Happy New Year

I just completed a year of mindfulness* meditation with Muse, the brain-sensing headband. And what an amazing, consciousness expanding year it was! Many thanks to InteraXon for developing and bringing Muse to market. Also much appreciation for Stephan Bodian and Sister Mary White, my meditation teachers.


* Sort of. My practice has evolved from mindfulness to awakened awareness. (Please see Stephan Bodian’s masterful Beyond Mindfulness for an exploration of both.) Accordingly, I’ve adapted the way that I use Muse: I’ve turned off Feedback, Birds and Background (Session Volume Settings), which reduces the temptation to manipulate attention. Muse mainly serves as a meditation timer when configured in this way, although, as a doctor, I love to review the resulting EEGs.

Some Thoughts About Thinking

I recently did a corporate “lunch and learn” on metacognition, which is our singular ability to think about our thoughts (as far as I can tell, my dog has no such capacity). This would appear abstract and likely impractical but it is actually the key to mental health.

I’m happy to work at the level of things and thoughts. The former generally involves practical solutions (problem solving) while the latter consists of philosophical solutions (e.g., cognitive behavioral therapy). But I’m much more interested in the thinker—that’s where the ultimate solution lies.

The “thinker” in this context is consciousness or awareness, which is always present but seldom appreciated. As Rupert Spira counsels, “Allow the experience of being aware to come into the foreground of experience, and let thoughts, images, feelings, sensations and perceptions recede into the background. Simply notice the experience of being aware. The peace and happiness for which all people long reside there.” Elsewhere, he advises, “Be knowingly the presence of awareness.”

You can find my PowerPoint here or by clicking on the image above. ✸


P.S. If this sounds like mindfulness, it might be. Mindfulness has become one of those everyday words that now lacks meaning, or at least a shared understanding. For an interesting perspective, please see Stephan Bodian’s Beyond Mindfulness:

“For all its wonderful benefits, the practice of mindfulness has another downside: it tends to maintain the subject–object split, the gap between the one who’s being mindful, the act of being mindful, and the object of mindful attention. In other words, no matter how mindful you become, there’s always a you that has to practice being mindful of an object separate from you. As a result, mindfulness perpetuates the very sense of separation it’s designed to overcome.”

Chasing Your Tail

Years ago, in one of my former lives, Scott Hinrichs, HealthEast’s vice president for mission, bioethics and spiritual care, tapped me to speak at its annual President’s Prayer Breakfast. I’m not sure that the audience walked away with much, however, the event was a tremendous gift to me. Absent the commitment, I doubt that I would have reflected on my spiritual journey.

The PowerPoint has generally aged well. I’m not sure that I would add much today—except, perhaps this Lars Kenseth cartoon, which I saw over the weekend, and some stuff from Stephan Bodian’s Beyond Mindfulness. By all means laugh, but then puzzle for a few minutes over the deeper meaning.

What’s that part of you that’s been there all along?

Lars Kenseth. Originally published in Wired on Wednesday, March 4th, 2020.


Postscript. I didn’t immediately realize that today marks the 10th anniversary of my presentation. More than coincidence? ✸