A Walk on the Mindful Side

Tomorrow I am planning to take a “mindful” walk with a few students in my Introduction to Mindfulness class here in Palm Coast, Florida.

The thought occurred to me how interesting it is that we have to reteach ourselves how to connect with what simply is. We have become so lost over the years that we are not even aware just how unaware we are of the state of just being. The trees, the flowers, the sounds, the feel of the warm breeze, or cool breeze on our skin, the surrounding sounds of nature or man-made, are all just in a state of being. They don’t need commentary, judgment, or drama attached to them as we observe through our senses.

So, that is what we will practice together on our stroll tomorrow. We have the great fortune to have the permission to stroll on the grounds of a heavenly retreat area called Sleepy Hollow, where we will encounter horses, a butterfly garden, a pond, and other lovely places to experience along our stroll in this idyllic setting. However, one can enjoy a mindful walk in any place and at any time. This especially lovely setting is just a bonus for our class meeting.

Above are a few images of little cards that I will hand out before we begin our walk, courtesy of http://www.headspace.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Little Gap With Big Possibilities

Have you ever read something that you connected with in an eerie sort of way? This has happened to me on various occasions throughout my life. I recall one such occasion when I first encountered Albert Camus’ Myth of Sisyphus back in my senior year in high school.

We had a substitute teacher who came in to take over the second half of the school year. Up until that point in my life, I had never encountered any formal introduction to philosophy, or any literary works that explored philosophical issues.

Our substitute teacher in question, Mrs. Bucarelli, introduced us to the philosophical notion of the absurd, and fictional literary works that represent its presence in fictional work: The Myth of Sisyphus, and The Stranger, by Albert Camus were the two works that we were assigned to read in connection with the topic at hand. The two works are a good introduction to the concept of the absurd, as twentieth century authors and philosophers such as Camus and his contemporary, Jean Paul Sartre, explored it.

The Myth of Sisyphus depicts a man, Sisyphus, who is condemned to all eternity to push a heavy rock up a hill, all the while knowing that his efforts will only result in the boulder rolling back down to its point of origin where the hero must begin his efforts all over again.  The idea is that life is absurd, pointless, and yet we are condemned to try to live it, despite the inherent senselessness of it all.

My teacher noticed how easily I understood the concept of the absurd as presented in the two works in question. I myself did not think much of my innate understanding at the time. It was a no brainer type of thing, as easy as knowing that the sun rises each morning.  Fortunately, this deep understanding of the absurd at such a young age did not traumatize me, perhaps because I somehow suspected that Camus’ explanation stopped short of something.

The little something that we did not consider in our exploration of Sisyphus’ fate was the little gap at the bottom of the hill. It’s a gap of repose, of stillness, that exists before he recommences his efforts to push the boulder back up the hill, and before the rock rolls back down to its point of origin.

Now I liken that little gap to the stillness that exists within all of us in between the busy moments of our lives. It’s the part that often goes completely unnoticed, has become completely overshadowed by all of our efforts, our resistance to what is, our incessant stream of thoughts, and our information overload in the world we live in.

So, when I pause today to consider this work that I first encountered so long ago, I like to especially consider the little moment that went unappreciated by Sisyphus and perhaps by many of its readers. The little gap in the efforts of Sisyphus offers a glimmer of hope, a place of resuscitation, a doorway, which offers an opening to a place of infinite possibilities. Taking notice of the little space between all of the efforts made by Sisyphus at the bottom of the hill is the beginning point for further exploration of the freedom that exists within that space.

Wait a Minute: That’s Not Trash!

I taped a little fortune cookie to my refrigerator a few weeks ago. It says All that we are arises with our thoughts. In some parts of the world, this expression has been common knowledge for quite some time.

Modern Western science, as we know it today, has been around since the 17th century. It’s based on empirical, or measurable evidence that must conform to specific principles of reasoning known as the scientific method.

Until fairly recently, Western science has dismissed about 95-99% of all human DNA. The assumption was that the 1-5% of human DNA used in the coding of the proteins and enzymes that make up our physical bodies was the “important stuff,” and that the remaining DNA was useless. It was just plain old “junk.” Thus, it became known as junk DNA.

However, since the earlier part of the 20th century, there has been a steadfast, and now increasingly mainstream scientific community interested in the mind-body connection. Einstein and some of his contemporary colleagues paved the way for with their scientific breakthroughs in the realms of physics. As Brendan D. Murphy points out in his 2015 article, Junk DNA: Your Hyperdimensional Doorway to Transformation, their research offered a foundation with a “…microbiological framework for understanding the power of suggestion, intention, and belief …” In his article, Murphy  goes on to highlight some important research that has been done in the field since the 1980’s.

In the 1990’s, for example, the Russian group known as the Gariaev  Group, pioneered research involving DNA and structures found within languages. This groundbreaking research found that human speech patterns mimic non-coding DNA. sequences. Further, The Gariaev Group’s connects their findings involving DNA and language to explanations about why things such as hypnosis, affirmations, and autogenous training can have very powerful effects on humans (Murphy, 2015).

Then, thanks to the Gariaev group’s pioneering research in the field, scientists have had solid ground to continue exploration of the connections between “junk” DNA and human consciousness. For example, today we now know that we can re-code certain portions of our genome by activating some of our mobile DNA, thus transforming ourselves on a fundamental biological level (Murphy, 2015).

