• What is mindfulness again, anyway?

    Of all the things I realized that I’ve never posted, mindfulness is, surprisingly, at the top of the list. Odd. Well, it’s odd for a blog that’s called The Ancient Brain and Modern Mindfulness. So, in an effort to address that void and provide some clarity on the subject from my point of view, I’ve included some brief descriptions and definitions from my brain to yours, below. Being in the Moment: Children are, Adults, not so much. The truth of the matter is that we are comprised of actions and behaviors that become largely ingrained in our brains as “habits.” As

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  • Mainstream Mindfulness: “Are we in the middle of a mindfulness revolution?”

    That’s the quote from this Huffington Post article about Time Magazine’s latest cover and theme. As an “armchair pop culturo-anthropologist,” I’m fairly certain that the answer is a definitive probably. 🙂 All the signs are there, really, from Time’s latest edition to a lesser known, but increasingly popular magazine called “Mindful;” from police departments helping their offers deal with stress to the Department of Defense looking seriously at mindfulness as a way to combat PTSD, the country is responding to information overload, stress, and anxiety with something that actually works: meditation and mindfulness. My sense is that because the latest research clearly

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  • Daily Grateful: The Beautiful Now

    January 18, 2014 I was listening to the excellent Canadian radio show “Spark” on VPR earlier today (great program if you’re into thoughtful issues surrounding tech stuff, btw), and the show featured, among other things, the winner of a contest to record the most beautiful sound in the world. I know. How is that possible? Is there such a thing? Wouldn’t that be highly subjective? Answers: It’s probably not. There is such a thing. And yes, it’s very subjective. But with all these caveats, it’s pretty clear that the contest captured some incredible sounds. Brilliant, really. Here’s a collage of the

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  • Practice does not Make Perfect…

    …but it certainly helps! Imperfection. It’s what enabled the universe as we know it to come to be in the first place. It’s a commonly held belief among astrophysicists and cosmologists that if the Big Bang’s energy had been completely uniform, we would not exist. The imperfections in the heat and dispersal of energy from the birth of our universe actually enabled gravity to take hold and enabled gasses to coalesce into denser and denser matter, enabling gravity to take hold and create stars and planets. All due to the slightest of imperfections. Imperfection, one could therefore say, is the

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  • West Meets East: Neuroscience and Buddhism

    I was watching this video from the wonderful “Greater Good Science Center” Web site the other day, and just today I was reading an interview in Shambhala Sun with Joseph Goldstein and Jack Kornfield about mindfulness and Buddhism in the Western world. It’s not news that the world of Western science and the world of Eastern philosophy are coming closer and closer together, but what’s interesting to me is that the Buddha was apparently quite aware of the plasticity of the brain long before anyone actually knew the true functions of the brain. “Letting your frontal lobe support…non-judgmental, present moment

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  • Daily Grateful: The Zen Commandments

    December 31, 2013 Thanks to my friend Daniel Woo for these “Zen Commandments” of Lama Surya Das:

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  • Dharma Punk: How One Angry Young Man’s “Rock Bottom” Journey Turned into a Mindfulness Movement

    For many (most?) people, the pain of existence requires some form of escape: for some, it’s food, for others, drugs or alcohol; for still others, it’s obsessive work or other obsessive behaviors and actions. But for all, these are attempts at escaping something that cannot be escaped–only accepted and “observed” as conditions of the world. For many, hitting “rock” bottom is the reason for changing, for attempting to improve themselves and trying something different. That was the case for me, and it was, as I found out, the case for a group of punks in California some years back. One

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  • Anxiety, Survival, and Wellness

    Anxiety and Survival: Genetically Complementary As it turns out, much of the negativity that humans experience–fear, anxiety, stress response–all are a a natural development in the brain. It’s all a survival mechanism that developed over millennia to “protect” us. But today, we don’t need to escape lions (for the most part) or tribes (for the most part), but the brain doesn’t know that–or much care. If there’s a threat, real or imagined (and most fears for the modern human are often imagined), the brain swings into action to “save the day.” And for the most unlucky people, it can wind

