01 January, 2021

An Eggy Ending to 2020

One thing that has become strikingly evident while living with COVID this year is the profound impact of meditation and my spiritual journey, which I embarked on long ago. Without these practices, I would undoubtedly feel much more overwhelmed, akin to being like scrambled eggs. Right from the onset of the pandemic, I adapted to the new reality with ease, much like how I've learned to embrace the changes in my aging body. This newfound acceptance has brought about a stronger bond with my partner, resulting in less friction and greater freedom, as I've learned not to cling to expectations of things being different than they are in the present moment. Amidst the challenges, I managed to safely visit my family and even immersed myself in a 10-day Vipassana retreat, finding solace in solitary reflection. In a world where gyms were closed, my partner and I turned to hiking outdoors, exploring beautiful places. During one of these hikes, I stumbled upon a serendipitous discovery - a golden egg, seemingly placed there as if it were an artistic masterpiece hidden away from the beaten path. My near-death experience during this time served as a profound wake-up call, shaking me to my core and motivating me to make meaningful changes before my time on this planet comes to an end. Reflecting on my journey, I now realize that it involves reconnecting my consciousness with the universal consciousness, transcending the confines of my own self. Although this notion may sound abstract, the feeling is ineffable; it's akin to being enveloped in pure love, free from fear and the memories of emotional or physical pain. This transformation has had a profound impact on my decision-making process, especially in my relationship with my partner. The significance of this change was not entirely apparent in the past, but now I understand the importance of "eggs"amining what we have at this very moment. As a side note, the golden egg we found during our hike measured about 7" x 12", even larger than my head! Its discovery was a symbolic reminder of the preciousness of life's unexpected treasures.

23 March, 2020

With a New Mind comes New Mood

I used to be pretty pessimistic, always finding what is wrong in the world. I would scan my surroundings, first finding what is wrong in virtually anything to make me feel better, even to the point of making it a strong point in my career. I learned this from my father who saw the unpleasantness in the world, making his feelings it into art. This never made him happy nor did it work for me. When I kept seeing well-adjusted people content with their lives, even under stress, coming out O.K. I pondered with a puzzled mind if those people were born under a golden moon. Longing, even at early age, for peace and acceptance with whatever comes, instead of taking everything as a personal attack.

So, finally wisdom arrived when I started to meditate many years ago, leading up to my current practice of two hours a day. Currently, with the virus pandemic, I will miss my yearly 30-day Vipassana. But, I can rest easy with all my sessions of NeuraSonic, that I have done in the past and now with his current downloads of easy one hour sessions… I can still peel deeper layers of traumas, some laid down recently with the chaos of the moment, stuck at home, wondering if there will ever be a normal world. With my new mind and an equanimous mood, I look at the beautiful clouds and sky produced by less pollution of cars and planes with wonder and those gentle waves of body chills start.

25 December, 2019

Healing the Root Cause of Your Misery ...First

While my partner works hard at editing our photo memories of travel to make books, I wanted to talk about the importance of spiritual and emotional healing to allow your body to heal the best it can from anything. Be it a broken ankle, an abusive upbringing, or a brand-new cancer diagnosis. It's in my experience that the more the body/mind is fully open to heal to what ever comes your way, the more you heal in ways that are not always physical and more spiritual(not in any particular named faith). This complete holistic approach, facilitate to the most complete healing of what ails you and making it an ongoing affair...that is no-limits in time.
I went to a therapist after a job loss, one year after I bought my first house alone which brought up all kinds of things. Probably the second time of seeing and talking to the therapist, and reliving the strain of my alcoholic father as a child, who I also lost 2 years before the job loss, some small wisdom starting creeping in. This therapist is going to have to make me feel comfortable with change, either by crying it out or talking it out, but it is ultimately up to me to change.  At first because my wisdom was very weak, what came up first was I will save money and just quit going to see her. I did not know how and I wasn’t cured or had less anger/sadness. Instead, I just plowed through life as best as I could until my near death and bi-lateral strokes which happened just three years after my job loss. After I started my own business to gain my control over my life I later found out that anything you “do”  with any external circumstances, does not bring wisdom internally. I had a ton of traumas to deal with, and certainly no more than anyone else, but it was time.

