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Supernormal: Science, Yoga, and the Evidence for Extraordinary Psychic Abilities
Supernormal: Science, Yoga, and the Evidence for Extraordinary Psychic Abilities
by Dean I. Radin
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.41
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bridging Science and Spirituality, August 9, 2013
Like many people nowadays, I was raised to be religious and, as a child, pretty much bought into the whole thing. It was my beloved grandmother who took me to Sunday school and then church, and if someone who loved me that much thought this was the way to look at the world, it was good enough for me!

Then my grandmother died, I became a teenager, and, like many teenagers, became very sensitive to the apparent hypocrisy of adults. They didn't practice what they preached! More importantly, I became fascinated with science and read widely in it, and saw numerous instances where science and religion clashed, with science much the winner of these various battles. And yet, in my very extensive teenage reading, I discovered that there was a very small, neglected field of science, psychical research, later giving rise to the more specialized version of it termed parapsychology, which had strong evidence that some of the things talked about in the spirituality behind religions had a factual basis.

Most of the people I knew with a childhood religion background similar to mine solved their developing conflicts between science and religion by going to one extreme or the other. Materialistic science was right, religion was wrong, all nonsense. Or, their religion was right, science was wrong or irrelevant to evaluating their religion. Or, religion could be thought about on designated holy days and science forgotten on those days, otherwise it had no place in practical life.

I was lucky coming across the idea in the psychical research literature that the methods of science - observe, theorize, test the results of your theoretical predictions, and share all of these steps with intelligent colleagues - which transcend the particular findings of science at any given time, could begin to be applied to religions, or, more accurately, to the spiritual experiences behind religions, and give us a clearer idea of what might have some reality basis and what was indeed superstition and possibly pathological. I've been lucky in having a career spanning more than half a century in which I've been able to carry out various studies and contribute some knowledge within that framework. I've done lots of technical experimentation to clarify various points, and thought a great deal about the implications of various psychic phenomena for spirituality, and a few years ago presented an overview of those findings in my book "The End of Materialism: How Evidence of the Paranormal Is Bringing Science and Spirit Together." I did this in a rather general way in that book, though, concentrating on the scientific findings that showed that you could not completely reduce the human mind to brain functions, as materialism claims, and that there were phenomena like what we call telepathy or clairvoyance which gave support to the idea that the human mind transcended mere physicality.

Dean Radin's new book, "Supernormal: Science, Yoga, and the Evidence for Extraordinary Psychic Abilities" gets much more specific and concrete that my own book, because he works within the framework created by the extraordinary recent popularity of various forms of yoga. He deals very specifically with many of the sidhis, unusual powers that are claimed to be possible results of practicing yoga, and shows where science supports them, where it doesn't support them, and where we don't have much evidence for or against some of them.

I originally thought I would just scan his book, since I know a fair amount about both yoga and Buddhism (which came from the same roots as yoga and shares many of the same beliefs and practices) and especially about the scientific areas of psychical research and parapsychology, but Radin's book is so well written, and so relevant and specific in so many places that I ended up reading the whole book.

The bottom line is this: if you're seriously interested in whether there is anything to spirituality beyond the material world, this is must reading. You don't have to be a dedicated follower of yoga or any other particular religion or spiritual path, and, indeed, you may well be one of those many Americans who, when asked about their religion, claim that they are "spiritual," but not "religious." If you have had spiritual experiences that are meaningful to you, but suffered from the pressure to deny their reality because of the prevailing scientistic materialism that is falsely identified with science in our time, you will find a great deal of relief in this book. As I concluded in my "The End of Materialism," the actual evidence of scientific psychical research let's us conclude that it is reasonable to be both spiritual and scientific, you don't have to go to one or the other extreme. Yes, there's still an enormous amount of scientific research that needs doing to get more specific about these things, you still have to exercise as much discrimination as possible when you hear various claims, but I rate this book as one of the best contributions to examining the reality basis of spirituality that I've ever read!
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 14, 2013 11:46 AM PST

Men and Women of Parapsychology, Personal Reflections, Esprit Volume 2
Men and Women of Parapsychology, Personal Reflections, Esprit Volume 2
by Rosemarie Pilkington
Edition: Paperback
Price: $18.95
26 used & new from $14.96

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The real people who advance parapsychology, June 29, 2013
For many years I've received numerous inquiries from people who want to become parapsychologists, mainly idealistic young people. The first bit of advice I give them is to ask the question, "Are you independently wealthy?" If you are, you can have a very interesting career, but if, like the vast majority of us, you have to work for a living, then as much as I love parapsychology, as much as I think it's vitally important, I have to tell you that it may be very difficult to make any kind of living as a parapsychologist. I don't like saying this, discouraging idealistic young folks, but I feel I have to be realistic in my advice.

