Archive for the ‘Assorted’ Category

From “Buddhism Now” blog

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Question: What can I do about doubts? Some days I’m plagued with doubts about the practice or my own progress, or the teacher.

 

 

Answer: Doubting is natural. Everyone starts out with doubts. You can learn a great deal from them.

 

What is important is that you don’t identify with your doubts: that is, don’t get caught up in them.

 

This will spin your mind in endless circles.

 

 

Instead, watch the whole process of doubting, of wondering. See who it is that doubts. See how doubts come and go.

 

 

Then you will no longer be victimised by your doubts.

 

 

You will step outside of them and your mind will be quiet.

 

 

You can see how all things come and go.

 

 

Just let go of what you are attached to.

 

Let go of your doubts and simply watch.

 

 

This is how to end doubting.
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Self is an Illusion part three, 3

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Turning off default mode

 

Normal consciousness relies, at least in part, on the brain’s Default Mode Network (DMN), according to neuroscientist Robin Carhart-Harris, head of psychedelic research in the brain sciences division of the Imperial College of London medical school.

 

 

The DMN is a network of interacting brain regions that acts as a cognitive transit hub, integrating and assimilating information. As the name implies, it’s the usual system of organization for your mind. Carhart-Harris says the DMN “gives coherence to cognition” by connecting different regions of the brain, and is considered the “orchestrator of the self.”

 

 

Carhart-Harris and his colleagues found what seems to be an important function of the DMN inadvertently.

 

 

While studying brain networks, they got curious about what changes might occur when people are under the effects of hallucinogens.

 

 

In studies analyzing the effects of psilocybin on brain wave oscillation and blood flow, they found that when the DMN was inactive, an alternate network of consciousness seemed to arise.

 

 

When some study subjects tested psilocybin, they reported a strong sense of interconnectedness, as well as spiritual, magical, and supernatural feelings.

 

 

 

In the alternate mode, brains produced a different world that offered other sensations and realizations than in everyday life. In this mode, the self wasn’t the protagonist of the narrative.

 

 

Meanwhile, scans of blood flow and brain wave oscillations showed new, unusual—but orderly and synchronous—connections forming between cortical regions, as if the brain was reorganizing its network.

 

 

This led Carhart-Harris to posit that the DMN generates the feeling we each have that we’re individuals, a feeling that manifests very strongly as reality.

 

 

 

And that means we can temporarily switch off, or mute, this part of the brain.

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The Undefeated Mind: Responsibility; Doers heal, live longer, may be happier!

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In the elderly, feeling a sense of responsibility has been found not only to improve daily functioning but also to increase lifespan.

 

 

In a study of nursing home patients by researchers Ellen Langer and Judith Rodin, residents on one floor were given a plant for which they themselves were expected to care (the experimental group) while residents on another floor were given a plant for which their nurses would care (the control group).

 

 

After three weeks, 93 percent of residents in the experimental group showed an overall improvement in socialization, alertness, and general function; in contrast, for 71 percent of residents in the control group functioning actually declined.

 

 

And in a follow-up study eighteen months later, half as many of the residents who’d received plants for which they were expected to care by themselves had died as the residents who’d been given plants for which their nurses cared.

 

 

Finally, perhaps the most significant way in which embracing a sense of personal responsibility increases resilience is by motivating action (remember, resilience is also defined by our ability to persevere through obstacles).

 

 

In fact, feeling responsible for achieving an outcome may motivate us even more powerfully than our desire to achieve it.

 

 

After all, a sense of responsibility often makes us do things we don’t want to do.

 

 

Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in people suffering from, of all things, obsessive-compulsive disorder.

 

Continue reading

Part two of five: BRAIN PRANK Scientists studying psychoactive drugs accidentally proved the self is an illusion: February 09, 2018

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Our awareness of existence—the ability to distinguish between the self and others—is created by the brain, neuroscientist Anil Seth explains in his TED talk, “Your brain hallucinates consciousness.” He says, “Right now, billions of neurons in your brain are working together to generate a conscious experience—and not just any conscious experience, your experience of the world around you and of yourself within it.”

 

Yet when you are unconscious, you continue to exist without perceiving your own presence. You cease to participate in reality but continue to live. When roused back into consciousness, you lack a narrative to explain the time away. The narrative of the story that seems to be your life is just a function of your brain’s mechanisms, not who you really are.

 

Still, the hallucination of consciousness is one we’re all having in tandem. When we agree about our hallucinations, we call it “reality,” according to Seth. In this agreed-upon reality, we are each separate individuals, whose stories begin with our births and end with our deaths.
But there are other ways to experience reality, which you may have already glimpsed, even if only fleetingly. Sometimes our consciousness shifts. The boundaries of the self seem to become less rigid and we commune with another person or thing, as can happen during drug-induced epiphanies, sure—but can also happen when people fall in love, meditate, go out in nature, or experience a great meeting of minds.

 

In The Book (pdf), philosopher Alan Watts writes that we aren’t individuals existing in lonely bodies. We’re a flowing segment in the continuous line of life. He and others—mystics, monks, poets (pdf), and philosophers from numerous traditions—argue that people are sad and hostile because we live with a false sense of separation from one another and the rest of the world. “This feeling of being lonely and very temporary visitors in the universe is in flat contradiction to everything known about man (and all other living organisms) in the sciences,” Watts wrote in The Book. “We do not ‘come into’ this world; we come out of it, as leaves from a tree.”

