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  1. Hello my friends, The crucial question of how to deal with destructive emotions that keep us from acting with wisdom, compassion and loving kindness has been raised in another thread. I take the liberty to quote some of the posts that particularly inspired me to start the current topic, including my own replies to them, as this may serve to highlight some of the complexities that are inevitably involved. Let me start by presenting a simple method from Tibetan Buddhism that I like very much and that I often practise myself. But most of all, I chose this particular method because, in its simplicity and beauty, it is something anybody can use anytime, whether they consider themselves Buddhists or not. And talking about that, by no means do we need to limit this discussion to Buddhist methods. Actually, I would love to hear also from people outside those traditions about what they are doing to deal with negativity they find in themselves and in others. That's why I chose to post this topic in General Discussion rather than in the Buddhist section. That said, I do hope specifically for my new Buddhist friends to chime in. Anyway, may I present now the so-called Tonglen cleansing method. This can be used whenever you encounter a negative emotion either in your environment or in yourself and you feel the urge to do something about it. Once this has been established, you turn your attention to all the other people in the world that are feeling that same emotion. Then you inhale slowly, and while doing so, you take all that negativity into your heart centre, carefully maintaining awareness. There in your heart centre, you visualise some kind of black hole absorbing that dark cloud of negativity (or whatever form you are giving it) completely. Hold your breath for a few seconds. Allow all negativity to be transformed in your heart centre! Now as you exhale, visualise and feel all this cleansed energy emanating from a star-like spot in your heart centre, right where the black hole used to be previously. Allow yourself to bathe in this energy and send it out to your environment and all those people that may benefit from it. If you try this simple exercise, I would love to hear back from you about your experiences. Armando
  2. How do folks here deal with frustration, anger, and rage? How can we go on in this world so filled with injustice?
  3. One of the reasons for much of the suffering that we go through in life is taking life too seriously. It is not uncommon though; almost everyone is so serious about the drama of life. So, everyone has assumed that there is no way out of it. But, there is a potential for a change in your attitude towards life which will make you to treat life as the lifelong movie in which we all are just characters. There is also a potential to remove all the unwanted suffering that we have imposed on ourselves by removing the serious identification with the character called ‘you’ and your story.. I went through a journey myself that helped me to realize this potential and make it possible. (You can read more about my journey here: The Journey of a Seeker). I will call that whole process as ‘Awakening Through Mindfulness (ATM)’. If you believe in God, you can use the belief itself as an aid towards changing your attitude. Many people consider themselves as a puppet of the God’s hands. That helps them change the way they react to the situations and stop taking everything personal. But it is just a coping mechanism; No one is actually sitting up there and directing your life. Life and the force of the life itself is a deep and interesting mystery. If you want to call that force God, you can. That is a beautiful personification. Warning! For many people, beliefs have actually been a hindrance in the whole process. There is a way to really experience life as a movie and to be not affected by your self-image. You can completely detach yourself from the identification you have with the self image. .. Changing the attitude is the first step to ending the self created suffering and experience the life impersonally.. Your personality and your ego that projects the personality are just a part of the mask that you, as the character of this movie, are wearing. What hurts the mask doesn’t hurt you anymore, once you start experiencing life this way. Not only your ego and personality, but every thought, emotion, experience and knowledge that you witness in your consciousness is a part of that mask. Remembering this analogy of the mask and contemplating on it can help you to change your attitude to be favorable in the process of awakening. As you proceed with this journey, you will eventually have to drop a lot of your beliefs and directly choose to know what you believed is true or false. Then, either you know or you don’t know. There is no need in believing something. The sense of security that we get from beliefs will not at all be needed anymore once you start experiencing the life devoid of self-created suffering. You don’t need any solace from the beliefs anymore. That life experience which stands apart and independent from your identity is what I call as an ‘awakened life’. What you Call as Self is an Illusion! The next step is just to realize and remember always that there is no self; I am not kidding! It is a scientific fact. What you perceive, think and experience every moment is the result of millions of neurons in your brain communicating with the neighboring neurons through electrochemical signals. This constant perceptual activity gives an illusion that there is a static self. This self which is experienced as being the one who inhabits the body, being the one who is thinking the thoughts, being the one experiencing emotions, being the agent of actions and having free will is an illusion. Also, every person you see is a complex network of forces communicating with each other in cell level, chemical level and atomic level. 