Archive for the ‘Assorted’ Category

Understanding why I have been a loner

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Trying to heal has given me insight into the causes of my suffering. In childhood my naricsstic father tried to control every attachment.

Actually, he controlled every aspect of my life, trying to fulfill his desire of me playing professional baseball.

Any friend or acquaintance had to meet his standards, then their influence over me would be limited or cut off by good old dad.

Assessment: This week it dawned on me that I did not attach to either parent or anyone else beyond a shallow friendship.

My father would severe any relationship that he thought diluted his control. The natural desire to connect with others was cut off for me many times.

After you tell a couple of guys you can not be their friend anymore, word gets around. Oh, having a girlfriend was out of the question around my father, he owned me.

This means my social network lacked connections and attachment was unfamiliar to me. Social emotions lacked experience in my consciousness while athletic willpower and strength dominated my development.

When my first real attachment in college betrayed me, I had no one to confide in.

This week is the first time I became aware of this. I guess it was normal facing life alone for me.

I did not feel loss, I never experienced love, or kindness in my childhood. Criticism and fear dominated my existence.

Trusting someone was a foreign emotion for me.

Being a loner was so natural for me, in fact I never felt safe around people.

I did not know why, now I do.

It will be a massive undertaking rewiring 69 years of life.

With meditation and years of healing, my empathy center is open, I am a giver at my core.

For a loner, I ran a mindfulness group. Somehow that was a safe space while around people.

A triumph in my life, I have helped others heal in spite of my suffering and fears.

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“All human experiences are suffering”. Is this actually true?

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Rick Hanson from “Neurodharma”

“There are times when the mind is filled with physical pain, grief, fear, outrage, depression, or other overwhelming kinds of suffering.

I’ve had those times myself, and and it feels like suffering is all there is. There are also countless people who each day must bear pain, illness, loss, disability, poverty, or injustice.

And in a blink of an eye something might happen–perhaps a car on the highway swerving into you, or a shocking betrayal by someone you’ve trusted– that changed the rest of your life.

Suffering is certainly around us, and often if not always inside us. And still– are all of our experiences suffering?

Suffering matters because it is a particularly kind of experience–one that is unpleasant— so there must be other kinds of experiences.

The pleasure in eating a juicy peach is not itself suffering. Nor is virtue, wisdom, or concentration. Awareness itself is not suffering.

Human experience certainly contains fear and grief, but that’s not all it contains.

Further, any experience, even a painful one, is highly pixelated, with many elements like the individual brushstrokes of a painting.

Most of those elements are not themselves suffering. The redness of red, the knowledge that a ball is round…none of these is itself suffering.

These points may seem merely technical, but if we overlook what is not suffering, then we won’t truly understand what is suffering.

And we will miss out on experiences and resources that we could use both for increasing health and and well-being and for reducing suffering.

Recognizing suffering in yourself and others opens the heart and motivates practice. But these good ends are not served by exaggerating it.”

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When you were young part two, 2,

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From Neurodharma by Rick Hanson

So, like every young child, you needed external sources of soothing, comfort, and care. But early childhood is also a time when most parents are stressed and many are poorly supported and sometimes depressed.

And the hour-after-hour, day-after day events of your first few years were happening while your nervous system was especially vulnerable, and while the foundational layers of your psyche were being laid down.

The feelings, sensations, and longings in your younger experience were internalized into implicit memory stores but disconnected from explicit recollections of the situation in which they occurred. Today this buried material lives on.

And it can be activated by the type of cues that were also present way back then, such as feeling unheard, unseen or uncared for. In later childhood and then adulthood, something similar can occur during traumatic experiences.

The painful residues of events can get caught in the nets of emotional memory, but without context and perspective. The conscious mind may forget, but as Babette Rothschild wrote, the body remembers.

Suffering sinks deep. Thinking that mindfulness and meditation alone will remove buried material can lead to what John Welwood called spiritual bypass—and a failure to accomplaish the task of understanding suffering, including its deepest remains.

That material is embedded in physical memory systems designed to hold on to their contents.

To uncover and release it takes focused effort that certainly draws on mindfulnessa and self-compassion—-a steady mind and a warm heart–but also specific skillful means as appropriate. These include different kinds of psychotherapy and self-help practices.

There are good methods for bringing light down into the basement of the mind, and if we are to understand suffering fully, it is alright to use them.

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When you were young

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Rick Hanson:

Every child is particularly vulnerable during the first few years.

One reason is that the primary neural trigger for experiences of stress and fear—the amygdala—is fully formed before most babies are born.

This “alarm bell” in your brain was ready to ring loud as you took your first breath.

Second, a nearby part that calms down the amygdala–the hippocampus–deoesnt become completely developed until around the third birthday.

The hippocampus is key to forming episodic memories—specific recollections of personal experiences—and it’s slow maturation is why we we don’t remember our earliest years.

It also signals the hypothalamus to quit calling for more more stress hormones (”Enough already”).

The combination of a ready-for-action amygdala and a needs-years-to-develop hippocampus is like a one-two punch: young children are easily upset while lacking internal resources for calming themselves and putting events in perspective.

Third, the right hemisphere of your brain got a jump start in development during your first eighteen months.

