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Archive for the ‘Zen Buddhism’ Category

Here’s How to Meditate With Your Eyes Open – The Good Men Project

Posted: April 26, 2020 at 4:46 am

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I forgot to tell you the basics of Zazen, said the monk as we walked into the ritual room of a small Zen Buddhist temple in Tokyo, sit in lotus on the cushion, spine straight, eyes open, gazing down and ahead of you. Keep my eyes open? I asked curiously. Id never done that before except for moving meditations. Yes, replied the monk. You will face the wall. Keep your eyes relaxed but open.

After that, I sat all day practicing the Zazen technique used in Zen Buddhism for the first time. And I struggled. I wanted to go back to my familiar practice of eyed closed that I had done for thousands of hours.

. . .

Sharing my story with a friend frustrated with the lack of progress in her own meditation practice, I hoped to explain how we all face challenges. But she connected with something else I had said,

Wait, She jumped in, you can meditate with your eyes open? I should try that. Whenever I close my eyes, the darkness overwhelms me and I get kind of weirded out.

Many people tell me they fall asleep when they try to meditate. If that happens, you should probably just sleep because your body needs rest. But I hadnt considered some may fight with keeping their eyes closed.

If you want to meditate but you simply dont want to meditate with your eyes closed no problem.

Open eyes may seem in conflict with the normal practice of meditation, but actually, they are more common.

Most Buddhist traditions in Tibet and Japan never close their eyes. They teach to half-close your eye, relax and look downward. But new meditators often get confused, so teachers say to close your eyes because straining to keep them open or frequently blinking distracts you.

We live life with our eyes open. Practicing meditation with eyes open teaches you to find peace when in the same conditions as life. Learn how to find peace from the thousands of thoughts your mind processes without having to block out all visual inputs.

We want the presence of open-eyed meditation without being carried away by mind-wandering or distractions. So remember to bring your mind back when it wanders. And try to narrow your field of vision to something plain and simple.

Dont hold yourself back from trying open-eye meditation because you think it inferior. That is not true. Both have a place in your meditation practice and journey. Do what works and feels good for you.

. . .

Every moment during your day presents an opportunity to practice open eye meditation, and you can do it for as short as 1 second. So try out some different techniques and dont let closed eyes hold you back from experiencing peace of mind.

This post was previously published on Change Becomes You and is republished here with permission from the author.


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Japanese culture from Tokyo. Spiritual growth from experimenting. Future musings from tech startup. Learning peoples stories around the world.

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Here's How to Meditate With Your Eyes Open - The Good Men Project

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April 26th, 2020 at 4:46 am

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Mini Japanese tea ceremony experience coming to Tokyo cafe – Japan Today

Posted: March 22, 2020 at 9:49 pm

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Tea is a beverage appreciated around the world, but Japan is country that really has that appreciation down to an art. Their famed tea ceremonies, influenced by Zen Buddhism, are a traditional activity which turns every step of the preparation and serving of tea into an occasion.

Those who are interested in Japanese tea ceremony, but dont have several hours to put aside for it (yes, they can last that long... more formal tea gatherings can even last up to four hours!), can experience a mini version of the cultural activity at Tokyos Cafe & Dining ZelkovA.

This limited time only tea set may not be as momentous as an actual tea ceremony, but its certainly a casual way to get a little taste of it.

Customers can pour their own hot water out of a Nanbu Tekki cast iron teapot, then use a chasen bamboo whisk to mix their matcha powder into a thick and frothy perfection. The tea provided is Uji matcha and Uji is a famous area in Kyoto known for their high quality tea leaves.

That same fragrant Uji matcha can be found in the accompanying matcha tiramisu. The set also comes with an assortment of seasonal fruit, shiratama, adzuki beans and Okinawan brown sugar syrup.

Cafe & Dining ZelkovA can be found on the first floor of The Strings Omotesando, and the Japanese Tea Set (2,600 yen) can be ordered until July 2.

Source: PR Times

Read more stories from grape Japan.

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Mini Japanese tea ceremony experience coming to Tokyo cafe - Japan Today

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March 22nd, 2020 at 9:49 pm

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Richard Gere: Net Worth, Life and Career of the Famous Actor – Daily Hawker

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Richard Tiffany Gere, popularly known as Richard Gere is a famous American actor and producer. Richard Gere began his movie career in the 1970s with roles in movies like Looking for Mr. Goodbar and Days of Heaven. Richard Gere rose to fame after his role in the 1980 hit film American Gigolo. The role established Richard Gere as a leading man of Hollywood and a global sex symbol. He played notable roles in movies like Primal Fear, Pretty Woman and Chicago, even winning the Golden Globe as a part of the cast of Chicago. As of 2020, Richard Geres net worth is $120 million.

Richard Geres net worth as of 2020 is around $120 million.

Richard Gere has made most of his money through his long and successful career as an American actor. Aside from his career as an actor, Richard Gere has also earned a significant amount of money through his endorsement deals and other lucrative arrangements. Till date, he has promoted and endorsed Marigold Hotel, Hallmark movie, Norman, Fiat, Meals on Wheels, DirectTV and many more.

Reportedly, more than half of Richard Geres net worth is a result of his personal investments. Although he has invested in many profit-making companies, he has not revealed his million dollars investments details.

An anonymous source reported that he earns approximately $85.3 million profit from his investments and savings.

Gere is popular for his roles in movies and TV series including Pretty Woman, an Office and a Gentleman. He debuted in the entertainment industry in 1973 through the movie Chelsea D.H.O.

After that, he appeared in almost 60 movies and TV series including Chicago, Hachi: A Dogs Tale, Pretty Woman, American Gigolo, Shall We Dance, The Jackal, Unfaithful and many more.

As of his recent projects, he has been involved in movies and TV series including MotherFatherSon, and Three Christs.

For his outstanding performances and skills, he has been awarded prestigious awards like Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild Award, Career Achievement Award, Lifetime Achievement Award, and many more. SO far in his career, he has been nominated for 27 different awards and has won 24.

Furthermore, he was selected as the 2006 Man of the Year and Sexiest Man Alive by People magazine in 1999.

He was interested in Buddhism since the 20s. He learned Zen Buddhism for five to six years under Kyozan Joshu Sasaki. As the Buddhist quote goes, Live simply, give much. Do as you would be done by. Richard Gere is actively involved in several charities as well.

He supported various charitable companies including Dalai Lama Foundation, American Foundation for AIDS Research, Gere Foundation, Robert F Kennedy Memorial, Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, Meals On Wheels and many more.

Moreover, he endorsed Hillary Clinton in her 2016 presidential campaign and donated for it.

Currently, Richard Gere resides in a $2 million mansion in the Hamptons. He stayed in a much bigger house before but sold it for $36.5 million.

Actually, the mansion was initially listed for sale at $65 million which was later lowered to $56 million. It ended up selling for $36.5 million. Richard Gere had nicknamed his house Strongheart Manor.

Moreover, a source reported that he owns real estate property of around $12.8 million based on current market rates.

Richard Gere has a wonderful collection of luxury cars from manufacturers such as Rolls Royce, Mercedes Benz, Jaguar and Ford. His car collection is valued at $3.2 million.

Well, there is no information about his tax payments but he surely needs to pay bulk as his in income taxes, property taxes and other taxes due to his high earnings. He may have a million dollars insurance plans but the details are not out.

Richard Tiffany Gere was born on 31 August 1949 under the sun sign Virgo.

Gere was raised alongside his siblings; brothers David Gere, Henry Januszewski, and sisters Joanne Gere, Laura Gere, and Susan Gere.

Coming to his personal life, Richard Gere is a married man. Gere married Alejandra SIlva in April 2018. So far, the couple has had a smooth married life.

The couple have a son together. His name is Alexander.

Prior to his current wife, Richard Gere was married to Carey Lowell for 14 years. Gere and Lowell dated for a year before marrying in 2002.

