Thursday, July 29, 2010

christian approaches to other faiths

This is a useful book with a very positive section about Buddhism. The Buddhist part more or less agrees with the position of this blog, that practising Buddhism can enhance and clarify the Christianity for some people.

Christian Approaches to Other Faiths: SCM Reader

Monday, July 12, 2010

Present with pain

In Zen there is a focus on the moment, on being totally present and at one with whatever you are doing. In his book, Son of Man, Andrew Harvey writes,

Never imagine as your take the journey into me that there is any pain or bewilderment that you could suffer that I have not also suffered, sometimes even more dreadfully and completely than you can comprehend. So you never have to hide your heart and its terrors and pains from me, for I know them all, grieve for them all, cradle them all, am here beside and around you as you suffer them: I am in you always to call on for wisdom, clarity, revelation inspiration, the strength to weep and the strength to go on. Don’t you understand yet? I am the divine in the human and the human in the divine

In Zen one practices being present while sitting, walking, and bowing. It is also practiced in the arts and in the martial arts. But this passage refers to a more difficult level of practice – to be present and one with your pain, your misgivings, and your failures. This is very difficult to do and can be dangerous as a misstep can lead to depression and despair - there is a reason we distract ourselves from problems, losses, failures, and all of the other things that hurt us. Tich Naht Han recommends being present with these feelings, holding them without judgment.  This passage is about the same thing, but it is done through faith and identification with Jesus. By understanding that God, in the person of Jesus, has experienced failure, loss and betrayal, it is easier to do this. From a Zen point of view, the moment is always an expression of the divine, no matter what it is filled with. From a mystical Christian perspective, you are one with Jesus when you accept your suffering in the moment.

Son of Man: The Mystical Path to ChristThe Miracle of MindfulnessSavor: Mindful Eating, Mindful LifePeace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life

Friday, July 2, 2010

Mirror Neurons

Mirror neurons are a recent discovery that dramatically altered the established views on how the brain works. Basically, mirror neurons fire when you experience something or when you perceive someone experiencing the same thing. That is, mirror neuron systems do not understand the difference between you and someone else. In my opinion, mirror neurons are also centrally involved in deep spiritual experiences. I will post more on this in the future but the point I want to make right now is that there is a clear neural basis for experiences devoid of any notion of a self. Here is a good introductory video: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/sciencenow/3204/01.html

This discovery is quite literally fuelling a revolution in terms of how scientists explain compassion and love. A number of books have come out on this. I am working on a paper related to this as well. But in the meantime here are some of the recent books on this

Mirrors in the Brain: How Our Minds Share Actions, Emotions, and ExperienceMirroring People: The New Science of How We Connect with OthersMirror Neuron Systems: The Role of Mirroring Processes in Social Cognition (Contemporary Neuroscience)Mirroring People: The Science of Empathy and How We Connect with OthersAction to Language via the Mirror Neuron SystemOn Being Moved: From Mirror Neurons to Empathy (Advances in Consciousness Research)The Mirror Neuron System: A Special Issue of Social Neuroscience (Special Issues of Social Neuroscience)Mirror Neurons and the Evolution of Brain and Language (Advances in Consciousness Research, 42)Action to Language via the Mirror Neuron SystemNeuroscience meets dance/movement therapy: Mirror neurons, the therapeutic process and empathy [An article from: The Arts in Psychotherapy]