Mindful February-From Buddhism to Mental Health to Thich Nhat Hanh

 

 

The concept of mindfulness is a fuzzy one. In 21st century parlance, it has evolved to be any of a number of things– it is used in prayer by Buddhists, as a tool used in psychotherapy, a management paradigm-tool, and finally– a manner to centering  one’s soul

Perhaps, the most accurate way to look for a definition is to look at the source of its the practice. According to the website:

www.dhamma.org/en/vipassana 

The practice of vipassana, is to see the world as it truly is. The origins come from ancient Buddhism.

Borrowing more words from another internet site:

www.vipassanadhura.com

The practice of insight, on the other hand, cultivates wisdom. The student develops systematic mindfulness in order to see the real characteristics of existence: unsatisfactoriness, impermanence, and impersonality. All the activities of daily life can be objects of mindfulness: bodily actions, feelings, thoughts and emotions— even painful ones. Nothing is suppressed.

Where does that leave us?

All too often, we find ourselves in the midst of pain–and when we identify where the pain comes from, it can give us insight. It can gives the means to rid ourselves of the pain, or to learn to accept it.

While this sounds like a lot of whooey to those of who have scientific backgrounds, the technique actually does work if you find yourself in a state dismay and stress. It is successfully used to treat people in prison, people in facing depression, and quite a few maladies.

In psychotherapy, the techniques fall under the practice of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy– a technique pioneered by Marsha Sinetar:

http://www.marshasinetar.com/

Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh is an elderly Buddhist priest who is was nominated for the Nobel Peace prize in the 1960s by Martin Luther King Jr. Thich Nhat Hanh was one of the voices calling for peace amidst the war of Vietnam. Although he has not been awarded the Nobel (not yet, at least), he has brought the practice of mindfulness to western culture. Let me borrow a word from his website:

https://plumvillage.org/about/thich-nhat-hanh/

 

The energies of mindfulness, concentration and insight can liberate us from our anxiety and worries. We let go of the past and the future, and come in touch with the wonders of the present.

— Thich Nhat Hanh

February is dedicated to Thich Nhat Hanh

I  will be concentrating on this Zen master to help explain how he and his paradigms of mindful peace can change one’s world and our world! He has a lot things to say about how to live peacefully with one’s self. Even in today’s world– we can find a bit of peace and love without the din of greed and war….

1000px-Dharmachakra,_withprint_(en).svg

Mindfulness is just one practice of the eight paths –when taken in perspective with Buddhism.

Source of artwork:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dharmachakra#/media/File:Dharmachakra,_withprint_(en).svg

Peace,

John

The Responsibility of Humanity: Should Science be a Tool of War?

Science has been a handmaiden to the military for thousands of years. Humanity has sought to weaponize technology since the use of hand axes, fire, and spears against large prey on the plains of the Serengeti.

Among some of the more notable individuals of science helping the war efforts of the past was Archimedes. Archimedes was born in Syracuse— an ancient Greek colony of Corinth [in present day Sicily.] Archimedes, known as both Natural Philosopher and Mathematician,  made scientific discoveries equal to that of Newton and Einstein.

Notably different from Newton and Einstein, Archimedes aided the war effort of ancient Syracuse by inventing advanced weapons of war (neither Newton nor Einstein aided war efforts despite popular myth to the contrary).

Operation Crossroads Test Able explosion_ 946

Weapons of war have grown increasingly sophisticated from the invention of gun powder to the threat of nuclear weapons. By USAAF [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Archimedes aided the war effort during the Roman siege of Syracuse. One of  his accomplishments, the Iron Claw,  reportedly stalled the Roman siege on Syracuse. The Iron Claw reportedly capsized Roman war vessels

Other instances of science assisting the weapons of war include (1) the hardening of steel by ancient metallurgists for swords with the Damascus process, (2) the invention of gun powder by Chinese scientists, and modern inventions like the (3) hydrogen and neutron bombs. When looked at from the lens of war, science has been both deterrent and  weapon.

“… dynamite will sooner lead to peace … … men will find that in one instant, whole armies can be utterly destroyed …”  Alfred Nobel, (1867.)