2500 years ago, a man called Gautama Buddha revealed the truth of the no-self for the first time. Seeing this in neuroscientific perspective, what you experience as you and your story is just a result of activity happens in a combination of brain structures called Default Mode Network DMN). This network is active when you are mind-wandering,thinking about others, thinking about yourself, remembering the past, and planning for the future. Hyperconnectivity of the default network has been linked to rumination in depression. Studies have shown that meditators and people who claim spiritual awakening have less or almost no activity in DMN. This illusory self is not consistent and static; it is ever changing. But the only thing which is consistent and constant throughout your life is your existence; the conscious, moment to moment experience that you are alive. Three Aspects of the Absolute Reality There are three aspects to what that is consistent: Existence, Consciousness and experiencing. Existence can be defined as whatever that exists in the ultimate, absolute level. You perceive and know that objects exist because of this. It is the sense of being alive.The objects may keep changing but the existence itself is something that is constant. It is not a ‘thing’ though. It is the basis of anything that is subjective. Consciousness is like a light that shines up everything in the existence. It can be compared to the light in a movie screen using which your thoughts, emotions, perceptions and experiences are constantly being played. The movie screen is static all the time. It also exists in sleep, but there is nothing to show. Since consciousness is completely dark and since voluntary functions of the mind are shut off, there is actually nothing much is happening that is worth to be recorded in the brain and stored in long term memory. Experiencing is not about various experiences that you go through every moment. It is the base of all experience, which is naturally peaceful. Peace is always the first and last experience of the lifetime. Even in death, the final moment is peace; a lot of scientists believe that a neurotransmitter called Dimethyltryptamine or DMT released in the brain during the last moment of death which gives peace and bliss. You are so peaceful during the birth too. You can obviously see that in the new born babies. Even throughout the life, you go through a lot of peaceful moments where you are ultimately content, all drives seem to be temporarily satisfied and you experience the ultimate peace and contentment. That peace is not really something that comes and goes. It is the subtle backdrop of all the noisy perceptions happening in the mind and never changes too. It is the base experience of all the experiences. An awakened person may often go through peak experiences (rare, exciting, oceanic, deeply moving, exhilarating, elevating experiences that generate an advanced form of perceiving reality, and are even mystic and magical in their effect upon the experimenter – Abraham Maslow) when they touch the ultimate level of peace. During peak experiences, the boundaries of experiencer, experiencing and the experience dissolve and they all become one. The same happens with the knowledge as well. The knower, knowing and the known become one. Note that, when I say experiencing, I am talking about the ‘experiencing’ aspect of your existence; not about an independent experience. Any experience, including the peak experience com and go. But the ‘experiencing’ part of that which is consistent never changes. It would be better to use a different word than experiencing but I can’t think of anything that comes closer right now. So, whatever that is consistent which has the aspects of existence, consciousness and experiencing can be called with any name you want to use. You can call it XYZ if you want! Some words that have been used in eastern traditions are absolute, Om, brahman, Sat-Chit-Ananda etc… Some call it as your ‘true self’. The problem with all these labels is that you start to see this XYZ as some object, a thing; Something that can be either perceived, experienced or known. But it is actually like the space or the field in which everything is perceived, experienced or known. So, it is very important to not to get too attached to the word. Seeing the illusory self for what it is and completely removing the identification with it lets you to relax yourself in the truth of being alive and conscious. It will eventually let you free from hedonic treadmill and the pursuit of subjective self worth. You will feel liberated from the prison of this illusory self. This will give you a tremendous acceptance of what is; You will see life as a game with its own rules and challenges. But seeing that as just a game which will eventually end, makes you to play it with enjoyment and a great sense of peace. Many practices have been suggested which help you to go through this process of awakening; self-inquiry, contemplation of the truth and so on. The practice that I can suggest for you is the one which worked for me.. It is called Sati in buddhism, Shikantaza in Zen, Shakshi bhav in Upanishads and mindfulness by buddhists as well as modern psychologists. Mindfulness is used not only as a path to awakening, but also in modern therapies as a means to decrease depression and stress, increase well being, control