This matters because that side of the brain tends to emphasize the perception of threats, painful emotions such as fear, and avoidance behaviors such as withdrawing or feeling… which intensify the negative effects of the amygdala-hippocampus combination.

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A giving Heart by Rick Hanson

Cat yoga at my place

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Besides the absence of the bad, warmheartedness in action involves the presence of the good.

Many ethical principles are expressed through negation–for example, thou shalt not kill–but its also valuable to consider them in terms of affirmations.

For instance, you could explore how to give life, through planting trees or protecting children, or how to replace a harsh tone with encouragement and praise.

Generosity is rare in the animal kingdom, since in most species it lowers the odds of individual survival. But as our ancestors lived and evolved in small bands, altruism helped others with whom they shared genes.

And as our brain gradually grew larger—tripling in size over the past several million years–our ancestors became more able both to appreciate and reward one person’s giving, and to criticize and punish another persons freeloading.

This promoted positive cycles of social and moral evolution whose traces are now woven onto our DNA.

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healthy and unhealthy Desire

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The Buddha made a useful distinction between two kinds of desire.

First, there is healthy desire, such as trying to be more patient and loving.

Second, there is an unhealthy desire–the craving mentioned in chapter 2–that causes so much suffering.

For example, this kind of desire is active when we run away from or fight with what is painful, get driven about or addicted to what is pleasurable, or keep trying to impress other people.

So the issue is not desire per se but rather:

.Can we desire what is beneficial for ourselves and others?

.Can we pursue it with skillful means? For example, there might be a positive aim, such as helping a child read, but if a parent goes about it yelling, that’s not skillful.

.Can we be at peace with what happens? Different parts of the brain handle liking—-enjoying or preferring something—-and wanting, in the sense of craving.

This means it is possible to aim high and be ambitious without being consumed by pressure and drivenness.

Sure, there could be disappointment about not achieving a goal, but there can also be acceptance— and enthusiasm for the next opportunity.

from “Neurodharma” Rick Hanson

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Compassion and Kindness

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Rick Hanson:

“Very simply, compassion is wishing that beings not suffer, and kindness is wishing that they be happy.

As wishes, these are forms of desire.

Which raises an important question that we should address first:

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. . . . . . . Is desire okay?”

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Practice Building Concentration this way

Boxed breath model: inhale, pause, exhale, pause, 4 sides

Each phase of the breath is equal using this model

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Start with three breaths.

Keep constant contact with each inhale, pause, exhale and pause for three slow breaths.

Set aside 15 minutes a day to increase your focus powers.

It develops like a muscle reacts to weight training.

Devote time everyday to practice and you will improve.

Make a game out of it, have a reward at the end of each week.

Keep a journal and chart your improvement.

When you can stay in constant contact for 3 breaths, expand the goal to 5 breaths.

By the time we reach 10 breaths our concentration powers will heighten the meditative sits

Being able to steady the mind, allows us to meditate at a deeper level.

Build concentration first, then the power of meditation can be enjoyed.

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Start at right lower corner and move with the arrows. Keep constant contact for 3 breaths

We can vary the pauses, lengthen or shorten their duration. It is like a sheet of music, a rhythmic smooth flow of inhales, exhales with pauses connecting the breath as a continuum.

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Part 2: Combining Neuroscience with Meditation (Mindfulness) Practice

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Rick Hanson from “Neurodharma”

“Further, what is not compassionate and kind–such as hurt, resentment, or contempt–can loom large and persist in a persons mind

The Brain is designed to be shaped by our experiences–and especially those in childhood…...particularly if they were painful and involved other people.

The traces linger and can shadow your days.

These physical changes in your brain are not reversed just by watching your mind.

It takes deliberate practice to heal and to find new ways of being with others.

So let’s see how we can grow compassion and kindness for others–and ourselves.”

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My two cents: Our childhood abuse has built strong negative neural networks of suffering for us.

I have healed twice but have not changed my negative neural network.

My mind lacked kindness,approval and support as a child, it is prone to worry, doubt, anxiety and worthlessness.

I can only imagine how constant criticism from my father wired during childhood.

We need to alter our neural networks, well I do!

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Combining Neuroscience with Meditation (Mindfulness) Practice

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Rick Hanson from Neurodharma:

“So how can we warm the heart and develop compassion and kindness, for our own sake and for that if others.

Mindfulness is necessary, but not sufficient.

Studies of mindfulness and related meditations have found that these can alter neural networks for attention, self awareness, and self-control. This is really good, but it doesn’t directly strengthen key parts of the neural basis of compassion and kindness.

Related but distinct networks handle these things.

For example, pleasurable social experience activate brain regions that help produce experiences of physical pleasure.

Being generous, cooperative, and fair can stimulate neural reward centers. And social pain– such as rejection or loneliness—taps the same network that underlie physical pain.

It is when we focus on warmheartedness itself that it’s aspects are most experienced in the mind and developed in the nervous system.

Compassion-focused meditation stimulates specific parts of the brain involved with the with the sense of connection, positive emotions, and reward, including the middle orbitofrontal cortex, behind where your eyebrows meet.

Long term practitioners of lovingkindness meditation develop similar neurological reactions to seeing the faces of strangers and their own faces, with growing sense of “you’re like me.”

They also build neural tissue in key parts of the hippocampus that support feelings of empathy towards others.”

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