Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from February, 2015

THE FUTURE WILL TAKE CARE OF ITSELF

Recently I enjoyed reading Vernon Howard's classic on mysticism, The Mystic Path to Cosmic Power (catchy title, ain't it?) and in it I found a lot I could relate to. Howard explains how we humans love to alternate between excitement and boredom, never content with the space in between, a space which can really be quite tranquil if you let yourself relax into it. He advised sitting still all day with nothing to do and feeling totally content with it. He even suggested I not plan tomorrow's day and just let it come, going with the flow as it were. Well . . . OK!

Most people with traditional jobs that involve deadlines and schedules would find this advice ludicrous, but I don't know that they'd be right, and besides, I'm not that person. I once was, back when I taught high school and then when I practiced medicine, and had I not planned my lessons and strategized which patients to see next I may not have been prepared to thoroughly do my job. But even writing a l…

THE PROBLEM OF EVIL

The experience of dreaming can teach us some of the most valuable things about existence. Night after night, we lay ourselves down to sleep and are swept away from our bedrooms into a realm where personal histories, even the laws of nature (such as gravity) no longer apply. And whatever happens, however outlandish it may seem to the waking mind, while it happens the dreamer is not in the least bit astonished. Within the dream there are no expectations. Unity of consciousness persists despite sweeping changes in experience. Whatever the setting or the events, you are there.

On its own, consciousness is happy to just have experiences. Applied to life, we can use this phenomenon to explain all apparent evils. They are just experiences. Who are they happening to? If you believe that God is omnipresent, that all is one and all is God (and if you follow any of the major religions, even if you are an athiest, then chances are you do), then it should be easy to understand that God, seated in t…

LIFE AFTER LIFE

I recently read in W. Somerset Maugham's The Razor's Edge that two thirds of the human race believes in the transmigration of souls. In other words in reincarnation. My God is it really that many?

Some religions maintain that the individual soul takes on numerous bodies until the goal of Self-realization is reached. The doctrine of reincarnation is commonly associated with Eastern mysticism, especially Hinduism, but did you know that the Fathers of the Church at the Alexandrian Council also discussed whether reincarnation should be admitted in their doctrines? They decided against including past and future lives and instead gave us Heaven and Hell. Although it is unfathomable that a soul could be created by God and then go on to enjoy or endure eternal life within pearly gates or in the flaming fires of the underworld. What is born must die, and this means the body.

The concept of reincarnation calls into question one's view of personal identity. If you view yourself as a…

CALORIE RESTRICTION

In the 1930s, studies involving mice showed that cutting back on their daily caloric intake could add nearly a year to their lives. Now a year may not sound like much, but when you consider that mice have a median survival time of 27 months, adding 12 additional months increases their life span by nearly 50% and is analogous to giving a 70-year-old human another 30 years to enjoy his golden years and whatever comes next. Three decades. Wow!

Scientists now know why restricting caloric intake increases life span, although it's complicated and involves a variety of chemical pathways related to the body's utilization of energy. It seems also that if the body's attention isn't devoted so exhaustively on metabolizing food, it can pay more heed to housekeeping issues like ridding the body of plaques and other waste products. One genetic player in this complicated charade is the gene mTOR, found in both mouse and man, which acts as a traffic signal for directing energy consu…

THE NEXT STAGE IN EVOLUTION

It has long been believed that humanity is on the cusp of the next stage of evolution. Richard M. Bucke wrote of this amazing breakthrough in his book Cosmic Consciousness (1901) in which he detailed man's ascent from the simple consciousness we share with other animals, to self-consciousness (in essence, we are aware of ourselves) which occurs in humans at around the age of 3; and in select individuals this rise of cosmic consciousness culminates around the age of 34. Examples of cosmic consciousness are seen in individuals like Christ, Buddha, Socrates and Spinoza as well as in Mohammed, Bacon and Blake.

This  view is echoed in the works of Eastern thinker Sri Aurobindo, who in his masterpiece, The Life Divine (published in 1939 but written serially and published in a newsletter decades earlier), describes not 3 but 4 stages of evolution by which the Divine makes itself manifest. Matter was the first manifestation, followed by life, then mind, and finally supramind or supermind…

TRANSCENDING TIME

Advances in anti-aging are the big topic in recent scientific literature. And for good reason. An American born today has a projected average lifespan a whole 2 decades longer than a child born in 1925.

In less than a century, more years have been added to life expectancy than all years added across all prior millennia of evolution combined, notes Stanford professor and author Laura Carstensen. The reason for this radical life extension - someone born in 1925 had a life expectancy at birth of 59 years, while an average someone born in 2045 could realistically expect to live to be 81 - is due to what prize-winning economist Robert Fogel call a "technophysio-evolution," which describes biological changes due largely to technologies ensuring a steady food supply.

Of course the Agricultural Revolution is partly responsible. The ability to feed large groups of people reliably year-round led to a population explosion and to an increased lifespan. But other advances were involve…

THE NEVERENDING STORY

This from one of my favorite books, The Neverending Story:

Human passions have mysterious ways, in children as well as grown-ups. Those affected by them can't explain them, and those who haven't known them have no understanding of them at all. Some people risk their lives to conquer a mountain peak. No one, not even they themselves, can really explain why. Others ruin themselves trying to win the heart of a certain person who wants nothing to do with them. Still others are destroyed by their devotion to the pleasures of the table. Some are so bent on winning a game of chance that they lose everything they own, and some sacrifice everything for a dream that can never come true. Some think their hope of happiness lies in being somewhere else, and spend their whole lives traveling from place to place. And some find no rest until they have become powerful. In short, there are as many different passions as there are people.