Not that I took that advice myself when I decided to devote a significant part of my career to parapsychology. I was young and idealistic (and am still very idealistic!), and didn't think about things like the need to make a living, and I'm very glad I didn't take my advice. Luckily the part of my career devoted to more conventional topics like dreams, hypnosis, altered states of consciousness, etc. led to enough success in a more conventional way that I've done all right career wise.

So who are the handful of people who work to become scientific parapsychologists anyway? Who want to find out what's real and not real in the psychic category, how it works, what it means? This just published book is an excellent answer to that question. I'm going to advise it as necessary reading for the people who write me for advice about going into the field, and I think lots of other people will find it of interest.

In the interest of full disclosure, I'm one of the people profiled in the book, and like almost all of them, I wrote my own biographical sketch. I also do not have any financial incentive to encourage people to read the book, but, in my belief that I think parapsychology is very important to give us a more noble image of humanity than materialism gives us, I have a lot of incentive to tell people about this book.

What was really interesting and surprising to me when my copy of the book came was that I expected to put it on the shelf with my reference books and perhaps look at it occasionally when I needed to find some bit of factual information about other parapsychologists. But as I started to browse in it, I got hooked! What an interesting bunch of people! And even though I knew almost all of these people professionally, I hadn't really known about them personally, or the reasons they got into the field, and I was very touched by their stories.

Properly done, science prides itself on the objectivity and factualness of its conclusions, but in the real world, science is done by people, people with hopes and fears, strong points and weak points, needs to prove something, needs to not be fooled. If you want a quite different look at parapsychology than just the scientific publications, and enjoy learning about people, I highly recommend this book!

Stamina InStride Pro Electronic Stepper
Stamina InStride Pro Electronic Stepper
Price: $63.00
27 used & new from $53.55

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Mechanically great, but squeaks drive me crazy, May 1, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I bought this a year ago in spite of warnings in some reviews that it squeaked a lot. Heck, I thought, I'm good with machines, if something squeaks a lot, you oil it.
Well I've loved the workout, but I've thoroughly oiled every moving part I can reach at least a dozen times. Sometimes that stops the squeak for a few days, but usually it doesn't happen at all. I wrote the manufacturer's help eddress, no response. Out it goes.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 9, 2013 6:06 PM PDT

The Psychedelic Explorer's Guide: Safe, Therapeutic, and Sacred Journeys
The Psychedelic Explorer's Guide: Safe, Therapeutic, and Sacred Journeys
by James Fadiman
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.63
78 used & new from $10.38

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Most Everything You Need to Know About Psychedelics, December 22, 2012
As so many of us discovered in the 60s, our culture was (and still is) desperate for spiritual meaning beyond materialism and consumerism, beyond stale religion of the "Believe it because I say so and you'll go to Hell if you don't!" type. Jim Fadiman was both a laboratory investigator who saw beyond the limits of the laboratory and a real person in the real world of psychedelic exploration who could function in the world of common sense as well as the visionary world. There aren't a lot of really knowledgeable folks like that around anymore, and his sharing of what's known and unknown, do's and don'ts, is essential knowledge if you're thinking about exploring that visionary world. We are lucky to have this book.

Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife
Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife
by Eben Alexander III M. D.
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $15.73
99 used & new from $0.01

329 of 383 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Scientist's Response to Proof of Heaven, October 29, 2012
As a researcher who has been studying the nature of consciousness and trying to build bridges between the best of science and the best of spirituality for more than 50 years, I was fascinated by Eben Alexander's Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Near-Death Experience and Journey Into the Afterlife.

One of the ways we get new knowledge and refine our knowledge about the spiritual is by listening closely to and working with the accounts of people who have what I will loosely call "spiritual experiences." In recent decades our culture, e.g., has been strongly affected by previously unheard of familiarity with Near-Death Experiences, NDEs. When I first began working in psychology 50 years ago, I knew about NDEs because I had read a lot of very esoteric psychical research literature, but aside from knowing that NDEs happened and a few of their characteristics, very little was known by anyone, and the average person had never heard of them. When Raymond Moody published his Life After Life book on NDEs in 1976 and it hit the bestseller lists (more than 13 million copies sold to 2012!), it resonated with people's spiritual needs, and now there is widespread knowledge about qualities of NDEs.

