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David Weiskopf

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David Weiskopf last won the day on October 27

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  1. Hi, Jeff. I'm pretty much with you. I don't give mindfulness such a major billing as you do, believing it is only one component of a Path. Moreover, as you said, the term "mindfulness" has been appropriated and distorted in recent times. In the ancient teachings mindfulness arose from wise attention and was cultivated in combination with other Path factors along a spectrum culminating in a power and an awakening factor (mindfulness is the first of seven). Moreover, it was mentioned as working in tandem with sampajanna or clear comprehension. All of these contribute to liberating insight. At least that is how I understand the Pali Canon which more or less is the map to which I refer frequently. I especially agree with you about the misplaced value placed on individuality and I basically believe powerful sociopathic "individuals" exploited extreme shaming and punishments to impose such value on societies. Enough learned helplessness and forced cravenness can generate a lot of followers who wouldn't recognize freedom if it opened wide in front of them.
  2. I am becoming a fount (I should have said "font") of malapropisms. I had at least 2 in my last post: "immanent" in place of "imminent," but best of all was "spiritualism" in place of "spirituality." The interesting thing about that last one is that in the 19th Century seances were very popular social activities as were Ouija boards when I was a kid. It is though many of us long for greater connection--to others and to something larger and more mysterious than ourselves--and we are willing to invest credulity in pseudoscience or the supernatural to fulfill that longing. Since Gillian introduced the Rick Hanson video into this thread, I want to draw attention to his recent book NeuroDharma that relates Rick's understanding of no-self, from his perspective both as a neuroscientist and as a practitioner of formal Buddhist methods, in chapter 8. The book is the topic of a bookclub on this website, but no one as of yet has really commented on this chapter. In my experience, nothing is harder to discuss with people than this topic even among people who are purported followers of Buddhist teachings in which anatta, variously translated as non-self, not-self, or no-self, is a major tenet. Moving from egocentrism to what Rick terms "allocentrism," goes to the heart of what I think Jeff has been saying. What I have observed is that people interpret this concept in accordance with other broader metaphysical beliefs, which are so varied among people and usually held with such moral conviction that it is hard to have a discussion about this topic. So, I offer Rick's book as at least one vehicle for arousing curiosity in it, investigating it, and maybe loosening a little our unquestioned clinging to our own beliefs. It is hard to get along with others in such a multi-cultural world that technology has made smaller and more accessible if we have to be right but have not sufficiently examined the basis for our beliefs.
  3. Wow, I have to acknowledge that when I read a couple of Gillian's foregoing entries the first word that entered my mind was "privilege." That said, I think Gillian does a fabulous job of supporting and inspiring participants in this forum. This is not to say I am critical of Jeff, because I don't think he means any disrespect. I very strongly believe it is immensely important to speak truth to power and/or complacency, not just to speak truth but to be present for and supportive of people struggling with it. Jeff can correct me if I am wrong, but his message did not strike me as a condemnation of people in this forum but as a clarion call to attend to immanent and extreme dangers. Unfortunately, the ordinary tendency of people facing overwhelmingly frightening dangers seems to be some form of avoidance and denial. To the extent Jeff is suggesting the leaders of spiritual movements, particularly here in the west, seem to be engaged in some sort of spiritual by-pass I voice my agreement. I don't think that is a projection even though I acknowledge the same tendency in myself. Bourgeois Spiritualism! Well, I really enjoyed reading the discussion, laughingly announcing to myself, "Welcome to the Smackdown featuring Bourgeois Spirituality vs. The Bodhisattva Ideal!" It is not a prize fight however, it is an important dialectic.
  4. Your experience, Ali, reminds me of a story that goes the rounds in meditation circles. I cannot locate where I have read it, but it involves a very bright and confident man who learns about meditation in whatever spiritual tradition and becomes convinced there is something very valuable to be attained through meditation. So, he starts going to meditation sessions at a monastery. After a couple sessions he asks the master, "If I keep coming and meditating regularly, how long do you think it will take me to become enlightened?" The teacher, perplexed, responds, "I don't know, maybe 10 years?" The student explains, "No, I am a very smart, organized, and disciplined person and can easily master subjects when I put my mind to it...So, if I really apply myself, how long do you think it will take?" Unhesitatingly, the teacher says, "In that case, at least 20 years!" There is no question that energy, dedication, and discipline are important factors in meditation, as are aspirations. How often do we act without any expectations? But, they easily can be overdone. It is not task-oriented learning for sure. Best wishes with your practice.