addictions, slow down emotional reactivity etc. What is Mindfulness and How to Practice it? Mindfulness can be defined as focused nonjudgmental attention to experiences of thoughts, emotions, and body sensation in the present moment that is practiced by simply observing them as they arise and pass away. The paper ‘Mindfulness: A Proposed Operational Definition’ which was published by University of Toronto in 2014 suggests a two-component model of mindfulness: 1) Regulation of attention in order to maintain it on the immediate experience 2) Approaching one’s experiences with an orientation of curiosity,openness, and acceptance, regardless of their valence and desirability. When you try to observe your thought process, you may lose your attention many times. Once you notice that the mind has wandered, you just bring it back to the awareness of thought process or body sensations again. No matter how many times the mind wanders away, you must take it easy and accept it. You can do this while doing whatever you are doing, like walking, eating, working out, waiting in a queue etc. Notice the flow of thoughts as if you are watching a stream flowing or traffic moving. Eventually you can extend the time that you practice mindfulness to most of the waking hours of the day. This may take years and years of practice. When practicing mindfulness, don’t approach it as if you are working towards a goal. That would simply mean that you are enhancing the self-concept and strengthening the identification with it .Awakening is not an achievement. It is getting rid of the craving for any achievement that increases your self-worth or enhances your self-concept. Seeing mindfulness as a means for something to be achieved itself is a trap which may slow down the process of awakening. In a couple of months of practice you may start noticing gaps in your thought process.You may also notice reduction in the number of thoughts. Also, a lot of unconscious patterns and repressed thoughts may start to come up and appear in the light of your conscious observation. It is quite normal. Just pay attention to whatever that comes up without reacting to it. But if you do react to it, that’s ok. Just notice that and wait to see what comes up next. As you do it more and more, the gaps will be more frequent and you may even start to wait for the next thought or feeling to arise. In a few months, you will start to feel more peaceful and relaxed. Your emotional regulation would also have improved. While practicing, become aware of the defense mechanisms of the ego whenever you notice them. Notice the repeated thought patterns and your attempts to maintain and protect your self-esteem. Reading the authentic sources of Zen and Advaita can help you a lot in moving through the process. Personally for me, reading the transcribed talks of Osho and J.Krishnamurti were helpful in understanding how mindfulness works and how to go about practicing it. Osho called it ‘witnessing’ and J.Krishnamurti called it as ‘Choiceless awareness’. The names are different but the meaning is exactly the same. Once you have practiced mindfulness for long term for a year or two, you may go through a crisis at times, usually called ‘Spiritual Crisis,’ a form of identity crisis where you experience drastic changes to your meaning system (your unique purposes, goals, values, attitude and beliefs, identity, and focus). It may cause a lot of disturbance, but don’t be alarmed. It happens to everyone but it will pass. The fruits of mindfulness always outweighs the disturbances caused by spiritual crisis. Benefits of Mindfulness I came across an interesting paper ‘How Does Mindfulness Meditation Work? Proposing Mechanisms of Action From a Conceptual and Neural Perspective’ published in 2011 by Association For Psychological Science. It lists 5 major benefits of mindfulness and also lists the details of studies which support them. Here are those five benefits: Attention regulation Body awareness Emotion regulation, including a. Reappraisal b. Exposure, extinction, and reconsolidation Change in perspective on the self. The fourth one, ‘Change in perspective on the self’ is very important, which explains in detail about a lot of what we discussed about ‘Self’ in this post. You can search for this paper in ‘Academia’ and download it for free. There have been many other studies done on mindfulness which show that mindfulness decreases suffering and increases subjective well being. Buddha prescribed mindfulness as the path to spiritual enlightenment. Whether you are looking for spiritual enlightenment or just improved well being, there is no doubt that mindfulness is the way to go. Also published in my blog: https://nellaishanmugam.wordpress.com/2017/05/26/awakening-through-mindfulness-bridging-science-and-spirituality/
  4. Active Reaction of Thoughts

    My experience has been that emotions could be active reactions of thoughts. It is easy to fall into confusion, to understand when and why you might react to one thing, but not to the other, as the memories linger — episodes of statements, observations, declarations, and actions. Personally, it stems mostly from experience and upbringing. If you were raised in an environment where verbal assaults and physical gestures were rampant, who is to say that you will not act the same way when raising your own child? Most of the time, human beings are easily led by their own experiences. While it is true that genetics affect human behavior, it is even more affected by how a child is raised; environment is the foundational need, which provides a blueprint to how a child should be raised. Read more here: https://medium.com/@leonbasin/active-reactions-of-thoughts-beb11ad6a514#.tco2idtvs