 

Seeing the interconnectedness and timelessness of existence provides a grand scale. It helps put your problems in perspective. That’s why scientists are trying to find ways to trigger the epiphany Watts talks about. Drugs can help, especially since we think we now know how the brain generates the illusion of self.

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Part one of five: BRAIN PRANK Scientists studying psychoactive drugs accidentally proved the self is an illusion: February 09, 2018

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This mushroom contains properties that can help you sense your relationship to this mushroom. (CC/Alan Rockefeller)

 

Philosophers and mystics have long contemplated the disconcerting notion that the fixed self is an illusion. Neuroscientists now think they can prove it or, at least, help us glimpse this truth with some help from psilocybin, the psychoactive property in magic mushrooms.

 

Researchers around the world are exploring the drug’s transformative power to help people quit smoking; lower violent crime; treat depression, anxiety. and post-traumatic stress disorder; and trigger lasting spiritual epiphanies in psychologically healthy people, especially when coupled with meditation or contemplative training.

 

There are some limitations to psilocybin studies—they tend to be small, and rely on volunteers willing to take drugs and, thus, open to an alternate experience. But the research could have major implications in an age characterized by widespread anxiety. Psilocybin seems to offer some people a route to an alternate view of reality, in which they shed the limitations of their individual consciousness and embrace a sense of interconnectedness and universality. These trips aren’t temporary, but have transformative psychological effects. Even if we don’t all end up on mushrooms, the studies offer insights on how we might minimize suffering and interpersonal strife and gain a sense of peace.

 

Consider a study of 75 subjects, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology last October. The study concluded that psilocybin leads to mystical experiences that can have long-term psychological benefits in conjunction with meditation training. The greater the drug dosage, the more potent the positive psychological effect was six months later. “Participants showed significant positive changes on longitudinal measures of interpersonal closeness, gratitude, life meaning/purpose, forgiveness, death transcendence, daily spiritual experiences, religious faith and coping,” the study concluded.

 

 

Meanwhile, in July, psychologist Richard Williams of John Hopkins University revealed an experiment involving clergy and psilocybin. Williams is enlisting priests, rabbis, and Zen Buddhist monks to take drugs, meditate, and “collect inner experiences.” (No Muslim or Hindu clerics agreed to participate.) The study will last a year, so no results are out yet. But Williams told The Guardian in July 2017 that so far, the clerics report feeling simultaneously more in touch with their own faith and greater appreciation for alternate paths. “In these transcendental states of consciousness, people … get to levels of consciousness that seem universal. So a good rabbi can encounter the Buddha within him,” Williams said.

 

To understand how mushrooms can change our worldviews, we must first explore how brains shape our sense of self.

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PTSD brings danger, feels real to us, the chemicals definitely are real!

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A trigger explodes. Parts of the brain shut down, adrenaline, cortisol, tunnel vision, loss of fine motor skills, along with BP, respiration and heart rate escalate.

 

 

We are ready for a lethal threat, the problem, no lethal threat is present. We know this consciously, have experienced thousands of triggers without permanent damage. Irrational!

 

 

Danger arrives abstractly for me. It feels like something worse than death is out there, waiting.

 

 

Shame, the destruction of our ego, seems to be possible, the ultimate loss. This clarity has surfaced recently for me.

 

 

My childhood was filled with conditioned love, verbal and physical abuse, plus the ultimate fear of abandonment. One of my biggest fears was to be abandoned, I would rather endure the beatings than be an orphan.

 

 

Our true self (spirit, soul) is permanent and thrives without even knowing of the Ego.

 

 

The “Ego” is created and dies without the support of the true self, the power of our being.

 

 

How can a mirage mean so much to us?

 

 

Approval, approval, approval!

 

 

Approval brought security,  being ostracized from the tribe back in our hunter gather stage, meant death.

 

 

The Ego dominates thought, judgment and emotion. He/She never feels equal to another “ego”, so he/she will always jockey for approval, importance, acceptance.

 

 

Approval or disapproval does not contain happiness.

 

 

Approval today could turn to criticism tomorrow, it is external.
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My C-PTSD has activated because of a med!

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My trauma has come alive after five years of freedom. A blood pressure med drained my energy and ignited some of my old symptoms.

 

 

That invisible prison, the anxiety, the fear, the confusion and especially the thoughts flooded in.

 

 

Absent was the firing of my fight, flight or freeze mechanism, my  adrenal stress response. This felt weird but all my meditating and integrating had healed some parts of my nervous system.

 

 

Without my nervous system exploding, my fear was minimal, but thoughts, intrusive thoughts, consumed me.

 

 

My triggers were not explosions but uncomfortable feelings of unworthiness and shame, invading my security.   My ego wants to avoid these triggers at all cost.

 

 

Thoughts, judgments and emotions overwhelmed me again. The invisible prison had resurfaced.   I knew it was a mirage, not real but it had power.

 

 

Remember our ego gains control using thought as his weapon. When slightly triggered my mind seems to lock up a bit, be confused, want to judge or just be lost. It is a numb, unattached feeling for me.

 

 

Now, I am healing again, meditating more, exercising more, living with much more awareness.

 

 

I go out and observe my mind facing potential triggers.

 

 

This is not done haphazardly or recklessly.

 

 

I have to be focused, calm and resilient to approach my triggers as a healing tool.

 

 

What we fear contains our healing, our improving, our freedom.

 

 

Have  courage, face your triggers and fears.

 

 

 

First, practice in the safest environment, while meditating, then in person.

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