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Craig Payton/ Book Report: Brain Wars

October 1, 2012 in Book Reports by Craig Payton

Brain Wars

The Scientific Battle Over the Existence of the Mind and the Proof That Will Change the Way We Live Our Lives

Mario Beauregard

2012

From the back cover;

“The current assumption that the brain makes consciousness, like the liver makes bile, and that human consciousness is confined to the brain and body, can only be called neuromythology. This belief will not endure because it is unscientific, and cannot account for how consciousness manifests in the world. In this important book, Dr. Mario Beauregard shows why.” Larry Dossey, M.D., author of “Reinventing Medicine, and “The Power of Premonitions.”

From the time I was quite young I knew in my heart that something was missing in the Modern-Western-Scientific worldview. The thought, still promoted in many scientific circles, that human consciousness is merely the result of the functioning of a “meat computer” struck me as short sighted and ignorant. This view led to disregarding psychology and psychotherapy as useful pursuits. I give tremendous respect to pioneers like Dr. Beauregard who are entering the fray to prove a world view once restricted to mystics but now implied by quantum mechanics and the subject of exploration on the cutting edge of science.

One of the first tasks Beauregard takes on is to describe the worldview which has informed mainstream science since Newton, which he identifies as “Scientific Materialism”. This is not to denigrate or deny the value of achievements made in the physical sciences over the last 300 years or so, but to move the conversation forward to allow for the possibility that this model does not offer a complete description of reality. This book asserts and supports the point of view that consciousness, reasoning, imagination and will are not products of the brain. Mind is a nonphysical phenomenon interacting with the brain.

It is interesting to note that near the end of the 19th century there was a certain conceit in physics that all that could be known in that field had nearly been achieved. There was only the resolution of certain “anomalous” data which needed explanation. This seemingly small area opened up into the vast domain of Quantum Mechanics. The effects of these discoveries are still being explored to this day.

Beauregard asserts that materialist theories cannot solve the mind/brain problem. Materialist dogma has blocked science from exploring legitimate avenues while discarding remarkable discoveries as “anomalous” data. Multiple lines of hard evidence show that mental events do exist and can influence our brains and bodies. They show that our minds can affect events occurring outside our bodies, even when the brain is apparently not functioning. Beauregard explores certain lines of research further to show clear proof that the views of materialism are incomplete. An important aspect of this discussion is the materialist fundamentalists who resist absorbing and exploring data that does not fit with their beliefs about the world. This is not science. Science should always explore all lines of evidence, especially when such evidence challenges assumptions. Not to do so defeats real scientific exploration.

Over the course of this book Dr. Beauregard covers fascinating material which starts out on relatively accepted though fringe areas of inquiry and eventually lands in chapter 8 covering the topic of Mystical Experiences taboo subject to science.

In the first chapter the subject of Placebo is covered as well as the less well known, Nocebo effect which means to cause harm through belief in the ability of a substance or remote action to harm. Medicine has long known of the placebo effect and new medicines undergo double-blind, placebo controlled trials. The interesting thing about placebo is that administration of placebo therapies has been demonstrated time and again to exhibit much more positive effects than no treatment.

In recent years many promising new drugs have failed to beat the performance of placebo. It has been theorized that due to the tremendous amount of marketing and it’s success that clinical trial subjects have a greatly enhanced impression of the ability of new drug therapies’ effectiveness. Therefore, in a blind study when receiving a placebo pill they elicit a strong placebo response, generating results as good as the drug. This doesn’t mean that these drugs are less effective, but that placebo response has somehow become stronger. Because of the requirement to beat placebo many pharma companies are going through difficulty getting drugs past trial stage, possibly because of their own previous marketing.

Is it possible to harness the placebo response in and of itself, independently of drug or surgical intervention? Research into how the placebo effect accomplishes pain management through release of endorphins, and Parkinson’s disease management through enhanced release of the neuro­transmitter Dopamine, demonstrates that we may likely be able to improve the function of our body, cognitive function and emotional states without chemical or other intervention.

In Chapter 2 Dr. Beauregard explores a way to train the mind to improve function through the method of Neurofeedback.  It was long accepted that humans could not exert conscious control over brain activity. Neurofeedback is used to train individuals to control their brainwave state. Generally changing the brainwaves into a more relaxed state known as Alpha achieves the desired result. This state not only is associated with relaxation but has been shown effective in reducing or eliminating epileptic seizures and as an effective treatment for ADD and ADHD, Alcoholism and PTSD.

Alpha brainwaves are slower than Beta brainwaves which are more typical of ordinary wakefulness. Alpha is often seen in trained meditators and the ability to achieve this state at will has been shown to be responsible for the ability to maintain a calm-focused state.

These results demonstrate the ability of the brain to change through training and link directly to the concept of Ch.3 Neuroplasticity. Having trained in meditation and studied its effects the results of neurofeedback are not expected, and the effectiveness of this training to achieve similar skills as developed by meditation is very impressive and important.

Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to change, especially to adapt in a positive way, throughout life and in response to everyday experience. It strikes me as self evident that this should be so, but Beauregard shows that science’s exploration of the topic is quite new, dating back to the 1960′s. Up until that time the brain was seen as fixed. The early view of neuroscientists was that the brain is a hardwired machine.

In short it has been demonstrated that you can train your brain to improve its function. This is well known to practitioners of Yoga, Buddhism and others involved in the many and varied methods of meditation in the world.

We can through training see lasting improvement in concentration, and attention. Further meditative practice develops improved function in emotional well being, empathy and compassion. Such training can actually alter the physical structure of the brain and there is solid evidence to indicate such training can slow cognitive decline and reduction of gray matter volume seen in normal aging.

Given the evidence of physical changes seen in the brain the next question to arise is the next step in the book. Can the mind affect the body to create change, well-being, and healing? Now we are getting into really interesting territory. Although I believe the answer is again already self evident that the mind can and does affect the body, both positively and negatively. Dr Beauregard goes into some good detail on the evidence proving this point. Another interesting question to me is “how do we maximize the mind body connection to create health and well being in ourselves and to assist others to do so for themselves?”

In Ch.4 Surfing the Psychosomatic Network Beauregard asks the question,”Can we use our minds to heal our bodies?” He uses several examples to show evidence of this process. Psychosomatic medicine emerged at the beginning of the 20th century but it’s theories remained largely speculative for many decades. In 1964 a psychiatrist at Stanford University published an article linking the immune system with mental events and coined the term psychoimmunology. By the early 70′s researchers had added the interaction of the nervous system with the immune system and combined with theories about stress induced disease and stress reduction as therapy established the field of Psychonueroimmunology (PNI). Studies in this field have shown that our thoughts and feelings do affect our health and well-being. Such studies show the interconnectivity of psychological and social factors and biochemical changes affecting the immune, endocrine and cardiovascular systems. This describes the psychosomatic network. These processes and connections are established. Can we deliberately influence this network?

As a stunning example of proof Psychologist Jeffery Dusek at Harvard Medical School conducted a study on Gene expression. a comparison was made between 19 long term mental-relaxation practitioners, 19 healthy control subjects and 20 individuals who went through an eight week training course in relaxation methods. Dusek, etal, found 2200 genes were activated differently in the longtime practitioners relative to the controls. They found that a gene that is turned on or off by stress is turned the other way during relaxation. This demonstrates the mind affecting the body and its health in a deep way.

Beauregard goes on to cite several studies demonstrating the benefit of positive attitude as a protection against sickness and a predictor explored as a mind-body technique well known in older traditional cultures. Brain imaging has shown that during effective visualization that the brain becomes as activated as if the subject were actually seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, smelling and moving. Mental imagery has been shown to positively affect the immune system.

Mindfulness meditation is another mind-body method which has been demonstrated in cancer patients to reduce anxiety, depression, anger and bodily manifestations of stress.

Many PNI researchers continue to reduce the psychological component of the psychosomatic network to nothing more than chemical and electrical activity in the nerve cells of our brain.

Further in this chapter Beauregard discusses the mysterious discoveries found in the physiology of those suffering from DID (Disassociative Identity Disorder) in which an individual exhibits multiple personalities. It has been observed that certain aspects of such individuals’ physiology will alter when switching from one personality to another. These changes may be as minor as a diabetic requiring different levels of insulin to as dramatic as an individual who exhibited needle track marks when in one personality which would disappear in another.

Chapter 5 takes on; The Mind Force Within; Hypnosis

Beauregard points out that despite our cultural familiarity with hypnosis, science has no definitive answer to what it is exactly or how it works. Despite this the process of hypnosis is being widely used to harness the power of the mind in amazing ways. We can define hypnosis as an altered state of consciousness accompanied by changes in perception, memory, emotions and action. Hypnosis does not require another person as hypnotic suggestion may also be self administered.

Hypnosis has been demonstrated effective in pain management with many different medical issues. Hypnosis has been demonstrated to reduce pain and anxiety in expectant mothers.

Amazingly hypnosis has been shown effective even in creating physical change in the body. Several studies in the 1970s successfully demonstrated the ability of hypnotized women to increase their breast size. Participants with better visual skill experienced greater success.

Hypnotic suggestion was used successfully to accelerate healing of fracture.

Skeptics have argued against hypnosis, attempting to discredit it. Researchers have been able to demonstrate that hypnotized subjects can change the way the brain processes information.

It is fairly clear that the phenomena of hypnotism is not some force imposed from the outside but rather a method to let down the normal barriers preventing access to abilities which lay dormant within us. It seems that deeper levels of the mind can be accessed through hypnosis. This deeper mind or larger intelligence has a greater capacity to influence the body.

Chapter 6. Beyond Space and Time: Psi

In Chapter 6 Beauregard takes the next step and asks,”can this deeper intelligence affect the bodily functions of others at a distance? Can it receive information beyond the reach of ordinary senses?

Beauregard starts the chapter discussing the case of Joe McMoneagle who had a classic Near Death Experience (NDE) and then returned to his life with new abilities. In 1977 he was recruited by the army for a top-secret project called “Stargaze” which also involved the CIA and the DIA and the navy. This program was to use Remote-viewing to gather intelligence. Regardless of what skeptics claim, these agencies gave credulity to the psychic ability of certain individuals to view unknown targets remotely and obtain useful intelligence.

In 1995, in response to a request by the US Congress, a statistician from U.C. Davis reviewed previously  classified Psi research and made the following important statement which I will transcribe in full from the text;

Effects of similar magnitude to those found in government sponsored research… have been replicated at a number of laboratories across the world. Such consistency cannot be readily explained by claims of flaws or fraud… It is recommended that future experiments focus on understanding how this phenomenon works, and on how to make it as useful as possible. THERE IS LITTLE BENEFIT TO CONTINUING EXPERIMENTS DESIGNED TO OFFER PROOF.

Psi discoveries are still widely considered, and often dismissively as “anomalous.” No current theories in physics, psychology, or neuroscience can explain them convincingly. However such anomalies should not be disregarded or seen as mistakes or inconveniences. The history of science shows us that anomalies can lead to major breakthroughs and even scientific revolution. History also shows that scientists are often not open minded or even rational in the face of ideas which challenge the conventional and accepted worldview.

The field of Psi seems to be the only scientific field for which a few “professional pseudo-skeptics” systematically attempt to bring the domain’s findings into disrepute.

True skeptics conduct an open minded and objective inquiry for truth. Pseudo-skeptics on the other hand are believers, committed to defending scientific materialism. Because Psi phenomena demonstrate the incompleteness of the materialist worldview, pseudo skeptics must dismiss all evidence for Psi as uncontrolled, unreplicable or flawed – even in the face of phenomena being replicated hundreds of times in independent laboratories across the world.

A Major theme of “Brain Wars” is that it is very important to see the War that is taking place in the halls of science between those truly trying to advance our understanding of unexplained phenomena and those who would seek to prevent such research solely because it threatens a worldview is being proven outmoded.

Beauregard explores Telepathy (mind to mind communication) and pre-cognition (knowing something is going to happen before it happens) and he reviews the methods of study and the proof they offer. The ability to influence living organisms at a distance is studied convincingly as well. The author points out that our inability to explain what research is demonstrating does not at all disqualify the research. It has often been the case that research has preceded theoretical explanations.

Classical physics does not offer any help explaining these phenomena. The model of Quantum physics seems to be indicating certain aspects of reality which have not yet been integrated into our thinking. The ideas of quantum non-locality, or quantum entanglement demonstrate that objects that appear to be separate are in fact deeply interconnected regardless of distance.

The implications of this understanding may go far to explain why we can access information from other’s minds, why minds can influence other minds, physical systems and biological organisms.

Many theoretical physicists have offered the idea that Mind plays a central role in physical reality. Are they now saying in a new way what Buddhists have said for millennia?‑ “All is Mind.” Psi phenomena suggest that mind plays a fundamental role in nature, and that psyche and the physical world are NOT radically separated.

To more fully quell the arguments of the pseudo-skeptics in Ch. 7 Mind Out of Body: Mind, Brain and Near Death Experiences. Beauregard demonstrates proof for higher mental functions such as perception, memory, thinking and self awareness while the brain is severely impaired or not functioning at all.

There have long been tales reporting experiences when they were near death, or even when clinically dead and then brought back to life.

Skeptics have questioned the validity of such experiences probably as long as modern science has been aware of such reports. A common theory among scientists is that the commonalities of certain aspects of the Near Death Experience (NDE) are due to the dying brain generating the same imagery, such as a tunnel and/or a bright light. This is another example of reducing human experience and consciousness to nothing more than electrical impulses in the brain.