Due to some internal conflict, the estranged couple divorced on 18 October 2016. They have a child together named Homer James Jigme Gere.

Richard Gere was married to famous supermodel Cindy Crawford from December 12th, 1991 to December 1st, 1995.

Im voting for Gore because the other is unthinkable. Which most of us will probably do. I hope all of us. Ive always liked Ralph Nader and would like to see a real third party, but the thought of George Bush as president is unthinkable.

My first encounter with Buddhist dharma would be in my early 20s. Like most young men, I was not particularly happy.

The Dalai Lama said that he thinks mothers love is the best symbol for love and compassion, because it is totally disinterested.

When His Holiness won the Nobel Peace Prize, there was a quantum leap. He is not seen as solely a Tibetan anymore; he belongs to the world.

From a Buddhist point of view, emotions are not real. As an actor, I manufacture emotions. Theyre a sense of play. But real life is the same. Were just not aware of it.

Well I think on a simple ecological level that the diversity of this planet is important for our survival, that all of our different cultures, people are important to the health of the whole the same way that a species of animal should be saved and at a simple ecology level.

Its nice to have money, but the first thing I did with money was buy my father a snow-blower, because my job was to shovel snow, and I wasnt there to do it any more, so I was able to buy him a blower.

I think most of our religious institutions are pretty corrupt, so theyre not reliable. I think the Christian religion that I was brought up with has very little to do with Christ, really, and more with the institutions that have built up around the church.

I meet human beings who are flawed, who are mentally ill and have enormous problems, but I dont think Ive ever met someone who was a totally dark energy that had no humanity or sense of love or affection for anything in their life. Thats very rare.

I would say that the West is very young, its very corrupt. Were not very wise. And I think were hopeful that there is a place that is ancient and wise and open and filled with light.

Its not enough to say that the Olympics is an athletic contest outside of politics, because its not. The Chinese clearly are using the Olympics to recreate how they are viewed in the world and how they view themselves.

Well I think on a simple ecological level that the diversity of this planet is important for our survival, that all of our different cultures, people are important to the health of the whole the same way that a species of animal should be saved and at a simple ecology level.

Richard Gere is a very famous Hollywood actor who made his mark on the industry with roles in movies like American Gigolo, Pretty Woman, Primal Fear, and Chicago. He is also a famous follower of Zen Buddhism and spends a lot of time and effort on charities. As of 2020, Richard Geres net worth is $120 million.

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Richard Gere: Net Worth, Life and Career of the Famous Actor - Daily Hawker

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March 22nd, 2020 at 9:49 pm

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Why Efficiency is the Enemy of Innovation – Thrive Global

Posted: February 27, 2020 at 7:46 pm

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My parents gave me a nickname when I was young: mini-Martha, named after my Type A, efficiency-obsessed aunt.

We shared common habits like filling our schedules with activities for self-improvement, and wanting vacations to be planned down to the minute.

Why then would I center my career around the idea of doing nothing?

It was an idea embraced by my first boss and one of the most innovative thinkers I know. We worked at a research and consulting firm, solving problems for Fortune 500 companies when it exceeded their capacity to do so.

A trained anthropologist, she taught me the art of ethnography: spend hours, even days, on end with little to no agenda just observing. Observe the typical life of a subject. Observe how customers naturally interact in stores, on devices, with their friends.

With ethnographylike a fish in waterthe more you went with the flow of the experience, the clearer everything became.

This method for being was a forced break from my hyper-planned daily life. But the more I saw results, the more I embraced doing nothing as the true way to innovative thinking.

Harvard Business Schools Clayton M. Christensen undertook a broad study on CEO innovation and arrived at this same conclusion:

Innovators engage both sides of the brain as they leverage the five discovery skills to create new ideas. Associating is like the backbone structure of DNAs double helix; four patterns of action (questioning, observing, experimenting, and networking) wind around this backbone, helping to cultivate new insights.

Harvard Business Review

Now, this is not to say we must shun the cult of busy entirelytaking idea to application often requires a different mindset.

But were so focused on being always-on, that much of the modern day business worldand the world in generalmisses the forest for the trees.

Were a society addicted to short-term results, a quantified and measured life (looking at you Apple Watch), and data that tells us the what but not the why.

The fact is that efficiency will hit a wall when we view it as a means and not an endflip the equation and see that the lack of structure (with bounds) is actually more productive than constant measurement.

This is something our clients realized and came to us for: A major gaming company hemorrhaging revenue among previously engaged consumers. A hyper-growth entertainment platform unsure where to best invest next.

In each case, we were approached for our outsider perspective and we, in turn, approached the problems without major pre-conceptions.

Zen buddhism had known about this trick of millennial, calling it beginners mind:

In the beginners mind there are many possibilities, but in the experts mind there are few.

Shunryu Suzuki, Zen monk

The new products we rolled out to clients, the improved storylines, the better user experienceall of these were birthed from doing nothing but observing.


We let insightful connections come to us. We do not logic our way into them.

This is why Netflixs recommendation engineas precise as it iswill never be as powerful as somehow seeing a truly random film and unexpectedly end up loving.

When we are intent on directing the story of our life at every moment, we end up with an uninspiring narrative where the past is always prologue.

The idea of true creativity can become elusive.

Walk down a random street and simply noticinga piece of street art, an interesting outfit, the way two strangers interact. No objective. Just wander.

When our self-directing mind has a chance to rest, we pick-up on more and we build a fertile foundation for creativity to strike.

Ill borrow another page from Buddhism on this one. In Zen Buddhism, great insights are learned through seemingly mundane tasks: meditate on a paradoxical Koan or just peel potatoes.

You want spiritual insight? Dont think about spirituality while peeling potatoes. Simply peel the potatoes.

Indeed, its healthy to give ourselves time with no set objective, but its also damn productive.

Thats the great irony for those of us (hand raise) naturally inclined towards goal setting and achieving, AKA Type As.

Give yourself a break and take a break.

I mean it.

It might just be the most useful moment of your life.

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Why Efficiency is the Enemy of Innovation - Thrive Global

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February 27th, 2020 at 7:46 pm

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Kelly Brook reveals she once farted in front of Madonna –

Posted: January 30, 2020 at 9:43 pm

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Kelly Brook was once left mortified after she farted in front of Madonna at the iconic singers house and was never invited back again.

Say whaat?!

Turns out that Kelly once bagged an invite to have dinner with Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow at Madonnas home to try the macrobiotic diet they were following at the time.

Such a diet primarily focuses on eating local and organically produced vegetables, whole grains and beans.

Its associated with Zen Buddhism and balancing the yin and yang elements of food, and Madonna reportedly follows a very strict version of the macrobiotics diet which cuts out wheat, eggs, meat and dairy and is all about sea vegetables (basically edible seaweed).

Well, Kelly certainly wasnt going to turn down a dinner with Madonna, even if it did mean tucking into seaweed, and lets just say said dinner didnt exactly agree with her.

Speaking on Heart FM, she said: Honestly it was like it happened yesterday OK, so about 20 years ago I got invited to a macrobiotic dinner party at Madonnas house its basically like you eat whats in season, you eat whats grown around you.

Its all like vegetarian, vegan, its very healthy. Lot of pulses, lots of beans, chickpeas all that stuff. So Id known about this diet that Gwyneth [Paltrow] and Madonna had been doing for a while so obviously Im kind of in awe of them, Im only 20 years old so I want to be like them.

Kelly, who recently revealed she has lost two stone, continued: Id been doing the diet, probably like a week before, but Im like a real big meat eater, so my insides were just not liking this new diet you can imagine.

So I turn up, we had the meal, we had gone in the living room it was the first episode of The Sopranos so we put it on, so it was like a big screen and there was loads of people there.

