Go with the flow of the universe

If you are quiet enough, you will hear the flow of the universe. You will feel its rhythm. Go with this flow. Happiness lies ahead. Meditation is key. ~ Buddha


On Saturday, April 7, 2018, I will be Investigating the Power of Silence with attendees at the annual Free Day of NLP, held at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas. My presentation is at 1 pm.

To RSVP, please click here, which will help with planning for the free breakfast and lunch and free parking.

Buddhist art, ancient and 21st century

Somewhere between Facebook, Twitter, and web surfing, I came across this article and slideshow about an exhibit of Buddhist art in Hong Kong.

The show juxtaposes ancient and modern Buddhist art, drawing on the Rockefeller collection of Asian art and works by modern artists.

Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, is probably the single most influential individual on the face of this earth in terms of the number of lives touched and awakened toward peace.

Like Jesus, so much has been attributed to the Buddha and projected onto him that the actual man might be nonplussed  if he could come back and see the religion he founded now.

(I think of spiritual masters like the Buddha and Jesus as having so much equanimity that the word horrified wouldn’t apply to them. That’s my projection.)

Many people, including me, have Buddhist art in their homes. That serene face, the eyes half or completely closed in introspection, sends an energy into a room of peacefulness, equanimity, compassion, and presence, and reminds me that those treasures lie within.

From the Asia Society’s website:

Transforming Minds: Buddhism in Art showcases Buddhist works from the world-renowned Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection of Asian Art along with contemporary works by leading Asian and Asian American artists that draw inspiration from one of the world’s great religions.


Buddhist tattoos

Expanding on my previous posts about yoga tattoos, I’m sharing a link to a blog post, Getting a Buddhist Tattoo, on The Buddhist Blog (new to me).

The image below is from that blog post. I find this tattoo to be incredibly beautiful.

The post and the comments are well worth reading if you have an interest in tattoos and Buddhism.

Allowing the inner Buddha to walk, working with Fran Bell, emergent knowledge

I’m sharing a beautiful article from Tricycle magazine, Walk Like a Buddha, written by Buddhist monk, teacher, and activist Thich Nhat Hanh about walking meditation.

For many of us, the idea of practice without effort, of the relaxed pleasure of mindfulness, seems very difficult. That is because we don’t walk with our feet. Of course, physically our feet are doing the walking, but because our minds are elsewhere, we are not walking with our full body and our full consciousness. We see our minds and our bodies as two separate things. While our bodies are walking one way, our consciousness is tugging us in a different direction.

For the Buddha, mind and the body are two aspects of the same thing. Walking is as simple as putting one foot in front of the other. But we often find it difficult or tedious. We drive a few blocks rather than walk in order to “save time.” When we understand the interconnectedness of our bodies and our minds, the simple act of walking like the Buddha can feel supremely easy and pleasurable.

What this brings up for me is noticing where my attention is. When do I pay attention to my body? My answer has been: not often enough. It’s there all the time, so easy to take for granted. The external world seems so much more engaging because it’s constantly changing.

I walked habitually, without paying much attention (or rather with more attention on my destination than the journey), and as a result, I acquired some mindless movement patterns that actually created stress and tension in my body.

Fran Bell is helping me with that. She shows me there’s an alternative, and it feels so relaxed and healthy! I feel totally in my body. I enjoy it.

But I only see her for an hour a week, and although I retain some of what she shows me, I also become mindless again, some of the time.

The real learning is up to me. Influenced also by the book Effortless Wellbeing, I’ve been paying attention to my body when I lie down, when I sit (at my computer and in the car), when I stand, and when I walk.

Where do I feel tightest, most constrained? Can I just let go of that? Well, yeah!

Here are some of my new awarenesses:

  • Walking as a unit rather than as an assemblage of parts.
  • Feeling the left-right symmetry of my moving body.
  • Feeling the rhythm of walking.
  • Balancing my head easily atop my neck with minimal strain.
  • Balancing my rib cage easily above my hips with minimal strain.
  • Ankles, knees, and hips.
  • Feeling the natural springiness in my walk.
  • Feeling the side-to-side sway of my body.
  • Feeling the relationship between my hip and the opposite shoulder.
  • Letting my arms swing from my dropped shoulders.
  • Keeping my sternum in an easy natural place.
  • Keeping my eyes in a soft gaze.
  • Finding the most ease.

Walking meditation is really to enjoy the walking—walking not in order to arrive, just for walking, to be in the present moment, and to enjoy each step. 

I notice that walking with mindfulness adds presence and pleasure to my life.

