virtue to withstand the highest bidder.” Because  recent and present politically partisan Supreme Court majorities ( all of the same party) consistently supports the highest bidder, democracy is gravely endangered.. It is most gravely endangered by the radically ideological partisans of the extreme right who have limitless funds to spend advancing their “spirit of party” rather than the good of the nation.  Their habitual practice of blaming “the other” for everything almost always steers us onto the darker path. Hatriots are not patriots, but pseudo-patriots. Patriots have at least some sense of common purpose with their fellow citizens. If you’re inciting people to hate those in the other party, the other race, the other country, you can sing the anthem as loud as you like and wrap yourself in the flag so tightly that you can’t see out, but you’re no patriot.
Historian James Thomas Flexner tells us that Washington “deplored the adversary theory which sees government as a tug of war between the holders of opposite views, one side eventually vanquishing the other. Washington saw the national capital as a place where men came together not to tussle but to reconcile disagreements. . . . Washington’s own greatest mental gift was to be able to bore down through partial arguments to the fundamental principles on which everyone could agree.”  George Washington’s democracy, says Jacob Needleman, “is not the freedom to try to destroy each other physically or philosophically or morally, but the freedom to bring one’s own best thought together with one’s best effort to listen and attend to the other. ‘The aim is not to reach the pale and crooked version of mutual accommodation that we call “compromise’ . . . but to discover a more comprehensive intelligence that allows each part and each partial truth to take its proper and necessary place in the life of the whole. . . .To have unity. . . one must struggle to become free from the false . . . separation that is represented by what we are referring to as the spirit of party.”
Former Vice President Walter Mondale recalls that when he served in the Senate in the 1970s, “debates were always heated. But I don’t think they had the kind of nastiness they do today. We need to lighten it up . . . to find a way of talking with each other. I’ve won and I’ve lost. And I like winning better. [But] when you run for office in a democracy . . . one person wins and one person loses. I think it’s important that we do it with civility, with respect.”
We would be a better, more decent, stronger nation by returning to George Washington’s view of democratic discourse. And by each thinking for ourself rather than parroting the beliefs and attitudes that our party bosses or our friends or family members who are ideological zombies lost in Zombieland want us to accept.

Jesus Christ — His Psychospiritual Teachings

 

Jesus Christ in Wilderness

Christ in the Wilderness, Moretto da Brescia (Alessandro Bonvincino) 1498-1554


JESUS CHRIST —  LESSONS FOR LIVING

Jesus Christ offered crucial lessons for living that receive far too little attention by many who identify themselves as Christians today.  Biblical scholar Burton Mack, in Who Wrote the New Testament, identifies two very different threads in early Christianity. He calls them the Cult of Christ. and the Jesus Movement. The Cult of Christ is what has developed into conventional Christianity. Its central architect and spokesman was St. Paul. Its ideology is based on the story of the resurrection after Jesus’ death, divine intervention in human history as a salvation event, and the principle that since “Jesus died for our sins,” we can slide along with less attention to our own sinful ways than we ought to give them. (I define “sin” as acting in ways that cause some kind of harm to ourselves and/or others.) Aside from such miracles as the alleged virgin birth and the resurrection, this theme ignores a great man items that most unbiased Biblical scholars say are almost surely the real words and deeds of Jesus. The other main thread in Christianity, the Jesus Movement, centers on Jesus as a teacher and on his teachings, as reflected in documents of sayings.

If we enlarge our view to take in the culture and events of the time in which Jesus lived, and what we know of what happened after he died and in the two millennia between then and now, we find that there are not just two stories about his life, his teachings, and what became of them, but several. Here I mention only two. Searching online will quickly turn up others.

Below you will find my own compilation, from decades of reading and reflection, of Jesus central psychological teachings. Here is my disclaimer: I am a retired professor of psychology, with no training for the ministry.  I hope that you may find this brief statement useful whatever your religious orientation may be. I deal with the work of Jesus from the perspective in which I am educated and competent, and leave the specifically theological aspects of his ministry to others. Here you will find what I consider to be the central practical teachings to be found in his words and deeds, together with the scriptural references for them. In a few cases I have made a bit of a conceptual leap from one of Jesus’ teaching stories to what appears to me to be the general principle that underlies it.

