20 Things I wish I had known when starting off life

A great list of  advice from a wonderful blog!


It’s official, I have (for the second time in the last 4 years) stopped smoking. While the last attempt involved tremendous amounts of self-re-programming and will enforcement, this time around it’s proving to be less difficult. Conditions are just as difficult as before, including a partner and 75% of my peers who smoke frequently and passionately.

The trick seems to be simple.

Daily hatha yoga practice has strengthened my will and given me a different insight into breath observation and breath control than mindfulness of breath, which I have been practicing on and off for the past 2 years. Consequently, I didn’t feel the need or wish to smoke during the day, only the most powerful triggers and routines pushed the right (wrong) buttons and reminded me of the addiction in the evening. And even then, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I used to. The added insight into the effects of smoking on anxiety (anxiety makes you light up, the physical side-effects of the cigarette, ie. faster heart rate, make you more anxious) have made the decision even simpler.

So if you want to stop smoking start playing with your breath and build-up that will one step at a time.

From Wikipedia: Vipassana is a practice often taken up in prison, especially in Burma.  In 1993, Kiran Bedi, a reformist Inspector General of India’s prisons, learned of the success of Vipassanā in a jail in Jainpur, Rajasthan. A 10-day course involved officials and inmates alike. In India’s largest prison, Tihar Jail, near New Delhi, another attempt was made. This program was said to have dramatically changed the behavior of inmates and jailers alike. It was actually found that inmates who completed the 10-day course were less violent and had a lower recidivism rate than other inmates. This project was documented in the television documentary, Doing Time, Doing Vipassana. So successful was this program that it was adopted by correctional facilities in the United States and other countries as well. Unfortunately, the prisoners involved in the study were a biased sample, however, due to the fact that they volunteered for the program, while many who were told they would miss the Super-Bowl if they joined the program chose not to participate. Therefore, it is possible that only prisoners who were willing to make a significant personal sacrifice to “improve” themselves participated in the study. A less biased study would have taken this self-electing prisoner pool and randomly assigned them to either Vipassana training or a “placebo” meditation training and evaluated the results according to a double blind protocol.

I am always excited by the amount of spiritual practice thrown in the face of those ‘in the need’, very usually with (un)surprisingly positive results. While I do not disagree that some people who have crossed the edge are more needy of such treatment, I do not hold the belief that ‘normal’ people can not significantly benefit from following the same instructions and modes of practice. This prison story strongly reminds me of dialectic behavioural therapy, a therapeutic system used to alleviate and cure Borderline Personality Disorder.

From Wikipedia: The treatment itself is based largely in behaviorist theory with some cognitive therapy elements as well. Unlike cognitive therapy it incorporates mindfulness practice as a central component of the therapy.

Anyone who has spent some time in self-observation has probably come to a very similar conclusion as G.I.Gurdjieff, that is that people are robots, controlled by their conditioning, triggers and wishes (reactions) mostly based on their current emotional state. Gurdjieff’s answer was to come up with his own system of self-observation (based on Sufi teachings, sacred dances, Christian mysticism and numerous other sources), but as time went on other systems from around the world became available to the contemporary experimenter – be it Aleister Crowley’s exercises, Osho’s dynamic meditation, mindfulness, or vipassana.

This week I have added to my daily practice of mindfulness a reversal practice as well – doing as many physical tasks in reverse (using the opposite limb) as I can. The immediate effect is the availability to stay mindful for longer periods of time. There also seems to be a peculiar effect on my body (some new unexpected pains, mainly in the lower back and the disappearance of some psychosomatic baggage).

Some of the practical exercises: wearing my bag on the opposite shoulder, crossing my legs in reverse, opening doors with my left hand and so on are particularly effective. This obviously necessitates the ability to be mindful of how your body is acting right now. I have also found the physical centering of my body to be fairly practical in deconstructing past physical difficulties, sleeping without crossing my legs, sitting straight (without crossing my legs), walking slowly and with straight back, while not looking down. Anything that challenges the conditioned physical routines that I have built for myself seems to be equally effective.

Whatever you do, practice every day.

This supports what a lot of people have been saying for many years. I advocate transparent and unbiased research into these drugs and their effects. This is something that is difficult to do in a medical system that is primarily interested in  profit rather than the well-being of patients. Of course, it would be dangerous to dismiss these drugs based solely on these latest findings. We do not want to throw out the baby with the bath water, so to speak. However, a revaluation is sorely needed.

bestnaturalhealing.jpgMind-altering psychedelics are back—but this time they are being explored in labs for their therapeutic applications rather than being used illegally. Studies are looking at these hallucinogens to treat a number of otherwise intractable psychiatric disorders, including chronic depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and drug or alcohol dependency.

The past 15 years have seen a quiet resurgence of psychedelic drug research as scientists have come to recognize the long-underappreciated potential of these drugs. In the past few years, a growing number of studies using human volunteers have begun to explore the possible therapeutic benefits of drugs such as LSD, psilocybin, DMT, MDMA, ibogaine and ketamine.

Much remains unclear about the precise neural mechanisms governing how these drugs produce their mind-bending results, but they often produce somewhat similar psychoactive effects that make them potential therapeutic tools. Though still in their preliminary stages, studies in humans suggest that the day when people can schedule a psychedelic session with their therapist to overcome a serious psychiatric problem may not be that far off.

Scientific American via Dose Nation

Tom Shroder has written an excellent comprehensive article titled ‘The Peace Drug‘. Published in the Washington Post it focuses on MDMA therapy for PTSD.

Donna Kilgore laughs, a high-pitched sound that contains both thrill and anxiety. That she feels anything at all, anything other than the weighty, oppressive numbness that has filled her for 11 years, is enough in itself to make her giddy.

But there is something more at work inside her, something growing from the little white capsule she swallowed just minutes ago. She’s subject No. 1 in a historic experiment, the first U.S. government-sanctioned research in two decades into the potential of psychedelic drugs to treat psychiatric disorders. This 2004 session in the office of a Charleston, S.C., psychiatrist is being recorded on audio cassettes, which Donna will later hand to a journalist.

The tape reveals her reaction as she listens to the gentle piano music playing in her headphones. Behind her eyelids, movies begin to unreel. She tries to say what she sees: Cars careening down the wrong side of the road. Vivid images of her oldest daughter, then all three of her children. She’s overcome with an all-consuming love, a love she thought she’d lost forever.

“Now I feel all warm and fuzzy,” she announces. “I’m not nervous anymore.”

“What level of distress do you feel right now?” a deeply mellow voice beside her asks.

Donna answers with a giggle. “I don’t think I got the placebo,” she says.

Fourteen years ago, Donna Kilgore was raped.

Read The Peace Drug

UPDATE: Tom Shroder, the editor of the magazine will be fielding questions and comments about this article Monday at noon here.

chuang-tzu_1.jpg “If a man follows the mind given him and makes it his teacher, then who can be without a teacher? Why must you comprehend the process of change and form your mind on that basis before you can have a teacher? Even an idiot has his teacher. But to fail to abide by this mind and still insist upon your rights and wrongs – this is like saying that you set off for Yueh today and got there yesterday.”

-Chuang Tzu

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