He goes on to include some instruction about adding breath awareness to walking medication. Here’s an excerpt I liked:

After you have been practicing for a few days, try adding one more step to your exhalation. For example, if your normal breathing is 2-2, without walking any faster, lengthen your exhalation and practice 2-3 for four or five times. Then go back to 2-2. In normal breathing, we never expel all the air from our lungs. There is always some left. By adding another step to your exhalation, you will push out more of this stale air. Don’t overdo it. Four or five times are enough. More can make you tired. After breathing this way four or five times, let your breath return to normal. Then, five or ten minutes later, you can repeat the process. Remember to add a step to the exhalation, not the inhalation.

Is anyone else doing the trauma releasing exercises?

Just checking. I’ve taught them to one person so far during this challenge and am curious to learn whether anyone else is doing them or has tried them at least once or intends to do them.

If so, would you please comment? I’d just like to know someone’s there.

Last night my releasing was mild compared to the previous wild session. A little shaking in my left hand, but not my left shoulder this time. Mostly my legs shook. I experienced some mild, gentle pelvic rocking. Lasted about 10 minutes.


This morning I went to Appamada Zen Center for the Sunday service. I got there just as the clappers signaled time to get seated before the service begins.

Had a nice practice inquiry session with Peg Syverson, my teacher. So much has changed since I saw her last, which was maybe in early January. We had a really good connection. She asked what stays the same while so much of my life is changing — selling my house, moving out, doing temporary work — and advised to notice it all.

During the sitting parts of the service, I noticed tight places in my body. I attribute it to the kettlebell swings I’ve been doing to strengthen my body. I’m working my way up from 10 swings with a 15 lb. kettlebell. Right now I’m at 20, and I feel it slightly afterwards.

Then I had tea afterwards with some sangha members, and we chatted about the revolution in Egypt, Islamic finance, the environment, and people’s difficulty in dealing with long-term incremental change like climate change, among other things. Some of my sangha read a lot.

I haven’t been to Appamada for weeks. I’ve been spending time with my granddaughter while my daughter works at her nursing job on Sundays. She had this weekend off, and I got to sit with my sangha.

I’m grateful to have my daughter and granddaughter in the same city as I and to be able to spend time with them.

I’m grateful for Appamada, Peg, the Buddha, Zen, the sangha, and my zafu.

I’m grateful to be exploring the trauma releasing exercises.

Read these books!

I read a lot.

Let me clarify that. I don’t read as much as a few other people read, or as much as I read in the past, but I am a reader. I’ve been an avid reader from a young age, at times indiscriminate but now much more discerning.

It’s that Buddhist saying: “Don’t waste time.” If a book doesn’t hook me early on, I set it aside and try later. It doesn’t mean it’s not good. It just means it’s not relevant enough to what I need to learn in that moment to make the effort feel alive. Energy flows where attention goes. If there’s no energy there, why bother?

The following is a list of books I read in 2010,  plan to read in 2011 (plan, not commit), read before 2010 (and mentioned on this blog) that have shaped my world, and reference books that I dip into but will probably not read cover to cover. Links are included to the books’ pages on Amazon.com; if you buy a book from clicking a link here, I’ll get a very small financial reward — which I appreciate, because blogging takes time.

I’ve mentioned a few of the 2010 books prominently, namely, The Open-Focus Brain, A Symphony in the Brain, Buddha’s Brain, The Revolutionary Trauma Release Process, and What Really Matters. You can do a search for those posts and read what I wrote if you want.

Books read in 2010

Buddha, by Karen Armstrong

Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom, by Rick Hanson

The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice, by T.K.V. Desikachar

Krishnamacharya: His Life and Teachings, by A.G. Mohan with Ganesh Mohan

The Open-Focus Brain: Harnessing the Power of Attention to Heal Mind and Body, by Les Fehmi and Jim Robbins

Relax and Renew: Restful Yoga for Stressful Times, by Judith Lasater, Ph.D., P.T.

The Revolutionary Trauma Release Process: Transcend Your Toughest Times, by David Bercelli

Strengths Finder 2.0, by Tom Rath

A Symphony in the Brain, by Jim Robbins

The Web That Has No Weaver, by Ted J. Kaptchuk

What Really Matters: Searching for Wisdom in America, by Tony Schwartz

Yoga Sutras, translated by Kofi Busia (PDF file)

2011 Reading List

The 4-Hour Body, by Timothy Ferriss

Access Your Brain’s Joy Center: The Free Soul Method, by Pete A. Sanders Jr.

The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image, by Leonard Shlain

Beliefs: Pathways to Health & Well-Being, by Robert Dilts, Tim Hallbom, and Suzi Smith

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, by Malcolm Gladwell

Chants of a Lifetime: Searching for a Heart of Gold, by Krishna Das

The Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga: The Authoritative Presentation Based on 30 Years of Direct Study Under the Legendary Yoga Teacher Krishnamacharya, by Srivatsa Ramaswami

Effortless Wellbeing: The Missing Ingredients for Authentic Wellness, by Evan Finer

Emotional Intelligence 2.0, by Travis Bradberry & Jean Greaves

Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation, by Parker J. Palmer

Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life, by Byron Katie and Stephen Mitchell

Nourishing Destiny: The Inner Tradition of Chinese Medicine, by Lonny S. Jarrett

Transforming #1, by Ron Smothermon, M.D.