All references are from the four canonical gospels that received the stamp of approval of the early Catholic church, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, cited as Mt., Mk., Lk., and Jn. In some cases I have included items that are not obviously directly relevant to the point at hand but that add some additional perspective on it. The compilation below does not draw on the Gospel of Thomas or other Gnostic gospels, even though they apparently escaped the censorship of the Church and may convey some perspectives more accurately than the Big Four gospels. Of course this list reflects my own appraisal of what is most important in the teachings of Jesus. Someone else might make a different list, or disagree with some of my phrasings. This is how I see it. And of course much is lost in stating just the principles without the stories from which they are abstracted, Nonetheless, I think there is some value in this summary.

THE THIRTY CENTRAL TEACHINGS

1. The Divine Spirit exists somewhere, however deeply buried, within each person. At lest one meaning of the “Kingdom of God” or “Kingdom of Heaven” is a spiritual state of thinking, feeling, and being that you can create within yourself and in your relationships during your lifetime here on earth. You have the choice of nurturing and encouraging this outlook, or of ignoring it. (Mt 18, 23-25; Jn 10, 13-34; Lk 17, 20-21)

2. Find peace within your mind and heart, and in your relations with others. (Mt 5, 3-12; Mt 5, 38-46; Lk 6, 26-36; Mt 12, 25-7; Jn 14, 27)

3. Act with love and kindness toward everyone. Be kind and generous toward all–even strangers, enemies, and those who cannot repay you. (Mt 5, 38-46; Mt 25, 34-46; Lk 6, 26-36; Lk 10, 25-37)

4. Do not judge others, and work diligently on letting go of your judgmental tendencies. (Mt 18, 23-25; Lk 6, 37-8; LK 10, 16; Lk 17, 4; Jn 8, 3-10)

5. Work diligently to give up self-righteousness, which blinds you to what you do and what is truly going on within you. (Mt 38-46; Lk 6, 29-30; Jn 8, 3-10))

6. Be a healer to yourself and others in whatever ways you can. (Lk 10, 25-37 and many healing stories)

7. Seek to know yourself. This includes becoming aware of your own self-deceptions and defenses. And do all you can to discover the divine spirit within you. ( Mt 12, 7-8; Mt 12, 36-7; Lk 6, 41-2; Lk 11, 33-6)

8. You are fully responsible for the effects of your words and actions on you and on others. When you disown such responsibility by claiming that “God told me to do it” when you act in harmful ways, you are lying to yourself.(Mk 4, 34)

9. It is what comes out of us (what we say and do), not what goes into us, (what others call us, what we eat, etc.) that degrades us. (Mk 7, 14-23)

10. To live in a joyful, illuminated, and illuminating way requires reducing the number and intensity of your self-centered concerns. In other words, working to become less egocentric, egotistical, and narcissistic. (Mk 14, 3-9)

11. What truly counts is what you do now, and tomorrow. What you did in the past is less important. (Lk 16, 10-12; Mk 2, 15-17; Lk 19, 1-10; Mt 21, 28-32)

12. Principles have value only if you act on them. A transformation of the heart and mind is a good beginning. Next we need to express it in our words and actions (Lk 16, 10-12; Mt 12, 36-7)

13. In giving we receive. Helping others helps you. (Mt 4, 34; Mt 18, 23-35; LK 10-16)

14. Avoid violence, and do not cling to anger or a desire for revenge. Do your best to let go of negativity. (Mt 5, 38-46; Lk 6, 26-36; Jn 7 )

15. Even those who have acted worst can repent, and act differently. (Just saying that you repent is of very little use unless you stop acting in injurious ways.) (Mt 12, 36-37; Mt 21, 28-32; Lk 9, 23-26; Lk 11, 33-36; Lk 16, 10-12; Mk 2, 16-17; Lk 19, 1-10; Lk 7, 37-47)

16. Forgive others when thy wrong you or otherwise act badly to the fullest extent that you can bring yourself to do. (Mt 12, 25-7; Mt 5, 38-46; Lk 6-37; Jn 7-53)

17. In conflicts, whenever possible, reach an accommodation with your opponent rather than going to court about it. (Mt. 5, 21-24; Lk 12, 59)

18. A gentle spirit is the state of mind we ought to seek. “Blessed are the merciful . . . and the peacemakers.” (Mt 5, 3-10; Jn 7-53)

19. Wealth tends to interfere with living a spiritual life. Wealth and power are worse than useless when you deaden your soul and & dull your sensitivities to gain them. (Mt 4, 14; Mt 12, 12-13; Mk 11, 11-15; Lk 9, 23-6; Lk 18, 18-26)