One of the things that most impressed me about people's accounts of their NDEs back then was that people with very different backgrounds and religious beliefs, including people with no formal religious beliefs to speak of, described the qualities of NDEs in a similar way. But if NDEs were nothing but the distorted functioning of a distressed brain, you would think that, like most hallucinations resulting from brain malfunctions, the content of those hallucinations would be very much affected by a person's life experiences, cultural background, and individual beliefs. That there was so much commonality immediately made a case that people were telling you about something that might be real in some sense. By analogy, I have never been to Rome, but accounts I have heard of what Rome looks like by people who claim to have been there show so much commonality that I have high confidence that there really is a place called Rome.

From my perspective as a researcher, however, there is a major drawback to collecting more accounts of NDEs today that didn't apply when they were first collected. Back then, almost everyone who finally came forth with an account noted that they had never heard of such things before they had their own NDE. Indeed they usually had never talked to anyone about what they had experienced, or had tried to talk to others and been so severely rejected (you must have been hallucinating, that's crazy, the work of the devil, etc., etc.) that they remained silent about it, and so there was very little obvious influence from cultural background or others' opinions creating the similarity in their accounts. Now there have been so many articles, books, TV specials, etc., about NDEs that when you hear about someone's recent NDE, you have to wonder how much is this an accurate report of something that is "real" and how much their experience has been colored by all their previous knowledge about what NDEs are supposed to be about.

I am particularly concerned with the potentially biasing effects of previous knowledge because a lot of my early research was on hypnosis, and I had it constantly demonstrated in my research that about a quarter or so of the population could have profoundly real-seeming experiences of any arbitrary nature whatsoever suggested to them by a hypnotist. I doubt that most NDEs are in this category of the purely arbitrary, all a product of suggestion, even the ones occurring today, but even if a major part of what a person experiences is "real" in the sense of belonging to some reality external to their belief system, still the way they perceive it may be influenced to some unknown degree by the now widespread cultural knowledge of what NDEs are supposed to be about. This doesn't mean there's no point in studying most people's NDEs, just that we have to be careful about this possible biasing factor. There's nothing particularly novel about this, of course, people's descriptions of ordinary reality are often biased by what they believe, emotions of the moment, etc.

So one way of getting a less biased picture of what NDEs are like might be to simply give more weight to experiences collected in the early days of research, when most accounts were from people who had never heard anything about what NDEs were supposed to be about. Another way of trying to get beyond such a biasing factor is to study more extreme types of NDEs, NDEs with characteristics that are not all that common or known in our culture, and this is a major reason why I find Doctor Eben Alexander's Proof of Heaven book of great value. One of the most common features of NDEs established in the early research, for example, was that at some point the person having the NDE, the NDEr, reaches some kind of "border," or "barrier," or "bridge" or "gateway," and although they want to go on to what seem even more wonderful heavenly reaches of the experience, they are not allowed to go cross this border or go through this gateway, because if they did, there would be no chance of them returning to physical life. Sometimes, knowing this, the NDEr chooses to come back to physical life, sometimes he or she is forced to come back to physical life even though they desperately want to go on.

What lies beyond this gateway?

Doctor Alexander is a neurosurgeon, and he describes a seven days long NDE caused by a usually fatal brain infection that, given our current medical knowledge, we would say totally knocks out all the higher functioning of the brain, everything that makes us conscious human beings. From the outside medical perspective, he's in a totally unresponsive coma. Inside, at first he experiences his NDE almost like a vegetative state, with no real thoughts occurring in it, and going on "forever," although no ordinary concept of time or duration meant anything to him in that condition. And yet eventually he rose above this, with assistance that he perceived in a most interesting way - - I won't give away this very thought-provoking aspect of the book - - and eventually went through a gateway, and reported an exceptionally profound experience.

Because his experience was exceptionally "positive," a word that hardly begin to convey its power, as a human being I want to believe that his was a true glimpse of the reality of the universe, that we're all under the care of a loving, alive, intelligent universe, like physician Richard M. Bucke reported in his Cosmic Consciousness experience, described in my The End of Materialism: How Evidence of the Paranormal is Bringing Science and Spirit Together.

