As the nervous system evolved, your brain developed in three stages:
Reptile - Brainstem, focused on avoiding harm
Mammal - Limbic system, focused on approaching rewards
Primate - Cortex, focused on attaching to "us"
Since the brain is integrated, avoiding, approaching, and attaching ... Views: 13
I've always liked lizards.
Growing up in the outskirts of Los Angeles, I played in the foothills near our home. Sometimes I'd catch a lizard and stroke its belly, so it would relax in my hands, seeming to feel at ease.
In my early 20's, I found a lizard one chilly morning in the mountains. ... Views: 36
In every moment, you and I and everyone and everything else - from quantum foam to fleeting thoughts, intimate relationships, rainforest ecosystems, and the stars themselves - are each a kind of standing wave, like the ever-changing though persistent pattern of water rising above a boulder in a ... Views: 34
Once upon a time, a scholar came to visit a saint. After the scholar had been orating and propounding for a while, the saint proposed some tea. She slowly filled the scholar's cup: gradually the tea rose to the very brim and began spilling over onto the table, yet she kept pouring and pouring. ... Views: 93
In situations or relationships with any kind of difficulty - tension, feeling hurt, conflicts, mismatches of wants . . . the usual crud - it's natural to focus on what others have done that's problematic.
This could be useful for a while: it can energize you, bring insight into what the real ... Views: 90
In every life, reminders arrive about what's really important.
I've recently received one myself, in a form that's already come to countless people and will come to countless more: news of a potentially serious health problem. My semi-annual dermatology mole check turned up a localized ... Views: 77
Life is full of tradeoffs between benefits and costs.
Sometimes, the benefits are worth the costs. For example, the rewards of going for a run - getting out in fresh air, improving health, etc. - are, for me at least, worth the costs of losing half an hour of work time while gaining a pair of ... Views: 62
As our ancestors evolved over millions of years in small bands, continually interacting and working with each other, it was vitally important to communicate in hundreds of ways each day. They shared information about external "carrots" and "sticks," and about their internal experience (e.g., ... Views: 113
The truth of anything is like a mosaic with many tiles, many parts.
One part of the truth of things is that they are robust and enduring, whether it's El Capitan in Yosemite or the love of a child for her mother and father.
Another part of the truth is that things bruise, tear, erode, ... Views: 105
On the path of life, most of us are hauling way too much weight.
What's in your own backpack? If you're like most of us, you've got too many items on each day's To Do list and too much stuff in the closet. Too many entanglements with other people. And too many "shoulds," worries, guilts, and ... Views: 73
When our kids were little, I'd come home from work wanting some peace after the daily roller-coaster and often walk into a living room full of stuff - toy trucks, tennis shoes, bags of chips, etc. Irritated, the first words out of my mouth to my wife would be: "How come there's all this mess?" ... Views: 95
Take a breath right now, and notice how abundant the air is, full of life-giving oxygen offered freely by trees and other green growing things. You can't see air, but it's always available for you.
Love is a lot like the air. It may be hard to see - but it's in you and all around you.
In ... Views: 97
It's been said that the most powerful tool for physical health is a fork (or spoon), since the choices you make with it determine the good or bad things you put into your body.
In the same way, perhaps the most powerful tool for your mental health - and certainly for the health of your ... Views: 111
Let's say you've had an interesting idea or moment of inspiration, or thought of a new project, or felt some enthusiasm bubbling up inside you. Your notions are not fully formed and you're not really committed to them yet, but they have promise and you like them and are trying them on for size. ... Views: 121
There are always things that are getting worse. For example, over the past year, you probably know someone who has become unemployed or ill or both, and there's more carbon in the atmosphere inexorably heating up the planet.
But if you don't recognize what's improving in your own life, then ... Views: 152
This practice is definitely a case of teaching what you need to learn: I've been working through a big bucket of tasks lately with little chance to rest. (I console myself with knowing that the bucket is emptying a lot faster than it's filling with new tasks.)
Sometimes you can really feel ... Views: 162
Painful experiences range from subtle discomfort to extreme anguish - and there is a place for them. Sorrow can open the heart, anger can highlight injustices, fear can alert you to real threats, and remorse can help you take the high road next time.
But is there really any shortage of ... Views: 158
It's one thing to stick up for yourself and others. But it's a different matter to get caught up in wrangles, contentiousness, squabbles . . . in a word: quarrels.
Similarly, it's one thing to disagree with someone, even to the point of arguing - but it's a different matter to get so caught ... Views: 174
"Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me."
Ah, not really.
Often it's words - and the tone that comes with them - that actually do the most damage. Just think back on some of the things that have been said to you over the years - especially those said with ... Views: 220
Life gives to each one of us in so many ways.
For starters, there’s the bounty of the senses – including chocolate chip cookies, jasmine, sunsets, wind singing through pine trees, and just getting your back scratched.
What does life give you?
Consider the kindness of friends and family, ... Views: 193
Forgiveness is a tricky topic.