I remember kneeling down talking to Madonna about something and I just remember my stomach gurgling and Ive let out the smelliest blow off, like honestly, it was so bad, it filled the room.#


[Madonna], she just kind of , she just turned her head away because obviously it went straight up her nose, Kelly said. It was like something had crawled up there and died. I had never ever done anything like that in my life.

And I just remember like Jason [Statham] just looked at me and was like, was that you? and I was like, yes, I dont think this macrobiotic food is agreeing with me, and that was it, I was never invited back.

She knew it was me. I was mortified.

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Kellys revelation comes after Madonna was forced to cancel her first London show on her Madame X world tour.

Madge explained under doctors guidance she has been forced to rest for a few days and apologised to fans for not being able to perform.

The last thing I want to do is disappoint my fans or compromise the integrity of my show, she wrote on Instagram. So I will keep going until I cannot please know that it hurts me more than you can imagine to have to cancel.

Kelly Brook presents Heart London Drivetime with JK on weekdays from4pm 7pm.

If you've got a celebrity story, video or pictures get in touch with the entertainment team by emailing us, calling 020 3615 2145 or by visiting our Submit Stuff page - we'd love to hear from you.

MORE: Piers Morgan and Stephen Fry lead celebrity tributes to Nicholas Parsons as Just A Minute presenter dies aged 96

MORE: Blake Lively steals the show at The Rhythm Section premiere with Jude Law as she rocks classic look

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Kelly Brook remembers letting out the smelliest wind in front of Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow – Up News Info

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WENN / Avalon / Ian Wilson / Instar

Up News Info Actress and model Kelly Brook He kept his face red after she passed the "more smelly" wind while attending a meeting in Virginis at home with the singer's friend Gwyneth Paltrow.

The "Piranha 3D" star remembers attending a macrobiotic dinner (diet based on Zen Buddhism) many years ago, but admits that the food did not agree with her.

"I knew about this diet that Gwyneth and Madonna had been doing for a while, so obviously I'm a little amazed at them, I'm only 20 years old, so I want to be like them," he said about the event on his iHeart Radio radio show. K and Kelly Brook, which happened decades ago. "So I had been on the diet, probably like a week before, but I am like a big carnivore, so my guts just didn't like me with this new diet."

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When Kelly and the other attendees settled for a previous screening of the pilot episode of "The Sopranos," her stomach began to rumble.

"One of the actresses of & # 39; The Sopranos & # 39; was there," he recalled. "Herb Ritts the photographer, Gwyneth Paltrow, Madonna, like, everyone was there. And I remember kneeling talking to Madonna about something and I just remember that my stomach was gurgling and I let out the most honest smell. Honestly, it was so bad, it filled the room. And she (Madonna) simply just turned her head because it obviously went up her nose. "

Her boyfriend at that time Jason StathamHe was also among the guests and definitely noticed the bad smell.

"And I just remember that Jason looked at me and said: & # 39; Was it you? & # 39; and I thought: & # 39; Yes, I don't think this macrobiotic food agrees with me & # 39; that was all. , I was never invited back. She knew it was me. She was mortified. "

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January 30th, 2020 at 9:43 pm

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8 famous artists who dramatically destroyed their own artworks – Dazed

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We look at why John Baldessari burnt his art and baked cookies with the ashes, Francis Bacon slashed his best paintings, and Robert Rauschenberg erased a work by Willem de Kooning

During the mid-20th century, the 'art of destruction' emerged as a theme in the work of many celebrated artists. Although this tendency has existed for centuries Claude Monet allegedly slashed at least 30 of his water lily canvases the 20th century heralded a new age for creative auto-destruction. Defined by artist Gustav Metzger in the 1960s, 'auto-destructive' art reflected the recent violence of the Second World War, the ideological nihilism of existential philosophy, and the rising tensions of nuclear warfare during the Cold War.

Conceptual artists sabotaged, ruined or destroyed their artworks, either as a deliberate, artistic strategy, or as a result of malaise, anxiety, or displeasure with their work. To destroy an art object was not only radical but iconoclastic a gesture that disavowed the artwork as a material object that could potentially sell for vast amounts of money.

Contemporary artists, from Gerhard Richter to Banksy, have followed in the footsteps of their predecessors. Ironically, some of these artists have proved that destruction isnt always defeatist, or for the purposes of sheer vanity, but allows for liberation, which in turn, inspires new bounds of creativity.

Named the godfather of conceptual art, John Baldessari passed away on 2 January 2020, at the age of 88. An artist who irreversibly changed the landscape of American conceptual art, he worked across all artistic mediums, from installation to video art to emojis.

In 1970, he decided to destroy his entire body of work created between 1953 and 1966. Rather than throwing them away, he took them to a crematorium. Afterwards, Baldessari stored the ashes in a bronze urn (in the shape of a book), which he placed on his shelf. He also bought a bronze plaque inscribed with the birth and death dates of his deceased works, as well as the recipe to make the cookies.

Cremation Project was not only practical but strategic Baldessari was commenting on the cyclical process of the creative process, which could be conceptually recycled.

At one point I made cookies out of the ashes, Baldessari reflected, only one person I ever knew ate one.

By erasing his past oeuvre, Baldessari cleared his artistic slate. The following year, he gave instructions for a work titled I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art an oath to never create dull work again.

In 1953, Robert Rauschenberg arrived at the house of abstract expressionist Willem de Kooning, who at that time was one of Americas most respected and highest-earning artists. Then, a little-known artist, Rauschenberg asked de Kooning whether he could erase one of his works.

Reluctant at first, de Kooning eventually agreed. He offered the 27-year-old Rauschenberg a pencil, ink, charcoal, and graphic sketch. Over the following two months, Rauschenberg erased the artwork. When finished, he retitled it Erased de Kooning Drawing (1953)

Echoing the readymades of Marcel Duchamp and precipitating the arrival of appropriation art, Rauschenbergs gesture ignited conversations about the limitations of art (specifically, can art be created through erasure?), as well as questions about authorship.

In late 1954, at the age of 24, Jasper Johns destroyed all of his work. Later in life,he would reflect that it was time to stop becoming and to be an artist... I had a wish to determine what I was... what I wanted to do was find out what I did that other people didnt, what I was that other people werent.

Just as Baldessari found a new vision after destroying his work, the obliteration of Johns practice boosted his creativity as if freed from the intellectual shackles of his former self.

Not long after, Johns dreamed of painting an American flag. Shortly after, he made his dreams a reality and conceptualised his most famous work, Flag, 1954.

In 1967, the Canadian-born painter Agnes Martin one of the few female members affiliated with abstract expressionism decided to destroy her earlier works. Known as a reflective and quiet woman, her modular, muted paintings reflect a desire for tranquillity.

Before dedicating her energy to the motif of lines, bands, and the grid (her trademark) she experimented with biomorphic abstraction: pale-hued paintings influenced by organic, or geometric forms. Her mature style developed in the 1960s and moved towards restrained abstraction.

1967 brought about great rupture in Martins life. Not only did she experience the sudden death of her close friend, the artist Ad Reinhardt, but she also suffered from a decline in mental health, which would eventually lead to schizophrenia in her 40s. She retreated from New York and left for New Mexico where she followed the principles of eastern philosophy: Zen Buddhism and Taoism.

Martins decision to negate her former style could be read as a purifying of her former life as she embarked on a new journey, albeit one characterised by descending mental health. Her displeasure for her older work was so great, that she commented that if collectors wanted to sell them back to me, Id burn them.

Towards the end of Georgia O'Keeffes life in the 1980s, she purged works of art she no longer liked. But she also destroyed photographs by her former husband, Alfred Stieglitz.

Among many paintings, she attempted to bury Red and Green II (1916), an early watercolour that she documented as destroyed in her personal notebooks. Only publicly displayed once, in New York in 1958,O'Keeffes work despite her attempts to remove it resurfaced at a Christie's sale in November 2015.

After Francis Bacons death in 1992, hundreds of destroyed canvases were found in his cluttered studio in South Kensington. In total, 100 slashed canvases were retrieved from his home.