One really has to dig deep to unveil what is your motivation with or during any change.
The payoff can be amazing with wisdom sometimes trickling in slowly even while the path to emotional and spiritual well-being can be quite long. My own path, small meditations and later after my first 10-day Vipassana, II could see I was not wise by any means... I did see the exposure of quite a bit of what I was holding on to and carrying around inside of myself.  This led to my yearly holiday bronchitis attack that I usually suffered through … end just like that.  The beginning of a meditation practice I had started after realizing that doing the same old things and expecting a different outcome was the definition of ignorance. I needed to change something and now, I had someone that it was important to keep.  I saw after a year and half of practice I could see anger arising a few times, and get an extra second in time where I could decide or not whether to explode and figure out what would be a better outcome. This led me to wanting to pursue not healing my medical nightmare but instead healing what can be the root of what is holding me back from healing the body the best that I can. It can take many different methods to facilitate your spiritual and emotional healing and I am in no way saying mine is the best way, but it is an important key to healing this older body. Find the one that best suits your disposition. What do you really want besides healing? Happiness and mature growth, affecting all those around you making you a beacon?


23 September, 2019

New Time to Learn… Again

How to recover from a stroke without medication
With my first bone break of my life, my ankle, I was able to use the new pain and discomfort to learn from. Within a few days after traveling home with it, I was already able to meditate with it propped up. Of course, mind moved to find the pain while scanning the body, but also I could forget it a few times. Since, I sit to meditate on the floor instead of a chair, sometimes the body weight would push too much on the leg, and I had to extend the one leg to continue. I noticed that evenings in bed when the mind is much more aware of the injured part which is typical, but when I would sit and eventually scan, it was busy enough for the pain not to be the sole focus. It was learning from where we put our attention, is what is important.

Along with all this my partner, used the wisdom he had from his poor village as to how they would take care of injuries like this. Which is ice for the first two days, but also introducing hot rags, or put in a bucket of warm water twice a day for day 3 onward. Sure warm water on a huge swollen ankle may seem contrary to western medicine, but it makes the blood flow to the injured part and made it heal faster and provided less pain after it’s out of the water.

I have a few things going for me when healing, I eat well, not overweight and don’t drink alcohol. In general, with the exception of my strokes I don’t have further health complications. Plus, this is where meditation can provide reality when you have pain and discomfort, by seeing it exactly as it is. Complications came into being, when too many people threw caution my way, making me question what I actually was seeing and feeling, which was a real gradual healing progression. When I heeded their warning and saw an Ortho Dr, about my ankle. He walked into the room looking at a two-week-old injury, and said the color is great. He then proceeds to move my foot and note that there is no abnormal movement in the ankle. And again, I should have only listened only those that touched my ankle, rather then listen to those that just conjectured.

12 May, 2019

The 4th 30-day Vipassana – Wisdom Creeps In

Hardly a mature Vipassana student with my brain injury making concentration difficult for me, I can at least say they are some positive changes that I notice with wisdom more firmly seated. It is important for me to say this wisdom is NOT intellectual knowledge, but experiential and once seated impermanence of everything is apparent.

I am usually out walking a lot after meals or after mind storms, and even using the pagoda stairs as my stair-master, but on day 2, I decided this is all too agitating, if I want to maintain as much concentration as I can. Instead, I would either clean up the men’s dorms, rest or even sit an hour earlier than scheduled full from lunch until I needed rest, 1 ½ hours later. The wisdom signs I noted, were doubts arising and falling way faster, impermanence, Ah ha. I also attributed partly to the fact that if I quit and leave what path will I attempt next? This made it seem like a foolish idea if I reflect how far I have come, since I have already seen personality changes, and a better easier home-life. Other signs were when the mind-storms arise and have some steam, I was able to name them as craving or aversion and thus quietly let the steam out and they would fade out way faster. It did not mean, the mind-storms would necessary not have any kick, but they definitely would end way faster then previous years. I also noted that when I could not resolve them in a sit or a short walk to the bathroom and instead finally lay down, if I did fall asleep I would download one craving or aversion sankara(mental defilement) and then quickly awaken refreshed. That was new for sure and it became more and more obvious what was happening.