  5. I am not trying to throw cold water on this conversation, but being the resident skeptic I thought it fitting to note the passing of James Randi, a storied magician who among other things had established a $1 million prize for anyone who could prove paranormal abilities. No one ever could demonstrate any. He is featured in a fabulous film called "An Honest Liar." He also was an atheist. What will happen if mankind comes to develop robots possessing consciousness? Mankind already has created computers that can beat world chess and go champions with programs that allow the machines to "think" moves as opposed to simply executing preprogrammed ones. For more, see: https://thinkml.ai/top-5-ai-achievements-of-2019/ Here is an interesting article that speculates on models for conscious robots. https://arxiv.org/pdf/2002.05652.pdf What I especially like about this article is that it finds parallels with spiritual practices that correspond to Buddhist and Advaita Vedanta ones. Meanwhile, AI is being used to manipulate our behavior in ways and on scales that would make any of the fraudsters that Randi aimed to demystify extremely jealous. This is not to opine that there is not some substrate or dimension of consciousness, but it is to say other possibilities certainly exist. Again, I mean no disrespect by this.
  6. I will not even make such an attempt! As for consciousness being the ability to be aware, I would differ and say that consciousness has the characteristic of being aware of awareness, a reflective quality. There obviously are simpler examples of neural responses to stimuli or chemically mediated responses in plants and inanimate things. But, as far as we know, those things lack awareness of the fact and cannot reflect on them or their qualitative impact. I like thinking about the subconscious or unconscious that might still meet a definition of consciousness except that we are not conscious of them! I prefer a definition of consciousness that deals with what of which we are aware from a phenomalogical perspective. Just me.
  7. Great bows to you both, Gillian and Daniel. I am in retreat now and the teacher, as though privy to this thread, just read this poem: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46545/eagle-poem
  8. Yes, Daniel, you seem to be speaking from the beautiful heart, the beautiful spiritual path, not the one projecting something extra-special about "me" to grip tightly. From my perspective, all we have are these six senses to discern our place. They are limited, in some respects not as sensitive as other living creatures that, for example, perceive ultraviolet or infrared light. Yet, we have this tendency to believe ourselves to be the "crown of creation" or as ushering in the means of the universe to become aware of itself and optimize its true nature. I ardently believe this reflects something likely very beautiful in our nature that really gets distorted through the lens of self, through "anthropomorphizing" you might say. Such a big word to reflect our self-importance. Sometimes I ask myself, "What is the place of the trillions of bacteria and other microbes that help compose "me" in the exalted self?...that cause this body to bloat and rot when drained of life? I don't know, but it has a way of making me feel very humble.
  9. I’m tossing out my vote for consciousness being totally manufactured by the organism basically to serve it in considering alternative responses to presenting scenarios and also for anticipating approaches to possible future ones. To me, this has the advantage of being more immediate to experience and less speculative, not that we can know the answer now. From a Mindfulness perspective I think it might be a good practice to examine what these views get going in us and what leads us to gravitate to one answer or the other, considering each is speculative. In my meditation group I had a person ask me out of the blue after a guided meditation what I thought about there being “a fourth dimension?” I basically asked, “Of what, are you suggesting a dimension of universal consciousness?” His eyes lit up and he said, “Yes.” When I told him we don’t know and cannot know, an interesting question from a mindfulness perspective would be what gets going in us that prefers a particular viewpoint, he rolled his eyes in disgust and never came back! I thought to myself how we identify with viewpoints and cling to them in ways that promote divisions and hostility! From the perspective of inclusivity, I believe either view can be a resource on a beautiful spiritual path. I tend to believe that we tend to project unexamined rationalizations onto others and the universe in ways that cause troubles for ourselves and others, so whenever in doubt I assume that is a good starting point. In whatever ways we are all interconnected and interdependent.
