|Dr. Robert Puff|
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Graphic created by Gene Poole
- Thursday, June 6, 2002 - Editor: Jerry Katz
You are a
clear and spacious
the energy of Life
with which you identify
is only one small aspect
of who and what
you really are.
OK, here's a non-dual brainteaser....maybe it's only my
brain that gets teased about things like this, but here
I like to dance in front of my mirror. Dance is sort of
a form of worship or meditation....union with music,
motion through time, etc., very elemental stuff. When
it's great you lose your sense of self and time and you
just hum and buzz with the universe.
Well, today, not quite getting to the hum..... mind just
wanted to keep working...; I decided to peek and see how
this elemental union might look, like was it cool or
I'm sure you know the punch line here. As soon as you
look, or think to look, etc,. you're no longer with-in,
and whatever coolness, or beauty or elegance or passion,
that you might have physicalized from you in-ness, is -
So, awareness is, at least in some sense, the process
and state of being observer and observed at the same
time and knowing you are these... But as soon as you
look, it's gone. And if you don't look you can never
experience what you've "seen."
Does anyone else encounter this interplay between being
"unaware" when immersed in activity or mind-work that
one loves....and the practice of mindfulness...and does
anyone experiece this interplay as contradictory....as a
striving that gets in the way of being there?
"The Body is Ourselves: So Be It"
by Chet Raymo, Globe Columnist, 6/4/2002
Philosopher Rene Descartes insisted that body and soul
are different things. "I think, therefore I am," he
famously said. His "am" was not made of flesh and bone.
Science overwhelmingly refutes Descartes. "I am,
therefore I think," is closer to the modern view.
Biology and neuroscience have found not the slightest
evidence that a human self can exist independently of
the body - not even a glimmer of Cartesian body-soul
Whatever the human self is, it is inextricably wrapped
But what is a self? How does it arise? How is it
maintained? These questions are being vigorously
investigated by immunologists, biochemists,
neuroscientists, and philosophers. A recent issue of the
journal Science (April 12, 2002) summarized where we
stand in the science of self. The questions are still
open, but outlines of the answers are becoming clear.
From a biologist's point of view, even a single-celled
bacterium qualifies as a self - a unit of life that is
organized to nourish itself and protect itself from
attack by nonself.
At some point in the history of life, prokaryotes (the
simplest cells, without nuclei or interior compartments)
combined to form more complex cells known as eukaryotes
(with nuclei and compartments such as mitochondria and
chloroplasts). A new higher self came into being when
the individual constituents of eukaryotes evolved ways
to work together without conflict.
Multicelled plants and animals evolved still later, and
again found ways to merge separate cellular identities
into higher and more complex selves.
Our own bodies are colonies of trillions of cells that
share the identity of a single self.
Colonies of social insects such as ants have several
levels of self identity. Individuals insects are selves,
but the colony must be accorded its own kind of
selfhood. Certainly, all members of a colony recognize
the colony to which they belong, and resist incursions
of other colonies, even of the same species.
So what does science say about the human self?
We might begin by looking for a self in all those
trillions of cells that share the same genes. Forensic
scientists can identify the perpetrator of a crime from
a single hair or drop of semen. To the DNA scientist, a
scrap of my skin is recognizably me.
A second approach to self is embedded in the human
immune system. Our bodies have astonishingly complex
defenses against nonself invaders that can cause us
harm. If it weren't for our immune systems, nonself
pathogens and parasites might quickly destroy us. How
the body recognizes threatening nonself (germs, snake
venom) from harmless nonself (food, fetus) is one of the
most intriguing problems being investigated in science
today, and one of paramount importance to medicine.
Of course, none of this is what we are usually thinking
about when we say "I love you," "I'm depressed," "I
stubbed my toe," or "You deceive yourself." Personal
pronouns assume a self that is more than genetics or
immunology. But even this conscious self is embedded in
collections of interacting cells, as brain studies make
Until now, definitions of self-awareness have been
mostly the province of philosophers laboring under the
lingering influence of Descartes. But philosophers are
increasing turning to experimental neuroscience and
cognitive science for clues to self-awareness.
Writing in Science, philosopher Patricia Churchland
guesses that the nervous systems of higher animals
evolved out of the need for central control of the
body's many organs - heart, lungs, viscera, liver,
adrenal medulla. Clearly, any system capable of
coordinating a bodywide response to danger signals, or
even to coordinate the need for rest and digestion, has
a high survival value and will be favored by natural
Eventually, evolving nervous systems gave rise to the
human brain - and to self-awareness.
As the creature with the most complex nervous system, we
like to think of ourselves as somehow qualitatively
different from other animals; thus our affection for
Descartes and his idea of a disembodied soul. We like to
imagine that our selfhood can float free of our physical
But everything we have learned experimentally about the
human self - from genetics, immunology, neurobiology and
reproductive science - confirms that our precious
selfhood is only the most elaborate of evolution's many
levels of cellular organization.
To my way of thinking, this does not lower our stature
in the universe, but rather makes us part and parcel of
the greatest miracle of all - life's grand thumbing of
its nose at nature's law of entropy, which requires the
universe to eventually grind every complexity to dust.
You may use this picture as a means of inviting women to
join NDS... it can be emailed or posted.
we know that the men on this list can be put into one
of two groups: the chevy men and the ford men. Gene, You
are touching on my vision of doing the NDS website
version for 1954.
