Thursday, August 26, 2010

Transforming Fear

Picasso's 1937 painting, Guernica.

Robert Sardello calls himself a spiritual psychologist and his beliefs are rooting in the thinking of both Austrian philosopher and esotericist Rudolf Steiner and Swiss psychological sage Carl Jung. There’s something about Sardello’s writing that awakens parts of my soul. When I read him ~ I’m now in my third Sardello book ~ it’s as if a deep-toned gong is being struck, sending out reverberations of truth.

I would not classify his 1999 book Freeing the Soul From Fear as your standard self-help book. His discussion of personal fear goes well beyond the familiar descriptions, and many of his observations of fear in today’s world are profound. Here’s a small sample:
Fear constitutes a much larger and more comprehensive presence than has yet been realized. Beginning in the nineteenth century, therapeutic psychology sought to identify the symptoms related to this phenomenon. The types of fear recognized included hysteria, behind which some trauma, real or imaged, was always to be found; shell shock or combat neurosis, now commonly called post-traumatic stress syndrome, which was first investigated after World War I; abuse and domestic violence; fear of natural catastrophes such as earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, or fire; individual phobias such as panic attacks, anxieties, and obsessive-compulsive disorders. 
The reality of fear is far more wide-ranging, however. Working with victims of trauma does little to impede the larger presence of fear in the world. The goal is to become more conscious of what we are dealing with and to recognize that different fears require different capacity of soul to overcome them. The need is not to remove fear from the world, but instead to develop in ourselves the psychic capacity to confront its destructive power. In this realm, consciousness, coupled with love, is everything. Enlarging consciousness to include an awareness of soul allows a healthy struggle with fear, and love makes possible its transformation, not just within ourselves but also within the world.
I’ve not yet finished the book. His overall message, at this point, promises to be optimistic.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Musical Interlude: "Teach Me to Dance"

Here's the wonderful dance scene from Michael Cocoyanis's film adaptation of Zorba the Greek, the 1946 novel by Nikos Kazantzakis. The story concerns the interplay of our earthy selves with our intellectual selves, represented by Alexis Zorba (played by Anthony Quinn) and Basil, a young English-Greek intellectual (played by Alan Bates), respectively. 

At one point in the book, Zorba recounts: "I felt once more how simple a thing is happiness: a glass of wine, a roasted chestnut, a wretched little brazier, the sound of the sea. Nothing else. And all that is required to feel that here and now is happiness, is a simple and frugal heart."

In this famous scene, Basil ~ learning from Zorba how to enjoy life in all of its beauty and tragedy ~ asks Zorba to teach him to dance.

Click here for more about the book.
Click here for more about the film.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Want Premonitions? Loosen Up

In his fascinating new book, Larry Dossey ~ a physician who strives to bring scientific understanding to the realm of spirituality ~ discusses the nature of premonitions, focusing on recent research into their nature and causes. His book is The Power of Premonitions, and one of my favorite parts is Dossey’s advice to those who want to be more open to premonitions:
So here’s my advice for those who wish to be premonition-prone: court difference, variety, and ambiguity in your life. Relax and let go. Don't try too hard. Give up your pet ideas of how the world should work. Dabble in poetry; play with metaphors; shun literalism. Avoid habits, ruts, and routines. Make a place for variety, risk, novelty, playfulness, generosity, and mystery in your life. As Rumi advises, “Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment.” Don‘t be too attached to results, because this will lead to an attempt to control and manipulate outcomes, which is toxic to the openness and flexibility you are seeking. If you do these things, you will probably discover that the universe meets you more than halfway, perhaps with premonitions as its calling card.
Seems to me to be a good recipe, in general, for leading a richer, more fulfilling and more interesting life.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Triskaidekaphobia Has Several Ancient Sources

Norse god Loki from 17th century Icelandic manuscript.

For sufferers of triskaidekaphobia ~ dread of the numeral 13 ~ last Friday was the 2010’s most unlucky day. But it was the only Friday the 13th for the entire year, while 2009 had nine of them, the highest number of Friday the 13ths possible on the Gregorian calendar.

National Geographic News explores the topic in an article quoting from the book Holiday Folklore, Phobias and Fun by folklore historian Donald Dossey. In his book, Dossey explores both the origins of the unlucky sentiments regarding the number 13 and of Fridays.