  5. The Neverland

    ‪What does it mean to be in a land that never ends? This question seeped into my thoughts when I was writing an anthology of poetry, Evolutionary Nothingness Vol.1. I tried to understand the nothingness as something that does not exist, or a place in the mind that never ends. ‪An extension of thoughts that are so strong, they become pieces of you, resembling vivid emotions. Read more here: https://medium.com/@leonbasin/the-neverland-9fd31a6e4921#.ijo804lzy
  6. The question/subject of psychedelics (specifically plants) for mental health was raised on another thread. I thought it was worth creating a separate thread for, for anyone interested, and, to stay on topic re: commemorations for the great funny man Robin Williams. http://thetaobums.com/topic/35932-robin-williams-dead-at-63/page-2 Psilocybin has been shown to be effective in lots of other areas too. Anxiety, depression. I know some of the psychiatrists who were involved in one of the studies around it. One of them was personally injected with it before going into an fMRI scanner. Lots of other psychedelics (not just plants) too. MDMA, DMT, Ayahuasca (specifically, rather than pure DMT), LSD. Generally they seem incredibly useful for psychotherapeutic work as they help break down barriers in minutes that can otherwise take months; they make the mind/self/perception much more malleable, less rigid, which is self evidently beneficial for therapy and internal work (also, of course, this aspect of them means they can be very dangerous in the wrong settings). You've got the biochemical effects which can be beneficial, the psychological effects, and, the spiritual effects. It'd be interesting to see if in the future, like we have many health professionals trained in alternative medicine overtly, or privately, if we'd similarly ever get psychotherapists who are trained in the psychotherapeutic use of psychedelics, AND in shamanistic skills for their spiritual use. They used to be commonly used in psychotherapy settings, and often to good effect too (there'll always be exceptions). This was before one of the most ignorant, costly, dumbest, insidious wars was ever initiated, by nixon, "the war on drugs." All war is bad of course; protective use of force, and self defence are necessary; generally, war, not so much. If you look at the figures of what has been spent on fighting this war, how long it's been going on, and the victims of it - (who range across all demographics and classes, from the abused unregulated worker in the poppy fields, right up to the upper class heroine user who ODs because of un-standardised dosages, mixed drugs and having a stigmatised illness that has to be hidden) - then you'll see that, though it may seem incredibly innocuous, it is in fact one of the most costly wars on many levels. If you haven't heard of it already then MAPS http://www.maps.org is pretty much THE go to organisation for the modern use of psychedelics for health. Ibogaine IS incredibly interesting. I was contemplating taking it, not for addiction, but to help break anxiety patterns/issues. Though, after a bit of research I came across some studies that discussed how some have died after taking it, days later, from subtle minor heart problems that are seemingly un-detectable before. http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc0804248 https://wiki.dmt-nexus.me/w/images/d/d8/Fatalities_after_ibogaine_use.pdf http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22458604 If I ever did do it now then I think It'd either be in a clinic where I was monitored for a few days after, as well as during, OR, if I could get the necessary kit myself, and see if any of my friends are trained in life support. This is generally just a response to the quoted post, (and an opening up of the topic), there's a lot of info on it all.
  7. Psychological Issues and Spiritual Practices: Shouldn't Practices Trump Therapy/Medication? (This is taken from a previous thread, but [in addition to another thread] I thought this could do with a thread of it's own [i hope it doesn't seem I'm flooding the forum, searched through but couldn't find a similar discussion.) Any thoughts on how spiritual practices work in general and how this relates to mental health would be much appreciated. Taken from: http://thetaobums.com/topic/34480-looking-into-new-practices-for-mental-health-enlightenment-and-then-perhaps-immortality-;-in-woteva-order-formerly-taoist-systems-of-practice/ I agree with finding help, specifically tailored to the problem at hand. But, in addition, here is some story and some thoughts about mental health and spiritual practice: After an initial year (years ago) of aversion to ANY western method (during my spiritual, put your money where your mouth is phase), I have since been in contact with western medicine doctors, therapists, etc for the past few years. No doubt, CBT and medication do work, and seem to have been the only thing that has worked for the severe anxiety (which will teach me to think in black and white "Only spiritual practices should help blah blah, etc")-(mainly the CBT/I believe [and the science points to] that it results in new neural pathways/neuroplasticity/a change in brain structure). What Do Spiritual Practices Do? This makes me wonder about practices in general. Aren't spiritual practices about clearing out the karma/conditioning/habits/attachment to-or-belief in thought-fear-worry-separation/fear/lies/falseness? This is how I have been taught/come to understand energy practices like Kriya Yoga, Tantra, Yoga, etc, that the spinal breathing is clearing obstructions/conditioning/karma