Chevy families had Republican Dads and Ford families
had Democrat Dads. As far as I could tell, only Dads
could choose cars or Presidents. Two-tone paint was
big, and a lot of the Chevys had paint jobs that
involved salmon pink. My Dad's '55 Ford was a
bottom-of-the-line two-door with a three-speed shifter
on the steering column that was originally one shade
of light blue, but we had the dealer make it two-tone
with dark blue on the roof. It was his first new car
and of course he was a Democrat who took me to
Stevenson rallies -- on the way to one of them we met
Senator Albert Gore, Senior; he was lost and we gave
him a ride to the hall. I don't think that sort of
thing happens any more, picking up lost Senators in
your Dad's new two-tone, two-door Ford and getting him
to the hall in time for him to introduce one of the
two bald guys who wanted to be President.
I honestly thought that you had to be bald or have
white hair to be President, so Kennedy vs. Nixon was a
bit of a shock to me because they were like dads and
not like grandpas. My elder son did similarly non
sequitur extrapolations when he was of similar age --
Ian thought the whole world was monochromatic before
the invention of color TV and he asked me what is as
like back then. Smart kids can get carried away like
Notes from my youth (sometime during the Jurassic era)
Although my father, a staunch Republican, was a Ford
user (Ford in-car-nated as Mercury, usually a montery
station wagon... the 'woody' model was his fave), our
family friends and relatives worked it the other way;
the Democrats drove either Chevy or another brand.
Studebaker was a top favorite among those of the more
liberal persuasion, with 'most deviant' award going to
the owners of a Citroen Ds19.
My cousin Norman, the most liberal of the bunch (he
worked a a free part time consultant to the local free
'commie' FM radio station) drove and lived in,
part-time, a very large converted UPS delivery van.
Before his death, my father 'converted' to foreign cars
and trucks, leaving his old Ford truck to slowly
dissolve into a pile of annonymous rust.
This 'conversion' occurred during the time of the
Nixon/Reagan/Bush fiascos, which disillusioned and
depressed him considerably. I suspect that he may have
actually voted Democrat on occasion.
Now, I observe similar trends, among those I know. I
drove a Ford LTD SW for several years, but only because
it had been given to me as a love-offering.
I prefer any GM brand over Ford. I see Ford technology
as being essentially obsolete, in the same way that the
Wintel computer is obsolete; 'tried and true' X86 chips
in PCs, VS RISC chips in the Mac. The Altivec engine in
the G4 chip is truely a wonder, enabling 4X datarate
while using enabled applications such as Photoshop, etc.
But as much as I would like to make the claim that the
majority of liberals use Macs, I cannot; for the
greatest source of global warming hot air himself, Rush
Limbaugh, is a 'staunch' Mac user, and in fact regularly
evangelizes the Mac on his show. Not the least of the
true claims made for the Mac VS PC, is that the Mac is
by nature, immune to all of the 30,000 virii which
plague Windoze users; Rush has crowed about this
endlessly, as his co-workers PC have turned into innert
lumps of plastic, while his Macs continue to perform
Besides that, I have noticed a strange syndrome with
the Ford; that being, exhaust system failures which
occur with perplexing frequency. This was true for my
LTD; 3 replacements in 5 years, while my various GM
vehicles need only a muffler every five years or so.
Anyway, enough nostalgia and innaccurate analogies of
moral equivalencies for now. Corporate consumer culture
continues to eat the world; and if you think it is
worrisome now, just wait until the Chinese come online
with full consumer power... goodbye, biosphere!
1955 Citroen DS19
How do we relate with others in the face of intense
emotion, whether of love or hate, fear or longing?
Well, allowing the emotion itself to exist as its own
entity, with its own "truth" that can be examined,
expressed or put aside, seems to allow a degree of
freedom not available if we either 1) don't recognize
emotion as a player at all, or 2) ascribe especial
meaning and power to it.
There is some question for me about the nature of the
relationship between bodily sensation and emotion, and
how to name these sensations. The understanding and
identification seems to take time, while "time" does
not always seem to be available.
In time, my child, in time.
I can only answer as to what my ideal response (or
non-response) should be... or ultimately longs to
consistantly be... and that would be first as a
detector and then a watcher. It would be good to
recogonize that even though that intense emotion is very
real in it's appearance - it is only temporary. It is
somewhat an illusion, created by myself. I have created
it from whatever I have pulled from my mind. Maybe
something of the past or something I think is coming.
Even if I am trying to convince myself that this emotion
is in the moment, it really isn't totally. It's a
memory or fantasy. If it was real ... I would be
comfortable, because I would have somehow convinced
myself that this is what is now, and it simply needs to
be accepted. Emotion is a player, only if we allow it
to be. The "game" is our, and we have the freedom to
make the rules. The only special meaning or power it
can have ... is the freedom we give it. We can become
it's slave so to speak, or it can bow to us.
Regarding bodily sensation and emotion, and naming
them...hummm Again, for myself, it would be keeping
them in perspective and in the now... appropriately. We
will "appropriately" experience sensations and emotions
as human beings... but keeping a healthy prespective
that they can not define our "forever". Nothing like
that can last forever, and be truth. If we try to fool
ourself into thinking that even a "good" feeling or
emotion can or should remain the same... we are
blinding ourself. I say, "Look at it, experience it for
what it is, and then step back... and let it play
View from a Lighthouse, by Stacie White. Contributed by Al Larus
The other day Ananda (age 4) told me with tears in her
eyes, "I don't want you to be bones. Then I won't have a
My eyes welled up too. After a few moments I responded,
"Sweetie, when my body is just bones you won't see me
outside of you anymore. But you can see me inside,
where I can be with you every single minute, every day."
|Dr. Robert Puff|