Thursday, September 29, 2016


The great Indian spiritual teacher J. Krishnamurti [pictured right] spoke a lot about mindfulness without hardly ever mentioning the word. Listen to these words from his wonderful book Freedom From the Known:

‘Attention is not the same thing as concentration. Concentration is exclusion; attention, which is total awareness, excludes nothing. It seems to me that most of us are not aware, not only of what we are talking about but of our environment, the colours around us, the people, the shape of the trees, the clouds, the movement of water.’ 

Concentration is fixed and focused in a particular moment. Mindfulness, on the other hand, is a moment-to-moment activity … from one moment to the next and then the next and then the next and so on. 

Of course, we all need to concentrate from time to time on what we are doing. For example, we may be trying to balance a set of accounts or solve a legal or similar problem. We certainly need to concentrate when we’re engaged in any such activity. However, we do not need to concentrate as such each and every second of each and every minute of each and every hour of each and every day. What we need to do is to be attentive and aware of what’s happening in and around us.

A concentrated mind is anything but an attentive and aware mind. The concentrated mind excludes everything other than that the subject of your concentration. Awareness, on the other hand, is never exclusive. It is inclusive, universal and all-encompassing. Mindfulness — that is, bare (that is, diffused and unconcentrated) attention and choiceless (that is, non-judgmental and non-interpretative) awareness — is the direct, immediate and unmediated perception of ‘what is’ … as it actually happens from one moment to the next!

When we concentrate on something, we are totally blind, that is, inattentive, to all other things. Those other things quickly become the past without our ever having experienced them. Don’t let reality — that is, what happens from one moment to the next — die on you. Don’t experience it as a past event. Otherwise, you will instantly lose the immediacy, directness and actuality of the experience.

The Buddha advised us to observe and watch closely ... that is, mindfully ... whatever is occurring in time and space in the here-and-now, in the moment, from one moment to the next. Not only watch, but the Buddha went on to say, ‘and firmly and steadily pierce it.’

So, my friends, pierce the reality of each here-and-now moment-to-moment experience. Be attentive and aware. Only then can you say you are alive and no longer living in the past. Only then can you truly say you are living mindfully.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016


Mindfulness and other forms of meditation can assist in the relief and management of post-operative pain.

In a study at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, a neurosurgeon has teamed up with a geriatrician who leads meditation classes to test whether the technique can lessen pain in spine-surgery patients and reduce the need for painkillers. 

The randomized trial trains patients in a simple form of meditation and asks them to practise it starting two weeks before their surgery and for six weeks after, using audiotapes to guide them. Dr David Langer [pictured], chairman of neurosurgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, says meditation can help reduce anxiety and stress, which can make pain worse. In other words, meditation helps to break the pain-tension cycle.

Meditation has previously been found to benefit patients with a host of medical and psychological issues. The study, published in 2011 in the Journal of Neuroscience, involved 15 people who were subjected to pain using heated probes. The researchers used an MRI to scan the brains of the volunteers and found that pain intensity was 40 per cent less when they practised meditation than when they didn’t. This 2011 study helped inspire the current study at Mount Sinai on postsurgical pain in spine patients. Since the 2011 study there has been more research carried out by the same team of researchers, including a 2015 study that found benefits from mindfulness meditation.

We know that meditation actually changes the way the mind perceives pain so that it becomes more bearable. Mindfulness works by helping the patient to regulate their response to pain; the patient learns to acknowledge and accept the pain as opposed to trying to fight it. It’s the old story: what we resist, persists. It’s all about practising the art of non-resistance.