Dr.Beauregard cites several examples of NDEs wherein the subject was able to provide unique data which would not have been available to them under any materialist model of the nature of consciousness. These verifiable experiences demonstrate clearly that consciousness exists separately from the brain and body. This of course is something materialist science can NOT admit. I agree it is difficult to fully comprehend the gravity of the realization which the evidence shows. It is a monumental understanding. Beyond the simple fact of individuals providing verifiable information about actions which took place, conversations or even knowing where a missing item was placed, those experiencing NDE’s consistently show a renewed appreciation for life, a sense of wonder and gratitude as well as a sense of purpose and the meaningfulness of their life. It is important also to note that such NDE’s have been reported by members of all religions as well as the non-religious. Interpretations of the experience, which inescapably contains religious overtones, were colored by their belief system, but the consistency of all reporters overall experience is striking. This seems to demonstrate a phenomena which is common to all people.

The author effectively refutes the common arguments supporting the materialist worldview, even though these arguments never attempt to explain the verifiable information supposedly brain dead or comatose individuals were able to provide.

A survey published in 1998 shows that 93% of the most prominent scientists is the US (and 100% of members of the National Academy of Sciences) totally rejected the idea of an afterlife. This can help us understand why the implications of research on NDEs is so threatening to mainstream scientists.

Ch.8 Embracing a Greater Self

Mystical Experiences

One of the important points Beauregard makes in this chapter is once again to soundly refute the theory that spiritual phenomena can be explained by a malfunctioning brain. Temporal Lobe epilepsy has often been cited as the cause of certain mystical experiences and has even gone so far as to claim to explain the mystical experiences of historical figures, such as Joan of Arc. He makes a good case that the evidence is not congruent with the conclusions drawn by skeptics.

Neurotheology is the attempt to understand what occurs in the brain during religious or spiritual experiences. Such brain imaging studies cannot prove or disprove the existence of a “higher power”. Certain researchers and journalists have argued that because we can find certain neural correlates associated with spiritual experience that we have proven that such experiences are delusion. This is a mistaken view, the same as saying that a painting you are viewing is an illusion because it can be associated with brain activity in the visual portion of your brain.

In concluding this section Beauregard presents the idea of a filter. NDE’s, OBE’s and MEs (mystical experiences) are all examples where the usual filtering provided by the brain is somehow bypassed, whether by temporary shut down of the physical body or electrical or chemical alterations of the brain. The effect of this “filter” is to separate us from the perception of the Ground of Being which allows us to know that we are not encapsulated in our brains and bodies and separate from each-other but rather connected with all others and with the entire universe.

In the concluding essay to this book “A Great Shift in Consciousness” Dr.Beauregard continues to draw from the world view of Quantum Physics to show how the view of reality demonstrated by these new understandings can easily enfold the phenomena described throughout his book. Materialist science based on Newtonian physics took us out of the dark ages showing us a world never seen before. Now there is another invisible world for us to see, one that the dogmas of materialist science attempt to obscure, but that the discoveries of quantum physics make clear.

Among the implications this new understanding brings the concept that mind and consciousness represent an aspect of reality as fundamental as the physical world. Also mind and the physical world are constantly interacting as they are indeed not separate, only appearing to be so. Finally as this book shows so well mind and consciousness are NOT produced by the brain.

Humans are not powerless, biochemical machines. It is time to take back our dignity and power as conscious beings and scientists as well. Science can and should move forward enthusiastically to explore the implications of this new worldview.

I am grateful to have encountered this book, published only this year, which makes so many connections to fields I have studied. Throughout this work Dr. Beauregard has maintained the stance of a professional researcher, a true scientific pioneer. The power of his conclusions to make rational and accessible ideas and subjects heretofore regarded as mystical and superstitious nonsense is valuable beyond my ability to describe. The knowledge I have gained in studying this work tremendously enhances my understanding of consciousness studies and many related fields.

Verlyn Craig Payton July 20th 2012

Craig Payton/ Book Report: Limitless Mind

August 30, 2012 in Book Reports by Craig Payton

Limitless Mind:  A guide to remote viewing and transformation of consciousness.

Russell Targ

2004

Chapter List:

Forward by Jean Houston

Introduction:  The Unknowable End of Science

Ch. 1 Our limitless Mind:  Living in a Non-Local Universe

Ch. 2 On a Clear Day We Can See Forever:  What We Know About Remote Viewing

Ch. 3 For Your Viewing Pleasure:  How You Can Practice Remote Viewing

Ch. 4 Precognition:  There’s No Time Like the Future Or the Past

Ch. 5 Intuitive Medical Diagnosis:  Things to Do Before the Doctor Arrives

Ch. 6 Distant Healing:  Is It My mind Over Your Matter?

Ch. 7 Why bother with ESP?  Discovering That You Are the Love You Seek.

 

Afterword:  Elisabeth’s Story

Russel Targ has spent decades researching Extra Sensory Perception (ESP).  He co-founded The Stanford Research Institute’s Program on remote viewing and other psychic phenomenon.  I have also long been intrigued by this subject, for nearly as long a period.  I say nearly because I was a young child just entering grade school when Targ began his research at SRI (Stanford Research Institute) only a few miles down the San Francisco peninsula from the town where I was raised.  Targ included his daughter in some of his early explorations and she grew to become an accomplished research scientist in her own right.  Targ includes a picture of his daughter in the book commemorating her in the afterword.  She was about 2 years older than I.  After seeing her picture I can’t escape the sense that we may have met at some point, having both grown up in a neighboring communities.  Also I have another connection to Targ.  I have a long time friend I’ve known since 3rd grade or so who once told me that she and her brother were participants in some sort of research into psychic phenomena at SRI way back in the 1970’s.  This friend has a propensity for the dramatic and I wasn’t sure if I could credit her story at the time.  As it turns out this book completes the circle and confirms there was such research being conducted at SRI in the time frame indicated by my friend.

Remote viewing is the psychic ability to gather information about a “target” location strictly through mental activity.  As a result of the research and study I have personally conducted over many decades the concept of remote viewing is not foreign to me, nor is it starling or hard to believe.  I believe the data proves this ability exists and each of us has a greater or lesser ability to develop such skill if we are so inclined to make the effort.  During the time of cold war, Russia was also doing research into this skill and more than just research.  Russell Targ was a principal investigator into the reality of this ability.  Beyond investigation Targ worked with many functional “Remote Viewers” and provided valuable information to almost every branch of the U.S. intelligence community.  This skill is a reality which was accepted long ago by our government and successfully used to gain “actionable” intelligence in the field.

In chapters 2 & 3 Targ presents the evidence for remoteviewing and  then discusses somewhat how to train oneself to do it.  While these chapters are interesting, my curiosity is not really stirred by this ability.  That is to say it is not a skill I aspire to develop.  Targ has taught seminars dedicated to developing this skill and I’m sure this route would be fruitful for anyone seeking to develop as a remote viewer.

For me the more important aspect of this book is that it clearly infers a more broad view of what it means to be a conscious being in human form.  As a such the most though provoking and inspiring content of this book is found in the Forward, Introduction, Chapter 1.-Your Limitless Mind-, and Chapter 7-, Why Bother with ESP?-.

In the preface Targ says “The data from remote viewing research show, without a doubt that our mind is limitless and that our awareness both fills and transcends our ordinary understanding of space and time.  Psychic abilities and remote viewing in particular, point to the possibility of our residing in and as this state of expanded, timeless, fearless, spacious awareness….I believe that 99 percent of the value of psychic abilities resides in the opportunity they offer for self-inquiry and self-realization”.

From the forward, “Within a sturdy background of scientific research and years of conclusive studies, it (this book) presents a perspective on our humanity that, until now, would have seemed more mythic than real”.

Thus in the first paragraph of the forward Jean Houston sums up the importance of this small book (207 pages including index & extensive notes and bibliography).

Initially such research as Targs may have been dismissed by the mainstream of science and society.  I believe he and others have by now proven the validity of these phenomena and we need no longer be asking the questions about whether such abilities exist.  Instead we should be examining more important questions and taking the next step in research.  Questions like, “What does the ability to view something, anything
remotely with only the minds say about the nature of the mind and indeed the nature of the world and our view of reality?”

The worldview of the ordinary consensus science which can be rightly summed up as scientific materialism does not agree with the conclusions presented in this book.

Consensus science would have us believe we are merely biological machines with a meat computer in our head.  The importance of Targ’s work is that it not only calls this perspective into question, but smashes this view of reality with clear scientific evidence.  This type of research replaces that antiquated worldview of separation and meaninglessness with one of greater possibilities, purpose and deep meaning.

Nevertheless in the introduction Targ acknowledges, “There is a skeptical community that works tirelessly to “save” science from the depredations of frauds and charlatans.  I applaud them and I think they play a valuable role.  In science, however it is just as serious an error to ignore real but unpredictable data as it is to accept false data as true….I believe in good scientific data and replicate experiments & those are what I describe in this book”.   He goes on to note that mainstream science usually declare psychic phenomenon to be without credibility while it is even more distressing to note that organized religions often declare them to be bad or even Evil!  Voltaire wrote “It is dangerous to be right
in matters on which the established authorities are wrong”.

In Ch. 1 Targ demonstrates how modern physics shows the reality of “nonlocal” connectedness, which is an instantaneous spanning of space and time.  He goes on to relate this modern realization with ancient teachings of Buddhism and other mystical teachings which say that “separation is an illusion”.  Remote viewing is an example of the nonlocal connectedness of our minds to everything.

Physicist David Bohm in his textbook, “The Undivided Universe” may have been the first to describe what many now call “The Holographic Universe”.  Like a hologram, each point in space-time contains information about every other point in space-time.  In the holographic universe
described by Hohm there is a unity of consciousness, a greater collective mind with no boundaries of space or time.  Remote viewing goes hand in hand with this understanding of oneness of consciousness.  It is this “Mind-Field” which is accessed to gain knowledge about distant places, people and events.  Targ states, “It is evident that remote viewing abilities are fundamental to our understanding of consciousness itself…psi functioning may be the means that consciousness uses to make itself known in the internal and external physical world”.

Targ attempts to explain how remote viewing may word.  He shows it clearly has no relationship to electromagnetic fields or radio like energetic transmission.  It seems likely that accessing this non-local field is not at all constrained.  This field of information is always present and available.

Targ goes on to tap “Spiritual and Philosophical” traditions which reflect the same understandings of reality which modern physics seem to be describing.  In Aldous Huxley’s work “The Perennial Philosophy” he lists as the first principle that consciousness if the fundamental building block of the Universe.  The world is more like a great thought than a great machine.  All humans have the ability to access the universe through our consciousness and merge with the non-local mind.  Huxley also states that we all have a local and non-reality, a physical and non-physical nature.

Finally he also asserted the purpose of life to become one with the universal, non-local, loving consciousness that is available to us all and to assist others also to do so.

Targ goes on to weave together more strands of thought from Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, Philosophy and Psychiatry demonstrating how
all these schools have similar reflections of truth within them.  This effort he makes in a mere two dozen pages is a wonderful demonstration of the waving together of the best of science and mystical philosophy to come to grips with the meaning of his research.  To me, this chapter alone is
worth the price of admission.

Chapters 2, 3, 4 and 5 deal with the inflow of information from the world.  Targ gets into the nuts and bolts of his research and also how to teach the skill of psi operation which he has done successfully developing “professional” operators as well as many seminar attendees.  In Chapter 4 he
goes a little further afield and discusses pre-cognition.  He describes the nature of this phenomenon, the experience and the research.  Most
importantly he also discusses the meaning and implications of the acceptance of this skill as a reality.  At the beginning of the chapter he sums this up; “Our ability to move our awareness deliberately through time and space offers powerful, life changing experiences, demonstrating clearly that we are not merely bodies but, rather, timeless awareness residing in a body”.

Chapter 5 covers what has perhaps become one of the most useful psi functions-medical intuitive diagnosis.  There are whole books dedicated to this topic which, it seems to me is becoming more widely accepted.  Targ describes the ability and somewhat of the training necessary to perform this skill.

It is a skill he claims great success with personally.  He takes some time going into the methods of noted author Judith Orloff whose works I would recommend to anyone seeking to expand their knowledge of this topic.  He goes on to note other authors in this field including Norman Shealy and Caroline Myss who also have contributed very important work to this field.  This chapter provides a quick overview of this ability and a good summary of how to train oneself in it’s development.  This combined with further exploration of the authors mentioned would be a great introduction to learning this skill.

In chapter 6 Targ goes beyond receiving information to the skill of transmitting.  Remote healing is the ability to outflow our energy or healing intentions to alleviate pain, suffering and disease.  His subject is very interesting to me.  I have received training from my Qigong teachers in this art.  The reality of this skill of both remote diagnosis and remote healing is well accepted in certain of the Oriental wisdom traditions.

As a side note it is interesting that these psi healing skills are part of the tradition of Chinese medicine.  Unfortunately the modern oriental healing art  known in the USA generally a acupuncture, derives its curriculum from the directives of the Communist state and does not recognize anything that might be construed as un-scientific or spiritual.  Because of this bias it is uncommon for this type of training to be
found in modern schools of Chinese Medicine whether they are in China or anywhere else in the world.

Targ covers a lot of ground in this chapter demonstrating once again that there has already been a tremendous amount of research in this area.  Again I point out that the time to ask whether such things are possible has passed.  We must ask what are the implications?  What are the possibilities once this knowledge and related training can be disseminated in the society?