The economic gains from the spoils of war, alone, would provide good reasons for some nations to push science education. However, there lies the problem with using science as the means for economic gain— science as war machine is costly. The costs of war come from its effects upon limb and mind. 

Many mourn the loss of loved ones long after a war has ended. The loss of innocence that war brings, however, may be worse. To those who study war and its psychological effects, PTSD and depression among veterans occurs in many instances. The general population must care for war veterans who suffer psychological trauma. 

The-Claw-of-Archimedes

The inventions of Archimedes helped stave off the complete destruction of peoples. The question remains: should technology be used as a means to conduct war? Image by John A. Jaksich

 

Is it Morally Responsible to Use Technology to Build War Weapons?

While war is often argued to be wrong and immoral, using technology to gain an advantage over a foe is an escalation of the war machine. And the question follows, what if we didn’t use technology to build more destructive bombs and war tools?

Could we, as a species, survive? Pacifists often respond: an intelligent and morally sophisticated society has no need to spill blood to prove its worth nor to advance its goals.

More to the point: ‘Is is realistic to assume that war can be eliminated?’ – I often ponder the question myself… with no real answers, either… … it is as if there needs to be a part of the human condition that needs to be expunged. How and where that relates to individual behavior is hard to pin down. The human brain acts in part by instinct and in higher cognitive faculties, as well.

However, the two questions can be viewed as mutually exclusive– using technology to build advanced weapons and fighting a war through the spilling of blood.

So a question arises: why can’t we just send our best athletes to a game that determines who is top dog (kind of sounds like the Olympics… well, almost)?

There is something about the human condition that makes some of us act out aggressively and some of us, not so much? What needs to addressed is the need or satisfaction that aggression brings in the human brain?

And, that is a ‘Holy Grail’ — that we may need to address if we are to become a more advanced civilization….

“We have perfected our weapons, our conscience has fallen asleep, and we have sharpened our ideas to justify ourselves. Violence and war lead only to death.”   Pope Francis, (2016.)

 

Theology of MLK Jr. — An Interpretation Leading to Civil Rights

I recently ran across an article explaining how MLK’s theological beliefs easily led to his opinions on Civil Rights. A thoroughly engaging read– it covers, in part, his time at Boston University where he earned his Ph.D. in theology circa 1950.

I can not help but opine how morally advanced MLK Jr. was in comparison to many theologians and ministers of his time. His gift to the US and those who care about his legacy was his deep, loving compassion for the oppressed. His approach was non-violence but to many of us who also profess to believe in it — he stands head and shoulders above us. He, much like the great Mahatma Gandhi, knew how and where to use non-violence. Oh, how we need MLK’s  wisdom now!

Seal_of_the_Commission_on_Human_Rights

Image by John A. Jaksich

Allow me to quote his approach to Christianity that appeared in the article from which I quote:

King’s God: The Unknown Faith of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

MLK’s Theology

Be Scofield — Author

“God is bigger than any one religion, and King’s theology is a pertinent reminder of this. King was able to express a vision of Christianity that was both meaningful and welcoming of others. In our present world, where fundamentalism is on the march, a look back at his reasoned and thoughtful approach to religion can serve the public well. And for the spiritual progressives working to establish the kingdom of heaven on earth, Dr. King’s expression of faith offers a powerful synthesis of how justice, love, and peace can be manifest as paradise here and now. His theology is inclusive, tolerant, renewing, and life-sustaining—free from dogma and exclusionary views, which can lead to violence and separation. The history of religious intolerance within Christianity is, needless to say, troubling.”

Although many of us wish we could practice non-violence in manner of Dr. King, perhaps the first aspect to realize is that non-violence is a world view that’s an alternative the prevailing world paradigm. It is not dogma. It is a practice to be learned alike a form of spirituality.

 

“The purpose of the church for King is not to create dogma, theology, or creeds but rather “to produce living witnesses and testimonies to the power of God in human experience,” and to commit to action. From a young age, King understood the importance of combining his religion with social justice. From this perspective King viewed the church’s role as promoting a way of life rather than a belief system, saying, “Jesus always recognized that there is a danger of having a high blood pressure of creeds and an anemia of deeds.”[xxvi] He stated that Christ is more concerned with how we treat our neighbors, our attitudes toward racial justice, and living a high ethical life than he is with long processionals, knowledge of creeds, or the beautiful architecture of a church.[xxvii] According to King, the church had strayed from Christ.”