Known for his masochistic tendencies and emotionally-charged works, the cycle of creation and destruction was central to Bacons torturous, creative process. He allegedly referred to his art as an exorcism a cathartic, painful release of raw emotion. And once described the violent application of his paint as to do with an attempt to remake the violence of reality itself.

One of the destroyed works found in his studio Gorilla with Microphone used his repeated motif of a glass box, within which a central figure was cut out, leaving two white, negated spaces.

According to Jennifer Mundy, Bacon reflected that some of his destroyed works were among his best. He found it difficult to finish a work, and his canvases often became so clogged with pigment that they had to be discarded. He also routinely destroyed works he was not pleased with.

Noah Davis was a prodigiously talented LA-based painter who founded the Underground Museum. He tragically died aged 32 from a rare form of cancer in 2015, though he left an impressive artistic legacy.

A visionary and efficient painter who followed the mantra of less is more, one of his closest friends, Henry Taylor, described him as an artist who was constantly growing.

According to Bennett Roberts (the co-founder of Roberts & Tilton) The only problem with Noah, was that he would call me and say, Come to the studio, I painted 10 great new paintings. He was very fast when he was working. Id go in there and just be mesmerised. These are unbelievable, can we get them to the gallery? Ill photograph them. Two days later, he would say, Oh, sorry, I painted over every one of them.

Banksys self-shredding artwork dominated the headlines in 2018. When his most recognisable work, Girl With Balloon, sold for over 1 million at a London Sothebys auction,the artwork promptly began to self-destruct. Unbeknown to onlookers, the artist had previously installed an automated shredding device into the frame of the picture.

Shortly after, Banksy uploaded a video of the scandalous moment on his Instagram account, with the caption Going, going, gone Ironically, the destruction of the work was left incomplete; the work was supposed to shred entirely but stopped halfway through. To the surprise of many, the artwork increased in value after its public decimation.

In homage to Picasso, Banksy remarked: The urge to destroy is also a creative urge

One of the most prolific artists of the twentieth century, Louise Bourgeois left her New York townhouse in a state of bohemian disarray after her death in 2010. Known for her chronic anxiety, erratic moods, and sudden outbursts of creativity, the artists close friend and assistant, Jerry Gorovy once remarked, If she worked, she was OK. If she didnt, she became anxious... and when she was anxious she would attack. She would smash things, destroy her work.

If Bourgeois disliked a small sculpture shed been working on, she was known to push it off the end of her kitchen table and watch it smash and break into small fragments.

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8 famous artists who dramatically destroyed their own artworks - Dazed

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January 30th, 2020 at 9:43 pm

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Japanese Master Teaches Shojin Cuisine to One of the Best Chefs in the World – NextShark

Posted: January 14, 2020 at 8:43 pm

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As parts of the world transition to a more plant-based diet, restaurants offering Shojin cuisine have become more accessible, drawing patrons from all walks of life.

But what exactly is Shojin, and how does it work as a dietary choice?

Ren Redzepi, an award-winning Danish chef and co-owner of Copenhagens two-Michelin star restaurant Noma set out for Japan to learn about the cuisine from an authentic Japanese master, Toshio Tanahashi.

Its a style of cooking originating from the 7th century Japan. A vegetarian cuisine meant for Buddhist monks abstaining from taking any life, Redzepi writes in an Instagram post. The cuisine of Zen Buddhism.

Not all Buddhists are vegetarians, but for ancient monks who followed the precept of abstaining from the taking of life, vegetarianism was the way to nourish their physical bodies.

First introduced to Kyoto monasteries from China in the 7th and 8th centuries, the cuisine primarily consisted of vegetables that were boiled or eaten raw with simple seasonings.

Dogen Zenji, the founder of the Soto sect of Zen Buddhism, wrote an essay titled Tenzo Kyokun (Instructions for the Cook), which sparked further development in the art.

By the 13th century, it evolved to become Shojin ryori, combining the words shojin (meaning devotion) and ryori (meaning cooking).

Based in Kyoto himself, Tanahashi has decades of experience in Shojin cuisine, hosting events around the world to share its philosophy.

He believes that the age of gluttonous cuisine is over and that Shojin is the best alternative to our meat-heavy, fat-saturated and wasteful diets.

In February 2008, Tanahashi established the Zecoow Culinary Institute, which plans to establish a Shojin dojo a traditional space for learning that would serve as a center for proliferating and advocating the art and spirit of the cuisine.

In my pursuit of Shojin cuisine, regardless of whether from the east or the west, my aim is to continue to discover how the unique Shojin approach can reveal true beauty and health in our clothes, home, environment, healing practices, and agriculture, Tanahashi says.

As its name implies, Shojin ryori is not merely an adherence to a vegetarian diet. In essence, it is the practice of meditating while consuming a plant-based diet.

Plants give tangible and intangible joys of living, helping establish a healthy life, Tanahashi says. This is the basis of the right way to live for mankind. No more and no less. The gratitude in knowing that this is enough will lead to good health.

Like the concept of veganism, Shojin goes further beyond the cuisine, according to Tanahashi.

A plant-centered, calm and modest life will lead to physical and mental health. Crime and conflict will be reduced, he says. I believe that a plant-based life is the richest and most beautiful form of humanity, [when subscribed to] in all clothing, food, and shelter.

Redzepi, meanwhile, is part of MAD, a global cooking community with a social conscience and an appetite for change. He has also co-written a book on fermentation with David Zilber, who also works at Noma.

Redzepi, who has nearly 900,000 followers, concluded his Instagram post by sharing his learnings from Tanahashi. Some include:

Nature and environment is the starting point for us all. By attaining a symbiosis with the land, we can understand that earth and body are inseparable, he adds.

Feature Images via @reneredzepinoma (left, right), Zeecow Culinary Institute (center)

Japanese Master Teaches Shojin Cuisine to One of the Best Chefs in the World - NextShark

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January 14th, 2020 at 8:43 pm

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Take Note: Shih-In Ma On Her Spiritual Journey And Social Justice Advocacy – WPSU

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Shih-In Ma is a social justice advocate who works to promote diversity and inclusion in Centre County.

The State College native and Penn State alum, left a corporate career at IBM to begin a journey of spirituality, self-reflection and meditation. Her journey has taken her around the world and included spending four years in India with Amma, who's known as the hugging saint.

Shih-In Ma teaches meditation and shares opportunities for others to gain better insight and understanding of those around them.


