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.


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!

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

tarotcoverwhiteNEW!   NOVEMBER RELEASE, 2016


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:


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

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.

Two Minute Meditation



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: <>


MEDITATION III – Mindfulness or Witness Consciousness

      Hookena rocks & sand


“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 <> 

cover of Matrix Meditations

cover of Matrix Meditations


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


Jesus Christ in Wilderness

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


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.


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


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:


         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.

MEDITATION: THE ESSENCE II – Concentration & Focus


Basic Meditation Instructions, Part II

  FREE: Right here, right now, no charge.



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