Friday, July 29, 2011


There is an old Samurai maxim, 'A person who has attained mastery of an art reveals it in their every action.' In other words, 'as within, so without.' So it is with martial arts. No surprise, then, to hear about something called 'mindfulness martial arts therapy.' In many ways, the so-called 'therapy' is in the actual doing of the particular martial art being practised.

Here’s an article regarding an integrated therapy that combines mindfulness and martial arts.

The therapy is called ‘mindfulness martial arts’ (MMA).

Child and family therapist Paul Badali designed MMA therapy for kids with learning disabilities in 2002.

What makes MMA potentially attractive to young people is the way MMA removes some of the supposed ‘mystique’ surrounding mindfulness (and meditation) by its inclusion in a socially-valued and ever-so-physical activity like martial arts.

Of course, Zen and associated matters ‘spiritual’ have always been an integral part of martial arts, which has always had, as one of its ‘aims’, the development of new and more effective ways of seeing, thinking and acting ... so it comes as no surprise to hear of this therapeutic combination.

I have always loved these words from the great Zhuangzi (Chuang-Tzu):  'The mind of a perfect person is like a mirror. It grasps nothing. It expects nothing. It reflects but does not hold. Therefore, the perfect person can act without effort.' There is no better way to live than that. That is the essence of mindfulness in a nutshell. It is also what one can hope to expect from a combination of mindfulness and the martial arts ... or even just from the practice of martial arts if approached from a spiritual or psychological perspective. It's all about respect, both for oneself and for the other person ... indeed for all persons. It's also all about the power of wakeful non-resistance and effortless effort.

‘It’s exercise, meditation, present moment awareness in being healthy, and being aware of healthy practices,’ says Badali who runs the MMA at Integra Children’s Mental Health Centre in Toronto, Canada.

Early studies show that MMA for kids with learning disabilities is beneficial.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: See the Terms of Use and Disclaimer. The information provided on this blogspot is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your medical practitioner or other qualified health provider because of something you have read on this blogspot. For immediate advice or support call Lifeline on 13 1 1 14 or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800. For information, advice and referral on mental illness contact the SANE Helpline on 1800 18 SANE (7263) go online via


Monday, July 25, 2011


NOTE. The purpose of this post is twofold: first, to direct readers' attention to, and encourage the reading of, an article, namely a Q&A session with Michele McDonald, published in the leading magazine tricycle; second, to endorse and recommend the purchase and use of Ms McDonald's CD-set Awake at the Wheel: Mindful Driving.

Driving mindfully? Isn't that dangerous ... driving a motor vehicle whilst in a state of samadhi bliss?
Well, that is not exactly what is meant by mindful driving.

Michele McDonald (pictured left) has been teaching vipassanā meditation for 30 years. She is the cofounder of Vipassanā Hawai’i. She is also the first woman to have taught a formal retreat in Burma.

If you want to treat yourself to something really useful – I hate that word ‘useful’, but anyway – buy her 2-disc audio CD set Awake at the Wheel: Mindful Driving. (I love that title. Mindfulness is, as Jon Kabat-Zinn often says, 'falling awake.')

The 2-CD set includes introductions to mindfulness meditation specific to driving, and nearly 2 hours of exercises that can be learned in the car and used anywhere to enliven the mind, awake the senses, and enjoy the journey again.

In a 'must-read' Q&A session published in tricycle (for which this post, and my blogsite, are no substitutes) Michele McDonald describes vipassanā meditation or mindfulness as the state of ‘being in the present moment, feeling and hanging out with your own experience rather than just thinking about it, with patience ... [and] a genuine interest’.

Yes, but what does that mean, ‘being in the present moment’? We say that all the time ... almost mindlessly. Well, according to McDonald it means being ‘present and engaged with what's happening’. Yes, a mind-body experience from one moment to the next.

So, why the CD? Says McDonald, ‘I see so many people on their phones in the car, Bluetooth or not, or texting, eating, or putting make-up on—never mind whatever else might be going on in their heads! Most of us act out the urge to get more and more done in the car, instead of attending to what is really happening as we drive.’