The few things that I should do to improve my concentration especially in anapana would be to wear a hoodie, to keep my wandering eyes down(eyes and ears are enhanced since I lost my speech the first few years with my brain injury as a compensation). It may be interesting for you readers that any loss with an injury, the body tries to compensate. Losing my left side and facial sensory nerves, and thus its proprioception lead my eyes to take care of it, instead of it happening in my brain. So this means that in order to walk and not have my left leg or arm hit anything, the eyes determined their location in space. This does not play very well when you are trying keep the mind concentrated watching the breath which in turn allows you to pin-point body sensations while you scan in a sit. I have yet to meet anyone with a simple stroke who I can compare my bi-lateral experience with. Things like focusing on the area below the nose and above the upper lip in anapana when you lost all your facial sensory nerves is very challenging, and yet on day 26 I finally felt “ants crawling” there. This can lead to losing concentration way easier than normal people. I tried writing the AT(teacher) about this, but after awhile even that seemed foolish because what could he do but send metta(loving kindness) my way same as person in the outside world. Impermanence was no longer just a concept, but actual observed reality in many forms. Another thing is being as inconspicuous as one can be, to not disturb others concentration. Awareness takes many forms. Seeing my post sit notes this time over previous 30-day sits, and building on this newly found wisdom. Combined with observed pain and pleasant sensations moving around, with even more concentration than last time. This actually reinforced my devotion and appreciation for the wisdom of Buddha. Thank you again all my dhamma brothers, some of which sat every year with me.

16 February, 2019

How the body and mind talk to one another
to understand the world

This reprint I found it helps identify why Vipassana works, and how Tomatis helps people. How Vipassana helps you identify anger in the body sensations, way before it expresses itself in words or actions. With Tomatis it helps removes the traumas which are stuck which may throw one into repeated anger or sadness over and over, based on that stuck feeling from way in the past. Seeing the sensations at the root level or even removing traumas altogether, will free one up tremendously from false physical signals, perhaps.— Was Once