Targ brings the work of author Larry Dossey into this chapter.  Dossey proposes there have been three eras of medicine which he describes as:

Era 1.  All forms of therapy are physical and the body is seen as a mechanism.  This approach encompasses most of “modern” medical technology, even including in this category acupuncture, nutrition and herbal medicine.  Dossey lauds the accomplishments of Era I medicine.  “…achievements so significant that most persons believe the future of medicine still lies solidly in Era-I approaches”, despite the fact that “all the major diseases of our day-heart disease, hypertension, cancer and more have now been shown to be influenced, at least to some degree, by the mind”.

A similar situation exists in the field of physics, in which e classical models persist although their proponents are unable to account for the data of relativity, quantum physics, or Remote Viewing.

Era-II medicine describes the mind to body medical approaches that involve the psychosomatic effect of one’s consciousness on one’s own body.

Era-II medicine acknowledges a causal effect of the mind but the mind is still seen as a function of brain chemistry and anatomy.  Associated
therapies which can be termed psychosomatic medicine include; counseling, hypnosis, biofeedback, self-healing imagery and relaxation techniques and the field of psychoneuroimmunology.  Eras I & II are similar as the mind is still considered as localized in ones’ body as well as the present time.

According to Dossey in the 1990’s we entered into Era III of medical therapies.

Era III medicine sees the mind as unconfined by either space (brains or bodies) or time.  We recognize that nonlocal mind may affect healing both within and between people.  This affect occurs as non-contact healing between people in each other’s presence as well as people at a distance.

The greater range of therapies available with the advent of each new Era of medicine do not extinguish the value of the healing methods of another era.  Each Era’s methods can be complementary.  Targ makes this assertion, but I would add the caveat that there is a great deal of modern medicine which may counteract the ability to successfully deploy Era II & III approaches.  Certain drugs and destructive approaches such as chemotherapy and radiation, while arguably effective in some cases, may preclude effective use of less severe approaches.  Nevertheless it is
always true that one need not sacrifice any approach in order to embrace another.

Targ goes on to list two widely adapted and widely studied methods of Era III medicine; Therapeutic touch, and distant healing through prayer.  Once again he shows clearly that this research has been done well and thoroughly enough to demonstrate the validity of this human ability.  To me this chapter is tremendously validating putting science behind that which I had already accepted in my worldview, training and experience.

In the final chapter Targ asks “Why bother with ESP?”.  It is an essential question, especially since skeptics trying to protect their materialist view of the world have done so much t dismiss this research.  Many of what I would call “Faith Based Skeptics” operate under their accepted premises of how the world is supposed to be.  They are no longer operating in the world of science because they fail to even attempt to provide answers where researchers such as Targ courageously penetrate into the mysterious.

In this final chapter Targ does move beyond science and returns where he began in the beginning of the book pointing out the meeting place of the new science and the ancient mystical worldview.

The ultimate view of the mystery of humanity is summed up in this chapter heading by a Tibetan sage Tarthang Tulku, “If you haven’t discovered who you truly are, your assumed competence is just a wall of sand against the oncoming tide.”

Targ open this chapter by providing his interpretation of the understanding brought forth by his research.  He goes on to cite many streams of spiritual thought to provide further context to his discoveries.  It is my view that this combined with thefirst chapter provide the greatest benefit to be found in this work, and the middle of the book provides a framework of science with which to support these important realizations.

“…our experience with remote viewing shows without a doubt that we can learn to expand our unconditioned awareness through all of space and time – to directly explore the timeless existence described by the mystics.  Allowing your awareness to expand into this feeling of spaciousness is one of the great rewards of this practice; you open the gates and out flows who you are”.

“…between the inflow of remote viewing and the outflow of spiritual healing, we can experience the overwhelming peace and oceanic connection that is available to each of us in the present moment.  Our ability to share this experience of freedom, love and spaciousness is what gives meaning to our lives.  With our present technology of television, video games, email and computer, however, we run the risk of never having
another quiet moment.  This represents the greatest loss we could possibly experience”.  This last sentence is something I know in my bones and is precisely descriptive of the greatest concern I have for the developing minds and spiritual connection of my children, family, friends and the human family as a whole.

The lessons of this last chapter are inspiring and instructive.  I recommend acquiring this book on their merits alone.

The main text of the book concludes with a Buddhist prayer of loving kindness which I excerpt here in full;

May you be in peace

May your heart remain open

May you be healed from all separation

May you be a source for healing for all beings

May you awaken to the light of your true nature

May you never feel separate from the source of loving kindness

May you be happy

Verlyn Craig Payton/August 21st, 2012

Craig Payton/ Class 6: Communication Skills

August 29, 2012 in Communication Skills, Straight-A Guide Curriculum by Craig Payton

151. Describe situations you can recall when inadequate communication skills led to decreased opportunities in your life.

I have not had the same experience as Michael with regard to language.  Expressing myself with the written word has been a strong suit.  Starting in 1997 a large part of my career as a trader in nutritional bulk ingredients involved communicating solely through the written word, mainly email as well as faxes.  Much of that communication was done with those who did not speak English as their first language.  Because of this I know very clearly how important good communication skills are.  Creating trust and covering all technical details of a business transaction through the written word requires attention to detail and the ability to anticipate what was not being said by the other party.  What concerns were not being expressed but needed to be addressed?  If there was a failure in this communication it could lead to problems or even failure in the business transaction.  I believe my greatest failures in communication are those which I have had with family and friends.  Failing to communicate with my wife about the problems I was going thru in my work life may well have allowed me to work thru some issues and change the decision making which lead to my illegal activity.  Successful communication is essential in the world of business and word.  It is even more vital in personal relationships.  Good communication is the essence and purpose of any relationship.

Communication and connection go hand in hand.  Making deep connections with others is what makes for meaningful and lasting relationships.

152. Describe situations where stronger communication skills may have enhanced your prospects for success.

Refer to answer for question 151.

153. What do communication skills mean to you?

Refer to answer for question 151.

154. In what types of ways can improving communication skills assuage the burden of confinement?

Consistently working to improve a skill, any skill, while enduring  confinement is always a good way to spend time.  Of course improving ones grasp of the English language can be an ongoing project for even those who are well educated, especially in these times of diminishing academic expectations and achievements.  To improve your writing skills may lead to opportunities to create written work which could become known outside the prison system.  Many prisoners throughout history have created great works during the time of their imprisonment.  Even in ancient Chinese history the creation of the Book of Changes, one of the most important books in all of Chinese culture was attributed to a king who was kept hostage for several years. Improving ones face to face verbal skills is closely related to reading and writing skills.  Learning to communicate effectively in prison has great values.  One can use communication skills to get along with people.  Related to this is the skill of learning to tailor your communication to individuals who may have a very different societal and educational background.  Learning to be well understood by those with disparate backgrounds can be valuable outside of prison.

155. What types of influence do communication skills have on an individual’s prospects for success upon release?

As previously stated the skill of effective communication is universally useful in life.  In the job interview process an individual is judged by how the present themselves.  Physical appearance is important but the real test is how one expresses oneself to the prospective employer.  Perception of intelligence and capability are inexorably linked to the candidates manner of speech and mastery of language and vocabulary.  Confidence is projected by the individual who has an easy mastery of the language.  When already engaged in the working world effective communication helps one develop relationships with fellow workers and good relationships create trust and promote effective teamwork.  In sales, the ability to speak well improves ones’ ability to influence potential buyers and convey to them the strong points of the product or service in question.

156. How can developing communication skills open opportunities through imprisonment?

Skillful communication may help a prisoner to make himself known to those outside of prison.  This could include attempts to contact prospective employers to convince them to consider providing job opportunities or simply writing to ones future probation officer in an effort to convince them of your commitment to improvement and contribution to society.  A prisoner could also use communication skills while imprisoned to help other inmates.  Writing letters home, composing resumes, soliciting prospective employers are just a few services which someone might offer to their fellow inmates.  I myself have helped fellow inmates with transcribing and editing work they had already written.

157. In what ways can an individual take clearly-defined, measurable steps toward improving communication skills?

One can explore many ways to improve communication skills.  Using flash cards to improve vocabulary is one.  As for myself my primary means of developing my writing skills is to continue to work on answering The Straight A Guide questions to my fullest ability as well as regularly writing thorough reports on books I have been reading.  My step by step approach is to set a goal to read a certain number of books a minimum of two per month and write full reviews of the material contained therein.  A side benefit I have gained is to work verbally presenting some of this material to friends and family.  I seek not only to read and relay the information in the books I am reading but to study and integrate what I have learned into my overall understanding of the subjects and the world in general.  I seek to be able to derive and maintain mastery over those subjects in a way that each one represents an accomplishment that can build upon the next.

158. In what ways have you taken measurable, deliberate steps to improve your communication skills?

Refer to answer in question 157.

159. What value do enhanced communication skills offer to a prospective employer?

An employee who demonstrates good communication skills is one who can be counted on to follow instructions well and who will also make sure that instructions and job requirements are clearly relayed and understood.  Further an employee who demonstrates the ability to communicate well can also be seen as having food potential for management and leadership.

160. How can a prisoner convey the extent of his communication skills and his personal investment to improve such skills?

161. How does the prison experience influence an individual’s development of communication skills?

162. In what ways do developing communicating skills resemble the development of physical fitness?

163. What does it mean to read with a purpose?

164. Describe the pattern of books you have read throughout your term in prison. What kind are they and why do you read them?

165. In what ways do books you read prepare you for success upon release?

166. When you consider the amount of free time available to you on a typical day, how do you determine the most effective ways to use it toward preparations for success?

167. In what ways do you work to improve your dexterity with language, using words, sentences, and paragraphs to communicate ideas?

168. How would you describe the argot of the imprisoned class?

169. In what ways does the jargon of imprisonment compare of contrast with the language in the society you expect to encounter upon release?

170. What does an individual speaker’s enunciation convey to his listeners?

171. In what ways do an individual’s grooming habits or manner of dress communicate his values?

172. To what extent does documenting a prison journey communicate an individual’s commitment to success upon release?

One of the exercises Michael embraced to develop his communication strategy included writing book reports.
In Earning Freedom, he wrote that books opened opportunities that contributed in meaningful, measurable ways to prepare him for triumph over the obstacles he expected to encounter. Each book had a purpose, and to stay on course, he used the following format to write his book reports:

  • How I came across the book (title
    of book):
  • Why I choose to read (title of
    book):
  • What I learned from (title of
    book):
  • Ways in which (title of book)
    will contribute to my success upon release:

 

173. In what ways would writing similar book reports contribute to the development of your communication skills and preparations for success upon release?

Craig Payton/ Class 5: Self-Improvement Training

August 2, 2012 in Self-Improvement, Straight-A Guide Curriculum by Craig Payton

126. When you assess your environment, what opportunities for self-improvement can you create or seize?

First I recognize that seeing clearly the nature of my environment and circumstance is essential to any endeavor.  My motivation is urgently provided by keeping in mind the hurdles society at large is likely to set in front of me.  Knowing this, I am creating opportunities for self- improvement first of all by aspiring to any path of self-improvement and constantly reminding myself that my duty my purpose is to engage in those activities which are self -improving.  I write every day, whether it is answering workbook questions, writing blogs or book reports, I strive to improve my use of the written language further every day.  I aspire to teach others Self Applied Health Enhancement Methods in some form.

Whether that be Yoga, Taiji, qigong or in other ways.  Therefore I am practicing those arts which I already have been training in everyday, morning and evening.  I also am reading related material to the purpose of deepening and broadening my understanding.  As a student, I could distill my practice down to what is most effective or right for me at the moment.  As a teacher, it would be useful to understand and have a broad grasp of knowledge at my fingertips to offer just what a particular student, client or class might find most useful. I am using the opportunity to contribute to the Straight A Guide website to make myself know to more people in  addition to being part of my strategy to provide a way to stay in touch with friends already in my life.  I am studying material provided me to prepare for a position as an environmental sire assessment technician upon my release.  This is not my absolute aspiration, but may be a great stepping stone towards opening the doors for other possible pursuits.  Meanwhile I am always looking for other opportunities to improve myself.  This is a demonstration of my awareness of my surroundings.  Without preparations and awareness one will miss opportunities.

127. What is your interpretation on the value of self-imposed structure of free time?

If one does not find a way to consistently generate self-imposed motivation, it is far too easy to fall into habits of taking it easy and looking for ways to fill the day only to pass time.  Only by living on purpose with intention will you be able to consistently advance your goals.  Success is no accident, it is hard work.  This reminds me of the definition of a Chinese word most of us have heard of Kung-Fu.  Most people might consider this word to identify a martial art.  In fact it is much more general term.  It means “Diligent work performed correctly/effectively over a long period of time”.  No one achieves good Kung-Fu without a self-imposed structure of their free time.

128. What relationship do your daily activities have to the vision you have for your life upon release?

If I am honestly striving constantly, urgently to achieve my goals which are pegged to my values, everything I do from moment to moment will be a reflection of those values and in pursuit of my stipulated goals.  This is admittedly a high bar.  I have examined my values, I have set some goals.  I am seeking self -improvement.  To be honest, thought I have not fully realized the vision the overarching aspiration to pull me forward.  What I am doing is still maintain my attitude to pursue what I do aspire to with 100% commitment and urgency.  As days go by, my longer term aspirations seem to be coming clearer.

129. Imagine that you were to replicate your activities or use of time yesterday every day or your sentence. If you did, what level of preparation would have to triumph over the obstacles that await you upon your return to society?