That's my personal reaction, but as a scientist, I have to bracket that reaction. That is I don't deny it or suppress it, but I recognize that this is something with strong emotions underlying it and it has a possibility of biasing an otherwise relatively objective attempt of mine to understand the experience. So as a scholar and scientific investigator of NDEs, I look at the content of Doctor Alexander's experience, in so far as he can convey it, note the similarities and differences between some other reports of profound experiences by different people in different times and places (like the Bucke Cosmic Consciousness experience mentioned above, or the Darkness of God experience reported by John Wren-Lewis reported on my TASTE (The Archives of Scientists' Transcendent Experiences) site (go to [...] Collected Archives, and select account number 0051, The Darkness of God), and - - - Here's where I'd like to say I understand it's clearly connected to such-and-such phenomena in ways that are very interesting - - - but I can't yet say much more than that this is really interesting, and I want us to learn a lot more about this kind of thing! I know, this is the traditional scientific conclusion to almost all reports, "More research is needed," but it's true! Indeed I would say the implications of NDEs are infinitely more important than 99 percent of what we study in science, so research on NDEs should have an enormous priority in life, but that's not the political reality we live in. ;-(

I also give some extra credence to Doctor Alexander's account because he wasn't a "believer," he wasn't heavily invested in some religious belief system that he had a desperate need to prove. He had a certain, shallow, conventional religiosity from his family background: going to church on Christmas and Easter, otherwise not really giving religion and spirituality any thought. He had heard of reports of NDEs, but, like too many physicians, who are closed minded rather than scientific about this area, he dismissed them as nothing but the hallucinations of a malfunctioning brain. He wouldn't tell a patient they were crazy if they reported unusual experiences to him: in his role as a doctor, as a healer, he would always be nice to them. But accounts of NDEs were just noise to him, damaged brain hallucinations. When he had his own NDE, though, that was something else again!

So, moving into book review mode, am I recommending Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife? Absolutely! Who am I recommending it to? Anyone seriously interested in the meaning of life, and anyone willing to try to bracket their own previous beliefs and preconceptions and be very, very stimulated...
Comment Comments (21) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 14, 2014 4:37 PM PDT

Open Heart, Open Mind: Awakening the Power of Essence Love
Open Heart, Open Mind: Awakening the Power of Essence Love
by Eric Swanson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.41
57 used & new from $8.45

3 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clarity, Confusion, Science, Tibetan Buddhism - Being a Scientist, Being a Spiritual Seeker -, May 11, 2012
"Full disclosure" is fashionable today. Thank goodness, we have enough troubles with hidden biases already! So let me say that I have attended several meditation retreats with Tsoknyi Rinpoche and go to some of his local sangha meetings - but I am not a "believer," "disciple" or "good student" of any particular teacher. I believe there is much to be learned from many spiritual teachers, but see them as humans, brilliant perhaps, but fallible like the rest of us. I'm also devoted to essential science, so don't hesitate to ask questions.
This short essay centering around Tsoknyi Rinpoche's latest book is part of my ongoing blog series ( exploring relations between essential science (not dogmatic scientism) and progressive and humble spirituality (not hardened dogma), parapsychology, spiritual growth, and related topics.

Readers of my blog and of my books tell me they like to hear about my personal psychological processes, how they affect my spiritual and scientific work, rather than only "Professor Tart's" reasoned conclusions about such things. It's easy for me to write in the latter style, that's what gets rewarded in science. This apparent lack of the personal "helps" us, writers and scientists alike, keep up the illusion that we scientists are superior beings, Objective in our Search for Truth, not ignorant or biased like ordinary folks! Not that there's any monopoly in fields like science on trying to cover up our human shortcomings and to feel better about ourselves!! But over the years, as, among other things, I continue my life-long research project, "Who is Charley Tart and why does his mind work the way it does?" I've found it actually communicates more effectively to occasionally be more personal and revealing, even while keeping progress toward more objective understandings as my goal. So here's an ongoing exploration, stimulated by a recent book.
Usually when I review a book, it's a somewhat technical review: assuming I know a reasonable amount about the subject matter, is the book accurate? And, of course, is it readable? I would rarely recommend a book that had useful info in it but you had to work too hard to pull it out. But I've never reviewed or recommended a book before where I'm "worried" because I think the book is too clear, that it makes too much sense to me!
I'm three quarters of the way through lama Tsoknyi Rinpoche's Open Heart, Open Mind: Awakening the Power of Essence Love, and delighted with it. And a little suspicious of my delight.....