Further, the work of scientists Gennady Shipov and Burkhard Heim in the area of Torsion Field began to appear after about 2008. The theory suggests that the “soul” is, in fact, a vortex of sorts, a torsion field, existing in the vacuum of space, from which the material world was born.

The work of Cell biologist Dr. Glen Rein began to appear around the same time as that of Shipov and Heim. His research shows emotions such as anger, fear and similar emotions have the power to contract a DNA molecule, compressing it. On the other hand, emotions such as joy, gratitude and love unwind or decompress DNA exposed to them.

There is certainly abundant, additional fascinating scientific research that has been done or that is being done in the field of DNA and consciousness. Sifting through scientific jargon can be fun and rewarding, albeit time consuming. Still, there is a handy short cut to understanding all of this, and it can pop up in profound and simple little statements found in things like fortune cookies and the like. It can go something like this: All that we are arises with our thoughts.

 

References

Brendan D. Murphy. Nov. 2, 2015. Junk DNA: Your Hyperdimensional Doorway to Transformation. Retrieved from http://www.theeventchronicle.com/category/metaphysics/

Instant Dissolve

Robert Frost’s Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening is just one of those poems that does something special for me: It takes me there, where I need to go, where I want to go. It brings me back, takes me home. How else can I put it?

I could never quite get it, really, just why I have for so long loved revisiting this poem. I especially love hearing it read aloud. During one period of my life, I would often ask someone close to me to “please read it again, pretty please.” He always graciously acquiesced:

Whose woods these are I think I know.   

His house is in the village though;   

He will not see me stopping here   

To watch his woods fill up with snow.   

 

My little horse must think it queer   

To stop without a farmhouse near   

Between the woods and frozen lake   

The darkest evening of the year.   

 

He gives his harness bells a shake   

To ask if there is some mistake.   

The only other sound’s the sweep   

Of easy wind and downy flake.   

 

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   

But I have promises to keep,   

And miles to go before I sleep,   

And miles to go before I sleep.

Ahhh, like taking a deep, conscious breath to reconnect with your source. The magical thing about this type of experience, though, is that in the moment that we connect with the artist’s creation, we connect as well with the artist him or herself, who has gleaned something much deeper and shared it with us. Double magic.

Thanks, Robert Frost.

 

Imposing Order Can Also Mean More Freedom

One of the things that we learn about in Library School is how important controlled vocabularies are. Not every student loves the cataloging class, but we all have to take one as part of the core coursework. Learning about the importance of controlled vocabularies and the role that they play in the creation and retrieval of information is key to the world of library and information science.

One of the introductory exercises that we perform as students in cataloging classes inevitably involves comparing searches using library catalogs with those using a search engine such as Google. The results inevitably reveal that searches using library catalogs most often contain fewer “hits” and that they are more likely to match what our search intentions are in the first place. Search engines, on the other hand, while they might return results that can guide us to information sources that we wish to discover, most often point us towards a plethora of many other resources which can often be completely unrelated to the search that we in fact have in mind.

So, why are the results returned in a Google search so different from those in a library catalog? Well, now I will get back to my original thoughts posted in this blog entry and talk a bit more about the idea of control. The reason for the difference in the results of the two types of searches comes down to a matter of imposed structure, in other words, control. In the world of library and information science, metadata about objects/items exist in the form of records that involve the use of things like the use of controlled vocabularies, thesauri, and ISO’s. There are rules that should be adhered to when creating metadata for the purposes of information retrieval. Without structure either embedded within them, or linked to them via metadata records, documents existing on the Internet are mere blocks of text, all alone in a big cyber world, with no way to connect to would-be information consumers. 

Although there exist lots and lots of unstructured documents on the Internet, there are many efforts underway which do impose order on the chaotic world of the Web. One such effort, among many, is that of Wikimedia and its various projects. One example of Wikimedia projects is called Wikidata.

If you are interested in familiarizing yourself a bit with what Wikimedia is doing with its Wikidata project, click on the link provided for their address, scroll to the section entitled Contribute, and click on List of Properties Used in Wikidata Entries. Scroll down and notice a variety of “entities”. In this case, the entities that Wikidata wishes to narrow down happen to be very, very basic things such as person, place, organization, etc.  Next click on, for example, the tab labeled Person and note a table that lists various things/characteristics listed in table format that Wikidata lists as properties about a person, along with recommended data types (i.e. strings, items, etc.) that one should use when describing various characteristics about a person. All of these recommendations represent an attempt to impose structure on those creating and contributing documents to the Internet.

What is the point of all of this control? Isn’t the Web supposed to be a savage place, wildly free, and without restriction? The point is that without some control, it would be (mostly) impossible to harness the power of the never-ending flow of information that is added to the Internet. In a nutshell, structure allows algorithms to extract information embedded within documents, as well as harvest information that exists in metadata repositories. Without some control/standardization, it would not be possible for organizations to harvest and share information as they do, nor would it be possible for algorithms to “interpret” data in such a way as to increase the dissemination and retrieval of information.

Who’s That Dog?

Image

WikiLeaks, the Snowden saga, international phone-hacking scandals; what’s next? Well, if you want to snoop around and learn more about the metadata related to pictures you find on the web, simply download and/or make use of one of the many free apps on the Internet.  To access the metadata connected to the picture of this (sometimes) friendly mutt, I added an extension to my Google Chrome browser, found at https://chrome.google.com/webstore/category/apps. Type in the letters EXIF and click on the download button in order to access the app. Once you are viewing an image within a page while using Google Chrome, right click on your image and choose Show EXCIF data in order to view the metadata information available for the image.