What is biodynamics?

Biodynamics is a western approach to wellness. Osteopath William Sutherland (1873-1954) began exploring the dynamics of the skull and its membranes and fluids, establishing the field of cranial osteopathy, from which craniosacral therapy and biodynamics evolved.

After years of sitting quietly with patients, listening to their body-mind systems, Sutherland and other cranial osteopaths became aware that something other than tissue manipulation was helping their patients heal from all kinds of conditions. They learned over time that the more they just listened and the less they tried to do, the more their patients’ inherent healing processes took over, returning their systems to healthier functioning. Over time they learned how to support and augment the healing process with their presence, attention, discernment, and intent.

This way of healing came to be called craniosacral biodynamics, biodynamic craniosacral therapy, or just biodynamics. As a separate modality from cranial osteopathy, it’s been in existence for nearly 40 years. Although biodynamics shares some elements with biomechanical craniosacral therapy, it focuses more on perceptual awareness of the fields in and around us.

Biodynamics, although Western in origin, resonates with Buddhist and Taoist beliefs about emptiness, form, transformation, compassion, and oneness, as well as shamanism.

The 4 Noble Truths, simplified

I’ve forgotten where I first encountered this, but here it is, an update on the four noble truths of Buddhism. It may seem humorous, but it also seems apt:

(1) Life sucks.

(2) Get over it.

(3) That means, get over yourself.

(4) Now, move on.

A quote that ties NLP and Buddhism together: loving negativity to death

Remember ‘Divide and Conquer’ — if you can divide a negative reaction into its parts (mental image, mental talk, and emotional body sensation), you can conquer the sense of being overwhelmed. In other words, eliminate the negative parts by loving them to death. ~ Shinzen Young, “The Power of Gone”

There you go. Reactions have visual, auditory, and kinesthetic components that you can investigate.

From Tricycle Daily Dharma. His article about his technique for increasing awareness, Just Note Gone, is well worth reading.

More on the Buddhist precepts

Here’s another jewel of a quote from Tricycle Daily Dharma. It’s been sitting in my inbox for a few days, and I have not been able to bring myself to delete it. Must mean I need to share it!

It’s a pretty good description of Buddhism’s precepts:

To be sure, as humans with a short life span, we cannot know the long-term results of our actions. But recognizing that what we say and do can have repercussions for months, years, or eons, and that we cannot know the “final” outcome of something we think, do or say, Buddhism, like all other major religions, has developed a set of precepts. The precepts have been compared to dikes in a rice field. They hold back and channel the rushing water of our passions so that our life is not flooded, so that smaller and more helpless creatures are not harmed and the harvest of our life’s efforts is not ruined. These precepts prohibit those actions that have a bad outcome and cause harm to ourselves or others almost all of the time.

– Jan Chozen Bays, “What the Buddha Said About Sexual Harassment”

I started taking a class on the precepts at Appamada Zen Center last year and was unable to complete the training due to family needs, but the precepts have stayed with me.

You can read what the late Robert Aitken Roshi said about them here.

I find that just being acquainted with the precepts begets self-inquiry and informs my decisions. A small example: last year I bought a fake leather jacket. I could have afforded a real leather jacket, but I thought about my relationship to the animals whose skins are used for leather and decided that if my purchase of a leather jacket encouraged people to slaughter animals for the economic value of their pelts, I could not feel any joy about buying leather products, and I probably won’t in the future.

Now I don’t really know that this jacket isn’t made of some petroleum-based product that involved some other method of harm to manufacture. It probably is. And I am not consistent about this — I own and wear leather shoes and boots and will continue to do so. I appreciate fine things, and sometimes they are made with leather.

But now I bring this precept into consideration when I make my own decisions, whereas I used to never think about it.

I cannot judge others’ decisions either. We all have our own paths in life. Serenity prayer: I change what I can, and usually that means me.

Having some familiarity with the precepts and examining my ethical beliefs and behaviors adds mindfulness to my life, deepens and enriches it, even as they call on me not to take the easy way out.

What Kind of Buddhist was Steve Jobs, Really? | NeuroTribes

What Kind of Buddhist was Steve Jobs, Really? | NeuroTribes.

Great article by Steve Silberman (I have subscribed to his blog and follow him on Twitter — great find). I like reading about Steve Jobs, but even better is this simple, clear description of why we meditate:

Why would a former phone phreak who perseverated over the design of motherboards be interested in doing that? Using the mind to watch the mind, and ultimately to change how the mind works, is known in cognitive psychology as metacognition. Beneath the poetic cultural trappings of Buddhism, what intensive meditation offers to long-term practitioners is a kind of metacognitive hack of the human operating system (a metaphor that probably crossed Jobs’ mind at some point.) Sitting zazen offered Jobs a practical technique for upgrading the motherboard in his head.

The classic Buddhist image of this hack is that thoughts are like clouds passing through a spacious blue sky. All your life, you’ve been convinced that this succession of clouds comprises a stable, enduring identity — a “self.” But Buddhists believe this self this is an illusion that causes unnecessary suffering as you inevitably face change, loss, disease, old age, and death. One aim of practice is to reveal the gaps or discontinuities — the glimpses of blue sky —between the thoughts, so you’re not so taken in by the illusion, but instead learn to identify with the panoramic awareness in which the clouds arise and disappear.

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.