Spirituality and Science:
Two major passions/loves of my life, since I was a teenager some 60 years ago, have been spirituality and science. Spirituality in the sense of a deep interest, personal and heartfelt as well as intellectual, in the meaning(s) life can have, the ideas and practices that can take us beyond (without denigrating or invalidating) ordinary animal/material interests, toward the deeper meanings of life. Not so much religion, that socially organized outcome of spirituality that too often loses too much of the real and deep knowledge of spirit - religion is intellectually interesting, but not personally important to me, although as societies, as groups of people, we need healthy forms of it. Science, in the sense of basic, wide-ranging curiosity, wanting to create, to learn, to better understand all aspects of reality and experience while being willing to discipline ourselves in that search so our understanding keeps touch with actual reality, not just emotionally and intellectually attached to appealing intellectual concepts. For me, science is an integral and deep part of my spiritual quest; along the lines of that apocryphal saying "There is no God but reality. To seek Him elsewhere is the action of the Fall." My best understanding at this time is that a truer and more useful spirituality always comes back to checking itself against what can be experienced, observed, created, not just ideas or feelings becoming dogmas, all of this interacting with love, humility and compassion.
I've studied some of the world's great spiritual traditions over my lifetime, with particular interest in Buddhism as a spiritual system because it is psychologically based and fundamentally compatible with essential science - at least the kinds of Buddhism that most interest me. Now I have to add a disclaimer I usually make - I'm not a Buddhist scholar or a lineage holder, I speak from my particular experience of various teachers and teachings, but I know human movements labeled "Buddhism" come in such varieties that anything I can say on the order of "Buddhism is A but not B" can be contradicted by the teachings and activities of some group that considers itself "Buddhist." So when I talk about "Buddhism" or "Buddhist teachings," I mean most simply my (hopefully evolving) understanding, that there was a person, Gautama Buddha, who lived about 2500 years ago and who I think of as one of the world's first psychologists. He had a lot of brilliant insights into the ways the human mind can and does function, especially in the ways that decrease or increase our own and others' suffering. One of his teachings, the Sutta to the Kalamas (some tribal group of his time) has always inspired me as showing his approach can be basically compatible with the essence of science. Here's a translation of that Sutta:
Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it.
Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations.
Do not believe in anything because it is spoken and rumored by many.
Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books.
Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders.
But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason, and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.
(from Gates, 1989).
This is (or at least can be interpreted to be) a basically scientific approach, as it emphasizes the importance of direct observation, direct experience, over belief and theory, and keeping reasoning in accord with observation. I've often described Essential Science as to be curious, to observe things as clearly as you can, to think about what that might mean, and to extend your thinking to predict new events, while sharing all steps of this process with peers. If the new events occur under the predicted conditions, your theory is doing well. If the events don't occur, it's time to reject or modify your theory, your reasoning and/or make clearer observations. If your belief and theories don't fit with what you and others actually can experience, too bad for your beliefs, back to the drawing board! No matter how "elegant," "intuitive," "sensible," or "fashionable" your theories were. Of course just as real science is practiced by human beings who get attached to particular beliefs, the same thing can happen in Buddhism or any spiritual paths, but we're talking ideals here.

Science and Buddhism Practiced by Humans:
These are basics for me, but, of course, in 2500 years human beings have worked extensively with Gautama Buddha's basic teachings and methods. Some of these workers have been learned, intellectual types, with "learned" meaning ranging from people who had memorized much of the early teachings and continued them as a kind of dogma, Truths to be preserved, awkwardness to be pushed away, to more philosophical types who elaborated ideas, to more yogic types, to intensive meditators, who supposedly reached the same kind of understanding in meditatively-induced ASCs (Altered States of Consciousness) that the Buddha himself had attained. In this latter case, Buddhists talk about an unbroken line of succession, a lineage, where the essential truths of Buddhism are with us because of living masters who draw directly on these experiences, where earlier masters certify which of their own students have authentically gotten enlightened, not simply possessing scholarly knowledge but inspired by direct experience.
Beginning with books and a little personal contact with Lama Anarika Govinda, a highly learned German who became a Tibetan Buddhist decades ago, I have studied off and on with a number of Buddhist teachers. I wouldn't call this my "lineage" in any traditional sense, as that would imply approval by these teachers of my understandings, whereas in reality many of the would not recognize my name and probably most, if they remembered me at all, would think of me as that psychologist/scientist who asked too many questions instead of being a devoted student.... ;-)
Today my primary Buddhist teachers, in alphabetical order, are Shinzen Young, Sogyal Rinpoche, and Tsoknyi Rinpoche, and I have done a number of meditation retreats with all of them. I have learned a lot - whether I have learned the "right" thing.....who knows? I list them as "teachers" in the Western sense of the term, brilliant people I am learning a lot from, but not in the Eastern sense that I am a "disciple" of any of them, accepting whatever they teach without questions. Questions, basic curiosity, are an integral part of my nature and essential to being a scientist - although I recognize how easily curiosity is perverted into a psychological defense mechanism, for me as well as people in general.