While many of us wish he were still with us– we need to realize: we have his writings. We also have the writings of Gandhi, and a few others worth studying:

Thich Nhat Hanh: The Miracle of Mindfulness & Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames

Henry David Thoreau: Walden; or, Life in the Woods & Civil Disobedience

Mahatma Gandhi: The Essential Gandhi: An Anthology of His Writings on His Life, Work, and Ideas is a collection of Mohandas Gandhi’s writings edited by Louis Fischer.

I thoroughly believe that there is a spiritual commonality running through all the writings mentioned above. Mastering it–should bring an epiphany.

 

 

Confusion and Darkness? Finding your Way…

It is often said, confusion and darkness ensue when dark lies are spread. Covering up the truth for the sake of expediency seems to be Standard Operating Procedure for some. It is normal for some of us seeking to remain in the shadows. However, the deceitfulness that accompanies a dark lie can be especially hurtful.

Two Types of Lies: White and Dark

The question will arise: are all lies bad? Technically speaking -yes. The best manner to be able to tell whether a lie is dark or not–is to ask the question– Who are your harming by concealing the truth? If children, families or a large swath of people stand to be harmed from your lie–then it is better to avoid that lie. A Dark lie spreads and conceals the truth from a large number of people; it is hurtful and robs generally honest people from choices and a sense their sense of free will.

However, there are a set of lies where we tell ourselves and to others. These lies can be meant to mask embarrassment for the teller or someone else. These are known as white lies.

 

Let’s take a couple of cases of each:

White Lie #1:

Your spouse or loved-one asks– Did you remember to buy me a Wedding Anniversary present this year? ANSWER– Oh, yes. I have hid it until after after this evening’s dinner. …. [Well, this trite answer is meant to spare your loved one (and you) emotional pain under the best of circumstances. — It can be a white lie, especially if you have a well meaning heart– and you follow through in a timely manner.]

 

White Lie #2:

You are going to a friend’s house and they call you while you are en-route– Did you remember to bring the hot links and beer?  ANSWER– Yes I did. I will be there shortly. [And again, it is a  trite answer meant to avoid embarrassment and emotional pain for the both you.—If you do follow through –it is usually a no harm/no foul situation. ]

On the other hand, Dark lies are shadowy and can be evil. The intentions of many dark lies is to avoid punishment and conceal your evil intentions from the outset. Let’s try to illustrate–

 

Dark Lie #1

You have stolen money (it could be a sizable amount) from your place of employment. Many times this is referred to as embezzlement or larceny. Why is this evil? For the most part, your employer and fellow employees trust you. (And, again there is the issue of concealment.) If you steal a lot of money, and you avoid detection– your employer may lose his business or your fellow employees will lose their jobs. Oftentimes, a loss of a job will put a family in a lot of stress. Divorces may ensue and the children will suffer the most (sadly so). 

Dark Lie #2

You tell yourself and your friends that you are a social drinker. You drink to get drunk every weekend. You find yourself becoming drunk during the weekday, as well. This pattern of behavior can lead to lying to yourself — and eventually a broken marriage, broken home, loss of friends, death ,and may be cyclical if you are an addict. This destructive form of lying is referred to self deception or ‘denial’ — in psychiatric circles. While it may seem to be self-destructive to only one person– addiction (and denial) put the next generation of people at risk. It is our children who suffer all too often when we conceal lies and tell false  hoods to ourselves. That form of lying is passed down from one generation to the next.

Darkness and Confusion– What do you mean? Free at last….

Issues of darkness (and confusion) refer to a state of  mind and behavior. The concealment of the truth can and does lead to confusion and further lying, as well.

The case in point that has been prevalent in the U.S. since its inception is racism. This wholly American sin– is perhaps the most egregious of this country’s sins. It has become seemingly persistent.

While only a few founding fathers, if any, of the US wanted to banish racism — it persisted to this day. The most egregious example of it resides presently at the White House.

The Examples of Freedom?

There is little freedom when parts of the population practice bigotry….. For those of us who wish to see bigotry banished, the path needs to be one of inclusivity.