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  • Daily Grateful: Letting Go

    December 23, 2013 Western Medicine Acknowledges the Importance of Letting Go. The importance of letting go isn’t just an Buddhist belief or core tenet, it’s also increasingly understood in the west as critical to well being. Even the Mayo Clinic devotes an entire page to letting go of resentment and anger–feelings and emotions that serve no purpose other than to keep us in a negative feedback loop. They summarize it as lack of forgiveness: If you’re unforgiving, you might pay the price repeatedly by bringing anger and bitterness into every relationship and new experience. Your life might become so wrapped

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  • Your Amazing Brain and What it can do

    Moken “See” People: Normally pupils dilate underwater to let in more light (but this causes everything to be blurry). The Moken’s brains have adapted to the sea by contracting their pupils–an ability that allows them to see cleary underwater. I remember when I was young, a popular saying was “People only use 10 to 15% of their brains.” Back then, I had no idea what that meant. My young mind thought “So, one day we might learn to levitate objects? Read other peoples’ minds? What’s in that other 85% to 90%?” I don’t know that these capabilities are in the

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  • Daily Grateful: December 14, 2013

    Jack Kornfield is a Zen luminary who speaks the wisdom of the ages in a way that us Westerners can easily understand. I particularly like this quote, because it transcends all boundaries of “other” and focuses on our one-ness. And it’s true–as soon as the inner dialogue is removed (i.e., the daily stresses of existence, the fear of others, fear of ourselves, constraints brought on by our familiar associations and comfort zones, among others) from our thoughts,  judgments, blame, and adherence to randomly assigned cultural affiliations sort of drift off into the land of irrelevance.   “Jack Kornfield trained as a Buddhist

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  • Mindful Re-Minders: A Personal Note

    The one underlying theme I’ve read and noticed across all people engaged in the practice of mindfulness is that it’s not a “state” that one arrives at. It’s an ongoing back and forth; the more modern parts of our brain are built for a good reason–think about what lies ahead and think about how to learn about the past. This is useful until…it’s not. Even the most experienced practitioners work hard to maintain thoughtful mindfulness and catch themselves being “hooked” (as Pema Chödrön might say) into old/unproductive patterns of behavior. Converting an Annoyed/Annoying Bad Mood… Yesterday I’d had a bit of

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  • Daily Grateful: December 10, 2013

    Matthieu Ricard: The habits of happiness Wonderful TED talk from french Buddhist monk. The work of the mind is important, he reminds us, but why do we spend so much time on so many other things? Mind training, he calls it (I like this train of thought!). Enjoy.

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  • Guest Post: Lisa Wimberger – Mapping the Mindscape

    Well into this century, the prevailing scientific wisdom was that our brains were hardwired and fixed, and that we could not generate new brain cells. Fortunately, for the betterment of mankind, science changed its tune. It is now widely accepted, and empirically proven, that our brains are elastic and regenerative. Each of us has the ability to generate new brain cells through lifestyle and nutrition, a process called neurogenesis. The amazing revelations haven’t stopped there. Now we also know that we can rewire our neural mindscape through the same means, and do so at will! No longer are we destined to express

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  • Anxiety, the brain, and modern life: How an ancient biological imperative to survive came to dominate our lives

    As it turns out, all the negativity that humans experience–fear, anxiety, stress response–all are a a natural development in the brain. It’s all a survival mechanism that developed over millennia to “protect” us. But today, we don’t need to escape lions (for the most part) or tribes (for the most part), but the brain doesn’t know that–or much care. If there’s a threat, real or imagined, the brain swings into action to “save the day.” And for the most unlucky people, it can wind up actually killing them, performing an out of control “mindless” task of keeping the body/mind in

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