Waking Up to What You Do: A Zen Practice for Meeting Every Situation with Intelligence and Compassion, by Diane Eshin Rizzo

Yoga Body: Origins of Modern Posture Yoga, by Mark Singleton

Influential books from my past

The complete works of Carlos Castaneda, starting with The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge

Dune, by Frank Herbert

Emptiness Dancing, by Adyashanti

The Spiritual Dimension of the Enneagram: Nine Faces of the Soul, by Sandra Maitri

Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert A. Heinlein

My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey, by Jill Bolte Taylor

Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma: The Innate Capacity to Transform Overwhelming Experiences, by Peter A. Levine

The Healing Triad: Your Liver…Your Lifeline, by Jack Tips

Reference books

Light on Yoga, by B.K.S. Iyengar

Poems New and Collected, by Wislawa Szymborska

The Subtle Body: An Encyclopedia of Your Energetic Anatomy, by Cyndi Dale

Yoga: The Path to Holistic Health, by B.K.S. Iyengar

Buddha’s Brain: supplements for brain health

June 2, 2012: I’ve updated this post with links for the supplements if you want to order online. Some of them are not readily available in stores like Whole Foods.


When I read the book Buddha’s Brain, I was very impressed by an appendix, Nutritional Neurochemistry, by Jan Hanson. She’s an acupunturist who has specialized in clinical nutrition for many years.

I’ve been following Hanson’s suggestions and taking supplements for about six weeks now. I take the minimum amount suggested. I feel better! My memory is better, I sleep better, and I focus better. My mood may be a little better—I wasn’t depressed before, and I generally feel buoyant already.

I haven’t noticed any changes in my digestion (the other area that neurotransmitters affect), but I take great care with my diet, having been tested for food sensitivities years ago and generally following a Type O Gatherer genotype diet. I eat well, going light on grains, beans, and dairy (mostly limited to yogurt and kefir), eating lots of fruits and veggies including green juices, and buying fresh and organic.

I’m not a doctor or a nutritionist, just someone in pursuit of health and well-being. I’m going to repeat some of what Jan Hanson says here in the hopes that if you’re really interested in this topic, you’ll click the link above, buy the book, and read it yourself. The world needs more people who are working toward functioning at 100 percent of their capabilities!

Base  your decisions either on testing or on self-observation.

  • If you have problems with sleep or digestion, supplement for serotonin.
  • If you have memory issues, build acetylcholine.
  • If your energy is low, build norepinephrine and dopamine.
  • These last two and serotonin help with mood.

Since supplements are expensive, it seems wise to start with your diet, because you gotta eat anyway. In general, eat lots of protein (a serving the size of a pack of cards at each meal) and at least 3 cups of veggies per day. Protein includes nuts, dairy, seeds, eggs, legumes, and grains, as well as meat, poultry, and fish and seafood.

Foods that are particularly good for brain health: berries, egg yolks, beef, liver, and dairy fats. I prefer grass-fed bison to beef and suggest avoiding liver unless it’s from a really clean source. Eggs with orange yolks from free-range chickens rock!

Foods that are not good for brain health: those with refined sugar and/or refined flour. You probably know this already.

If you think your body may disagree with some foods, either get tested for food sensitivities (chiropractors and naturopaths offer this) or eliminate suspects for a week or two and notice if you feel better, think more clearly, digest more easily, and have more energy. Anything your body is sensitive to causes an inflammatory reaction throughout your body, and inflammation is an enemy of your brain.

Supplements for basic brain health

Hanson recommends multivitamins with 10 to 25 times the daily value of all the B vitamins. For adults, that means at least the following amounts:

  • 12 mg of thiamin (B1)
  • 13 mg of riboflavin (B2)
  • 160 mg of niacin (B3); you may need a separate supplement* to get this much, and I recommend the no-flush kind
  • 50 mg of pantothenic acid (B5)
  • 17 mg of pyridoxine (B6)
  • 24 mcg of B12

Check your multivitamin label and if these amounts are not provided, find one that does. I like Source of Life food-based vitamins.

Vitamins B6 and B12 and folic acid play a crucial role in the production of many neurotransmitters:

  • Be sure to get 50 mg of B6 in the form of pyridoxal-5-phosphate (P5P) on an empty stomach in the morning. I have not found this form in a multivitamin, so I take a separate supplement. B vitamins are water soluble; any excess is excreted, so it’s okay if you take too much (at least from what I read now).
  • Take 800 mcg or more of folic acid, which is twice as much as most multis contain, so you’ll need a separate supplement.
  • Get at least 24 mcg of B12, which multis usually have.