Have you ever been startled by someone suddenly talking to you when you thought you were alone? Even when they apologise for surprising you, your heart goes on pounding in your chest. You are very aware of this sensation. But what kind of experience is it, and what can it tell us about relations between the heart and the brain?
When considering the senses, we tend to think of sight and sound, taste, touch and smell. However, these are classified as exteroceptive senses, that is, they tell us something about the outside world. In contrast, interoception is a sense that informs us about our internal bodily sensations, such as the pounding of our heart, the flutter of butterflies in our stomach or feelings of hunger.
The brain represents, integrates and prioritises interoceptive information from the internal body. These are communicated through a set of distinct neural and humoural (ie, blood-borne) pathways. This sensing of internal states of the body is part of the interplay between body and brain: it maintains homeostasis, the physiological stability necessary for survival; it provides key motivational drivers such as hunger and thirst; it explicitly represents bodily sensations, such as bladder distension. But that is not all, and herein lies the beauty of interoception, as our feelings, thoughts and perceptions are also influenced by the dynamic interaction between body and brain.
The shaping of emotional experience through the body’s internal physiology has long been recognised. The American philosopher William James argued in 1892 that the mental aspects of emotion, the ‘feeling states’, are a product of physiology. He reversed our intuitive causality, arguing that the physiological changes themselves give rise to the emotional state: our heart does not pound because we are afraid; fear arises from our pounding heart. Contemporary experiments demonstrate the neural and mental representation of internal bodily sensations as integral for the experience of emotions; those individuals with heightened interoception tend to experience emotions with greater intensity. The anterior insula is a key brain area, processing both emotions and internal visceral signals, supporting the idea that this area is key in processing internal bodily sensations as a means to inform emotional experience. Individuals with enhanced interoception also have greater activation of the insula during interoceptive processing and enhanced grey-matter density of this area.
So what is enhanced interoception? Some people are more accurate than others at sensing their own internal bodily sensations. While most of us are perhaps aware of our pounding heart when we are startled or have just run for the bus, not everyone can accurately sense their heartbeats when at rest. Interoceptive accuracy can be tested in the lab; we monitor physiological signals and measure how accurately these can be detected. Historically, research has focused on the heart, as these are discrete signals that can easily be quantified. For example, a typical experiment might involve the presentation of a periodic external stimulus (eg, an auditory tone) that is time-locked to the heartbeat, such that each tone (‘beep’) occurs when the heart is beating, or in between heartbeats. Participants state whether this external stimulus is synchronous or asynchronous with their own heart. An individual’s interoceptive accuracy is an index of how well they are able to do this.
It is also possible to measure subjective indices of how accurate people think they are at detecting internal bodily sensations, ascertained via questionnaires and other self-report measures. My work shows that individuals can be interoceptively accurate (ie, good at these heartbeat-perception tests) without being aware that they are. In this way, interoceptive signals can guide and inform without fully penetrating conscious awareness.
Individual differences in interoception can also be investigated using brain-imaging methods, such as through brain representation of afferent signals (eg, heartbeat-evoked potentials expressed in a neural EEG signal). Functional neuroimaging (fMRI) can also be used to investigate which areas of the brain are more active when focusing on an interoceptive signal (eg, the heart) relative to an exteroceptive signal (eg, an auditory tone).
Our hearts do not beat regularly and, while we can identify that our hearts race with fear or exercise, we might not fully appreciate the complexity of the temporal structure underlying our heartbeats. For example, cardiac signatures are also associated with states such as anticipation. Waiting for something to happen can cause our heartrate to slow down: this will happen at traffic lights, when waiting for them to go green. These effects of anticipation, potentially facilitating the body and mind to adopt an action-ready-state, highlight the meaningful composition of internal bodily signals.
Internal bodily signals can be deeply informative, which is why sensing them can provide an extra channel of information to influence decisionmaking. Gut instinct or intuition during a card game can also be guided by interoception. Bodily signatures (heart rate, skin-conductance response) can signal which cards are good (ie, more likely to be associated with a positive outcome) even in the absence of conscious knowledge that a card is good. Thus, the heart ‘knows’ what the mind does not yet realise, and access to this bodily signature can guide intuitive decisionmaking to a better outcome. In a real-world extrapolation of this, I visited the London Stock Exchange to work with high-frequency traders. These traders claimed that their decisions were often driven by gut instinct, when faced with fast-coming information that the conscious brain could not yet fully process. My colleagues and I demonstrated that interoceptive accuracy was enhanced in those traders who were most adept at trading, potentially grounding their intuitive instincts in a capacity to sense informative changes in internal bodily signals.
An appreciation that bodily signals can guide emotion and cognition provides potential interoceptive mechanisms through which these processes can be disrupted. Alexithymia, defined as an impaired ability to detect and identify emotions, is associated with reduced interoceptive accuracy. Autistic individuals, who often have difficulty in understanding emotions, have also been shown to have impaired interoceptive accuracy. Neural representation of bodily signatures are altered in borderline personality disorder (also known as emotionally unstable personality disorder), and interventions designed to focus on the body, such as mindfulness, have been shown to reduce anxiety. Insight into the nature of these embodied mechanisms opens up potential avenues for further understanding and targeted intervention.
As well as telling us about our own emotions, our bodies respond to the joy, pain and sadness of others. Our hearts can race as loved ones experience fear, and our pupils can adopt a physiological signature of sadness in response to the sadness of others. If you pay attention to your heart and bodily responses, they can tell you how you are feeling, and allow you to share in the emotions of others. Interoception can enhance the depth of our own emotions, emotionally bind us to those around us, and guide our intuitive instincts. We are now learning just how much the way we think and feel is shaped by this dynamic interaction between body and brain.Aeon counter – do not remove
Sarah Garfinkel
This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons.

11 February, 2019

Uncreated Nonsense

Having completed “Sonic Birth” phase of Tomatis Mozart Therapy, one is more able to quiet down all the stuff that used to surface. This is a great adjunct for daily sits, where you observe body sensations, to cement the knowledge that everything in life changes and thus you have no need to hold on or act out. It allows you to just exist, putting all environmental stresses, judgments and papancha (Pali word for mental proliferation) aside. The therapy is the last phase and it exposes of all traumas one accumulates from your birth and in the womb. Without getting into the particulars of my case one thing that is great is the traumas are unseen and unnamed, mostly disposed of in dreams. This allows you to walk in the world without all your nonsense, and just deal with things as they happen. Usually you no longer over-react to things based on triggered fears laid deeply in your sub-conscious from your birth or from your life experiences. What others feel and hopefully see, when they see you is a blank slate, so they feel like you won’t attack, judge or fling negativity at them. So truly being the light in the world. It might be also seen as pure unattached love, because you love yourself without all your nonsense… naturally. This is not romantic love, it is more like resting in the self. Smiles and laughter flow and they not forced or masked with criticism.  With Sonic birth this time I no longer have to let go, I just don’t create the things you need to let go of.

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