A ‘mindful’ mind is a mind which is not distracted by what is happening from one moment to the next.

Remember, everything is happening from one moment to the next. That is life. Sensations come and go. They arise ... and they disappear as quickly as they arose. So do sights, sounds, thoughts, feelings, moods and all other phenomena. Everything is impermanent ... BUT everything is happening in the present, continually arising and disappearing.

So, you’re driving. You see a traffic light ahead turn red. In a state of mindfulness you ‘notice’ the light turn red. You see the change in the colour and contemporaneously – yes, in the same moment – you are aware that you are noticing the light turn red. So what?

‘Mindfulness will help you notice seeing, see the red light more quickly, and to brake,' says McDonald in the Q&A session published in tricycle. 'Your response times are going to be quicker and will allow you to assess any dangers on the road and respond more intelligently and spaciously.’

I have always hated driving in traffic, and I will do almost anything to avoid it ... like, for example, getting out of bed 2 or more hours earlier in the morning in order to miss the traffic. Perhaps I need to drive more in the traffic. In one sense, it doesn’t really matter. Traffic or no traffic, where else can we ever hope to find ‘enlightenment’ but in whatever presents itself as ‘the moment.’

Drive mindfully. The life you save may be your own, or mine ... and besides, driving mindfully is living mindfully.

Please read the Q&A session with Michele McDonald published in tricycle.
Tricycle, published by The Tricycle Foundation, is the leading journal of Buddhism in the West.
Acknowledgments are due to Tricycle. All rights reserved.

Saturday, July 23, 2011


Tinnitus is a physical condition experienced as noises or ringing in the ears or head when no such external physical noise is present. The condition is usually caused by a fault in the hearing system itself.

Tinnitus is a symptom, not a disease in itself, and it can result from a wide range of underlying causes.

At present there is no actual 'cure' for tinnitus. However, many of the causes of tinnitus are treatable.

Approximately 17 to 20 per cent of Australians suffer from some degree of tinnitus, varying from mild to severe. As regards the latter, the noise can vary in pitch from a low roar to a high squeal or whine, and it may be heard in one or both ears.

The majority of tinnitus sufferers use what may be referred to as the ‘direct’ approach, that is, they attempt to drive away the ringing in their ears. However, new research suggests that acknowledging (or, in mindfulness parlance, 'noting') the sensation and learning to live with it can help decrease suffering.

As I see it, this is just another one more example, or rather illustration, of the metaphysical or mental ‘law of indirectness’. That ‘law’ or principle says, ‘Don't attempt to put a thought or problem out of one's mind directly but rather let the problem slip from the sphere of conscious analysis.’ Don't try ... instead, let ... for we all know from experience that, 'Whatever we resist, persists.'

Easier said than done, of course, but it can be done ... with practice. Is persistence needed? Not in the sense of 'will-power.' (Actually there is no such thing as will-power. The will has no power in and of itself, but that's for another blog.) Here's another metaphysical law worth remembering ... 'Effort defeats itself.' Got the picture? So, forget about gritting your teeth and flexing your muscles, as though some form of mental toughness would achieve the desired result. No, the type of persistence needed for success, if that be the right word, takes the form of what has been described as an effortless effort ... in the form of an awareness, and 'noting', on an ongoing basis ... from one moment to the next.

Lead researcher Jennifer Gans (pictured right), an assistant professor at the University of California at San Francisco says a technique called 'mindfulness-based tinnitus reduction' helps people separate the ringing from the stress, anxiety and other negative emotions tinnitus often causes.

‘Instead of pushing it away, it's dealing with what it is and experiencing it as a body sensation without the fear and depression that's creating the suffering,’ says Gans.

Mindfulness-based tinnitus reduction is an adaptation or special application of mindfulness-based stress reduction, which previous studies have found to be effective in helping people deal with chronic pain and arthritis. The tinnitus version is specifically designed to deal with the symptoms of tinnitus.

For more information see this article from ABC News/Health ... as well as this YouTube video on using mindfulness in treating tinnitus:

Finally - This blog sets out a simple form of mindfulness sitting meditation.