20. Let go of your anxieties about material security and wealth. Do your very best today, and tomorrow will take care of itself. (Mt 6, 28-34; Mt 10, 8-14; Lk 12, 13-33)

21. Service to others without personal benefit is a path to gaining people’s real respect, and even to becoming a great soul. (Mt 10, 42-44; Lk 10, 25-37)

22. Be most generous to those who are in greatest need. (Mt 8, 23-25; Mt 14, 3-9; Mt 12, 41-44; Mt 20, 1-14)

23. Your actions speak for themselves. Do not boast about or show off what you have done. (Mt 6, 1-5, 16)

24. Avoid seeking honors and others’ admiration. (Lk 14, 2-11)

25. Avoid all hypocrisy, in which you pretend to be virtuous and selfless but are really looking for other people’s adulation. (Mt 6, 1-5, 16; Mt 23, 1-7, 23-35; Lk 11, 44-52; Lk 20, 45-7; Jn 7-53)

26. Humility is one of the most important virtues. Do not imagine that you are better than anyone else, whatever your station in life and their station in life may be. (Mt 18, 2-7; Lk 14, 2-11)

27. Spiritual knowledge emerges from an inward search, not from rules and laws. (Mt 23, 1-7 & 23-35; Mk 2, 23-27; Lk 11, 44-32)

28. If the spirit and the letter of the law conflict, observe the spirit. Laws are made for people, not people for the law. (Mk 2, 23-27; Lk 13, 15-16)

29. Honest people avoid secrecy and are transparent in their actions, while the dishonest try to hide and conceal what they do. (Jn 3, 20-21; Lk 6, 41-2; Lk 11, 33-6)

 30. Most people often cover their ears because they don’t want to hear and close their eyes because they don’t want to see. Teaching through parables can bypass their ways of distracting themselves and avoiding truths they do not wish to see or hear, and makes it easier for them to understand. (Mt 13, 10-15; Lk 10, 25-37))

“Keep me and my teachings in your mind and heart,” Jesus reminded those who heard him. “Peace is my parting gift to you. Set your troubled hearts at rest, and banish your fears.” Jn 14, 20-27)

*   *   *

Now my own brief comment. It appears to me that anyone who follows these thirty teachings is living a genuinely Christian life. By contrast, someone who is baptized fifteen times or says a thousand “Hail Marys” or goes all over town telling everyone “Jesus saved me and will save you” but who ignores a good share of these teachings is not. What you believe about Jesus–whether we call him the “son of God” in a literal or semi-literal way or simply one of history’s most enlightened spiritual teachers—counts does not count for nearly as much as whether we act in the ways that he advised us to.

Victor Daniels
6-27-14

  

Cognitive Maps and Edward Chace Tolman

Edward Chace Tolman

Edward Chace Tolman

Who would have thought that studying white rats in mazes could really tell us much about human behavior? For decades in the mid-twentieth century it was all the rage, and a lot of that work turned out to be up blind alleys. But one of those investigators came to some keen insights.  Today, however, few even know his name. That’s rather odd, because in todays “cognitive behavioral psychology,” which is highly influential in the USA, we find the strange phenomenon that Edward Chace Tolman (1886-1959) is seldom mentioned, even though the whole cognitive-behavioral approach has been built largely on the foundation of his ideas. When the classical behaviorism of the mid-20th century ran out of new ideas, blending it with Tolman’s insights about cognition added a new dimension.

        Tolman said essentially, “rats think, just as people think.” But in his behaviorism-dominated era, he went on to say, “And to ensure that we are objective scientists, we will discover what and how they think by studying their observable behavior.”

         Rats and people, he said, live in worlds of paths and tools, obstacles and by-paths. In most matters both rats and people prefer short or easy means to a goal over long or difficult ones. And any description of goal-directed behavior is always about getting toward something or getting away from something. That includes what the person or rat is doing, what he, she, or it is trying to do, and where it is going.

But to me, none of that was as intriguing as his statement that rats, people, and other creatures form what he called cognitive maps of the physical and social environments within which they live, think, and navigate. A cognitive map describes the mental and physical routes a person takes, and what rewards and punishments exist along various physical or mental corridors. In retrospect, it’s obvious. Sitting here at my computer, there are some routes (sets of procedures to make the computer behave in specified ways) that I kinow very well, some that I sort of know, and many others that I don’t know at all. This desktop computer has the capacity  to do thousands of things that I don’t know how to tell it to do. It does only what falls within the compass of my cognitive map of it.