According to National Geographic News:
Dossey traces the fear of the number 13 ~ aka, triskaidekaphobia ~ to a Norse myth about 12 gods having a dinner party at Valhalla, Norse mythology's heaven. In walked the uninvited 13th guest, the mischievous god Loki. Once there, Loki arranged for Hoder, the blind god of darkness, to shoot Balder the Beautiful, the god of joy and gladness, with a mistletoe-tipped arrow. "Balder died, and the whole Earth got dark. The whole Earth mourned. It was a bad, unlucky day," Dossey said.
There is also a biblical reference to the unlucky number 13. Judas, the apostle said to have betrayed Jesus, was the 13th guest to the Last Supper.
As for Friday, it's well known among Christians as the day Jesus was crucified. Some biblical scholars believe Eve tempted Adam with the forbidden fruit on Friday. Perhaps most significant is a belief that Abel was slain by his brother Cain on Friday the 13th.
Meanwhile, in ancient Rome, witches reportedly gathered in groups of 12. The 13th was believed to be the devil.
Some people are so paralyzed by Friday the 13th superstitions that they refuse to fly, buy a house, or act on a hot stock tip, the article states. "It's been estimated that $800 or $900 million is lost in business on this day because people will not fly or do business they would normally do," said Dossey.

Click here for the National Geographic article.
This post originally appeared on my Ancient Tides blog.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Number 29 ~ THE ABYSMAL

The Abysmal repeated.
If you are sincere, you have success in your heart,
And whatever you do succeeds.

Through repetition of danger we grow accustomed to it. Water sets the example for the right conduct under such circumstances. It flows on and on, and merely fills up all the places through which it flows; it does not shrink from any dangerous spot nor from any plunge, and nothing can make it lose its own essential nature. It remains true to itself under all conditions. Thus likewise, if one is sincere when confronted with difficulties, the heart can penetrate the meaning of the situation. And once we have gained inner mastery of a problem, it will come about naturally that the action we take will succeed. In danger, all that counts is really carrying out all that has to be done ~ thoroughness ~ and going forward, in order not to perish through tarrying in the danger.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Cosmic Rays Striking Earth in Puzzling Pattern

IceCube "skymap" showing varied cosmic ray intensity.

Cosmic rays ~ energy particles thought to originate in distant dead stars ~ are bombarding Earth in a pattern scientists find puzzling. They're are not arriving uniformly from all directions, but in an overabundance from one part of the sky and scarcity from another.

This odd pattern was detected by the IceCube Neutrino Observatory still under construction in Antarctica and intended to detect other exotic particles called neutrinos.

“IceCube was not built to look at cosmic rays ~ they are considered background,” University of Wisconsin-Madison researcher Rasha Abbasi tells LiveScience. “However, we have billions of events of background downward cosmic rays that ended up being very exciting.”

Previous studies have found a similar lopsidedness in the sky over the Northern Hemisphere, but this was the first time scientists saw that the pattern extended to the southern sky visible from Antarctica.

“At the beginning, we didn't know what to expect,” Abbasi adds. “To see this extending to the Southern Hemisphere sky is an additional piece of the puzzle around this enigmatic effect ~ whether it's due to the magnetic field surrounding us or to the effect of a nearby supernova remnant, we don't know.”

Click here for the article.
Click here for similar 2008 NASA article.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Bede Griffiths on the Power of Surrender

In this 3-minute video, Bede Griffiths (1906-1993) relates his profound experience of surrender, loss of fear, and gaining of unconditional love ~ a condition he believes exists within each of us. He studied at Oxford under C.S. Lewis, became a Benedictine monk and priest and moved to India in the 1950s to build a monastery. In India, he also aligned himself with Hindu beliefs and became a proponent of Vedanta-inspired Christianity. His teachings have inspired millions ~ including me ~ for nearly a half-century.

Monday, August 9, 2010

"Face" on Mars Now Shown to be Just Rocks

New close-up of rocky outcropping that created the "face."

A massive shape on the surface of Mars in the likeness of a human face spawned countless conspiracy theories in recent decades, but modern technology now confirms it is simply a large, rocky hill in a Martian desert.

Back in July, 1976, the famous "face" photo was taken by the American Viking 1 Orbiter. Within days, enthusiasts were convinced the face was man-made or had been built by Martians aeons ago as part of an ancient civilization. There were many theories about the presence of the human-like face, and nearly all concluded that NASA was part of a huge cover-up to conceal the face’s true origins.

Now a new photo ~ taken with NASA’s high-definition HiRISE camera and released last week ~ reveals the craggy rock formations that create the effect of human features.