Make sure you’re getting 400 IU of Vitamin E, at least half of which is gamma-tocopherol (not the more common alpha-tocopherol, which multivitamins usually contain).

Get 100 percent or more of the daily value of minerals. The Source of Life multi mentioned above includes the minerals below.

Iron plays a big role in brain health. If you think you might be low in iron, get tested, and supplement if you need it.

  • 1000 (men) or 1200 (women) mg of calcium (usually supplements are needed; I like New Chapter Bone Strength Take Care)
  • 20-35 mcg of chromium
  • 900 mcg of copper
  • 8 mg of iron (18 for menstruating women; Source of Life’s multivitamin offers this much iron—see link above)
  • 320-410 mg of magnesium
  • 1.8 to 2.3 mg of manganese
  • 45 mcg of molybdenum
  • 700 mg of phosphorus
  • 4.7 g of potassium
  • 55 mcg of selenium
  • 8 to 11 mg of zinc

Get enough omega-3 fatty acids. The benefits are better growth of neurons, mood elevation, and slowing of dementia. She recommends fish oil containing about 500 mg each of DHA and EPA daily—high quality, molecularly distilled. I like New Chapter Wholemega. It’s from sustainably caught wild Alaskan salmon.

Note: If you want to avoid fish oil, you can take a tablespoon of flax seed oil and 500 mg of DHA from algae daily.

Supplementing for neurotransmitters

Neurotransmitter supplements should be taken carefully. Start with the smallest dosage, try one new one at a time, and discontinue if you have negative side affects. Do not combine neurotransmitter supplements with antidepressants or psychotropic medications.

Hanson recommends building serotonin first. Serotonin supports mood, digestion, and sleep. Take 50-200 mg of 5-HTP in the morning or 500-1,500 mg of tryptophan before bed. If you need help sleeping, tryptophan at night is probably the better choice.

Norepinephrine and dopamine support energy, mood, and attention. Dopamine transforms into norepinephrine, so supplementation is the same for each: take L-phenylalanine or L-tyrosine, and start with 500 mg on an empty stomach, first thing in the morning. The maximum dose is 1,500 mg, which may be too stimulating for some.

Acetylcholine supports memory and attention. Take phosphatidylserine (PS), 100-300 mg per day. Also take acetyl-L-carnitine, 500-1,000 mg first thing on an empty stomach. Take huperzine A, 50-200 mcg per day. Hanson recommends finding which combination works best for you.

*The supplement links are based on the recommended minimum dosages given in Buddha’s Brain. I am a small person, and these dosages work for me. If you are larger or more in need of neurotransmitter supplementation for particular purposes such as sleep, attention, or memory, you can experiment with taking up to the maximum recommended, only making one change at a time and making gradual changes. Many of the supplements may be ordered from Amazon on a subscription basis, saving you money.

Book review: Buddha’s Brain by Rick Hanson

I finally finished reading this book. It’s not long or particularly difficult to read, I just had a lot of other things going on. I started reading it the first week of July, so it’s taken about 3-1/2 weeks to finish. Not bad for nonfiction, in my opinion.

The full title is Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love & Wisdom, by Rich Hanson, Ph.D., with Richard Mendius, MD. Daniel Siegel wrote the foreword, and Jack Kornfeld wrote the preface. Big names in American Buddhism.

I expected something more related to Buddha’s teachings. Instead, it combines neuroscience with meditation and Buddhist practice. The book has a lot of brain science in it, but it’s written at a level that almost anyone who’s had a biology course in college (or a bright high-schooler) can understand. People who don’t like science can skip over those parts and still get a lot out of it.

The book contains four sections, on the causes of suffering, happiness, love, and wisdom. Each chapter has a nice summary of key points.

The book also contains an appendix on nutritional neurochemistry, that is, how you can support your brain’s functioning through skillful nutrition. It was written by Jan Hanson (whom I take to be the author’s wife), L.Ac.

This information has already influenced my diet and supplements.

Some fundamentals that underlie the rest of the book are:

  • The mind depends on the brain. Actually, the mind is what the brain does.
  • The brain evolved to help you survive, but its three primary strategies — separation, stopping change, and grasping pleasure/avoiding pain — make you suffer.
  • The path of awakening is described as uncovering your true nature that was always present, as transforming your mind and body, or as both.
  • Small actions every day add up to large changes over time — you are building new neural structure.
  • Wholesome changes in many brains could tip the world in a better direction.

I learned a lot and recommend this book for anyone interested in the meditating brain and fully awakening their body/mind.