Yesterday July 17th, 2012:

If I replicated my activities of yesterday, every day for the balance of my sentence, I expect that I would achieve a great deal of progress preparing myself upon return to society.  Yesterday I spent a good amount of time writing a book report on a book related to mind-body practice which is a component of my vision for how I will lead my life upon return to society. If I continue on the pace I have set, I expect to read, study and report on at least 3 books per month for the next 16 months.  That comes to almost 50 books by the time I am eligible for half way house (this figure is based on the most optimistic possible halfway house release date following RDAP program).  I expect to achieve a level of fitness not reached in the last 10 years of my life.  Although I currently have no weight goal, I am increasing my training to make myself stronger and more resilient.  Continuing to practice Taiji and Qigong daily, I see myself as accomplishing a higher level of vitality as well as expertise which I will seek the opportunity to share with others after my release.  I would like to answer this question more substantively detailing my career preparations, but the vision for the next step of my life is not entirely clear at the moment.  What I do know is that as time goes on, I continue to focus on my vision for the future and it becomes clearer over time.

I definitely will not set foot outside of prison the same person who entered 09-30-2011.  I will be strong, physically and mentally with the achievements developed by self imposed discipline adhered to daily.  I will have maintained a sense of urgency and a desire to create success which builds daily.

130. What activities within the prison environment can you pursue that will enhance your strengths?

The only activities available within the prison environment which may enhance my strengths are those which I set for myself.  In my current location, there are ZERO activities which I would consider helpful to me upon release which the prison environment provides.

I enhance my mental strength through meditation, reading, writing and purpose driven conversation.  I enhance my physical strength through various mind-body practices along with basic calisthenics to maintain or gain strength and promote resilience and flexibility.  I enhance my emotional strength by maintaining and building on the relationships I have, especially spousal and familial relationships but not limited to that.

131. What activities within the prison environment would you categorize as a weakness?

Every activity within the prison environment which does not resonate with ones values and plans and goals is creating weakness.  If it is tasks imposed upon one by the BOP as a “job”, this is something to be gotten out of the way as expediently as possible in order to return to ones’ own self-directed pursuits.  Watching television habitually or playing table games or any other entertainments are merely things which distract us from the urgency of our mission, which needs to be seen as akin to being under attack.

Complacency is the enemy and there are many ways prisoners fall victim to it.

132. What activities within the prison environment would you perceive as offering opportunities?

My own self-directed activities provide opportunity.  Beyond that the only other opportunity I have become aware of is the opportunity to learn from other prisoners.  There are many experienced, intelligent individuals who although diverse circumstances have lead them here, can provide me with fresh perspectives and ideas in many areas.  I values the opportunity to meet new people.

I try to honor that which can be of value in society when they emerge like me from this uncaring monster which has swallowed them for now.  I have had the good fortune to interact with many people I never would otherwise have encountered in my daily life.  Some with similar backgrounds as myself and others with very different  backgrounds.  This is a valuable opportunity to expand my awareness of the nature of our society and it’s failings, especially those which affect people with backgrounds very dissimilar to my own.

133. What activities within the prison environment do you perceive as threatening your prospects for success upon release?

Threatening activities are in two categories as I see it.  The first category is as I have already detailed those activities which would tend to be unproductive time-wasters or time-fillers which lead to complacency and lack of purpose.  The other category would be the more serious threats of engaging in behavior which could lead to prison sanction such as using cell phones or smoking tobacco or otherwise engaging in use of contraband.

Also any negative interaction with fellow prisoners which might rise to the level of physical confrontation is a threat and in the camp setting will likely earn a one way ticket to a higher security institution.  In fact, I don’t view any of these as threats to me personally because I remain aware of the rules of this institution and avoid these type of risks.  These are merely the types of risk taking I have observed or heard about.

134. To what extent do the activities you pursue inside the prison environment contribute to your strengths and opportunities?

What you pursue of your own volition through your own discipline, in pursuit of your goals, determined by your values represent the ONLY way to contribute to your strengths and to prepare to be aware of and seize opportunities.

135. What steps do you deliberately take to minimize your exposure to weaknesses and threats?

The main steps I take to minimize weaknesses and threats if to always come back to my values and goals.  If I ever find myself getting sucked into watching TV, I return to awareness and remind myself there are more important pursuits to engage in.  In camp, the only real “threat” as I see it is falling in to complacency.  Staying focused and busy is the key to avoiding weakness.

136. Using the SWOT-assessment technique, how would you assess your decision-making process prior to imprisonment?

My decision making process prior to prison was deeply flawed.  I characterize my life as having been out of control for several years, even prior to the criminal activity which led to my arrest in November 2009.  It would have been very useful to sit down at the beginning of 2007 and logically weigh my strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.  Perhaps I would have chosen differently.  If I had directly contemplated the real threat placed upon myself by engaging in criminal activity, I may have chosen a better path.  If I had more thoroughly examined REAL opportunities at that time, I could have forged new paths in the nutritional products field in which I had been employed for about 20 years.  If I had the courage to explore my weaknesses and the vision to exploit my strengths during the difficult times prior to my illegal activity in 2007, I may have become aware of different opportunities.

However at the time prior to my arrest I was like a cork afloat in a torrential river and not like a ship steering securely towards its planned destination.  How I came to be in such a state is a matter for contemplation to support my own ongoing growth, but from my current vantage point I can see that I had allowed myself to collapse into an entirely unresourceful state, almost an unconscious delusional state in response to the challenges which had been placed before me.

137. In what ways can the SWAT-assessment technique guide your decisions as you prepare for success upon release?

The SWAT assessment technique falls into the category of awareness.  If I maintain and improve my self awareness in the areas of strength, weakness, opportunity and threats, I have a tool to measure my progress, goals and aspirations.

Primarily SWAT reminds me of the weakness of my situation being a convicted felon and of the treat to my future this status conveys.  Being aware, daily and constantly of the nature of this threat provides motivation to seek to foster my strengths and attempt to open up and pursue opportunities.

138. What types of activities in prison fall into quadrant one: low-risk/high-reward?

Low risk/high reward activities are the activities I engage in daily to improve myself.  They are rewarding by moving me towards achievement of my goals and supporting my aspirations.  They are low risk because their pursuit removes me from potential activities which could put such progress at risk.

139. What types of activities in prison fall into quadrant two: high-reward/high-risk?

High risk high reward activities are rare.  I must defer to Michael Santos answer that the only thing I see which would be highly risky and rewarding would be to pursue some type of income generating project which goes against BOP policy.  I have not engaged in this myself but if the opportunity were to arise, I would not be averse to it.

140. What types of activities in prison fall into quadrant three: low-risk/low-reward?

Low risk/low reward would be activities like watching TV or playing table games and other non-productive pursuits.

141.  What types of activities in prison fall into quadrant four: high-risk/low-reward?

Of these I might just re-categorize cell phone use as high risk/high reward because it could significantly advance the value of enhanced communication with friends and family.  I understand the temptation.

142. To what extent do your consider risk-reward analysis when assessing activities, interactions, or time allocation in prison?

I do not need to spend time making assessments regarding risk reward now.  Once I examined and clearly made conscious my values and started to list my goals, I began to now automatically whether I was on track from moment to moment, hour to hour and day to day.  I maintain awareness through this process and remain motivated to make progress.

 143 What type of self-improvement programs would enhance an individual’s prospects for success upon release?

Self-improvement by definition, should enhance ones prospects upon release.  Making self- improvement efforts evident to others, making them aware of your work being able to demonstrate your work prior to and upon release are key enhancements to any self-improvement work.

144. What thoughts have you given to the type of employment you want to pursue upon release?

I have given a great deal of thought to what type of employment I might pursue upon release.  I must overcome the problem of not being allowed to continue in any job related to the trades of food, cosmetics or pharmaceuticals for approximately 5 years after my release.  Therefore I must seek out opportunities to maximally utilize the skills I do have in an unrelated field.  My primary skill set is I believe, related to effective communication.  This relates to sales and marketing.  This relates to international communication in support of sales and marketing.

This relates to technical sales, ie, providing communication to answer complex customer service questions.  Also I have considerable experience in international trade, and logistics.  I would rush to point out that this experience is primarily derived from legitimate trade.

Therefore, I would ideally seek out employment which could exploit these strengths.

145. Define the qualifications necessary for the type of job you want to pursue?

In A:144, I detailed qualifications a bit.  I have 10 years experience in domestic and international logistics, sales and customer service, inventory management and purchasing for business to business trade.

Rather than defining the qualifications necessary for any particular job, currently I am assessing my skill set to determine what jobs I may be qualified to perform.  In understanding the job market, I know I must be flexible and seek to widen the net of jobs to which I might bring value.

146. How do your self-improvement programs prepare you for the type of job you want to pursue?

Currently I believe the most important self-improvement I can achieve is to further hone my written communication skills.  The Straight A Guide workbook is only one way I am working to improve my command of the written word.  I believe my mediation practice helps me to improve my focus and ability to work efficiently and effectively.

Also, my self-improvement work in the areas of mind and body training prepare me to pursue my avocation and potential vocation of teaching Self Applied Health Enhancement Methods.  I aspire to teach people how to improve their physical and mental health through methods I have trained in over the last  30 or so years.

147. What types of self-improvement programs can you pursue independently that will enhance your prospects as a candidate for employment upon release?

I can continue to pursue methods to hone my writing skill.  I can complete The Straight A Guide, carry on contributing blogs as well as publishing highly detailed book reports.  Beyond working on writing ability, my subject of focus in book reports is primarily mind-body training and health in general.  This supports my aspiration to become a teacher of min-boy methods to support health and well-being.

148. In what ways do academic credentials influence an individual’s candidacy for employment?

Academic credentials are often seen as an essential pre-requisite even for cursory consideration of employment.  Certain opportunities will not be opened to candidates without credentials.

149. How do prospective employers gauge the value of academic credentials?

Employers seek to find the most qualified employee for a given position.  Credentials are an indication of a candidate fitness for a position.  This is of course highly dependent upon the position in question.  It seems likely that an employer might value very relevant experience over a candidate with credentials but no experience.  Sometimes individuals with credentials may be considered as over-qualified.  It seems that given the current job market that employers are able to select for the candidate with the best possible skill set of both credentials and experience.
Higher level credentials may provide an individual with skills that are immediately applicable in technical work and they also are in general
indicative of an individuals’ ability to learn and their degree of persistence.

150. What types of self-improvement steps trump academic credentials?

Initially it is difficult to see what one could do to demonstrate value to an employer that would carry more weight than academic credentials.  As for myself, I seek to demonstrate persistence and achievement in whatever ways I can during the period of my incarceration.  I intend to continue to build a record of my pursuits which serve to demonstrate the adherence to my commitments, my ability to set and achieve goals and clearly provide an example of living according to my values.  Even if this demonstration does not sway a particular individual who may be a potential employer, I still recognize the tremendous value of living with a vision of a purposeful life.

 

 

Craig Payton/ Class 4: Life Management Skills

August 1, 2012 in Life Management Skills, Straight-A Guide Curriculum by Craig Payton

105. How would you define your life management skills?

I define life management skills as those tools which help one to achieve success in life.  How one defines success is crucial to it’s pursuit.  I suppose a foundational question then is “How do you define success?”.  Success can be very different from one person to the next.  A key element in experiencing success is to have key markers to show the way.  I believe understanding your core values allow you to understand what success truly means for you.  Setting and reaching goals in alignment with those core values will inform you whether you are moving towards the success you seek.  Therefore a key life management tool is doing the introspective work to determine those core values which inform your goals and aspirations.  Another important tool which is a subset of the above is to learn the skill of taking an aspiration and breaking it down into action steps and incremental goals which will lead you to the eventual achievement of that aspiration.  

106. What types of decisions influence how you will emerge from prison? 

In prison, as in any life situation, your everyday decisions determine your outcomes and achievement or lack thereof.  I can decide to watch television instead of reading something educational.  That can happen inside any 4 walls.  In prison, these types of decisions which will have the greatest impact on how you emerge from prison would be those that might lead you to risk sanctions, higher security levels and even lengthened sentence.  Beyond that relatively obvious point, one can decide to just sit around, watch TV, play games and have idle conversation.  These activities are benign enough but they do nothing to help your situation once you emerge from prison.

107. In what ways does your daily schedule determine your potential for success upon release?

In order to be productive in the outside world, it is necessary to be disciplined whatever your pursuit may be you must spend focused time in doing it if you expect to achieve anything of value.  Even if you are an entrepreneur working for yourself, you still must adhere to a schedule to create progress on a regular basis.  Of course if you are an employee, it is important to adhere to the schedule determined by your employer.  Creating and adhering to a schedule in prison is relatively simple as it is provided.  Making achievements beyond getting 3 meals a day and “working” 5 hours a day (or in many cases much less) at a B.O.P make work job, is  possible only if you set standards and schedules for yourself.