My question for you is, which type are you?

For a long whi…

SELF-ENQUIRY

There is a rule of recent popularity that says you can develop most any skill – say, master a musical instrument or become a professional athlete - by devoting 10,000 hours of focused, solitary practice to your chosen pursuit. This translates into 5 years of 40-hour weeks honing skills.

But these abilities, though impressive, entertaining and possibly lucrative, are bound to fade with time, as your muscles atrophy, your joints wear down and your mental acuity fades. The ravages that time wreaks on all things physical is an inevitable fact of life. Then you are left with dim memories of prior successes at best, at worst you spend the so-called golden years hankering after the “glory days” of the past.

Self-enquiry, on the other hand, offers benefits that last eternity. Transcending the temporal is the best investment of your time and can be done in a fraction of the hours spent teaching your poodle to dance ballet or learning to juggle while running a marathon. Why? Because what you se…

MEDITATION AND THE MIND

This week's Time Magazine touts the health benefits of meditation exercises in helping children do better in school. Studies have shown that kids who participate in "mindfulness and kindness" programs are better behaved, less aggressive, and have fewer ADHD symptoms, meaning they are less antsy. Suspension rates dropped at participatory schools, and depression scores were reduced. The kids at one California school had more focus, participated more in class, and were more respectful to peers. The biggest buzz surrounded the 15% improvement in math scores, which translates into gaining at least one level in math.
Good news, this. In today's world, rife as it is with distractions, we need to set aside quiet time to turn the attention inward, focus on breathing and other physiologic functions, in order to de-stress. But mindfulness is a misnomer. The mind is a bundle of thoughts. To be full of mind is to be filled with its products, when in actuality the goal is to go b…

THE GAME

One of my favorite movies is The Game, the David Fincher-directed gem starring Michael Douglas as a billionaire leading a pampered existence on Wall Street who is haunted by demons (his father committed suicide at the age of 48) and whose perfect little world is shaken up when on his own 48th birthday his younger wastrel brother, played by Sean Penn, gives him a unique present. The gift is an entry in CRS, an acronym for Consumer Recreation Services. It is a real-life game, whose purpose, Douglas is told, is to find out the purpose of the game. Douglas is buffeted from one misfortune to another, faces death several times over, is led to the brink of his own suicide, and emerges from the game permanently changed. His personality is cracked, is little world shattered, his consciousness expanded, his life will never be the same. Isn't this game a lot like life, whose purpose is to find its purpose? Instead, we remain locked in our individual consciousnesses pursuing money and begett…

LESS IS BEST

Is there any such thing as a healthy addiction? It's a bit of an oxymoron if you ask me. But for many, including myself, exercise if pursued with a religious zeal can be like heroin in its effects. You feel high as a kite while doing it, then are sunk in the lows if unable to fit in a workout. You become a slave to your routine, the day revolving around whether or not your break a sweat. Feel me?

I spent the better part of 2 recent years (2013 and 2014) training for and running marathons and other endurance events, including a half-ironman triathlon and an ultra trail run. In this time my daily workout was enough to fulfill the week's quota for someone who follows the guidelines set forth by the American College of Sports Medicine, which recommends:

1. 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, which can be met through 30-60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (five days per week) or 20-60 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise (three days per week).

and

2. Resist…

THE MAGIC BOOKSHELF

I was recently laid up with a broken hip. Met with a slick patch of road while riding my bicycle and fell. Cracked the greater trochanter and broke the femur straight through. Left the hospital after a five-day stay with 3 screws. Here's the X-ray.



While convalescing in my childhood home, solicitously cared for by my dear mother, unable to run my customary 60 weekly miles, having a lot of free time on my hands, in bed all day and night, unshowered, wearing a hospital gown, I had lots of time to think, and to meditate, and to read. 

First came the books which for months or longer I had been meaning to read. Huxley’s Point Counterpoint and Eyeless in Gaza. His Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell. The Perennial Philosophy. Novels by Vonnegut. And since I had loved the movie, I read Cloud Atlas.

Some books I read on Kindle, others I purchased, usually the used version. To save money, because my reading habit was becoming rather pricey. My friend came to the rescue and brought over S…

ON COMING OUT

Shortly before my 19th birthday, I came to my parents. It happened midway through my first year of college. I told them, I am not interested in playing any sort of conventional role in society and have no foreseeable need for a college degree. Up till now I have been the model student, brother and son, done everything you or those in authority have asked of me, and now I’d like to live my life as I see fit. And so I’m dropping out of school.
My argument was, if you really don’t feel interested in doing something, should you force yourself to do it? Sure, all my life I had done what I didn’t want to do. Doesn’t every kid? It’s what we call homework. But now I didn’t have to be a student if I didn’t want to. Shouldn’t enthusiasm be a driving and directing force in life, and because I had no enthusiasm for my studies, I shouldn’t force myself to attend school.
So I stopped attending class for a week before my mother convinced me to return to school. Please, she said, we’ve never had a co…