Thursday, April 29, 2021

Friday, April 23, 2021

Dharana and Flow: Getting into 'the Zone'

Consider the similarities between Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s notion of flow and the ancient yogic concept of Dharana, which is the meditative practice of constraining conscious thought to one object.

“This concentration is not forced, like when an analyst concentrates on working out a difficult problem in a computer program,” wrote Nancy Wasserman. 

“The concentration experienced in Dharana is more passive and occurs in a state of relaxed awareness… The meditator creates a deeper compartment that allows the mind to flow more rapidly in that one particular direction.”

Intense, effective focus through relaxed awareness is also, of course, the definition of flow. 

Wasserman quoted a relevant remark by Ralph Waldo Emerson, who recommended, “…the stopping off decisively our miscellaneous activity, and concentrating our force on one or a few points; as the gardener, by severe pruning, forces the sap of the tree into one or two vigorous limbs, instead of suffering it to spindle into a sheaf of twigs.”

Rechanneling that sap could be akin as flow, which Csikszentmihalyi described as “…a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience is so enjoyable that people will continue to do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.”

Csikszentmihalyi said this comes easiest to those who possess what he called the “autotelic personality” — the internally driven people who have a tendency to engage in an activity for its own sake.

Those who have an autotelic personality are said to experience less stress during their complete absorption in flow. 

For me, writing and art can slip easily and almost imperceptibly into a flow state. The feeling is unselfconscious and immensely gratifying. 

But any number of activities can be translated into flow.

Vladimir Drkulec said, “I have experienced flow when playing chess, dancing, at a party, in karate class, in aikido class, in a fight when attacked by two people, in tense situations where a fight seemed imminent, while out in nature, when walking. The compression or expansion of time seemed to happen so that you perceived yourself to be moving slow as molasses while the other people around you were moving even slower. 

“In one case, I played a chess game that lasted almost 13 hours and was barely conscious of the passage of time. Only when the game was over did I realize that I had skipped lunch and was well past the dinner hour.”

Mike Oppland observed, “It’s important to note that one can’t experience flow if distractions disrupt the experience. Thus, to experience this state, one has to stay away from the attention-robbers common in a modern fast-paced life. A first step would be to turn off your smartphone when seeking flow.

“Also, the balance of perceived challenges and skills are important factors in flow. On the one hand, when a challenge is bigger than one’s level of skills, one becomes anxious and stressed. On the other hand, when the level of skill exceeds the size of the challenge, one becomes bored and distracted.

“Since the experience of this state is just in the middle, the balance is essential.”

He Forgot the Moon

The thief left it behind:

the moon

at my window

— written by the Buddhist monk after he came home to find that a burglar had taken the few possessions he had.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Real Education: The Antithesis of Ameica

A century ago, the American goal was civic progress. Today, we let roads and bridges collapse, permit the destruction of public education, scheme to turn Social Security and Medicare over to Wall Street, invite sectarians to dismantle secular government, relieve the rich of the burden of taxation while rewarding them with corporate welfare, and constantly seek new means to prevent citizens from voting. Today, the American goal is civic regression.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

The Left That Wasn't There

The "Beltway narrative" is always well-heeled, oleaginous propaganda tricked out as fait accompli conventional wisdom.


Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Listen to What They Don't Say

“The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson


Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Who Is Most Admired?

“(I)n fact, you can find that the lack of basic resources, material resources, contributes to unhappiness, but the increase in material resources do not increase happiness,” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi said.


Saturday, March 13, 2021

Call It "Integrity"


"I no doubt deserved my enemies, but I don't believe I deserved my friends," Walt Whitman said.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

When Things Go Wrong, Let It RAIN

"You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength." — Marcus Aurelius


Monday, March 8, 2021

The Buddha and William James

"The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another." — William James


Sunday, March 7, 2021

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Santayana: Where Happiness Resides


Santayana also said, "Character is the basis of happiness, and happiness the sanction of character."

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Why the GOP Will Acquit Trump


Why the Republicans will acquit even in the face of the overwhelming evidence of Trump's guilt.

Be Yourself, Republicans!