        In almost every area of life the same is true. We live within the confines of our cognitive maps (a concept that has much in common with what gestalt psychologist and field theorist Kurt Lewin called the “Life space.”)

       When the expectations that are defined by our cognitive maps are not fulfilled, we can get quite upset.  A psychologist named Tinklepaugh hid a piece of banana under a cup, allowing a monkey to see him do it.  At that point the monkey’s cognitive map included “there is banana under that cup.” But Tinklepaugh, the sly devil, secretly substituted a piece of lettuce, a less–preferred item. When the monkey lifted the cup and found the lettuce, it threw a tantrum.

       Human beings often do likewise. We expect things to be a certain way and blow our cool when they’re not.  I like to use the terms “inquirers” and “deniers”  for two different kinds of responses when something is not as we expect it to be. An inquirer responds to new evidence that shows that his or her belief or attitude about something is wrong by exploring other possibilities and trying to find out what’s really so.  A denier redoubles his or her attachment to the mistaken belief or attude or habit and seeks to get others to confirm that the wrong is right.  That’s where a lot of our problems come from.

       “Very interesting,” you may say. “But what’s the practical payoff of all this?”

       Very simply, You can become an observer of  your own cognitive maps. Notice where your mind goes and what it does, and where and what it does not go and do. This is an kind everyday awareness practice that is related to meditation.  As you try it, you are likely to start making fewer dumb mistakes, and to more often act in ways that are helpful both to you and to others.  In a sense, this is ongoing mindfulness (Buddhist term) or witness consciousness (Yogic term) carried on in the midst of everyday life.

       And you can also begin to see other people’s cognitive maps.  A few questions can tell you a lot about where a person’s mental and emotional energy flows and where it doesn’t.

       As a result of seeing or hearing where your cognitive maps fit reality and where they don’t, you’ll see when and where and how you need to change them. This is important in our daily lives and our larger cultural narratives. If you don’t ever stand back and look at your own cognitive map, you probably end up imprisoned in the “dominant narrative” of your culture, which is the story that the power elite who controls much of what happens wants you to believe.

       If all this intrigues you and you’d like to know more about some very contemporary ancient history in psychology, read Tolman’s Behavior and Psychological Man. If you and want just  a little more, you can look at my old lecture notes on Tolman at:

<https://www.sonoma.edu/users/d/daniels/tolman_lecture.htm>.

         En el espanol puede mirar la biografia Edward C. Tolman por Jaime Ernesto Vargas Mendoza, publicado por la Asociación Oxaquena de Psychología en 2008.

          Doing any  of those three things will enlarge your own cognitive map at least a bit.

Employment & Jobs — What’s Going On?

Crowd in Times Square

Employed and Unemployed in New York City

“Half a truth is often a great lie,” said Benjamin Franklin. In the U.S. we hear both the Republicans and the Democrats promising that their employment solutions will put people back to work, bring full employment, and ensure prosperity for all. Really? I have yet to hear any party or any business person or organization who has a real solution. S

Some policies make the job picture worse. For example, when they think no one is looking, Republicans sometimes actually say they want to give the country a good zap of unemployment from time to time to keep wages down and help break the backs of those unions that remain. When he was President Richard Nixon said it very explicitly. Party members since his time have acted in ways which show that they want just enough of a rise in employment to get elected.  If they’re already in office, they want employment just  high enough level to keep them elected. They certainly don’t want a rise in employment in West Virginia, where it might interfere with coal company practices of turning beautiful mountains into wastelands by blowing the tops off mountains to expose  coals seams. Mining employment in West Virginia is one-tenth what it used to be when miners brought out coal from underground and God’s Own Country was not being turned into the Devil’s Wasteland. Also, all across the country in both public and private sectors  full-time jobs are getting pulled apart into pieces that can be filled by part-time employees.

In regard to jobs, the Democrats are less hypocitical, more idealistic, and also pathetically naive if they actually believe their own rhetoric.  Yes, they do want less unemployment, jobs for more people, more job training, better jobs for the folks who have slipped from manufacturing into making fast food burgers for a fraction of their former pay. They would like to change that, and have less offshoring of jobs, and on.