Cheraine Stanford Welcome to Take Note on WPSU, I'm Cheraine Stanford. Shih-In Ma is a social justice advocate who works to promote diversity and inclusion in Centre County. The State College native and Penn State alum, left a corporate career at IBM to begin a journey of spirituality, self-reflection and meditation. Her journey has taken her around the world and included spending four years in India with Amma, who's known as the hugging saint. Shih-In Ma teaches meditation and shares opportunities for others to gain better insight and understanding of those around them. Shih-In Ma, thank you for joining us today.Shih-In Ma Thank you for having me.Cheraine Stanford I think one of the things that you're probably best known for is a list or listserv of, you know, diversity activities and organizations and just events that you call the inclusion expansion opportunities. Can you explain a little bit about what that is and why you decided to start that?Shih-In Ma Well, actually, the IE what I call IEOs is a list of everything I can find locally to help people get to know and learn about the lives of to meet people outside their demographics. So coming from the Bay Area in California, honestly, I find this place to be pretty homogenous. And so. And I really love diversity. I've traveled a lot. There's so much to learn. And yet I think that people are at heart the same across cultures, across religions across any any of these kinds of demographics. So I started the list when I first came here, because I wanted to do this for myself. And finally, I guess this is two, two and a half years ago. It's like wow, maybe it'd be helpful for some other people. So now, now I do it pretty much about when I, as my time allows about every three weeks on the other piece of that, so for initially I was trying to leave myself out of it. Now I'm finding since I'm the editor and the curator of it, I guess sometimes I put things in so that people because most people who are really busy, so things that they can read things of links, because I find that at least what I learned in school in terms of history, what have lots of things were missing. And there's more and more coming out. And so as, as people, we, there's a process, it's psychological is also spiritual of projection. So I actually don't know what's going on with you, right? I just look and say, if she looked like that, if she had that facial expression, if she had that tone of voice, or he or whatever, that would mean this, right? So then we put our projections out, and we think that they're real. And so this is the beginning of, to me, biases of prejudice, of stereotypes and this sort of thing. So when and studies have shown that we tend to be really siloed in terms of who we run around with on demographics and in a place as homogenous as a State College, or even, you know, Bellefonte, where I live is even more homogenous, right? That then we actually don't get out of our, we don't get out of our silos and we can continue to have these misconceptions about each other. And it could be positive or negative.Cheraine Stanford So you're hoping that this list would help people go to spaces and places to do more of that learning about different kinds of peopleShih-In Ma And meeting people coming to see lives that aren't their own. Even if they don't go for instance, there was a thing in Carlisle that there actually was an Indian School in Carlisle, where they were pulling what they called an Indian school where they were basically pulling Native Americans out of their homes, depriving them of the right to their language, cutting, their hairs, changing trying to change the culture, right? I read that and it's like, oh, you know, this is going on. So I put it in the list. I don't necessarily expect anybody to go but I'm hoping and this is what I've heard back from some people who tell me even just reading the list, they get little light bulbs of "Oh, yeah. What's going on? Oh, yeah, this is possible." So I mean, honestly, at this point with this list, maybe on a good day, good week, I go to one or two events in addition to my regular commitments, right. So I don't go to all of them, but even just knowing to get us to think outside of our usual life experience. That's part of my, my goal for that.Cheraine Stanford And you mentioned going to the Bay Area, you were in the Bay Area, but you grew up in this area. You grew up in State College. Can you talk about what it was like to grow up in State College? It would have been the end of the 50s, early 60s here. What was that like for you growing up as a child?Shih-In Ma Oh, it was so white, honestly. So for those of you who don't know, I'm Chinese American, in terms of ethnicity. So I had 600 people in my college class and when I started to get involved here, when I came back from India, I started to look at I went through the yearbook, starting to count becauseCheraine Stanford You said 600 people in your--Shih-In Ma No, no, sorry, high school, in my highschool class. So out of that I could count approximately 10 of us of people of color. Right. So, as much as it's, well, Centre County, I believe I read was 88%. White, right? As much as that's 88% white now, it was a lot whiter then. So, there was racism, there was name calling, there was bullying. And it yeah, it's, you know, I, I'm here, I've done a lot of inner work to heal from the trauma that and some issues with my family of origin. So I know how much it hurts. And that's part of the other reason I'm involved in, in some of this. I also know which is that we're, as human beings I believe that we're capable of enormous good and also of causing enormous pain for other people. It's, it's worth the oppressor and the oppressed. We both hold what at least I find for myself the capability of both within within ourselves within myself. So part of this is to actually do my own inner work on my biases biases on my, I try and get people to take implicit bias tests at Project Implicit, they're free, they're all across all different kinds of demographics, getting we can't change something that we're not aware of. And none of us likes to be on the receiving end of bullying, of disparagement of discrimination. And so I think the flip side is that we have a moral duty to look inside ourselves and find out where we might be perpetrating these same kind of behaviors on other people.Unknown Speaker What do you think are some of the biggest issues that are facing us in Central Pennsylvania? That's our local community? What are some of the issues that you're seeing?Shih-In Ma I think that people are really busy. I think that culturally, I'm actually I'm reading a book right now by brother Wayne Teasdale called "The Mystic Heart" and he, he says that our culture is so focused on consumerism, this is not just Central Pennsylvania consumerism and entertainment. So, I, you know, I don't have a TV, I haven't had a TV for probably 20 years, right? That we get, we're looking for distractions, right, we're looking for so whether or not it's shopping or it's drugs or it's work, or what we're looking for distractions, we're not actually coming being present to ourselves. And so as a result of all these distractions, we're also not being present to what's going on in the community. Also, because of the siloing, I just talked about, about people, you know, there was a study by what PRRI I think that said that and this is a US study not Central Pennsylvania but 75% of white people had no people color as friends, right, 90% only had one, one or less people of color as friends. So, we have so much and religiously, you know, most Christians stick together, Muslims stick together and we I mean, it's just, we're just continuing this kind of compartmentalization. So, to me that's one of the things that makes me the saddest here. And then, when we're so distracted then we're actually not finding the common goodness in our heart so that it's a child of God, the Buddha nature, the whatever you want to call it, the essence of of the truth of who we are, which is totally independent. It was totally connected, which is sharing the same divinity because we're watching television. So, I think that that distraction is, is a problem. I think that not having conversations that we need to have. And you know, I'm as much, I don't want to say, to blame, but I find it's hard to have conversations about hard topics. But I think we need to have, we need to have those. And yet, we also need to be able to be open to opinions and worldviews that aren't our own. Because otherwise, we're just preaching to the choir.Cheraine Stanford After growing up here, you went to Penn State.Shih-In Ma I went and got a Bachelor's in math. And then I went to the Peace Corps for two years in Ghana, west Africa, which changed my life actually one of the major life changing experiences, I came back here and got a degree in engineering and then I went off to Arizona to work for IBM.Cheraine Stanford So let's step back. Why was the Peace Corps experience so life changing?Shih-In Ma Because, you know, I grew up middle class, right. And so I actually went to the Peace Corps believing that there was three essential externals to happiness, three essential to happiness, a roof over my head running water and electricity. And then I got stationed out in a village at the end of the road, for which there was electricity from the village just in the evenings. So one thing that I discovered was that externals won't make happiness, happiness doesn't really come. I mean, there's some minimal I think things that make things easier, whatever, but really, happiness is independent of external circumstances. Another piece that I found out about, and it still actually informs, hopefully, how I treat other people and how I live is these people had, for the most part, so little materially, and they were so generous and so kind. I mean, I'd stand in line in the hot sun, for waiting for a bus and people who didn't know me, and would never see me again, would actually push me forward in the line. So basically, usually by the time the next bus came, I was there in the front seat, and they were still standing in line. Over those two years, there was a whole other way to live. There's a whole other way to treat strangers to treat people who don't look like you to treat this than frankly, what I think a lot of us do in this culture.Cheraine Stanford So you went to Penn State, got your undergraduate degree in math, went to the Peace Corps, got your masters in engineering, and then moved to the west coast to take a job at IBM,Shih-In Ma Actually Tucson, Arizona,Cheraine Stanford Tucson, Arizona.Shih-In Ma And from there, then I moved, I transferred with IBM to the Bay Area in California.Cheraine Stanford So why did what were you doing for IBM and did you enjoy it?Shih-In Ma Yeah, I actually I did a lot of things I went in as an engineer. I ended up in finance. I had a couple stints in management. I was the you know the assistant to a functional director, I did business system reorganization, a lot of different things and what I finally came to realize about that was for myself that I could do a lot of things but really why I went to work was for the people. And also I found out I didn't like management. So I'd say yeah, I enjoyed it, but in the meantime, there was always this kind of I don't know. I finally started looking looking inward and I realized, so following on from Peace Corps and externals, I had all the externals but yet there was something that was not really happy that was kind of depressed. And so that's why I ended up on this spiritual path or going on this inward path. So it's included some 12 steps and therapy. And then, you know, actually, we treat some things in the Christian the Buddhist, The Hindu, even the Sufi tradition, so I don't actually differentiate much across traditions. But this and then, in 1993, my therapist actually told me to read a book called "Tibetan Book of Living and Dying". I read that book and it's like, well, either the Tibetans are all 100% crazy, all of them, or everything I believed about life was subject to change. And so I thought, well, probably it's not the first thing so I became open to a lot of possibilities that I'd been conditioned against, or educated against. And so I went on retreat, and had actually a massive spiritual insight if you want to say an enlightenment experience. It closed it went on for the whole morning after lunch, and then it started to close but after that, I kind of lost my motivation to for the corporate world. I knew there was something more and I wanted it again. So a lot of the rest of my life has been focused on coming to live more with what is gnown and I don't mean known with the k-n-o-w like head knowing but g-n-o-w like gnosis with this with, with what, with what's known.Cheraine Stanford And so you left that corporate job after more than a decade of being there. What gave you the courage to do that?Shih-In Ma It just wasn't, it wasn't fulfilling. I had a little bit of money saved up. So, you know, I thought I could hack it for a while. And actually, one of the things that really helped me was, I had a mentor there. My boss, he became a friend. And at one point, he finally looked at me, he said, You know, I was talking to him about quitting or not, and he finally looked