  10. A couple days ago I listened to a dhamma talk by Ajahn Sujato in which he explained that the word “educate” derives from words meaning “to draw out of.” Adding to what Katie said, I take this to mean nurturing one’s inherent qualities rather than trying to indoctrinate and condition that person to meet others’ expectations and wishes. The difference to me feels like one of acceptance and caring—that encourages expansion of interest and growth—versus aggression and disdain, that is hurtful and discouraging. Is it possible that people cling to such outrageous beliefs and act out in such ridiculous ways because they feel safe with what is familiar and have been made to be fearful of stepping or peeking-out from their comfort zones? I don’t know.
  11. Thanks for this video. I have to say I have avoided information about technology hacking the mind because I don’t trust that approach. Mikey was very refreshing and seemed to reflect very noble values. He probably is right that technology is going to move in this direction, for good or otherwise. It is lovely to have a sense of shortcuts to wholeness, but I fear the aspect of subjecting the brain to manipulation and control by outside engineering invites really dystopian results, because part of the movement toward wholeness is surrendering the egoistic urge to be in control. As he pointed out, the experience of wholeness was the very opposite of acquiring and manipulating data within conceptual frameworks to exert our will. The desire to have things one’s way and to be able to control one’s subjective experience might fuel dangerous self-absorption. Yes, I believe a mature mind might work beneficial wonders with technology, but what about the brilliant but immature ones?
  12. My small group meets on Zoom due to the pandemic here in Utah. We only meet once each week for an hour. Zoom has worked well for us.
  13. Winter. The withering season, but it still teems with energy. There is nothing like the sun shining on a clear, cold, crisp day, especially if there is newly fallen snow it sets glittering. Still, the days are shorter, shortening more, and I spend more time inside.
  14. I am reading Dream Yoga by Andrew Holecek and have signed up for the Dream Support Team Club. I find it inspirational. I still am reflecting on the impact of my last book, Conflict Is Not Abuse by Sarah Schulman. It basically stands for the proposition that conflict is inevitable in life and encourages us to engage in it with a commitment to kindness, understanding, and honesty. She contends that we also should kindly confront people when they fail to do so and be receptive to others doing the same with us. I think there is something very beautifully radical and inspirational in that. It really approaches conflict as a means of supporting one and other in dealing with the inevitable intrusions and misunderstandings in life. My little meditation group of 10 people or so inspires me because they show up on a regular basis (we meet weekly) and themselves demonstrate a commitment to honesty, kindness and mutual support. On our own time many of us partake of the online offerings of the Insight Meditation Center. https://www.insightmeditationcenter.org/ It hosts online mini-retreats and other programs that also include opportunities to meet in small breakout groups. Longer online retreats are available through its retreat center, http://insightretreatcenter.org I was looking for something online to share with my group that briefly and effectively demonstrates how simply being willing to be present with what arises in us, welcoming it, and warmly receiving it with kindness can really lead to growth and openings for us. In the end, I used this TED talk which is not about mindfulness meditation at all. It is about a mother who uses Carol Dweck's Mindset program. She left me awestruck. I suspect many of us lack the insightfulness and resourcefulness of the speaker and would be blocked to the insights and revelations that seemed to come so easily to her once she found the right direction. It inspired me to send along her talk along with this message: Most of us run from such unsettling things and erect the sort of "fixed ideas" and rationalizations that the mother describes so well. In so doing we block our ability to be warmhearted and compassionate by guarding our wounds. We become really good at hiding our pains and insecurities from ourselves, deceiving ourselves and trying to deceive others, for example by trying to make things out as though others were responsible for our problems or we ourselves were incapable of more. Being kindly and mindfully aware of our present-moment embodied experience starts moving us toward allowing the processes of defensiveness and evasiveness to settle and ease. It helps make what discomforts us more visible and helps open our hearts to them, first revealing the coarser levels and later revealing the subtler ones. It starts opening new doors. It helps lead to the very growth, intimacy, integrity, and creativity that the mother describes from Mindset. So, the mindset with which we can start is one of loving-kindness to ourselves exactly as we are. It is more than o.k. to be human. Time and again we might find it the place from which we take the first tentative step forward. Moreover, we don't have to rush this process. Maybe it will take months before we even feel ready for a step; maybe we just need to fill-out our balance, confidence and ease right where we are for awhile.
  15. I liked how they said we can fight, but not hate. This is one of the key principles of Sarah Schulman's book Conflict Is Not Abuse. Not only is conflict inevitable in life, often it is healthy.
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