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Mindfulness and the Search for the Self

In his book, Minding Closely: The Four Applications of Mindfulness, B. Alan Wallace instructs readers to engage in mindfulness meditation as a methodical practice. Now, I'm no mindfulness guru, but I trust that Wallace's instructions accurately reflect the traditional practice of Tibetan mindfulness. In any case, in addition to a philosophical discourse on the foundations of mindfulness that is a bit too anti-materialist for my liking, Wallace lays out a step-by-step guide for hopeful practitioners that is free of "being at one with..." abstractions.

The first titular application that Wallace presents is mindfulness of the body. This involves mindfulness of the breath, which is the foundation of many contemplative practices, and, according to Wallace, is a worthwhile entryway to shamatha, the calming of the mind via a focus on a single aspect of your experience--in this case, your breath. Mindfulness of the body also includes whatever sensations and perceptions might …
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Cultural Balms for the Unruly Mind

The fruits of logical thought are undeniable. Its mathematical and astronomical excursions have taken us to the moon. Its physiological and medical incarnations have cured diseases such as smallpox and given robotic limbs to individuals who had lost theirs. Its philosophical and scientific ruminations have brought us closer to understanding the origins of the universe in the Big Bang and the origins of mankind in the savannas of Africa.

The less linear, more intuitive and fast-paced mode of information processing is the counterpoint to logical thought. It is more “hot.” It encompasses not one, but many competing interests, all vying for control of one’s goals, attitudes, and behaviors. So influential is this subterranean world of heuristics and emotions that even the logical stream falls prey to its bias.

The problem, as discovered by Dr. Henry Jekyll, is reconciliation. Owing to the multitude of programs and sub-programs populating our modular minds, it is often difficult to find corre…

Musings on Death and the Modular Mind

We are swung naked into the writhing streams of life, interacting with its myriad forms as we grow old, and ultimately, succumbing to the cold wind of death. These scenes—these snippets of film—are wound together as moments of passing awareness, encapsulated in their own contexts and time-frames. As T.S. Eliot put it in The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock:
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.One day, however, the visions and revisions will end. One day, our incessant wanderings, whether in time, space, or thought, will reach their inevitable destination. The processes sustaining us—the modules that jingle and jangle in the crowded sphere of our bodies and minds—will either dwindle down or come to an abrupt stop. One by one, our organs will begin to fail, and likewise, our mental processes will probably decay in a haphazard fashion; first, we may lose our sight or our hearing—or …

Evolved Patterns

Natural selection is a passive observer—a lurker in the shadows that is there by not being there. Its presence is made known by what it leaves behind: the functional patterns that perpetuate their own survival and reproduction, or “life.”
We are awakened into our bodies and minds. Some are flawed, others less so, yet all bearing the primordial mark of millions of years of jury-rigged construction. As soon as an entity comes on the scene that enables its own survival and reproduction, its presence in this universe and on this planet becomes a mainstay. And so it goes for our minds; they are here now, though we don’t know for how much longer. Our thoughts and emotions, flowing in patterned rhythms through the four dimensions of this universe, are experiencing these patterns—indeed, they are these very patterns. There are, in fact, no pattern “experiencers,” only the patterns themselves. Of course, these patterns aren’t haphazard; their development and form are manifestations of their own…

A Pox on Both Your Houses: The Bipartisan Hatred of Free Speech

The intolerant left may have just found a partner in the censorious right. Of course, this is nothing new; neither side has been an immaculate paragon of free speech rights, despite self-righteous protestations of adherence to the First Amendment.                 Late in the evening on Tuesday, Feb. 7, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) took to the Senate floor in opposition to the confirmation of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) as the incoming attorney general, one of President Trump’s administration appointments. In her vigorous attack on Sessions’ nomination, Sen. Warren invoked old criticisms of Sessions from the late Sen. Edward Kennedy and Coretta Scott King that focused on Sessions’ civil rights record. Though a more meaty argument by Warren may have been made if she were to have destroyed Sessions’ despotic positions on the U.S.’s drug policy and civil asset forfeiture, her opportunity to object to Sessions’ appointment on her own terms should have been respected.   …

After the Storm: Thoughts on the Aftermath of the American Presidential Election

My main reasons for opposing Trump lie outside the sphere of his disqualifying personality and temperament. Rather, it is Trump’s opposition to Enlightenment values that bar him from holding any elected office. Specifically, international laws against the targeting of civilians during warfare and using torture as retributive justice are at risk of rotting alongside half-eaten taco bowls in the gastric juices of the president elect. Also at risk is the founding document of our Jeffersonian democracy—the document that is the first instantiation of Enlightenment-era thought in the practical realm of governance: the US Constitution. Trump’s threats to expand libel laws against journalists and to bar individuals from entering the US if they hold the wrong religious beliefs should give pause to those who support him because of his presumed opposition to the unconstitutional free speech stifling culture of political correctness.
But Donald Trump is now America’s president—yes, even the presid…

Light at the End of Darkness

It might not be tomorrow; it might not be in ten years; eventually, however, the dawn of secularism will rise. Not to wax utopian, but it is hard to foresee how an interconnected world can fail to embrace the liberal ethos of free speech, the separation of government and religion, and the valuation of human lives over dogma and ideology.
As of late, there have been quite a number of attacks on Enlightenment (I hesitate to say “Western”) values of free debate and reason. Too many demagogues have found it worthwhile to impugn the free exchange of ideas for the sake of protecting this or that group’s sacred values. Freedom from being offended has replaced the freedom to express one’s views in the public sphere. Whether it is the Christian right’s “War on Christmas,” the feminist left’s war on the biological differences between men and women, or the Muslim right’s war on the criticism of Islam (not to mention Islam’s literal war of global Jihad), pluralism has had quite a difficult time su…