According to the London Mail:
This is the closest-ever image of the famous outcrop which should, once and for all, scotch the conspiracy theorists who believe that the 'face' is conclusive evidence of intelligent life on Mars. 
Today's image was taken by HiRISE from on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter which can pick out incredible detail from 300 kilometres above the planet’s surface. The rocky formation is known as a mesa, a large rocky outcrop with a flat top and steep, cliff-like sides. The Face’ mesa is in the Cydonia region and is a couple of miles long and a few hundred feet high. 
. . . NASA even added to the theory by referring to the picture's human likeness in the caption it added to the photo when it first released it to the general public. The outcrop looked a little like a face, complete with eyes, nose and mouth, because of the angle of the sun and its cratered surface, and NASA happily pointed this fact out.
Seeing human faces in inaminate objects is known as "pareidolia" and is why so many people see what they believe is the face of Jesus in tea leaves, clouds and even burnt toast, the Mail pointed out. Carl Sagan believed humans are 'hard-wired' to find human faces wherever possible as part of our survival instinct.

Smaller photo shows the famous Martian "face."
Click here for the complete article and a video.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Lake-Chain Plan Would Convert Deserts to Cities

Artist's conception of a chain of desert lakes.

A plan to convert millions of square miles of earth's desert into inhabitable land is being developed by Shimizu Corporation of Japan. Called the “Aqua-Net,” the plan calls for a string of manmade lakes to be built across earth’s arid regions, giving rise to a network of new cities.

According to
The idea involves the building of interconnected lakes in the desert. These 18-mile-diameter lakes would be connected by canals fed from the ocean. The lakes would include built islands that could serve as homes for cities teeming with people. Supposedly, this would work because water from the lake would cool the cities, making them livable. There would also be arable land, theoretically, after this cooling above the desert lake islands. The cities would be powered by satellite power stations, and by the sun. 
Of course the plan is not without substantial challenges:
One of the biggest draw backs is that the lakes would be filled with seawater. While the salt water would provide the opportunities for water-based wildlife, and even for biomass development, it doesn't provide much opportunity for drinking. However, Shimizu plans that the some of the water would be desalinated, and thus made fit for human consumption and for irrigation of crops.
Shimizu is a large construction firm currently involved with a plan called the “Luna Ring” to build a wreath of solar cells around the moon to generate electricity and send it to earth via microwave transmission.
Click here for the complete article.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

'Spacequakes" Disrupting Earth's Magnetic Field

Spacequakes contribute to auroras in the night sky.

Called “spacequakes,” bursts of plasma flying off of the sun are disrupting Earth’s magnetic field with the strength of a sizeable earthquake, according to new scientific evidence.

“The total energy in a spacequake can rival that of a magnitude 5 or 6 earthquake,” Evgeny Panov of the Space Research Institute in Austria tells the Christian Science Monitor. He is first author of a paper reporting the results of a study on spacequakes in the April 2010 issue of Geophysical Research Letters.

NASA’s THEMIS space probes discovered the precursors of spacequakes in 2007. According to the Monitor: 
The action begins in Earth's magnetic tail, which is stretched out like a windsock by the million-miles-per-hour solar wind. Sometimes the tail can become so stretched and tension-filled, it snaps back like an over-torqued rubber band. Solar wind plasma trapped in the tail hurtles toward Earth. 
On more than one occasion, the five THEMIS spacecraft were in the line of fire when these “plasma jets” swept by. Clearly, the jets were going to hit Earth. But what would happen then? The fleet moved closer to the planet to find out. 
“Now we know," said THEMIS project scientist David Sibeck of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. “Plasma jets trigger spacequakes.”
Research shows that the plasma jets crash into Earth’s geomagnetic field some 18,600 miles above the equator. The impact sets off a rebounding process, in which the incoming plasma actually bounces up and down on the reverberating magnetic field. The first bounce is a big one, followed by bounces of decreasing amplitude as energy is dissipated in the carpet.

Click here for the complete article.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Grief is Next Target for Antidepressants

"Grief Out of Darkness into Light" by Jozef Israels (1834-1911)

Advocates of a pharmaceutically mediated society are making strides into yet another area of human experience ~ grief, especially following the loss of a loved one ~ they now consider suitable for treatment with antidepressants.

A recent article from National Public Radio describes the debate stemming from the new draft of psychiatry’s bible, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, that opens the door for grieving to be considered as major depression and treated accordingly.