First, it has two distinct meanings:
* To give up resentment or anger
* To pardon an offense; to stop seeking punishment or recompense
Here, I am going to focus on the first meaning, which is broad enough to include situations where you have not let ... Views: 215
Many interactions these days have a kind of bumper-car quality to them. At work, at home, on the telephone, via email: we sort of bounce off of each other while we exchange information, smile or frown, and move on. How often do we actually take the extra few seconds to get a sense of what's ... Views: 238
My dad grew up on a ranch in North Dakota. He has a saying from his childhood - you may have heard it elsewhere - that's: "You learn more by listening than by talking."
Sure, we often gain by thinking out loud, including discovering our truth by speaking it. But on the whole, listening brings ... Views: 186
As I was meditating this morning, our cat hopped up in my lap. It felt sweet to sit there with him. And yet - even though I was feeling fine and had plenty of time, there was this internal pressure to start zipping along with emails and calls and all the other clamoring minutiae of the ... Views: 181
I recently did a meditation retreat (at Spirit Rock, wonderful place, including for workshops). One evening as we walked out of the hall after the last sit, I was feeling rattled and discombobulated. (One of the benefits of a retreat - though it can be uncomfortable - is that it stirs up of the ... Views: 230
As a rock climber and a parent, I know some physical kinds of clinging are good - like to small holds or small hands!
But clinging as a psychological state has a feeling of tension in it, and drivenness, insistence, obsession, or compulsion. As experiences flow through the mind - seeing, ... Views: 263
Getting caught up in wanting - wanting both to get what's pleasant and to avoid what's unpleasant - is a major source of suffering and harm for oneself and others.
First, a lot of what we want to get comes with a big price tag - such as that second cupcake, constant stimulation via TV and ... Views: 239
What makes you feel threatened?
Don't be intimidated.
On a previous blog at the Huffington Post, I used the example of Stephen Colbert's satirical "March to Keep Fear Alive" as a timely illustration of a larger point: humans evolved to be fearful - since that helped ... Views: 327
Have you heard this saying?
The most important thing is to remember the most important thing.
What are the most important things to you? In your life as a whole? During a particular interaction with someone? Right this minute?
The most important things often get pushed to the sidelines. ... Views: 325
We evolved to be afraid.
The ancient ancestors that were casual and blithely hopeful, underestimating the risks around them - predators, loss of food, aggression from others of their kind - did not pass on their genes. But the ones that were nervous were very successful - and we are their ... Views: 334
It's easy to treat people well when they treat you well. The real test is when they treat you badly.
Think of times you've been truly wronged, in small ways or big ones. Maybe someone stole something , turned others against you, broke an agreement, cheated on you, or spoke unfairly or ... Views: 557
Friendliness is a down-to-earth approach to others that is welcoming and positive.
Think about a time when someone was friendly to you - maybe drawing you into a gathering, saying hello on the sidewalk, or smiling from across the room. How did that make you feel? Probably more included, ... Views: 374
Everyone knows what it's like to care about someone. Remember being with a friend, a mate, a pet: you feel warmly connected, and want him or her not to suffer and to be happy.
On the other hand, you've probably had the sense, one time or another, of not being cared about. That you didn't ... Views: 454
We all know people who are, ah, . . . challenging. It could be a critical parent, a bossy supervisor, a relative who has you walking on eggshells, a nice but flaky friend, a co-worker who just doesn't like you, a partner who won't keep his or her agreements, or a politician you dislike. Right ... Views: 426
We spend so much of our time trying to get somewhere.
Part of this comes from our biological nature. To survive, animals - including us - have to be goal-directed, leaning into the future.
It's certainly healthy to pursue wholesome aims, like paying the rent on time, raising children well, ... Views: 397
Each Thanksgiving holiday, we are reminded to be thankful. When times are tough, finding reasons to be thankful may be challenging or even seem inappropriate or impossible. This year, before we sit around the dinner table, let's think about the myriad benefits to saying thanks, and how to truly ... Views: 370
One Christmas I hiked down into the Grand Canyon, whose bottom lay a vertical mile below the rim. Its walls were layered like a cake, and a foot-high stripe of red or gray rock indicated a million-plus years of erosion by the Colorado river. Think of water - so soft and gentle - gradually ... Views: 231
Compassion is essentially the wish that beings not suffer - from subtle physical and emotional discomfort to agony and anguish - combined with feelings of sympathetic concern.
You could have compassion for an individual (a friend in the hospital, a co-worker passed over for a promotion), ... Views: 278
Most of us wear a kind of mask, a persona that hides our deepest thoughts and feelings, and presents a polished, controlled face to the world.
To be sure, a persona is a good thing to have. For example, meetings at work, holidays with the in-laws, or a first date are usually not the best time ... Views: 376
Imagine a world in which people interacted with each other like ants or fish. Imagine a day at work like this, or in your family, aware of the surface behavior of the people around you but oblivious to their inner life while they remain unmoved by your own.
That's a world without empathy. To ... Views: 258
Lately I've been thinking about a kind of "case" that's been running in my mind about someone in my extended family. The case is a combination of feeling hurt and mistreated, critique of the other person, irritation with others who haven't supported me, views about what should happen that ... Views: 260