My Understanding of Buddhism/Dzogchen:
Tibetan Buddhism has been an especially rich source of stimulation and inspiration for me. I like the Tibetans I've met, their tradition is very rich, and they strike me as happy people. And challenging! Sometimes I hear a brief teaching or read something and my reaction is on the order of "Yes, that makes sense, that's how my mind often works," or "I don't fully understand that but it points in a direction that may make sense for me after I have certain experiences or the like." And other times my reaction could be best expressed as "Huh?"
This applies especially to Dzogchen, the Great Perfection, the forms emphasized by Sogyal Rinpoche and Tsoknyi Rinpoche. Dzogchen is touted as the highest form of Tibetan Buddhism - a statement I like, shouldn't a smart person like me be studying with the best and highest? But I don't pay much attention to this kind of statement, really, as all forms of the spiritual path I've explored claimed to be the best and highest.... I hope it's all true!
Beginning with Sogyal Rinpoche's retreats back in the 1970s, Dzogchen has been my focus. Sogyal Rinpoche teaches Vajrayana Buddhism, the Diamond Vehicle, too, but it's not my style, so even though many fellow students regularly practice these exercises, I seldom do more than a few minutes of any of them (mantra chanting or praying, e.g.) as a way of stimulating my devotion and caring. It's the mindfulness emphasis of Dzogchen I care about, and I have written three books about mindfulness that have, I'm told, been helpful to people (Waking Up: Overcoming the Obstacles to Human Potent­­ial. Boston: New Science Library, 1986; Living the Mindful Life. Boston: Shambhala, 1994; and Mind Science: Meditation Training for Practical People. Novato, California: Wisdom Editions, 2001, and I will teach the first of several online workshops on core mindfulness training and meditation starting this August (

So what is Dzogchen (remember, just my opinion to date, no authoritative answers)? On some days, I think I understand, both intellectually and experientially, that's it's like what G. I. Gurdjieff called waking up, it's a focus on clearly perceiving what's actually happening at the moment with concentration, clarity and equanimity, a focus on sensations and initial internal reactions in the here-and-now, rather than being lost in our reactions to our reactions to our reactions. Ordinary mental functioning, samsara, illusion, means confusing reactions with actual realities of the moment. To illustrate....
- Right now I hear some yard work being done next door, a gasoline powered string trimmer running - so far so good, I think this is an accurate perception of what's actually going on at this moment
- which bothers me, as I'm trying to think and write this material, not be annoyed by that darn trimmer going off and on - I'm leaving simple sensory reality now, the focus is on my consciousness now, on me being annoyed and reasons (rationalizations?) for being annoyed. My potential conscious control of my mind is slipping too as annoyance takes over guidance.
- Spreading into a generalized annoyance, why do there have to be so many damned distractions when I'm trying to say something? And all the damned distractions I've had to put up with the past few weeks! - examples from memory popping into my mind for moments, another replacing it, etc., etc. Alas, poor me!
Hmmm. A minute ago I was a relatively awake mind, focused on a writing task which I thought could be of benefit to others, now I'm drifting into self-pity....poor poor me.....
So again, what is Dzogchen (remember, just my opinion to date, no authoritative answers)? It's about a small but real intention or effort to stay close to what's happening in the present moment, and, as one result, not having my "stories" and neuroses and hopes and fears running my mind so strongly. When I'm being closer to reality I'm usually happier, more intelligent (perceiving what's relevant, rather than going off into stories and the past or future), more effective in terms of actions being based more on reality and less on fantasy, my samsara, my stories.
So again, what is Dzogchen (remember, just my opinion to date)? There are those many other moments and days when the answer is indeed "Huh?" What are they talking about? There are lots of Big, vital terms in Dzogchen. Pure perception? When is my perception pure enough to qualify? And if I'm asking that question, aren't I doing what's called fabricating in Dzogchen, pushing my experience into an (arbitrary) form rather than really paying attention to the reality of the moment? Rigpa, the nature of mind, the essence of Dzogchen being resting in the nature of mind? Right now my mind is churning a lot of words around, trying to see what best describes my actual experience - but this could hardly be the nature of, the essence of mind? Word churning is me - so true, it would make a nice bumper sticker! Emptiness? Another one of those key Buddhist terms that sometimes I think I understand, too many other times I can't make any sense of it in the contexts I hear it in.....

