Invisible sounds

While it’s clear that external silence can have tangible benefits, scientists are discovering that under the hoods of our skulls “there isn’t really such a thing as silence,” says Robert Zatorre, an expert on the neurology of sound. “In the absence of sound, the brain often tends to produce internal representations of sound.”

Imagine, for example, you’re listening to Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence,” when the radio abruptly cuts out. Neurologists have found that if you know the song well, your brain’s auditory cortex remains active, as if the music is still playing. “What you’re ‘hearing’ is not being generated by the outside world,” says David Kraemer, who’s conducted these types of experiments in his Dartmouth College laboratory. “You’re retrieving a memory.” Sounds aren’t always responsible for sensations—sometimes our subjective sensations are responsible for the illusion of sound.

This is a reminder of the brain’s imaginative power: On the blank sensory slate of silence, the mind can conduct its own symphonies. But it’s also a reminder that even in the absence of a sensory input like sound, the brain remains active and dynamic.

Daniel A. Gross

In the center of yourself

The overall point, for Salzberg, is taking meditation out of the realm of colorful pillows and flowing clothing, and putting it squarely into the middle of the working day as a vital and practical tool.

“If you’re at work and there’s a contentious meeting going on and tempers are starting to flare, you don’t have to open up the closet and pull out all this equipment, sit down cross-legged, light the incense and look weird,”

she reassures leery business owners.

You just need to settle your attention on your breath. No one even knows you’re doing it, so it’s very personal. It’s very independent.”

Jessica Stillman

Without words

With every act of breathing, the abdomen rises and falls, which movement is always evident. This is the material quality known as vayodhatu (the element of motion). One should begin by noting this movement, which may be done by the mind intently observing the abdomen. You will find the abdomen rising when you breathe in, and falling when you breathe out. The rising should be noted mentally as `rising’, and the falling as `falling’. If the movement is not evident by just noting it mentally, keep touching the abdomen with the palm of your hand. Do not alter the manner of your breathing. Neither slow it down, nor make it faster. Do not breathe too vigorously, either. You will tire if you change the manner of your breathing. Breathe steadily as usual and note the rising and falling of the abdomen as they occur. Note it mentally, not verbally.

Mahasi Sayadaw

The mind of the tool

… We don’t practice mindfulness for the sake of practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness isn’t an end in itself. It’s a tool. There are a few times we want to be open to everything that’s arising — for example in meditation — but that’s quite rare, and done as a form of training. Generally, you need to bear in mind what you’re actually doing (this is called sampajañña) and then pay attention to a set of experiences connected with that task (this is called sati).



Panorama 5872 to 5874Image by Richard Droker on flickr

This task was not small. Every place has a deep-seated culture as to how things are done. ‘Culture is the sum total of shared habits and expectations,’ [Bill] Thomas told me. As he saw it, habits and expectations had made institutional routines and safety greater priorities than living a good life, and had prevented the nursing home from successfully bringing in even one dog to live with the residents. He wanted to bring in enough animals, plants and children to make them a regular part of every nursing home resident’s life. Inevitably the settled routines of the staff would be disrupted, but then wasn’t that part of the aim?

‘Culture has tremendous inertia,’ he said. ‘That’s why it’s culture. It works because it lasts. Culture strangles innovation in the crib.’

To combat the inertia, he decided they should go up against the resistance directly – ‘hit it hard,’ Thomas said. He called it the Big Bang. They wouldn’t bring a dog or a cat or a bird and wait to see how everyone responded. They’d bring all the animals in more or less at once.

Atul Gawande


Calatrava.spadesImage by Josef Stuefer in flickr

Emotions too have grooves. As with mental grooves, emotional ones are also like well-worn paths. We cycle the same emotions over and over. We’re on a hamster wheel of thoughts. Thoughts and emotions feed each other.

We live within stories we’ve created and some we’ve inherited. Stories are important. They give us a sense of place, belonging and continuity. They can also restrict and limit.

Stories can be rewritten.

But before that’s possible emotions have to be understood. First, they have a magnetic quality which means similar emotions clump together. Emotions can self-attract within a person or from person to person. That’s why a family, group of people, a community or a habitat can have certain emotional tones.

Pamir Kiciman


Existentialism may provide a viewpoint for some people that amounts to an advance, a deepening or broadening; but for others it may amount to limitation and error. When viewpoints are released, the wisdom that is unveiled is much more profound and much more responsive than any philosophy. Ultimately, viewpoints and ‘isms’ have to be let go of completely.

The meditative worldview is not cobbled together with ideas and arguments, but is seen directly, or rather reflected directly with the clear mind — the mind that is free from dependency on any view, any concept.

If you are studying within a tradition, and that tradition provides a view, you should strive to fulfill that view. But ultimately you shouldn’t hold or make anything. Even just saying ‘universe’ is a mistake.

TheHeartOfTuxes in Reddit