108. How do personal relationships influence our prospects for success? 

Personal relationships can be very beneficial in our pursuit of success.  On the other hand, they may also serve as a distraction.  Relationships with those outside the prison system can help inspire us and lead us to new opportunities.  Also, personal relationship inside prison may also provide us with new perspectives and ideas.  It is important to view relationships clearly.  I believe it is also important to maintain a healthy approach to relationship.  If you focus overly much on your personal goals in all things it can be detrimental to your interpersonal skills.  I believe it is important not to look at every interaction with the idea of what benefit can be derived. Although it is necessary to filter who we interact with closely in prison it is important to remain open to all people to a certain extent.  I feel this is a fundamental aspect of interpersonal communication and relating which can be lost when taking on the “prison mindset”.  Therefore, I am aware of the value of gaining ideas and advice from those with relevant experience in the business and other fields of interest.  I also allow myself to just be with people and “hang out” and just be one of the guys.  This is an important part of life and opens you up to people.  It is important to develop the skill to interact with and even work with all types of people, even those you wouldn’t ordinarily consider.  This is very important in business when one is managing others and in general.  Not all people you may have to interact with on a daily basis will be those with whom you would choose to have relations.

109. How can we cultivate and nurture personal relationships that may prove helpful through our prison journey and beyond?

By being aware of our environment we have the opportunity to see that many of our fellow prisoners may be less than constructive in our personal development.  On the other hand, I believe it is important to maintain awareness that there may be those with whom a mutually beneficial constructive relationship may be had.  Beyond this we must be aware that the most potentially beneficial connections are those which we may make with people outside of prison society. While it is possible to gain the benefit of knowledge and wisdom from a fellow inmate, generally they are much weaker position to help you on your own path to success outside of prison.

In order to cultivate personal relationships we must become aware of how to make such connections.  We must seize any opportunity to develop such relationships.  It is very important to gain the trust of those with whom you might form a relationship.  Being transparent is essential to this process.  Being clear about what you did to become incarcerated, especially your acknowledgement of personal responsibility and desire to now contribute positively to society are keys to overcoming the barriers between you and potential allies in the broader society.  I find it difficult to contemplate developing allies such as Michael has over his 25 years.  I have allowed the failures which have landed me here to create self-doubt.  This doubt perhaps contributes to my lack of confidence in finding allies for myself to assist in my re-integration to society in the approximately year and half I have left.  Finding a way to overcome this self-doubt is for me an important first step in reaching out further to ask for help, a second chance.

110. In what ways did Michael’s decisions at the beginning of his term lead to the opportunities that opened for him through the decades he served?

Michael’s decisions at the beginning of his term provided him with direction.  He knew what he wanted to do and he immediately set about taking steps towards his goal.  Having well established values and automatically referring to them to inform every decision, every action you take keeps you moving in the direction of your goals.  Knowing what you are after allows you to expand your awareness and not to miss opportunities when they present themselves.  Taking action towards your goals prepares you to be ready and able to make the best opportunities which may arise.

111. In what ways have the decisions you made from the day of your arrest influenced your life today?

Decisions I made since the time of my arrest have contributed inevitably to my current life situation.  I had 22 months between my initial arrest and release pre-trial and my eventual self-surrender.  There were many actions I did not make during that time which may have improved my situation and my family’s situation.  I did make choices and tried to prioritize that which was most important in my life but the biggest choice I made prior to my eventual self-surrender was not to take action, to accept defeat, disengagement and paralysis due to the overwhelming circumstances.  I did not take the good advice of my pre-trial supervisor to be as transparent as possible with friends and family until almost directly before my self-surrender.  I did not for the most part seek to strengthen or maintain the connections to friends and allies.

Since surrendering to prison I have seen more clearly.  I understand it is crucial not to give up and just let my time in prison pass without making the utmost of this time.  I immediately made the decision to take better care of myself physically.  I decided to walk, exercise and practice the various movement arts I am trained in, as are allowed.

I realized the importance of exercising my mind and began to read regularly.  From the moment I arrived in prison I was already determined to maintain steady contact with my family and I expected to enjoy regular visits and I was designated to be only an hour away from my residence.  This changed when I was inexplicably sent to Atwater after 3 weeks stay as Sheridan Detention Center while, I thought awaiting transfer to the camp.

These decisions arose without much prompting.  When I arrived at Atwater, I soon encountered Michael Santos and was led to read some of his books.  I soon realized that I could easily fall into a comfort zone of just trying to “get through” without doing anything with myself.  I realized I must do more, I must maintain a sense of urgency.  I must push myself to achieve.  I must seek out greater aspirations for myself.  I must more closely examine my core values and by doing so automatically I know what the best use of my time would be from moment to moment.

From that time to this, I have been striving to set and achieve goals.  I have improved in many areas.  Urgency and purpose accompany my every moment.  Understanding myself and reaching my aspirations are my job every day.  Determining how to improve myself, help my family and re-join with society in a beneficial way to all is my goal.  Maintaining this vision will continue to influence my life, as I move towards eventual freedom and success.

112. How would you compare and contrast the initial adjustment decisions of two prisoners who offered their profiles?

Answers to 112-114:  Triumph!  Is currently not available to me and I read is so many months ago I don’t recall what profiles are asked about here in this workbook.

113. In what ways does your prison adjustment compare or contrast with the individuals profiled?

114. In what ways does your prison adjustment compare or contrast with the type of career trajectory That Greg Reyes or some of the other successful businessmen described?

115. What steps can you take in the time that spans between now and your release date to prepare for a law-abiding, fulfilling life?

As far as “law abiding”, I do not believe I have a need to take any steps to remain law abiding.  I argue the circumstances leading to my criminal activities are not repeatable.  I certainly would not seek to re-create those circumstance even were I to believe that was possible.  Although the financial motive exists for everyone, I know deeply that I would never gage in any criminal activity again.  I believe the step I have already taken to be crystal clear with myself what my values are provides me with automatic guidance not to take such foolish decisions in the future.

In order to lead a fulfilling life, I believe it is necessary to live with purpose, every day and every moment.  If you perceive that you have a purpose and you feel that you are moving forward and advancing that purpose every moment, every day, every year then you must be living a fulfilling life.

Less broadly there are steps I must take vocationally to lead a fulfilling life.  At the moment, I am working primarily to study inspiring and informative books while honing my writing skills and demonstrating my communication skills on the Straight A Guide.  I am every day remaining open to possibilities and opportunities while seeking to understand what more I can do to prepare myself.

116. In what ways are your interactions with others in prison and beyond purposeful?

Interacting with others in prison I realize the importance of my values daily.  I value real communication.  I do not value speaking negatively of others, prisoners or staff.  I values seeing other people in the best possible light.  I value being spontaneous in my interactions with others by seeking always to not label them, their behavior, attitude or demeanor.  By not being attached to a label about who they are, I seek to interact with anyone more authentically, recognizing them as a fellow human being on a journey similar to mine, trying to find their way through challenging and confusing times.  This is a purposeful way of being open to anyone’s possibility of integrity and authenticity in the moment in order to remove the limitations of labels and prejudices.  At the same time, I recognize that I make choices.  I do not seek out many social interactions but allow those that happen to arise without resistance.  I do intentionally cultivate relationship with a few fellow inmates with whom I’ve found some resonance, but I do not seek them out as solace or to escape from what I see as my greater responsibilities the work I have set for myself.  I consciously choose to socialize from time to time in a natural way, for to entirely avoid that would not be natural and thus not accordance with my values and nature as a human being.

My interactions beyond prison are purposeful in that I desire to first of all maintain my family and friendship connections to the best of my ability.  In addition I seek to make my activity known to others outside of prison that I may demonstrate my desire to be a productive member of society and also to demonstrate my value to any potential allies, partners or even employers in the future.

117. How do your interactions with others relate to the individual you aspire to become?

I aspire to live a valued based, purpose driven life.  Nowadays I see this aspiration not so much as changing but rather as a returning to who I have always been.  Circumstance and poor choices have obscured my true nature and taken me down twisting paths which concealed my ability to find my way back to a path with Heart.  Finding that path is still my aspiration.  Fleshing out that vision is my current task.  Through my interactions with others, I intend to show how I already am the person who I aspire to be.

118. What types of activities, interests, and discussions motivate or inspire your closest acquaintances?

In prison, my deepest conversations with acquaintances center around politics, economics and especially spirituality and alternative or complementary healing.  I only have a small handful of people with whom I go into such subjects to any degree.  During the course of the day, I could engage anyone in talk about sports.  I often read and write in the dormitory common area where the televisions are.  From time to time, I will engage with some or several people, just to be sociable but this is not really something I spend a lot of time thinking about.  Mostly the half dozen people I spend time with watch little or no television.  Therefore my closest acquaintances and I often talk about books we have read and related subject and often we exchange books between us.

119. In what ways will the relationships you cultivate help or hinder your aspirations?

As with any activity you can mention being in a relationship with another can be beneficial to you, mutually beneficial, or not beneficial to you.  Maintaining relationships is beneficial to my aspirations as I see the communication and connection with others are vital to leading a fulfilling life.

Prison relationships could be detrimental to my aspirations to the extent that I might allow them to distract from activities which I have set as a higher priority.  Being aware from moment to moment what my goals are and where I stand with regard to their achievement lets me know what I should do with my time.  Finally it is possible that relationship formed with certain individuals could lead to ongoing mutually beneficial friendships once out of prison.  I am open to that possibility, however I stay aware that to limit my circle of acquaintances to inmates is probably a bad result.  To cultivate relationships outside of prison while still incarcerated is potential much more beneficial though difficult.  Friends and people newly aware of me may help me make connections to further my goals down the road.  Also I simply want to maintain better connections with old friends because that’s what friends do.

120. If Red had a stable job with opportunities for growth, what do you suppose would have tempted him to revert to crime?

I find it difficult to relate to Red as far as what would make him want to revert to the crime he committed.  I can only imagine if someone offered me a job directly out of prison how tremendously motivated I would be to do everything to prove worthy of the trust which had been extended.  Red must have been tremendously tempted by the prospect of easy money.  If he had a steady accounting of what was valuable to him constantly in his mind, perhaps he would not have made such a disastrous choice.

121. In what ways could a prisoner manage his life to persuade prospective employers that he lives by different values from men like Red?

A prisoner who wishes to persuade others of his values and integrity must demonstrate that others, e.g. prospective employers by his actions.  In the case of one currently incarcerated one should foremost stay out of trouble.  Next, one can strive to show what he is doing.  Say what you are doing and planning to do and show that you have followed though.  Although limited by ones environment there are always ways to demonstrate ones values.

122. How does an individual’s diction influence perceptions?

The manner in which an individual is able to communicate is vitally important.  This applies not only to in person interactions but on the phone, video conference or email as well.  Having excellent pronunciation as well as a rich vocabulary indicate intelligence and education to others.  How one speaks and presents oneself are strong indicators of how one things and functions mentally.  Unfortunately, it is not always true that a strong regional accent or use of idiomatic expressions are indicators of lack of intelligence, but I believe many people are negatively received and perhaps judged according to these speech markers.

123. How does an individual’s personal grooming and presentation influence opportunities?

People are visual animals.  If something in a person’s appearance is aesthetically unpleasant, people will in general not respond as well, whether conscious of it or not.  Also taking the effort to present oneself at their best is a way of demonstrating respect for others in addition to respect for oneself.

124. With regard to the attitude attribute of the Straight-A Guide, what does it mean to make a 100 percent commitment?

100% commitment to the proper attitude means that you know your aspirations and values and goals and you intend to continue to move step by step towards those goals according to your principled purposeful approach, letting nothing deter you from carrying on.

125. How would you assess your acquaintances with regard to the attitude attribute of the Straight-A Guide?

I believe the majority of my acquaintances demonstrate excellent attitude.  They all have different situations but they all seem very clear on their goals and values.  As far as I can determine, they are all working to make the best of their time and pursue their own varied aspirations while preparing for release.  One friend is writing songs and has completed 3 books over 40 songs.  Another friend is preparing to go home to his wife and counsels her daily on the preparations necessary.  He will be on social security when he returns to his home, therefore his aspirations and goals are quite different.

Another friend also plans to return to a semi-retired life but he spends many hours every week studying economics and business to stay connected to what is happening in the world.  I rate my acquaintances highly for proper attitude.  Generally, if they don’t demonstrate a positive attitude and purposefulness, I am not excited to spend any time interacting with them.

Craig Payton/ Personal Journal Entry

July 24, 2012 in Personal Journal Entries by Craig Payton

Today I want to write about gratitude.

Every day I have a special part of my morning where I acknowledge my gratitude for so many things in my life.

In fact, I try to maintain this ATTITUDE throughout my day.

I am grateful for my wife, and her loving attitude.  I am grateful for my children, who are always demonstrating to me just how special they are.

I am grateful for the little push Michael Santos gave me when I first got to Atwater.   Now that I am in motion I tend to stay in motion, but without that push…?

I am grateful for Justin, who manages the Straight A Guide site.

Lately I am also grateful for an anonymous individual who has twice contributed funds to my commissary account.

I don’t know who you are but THANK YOU.

Michael puts attitude as the first and most important aspect of the Straight A Guide.  You can’t spell Gratitude without attitude, and I believe it is the attitude of gratitude that keeps me focused on what is good and allows me to keep an open mind towards more coming to be grateful for.

With Loving Gratitude

Verlyn Craig Payton

July 16th 2012

Craig Payton/ Book Report: The Healer Within

July 11, 2012 in Book Reports by Craig Payton

July 11, 2012: Book Review

The Healer Within

-Using Traditional Chinese Techniques to Release your Body’s Own Medicine.

Movement-Massage-Meditation-Breathing

Dr.Roger Jahnke

Doctor of Oriental Medicine

1997

The subtitle of this book refers to traditional Chinese techniques.  The beauty of this book is that is could be subtitled, “Making Ancient Health Enhancement methods available for anyone” or even Qigong for Dummies (although that title is now taken and published by the “for Dummies” people).