Resource: Gans J J, 'Mindfulness-based tinnitus therapy is an approach with ancient roots', (2010) Hearing Journal, Nov 2010, v 63, issue 11, doi: 10.1097/01.HJ.0000390823.09995.f3



IMPORTANT NOTICE: See the Terms of Use and Disclaimer. The information provided on this blog is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your medical practitioner or other qualified health provider because of something you have read on this blog. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


There’s an old joke, ‘Women might be able to fake orgasms but men can fake whole relationships.’

Be that as it may, mindfulness meditation can assist in bringing women to orgasm according to Nicole Daedone (pictured right).

Daedone is an ardent San Francisco feminist and author of Slow Sex: The Art and Craft of the Female Orgasm. She claims that ‘in just 15 minutes, a woman can become orgasmic.’

So-called ‘slow sex’ uses meditation techniques like mindfulness and focusing on sensitivity and pleasure. It is not the same thing as Tantric sex with its promise of 'full body orgasm' ... whatever that is.

Like mindful yoga, position and awareness are extremely important ... although 'slow sex' appears to involve a couple of extra 'things' as well.

In the book Daedone offers detailed drawings and variations to accommodate same-sex partners. Good stuff.

She says she  learned about 'orgasmic meditation' after meeting a man at a California Zen centre who offered to demonstrate 'slow sex'. (For more on so-called 'Zen sex' see this book on the subject.)

After reading about Daedone's experience, I may have to revise my entire view on Zen ... or maybe I just haven't been to the 'right' Zen centres.

Anyway, orgasmic meditation or ‘Oming’ is a term coined by Daedone to signify a special type of sensory awareness. More specifically, it is a mindfulness practice in which the object of meditation is ... finger to genital contact.

I will stop there lest you or I get too excited.

For more information see this ABC News/Health article ... as well as this YouTube video ... and have fun!

IMPORTANT NOTICE: See the Terms of Use and Disclaimer. The information provided on this blogspot is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your medical practitioner or other qualified health provider because of something you have read on this blogspot. For immediate advice or support call Lifeline on 13 1 1 14 or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800. For information, advice and referral on mental illness contact the SANE Helpline on 1800 18 SANE (7263) go online via

Monday, July 18, 2011


Awareness – choiceless awareness – is an integral part of mindfulness, but mindfulness (sati) is not simply awareness (viññāna), but awareness of awareness. Yes, awareness of awareness .. a ‘two-dimensional awareness’.

The Pāli word sati literally means ‘memory’. The word sati comes from a root meaning ‘to remember’. So, mindfulness is ... remembering what is present ... remembering to stay present in the present moment from one moment to the next ... as well as remembering in the present moment what has already happened.

In other words, mindfulness is all about remembering the present ... that is, 'keeping' the present in mind. Put simply, mindfulness is remembering to be 'here' ... and to stay 'here' ... now.

In an interesting article cited at the end of this blog Dr Dan Siegel writes:

Mindful awareness entails more than sensing present experience as it generates an awareness of awareness and attention to intention [sic]. These fundamental aspects of mindfulness can be seen as forms of meta-cognition ...

There it is ... an ‘awareness of awareness’. Mindfulness remembers awareness ... as well as the object of awareness. The work of being mindful, of practising mindfulness, is the work of reminding ourselves, not just to be aware, but also that we are aware ... indeed, that we are already aware.

Many psychologists refer to this activity as being that of a so-called ‘witnessing self’ ... a special relationship of ‘self’ to ‘self’, whatever that means. I have trouble with the whole concept of ‘self’ my power-not-oneself is the power of ‘not-self’ (anattā) so I like to keep things simple. (Ha!) In any event, 'un-self-consciousness' (wu-hsin / mushin) or 'no-mindedness' is, for me, the 'holy grail' of all meditative practice – 'a state of wholeness in which the mind functions freely and easily, without the sensation of a second mind or ego standing over it with a club' (the immortal words of the ever-quotable Zen Buddhist Alan Watts).