at me, he said, he said, "It's time for you to go," he said, "You've outgrown this place." So that kind of affirmation from him really helped me to decide to go.Cheraine Stanford If you're just joining us, this is Take Note on WPSU I'm Cheraine Stanford. Our guest is Shih-In Ma, a social justice advocate working to create an inclusive community in Centre County.Cheraine Stanford One of the things that I know you did was to spend four years with Amma, who's known as the hugging saint. For our audience who might not know, she does what her name suggests. She travels around the world and in other places and people wait in line for hours to hug her. She's hugged millions of people. How did you end up there? And what was it about her that drew you to her?Shih-In Ma Well, basically, the short of it is I well, I ended up with some back pain due to a car accident and physical therapy. None of this biofeedback didn't fix it. And somebody told me try yoga. So I started to try yoga. Then I started to feel energy running in my body. And about that time, I'd actually read about Amma two or three years earlier in a book by Linda Johnsen called "Daughters of the Goddess" about 10 women saints in India, and I was really drawn to her in particular but, you know, I was still in my box, say, prejudice box about, you know, thinking of Hinduism and Hare Krishnas at the airport when I was growing up. So I had to overcome that bias that prejudice. So finally, I read about her in yoga journal and said she was coming an hour and a half from where I live. So I took the day off work, and I went up to see her. And there was some sense of, well, recognition, you know, with this hug and just these tears, and it's like, oh, this is what's possible in a human body. I want that and that was, that's the beginning. That was the beginning. So I'd been every time she'd come to California, I would see her even though I was practicing Zen Buddhism, and really involved with most of my time at a Zen monastery, but when Amma would come to town, I would leave, I can go, go spend time. You know, we have physical bodies. We also have energy bodies, sometimes they're called auras. So my experience of being around Amma is that the shakti, the energy. It's like getting my aura clean. There's some purification, some healing that's going on about getting my aura cleaned, getting things, heaviness and things taken out. But, but I just, yeah, this is, you know, honestly, I think if Christ were reincarnated he would be Amma.Cheraine Stanford So I think if people looked at maybe your life journey, the path they would call it unconventional, maybe non-traditional, but when you when you look back to the things that you're doing now, these spiritual experiences you've had, is there a through-line that you see, is there a path that you can see when you look back over your life?Shih-In Ma Well, I think it comes down to spiritual issues. [Inaudible] would say "Your Buddha nature is always calling for you." Right? I think there's something in the Christian tradition about God is always calling us home. There's a question about why were we born why, we're not this body, that consciousness comes into the body and when we pass away, it leaves the body. So the question about why were we born? Why did we take this incarnation? I think that's a question that we need to answer. So whether we answer it while we're still young or whatever, by the time you hit your deathbed, I think most people are going to be my father, for instance, you know, when he was on his deathbed, we're going to face that question sooner or later. When we stop our distractions there is there is this calling and this call is always calling us home.Cheraine Stanford And your call home literal home. You did come back to State College. How did you end up coming moving back to State College?Shih-In Ma Because my mother still lived here. And so I was four years in India and every time I'd come back, she was in her early 90s and I'd come back and you know, there's just a little bit of kind of going downhill. And then the next last time I came back, it was like the slope had steepened. And it just got really clear to me that my brother has a full time job in New Hampshire and so it got really clear that I needed to come back and take care of her as as, as a daughter, and also as part of my spiritual practice. It's probably one of the hardest things I've ever done.Cheraine Stanford What was hard about it?Shih-In Ma Because there was trauma in my life growing up. So whatever wasn't healed around that, actually, some stuff came up, you know, when I was living with her. And because I had found what I thought was like a home there, I was working at the temple, helping the priests with the poojas and things and teaching people how to make the offerings and all I really had found, had found something and also with the people who really prioritized their spiritual life, both with say the Zen monastery that I was at and also with this, whereas here, I find I get kind of dispersed and I can get distracted, I go shopping on Amazon or whatever because people don't prioritize that here. But basically coming back to the town and not knowing anybody and starting over, with actually no clothes and whatever and starting over again.Cheraine Stanford So when you moved here you were living in a monastery?Shih-In Ma Yeah, well, I was came from Amma's ashram, monastery in India. So, I did the four years there, and then I came back, came back here.Cheraine Stanford And that healing that you have talked about the spiritual, you know, inner work that you've talked about. Do you feel like your life has been better doing that work?Shih-In Ma Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, at one point in my life, I, my vision of life was that, I mean, I was really depressed that you even though I was doing fine at IBM, right, so that you drive, you're going down a tunnel and when you die, basically you're a train going down a dark tunnel when you die, you hit the end of the tunnel, right? And now you It's like totally I mean, life is a mystery. It's a joy. There's so many blessings. So, I feel really blessed about it. But people wouldn't know that actually from talking to me or looking at me that this is where I've come from. But it's, it's possible. It's possible.Cheraine Stanford How did you come to teach meditation to women who are incarcerated?Shih-In Ma I actually practice with the local Zen group and they were wanting actually one year they were wanting calendars. So I started to collect calendars and collected like 1300 calendars because there's 1400 ladies. So the next year, they asked the Zen teacher that's associated with the group, I mean, if she would teach Zen, and she said, well, she would teach Zen if I would co-teach with her. Right? And then we could trade off or whatever. Well, she got really busy and she only went in once. And so I've been teaching this is at Muncy women's prison. I've been teaching there for three years now. So I don't You know, I was really surprised that she said that and I don't really feel qualified in some way. But, but I know a lot about ending suffering. There's the, in the Buddhist and Hindu traditions there's that pain, old age, sickness and death are inevitable. Suffering is optional. So the high-level view is suffering is caused by attachment and greed, by hatred, and aversion, or by delusion and ignorance. So basically, the power in that is that we have a way to influence or to change, practice our responses to things so were not always in reaction to things and especially to things we can't change.Cheraine Stanford And how does meditation, what role has that played in your life and how, what impact have you seen it have on the women you work with? If, if there has been anything.Shih-In Ma Meditation I think has helped me slow down it's helped me to come inward, to come inward and to be more centered. I don't worry as much. I mean, I used to worry a lot. But now it's like the thoughts come up and it's like, oh, it's worry, because actually, it's really hard to have a thought that's in the present. We either are in the past or the future, or there's a saying, which that with one foot in the past, and the other foot in the future, right, we're peeing on the present, right? It's true.Cheraine Stanford I've never heard saying.Shih-In Ma So, so I think it's really, it's really helped me that way. So I actually, as I said, I'm not I don't consider myself depressed anymore. And I have a lot more trust and I think calm, hopefully, you'll have to tell me, somebody else will have to tell me more kindness and more compassion than I did. For the ladies particularly the ladies at Muncy they say it's helping them, they don't always practice the whole lot, but it's helping them also. I'm just, for the most part I take in Rumi I take in Byron Katie, which is one of the best ways of working with, she's a nondenominational teacher, "Loving What Is", one of the best ways of unknotting thoughts I've ever found. So I take in whatever I think helps them and mostly just to my aspiration, to see them and help them see themselves in their true nature. Because I think that's one of the steps what we can find is what the Christians call I guess, the fruits of the Holy Spirit. So you know, kindness, compassion, patience, this sort of thing, we don't have to become a better person, this is who we are. When when, when things, ego, whatever gets thinner, then we are we are that we are love. We are this loving awareness. We are, we are that so, you know, I spent a lot of my life trying to be a better person. But basically, that's like beating yourself up trying to be a better person, which is just another form of violence.Cheraine Stanford Tell me about singing in Essence 2 which is a local choir that performs music from the African and African American tradition. Have you always enjoyed singing?Shih-In Ma Yeah, I've always enjoyed singing but this is the most I've ever, ever, ever enjoyed singing. So somebody told me about this choir, four years ago, or something and I've joined I basically set my whole schedule around this around this choir. I love the music. It's devotional, but mostly, it's this energy again. So that, Shakti, Holy Spirit, whatever. I mean, I go to rehearsals, and a lot of times I go tired, maybe I'm kind of whatever and I leave flying, that the energy is coming through in the music,Cheraine Stanford The work that you are doing now, to try to bring some inclusivity to the area. How do you think people can better connect with each other?Shih-In Ma By trying to put ourselves in each other's shoes. So when I go into, say, a fast food restaurant, and then I look and I, you know, I try and imagine what is it like to live on $7.25 an hour, sometimes, like, when things happen to people of different demographics, or whatever, then I try and change the picture kind of like, you know, the the woman that Brock Turner raped, has got, now got her book out, right. And one of her questions was, well, would he have he got a six months sentence, right, that actually only spent three months in jail for being caught. I mean, a lot of people rape and they don't get caught. And her question, one of her questions was, well, if he had been a person of color from, you know, lower income underprivileged status to whatever would this have happened? You know, and honestly, I think no. So, even looking at something like that, and then knowing what the statistics are some amount of knowledge and this sort of thing and then trying to imagine what would it have been like if the demographics were different? I think that's that's one way to help. I think there's another way I came to a point maybe a year and a half ago or whatever where I was, and I'm still working on it, to be honest, where it's kind of like I was really struggling with people who had different views than I did. So I've got a bumper sticker on my car from American Friends Service Committee that says, "Love thy neighbor, no exceptions." And that is my that is my aspiration.Cheraine Stanford So, you're involved with groups like Community and Campus in Unity, Community Diversity Group and the Interfaith Initiative. What do you hope the impact or the work that you're doing and others are doing in this space, what do you hope the impact will be on this area?Shih-In Ma I hope that we will help create, I think the world that we all long for, you know, His Holiness, the Dalai Lama has said, everybody just wants to be happy, we all want to be safe, to have peace, right to to not struggle for our basic existence. So this we all share. And I think, but individually we need to come together. We need to come together but we need to take action as individuals to both inward inward actions internal process and also outward in the world in order to to help create this paradise.Cheraine Stanford Shih-In Ma, thank you so much for being with us today.Shih-In Ma Oh, thank you, Cheraine for having me.Cheraine Stanford Shih-In Ma is a social justice advocate who works to promote diversity and inclusion in Centre County. Shih-In Ma teaches meditation and shares opportunities for others to gain better insight and understanding of those around them. Hear more Take Note interviews on our website at I'm Cheraine Stanford, WPSU.Transcribed by