Dr Jahnke takes apart the often subtle and complex systems of movement, massage, meditation and breathing and distills them down into easy to practice and easy to teach methods that are instantly accessible to the most inexperienced individuals.  As a long term student of martial arts, meditation, Asian breath work (primarily qigong) and an occasional student of massage ( a couple of decades ago) I feel I have a distinct perspective of experience on all of the material in this book.  As a student and sometimes teacher of some of these disciplines I really appreciate the great work Dr Jahnke has done in creating this system of simple Self Applied Health Enhancement Methods (his term translates into the acronym SAHEM).  This concept of SAHEM is central to this work.  Anyone can and should learn basic self care to reach for a baseline of health which can and should be aspired to by all.  As the Chinese say, “The most precious medicine is found within.”  Jahnke shows that this medicine is more accessible than we ever knew.

“How strange that we would produce the most profound medicine within our own bodies and the, somehow, forget to use it.”

From the header to Part 1.  “The Medicine”

“One of the first things I learned in the study of traditional Chinese medicine is that the Qi is the name of the medicine within and Qigong is the process of cultivating the medicine within.”  Although Qigong can be a deep and subtle art Jahnke simplifies these health enhancement practices to the extent that they can be taught without the need to refer to the traditional Chinese art of Qigong which may be intimidating or otherwise off putting  to Westerners.

In a report from 1991 U.S. DHHS (Dept. of Health and Human Services) reported that 70% of disease was preventable.  In another DHHS report in 1996 the surgeon general announced that simple, mild exercise decreases the risk of many serious illnesses.  At the same time 60% of adults were found to be insufficiently active and 25% were found to be entirely inactive.  Simply increasing physical activity a small amount has a powerful fitness enhancing and disease reducing effect.

The process of turning on the natural medicine within ourselves is easy, user friendly  and free.  The naturally occurring self healing ability of your own body, mind and spirit is the world’s greatest healer.  Not to suggest we tell doctors to look for another career, but with patients exercising better self care doctors could be freed up to focus on the 30% of illness which is not preventable.

A famous quote from the Huang Di Nei Jing or Yellow Emperor’s Classic on Internal Medicine (500 B.C.E) sums up the traditional oriental philosophy of healing:

“The physician who teaches people to sustain their health is the superior physician.  The physician who waits to treat people until after their health is lost is considered to be inferior.  This is like waiting until one’s family is starving to begin to plant seeds in the garden.”

Three areas maximize our ability towards wholeness and self healing:

1.  Attitude and Mental influence.

2.  Lifestyle: Nutrition, exercise, rest, relationship, finances, work, spiritual practice, play, water intake.

3.  Personal self care: The practice of self healing and health enhancement methods.

Jahnke also developed the PHASES program in an effort to increase the efficacy of his oriental medicine programs and in conjunction with the SAHEM (Self Applied Health Enhancement Methods).  PHASES is a program which encourages an individual to explore all the Lifestyle aspects listed in category #2 above.  In addition to this book I strongly encourage interested individuals to contact:

Dr. Roger Jahnke

Institute of Integral Qigong and Tai Chi

243 Pebble Beach, Santa Barbara  CA  93313

www.thehealerwithin.com

www.feeltheqi.com

www.qigong.chikung.com

In my Qigong training I learned that you need three elements together to make Qigong;

1. Posture.  A particular intentional way of adjusting the body, whether it be lying, sitting, standing or movement practice.

2. Breath.  Usually relaxed abdominal breath, long, slow, deep and even.  Sometimes other specific techniques are applied.

3. Visualization.  This can be simply watching yourself doing what you are doing, making your practice mindful, or any other visualization from the simple to the elaborate such as visualizing a golden sun in your belly.

With these three elements you engage your body, your vital energy and your spirit.  These are known as the three treasures in Chinese philosophy and medicine, Jing-Qi-Shen.

In the Healer Within Jahnke teaches the most foundational exercises eliciting these three layers of being in sections on movement, breathing and meditation.  Taken together these foundational practices will take anyone deep into self exploration and self healing and/or creating ever more vibrant health.  Self massage is fourth foundational basic method which when done mindfully following the principles of movement, breath and meditation becomes an ever more powerful method of self care.

Massage in its many forms is a beautiful art and tool to facilitate healing, health and deep relaxation.  Although self massage is no replacement for this wonderful experience, which I would recommend to everyone at least once in a while, it does provide a fantastic tool to improve health and well being.

Jahnke demonstrates simplicity again in his approach to covering self massage which can cover a vast world of techniques.  Although it is true that there are arts devoted to specific areas of the body such as the feet and the ears (reflexology and ear acupuncture for example) which are very specific and quite effective, Jahnke points out that simply working over your hands, feet and ears in a thorough way can be a remarkable tonic to the system.  His techniques include simple ways to also work on the neck and shoulders, the face and eyes and the abdomen.  He goes further into qigong style techniques with a simple method of tracing the acupuncture channels and a method for “energizing the organs” which are both methods of Qi transmission applied to oneself.  Qi transmission is simply directing Qi from the hands to the areas in question without touch.

The “Gentle Movement” section details only a few simple movements.  Taken together they make for an excellent overall body  warm-up and tonic.  The beauty of these few simple movements is their simplicity and their applicability to anyone in any health condition.  The movements are easily adapted to work for people who are restricted to lying or seated positions with the goal of applying them rehabilitatively to progressively move an individual from lying to sitting to standing.

The breathing practices are simply an explanation of basic abdominal breathing.  Abdominal breathing is an essential, natural ability which many modern people forget as they grow up.  Many people typically have shallow breathing and tend to expand their breath by expanding their upper chest.  Abdominal breath is the natural breath which starts as the diaphragm lowers, first expanding and filling the lower lobes of the lungs and then filling the upper lungs.  This type of breathing facilitates relaxation, the movement of lymph which is heavily concentrated in the abdomen, increased blood flow and even reduced blood pressure.  Again Jahnke teaches simple methods which are uncomplicated and accessible.

In Method 4: Deep Relaxation and Meditation Practices – Jahnke takes on these topics directly and easily, doing in ten pages or so what others have tried to convey in whole books, and doing it successfully.  Included in this are methods of progressive relaxation which I recognize from my earliest entry into the world of meditation practices as a youth.  Of course meditation and relaxation is a subject which can be explored very deeply, but the point of the SAHEM is that taken together with the other methods these simple but profound relaxation techniques will definitely create a powerful beneficial response.

Beyond part 2. “The Methods” and part 3. “The Practice” which gives suggestions for integrating the Methods into daily life in part 4. “The Way of Nature” Jahnke provides further inspiration and his vision of a possible future where people are interdependent yet through their own efforts and pursuit of self-care are also more vital and independent of need for help from the “health care” industry.

Some brief excerpts follow;

Nature Spontaneously keeps us well.  Do not resist her.

Henry David Thoreau

Transcendental Philosopher and citizen activist.

Alone the health enhancement and self-healing methods are profound.  They combine naturally with intentional focus of mind and spirit, and so the potential of the methods is multiplied.  When the methods are practiced with others, their effect is amplified further still.  The community of practitioners is a powerful natural force.

Jahnke – From the Header of Part 4.

To be accountable for honesty, purposeful work, joyfulness, service, family time, and play is one of your most potent tools for improvement of health or personal performance, because it means that you do what you say you will do.  Accountability is identical to integrity.  Accountability in your self healing practice is actually doing the practice.

Jahnke from Ch. 11

Also, in summing up the overall approach near the end of Ch. 11;

Awaken the medicine within, restore the natural self-healing capacity of the body, mind and spirit.

Cultivate the influence of positive emotions, such as joy and gratitude.  Cultivate the influence of faith-faith in the “mystery”, faith in service, and faith in what you have discovered yourself.  Cultivate humor and fun.   Neutralize anxiety, frustration and fear.  Seek the support of others and serve others by supporting them.  Listen for the stories and testimonials that confirm your inner potential to reach your preferred conditions and circumstances.

“It is a primary characteristic of the superior person that his or her practice of self cultivation is focused upon helping everyone in the society.”

Confucius. 500 B.C.E.

People did not weave the great web of life, we are merely a strand in it.

Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.

Chief Seattle, chief of Six Tribes of the White River.

“Each individuals willingness to take action to sustain and improve his or her own energy produces a powerful influence that has the potential to affect healing throughout the community and even the world.”

“A Human being is part of a whole, the “Universe.”

Our task must be to free ourselves from the delusion of separateness, to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature.”

Albert Einstein

Can you master your wandering mind and embrace your original unity? Can you calm your breath, cultivate essential energy, and sustain the suppleness of a newborn with no care? Can you clarify and refine your inner vision until you perceive nothing but pure, radiant light? Can you love without expectation or contrivance and guide others without imposing your own desires?

Lao Tzu – Ancient Healing Formula

500 B.C.E.

These inspiring quotes point the way towards the ultimate aspiration of a movement of self healing and self improvement generating a transformative effect upon individuals, groups, towns, regions, countries and cultures.

As Deepak Chopra sums up on the back cover, this work now 15 years since it’s publication stands out and is indeed both

“Practical and Inspiring.”

I also give my highest recommendation to “The Healing Promise of Qi” – Roger Jahnke – 2002(?)

This book tremendously expands on the Healer Within, going deep into the art, science and magic of Qigong while maintaining the principles of simplicity and accessibility.

Verlyn Craig Payton

July 11 2012

Craig Payton/ Book Report: The Starch Solution

July 9, 2012 in Book Reports by Craig Payton

The Starch Solution

Dr. John A. McDougall

pub.2012

This book is a logical follow up to my review of “The China Study”.  Dr McDougall’s research and clinical results as well as his interactions with the political system as it pertains to medicine and food are an important part of that book.

This book stands alone as a strong advocation for a plant based lifestyle.  McDougall does an excellent job pointing out some of the errors of those already pursuing a vegetarian or Vegan diet.  He also skews much “common sense” about nutrition, especially with regards to the importance of starch plant foods and their ability to provide complete nutrition all by themselves or with the minor addition of some green/yellow vegetables and/or fruits.  There are still organizations publishing information contrary to this assertion and McDougall takes them on with solid research which has already existed for decades.  He even takes on another nutritional fallacy about oils.  Basically he makes the point that ALL oils in “free” form (e.g. Olive oil, instead of Olives) are equally dangerous to your health, and he backs this assertion up with more solid science.

It is time to let go of your preconceptions about food which have been fed to you by the media and mass-marketing.  Protein, Calcium and Iron can be obtained readily and sufficiently with a starchy plant based diet.  Excess protein and excess fat are Killers!  Diet holds the key to our health care crisis and in large part to the ecological health of our planet.

Generally as a society we have the expectation that we will get fatter and/or sicker as we age.  Children are healthy and their parents less so and the elders suffer from severe and chronic disease.  At the beginning of his career McDougall observed that among the patient population on the big island of Hawaii that the opposite was true.  Elderly immigrants (from China, Japan, Korea, the Philippines) remained trim, active and medication free into their 90s.  Their children were a little heavier and not as healthy.  The youngest generation suffered from the full range of health problems seen among the typical American population.  This deterioration could be directly correlated with the elders adherence to their traditional starch based diets and the progressive adoption by subsequent generations of the Standard American diet.

McDougall’s assertion is that a diet of potatoes, corn or whole grains leads to robust health, while meat & dairy lead to persistent life threatening disease.  This assertion had already been made and backed up with fifty years of research when in 1986 Dr. McDougall opened his first nutritional treatment center in St. Helena California.  He went on to show through research and clinical results that those already sickened could reverse this process and recover simply by no longer eating the food that made them sick and instead supporting their natural healing process with a starch based diet.

McDougall reports consistent results of reduced weight, cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar levels and relief from indigestion, constipation, arthritis and other ailments.  He was also able to achieve a 44% reduction in health care costs for Blue Cross/Blue Shield in a one year period for participants in his program in Minneapolis.

Humans are built to thrive on starch.  A majority of calories for most hunter gatherers came from starch.  A plant based diet is the key to good health, but you will never be satisfied unless you include sufficient starchy food.  This is a common error among those attempting to support themselves on a vegetarian diet.

Contrary to popular nutrition literature starch does NOT easily get converted to fat.  Fats from animal foods and fatty oils are primarily what your body stores as fat, and this process is very efficient.  McDougall likes to use the phrase, the fat you eat is the fat you wear!

Anthropologists found evidence for the processing of grain and other starchy food as far back as 30,000 years and even perhaps as far back as 105,000 years at one site in Mozambique.  There is good evidence to support the theory that the wealthiest ancient Egyptians may have suffered from similar diseases of affluence as modern westerners and for the same reasons.  The wealthiest part of Egyptian society were also those most likely to end up mummified.  Both direct study of human remains and cultural anthropological evidence point to a diet very high in animal protein and fat among the elite of Egyptian society, diverging starkly from the plant based fare of the balance of the population.  The results can be seen in the mummies; obesity, atherosclerosis, gallstones, dental disease.

Human beings are designed to eat starchy foods.  Compared to other primates, humans produce 6-8 times more of the starch digesting enzyme amylase.  This enabled early humans to expand their range far beyond other primates, adapting to other starchy food sources, eventually expanding their range to cover the whole planet.

Once again, contrary to accepted wisdom, which may well be food-industry propaganda from meat and dairy interests starches are COMPLETE foods.  You WILL meet your basic nutritional needs with these ALONE!  Grains and legumes are not as complete as potatoes and rice but simply by adding a little fruit or green & yellow vegetables you can get everything you need.

