Under Stony Pine

IMG 6775

This is related to my recent post Rituals, Customs and Sentiments.

For a moment let’s pause all arguments for or against a higher power of any kind. What is left then are actionable techniques that work. They work because humans have experimented with them for millennia. Here is a quick list I wrote down while sitting in a park, under these marvelous Stony Pine trees… It’s an incomplete list, I am sure, but there is a lot here that could be taught to people of any or no faith.

    1. practice
      1. meditation
      2. prayer *
      3. yoga
      4. training compassion
      5. service
        1. feeding hungry
        2. attending to ailing
        3. cleaning
        4. cooking
    2. ceremony or rituals
      1. lighting incense
      2. lighting a candle
      3. fasting
      4. wearing special clothes, robes, or covering head
    3. gratefulness
      1. meal prayer/giving thanks for food
      2. daily reflection/giving thanks for people/situations
    4. movement, esp. synchronized or done in a group
      1. dancing
      2. tai-chi in the park
      3. bowing
      4. gestures
    5. music!
      1. singing together, hymns
      2. karaoke?
      3. listening to music (Bach on a church organ!)
      4. chanting
    6. architecture
      1. sacred buildings
      2. sound!
      3. scale!
      4. libraries?

* I think that prayer can be a practice and is not limited to communicating to a higher power. A prayer can be the focusing of one’s attention. It can be an expression of gratitude and thanks. It can state one’s intent.

Wilderness

I am intrigued by the sense that culture itself has a wild edge. As Claude Levi-Strauss remarked years ago, the arts are the wilderness areas of the imagination surviving, like national parks, in the midst of civilized minds.

This is a quote, tweeted by a Gary Snyder Quotes Account, from the book The Practice of the Wild by Gary Snyder, published in 1990.

Wilderness of nature and wilderness of culture. Wilderness outside and wilderness inside. I believe we need both to flourish. Some people are uncomfortable with wilderness of nature or of culture, but they also reap the rewards of it. One example of that is the amount of medicine found in the wild corners of the shrinking Amazon forest. In terms of music think of how much bass playing was changed by the wild Jaco Pastorius or guitar playing by Jimi Hendrix. When they first exploded onto the scene there may have been many who didn’t like it, but now there is hardly a bassist or guitarist who was not influenced by them.

I think this dovetails nicely with my old Spinning circles image of culture.

In the fringe is where everything exciting happens, never in the center. Cultures are like spinning circles. In the center they don’t move very much, that’s where the traditionalists live, the conservatives. Towards the rim is where the action is, that’s where the artists hang out. Life is a little more out of balance there sometimes and the spinning can make you dizzy there. What is most exciting is that many of the culture circles overlap and if you can stay in a spot where several things overlap you can find new clouds of ideas. Ideas are not bound to any individual, there are bound to a time. Many people in that spot will come up with similar ideas. Sometimes this cloud of ideas forms a new circle and the center of it hardens and becomes a new tradition. The longer it can remain liquid the more alive it will remain. Life is change.

Rant #5

In Praise of Boredom

Instead of boredom I should call it not-doing, perhaps.

By that I mean the moments between doing that used to be filled with… nothing.

They gave our minds a chance to process or to have new ideas or insights.

Those moments of not-doing seem to become exceedingly rare now. We tend to fill the time that used to become not-doing with other things.

Swearing : Mantra

About five years ago I posted some thoughts about swearing and mantras… Today I remembered the post and looked it up. Here it is again:

In the book “Holy Sh*t – A Brief History of Swearing” I read that most speech originates from the cerebral cortex, which also controls voluntary actions and rational thought, while swearwords are stored in the limbic system, which is responsible for emotion, the fight-or-flight response, and the autonomic nervous system, which regulates heart rate and blood pressure. People who have lost the ability to speak, e.g. due to a stroke, often still have the ability to swear.

The book also states that test subjects were able to withstand pain, in the form of very cold water, longer, if they spoke swearwords rather than other words.

That got me thinking. Swearing is culture-specific and the words themselves frequently change according to society. Training starts very young in families with parents making clear which words are “bad” or forbidden. This training appears to write swearwords to a different section of brain.

Like swearwords mantras are culture-specific and can be learned at a young age. Many cultures use mantras, but India, Tibet and Japan come to mind. The Ninjas of Japan have a variety of mantras that are to help against cold, against pain, or to promote healing etc.

What I am wondering about is whether these mantras are also, like swearwords, “written” to a different part of the brain? It would follow that the embedding of the mantra into a section of brain is akin to writing software and invoking the mantra is akin to running the program.

In other words, for a person outside the mantra culture, e.g. a non-Ninja, it would be impossible to “run the program” because the software was not written into the brain – just as a foreign speaker who hears an American swearword will not grasp its meaning, nor would yelling the word be able to relieve any pain for him/her.

Have mantras been researched with this in mind? Can they be written to a different part of the brain? How long does it take to embed a mantra? Does a mantra in fact evoke a whole program?

Swearing + Mantras

In the book “Holy Sh*t – A Brief History of Swearing” I read that most speech originates from the cerebral cortex, which also controls voluntary actions and rational thought, while swearwords are stored in the limbic system, which is responsible for emotion, the fight-or-flight response, and the autonomic nervous system, which regulates heart rate and blood pressure. People who have lost the ability to speak, e.g. due to a stroke, often still have the ability to swear.

The book also states that test subjects were able to withstand pain, in the form of very cold water, longer, if they spoke swearwords rather than other words.

That got me thinking. Swearing is culture-specific and the words themselves frequently change according to society. Training starts very young in families with parents making clear which words are “bad” or forbidden. This training appears to write swearwords to a different section of brain.

Like swearwords mantras are culture-specific and can be learned at a young age. Many cultures use mantras, but India, Tibet and Japan come to mind. The Ninjas of Japan have a variety of mantras that are to help against cold, against pain, or to promote healing etc.

What I am wondering about is whether these mantras are also, like swearwords, “written” to a different part of the brain? It would follow that the embedding of the mantra into a section of brain is akin to writing software and invoking the mantra is akin to running the program.

In other words, for a person outside the mantra culture, e.g. a non-Ninja, it would be impossible to “run the program” because the software was not written into the brain – just as a foreign speaker who hears an American swearword will not grasp its meaning, nor would yelling the word be able to relieve any pain for him/her.

Have mantras been researched with this in mind? Can they be written to a different part of the brain? How long does it take to embed a mantra? Does a mantra in fact evoke a whole program?