The Book: Open Heart, Open Mind: Awakening the Power of Essence Love
Which finally gets us back to Tsoknyi Rinpoche's Open Heart, Open Mind: Awakening the Power of Essence Love. With everything else I've read on Dzogchen, the many teachings I've heard, I constantly bounce back and forth between "I basically understand this and have a little skill at practicing it" and "What are they talking about?"
But just about everything I've read in Tsoknyi Rinpoche's book so far - and I'm almost done - makes immediate, obvious sense to me, intellectually and experientially. How can that be? What's my problem? Is there a problem?
My best guess is that I'm so habitually concerned about using words correctly, about not misleading others or not being misled by thinking I understand when I really don't, is that Rinpoche has hardly used any of the big, important Tibetan buzz terms at all in the book, he's stayed with straightforward English - so I haven't been trapped into worrying about what I do and don't know! Clever!
Now it's a mixed "blessing" to be as concerned with proper word use as I am. On the one hand, it's been one of the keys to my success as a writer and teacher. People often write me and thank me for being so clear and specific about what I mean, and contrast that with the ambiguity common in so much spiritual writing and teaching. Such ambiguity often can't be helped in many cases, of course, the terms are fuzzy, used in different ways by different writers or even in different senses by the same writer without it being made clear that meaning has changed. Or the words may point in a useful direction, but what's being talked about can't be adequately caught in words anyway. Have you ever seen a satisfactory definition of the taste of "vanilla ice cream" that would fully convey the experience to someone who had never tasted it?
I often tease people that when I become World Tsar of Word Usage, I'm going to outlaw the use of "meditation." There are so many contradictory and confusing uses that it's too likely to confuse rather than educate or communicate. Don't say "I meditated," e.g., get very specific, say something like: "Given certain background expectations and conditions (spell out), I tried to follow this specific mental practice (C-CAPs, Consciously Controlled Attention Practice is the term I'm trying to introduce, but I don't expect much success in the real world), and "succeeded" or "failed" in such-and-such specific ways and experienced so-and-so, perhaps as a specific results of this C-CAP)."
So one conclusion I can draw about this book is that its author has succeeded masterfully in introducing the basics of the Dzogchen approach for mindfulness and liberation to English-speaking beginners, without trapping them in special Tibetan terms. I might need to modify this conclusion though - perhaps all my years of struggling with Tibetan terminology and practice has given me a preparation for following this English version. The words are excellent, but perhaps not that excellent if you don't have enough prior Tibetan background? I don't know, and we will see from the reactions of newcomers reading the book. And/or perhaps I can just say this is a great English-language review of the essentials (again, as I understand them so far) of Dzogchen....And perhaps if you are an experience student of Tibetan Buddhism and you find this book too "elementary" you might wonder if you are somewhat attached to being "special," an "advanced student?" I think this book gets quite deep into the core aspects of the teachings....
I also noted at the beginning of this essay that "I've found it actually communicates better to be more personal and revealing, even while keeping more objective understandings as my goal." Tsoknyi Rinpoche takes a similar tack in his book, relating many personal incidents. Not to show he's a special kind of person, but rather to share his humanity. After all, if he is too different, how can we really take his advice too seriously?
I remember Shinzen Young talking about coming back from many years of meditation study in the East, coming back as an ordained monk and beginning to teach in Los Angeles. He noticed something, though. Because he was a monk, he got lots of respect from students, but at some level they didn't take his teaching to seriously, after all he was a monk, he was special. So he changed it. He let his hair grow back in, ditched the monastic robes for blue jeans, and got a girlfriend, now he wasn't so different and people felt closer to him and his teachings....
I especially resonated with Tsoknyi Rinpoche's many recollections that he was a happy child, a typical boy, having a lot of fun, and how much he had to suppress himself in order to be a tulku once he was so designated, a reincarnation of the previous Tsoknyi Rinpoche, and so having enormous responsibilities to preserve Tibetan Buddhism and his lineage. He suffered a lot - I wish he hadn't had to! There are still lots of times I'd prefer to be my childhood self, Teddy Tart, and just have some fun, instead of Professor Tart, authority on consciousness, - and the demands on Professor Tart are a lot easier than on Rinpoche Tsoknyi Rinpoche! ;-)
Whichever of my understandings is correct, this is an excellent book and I highly recommend it, whether you're a Buddhist student or simply curious about the workings of your own mind.....
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Altering Consciousness [2 volumes]: Multidisciplinary Perspectives
Altering Consciousness [2 volumes]: Multidisciplinary Perspectives
by Etzel Cardena
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $116.60
32 used & new from $75.94