But neither party says much about basic changes in society, technology, and economic organization that are responsible for today’s trends: automation, robotization, and the massive transfer of productive activity from labor to capital.  That’s part of why the economic gap between rich and poor keeps growing. To be sure, the sledgehammers with which Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush smashed into little pieces much of the equalizing effect of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s graduated income tax and other measures to help the less fortunate did their part. But take all that out of the equation and there would still be Trouble in River City. It used to be that when you picked up your phone to call someone you got a human being on the other end.  Now a few people with nice voices are hired to created digital recordings that allow one person to do the work a thousand used to do.  It used to be that rapid transit cars had a human being sitting up front running them. Now a few people in a control room run enormous systems by remote control.  It used to be that longshoremen actually loaded cargo into ships. Now a tiny fraction of their number run giant cranes that move containers from trucks and trains onto and off of ships. And so on. Some of this is great. Robot welders on auto assembly lines tend to do a better job than people, and so too with numerous other functions. But not all.  When I go to the supermarket or drugstore I prefer to wait my turn in line than walk right up to the self-checkout machine. I’d rather not contribute to throwing another person out of work. And I certainly wish the Golden Gate Bridge District directors had seen fit to keep at least one lane operated by a human being who can accept cash instead of automating them all.  You can surely think of your own examples  where work that used to be done by people is now done by machines.  That eliminates such matters as setting up pension funds and paying medical benefits and overtime. Most of all, machines do not organize themselves to demand that an enterprise be run in a more decent, humane, environmentally sound manner. They just do what they’re programmed to do.

One more detail.  Every time a machine replaces a person, it is a transfer of productive capacity from Labor to Capital. Somebody owns that capital, and it’s probably not a worker.  It’s a private equity company, or a corporation (or sometimes even a government agency.)  That means more money in the pockets of capitalists and less in the pockets and purses of working men and women who lose their jobs.  Meanwhile, immigration brings in more competition for the jobs that remain.  In some regions, that’s sensible, because needed skilled workers are not available and can’t be trained rapidly enough, but can be hired from elsewhere. But in many cases,  immigration that pushes up population makes it harder for people who lose their jobs to find new ones.

If you read Adam Smith, who is widely cited as the High Priest of Capitalism, you’ll find that his views were nothing like those of todays ultra right-wing extremists.  He was concerned about working people and jobs.  He disliked the nasty tactics and conspiracies  of some companies’ owners or executives. Today’s capitalism differs radically from  his views. Its essence is the ideological principle that making the most money possible is the goal to be pursued above all others, and that the few at the top of the ladder are entitled to everything they can get – no matter how many are harmed by their actions or how severe the environmental destruction.  In many places even the law requires profit maximization.  And if quarterly profits drop, “the market” –i.e. investors who want maximum profits, punish the company and may even try to take it over. So what’s the so-called “bottom line” here?  It is that contemporary capitalism, with its imperialistic and monopolistic tendencies, will never provide as many good jobs as are needed regardless of whether Republicans or Democrats are running things. Indeed, “unlikely” is an understatement.  As long as automation and robotization continue on anything like their present course, unwanted unemployment is guaranteed and will probably rise.  Is there a solution? Will anything work?

  • The one thing I see that appears likely to work, and that is working in some places already, is a variety of economic forms and solutions working cooperatively together.
  • Capitalism will have to return to its roots. (When the U.S. was young, to be chartered as a company the owners-to-be had to demonstrate that it would serve some public good. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were so afraid that the economy would develop much as it has done that they tried to add an eleventh amendment to the Bill of Rights that would keep corporations from going out of control, telling lies and damaging the public interest as many do today. It was voted down by a group of prosperous and powerful members of the Constitutional Convention.)
  • Cooperative ownership and endeavor will play a much large part in the world’s economies. Experiments in this direction are already underway.
  • All portions of international trade agreements that are injurious to workers or other people or that prohibit any nation or region from protecting its environment will automatically be null and void.
  • All international trade agreements will have to be made in the light of day, with citizens of the concerned countries and reporters of diverse viewpoints able to be present and report what is happening. No more secret, closed-door negotiations by corporate leaders appointed by their governments as “trade representatives.”
  • The discipline of economics will have to be transformed from figuring out how the few can make the most to figuring out how to configure economies at every level into forms that will be beneficial for most citizens and protect ecosystems.
  • Everywhere, people in local communities will begin meeting together to develop new forms of production, exchange, and consumption that will bring the communities together. (This is quite different from the present system in which a few wealthy and powerful citizens put up the money to get candidates who will favor their interests elected, so that the city of county is governed with the intent of enriching them even more.