 

MLK day 1_15_18

The practice of inclusivity needs to be a 24hour 7 day a week practice. I hope my great grandchildren grow up in a world in which The Dream of Dr. King is practiced and not relegated to a memory! Free at last! Image by John A. Jaksich

Hero’s Journey from Darkness: the Space Race, the Silver Screen, and Mythology

EGA_Plus_10_mapcam_Earth_Moon-768x768

Understanding the smallness of our planet within a cosmic context breeds a sense of humility and love for humankind. Many astronauts who have ventured to the moon have come back from their journey exclaiming a sense of humility and respect for their planet and humanity, itself. Can we claim the same for ourselves?  Image by John A. Jaksich

Most of us love to gaze at the night sky with wonder and hope. If you are one of the lucky ones, you will get to voyage past Earth’s gravity and learn to question the vastness of space. You may gain the gifted perspective of its magnificent desolation (quoting moon walker, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin) or understand how gifted we truly are to be living on a vastly beautiful planet.

Thus, when the Apollo spacecraft journeyed to the Moon, those of us who watched on the television set were greatly privileged. We learned to love the solar system and its wondrous perspective. For those of us who remember it, we were pioneers.

Earthrise

For those of us who remember the Apollo missions of the 1960s, we became pioneers. The missions kindled a love for space in many of us. Image courtesy of NASA

While it is unclear whether humans will journey back to the moon or even Mars, what has become clear is that our sense of nobleness and pioneering spirit has given way to self-centered Nationalism. While many may argue the moonshot was a product of the Cold War, the feelings of discovery drove many children to wish to be astronauts. Some of these would-be astronauts became academically oriented and studied the cosmos or the sciences. It was a good time gaze at the cosmos with wonder.

The Power of the Mythic Cosmos on the Silver Screen

Just as NASA was winding down the moonshots (and Skylab too), we were captivated by a little known film maker by the name of George Lucas. The Star Wars saga debuted in the 1970s. The visionary film maker George Lucas wowed audiences and fellow-film-makers, alike. His story of a band of outgunned and outnumbered rebels seeking to uphold noble values against tyranny is a twist to classical stories from mythology. Its setting was in a galaxy far away and long ago.

However, it is akin to Homer’s telling of the Odyssey and the battles for Troy by heroic ‘god-like’ humans. Mr. Lucas is said to have been influenced by the story-telling power of the mythic figures of Homer. He is specifically said to be influenced by the scholar, Joseph Campbell. Mr. Campbell studied world mythology and the roles it played in past societies — he was also interested in how it applied to today’s mythological figures.

The protagonist in the original 1970s-1980s trilogy is one Luke Skywalker– someone who is at the margins of society. However, he mentored by an older  “father-like” figure- Obi Wan Kenobi. Skywalker must battle the forces of evil (and his true father, as well). However, as Skywalker becomes victorious, we are left with a sense: doesn’t a lot of the themes touched on by Lucas have themes prevalent in everyday life?

Family members battle one another in the hopes of truth and nobility. And, along the way, we learn a few things about the right and wrong. We learn that we are not the only ones who sit in the darkened theaters cheering for the ‘good guy’ to win out?

And, in many ways it is similar to the ancient Greeks listening to Homer making  sense of life?

A Hero’s Journey– Star Wars Retelling

What to Take-Away? -A Slap of Reality across our Faces?

When our children’s children read of the years 2016 – early 2018 as history, it will read like a step backwards in time. The most powerful politician of the US is a bigot and is ‘money-obsessed.’ He has no regard for anyone who holds little or no real property and wants to make sure the U.S. is the bastion of a ‘white’s only’ citizenry.

For many of us, we thought that darkness of this sort had been banished through the U.S. Civil War, and two World Wars. How wrong are we? I am not calling for war–I am pacifist.  I truly do not like suffering.

However, something needs to be done–

When the U.S. colonies fought the Revolutionary War, it was a battle against repression. The cause was noble and good. We were taking the high road. When the U.S. fought its own Civil War, it was a battle against repression and evil. When we fought the two World Wars, it was against repression.

The buck needs to stop with the youngest among us…. we don’t need to face repression, hatred, and or war–

Who among you recognizes that history is cyclical? — We should have learned our lessons many years ago? At, least I believe we did so… … isn’t there a hero among us?