26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worthy Successor to My Altered States of Consciousness book, May 30, 2011
Back in 1969, I published Altered States of Consciousness to meet the need of the many who were experiencing altered states of consciousness (ASCs), but lacked any reliable scientific information, and to promote research on ASCs. The book was unexpectedly and phenomenally successful and today, more than 40 years later, I still get letters of thanks from people about how the book helped them make sense out of the unusual things that were happening to them. Courses on ASCs were started all over the world using the book as a text, and some research was indeed stimulated.
My only regret was that for many years my ASC book remained the most useful book on the subject! I had hoped that research would be so stimulated that my book would be quite outmoded within a few years, but the public hysteria about psychedelic drugs stopped that and other lines of research for a long time.
Now my old ASC book has a more-than-worthy successor. This is it! So any of you who were helped by my book long ago, you want to read this one!
In accordance with current fashion to reveal interests, I have written a preface to these volumes, but I have no monetary interest in them whatsoever....

Charles T. Tart
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Happiness is a Learnable Skill, December 13, 2010
One of the great lessons of spiritual systems like basic Buddhism is that while there can be a lot of suffering in life caused by external events and forces, and you too often can't really exert any control to make these better, you can learn some degree, often a lot, of control over how you react to events.

As my friend Shinzen Young so nicely puts it in modern terms, S = P x R, Suffering equals the actual physical Pain multiplied by your Resistance to that sensation. You can generalize Pain to many qualities of unpleasant life events, and Resistance to your general attitude toward what happens to you.

The bad news of this formulation is that you can suffer a lot more than you need to. Imagine we can measure the actual degree of physical Pain and Resistance, as the simplest example, each, say, on a 10 point scale. Well you might have an actual physical pain of, say, level 3, it hurts, but it's not too bad. But if you Resist it at, say, level 5 of Resistance, you get 15 units of Suffering! I know this is true from life-long experience: I've had a lot of minor pains and stressful situations which I've made far worse than they actually were by my resistant, angry, attitude. Fortunately I'm learning to do the opposite - it's taken me long enough.....

Suppose your general attitude to life is it's unfair, it's too much, "they" should be punished for being so unfair, you can't stand it, etc. All of your pains and stresses are multiplied and you suffer a lot more than you actually need to.

The good news is that if you can reduce the size of that Resistance factor, Suffering goes down. Indeed, at the extreme, if you can reduce Resistance to zero, you don't suffer, even thought the situation is bad. Shinzen, teaching people to reduce Resistance through relatively classical vipassana meditation training in equanimity, has told me of a number of his students who learned to live with chronic physical pain problems this way, the pain is still there, but the suffering is way down.

Switch now to another meditation teacher friend, James Baraz. His new book with co-author Shoshana Alexander, Awakening Joy: 10 Steps that will put you on the Road to Real Happiness is a very accessible formulation of learning these kinds of equanimity and other meditative skills, plus life change tasks, that run the happiness in your life way up! I know James developed and refined his methods from repeated live classes, and they worked so well for so many people that a publisher in one of his classes demanded that he write about it. I heartily recommend the book!

School of the Ages:  The Ghost in the Crystal
School of the Ages: The Ghost in the Crystal
Price: $2.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Harry Potter in New York City - Yes!, November 2, 2010
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I could play my sophisticated psychologist and parapsychologist role (I am one) and talk about the value of the growth and spiritual themes in this book, but I'd much rather admit to being a life-loving, 10 years old boy who still has a great time in this 73 year old body, who read the book, and thought "Cool!" A great story that caught me up, a great parallel to the Harry Potter books (I've read them all at least twice), and a fascinating contrast that our young hero here grows up in New York rather than England and has decent folks for parents rather than the horrible Dursleys.
(If you don't know who the Dursleys are, you haven't read the Harry Potter books: that's sad...)
I can't wait to see what happens in the next book in this series. Good show, Matt Posner!

Something Unknown Is Doing We Don't Know What
Something Unknown Is Doing We Don't Know What
DVD ~ Dean Radin
Offered by Beyond Words Publishing
Price: $12.95
19 used & new from $3.10

107 of 114 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exciting and Accurate Without the Usual Schlock!, July 5, 2010
I'm a biased source, as I was the main scientist guiding the producer in making this video, and I appear on camera several times. After subtracting these little ego satisfactions, though, I rate this video as excellent!
The usual video dealing with parapsychology is sloppily inaccurate, full of fantastic stuff that is probably nonsense, or both. This one is highly accurate in depicting what we actually know and are investigating, presents it in a clear and exciting manner, and doesn't go off into ridiculous exaggerations or the opinionated mouthings of the psi-deniers who actually know nothing about parapsychological research but are sure it must be wrong.
So I recommend this as the best you can get for parapsychology and some of its implications for understanding human nature and spirituality.
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