Now, back to keeping things simple. First, there is the person who is aware. Secondly, there is the object of awareness. Thirdly, there is the act of being aware. It just so happens that the object of awareness can be awareness itself. Remember, it is the person who is doing the awareness ... not some supposed illusory ‘self’ or 'second mind' ... and mindfulness is all about the person that you are paying attention to that person ... and not to a 'self' ... within each unfolding moment and from one such moment to the next.

Yes, there are simply different ways of seeing. That is what the word vipassanā means. The word is composed of two parts vi, meaning ‘in various ways’, and passanā, meaning seeing. So, vipassanā means ‘seeing in various ways’ ... as well as seeing things as they really are.

Buddhist meditation teacher, and renowned authority on Vipassanā (insight meditation), Patrick Kearney has written:

Mindfulness, in other words, implies not just awareness, but reflexive awareness, awareness bending back to itself. Normally, we are aware. We don’t have to make any special effort to be aware; we are already aware. We see, hear, smell, taste, touch and think. Technically, we can say that it is the nature of mind to contact an object; to be aware of something. So far, so good. We are already aware. But are we aware that we are aware? And of what we are aware?

Have you ever had the experience of driving a car along familiar streets and suddenly realising you have no memory of the previous three blocks? Clearly, while driving through those city blocks you were aware, for otherwise you would now be dead or seriously injured. But did you know you were aware? Were you aware of your awareness? Or did this understanding occur only at that moment when you remembered you are now driving this car?

This is mind blowing stuff ... not so much what Kearney has written, which is illuminatingly profound in its own way, but the bit about mindfulness being awareness of awareness. Is there a ‘three-dimensional awareness’ ... an awareness of awareness of awareness? What about a ‘four-dimensional awareness’ ... an awareness of awareness of awareness of awareness? Stop, I’m feeling sick. It's all too much.

Resource: Siegel D J, Mindfulness training and neural integration: differentiation of distinct streams of awareness and the cultivation of well-being, Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci (2007) 2 (4): 259-263. doi: 10.1093/scan/nsm034


Saturday, July 16, 2011


Yesterday I celebrated Ullambana (Jpn Urabon-e Memorial Ceremony) at Shinnyo-en Buddhist Temple in Sydney. I was privileged to emcee the service.

Ullambana (also known as ‘the Ghost Festival’) is a popular festival celebrated by Buddhists in many different countries including India, China, Japan and Thailand.

On this day (the 15th day of the 7th month of the lunar calendar, that is, July 15) it is said that the ‘Gates of the Hell’ are opened and the dead souls pay visit to their loved ones. During this festival offerings are made to the spirits of the dead and to the so-called ‘hungry ghosts’.

Ullambana (‘deliverance from suffering’) is a festival of liberation. It also advocates and reinforces the concept of filial piety.

According to the Buddhist legend, the observance of this festival is based on the story of Moggallana (Jpn Mokuren), one of Shakyamuni Buddha’s ten great disciples, and his mother. Moggallana is said to have learned that his deceased father had been reborn into the celestial realm, but his mother had fallen into the path of hungry ghosts and was being hung upside down, suffering greatly.

The Buddha, to whom Moggallana appealed for help, advised Moggallana that he could not help his mother with his ‘feelings’ for her alone. He had to transfer merit to her by a special offering – a feast of 100 different flavours. Moggallana did exactly as he was told, and his mother was said to be reborn into the celestial realm.

Now, I interpret this beautiful story ‘spiritually’. I can now understand what this festival is all about since I read some lines from Thich Nhat Hanh. He wrote:

All of our ancestors and all future generations are present in us. Liberation is not an individual matter. As long as the ancestors in us are still suffering, we cannot be happy, and we will transmit that suffering to our children and their children.

Hanh goes on to say, ‘Now is the time to liberate our ancestors, and future generations, and free ourselves.’

Our ancestors, and all future generations, are part of our DNA ... and our psyche. Yes, as our ancestors ‘hide’ in our DNA, so do their life stories and experiences ... positive and negative ... hence the idea of family karma.