Contrary to popular opinion, Republicans love socialism to pieces. They just hate the idea of anyone outside their tribe getting any of it. It's not socialism they despise. It's the idea of universal human rights.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

What Survivors Have in Common

The Hungarian-born psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced Me-high Cheek-sent-me-high) regards this trait as a key element of the autotelic personality — those internally driven people who have a tendency to engage in an activity for its own sake.

Those who have an autotelic personality are said to experience less stress during their complete absorption in an activity, the state he called “flow.”

Sunday, January 24, 2021

What Superheroes Mean

It always amazes that some people seem to think that good works can somehow magically appear in a corrupt world without idealism and dreams of courage and daring.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

When the Unreal Seems More Real

"The way in which we use this power (of memory and prediction) is apt to destroy all its advantages," Alan Watts said.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Corporate News Media Polishes Its Blind Spots

The corporate news media has already ignored the Republican use of torture, the Republican war of lies that murdered several hundred thousand innocent people in Iraq, and the Republican Wall Street deregulation that caused the 2008 global financial crash. 

So why not this too?

At the Boundary of Conscious and Unconscious

“Yogis describe the breath as lying precisely at the boundary between the body and the mind,” observed psychotherapist Stephen Cope. “Most of us have experienced the shallow breath of terror, or the long deep sighs of melancholy…

“Breath connects the inside of the body with the outside world — taking the outside world in, and expelling the inside world out.”

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Here and Now, Not There and Then

The overwhelming of our inner reality by the demands of the outer world, in ways never before possible, is a central problem of the 21st century.

Outer communications technology must be counterbalanced by — and ultimately tamed by, and enhanced by — inner mental technique.

Monday, January 18, 2021

'Forgive and Forget' Will Get Us Killed This Time

Republicans always cry "Unity!" after the disasters they’ve designed rain down on our heads. They want some breathing space to plan the next fascist attack they intend to launch against us.
Kevin McDermott, Post-Dispatch: “Years before President Donald Trump’s MAGA army barreled through the U.S. Capitol, bashing windows and beating guards and waving a Confederate flag and ultimately ending five lives, much of America, left and right, seemed to agree on one thing: Too many of us had failed to ‘understand’ Trump’s supporters…

“Sorry, but anyone who can look around at this point and continue to support this treasonous president is deplorable… As the fever in our politics finally breaks, Trumpism doesn’t need to be ‘understood’ any more than white supremacy or Nazism or any other toxic philosophy does. It just needs to be defeated."

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Never, Ever Turn Your Back on a Republican

Remember the story about the scorpion who just wanted a ride across the river?

No More Forgiving and Forgetting GOP Criminals

“We’re reaping, in my view, the consequences of President Obama’s failure to do accountability in 2008, with the financial crisis and the Iraq war and the torture regime,” said the Yale philosophy professor Jason Stanley. 

“The message then was, ‘It doesn’t matter what sort of violations you do. You can lie to the American people, you can cheat us out of money as the bankers did, and there are no consequences. 

“And to have no consequences again? We’ll have a social and political movement that will make Trumpism seem mild by comparison.”

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Just How Stupid Are Republicans? This Stupid


Prescient Dialogue from Alec Gunness

George Segal and Alec Guinness in "The Quiller Memorandum"

Watching The Quiller Memorandum from 1966. 

“We’ve been engaged in some rather tough work here,” says Alec Guinness, in low, ominous tones. “Nazis, from top to toe, in the classic tradition. Not just the remains of the old lot, oh no. There’s quite a bit of new blood. Youth. Firm believers, very dangerous. It wouldn’t do to underestimate them.”

Yeah, tell me about it, Alec.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Attention Must Be Paid — And Managed

“Only we humans worry about the future, regret the past and blame ourselves for the present,” wrote psychologist Rick Hanson in Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom.

“Neurons that fire together wire together. Mental states become neural traits. Day after day, your mind is building your brain. This is what scientists call experience-dependent neuroplasticity.”

“By taking just a few extra seconds to stay with a positive experience — even the comfort in a single breath — you’ll help turn a passing mental state into lasting neural structure.”