Vajra Blue

Mindfulness and Compassion. Understanding trauma in young people.


Guarding the Gates to our Senses: Critical Thinking Matters.

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If it is not right, don’t do it: if it is not true, don’t say it.

Marcus Aurelius.

Sometime in the winter of 179/180 CE, while on campaign in the Balkans, the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius – the last of the five good emperors (the white haired one in Gladiator) – wrote these words in his personal journal. He was reminding himself to take care about the things he thought, said and did. He believed that acting in a “right” way mattered, and that integrity mattered a great deal.

As Emperor what he said mattered. He was in a such a powerful position that his word, quite literally, was law and carried the power of life and death over the ordinary mortals over whom he ruled. Marcus did his best to live his philosophy and not to abuse his power. He lived in a time when philosophy was not some desiccated academic pursuit but a way of life. Something to be lived every day. He followed the teaching of the Stoic school and believed in the stoic virtues, the yardsticks against which he measured himself.

  • Justice – Treating others with decency and fairness. Not imposing our world view on others. Not giving in to hate speech or treating one part of society differently from the rest. Bearing your community in mind when you make decision about how to behave. Masks anyone. Vaccination?
  • Wisdom – Practical wisdom for day to day living. This is seen as the chief human good and remains so under all and any conditions. It allows us to make ethical decisions. Without the wisdom to live well how can we make any sensible decisions about the right way to behave? Perhaps a little practical wisdom might have prevented the unedifying spectacle of Capitol insurgents blaming Trump for their decision to attend the party.
  • Temperance – Moderation in all things. A middle way. that old fashioned virtue of self control. Being able to rein in our desires and actions so that we do not lose control or yield to excess or the masses. Thinking before we act.
  • Courage – Although this can have a physical element it is more about moral courage. To act according to what is right and to continue to do so even tin he most demanding of circumstances. To take responsibility for our actions and to face the consequences of our choices with equanimity.

Every day, despite all the demands on his time, Marcus took the time to write in his journal. A document that he titled “To Himself”, but is better known as “Meditations.” He wrote in his journal to review the day just past and as a way to prepare himself for the day ahead. He did this in order to hold himself to account for his past behaviour and to plan for whatever upsets might come his way in the future, thinking through the trials and tribulations that might he might face so that he could take them in his stride.

Marcus has been a beacon of upstanding behaviour ever since.

Give distinction and stand out as a fine example to the rest. Epictetus.

In light of the way various World Leaders have chosen to behave over the past few years it would seem unlikely that someone like Marcus would have managed to get elected to any meaningful position if he espoused views of this nature today.

We live at a time where these four cardinal virtues, or indeed any virtues, have been deliberately set aside by those who should be setting an example to the rest of us. Presidents and other world leaders choose to lie to the world. They incite hatred and insurgency. Feeding off those who feel dispossessed and with little real stake in their world to push their own personal agendas and to aggrandise themselves.

Worst of all their followers, fed on a diet of misinformation, take this as permission to stop thinking for themselves and to express the most horrific opinions and bizarre beliefs without challenging their veracity or impact.

It does seem strange that a wealthy american realtor should choose to fly by private jet to Washington, stand around advertising her services before then entering the Capitol complex and then, not just expects, but demand a pardon from the President when she has to face the consequences of her own conscious decision to act unlawfully.

Perhaps what the world needs at the moment is more of these stoic virtues. We should encourage people to think for themselves and make their own decisions instead of allowing them to abdicate their responsibility to the rest of the world and blaming others for the decisions they choose to make.

All rights come with accompanying responsibilities. The greatest of these is not to abuse them.


Mindfulness: Minding the Gap.

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The guy in the bright blue ute who cut me up on my way to work this morning, did not act to make me angry and reality would say that absolutely nothing happened.

I had to brake a bit harder than I wanted and the action disturbed my reverie and highlighted my being absent from what I was supposed to be doing at the time – driving. My mind flashed onto this event bringing to bear all the other times when I have felt discounted, unvalued, taken for granted, ignored or other similar experience. This results in a flash of rage bursting out “How dare he treat me so!” “How dare he put my life in danger.” And I am even further detached from the present moment, in my car, driving, right here right now.

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Do penguins have knees? Three ways to grow an irritable mind.

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Thinking is what a great many people think they are doing when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.

William James

Over the last twenty years, I have been forced to recognise that I spend far too much of the time when I attempt to meditate, sitting on my cushions lost in thought. This thinking is rarely helpful.

These thoughts, that insistently intrude upon my practice, and which come so regularly and without any formal invitation, fall into three main groups. There are variations on the themes that are involved, and in the content that they cover. The one thing that they have in common is to increase the irritability and reactivity of the mind.

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Thinking: the fault lies in our logic – not in our stars

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Begin challenging your own assumptions. Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.

Alan Alda

Thinking is a three-step process.
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Mindfulness: Speaking clearly, communication in a modern world.

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What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow: our life is the creation of our mind.

If a man speaks or acts with a pure mind, joy follows him as his own shadow.

Dhammapada 1:2

Man is not worried about real problems so much as his imagined anxieties about real problems.

Epictetus.

Our thoughts and speech reflect the emotional tone of our lives.

Our speech reflects our thoughts, which are often present as an internal, private dialogue. Our thoughts do not become clear until we give them substance by putting them into words, either as private self talk in our mind, or more publicly when we start to speak, or send a message over social media.
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Mindfulness: Right Here. Right Now

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”The brain secretes thoughts like the liver secretes bile”
Pierre Cabanis.

Where rumination is concerned this quote is doubly apposite. Not only do thoughts keep on coming but they also tend to be full of vitriol and bile against ourselves, against the way we have behaved in the past and might behave in the future, and to a lesser extent against other people.

Rumination is not about the present.

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