Common wisdom also implicates excess carbohydrate consumption in fat/weight gain.  This is simply untrue as the body burns off most carbohydrates as heat and energy rather than storing them as fat.  The commonly held idea in pop nutrition literature is that you must limit your Carbs because starch turns to sugar which turns to fat, making you gain weight.  If this is true why isn’t there an epidemic of obesity among 1.7Bn. Asians living on rice based diets.

Starches satisfy the appetite, supply on average:

1 Calorie per gram

Compared with

4 Calories per gram – Meat and Cheese

9 Calories per gram – Oils

Dispelling the Starch -> Fat myth:

Research shows that starch consumption leads to long term satiety where fats have little impact.

A study was conducted using adult women both normal weight and obese.   Even when fed 50% more calories than normal plus 3.5 oz. sugar they produced as a result a conversion to only 4 grams of fat daily.  At this rate it would take 4 months to gain 1lb fat.

Further support for this assertion appears on p.24 as “The Eat More Starch Challenge.”  The challenge derives from a study of moderately overweight college age men.  They were asked to change nothing intentionally in their diet, but to add 12

slices of bread, either white or high fiber, to their daily diet.  The result was that after 8 weeks there was a loss on average of 14lbs for the white bread group and 19lbs for the high fiber bread group.  It was observed that the provision of this extra starch displace higher caloric foods thus leading to weight loss.

The challenge simply state;  Add 600-900 calories starch to your daily consumption.  The assumption, proven in the study cited is that all the starch will lead you to eat less of other foods and feel fuller with plenty of energy.  It is the opposite of a diet of deprivation.

At home you can use the following equivalents to meet the 600-900 calories;

4 cups steamed rice

4 cups boiled corn

4 mashed potatoes (presumably without butter or milk!)

4 baked sweet potatoes

3 cups cooked beans, peas or lentils

4 cups spaghetti

12 slices whole grain bread

Fat consumed is absorbed directly from the intestine to the bloodstream in a very efficient process with only a 3% energy loss. Fat comes from eating fat.  The fat you eat is the fat you wear!

Common plant foods meet our calcium, iron and protein needs.  Contrary to marketing claims of animal foods industry you will not become deficient on a plant based diet.  In fact there is good evidence to support the assertion that a high protein diet actually causes calcium deficiency.  McDougall Identifies 5 toxins from the animal based diet; Protein overload. Excess Fat. Cholesterol. Methionine. Dietary Acid.

Protein overload; Overworks and weakens the kidneys and increases the amount of calcium in the urine, leading to kidney stones and osteoporosis.

Fat; Accumulation causes insulin resistance, contributes to heart disease, stroke and type II diabetes.  Excess weight strains the joints leading to hip and knee osteoarthritis.  Excess fat also entirely alters cellular metabolism stimulating certain cancers.

Cholesterol; Animals, including humans, make all the cholesterol they require and are not at all efficient at eliminating excess.  Excess accumulates in the skin, tendons and arteries, causing vascular disease of the heart and brain, heart attack and strokes.

Methionine; This is a sulfur containing amino acid found in flesh, eggs and cheese.  Minor related ailments include bad breath, body odor, and foul smelling gas and stool.  It metabolizes into Homocysteine, a known risk factor for stroke, heart attack, arterial diseases of the legs, blood clots, dementia Alzheimer’s & depression.  Sulfur feeds cancerous tumors and is toxic to intestinal tissue, causing severe colitis.  Eventually it is metabolized into sulfuric acid, one of the most potent acids known to nature which dissolves calcium from bones and causes kidney stones.Dietary Acid; Animal foods are loaded with dietary acids.  After eating them we release alkaline substances, carbonate, citrate and sodium to maintain our PH.  Over time this leaches material from the bones leading to osteoporosis.  Acids can also raise cortisol levels (the stress hormone) triggering bone loss and other problems.  Chronic consumption of dietary acids causes you to pee your bones into the toilet!

Reducing or eliminating animal foods immediately relieves the body burden of these 5 dietary poisons. This also greatly reduces your exposure to infectious bacteria, viruses and parasites.  Some further detail of the possible transmission of virus from Dairy, leukemia and others is detailed in his treatment of dairy food.  The lack of proper sanitation and other appalling problems of the dairy industry are discussed.  Some of this is scary stuff, but I prefer to look at the positive proof of how we have no need for the animal based foods rather than use scare tactics, however legitimate, to push people to adopt a starchy plant based diet.

Case studies of successful participants in the McDougall plan can be found at;

www.drmcdougall.com/star.html

Chapter 5.  The USDA and the politics of starch.  This covers Dr McDougall’s well supported assertion that the USDA has long supported the consumption of meat, cheese and dairy with its food pyramid.  Further details of disinformation and conflicts of interest at the USDA and other institutions are covered in this chapter.

Chapter 6. Are we eating the Planet to Death?  This covers the environmental effects of our food choices.  These effects are likely greater than most are prepared to contemplate.  Food choice always has an environmental impact.  Your most important vote is not at the polls but your daily choices of where to use your purchasing power.

Chapter 7-8 When your friends ask; Where you get your Protein? & When your friends ask; Where you get your Calcium?

These chapters are a good summary of the science defending the starch based diet and its proven ability to deliver plenty of both protein and calcium.  Also it shows the fallacies of the animal based food industries”s propagandistic arguments for those foods.  What better way to market your product than to convince people their health DEPENDS upon them consuming your food (Dairy, Meat).

Chapter 9. Confessions of a fish Killer; Details McDougalls youth as an avid fisherman and fish eater, followed by discussion of the many problems with fish nowadays.  In addition to overfishing which has reduced worldwide fisheries by 90% compared to the middle of the last century there is discussion of the problems of mercury toxicity.  Fish farms are also discussed and exposed as another unsafe source of nutrition.  Fish, McDougall shows are just as problematic as any flesh food.  Also the marketing idea that people require fish to produce adequate Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids is also shown to be a fallacy.

Chapter 10. The Fat Vegan; McDougal points out that ALL oils have adverse effect on the heart and health generally and thus should be reduced or eliminated whenever possible.  Vegans making bad choices about vegetable fats are not protected from overweight or obesity, not the other negative health threatening effects of fat.

Because this assertion about ALL fats is such a game changer for my understandings and beliefs about nutrition I will cite p.136 in toto which sums up his case against all fat.

*Serial angiograms of human heart arteries over a year of study showed that all three types of fat -saturated(animal fat), monounsaturated(olive oil), and polyunsaturated(omega-3 and omega-6 oils)- were associated with significant increases in new atherosclerotic lesions.  Decreasing total fat intake was the only way to stop the lesions from growing.

*Both Omega-3 and Omega-6 polyunsaturated oils are found in human atherosclerotic plaques; thus they are involved in damaging the arteries and increasing the progression of atherosclerosis.

*One of the most important predictors of heart attack risk is an elevated level of factor VII, a substance that enables blood clotting.  The formation of blood clots inside the arteries causes most heart attacks and strokes.  Olive oil increases blood clotting activity by increasing clotting factor VII as much as animal fats do.

*Vegetable oils also impair circulation, resulting in a 20% reduction in blood oxygen.  Reduced circulation can lead to angina(chest pain), impaired brain function, high blood pressure, fatigue, and compromised lung function.  In short, it doesn’t matter what type of fat you eat; saturated animal fat and polyunsaturated vegetable oils have adverse effects on your heart and health.

The author also does an excellent job indicting the food industry in it’s efforts to provide soy based substitutes for many familiar animal based foods.  The bottom line on soy is; use soy minimally and only in it’s most natural traditional forms such as tofu, miso, natto and edamame (green soy beans).

Chapter 11.  Just To Be On The Safe Side Stay Away From Supplements.  Here he takes on the entire vitamin supplement industry.  Previous material in the book demonstrated the danger of excess protein and fat.  McDougall turns to research supporting his position that individual isolated supplements are dangerous, particularly because they are delivered in an isolated and unnatural manner.  Getting sufficient Vitamin A, C and E for example is always a good idea, as long as the source is a whole food.  The idea of putting concentrated vitamins, often synthetically manufactured, into the body fails to recognize that the body has evolved to take in these substances from whole foods.  He doesn’t go so far as to denigrate the entire nutriceutical industry and acknowledges the value of herbs and other substances such as glucosamine.  He also attempts to address the controversial subject of Vitamin D (which is actually a type of hormone), and sheds some light on what seems to be erroneously high recommended levels.

Vitamin B12 is the only supplement he recommends, and this only for those on long term strict vegetarian or vegan diets.  Even under those conditions such a deficiency  can take years to form

Chapter 12.  Salt and Sugar: The Scapegoat of the Western Diet.

In this section McDougall invites the reader to eat that which he craves.  He advises the use of salt and sugar, especially on top of foods as a condiment instead of as part of the recipe, but he encourages their use in a starch based diet, refuting the blame that has been placed on the two substances.

If one is avoiding processed foods and especially processed meats you will be consuming drastically less sodium already.  In another common sense shattering report from 2007 there was a strong indication that, “the association between systolic pressure and sodium excretion did not translate into less mortality or improved survival.  On the contrary, low sodium excretion predicted higher cardiovascular mortality.  Taken together our current findings…do not support the current recommendations of a generalized and indiscriminate reduction of salt intake at the population level.”

McDougall invites people following his dietary advice not to worry about adding a little sugar or sugary sauces (BBQ, Ketchup, Hoi sin sauce, Salsa, Blueberry sauce, etc) especially if they help you eat plenty of health promoting starches.  He proves sugar will not make you fat or diabetic.  He asserts that dietary sugar and fat tend to trade places, where one is consumed more the other is less.  Sugar is far less problematic than dietary fat.  To be clear one should emphasize complex carbohydrates as the primary source of carbohydrates with sugar (a simple carb) as a condiment similar to the use of salt, and not to fear it’s use.

Another popular nutrition marketing tool recently is the concept of the Glycemic Index (GI).  The GI is a measure of the rise in blood sugar levels in the 2-3 hours after consumption.  As an example of the false logic of using this system a serving of pizza filled with fatty cheese and chocolate cake piled with frosting both have a lower GI than raw carrots and plain boiled potatoes.  Starches with a high GI rating actually prevent weight gain in people who tend to be obese.  This false indictment of starches has led consumers and medical practitioners to assume that rice and potatoes, et al, are potentially harmful and to be avoided.  At the same time we know that “carbo loading” is practiced successfully by all winning endurance athletes.  Nevertheless the GI has been an excellent marketing too for many many prepared foods, food ingredients and diet plans.

Don’t Deny your natural cravings;

Our biological cravings for salt and sugar  have made limiting them an unachievable goal for must of us.  Focusing on an impossible target – eat little salt and no added sugar- ensures that our health will not improve, consumers will continue their same buying habits, food companies will remain highly profitable, people will remain sick and drug companies will enjoy record profits.  In contrast, a meaningful message like, “stop eating meat and cheese, and instead focus your diet on rice and potatoes”, would revolutionize the world – but those now in control of governments and “health” organizations representing profitable businesses don’t want to see that day come any time soon.  The status quo will indeed continue until the truth about salt and sugar becomes accepted.

The goals of a starch based diet are to improve your happiness and health ant to simultaneously help heal our troubled environment.  A diet only works to the extent that you stay on it.  The starch solution is not a religion based on perfection, but rather a practical means to solve many everyday problems.  These two highly pleasurable ingredients, salt and sugar, along with a variety of spices, will increase your enjoyment of your foods and help you to stick with the starch solution for a lifetime.

Part Three – Living the Solution – deals with the practical matters of applying the preceding advice.  This includes many recipes.  If I had any criticism of this book it would be that the recipes included are a bit on the complex side.  I had hoped to see some simple staple recipes.  But this is a minor matter and probably an editing decision to include the most tasty and interesting options.  McDougall has several other books in publication including the McDougall quick and easy cookbook which I imagine provides just the kinds of recipes I found missing here.

I value this book for its clear presentation of the case that humans are primarily “starchivores” who can survive on animal food, but at high risk.  I look forward to experimenting further with this information, although my options are currently quite limited.  I have tried before to adopt a more plant based diet and I know that my concern about starches steered me wrong and left me often in caloric deficit.  The information about the dangers of ALL fats was startling to me and is probably among the most difficult aspects of this diet plan for me to contemplate taking on board.  I recommend anyone to try this method.  I believe Dr McDougall has proven his case well here.

Craig Payton/ New 100 Day Blog Challenge

July 3, 2012 in Personal Journal Entries by Craig Payton

July 1 2012 end of 9th month of incarceration

I finished the term of my 2nd 100 day challenge on June 25th.  Unfortunately I have had to abandon training for a couple of my physical challenges for more than a month.  Without much training for the last 6-8 weeks I pulled 8 pullups out of my goal of 10 on test day and was able to do 38 push-up set out of a goal of 50 in a row.

I abandoned running/walking entirely due to ongoing tendonitis issue.

Recently we had an exercycle added back to our fitness equipment and I have begun to train with that almost daily.  My minimum goal is to do Cardio exercycle work a minimum of 4 times a week for 30 minutes.  I have well exceeded that in the last few weeks since we had access to the bike.

Today, rather than focus on the items I did not fulfill to the best of my ability I would like to focus on what actual progress I have made and how it could have been very different had I not encountered the motivational force of the Straight A Guide.