Take Note: Shih-In Ma On Her Spiritual Journey And Social Justice Advocacy - WPSU

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January 14th, 2020 at 8:43 pm

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Mindfulness and wellbeing: the relentless, creepy rise of the enforced happiness industry – MoneyWeek

Posted: January 9, 2020 at 7:49 pm

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Not the best way to deal with a stressful commute

The evidence suggests weve never been richer or healthier, yet we are always being told how stressed and discontented we are. Jonathan Compton assesses the industry making money from our misery.

Over a bottle or two in a Hong Kong bar many years ago my neurosurgeon friend was unusually excited by a freak opportunity to study the effects of the mind on the body. In the same week he had operated on three adult men of similar health, size and age with near-identical injuries. Each had suffered the loss of three fingers to a chopper attack, a form of punishment often used by triads. Meticulously he had reattached each mans fingers.

A few months later he reported that one had recovered 95% of the use of his hand, the second about 50% and the third hardly any at all, reflecting in his view the impact of their mental approach to their injuries and subsequent efforts to recover. This was the first time I realised that mental attitude could affect physical health.

The subsequent decades have seen huge improvements in surgical techniques and in almost every measurable facet of human existence. Globally, life expectancy today is 73 years higher than any single country in 1950. There has been a surplus of food since 1978, local famines being a function of poor distribution or worse politics.

In developed countries you were at least ten times more likely to be murdered, assaulted, robbed or injured at work 100 years ago; women were nearly 50 times more likely to die in childbirth. Very few people had any chance of higher education, inside sanitation, or owning any form of transport. In short, we are astonishingly well off to an extent unimaginable to previous generations.

Nevertheless, we are told that we are suffering more mental health disorders than ever before. This is best demonstrated by the astounding growth in two overlapping industries: mindfulness and wellbeing. The definitions of each are slightly fluffy, but the NHS defines mindfulness as paying more attention to the present moment to your own thoughts and feelings, and to the world around you to improve your mental wellbeing. Confusingly, wellbeing has been defined by the World Health Organisation as a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

Mindfulness has its roots in two areas: a monastic and lifelong Buddhist practice aimed at renunciation and detachment, and a long-standing American obsession with spirituality and oriental mysticism. A 19th-century example is Mary Baker Eddy and the Church of Christ Scientist, whose widest-known belief is that disease is a mental aberration best cured through prayer. The Buddhist ethics, duties, discipline and theological roots have been swept away for the 21st century.

Jon Kabat-Zinn is a leading and early proponent of mindfulness and inventor of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MSBR). One of his more interesting quotes is that mindfulness is not just about helping with stress, but may actually be the only promise the species and the planet have for making it through the next couple of hundred years. A fundamental tenet of mindfulness is that the causes of stress, upset and dissatisfaction are in our own minds so they are ours to fix. Wellness, meanwhile, has its roots in the 19th-century alternative-medicine movement including (again) Christian Science and German and Swiss Lebensreform (back to nature). It has eight dimensions (social, financial, spiritual, etc.) and the term was created, bizarrely, by the US Office of Vital Statistics in 1954.

It continues to morph into new iterations, but is essentially a holistic approach whereby ones mental, physical and emotional health are in sync. Proponents of wellness and mindfulness are quick to point out that they are vital in a rapidly changing world where the stresses of work, money and living continue to worsen and that each offers not only a solution, but also a guarantee of happiness.

Unless youre a hermit you will know of people with serious mental health problems. These are as real as flu or a broken bone. Treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) often produce remarkable results, with 50%-75% success rates in cases of depression. And despite serious disputes over the claimed cure rates in other illnesses, results from Alcoholics Anonymous show that after CBT, even under the worst-case scenario, around 10% of problem drinkers are cured for life, about half cut their intake substantially, and more regain some control. In other examples, a combination of drugs and therapy have measurable effects on bipolar or eating disorders.

However, distinct from mental health issues, there is a growing obsession with the pursuit of happiness. I blame Thomas Jefferson, who lifted the term from the English philosopher John Locke and snuck it into the American Declaration of Independence in 1776. He meant it to mean aiming for liberty, prosperity and thriving, not polishing your own karma. Yet this cannot explain why mindfulness and wellbeing have become mainstream so fast.

For not only have we materially never had it so good, but on other measures we also seem to be doing fine. Every year the UN produces a World Happiness Report, assessing national and regional happiness. It shows that in most countries most people are pretty happy most of the time and in most cases have never been happier.