Image sourcePhysiopedia

For those suffering from chronic pain -- and not just post-operative pain -- here are some suggestions I and others have found helpful over the years:

ONE. When you first feel a sensation of pain, avoid the temptation to react to it by resisting it or trying to make it go away.
TWO. Observe the pain. Just observe it. Notice it. Acknowledge its existence. Say to yourself, interiorly and slowly, ‘There is pain.’ (Never say, 'I am in pain.' Never attach the 'I' of you -- the person that you are -- to anything.)
THREE. Now turn the focus of your attention to the pain you feel. Visualise the pain. Is it ‘large’, ‘medium’ or ‘small’? What is its ‘length’, ‘width’ and ‘shape’? What is its ‘colour’?
FOUR. Note the intensity of the pain. Is it ‘very hot’, ‘hot’ or just ‘lukewarm’?
FIVE. Having observed and noted the pain, simply let your pain be there. Don't hold on to it or try to push it away. Say to yourself, interiorly and slowly, ‘It is what it is.’ Let it be.
SIX. Then gently bring the focus of your attention to your breathing. Observe your in-breath and out-breath. Take several deep but slow and steady cleansing breaths. Be mindful of your breathing.
SEVEN. Now turn your mind inwards and proceed to let go of thoughts, feelings, images and sensations. Be fully engaged in the present moment, from one moment to the next. Focus your awareness only on your in-breath and out-breath. Let everything else drop away.
EIGHT. Relax.

The Indian spiritual teacher J. Krishnamurti would say, ‘On the acknowledgement of what is there is the cessation of all conflict.’ Yes, it is simply amazing – well, not that amazing, really – how merely acknowledging what is can result in the cessation of conflict, that is, struggle, resistance, conflict and turmoil ... and even the experience of pain itself.

Acceptance is not about giving up or giving in. It’s about acknowledging what is and not fighting or resisting it. When you start practising the art of non-resistance, you begin to break the pain cycle.

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. In Australia, for immediate advice or support call Lifeline on 13 1 1 14, beyondblue on 1300 22 4636, or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, and for information, advice and referral on mental illness contact the SANE Helpline on 1800 18 SANE (7263) or go online via In other countries, call the relevant mental health care emergency hotline or simply dial your emergency assistance telephone number and ask for help.

Friday, September 2, 2016


Words have power – for better or for worse – and ideas have even greater power. An idea that expresses an eternal, metaphysical truth is the most powerful thing in the world. Here are five empowering ideas that have made a huge difference in my own life. They have lifted me out of the depths of despair and helped turn my life around.

1.    You are be-ing

Life is be-ingness actualized. Life forever gives of itself to itself so as to create more life in one form or another. Forms constantly change. No form is permanent. Every form will pass away, but the essence of life is formless and eternal. Yes, the life that takes shape in one form or another can never be destroyed. You are life itself--a unique individualization and expression of life. Yes, you are part of life’s self-expression, and life cannot other than be. You are be-ing – and you are also be-coming. You are always in a state of becoming. Change is the essence of both be-ing and be-coming. This means that you are constantly changing, whether for the better or for the worse. Once you fully understand this metaphysical truth, you are ready to take charge of your life.

2.    You are consciousness

Each one of us is an inlet and an outlet of consciousness, that is, awareness. Life is consciousness and we are life itself. Listen to these wonderful words of the spiritual teacher Papaji (Sri H W L Poonja): ‘You are the unchangeable Awareness in which all activity takes place. You are eternal Being, unbounded and undivided.’ Because you are be-ing and awareness, you have the powers of thought and observation. There is a time to think and, yes, there is a time to simply observe … choicelessly. Listen to these words of another great spiritual teacher J. Krishnamurti [pictured left]:

'I wonder if you have ever walked along a crowded street, or a lonely road, and just looked at things without thought? There is a state of observation without the interference of thought. Though you are aware of everything about you, and you recognize the person, the mountain, the tree, or the oncoming car, yet the mind is not functioning in the usual pattern of thought. I don't know if this has ever happened to you. Do try it sometime when you are driving or walking. Just look without thought; observe without the reaction which breeds thought. Though you recognize color and form, though you see the stream, the car, the goat, the bus, there is no reaction, but merely negative observation; and that very state of so-called negative observation is action. Such a mind can utilize knowledge in carrying out what it has to do, but it is free of thought in the sense that it is not functioning in terms of reaction. With such a mind, a mind that is attentive without reaction, you can go to the office, and all the rest of it.'

