If not for Enlightenment, then for a marshmallow?

Is competing against monkeys inspiring to you? Perhaps you’ve said to yourself, “if a monkey can do it, then I can!” Well, here’s something to step up to.

According to Philippens and Vanwersch (link), in their studies to test “neurofeedback and other brain-training treatments for epilepsy or ADHD”, they were able to coax monkeys to deliberately replicate the brain activity of meditation, resulting in the monkeys looking “restful [with] focus.”

“The monkeys may not realise that they are changing their brain activity, but it does show that they can consciously change their mood or state of mind,” says Philippens, and the monkeys were rewarded marshmallows for this behavior.

So, my question to you is: do you really believe that attaining a meditative state is difficult for you? I’d be happy to send marshmallows to you if that’d help inspire you. Or, perhaps you could gain results by staring at this monkey…

In all seriousness, the point of this post is that there are some things we can choose to do for ourselves, and some we can’t. A recent dialog on Facebook brought up the fact that, with the exception of people with untreated mental illnesses or mood disorders, attitudes are chosen; they are not involuntary, imposed on us by some other will besides our own. We can choose to be optimistic fearful, or ambivalent.

We can also choose our behavior, and there are countless benefits to slowing down our thinking, to becoming more aware and present; key benefits from building a practice of meditation.

You can always “act as if”. Like the old saying goes, “monkey see, monkey do.”

Definition of a “Lie”

A wonderful woman, Wendee Mason, taught me a better definition for a “lie” than I’d known before:

“A lie is information given or withheld (or omitted) that would have affected another person’s choice.”

For years my definition was too simplistic or easily rationalized. There was way too much wiggle room for me and I abused that fact. Thankfully I no longer do that, at least to the best of my ability.

This comes up for me when I hear current events where the information given is questionable. I really feel disappointed when it happens with elected representatives.

Necessary changes in relationships

I was listening to a good friend of mine telling me how they had to cut ties with their parent(s). Some of what she went through was tragic, absolutely horrific. I likened the final letter that they received from the disappointed parent to something written by Stephen King. Gross.

When my friend wrote back a clear, well reasoned letter signing off on the relationship, I was overjoyed! To have a break from a relationship that was intrinsically disrespectful and malicious — it made me so happy.

I’ve experienced dramatic changes like that in the past. The quality of the relationships in my past aren’t important. I won’t even say that I could relate to my friend other than in what I’m about to describe.

It’s become clear to me that there are times when it is wholly appropriate to make changes, sometimes wholesale and dramatic, to relationships. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the relationship is over per se, but different in that as it stands, the dynamics no longer work.

For example, I fully expect my daughter to change as she grows. I want her to (even though I also relish the thought of her always being “my little girl”). It’d be irresponsible of me to insist, let alone force, her to stay the same. Frankly it’d be impossible for that to happen and, in turn, insane for me to think so. Thus, at some point, I’ll have to stop seeing my daughter as my “little girl” and instead like my “teenage girl” or my “adult daughter”.

I’ve changed jobs in the past for various reasons. Those, too, require that the relationship change. Similar to a previous post of mine, I sometimes have to ask myself how willing I am to change the nature of the relationship. If I’m unwilling, I might get bitter and resentful and that never helps. If I’m fully willing, then who knows what the relationship can change into.

I’ve also experienced situations where a person has seen me in certain ways for so long that they expect me to continue being those same ways regardless of whether they work for me or whether I want to. I’ve been more successful than not when pointing out that their expectations of me are bound to be disappointed as I was no longer interested or willing to be the same person they wanted me to be. Thankfully, most of those people were more interested in me being myself than in me being what they wanted. That’s some love and acceptance from my friends, and I’m eternally grateful for those people in my life.

I fully expect my friend to experience freedom from all the emotional burden that they had been carrying for so long. Hoping and/or expecting someone to change is hard. Letting go of that fantasy for whatever reason offers profound freedom.

Dream about an out of touch loved one

I had a dream the other night. Vivid as heck, a rarity for me. It crystallized something for me that I had been clear of in my head, but obviously not as much in my heart as I felt such calm after the dream that I must have been unresolved more than I realized.

In the dream, I was practically screaming trying to convince someone that I loved them. They just didn’t believe me. They had easy access to a whole litany of complaints that I couldn’t fully refute for various reasons — some where subjective to her perceptions, some were inaccurate, some were true. The dream didn’t last long as I’ve become (very!) quick to realize that if I’m trying that hard to persuade or convince someone that there’s something else in the way that is beyond my simple reasoning.

In this case, I believe (and I could be wrong) that this person simply didn’t want to believe me. From that perspective, there was nothing I could do except continue to live with integrity and not to repeat any of the issues from the past that I was responsible for.

When I awoke, I felt agitated but peaceful. It was intense to have that screaming match in my sleep, but I became absolutely clear that I’d done all I could do as far as I knew and that, if there were anything else for me to do, I’d have to wait until it became apparent. Until then, I was okay.

Vectors at any given moment

I heard someone quote the following:

“It doesn’t matter where you are (in life). What’s more important is your direction.”

When I was a teenager, I learned that the definition of a vector was twofold. A vector represented both direction and velocity. When I wonder where I’m headed, my second thought is to ask myself how fast I’m moving (or am willing to). When things come up in current events, I wonder first where we are relative to the subject and then which direction we’re being led. For my part, I wonder if I’ll take the same direction or go some other way.

Then I’ll ask myself how fast I’m willing to move.

Meditation — what, when, why, how?

Ever mulled over the notion of giving compulsory philosophical challenges to political leaders? IIRC, it’s a forgone conclusion as it is, as of yet, too difficult to quantify and, in turn, judge results relative to qualification.

I’ve wondered how various leaders would answer the question above. I mean when it comes down to it, there’s gotta be at least quiet deliberation for difficult choices, right? Maybe that’s sufficient for some, but meditation means more to me. For me, getting quiet means I have less distraction in the way of my more intuitive thoughts. When I tap into my intuition, I seem to make the clearest decisions possible, at least at that point in time.

So, I’d love to hear people respond to the following questions, openly or in private:

1) What does meditation mean to you?
2) When do you meditate?
3) Why do you meditate and/or what do you get out of it?
4) How do you meditate? What’s it look like?

I’d flip to hear Obama’s response. Anyone close enough to him to ask the question(s)?