The countries in fine fettle are developed nations where wealth is widely distributed, corruption low and legal systems robust; they also boast strong health systems. The top ten include the five Nordic countries, Holland, Switzerland, Canada, New Zealand and Austria. I do not believe it is coincidental that, apart from the Dutch, all ten are relatively underpopulated, have huge open spaces with mountains, lakes or both, clean air and a strong sense of social cohesion. Similarly the miserable countries are, as you might expect, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.

Yet these contented and civilised nations are suffering an outbreak of mindfulness and wellbeing. This is known as the Easterlin Paradox: as countries get richer they tend not to get much happier. Yet the happiest people on the planet, according to Pew Research, are the actively religious, who are far more likely to describe themselves in every country as very happy compared with those who are inactive or have no religious affiliation. This applies across all religions: Christianity, Hinduism, Zen Buddhism, Confucianism and even the wackier ones. They are also far more likely to join non-religious societies and clubs, to vote and participate in society generally. One inference is that wellbeing and mindfulness are simply filling a hole previously occupied by various faiths. Religion any religion seems to provide a sense of purpose, engagement with others and group support.

Yet the prime cause for the supposed increase in unhappiness may be the rise of robust individualism. It is hard to recall how much we were collectivised; not just in the obvious sense of the now defunct USSR, but also in more liberal countries, be it through trade unions, political clubs, family groups or even by class. Many of these boundaries have weakened or disappeared. The individual is more free, but far less anchored to any group or set of ideas. Into this void has stepped the big business of mindfulness and wellbeing.

A commonly cited number is that the health and wellness industry is now worth $4.2trn. This looks a wild guess. Yet a Google search for meditation companies produces 51.7 million results; on Amazon books, over 60,000 titles contain mindfulness and 40,000 wellbeing (including 1,000 on wellbeing for dogs and 643 for wellbeing colouring books).These happiness twins have gone mainstream. New Zealands government has prioritised national wellbeing over GDP. Bhutan and Abu Dhabi, not previously known for their liberal attitudes, have appointed happiness ministers, while the UN and OECD are gearing up to make happiness a priority.

As always, however, private enterprise has moved faster. All the giant tech companies even in China have happiness departments and directors, as do many corporate giants such as GlaxoSmithKline and BP. Japan is building a huge wellness tourism industry. Lower down the food chain thousands of firms are introducing mindfulness and wellbeing courses with leaders and coaches for their staff. This outburst of caring politics and huggy companies is creepy; I smell a large rat.

There is everything right about many workplace changes over the last two decades, such as hugely improved childcare packages and progress in tackling discrimination. It can only be good too that companies and governments want to reduce workplace stress. But there is something suspect about mindfulness experts being welcomed at the most capitalist of meetings such as Davos. The solution, as always, is to follow the money. L. Ron Hubbard made one sensible remark in a sea of largely insane and inane ones: If you want to get rich, found a religion. He duly created and made a fortune through Scientology, one of the most controlling cults on earth. This outbreak of official niceness seems as much designed to save money as to improve peoples lives. Mindfulness is very introverted: its your fault if things are bad and up to you to cure it. For a few dollars a month you can buy an online MSBR course and become a better employee. Or your firm might buy you one of the many apps where the handful of iterations claim to fit all comers, even though some reports suggest they can often worsen your condition. The hard evidence on effectiveness is scarce or unsupportive.

For example, in 2019 the American Medical Association published a report on an experiment sponsored by the Harvard Medical School. It was unusually large, covering 26,000 workers over 21 sites for 18 months. Yet although the participants self-reported significant improvements in their health behaviour, there was no discernible outcome using clinical measures, nor better productivity than in a control group. Nor has any other large-scale research found any significant changes. Perhaps thats no surprise. The world of wellbeing contains thousands of consultants and therapists groups no qualifications required.

Still, the trend is set to grow. For companies where the boss is useless, the product poor or the working environment dreary, mindfulness and wellbeing offer a get-out-of-jail card its your fault and your negativity. For governments too, the fact that you arrive at work stressed from a commute on woeful public transport is no longer their fault; heal yourself.

Youre not underpaid you hold the solution. Costs can be lowered too; the NHS is looking to move many patients from proven CBT treatments (cost 900 per course) to more relevant therapies at 300. What I find creepiest of all is that mindfulness and wellbeing encourage the acceptance of the status quo without question. Non-compliance with mindfulness meetings in the US is increasingly a black mark on your record. It will be the same here soon.

I have no doubt that in ten years time we will look back on many current therapies or proven psychological cures with derision. The advances in studying the human genome have been enormous, but constitute just a fraction of what is still to be revealed be it heredity traits or propensity to certain types of behaviour and mental illnesses making treatment less guesswork and more science-based.

At present were in a strange limbo between new cults, proven therapies and useful medication. While scientists continue their work, the mindfulness and wellbeing businesses will continue to make exaggerated claims for their apps and courses. Many therapies do proven good and even if they dont, if it works for you, then why not? The best approach for long-term investors, however, is to steer clear of quackery or faddish therapies and look into firms that are genuinely working on improving our physical and mental health.

The world of wellbeing contains several companies over-promoting themselves as wholesome, flying too close to the sun, then crashing. Beyond Meat (meat-free burgers) has collapsed from $240 to $74 in six months; WeWork nearly pulled off a $60bn listing before investors woke up to its fantastical claims.

There are many firms doing pioneering and fascinating work into mental health and genome therapies, but most are either private, small parts of large corporations, or likely to become strapped for cash because such research and development eats money.

One closed-ended investment trust stands out, however: Syncona Limited (LSE: SYNC), with a 1.3bn market cap. It concentrates on investing in and building up life-science companies. It is 28% owned by the respected Wellcome Trust. Performance last year was disappointing, but five-year numbers are good. Volatility is largely a function of when investments are realised or flop. I dont like buying at a 14% premium to underlying net assets, but the valuation of its unlisted holdings tends to be conservative.

For a wider healthcare fund the Healthcare Opportunities Fund managed by Polar Capital fits the bill; it covers the industry well, ranging from pharmaceuticals to biotechnology.

The one-year numbers are also poor, but those for three, five and ten years are good. With a fund size of 1.1bn it can maintain flexibility better than the near equally well-performing but much larger Janus Henderson Healthcare fund.

The standout player in gene sequencing and analysis is US-listed Illumina (Nasdaq: ILMN), which was recently forced to call off a proposed merger with the smaller Pacific Biosciences because competition watchdogs in both the UK and US feared the merged company would dominate the industry.

But the reality is that it does so already, with an 80% share of the gene-sequencing market globally. It is hardly cheap, but it is at the forefront of new medical technologies while net income has doubled to over $800m over the last five years.

Another interesting American company developing therapies for serious neurological and auto-immune diseases is Biogen Inc. (Nasdaq: BIIB). Recently the share price has been strong thanks to its promising prospective Alzheimers drug Aducanumab. Approval is by no means a done deal, but it is on a modest 11 times earnings (partially because of imminent patent expiries), while revenue growth has been strong.

A similar company, but much smaller, is Denmarks H Lundbeck A/S (Copenhagen: LUN), a relative minnow with a 6bn market cap. It is very active in crucial areas such as Alzheimers, bipolar, depression, schizophrenia and several others. Free cash flow is very variable, but at 16 times earnings and a 4.7% yield the risks are in the price.

My last pick, which I have tipped before, is the UKs largest pharma group GlaxoSmithKline(LSE: GSK), with its broad portfolio of pharmaceuticals and vaccines.A 90bn giant, it needs blockbusting new drugs to have a major impact on the share price, but investors can enjoy a 4.5% dividend yield while they wait.

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Mindfulness and wellbeing: the relentless, creepy rise of the enforced happiness industry - MoneyWeek

Written by admin

January 9th, 2020 at 7:49 pm

Posted in Zen Buddhism

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