Buddhism, neurology, and the self

Thanks, Katie Raver, for seeing this article, thinking of me, and posting the link on my Facebook wall, and thanks to Tom Dotz of NLP Comprehensive for sharing it where Katie found it.

Buddhism and the Brainis an opinion piece published in new-to-me Seed Magazine.

There is usually a vast gulf between how someone perceives their self, say in seated meditation, and their beliefs about their self. The meditating self is often a constant fragmented stream of thoughts, sensations, memories, naming, internal dialogue, sometimes interrupted by calm.

Anatta is not a unified, unchanging self. It is more like a concert, constantly changing emotions, perceptions, and thoughts. Our minds are fragmented and impermanent…. Both Buddhism and neuroscience converge on a similar point of view: The way it feels isn’t how it is. There is no permanent, constant soul in the background.

The author asks how Buddhism got it right and brings up the paradox of reincarnation. (If there is no self, what continues to be reincarneted?) He also wonders about the Western view of the self:

When Judeo-Christian belief conflicts with science, it nearly always concerns science removing humans from a putative pedestal, a central place in creation. Yet science has shown us that we reside on the fringes of our galaxy, which itself doesn’t seem to hold a particularly precious location in the universe. Our species came from common ape-like ancestors, many of which in all likelihood possessed brains capable of experiencing and manifesting some of our most precious “human” sentiments and traits. Our own brains produce the thing we call a mind, which is not a soul. Human exceptionalism increasingly seems a vain fantasy. In its modest rejection of that vanity, Buddhism exhibits less error and less original sin, this one of pride.

Click the link above to read the whole article.

Right livelihood = happiness

Here’s a quote from Tricycle‘s Daily Dharma, which I thought was especially appropriate for those (including myself) who are going through major changes in regard to livelihood:

Happiness is primarily a matter of work that is fulfilling. There are many other factors, of course—a nice marriage or relationship, economic security, intellectual and artistic stimulation, and so on—but if the job is unsatisfactory, nothing else can really compensate.

The source is Robert Aitken, in Conceptions of Happiness. Click the link to read other Buddhist writers’ conceptions of happiness.

The message is crystal clear. Doing work you love is the most important ingredient in living a happy life.

It is never too late to remake your life.

It is never too late to be happy.

How the dominant paradigm is being subverted, and how you can participate

I read this article, The New Humanism, in today’s New York Times. It’s an op-ed piece by columnist David Brooks about how our culture’s predominant way of thinking and viewing the world, through the lens of reason, has led to major policy errors, such as invading Iraq, the financial collapse, futile efforts to improve the educational system.

Brooks writes:

I’ve come to believe that these failures spring from a single failure: reliance on an overly simplistic view of human nature. We have a prevailing view in our society — not only in the policy world, but in many spheres — that we are divided creatures. Reason, which is trustworthy, is separate from the emotions, which are suspect. Society progresses to the extent that reason can suppress the passions.

Of course, we brain geeks know that it’s the glorification of the left brain at the expense of the right.

He continues:

Yet while we are trapped within this amputated view of human nature, a richer and deeper view is coming back into view. It is being brought to us by researchers across an array of diverse fields: neuroscience, psychology, sociology, behavioral economics and so on.

This growing, dispersed body of research reminds us of a few key insights. First, the unconscious parts of the mind are most of the mind, where many of the most impressive feats of thinking take place. Second, emotion is not opposed to reason; our emotions assign value to things and are the basis of reason. Finally, we are not individuals who form relationships. We are social animals, deeply interpenetrated with one another, who emerge out of relationships.

These points bear repeating:

  • Consciousness is tiny in comparison to the unconscious parts of the mind.
  • Emotions are the basis of reason.
  • We live our entire lives in a web of interdependence with other humans.

Got that? Good. That’s thinking with an integrated brain.

Brooks goes on to write about the difference this makes in what we pay attention to:

When you synthesize this research, you get different perspectives on everything from business to family to politics. You pay less attention to how people analyze the world but more to how they perceive and organize it in their minds. You pay a bit less attention to individual traits and more to the quality of relationships between people.

Then he lists the talents this new paradigm requires and develops:

Attunement: the ability to enter other minds and learn what they have to offer.

Equipoise: the ability to serenely monitor the movements of one’s own mind and correct for biases and shortcomings.

Metis: the ability to see patterns in the world and derive a gist from complex situations.

Sympathy: the ability to fall into a rhythm with those around you and thrive in groups.

Limerence: This isn’t a talent as much as a motivation. The conscious mind hungers for money and success, but the unconscious mind hungers for those moments of transcendence when the skull line falls away and we are lost in love for another, the challenge of a task or the love of God. Some people seem to experience this drive more powerfully than others.

Which of these talents have you developed? Which do you want to develop more deeply?

This article is not about Buddhism or NLP or ecstatic dance, by the way, although given my history, I couldn’t help but make those connections.

It’s about how thousands of researchers in multiple displines are coming up with a new view of what it means to be a human being. Brooks concludes:

 It’s beginning to show how the emotional and the rational are intertwined.

I suspect their work will have a giant effect on the culture. It’ll change how we see ourselves. Who knows, it may even someday transform the way our policy makers see the world.

Let’s hope so. Let’s do our parts to make it so.

Okay, people. let’s get to work changing the world! One savasana, one trance, one meditation session, one ecstatic dance, one meta-position, one moment of transcendence at a time.

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