There will always be a time for rational, critical thought, analysis, judgment and interpretation but if you do these things every second of the day, you will end up with analysis paralysis. Learn the art of choiceless awareness. Look. Observe. Be attentive. Be aware. That is what mindfulness is all about.

3.    You are what you think

No, I am not contradicting myself. As I have said, we need to think. This is the first verse of The Dhammapada according to one famous English translation: ‘Our life is shaped by our mind, for we become what we think.’ The same idea is expressed in the Hebrew Bible: ‘Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts’ (Prov 4:23); ‘For as a person thinks in their heart, so are they’ (Prov 23:7).

As we are consciousness, we must watch our thoughts. Are our thoughts positive or negative? Positive thinking has its detractors these days but I have never seen any benefits in negative thinking. Positive thinking is good for the mind and the body. Positive thinking releases life-affirming, healing chemicals into the brain and the body. Negative thinking releases life-destroying, malignant chemicals into the brain and the body. It’s clear which one is better for us. Of course, we must be realistic thinkers. We need to always see things-as-they-really-are. The true positive thinker sees things-as-they-really-are but refuses to be deflected, let alone overwhelmed, by that which is negative. The true positive thinker never dwells on those things. 

So, in the words of Plato, ‘Take charge of your thoughts; you can do what you will with them.’

4.    You cannot change yourself

Really? Now, you are contradicting yourself, Ellis-Jones! No, I am not. It is simply the case that the ‘I’ of you cannot change the ‘me’ of you. One of my all-time favourite spiritual teachers Alan Watts [pictured right], in his book The Wisdom of Insecurity, has this to say about the wrong way to embark upon self-improvement:

‘I can only think seriously of trying to live up to an ideal, to improve myself, if I am split in two pieces. There must be a good ‘I’ who is going to improve the bad ‘me.’ ‘I,’ who has the best intentions, will go to work on wayward ‘me,’ and the tussle between the two will very much stress the difference between them. Consequently ‘I’ will feel more separate than ever, and so merely increase the lonely and cut-off feelings which make ‘me’ behave so badly.’

The reason the good ‘I’ can’t change the bad ‘I’ is because they are one and the same and they exist only as self-images in our mind. Yes, all the 'I's' and 'me's' in your mind are brought about by thought, and they have no separate, independent reality in and of themselves. They appear to be 'solid,' 'fixed,' and 'permanent,' but they are not. They are, the product of thought which divides itself.

However, you, the person that you are, can change. First, you, the person, must want -- really want -- to change. Secondly, you, the person, must do what is necessary and appropriate for a person in your situation to change. The power to change is within, but it is always a ‘power-not-oneself’. Self has no power. The ‘I’ of you can never change the ‘me’ of you. Never forget that. Never.

5.     Acceptance is the answer to all your problems

‘On the acknowledgement of what is there is the cessation of all conflict,’ said J. Krishnamurti. Yes, acceptance -- that is, acknowledging what is -- is the answer to all your problems. Now, I am not saying that we should simply give in. No, not at all. However, before we can change we must first accept the reality of what is. Alcoholics cannot recover from their disease until they first accept that they are alcoholics. There’s more, though. Krishnamurti has stated a metaphysical truth of supreme importance, namely, that once we acknowledge what is, conflict in the form of resistance and the like comes to an immediate end. We must surrender in order to gain victory.

There are many other empowering ideas that can change your life. Many of these I have explored and discussed in other posts over the years -- ideas such as the law of indirectness (don't attempt to put a thought or problem out of your mind directly but rather let the problem slip from the sphere of conscious analysis’), the principle of non-resistance (what you resist, persists), truth is a pathless land (we are always in direct and immediate contact with truth, so there is no separation or distance between us and truth), and truth is a moment-to-moment experience (truth is dynamic, not static).

I love empowering ideas. As Victor Hugo said, ‘Nothing is stronger than an idea whose time has come.’

All power to you!