Human Rights January – Fundamental Truths About Love?

“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”  MLK Jr.

“One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”  MLK Jr.

Love can make the hard-times bearable. However, nothing is worse than finding oneself trapped in a rut. While many of us don’t like change nor hard-times, traversing the same paths repeatedly prevent us from learning from our mistakes. It can retard our ability to love and to mature, as well.

It is more often true than not – learning to persevere in the face of self-centeredness is a tough proposition. We may view that our motives are good (and that may be so) but we fall short all too often. Some approaches become piece-meal and almost half-hearted. However, the reasons for semi-failure are many– 1) not all goals are clear, 2) not all goals are achievable, 3) the paths to achieving the worthiest of intentions may not be clear —even to the planner.

In the instances in that we fail, we can find ourselves in a muddled path.

 

What can I do to prevent confused goals and intentions?

Perhaps the simplest approach is organize and execute noble paths around ‘small steps’ –even when the end result is the best possible outcome. It may take many, many smaller steps to achieve the ‘grand result.’

Perhaps we should ask ourselves?– Do we recognize red flags or proverbial signs that we are coming short to the goal?

I had a good mentor just recently tell me to pick up the book: The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz.  It sounds like a good idea. I had another mentor tell me to return to a more spiritual grounding—

The Four Agreements

Either path sounds like a more conservative approach to living. And why not?  The sign of the times dictates that a better grounding in the spirit may solve many problems–not only my own but those that closest to me. ❤

Peace

John

Human Rights January -Darkness cannot drive out darkness…

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. MLK Jr.
While it is well known love banishes hate, many of us experience a form of hate that conforms to societal norms. We may feel that that ‘the man’ needs to banished…or problems are centered on corporate greed…or gangs, drugs, and crime.
The truth be told–those are the symptoms of  hate (evil). Hate starts with the lies or deceptions that are allowed to persist in the face of goodness. 
While it seems cliche or trite to say or write these words, attempting to drive out hate or evil means that we recognize it in ourselves in two ways. We must see it in ourselves and its perpetration upon others.
So we might ask ourselves, how and where do we recognize the face of evil?

Finding Hate (Evil) in Ourselves?

Psychologists, psychiatrists, or social workers (those professionals well-acquainted with human behavior) inform us that hate or evil begin by telling lies to ourselves. We can be in a state of denial of what we see, know, or do. It is the seemingly innocent white lie we tell to ourselves: “What?? Did I have anything to do with this? – and of course we truly believe that we didn’t.”

Believing that we are above the fray is the first error in judgment.

The hate or darkness that all of us have in ourselves finds its locus trapped around a selfish heart.

Letting ourselves come first with no regard for others.

MLK’s Life-long Examples?

Dr. King understood that racism was a form of  “faith” — or in other words, a race believed its superiority to another by the virtue of its biological identity. They were superior because of a pre-ordination from God.  In his work, The Dilemma of White America  Where Do We Go From Here, Dr. King recognized the endemic nature racism. The non-violent response to racism the best way to defeat it–since the racists were able to terrorize through violence. Using non-violence as the response to racism worked well simply because it was the right time for it.

How do We Presently Respond to Jim Crow Esq.?

The present battles for equality have jumped the boundaries that were recognized in previous generations. Simply exposing racists and non-violent responses will not work in every venue of bigotry.

Each response to racism needs  to dealt with through a measured response– each upon its own form and type.

The responses of Colin Kapernick and other athletes through peaceful demonstration brought out the bigots in full force to attempt to shame them and the football-loving public. However, more needs to be done–and sooner rather than later…

How do we respond to racism? Athletes leading the way?

Through the teachings of non-violence, the foundations to responding to Jim Crow Esq.  were laid.

Ultimately, this battle against hate and evil will be won when it is recognized that each one of us needs to throw off the shackles of hate from our own hearts. For some of us, that battle may take a life time…but the sooner each one of us recognizes our own faults–the better off we all will be…..

 

I do recommend the following reading materials (they are written by the late Dr. M. Scott Peck)– Simon and Schuster Publishers

People of the Lie- The Hope for Healing Human Evil (1983)

&

The Different Drum- Community Making and Peace (1987)

 

Peace-

John