out. And, then, self inquiry/meditative practices seem to be about highlighting Truth/True self, sitting/being with True self/stillness and slowly seeing through thought, undoing reactivity and attachment to thought/feeling, becoming less identified with noise and more with silence/stillness/emptiness/nothingness underneath/behind/between/at the birth of the noise, building new neural pathways perhaps/most likely, and in becoming less identified with noise, less noise arises? What Is a Psychological 'Problem'? All a psychological condition is, is an extreme instance, high on the spectrum, of a trait/phenomena that is present in ALL humans: fear, neurosis, depression, psychosis, etc. We all experience these things, but when one area gets out of balance it's labeled pathological, but it's all just noise, and spiritual practices are surely about clearing out this noise/and or attachment to/belief in noise, no? (this isn't typed argumentatively, in case it comes off that way; I'm genuinely asking myself/pondering all of these issues currently). CBT works. I guess CBT is like a forced kind of self inquiry type thing, that focuses on the specific issue at hand. It is very similar to the lower stages of self inquiry. So Why Not Just Do CBT/Therapy? So, you may ask, if CBT works, then why don't you just do that and then once you're sorted get back on spiritual practices? Well, it worked, (CBT and an SSRI [i hate medication, but I was out of options]) I had about 1 month of being fully 'functional'/back to normal compared to how I was when all of this pathological instance of anxiety started, but then it came back. So, I guess I should just keep up with CBT and stay proactive with that (perhaps set myself a weekly CBT reminder practice for life, like a spiritual practice, to keep tabs on myself) but, it's hard, AND, the fact that the issues came back points to me to a more underlying issue perhaps, maybe? I don't know. I'm sure with pro active CBT for years I would hopefully, eventually restructure/rewire my brain so the issues are non existent, but, again, this is difficult, it's very easy to relapse, and, why can't a spiritual practice also do this? Or, at least they should help right? (these are half rhetorical questions). In addition, CBT, for me anyway, to fully work, I need (or at least feel I need and have in the past needed) the help of a physical therapist, to 'bully me' (I joke, but being almost forced in an agreed way is needed) into doing exposures/the CBT work. Self help materials don't seem to be enough. Hence why a spiritual practice to clear out mental gunk is preferable, as, therapy is expensive, and government/NHS support takes ages (I've been waiting for over a year now for an NHS therapist/psychologist, after seeing one initially and it working my sessions ran out). Again, any thoughts on how spiritual practices work in general and how this relates to mental health would be much appreciated. Thank you
  8. Hello, I am just wondering (if they exist at all) what the specific systems of practice were in Taoism and if there are any specific resources from which to learn them, books or websites that illustrate/explain the practices. I have done some searches but not come up with anything conclusive. I am aware of the existence of Neidan, Qigong, Tai Chi (I have only practices Tai Chi), but am wondering what the specifics are of such practices. Basically, I am looking into adopting a new practice or set of practices and am up for hearing any/all recommendations for books, websites, systems, or, possibly teachers/schools. You can review my previous readings/practices on the lobby. I acknowledge the effectiveness of non-dual teachings, self enquiry (Mooji, Adyashanti, Gangaji, Jeff Foster, Nisargadatta, Ramana), the direct pointing, realising what is always present, but, anxiety problems cause a lot of reactivity for me that is hard to cut through. So, I am hoping/thinking that, in addition to non-dual teachings, of starting a practice (meditation, energy work, etc) where I can hopefully cut through some of the internal noise/dissolve some of the conditioning, or re-wire my brain through a practice and the phenomena known as neuroplasticity, so I can get to a place of abiding silence and I can go deeper with my realisation and self inquiry, or simply just get to a place where I am anxiety free and happy. I am also interested in Chinese/Taoist Healing (mainly for mental health [which still has a physical cause in the brain, so should be no different from 'physical health' healing]). I hope I am posting in the right place. Best Wishes
  9. The documentary looks at the modern advances in mathematics and how they affect our understanding of physics, economics, environmental issues and human psychology. The film looks at how developments in 20th Century mathematics have affected our view of the world, and particularly how the financial economy and earth’s environment are now seen as inherently unpredictable. The film looks at the influence the work of Henri Poincare and Alexander Lyapunov had on later developments in mathematics. It includes interviews with David Ruelle, about chaos theory and turbulence, the economist Paul Ormerod about the unpredictability of economic systems, and James Lovelock the founder of Gaia theory about climate change and tipping points in the environment. As we approach tipping points in both the economy and the climate, the film examines the mathematics we have been reluctant to face up to and asks if, even now, we would rather bury our heads in the sand rather than face harsh truths. http://www.youtube.com/watch?list=PL6A4853E48FC0C986&v=VRT0c4qT3LI&feature=player_embedded#!