Perhaps your late grandfather suffered greatly from depression and alcoholism. We now know that there is a genetic predisposition to these, and many other, illnesses. Perhaps your grandfather is still ‘suffering’ in, and as, you, spiritually speaking ... or otherwise! Your life journey may well carry the life journey of your grandfather as well as the life journeys of other ancestors. This will affect your current life in various ways. Get the picture? Well, it makes sense to me ... and I see nothing supernatural or hocus-pocus in any of this.

All healing begins with self-healing. We need to take every opportunity we can to ‘deliver’ ourselves from suffering, not just for the sake of ourselves, and perhaps those who have gone before us, but also and most especially for the sake of our children and grandchildren. We need to ‘heal the family tree’ ... in us. Not all suffering we bring on ourselves. I think that sometimes we suffer on behalf and because of others who have gone before. It’s an interesting thought.

Friday, July 15, 2011


'Freedom lies in understanding yourself
from moment to moment.' - Bruce Lee.

For those as ‘old’ as myself, it doesn’t seem like 38 years since martial arts expert and actor Bruce Lee returned to the ‘universal source’.

I must confess I have never been a Bruce Lee fan, as such, although he is rightly feted as the first Oriental superstar. In my ignorance I had no idea that he was wise in matters spiritual as well as physical. Of course, the two are connected, especially in disciples such as the martial arts.

In recent times I have read some of Lee’s writings on Zen, mindfulness, choiceless awareness, ‘no-mindedness’ and other spiritual topics, and it is demonstrably clear that the man had read very widely ... and deeply. He is also rightly feted as a philosopher. (He had studied, among other subjects, both philosophy and psychology at the University of Washington but he majored in drama.)

Anyone who has ever read any Krishnamurti will immediately recognise his influence on Lee’s philosophy. Here are just a few pieces from Lee’s writings on matters pertaining to the art and science of mindfulness:

A concentrated mind is not an attentive mind, but a mind that is in the state of awareness can concentrate. Awareness is never exclusive, it includes everything.

A mind must be wide open to function freely in thought.

... Discard all thoughts of reward, all hopes of praise and fears of blame ...

In almost every blog I refer to the all-important concept of ‘choiceless awareness’. It is a very special type of perception. It is, in the words of Lee, ‘simply “pure seeing,” beyond subject and object, and therefore “no seeing”.’

Lee has much to say about choiceless awareness:

To understand and live now, there must be dying to everything of yesterday. Die continually to every newly gained experience – be in a state of choiceless awareness of what is.

Not conviction, not method, but perception is the way of truth. It is a state of effortless awareness, pliable awareness, choiceless awareness.

There is no condemnation, no demand for a pattern of action in understanding. You are merely observing – just look at it and watch it.

The perceiving mind is living, moving, full of energy, and only such a mind can understand what truth is.

Choiceless awareness: non-duality and reconciliation = TOTAL understanding. The choiceless awareness of a single and undivided mind.

Lee’s sound advice is to ‘just watch choicelessly’:

Be a calm beholder of what is happening around you.

There is an awareness without choice, without any demand, an awareness in which there is no anxiety; and in that state of mind there is perception. It is the perception alone that will resolve all our problems.

So, what, exactly, is ‘choiceless awareness’ – words which come straight from Krishnamurti?

Choiceless awareness – do not condemn, do not justify. Awareness works only if it’s allowed free play without interference.

To understand, surely, there must be a state of choiceless awareness in which there is no sense of comparison or condemnation, no waiting for a further development of the thing we are talking about in order to agree or disagree – don’t start from a conclusion above all.

Conclusions! Conclusions are beliefs. Beliefs are conclusions. A spiritually enlightened person doesn’t ‘believe’. Forget about belief-systems. Beliefs are for spiritual cripples ... for those who can’t, or won’t, think for themselves. Choose a religion or philosophy that doesn’t require you to believe anything. Life is truth, and life is forever open-ended. There are no final revelations. Listen to what Lee has to say:

An intelligent mind is an inquiring mind. It is not satisfied with explanations, with conclusions; nor is it a mind that believes. Because belief is again another form of conclusion.