On one side are the advocates for treating grief with drugs and therapy:
"I'd rather make the mistake of calling someone depressed who may not be depressed, than missing the diagnosis of depression, not treating it, and having that person kill themselves," says Dr. Sid Zisook, one of the psychiatrists who has argued for removal of the bereavement exclusion. "I mean, [pain] is a normal consequence of breaking a bone. But that doesn't mean that we don't treat the pain. We treat the pain vigorously."
Then there the opponents who see grief as a natural process:
Dr. Allen Frances, the famous psychiatrist and a former editor of the DSM, says that more and more, psychiatry is medicalizing our experiences. That is, it is turning emotions that are perfectly normal into something pathological.
"Over the course of time, we've become looser in applying the term 'mental disorder' to the expectable aches and pains and sufferings of everyday life," Frances says. "And always, we think about a medication treatment for each and every problem."
Advocates say that treating grieving people as depressed will affect about a third of the bereaved.

Click here for the complete NPR article.

Monday, August 2, 2010

In harmony with the Tao,
the sky is clear and spacious,
the earth is solid and full,
all creature flourish together,
content with the way they are,
endlessly repeating themselves,
endlessly renewed.

When man interferes with the Tao,
the sky becomes filthy,
the earth becomes depleted,
the equilibrium crumbles,
creatures become extinct.

The Master views the parts with compassion,
because he understands the whole.
His constant practice is humility.
He doesn't glitter like a jewel
but lets himself be shaped by the Tao,
as rugged and common as stone.

Physicist David Peat

David Peat (born 1938) is one of my favorite physicist/philosopher/authors and was for many years associated with physics legend David Bohm. In this brief clip, Peat discusses Bohm's theory of the implicate and explicate orders. This theory crops up in many different disciplines and is thought by many to hold the secret of everything from ESP to a materially and spiritually unified universe, and the final uniter of Newtonian and quantum physics. Peat lives in Italy, which explains the opening slide being in Italian.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Trove of Unpublished Kafka Writings Held by Court

The writings of Czech author Franz Kafka for many years have tantalized me, and in college I did an independent study of his perplexing short-stories and novels ~ which is why I and much of the literary world watches with interest the fact that 10 safety-deposit boxes of his never-published writings now have surfaced.

According to the Associated Press:
In the past week, the pages have been pulled from safety deposit boxes in Tel Aviv and Zurich, Switzerland, on the order of an Israeli court over the objections of two elderly women who claim to have inherited them from their mother. 
The case boils down to the interpretation of the will of Max Brod, Kafka’s friend and publisher. Kafka bequeathed his writings to Brod shortly before his own death from tuberculosis in 1924, instructing his friend to burn everything unread. Brod ignored Kafka's wishes and published most of what was in his possession, including the novels "The Trial," "The Castle" and "Amerika." 
But Brod, who smuggled some of the manuscripts to pre-state Israel when he fled the Nazis in 1938, didn't publish everything. Upon his death in 1968, Brod left his personal secretary, Esther Hoffe, in charge of his literary estate and instructed her to transfer the Kafka papers to an academic institution.
Instead, for the next four decades, Hoffe kept the papers in her Tel Aviv apartment and in safety deposit boxes in Tel Aviv and Zurich banks.
"Kafka could easily have written a story like this, where you try to do something and it all goes wrong and everything remains unresolved," said Sara Loeb, a Tel Aviv-based author of two books about the writer. "It's really a case of life imitating art."

Click here for the AP article.

Impulsive Behavior Tied to Excess Dopamine

Bright areas of this brain cross-section show elevated levels of dopamine.

Researchers at Vanderbilt University say high levels of the brain chemical dopamine contribute to impulsive behaviors, creating problems in acts from shopping to substance abuse.

“Think of it as very similar to how a thermostat works,” researcher Joshua Buckholz told NPR. Sensors in the lower-middle part of the brain ~ called autoreceptors ~  tell the midbrain to start pumping dopamine or stop, but new research shows the autorecptors of highly impulsive people aren’t functioning properly.

Other researchers believe there's more to impulsiveness than the dopamine thermostat, according to NPR. “This is not a very huge effect,” says Ahmad Hariri, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University. He thinks other brain chemicals with their own thermostats also play a role.

“I think that there is a circuitry of self-control that's fundamental to many, many aspects of living,” agrees Edythe London, a psychiatrist at UCLA. She says understanding the dopamine thermostat and other factors may lead to successful treatments for addiction and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Click here for the NPR article.