Brain and Behavior

Silence is Golden

The old song by Simon and Garfunkel was so right: silence really is golden, but maybe in more ways than we realize. In our urban, busy world we don’t get enough outer silence. There’s always the sound of traffic, TVs, other people in their apartments and the general buzz of the city as we go about our daily business. These days we have to hunt out the quiet spaces, but they are there as I discovered just the other day.

I’m selling my apartment, so we have the bi-weekly ritual of having to go out with the dog for 45 minutes during house viewing and find somewhere to be. As my dog is a bit old and grumpy (he’s 85 in human years), we try to seek out places that avoid other dogs and small children, which is hard in a café-obsessed beachside suburb of Sydney. As we took a walk up the road we discovered a small nature reserve that had been recently restored. Pristine bush tucked away in the city, green, tranquil and no sound, that’s bliss.

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Children and Teens

What I Learned from Slowing Down

On a daily basis, there are tragic events happening all across the world. We read it in the newspaper, see it on television, hear it on the radio, and even see it on our Twitter feeds. These tragic events, even from just reading about them, can make us feel sad, depressed and even helpless.

Reading about all of the atrocities in the world makes me want to give as many kids water, education, electricity and Internet access as possible. Yet I also feel trapped in my own world. I am frozen in ice about how to act. I want to help, but it really is not time for me to do so.

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Letting Go This Autumn

The summer air is thick, oozing with secrets. Our emotional baggage clings to our bodies in the humidity, under the blazing sun.

The autumn wind purges our demons, along with the heat. We watch the leaves turn, inching closer and closer to death, to the barrenness of winter.

According to Dream Dictionary, death may symbolize transition. “To dream that you die symbolizes inner changes, transformation, self-discovery and positive development that is happening within you or your life.”

Autumn’s metamorphosis, the in-between, encourages us to start over. To breathe.
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Brain and Behavior

Are You A Mystic? A Call To Participate In Mystics Anonymous

Traditional doctors say I'm a mystic.  I don't deny it. ~Bernie Siegel
On August 1 and 2, 2009 I had an extraordinary experience while sitting on a beach. It was as though I was having a low-grade seizure. I vibrated as if I were somehow a piano, guitar, or violin string being tuned to a tuning fork. It wasn’t unpleasant, but it was by no means a joyous event. I couldn’t stop, not could I explain the quivering. I sat on the edge of the beach and watched the rhythmic waves of the ocean slap the shore.

I didn’t know exactly what was happening, but I knew it was extraordinary. I was hyperalert -- in awe -- being nudged into a type of anticipatory readiness.
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Grief and Loss

How to Find Spiritual Strength During Times of Illness

Some people awaken spiritually without ever coming into contact with any meditation technique or any spiritual teaching. They may awaken simply because they can’t stand the suffering anymore. -- Eckhart Tolle
Sometimes in life, we face pain so great that we must focus on surviving one day at a time, or even by the hour or the minute. During these moments, it feels as if our hearts naturally gravitate toward the spiritual, as there is only so much sadness, fear, bitterness or grief a human heart can hold before it cracks.

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Brain and Behavior

How to Stay Motivated and Committed to Your Mindfulness Meditation Practice

Many people these days are starting a mindfulness meditation practice with great intentions and lots of enthusiasm. They’ve heard of its health benefits, and are eager to start meditating. However, few of them stay committed long-term. And those who don’t stick with it will have a hard time dealing with stress in their lives.

There are several reasons why many people quit soon after beginning:

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Brain and Behavior

Is Mindfulness Meditation Safe?

There has been some growing concern recently about the safety of mindfulness meditation. Some claim that the practice can have severe side effects, such as panic, depression, and confusion. Are these concerns well founded? Maybe.

The main study cited by opponents of meditation is a British study of the effects of mindfulness meditation on a group of prison inmates. The inmates participated in a 90-minute weekly meditation class for 10 weeks. The study found that the inmates’ moods had improved and they had experienced a lower stress level, but remained just as aggressive as before the intervention.

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Learning to Accept Your Soul Under Construction

For most of his life, my father was a plumbing instructor in a trade school and was one of those people who can build a house from scratch. I envy that ability and regret that I didn’t learn some of his skills: plumbing, electrical, carpentry.

He was a master at hanging wallpaper and could plaster a ceiling silky smooth. I tried plastering a wall once, and it turned out looking like something you would see in a distorted mirror.

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Brain and Behavior

The Power of a Morning Ritual

One of the first things teachers tell new writers is to sit down in the same place at the same time every day to write. It’s the ritual, a way of preparing to write that primes our minds and our bodies to do it. The repetitive steps of sitting down in our writing spot awakens our minds to the process ahead.

Rituals -- from how we stir cream into coffee and blow out birthday candles to wedding vows and funeral prayers -- influence how we experience these moments of our lives.

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Contempt, Attachment and Meditation

My wife and I are older parents. We like to think we have much wisdom to pass on, but we have to be mindful of negative things we also can pass on.

Age brings healthy skepticism, and raising a daughter who reasonably questions authority will not be a bad thing. However, cynicism often accompanies skepticism, and the last thing we want is a cynical child. Childhood should be about wonder and possibility. Cynicism can quickly kill that. So we have to keep the negativity in check.

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Using Karma to Recognize Difficulty in Our Relationships

With origins in ancient India, the term karma stems from the sanskrit word for “action, work or deed.” Karma not only applies to tangible actions like our words and deeds, it also applies to unseen energies like thoughts, intentions and emotions.

Under the spiritual law of karma, our intent and actions (cause) directly influence our future, and therefore our present (effect). For example, good intent and good deeds contribute to good karma and future happiness; bad intent and bad deeds contribute to bad karma and future suffering.

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