We are always in a process of becoming and nothing is fixed. Have no rigid system in you, and you’ll be flexible to change with the ever changing.

If you are interested in reading more of Lee’s remarkable wisdom, a good starting point is the reasonably inexpensive, and ever so readable, book Striking Thoughts: Bruce Lee’s Wisdom for Daily Living, which is edited by John Little who is the world's foremost authority on the life and works of Bruce Lee.

Finally, here is a short YouTube video on Lee which I found idiosyncratically quaint:





Monday, July 11, 2011


Many Australians can enhance their lives simply by thinking more positively and mindfully, says the renowned international psychologist Professor Ellen J Langer (pictured left) who spoke at the University of Melbourne on 1 June 2011.

Professor Langer was the first woman ever to be tenured in psychology at Harvard University. She has studied the illusion of control, decision making, ageing and mindfulness theory and is the author of more than 200 research articles and 11 books, including Mindfulness and The Power of Mindful Learning. Her latest book is Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility.

The Australian Unity sponsored lecture, Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility, focused on Professor Langer’s research into the causes and consequences of mindlessness and discusses a mindfulness 'cure'.

Langer points out that most of our physical and psychological suffering is the direct or indirect result of mindlessness. She said her research can be summed up as ‘wherever you put the mind, the body will follow.’

‘Most of us are sealed in unlived lives and are unaware of the toll our mindlessness takes on our psychological and physical wellbeing. Our level of effectiveness and a person’s limits are of their own making,’ Professor Langer said.

Australian Unity is to be commended for sponsoring this lecture by one of the world's leading academic experts on the power of mindfulness.

To listen to the lecture select one of three links below:

[Source: Australian Unity media release 16/06/2011 12:00 AM]

Now, on the subject of mindful leadership, here is a link to a video presentation of Professor Langer speaking in Melbourne at the ADC Future Summit 2011 on mindful leadership.

Langer speaks about mindfulness and how uncertainty and awareness affect the quality of our decision-making.

The rationale behind the concept of ‘mindful leadership’ is very simple. If you want to lead others, and want the ‘perks’ of being a leader, then you are obligated to accept that you are under a ‘duty’ - yes, duty - to others to treat them with respect. You cannot do that unless, among other things, you make rationally humane decisions:

·     based on the ‘merits’ and special circumstances of the particular matter before you, and
·     with a ‘clear mind’, which is fully present in the moment, focused on the matter-at-hand, and free from the ‘baggage’ of the past (that is, free from conditioning, presumptions, assumptions, predilections, prejudices, etc) to the extent humanly possible.

I have some difficulties with Professor Langer's exposition of mindfulness, which, by her 'definition', is somewhat akin to creative thinking. Indeed, Langer is sometimes at pains to distinguish - somewhat disingenuously in my respectful opinion - her concept of mindfulness from the Eastern one. I could, and perhaps at some time in the near future will, do a whole blog on that particular matter.

Be that as it may, Langer is at her best when speaking and writing about the 'counterpart' of mindfulness, namely mindlessness. Also, I cannot fault Langer's references to mindfulness as 'the ability to always see things as new and open' [my emphasis]. Yes, a mind must be wide open in order to function freely in thought.

Also, Langer does not appear to disassociate herself from the characteristically Eastern truth that we are always in a state of becoming ... as opposed to being ... and that nothing is fixed. Thus, a mindful leader is careful to avoid rigid systems (especially 'belief-systems') and is adept at changing with the ever changing ... for, as well all know, the only 'constant' in life is change.

When speaking to business leaders and managers I often say, 'Forget about Management by Objectives (MBO). Instead, think in terms of Management by Mindfulness (MBM).' I wonder what Peter Drucker, if he were still alive today, would say about that? (I think I know.)

To download this second talk of Profesor Langer select one of three links below:


  (high data usage)

Download this talk

Flash Video (.flv): 157 MB
MP3 Audio (.mp3): 24 MB
MPEG Video (.m4v): 149 MB
(right-click > save)

[Source: ADC Future Summit 2011]