This blog entry  is obviously not a comprehensive answer to the problems of jobs, employment, and economic organization. Today, no one and no party has such an answer.  Rather, it offers my reflections and seeks to provoke your own reflections.  Collectively we need a transformed sense of purpose and direction in our economic endeavors so that they will serve both the material and the deeper psychospiritual interests of all the people. To provide those “good jobs” the politicians talk about, we need to start deeply rethinking and transforming the very structure of our economy.

MEDITATION: THE ESSENCE II – Concentration & Focus


MEDITATION — THE ESSENCE

Basic Meditation Instructions, Part II

  FREE: Right here, right now, no charge.

 Shiva

CONCENTRATIVE MEDITATION

Concentrative meditation develops your ability to know what you are doing with your attention at any given moment and to focus your attention (and often that of others with whom you are conversing) where you wish.  This ability has been shown to be useful in diverse areas of life.  It is also essential to witness consciousness or mindfulness meditation, which will be described in Part III. Two different forms are described here, and you can choose the one you prefer or use them both at different times.

Counting style.  Choose any object to focus your eyes on. As you did just above, count from one to ten.  This time silently count one number on each incoming breath, from one to ten. Then count the same number ten times on each outgoing breath.  Like this: 1-1, 2-1, 3-1, etc. up to 10-1.  Then take a single  breath in which you do not count.  Then count a second sequence of ten, like this:  1-2, 2-2, 3-2, etc. up to 10-2.  Another empty breath, then ten breaths with the number 3 on your exhalation, etc.  Ideally you will do this for 110 breaths, up to 10-10.  Then do ten more snapshot breaths to end your session.  Whenever you lose count, continue from the last pair of numbers you can remember clearly. If you don’t have time or don’t want to count up to 10-10, stop whenever you wish and end your session with ten snapshot breaths.

On each outbreath, notice all the chatter and images that have formed themselves in your mind and imagine them flowing out of you and away as you exhale, leaving your mind calmer and clearer. Whenever you notice that you have forgotten your counting or you are no longer looking at the object you chose for your visual focus, first notice where your mind has gone in case it’s to something important you need to remember (you might want to keep a pad and pen to jot down a word or two as a reminder when things occur to you.) Then gently move your mind back to your counting. Don’t try to keep things out of your mind – just bring your mind back to your counting, again and again if needed.

Mantra style.  Select a mantra that feels agreeable and useful to you.  You can find one by looking at the index at this link, or by doing a web search for “Sanskrit words” or “mantras.” Or even choose a word or phrase in your native language that refers to a quality you want to cultivate. Just as with the counting above, choose an object for your visual focus. On each inhalation, silently repeat your mantra to yourself.  On each exhalation, you can either (1) count the same number for ten numbers as described just above, and then move to a second number for the next set of ten breaths,  or (2) just repeat the mantra on your inhalation and let your mind go silent on the exhalation, allowing the thoughts that have formed themselves to flow away.  When you notice that you are no longer repeating your mantra, return your thoughts to it. DO NOT, however, use repetition of the mantra to try to “push” other thoughts, feelings, or sensations out of your mind. You could end up pushing out things you very much need to notice or hear. Just notice where your mind has gone, jot down a reminder of that if it’s important and you wish to, then bring your attention back to your mantra. Here too, ten snapshot breaths are a good way to end your session.

 

OR, you can regard the starting sequence and a period of concentrative meditation as the first two stages of your sitting, and then go on to mindfulness / witness consciousness meditation or to a contemplative meditation.

Part I of this series of five mini-articles offered an introduction to what meditation can do for you and presented a useful meditation “starting sequence.”

Part II describes concentrative meditation.

 Part III will describe witness consciousness (yogic term) and  mindfulness meditation (Buddhist term) and They overlap considerably but not totally. (not yet posted)

 Part IV will describe contemplative meditation. (not yet posted)

 Part V will be on everyday awareness practices. (not yet posted)

All this is just “the essence.” If you’d like this and many advanced practices all in one handy place, you will enjoy Matrix Meditations, by Victor Daniels and Kooch N. Daniels. Click on the cover to go to the book’s home page. You can get the e-book for under $10.00, and used copies online for little more than postage. Of course, a brand-new hardcopy (from your local bookstore, the publisher, or another online vendor) is a treasure. 

 

Matrix Meditations: A 16 Week Program to Developing the Heart - Mind Connection

Matrix Meditations: A 16 Week Program to Developing the Heart – Mind Connection