As of today (7-1-12) I weighed in at 178.5 lbs, down from a starting weight of 191 or perhaps more before I first surrendered to prison 9-30-11.  To provide perspective, at 6′ tall I was around 165 lbs at 30 years of age.  Gauging by the bit of flab I still have around my middle I think a stable weight of around 170 would be very healthy unless I put on more muscle mass.  I do not think I would have made such progress without the daily reminder of pursuing the value of fitness.  This value is based on keeping healthy and energetic for myself but also for my family and to model to my children the value of fitness.

When I first came to prison sets of 10 push ups were not too hard but I could not do too many more in one go, and not very many sets.  I was able to do 1 pull up and now I can do 8 at once, and multiple sets of 6 or so.  This may not sound like much if you haven’t done any pull ups since you were in school, but I have definitely gained significant strength.

I have established a VERY steady practice of meditation and qigong (Chi Kung) every morning almost without fail for the last 5 months (according to my accountability log).  Added to that has been a steady practice of Taiji (aka Tai Chi) almost every day this year (also documented in my log).  Not only have these practices been very beneficial for my physical and mental/emotional/spiritual health but I have never before been so steady and regular in following through with such practice in my life.  Staying committed and marking down each day I practice keeps me steady.  Without the impetus of the Straight A Guide I probably wouldn’t have achieved such steadiness which has taken me deeper into my study of these practices than ever before, even though I’ve been studying for 30 years or more.

I have, so far, not been able to see a way forward into taking formal educational training while incarcerated.  What I have done is to restrict my reading primarily to non-fiction.  I am reading books on a variety of subjects.  I am doing my best to treat this reading in the same way I would assigned reading in a college level course.  I read them once through, then I skim through again going into parts I want to understand better and retain more fully.  Then I produce a “Book Report/Review. I have completed three of these so far although I have at least 8 more I would like to share, including three others which are almost complete but not edited to my satisfaction.  This writing project allows me to share what I am interested in and thinking about with anyone who might care to read my material and perhaps provide a service to someone who might be interested in the subject matter.

Every day I look at my accountability log book which, unlike Michael Santos, I do not provide in a blog form every day.  My periodic progress reports are my way of being accountable ans as transparent as I can be, without providing the minutia of my every day.  By looking at th is log every day I am reminded of my goals.  My long term, ongoing goals of maintaining meaningful contact with my two children and wife are there to tell me daily if I have done what I have intended.  Muy additional goal simply titled “Marriage” reminds me daily of the most important relationship in my life and makes me ask myself what I can do to further deepen that relationship or just provide a little something to help lift her spirits.  Without taking note of these absolutely essential value categories daily it’s possible I may have fallen into despondence and let myself become distant.

My Goal of keeping in touch with old friends has been somewhat neglected lately and represents and area I need to work on.  I have taken certain steps to reach out with my wife’s help recently and we shall see if these efforts will bear fruit.

Finally, I have the goal of expanding my network.  I am somewhat at a loss as to how to proceed here as Michael’s model doesn’t match up with my situation very well.  Still I keep this goal on my mind daily and I intend to take more actions to further it.

I will clowse by re-setting my 100 day challenges for another term.  I will take my weight down to 175 lbs or less.  I will practice taiji, qigong and meditation every day.  I will write every day.  I will exercise regularly (in addittion to taiji and qigong which definitely are exercise too).  I will increase my single set push up limit and depending upon circumstances will attempt to increase pull ups as well.  I will maintain and deepend my family relationships.  I will reach out more to old friends.  I will seek out ways to reach out to others outside my current network.

My most important goal re-set is to re-commit to working on The Straight A Guide workbook questions and answers.  Michael should be going home in @ 6 weeks.  During that time I aspire to redouble my efforts and answer 15 questions per week on average.  If I can do that over the next 100 days (14 weeks) I will finish the workbook.

The period of this new challenge is July 1st through October 7th.

Regards

Verlyn Craig Payton

July 2nd 2012

Craig Payton/ Book Report: The Way of Zen

July 3, 2012 in Book Reports by Craig Payton

The Way of Zen

Alan Watts

Why this book?

I have been a student of meditation since my grade school years.  I have read many books on various aspects of this practice.  Zen is perhaps widely understood to be an equivalent of meditatino practices in general, or a meditative frame of mind to some.  In fact the word Zen -Japanese- comes from the word Ch’an -Chinese- which comes from the Indian word Dhyana, all of which mean meditation.  Although I have studied this subject quite extensively I have never read anything by Alan Watts, a westerner who is now widely credited with exposing the West to Chinese Taoist and Japanese Zen thought.  This book published in 1957 represents an historic effort to shed light on the mysterious topic of Zen at a time when matters of Oriental thought were tremendously more exotic and unknown in the West.

This succinct work of a mere 201 pages of text is an important and useful work to anyone interested in Asian studies, philosophy and meditation.  Watts divides the work into two parts; Background and history, Principles and practice.

I have studied and researched Taoist History and practices extensively and Buddhist history and practice somewhat less.  Watts analysis of the cross pollination of Taoism and Buddhism as the genesis of Zen is an important understanding to provided perspective to one trying to understand the Eastern philosophies.  The first two chapters of this book: The Philosophy of Tao & The Origins of Buddhism are a wonderfully realized succinct overview of these subjects both elegant and comprehensive.  If one had no prior knowledge of these topics this would be an excellent starting point.  With prior study these chapters represent a focused summary as reference to the student.

According to Watts;

“Zen does not belong to any formal categories of Western thought.  It is not a religion or philosophy; it is not a psychology of type of science.  It is an example of what is known in India and China as a ‘way of liberation’, and is similar in this fashion to Vedanta, Yoga and Taoism.”

Quoting a Taoist writer;

“For it is really impossible to appreciate what is meant by the Tao without becoming in a rather special sense, stupid.”

The idea is not to reduce the human mind to a moronic vacuity, but to bring into play its innate and spontaneous intelligence by using it without forcing it.   It is fundamental in both Taoist and Confucian thought that the natural man is to be trusted, and from their standpoint it appears that the Western mistrust of human nature-whether theological or technological-is a kind of schizophrenia.

Exponents of Zen later called this Wu-Tsin or No-Mind.  Which is to say un-self-consciousness.  It is a state of wholeness in which the mind functions freely and easily.  According to both Taoism and Zen, the center of the mind’s activity is not in the conscious thinking process, not in the ego.  When a man has learned to let his mind alone so that it functions in the integrated and spontaneous way that is natural to it, he begins to show the special kind of “virtue” or “power” called TE.  This virtue does not refer to moral rectitude, but to effectiveness, e.g. the healing VIRTUE of a medicinal plant.

When Confucians prescribed a virtue which depended upon the artificial observance of rules and precepts, the Taoists pointed out that such virtue was conventional and not genuine, not Tzu-jan, a word which means spontaneous.

“Te is the unthinkable ingenuity and creative power of man’s spontaneous and natural functioning, a power which is blocked when one tries to master it in terms of formal methods and techniques.”

Superior virtue(TE) is not conscious of itself as virtue(TE) and thus is virtue(TE).  Inferior virtue cannot dispense with virtuosity, and thus is not virtue.”

The most essential Taoist work is “Tao Te Jing” by Lao Tsu.  The title of this work has been translated variously in English but I am confident the most clear translation is “The Classic of Tao and TE.”  A classic is a book which is regarded in a way analogously with the Bible in the West.  The Bible is also regarded as a “Classic” a “Jing” in Asia.  Thus “Tao Te Jing” means “The classic of Tao and Te.”

Arguably the second most important Taoist sage/writer after Lao Tsu is Chuang Tsu, a quote from whom finished the chapter on Taoism;

“Were language adequate, it would take but a day fully to set forth Tao. Not being adequate, it takes time to explain material existences.  Tao is something beyond material existences.  It cannot be conveyed either in words or silence.”

Chinese civilization was at least 2000 years old when it absorbed Buddhism.  The combination of Taoism and Confucianism extant in China at the time allowed for the new philosophy to become integrated into a much different soil than its native land of India.  The practicality and stability of the Chinese culture allowed for  the absorbtion of many ideas, indeed many peoples.  It may be argued that in China Buddhism began to have an expression which was more accessible to ordinary people with families and everyday work to do.  Watts argues that Far Eastern Buddhism is much more “according to nature” more palatable than it’s Indian or Tibetan counterparts which he says seem to be “aimed at superhuman ideals much more suitable to angels than to men.”  All Buddhist sects seem to agree thta the supreme awakening or Buddhahood can only be attained from the human state.

What follows are excerpts of specific Buddhist terms to create for myself a study guide for this chapter. This series of excerpts tie in with the flow of this chapter.

Moksha – Liberation.  That which is sought by Buddhists, achieved by the Buddha.

Illusion.  the Buddhist view of the world in general may be summed up by saying All is Maya.

Maya is the root of the word meaning measurement.  This points out that Maya indicates the world of facts and events which can be viewed as terms of measurement rather than the realities of nature.  A proper understanding of Maya is essential to the study of both Buddhism and Hinduism. The doctrine of Maya states not that all isone, for one must be considered always in relation to the duality of many, but that all is non-dual.  Thus the simiple definition of Maya is illusion, but the deeper definition is that true reality is beyond Maya, or beyond measurements, beyond being and non-being.

Advaita – Duality.  This refers to the world of opposites.  Buddhists seek to attain non-dual awareness.

Tathata – Suchness, thusness.  Indicates the world just as it is unscreened and undivided by the symbols and definitions of thought.  Non-Dual Awareness.

Dhyana

Pali – Jhana

Chinese – Ch’an

Japanese – Zen

English – Meditation

The common understanding of meditation in English is not correct in this context, e.g. thinking things over, musing or alternatively trance or absorbtion.  Watts proposes leaving Dhyana untranslated and brining it into English language just as Nirvana and Tao have entered.

sittin Dhyana, from a Buddhist perspective is the proper way to sit as long as there is nothing else to be done at the moment.  To regard Dhyana as having a purpose, or being a discipline or exercise creates the very condition which renders it no longer Dhyana.  Where there is seeking or grasping for results there is no Dhyana.  See also; Samadhi and Smriti.

Atman – The self

Lila – The Play (as in stage play).  Refers to the unreality of the world, to Maya.  Atman is a fragment of Brahman (all that is, the Universe, God) which has forgotten it is a fragment of the whole.  Brahman can only observe and understand itself through fragmenting and forgetting. These are the primal components of Hindu mythology which are also entrained within Buddhist thought.

Brahman – The All, Universe, Godhead.

Sadhana – Discipline of the way of liberation

Rupa – Form.  Significant in the importance of allowing consciousness to move beyond the realm of form & name to direct perception.

Svabhava – Self – nature

Nama – Name

Nama-rupa = Name and Form

Bodhi – awakening

Samsara – The cycle of birth and death.  Attainment of awakening, Buddhahood allows one to move beyond birth and death.  Some view this as not referring to actual birth-death and rebirth but as referring to mentation within one life, exemplified by the whole problem of action in vicious circles and the resolution thereof.  See also Dependant Origination.

Karma – Action that is arising from a motive and seeking a result, the type of action which always results in the call for further action.  All action undertaken in an un-awakened state creates Karma.

Trishna – grasping

Nirvana – The way of life which ensues when grasping at life has come to an end.  Nirvana can only arise spontaneously when the impossibility of self-grasping has been thoroughly perceived.

Avidhya – Ignorance or unconsciousness.  This is the formal opposite of awakening. Traditionally the beginning and end of the cycle of Dependant Origination.  This is an arbitrary selection as all 12 aspects are tied together.   They come into being (originate) with each one dependant on the other being there part of the cycle, therefore Dependant Origination.

The Four Noble Truths – Consist of;

Bhava – The three characteristics of Being, which describe the problem or disease together with the Fourth Noble Truth which constitutes the prescription, cure or solution to the problem also known as The Eightfold Path.

Bhava consists of: Dukkha – Suffering, Frustration, Anitya – Impermanence

Anatman – Unreality or absence of the Self.  The true self is non-self.  Therefore this is not to deny the existence of the self but to assert that there is no self or basic reality that may be grasped either by direct experience or concepts.

The Eightfold Path.

Each of the Eight are preceeded in the original language by Samyak, meaning “complete” or “perfect”.  In modern translations often translated as “right” or “correct”.  Watts maintains the term “complete” in his translation.  These 8 terms are seperated into categories of; Thought (1,2) Action (3-6) and Contemplation or Awareness (7,8).  The final two help to better describe the term Dhyana which is essentially the same word as Zen.

They are:

Complete View

Complete Understanding

Complete Speech

Complete Action

Complete Vocation

Complete Application

Complete Recollectedness, awareness

Complete Contemplation

Smriti – Recollectedness, awareness

Samadhi – Contemplation, becoming non-duality of mind.

The true meaning of Dhyana is comprised of both Smriti and Samadhi and can best be described as one pointed awareness.  It is knowing without the presence of the knower or the known.

Upaya – Skillful means.  In Buddhist context referring to the most effective methods to attainment.

Mahayana – A major Buddhist school whose name means; Great Vehicle, as contrasted with the Hinayana – Little vehicle which si how the Mahayanists refer to the earlier Buddhism coming from the Pali canon.  Great vehicle refers to the many Upaya (skillful methods) contained within this tradition.

Bodhisattva – The term may be historically attributed to Mhayanaists, defined popularly as one who having attained Nirvana, renounces it until all sentient beings can attain Nirvana.  The clearer interpretation is implicit in the deep logic of Buddhism.  If Nirvana is the state in which the attempt to grasp reality has wholly ceased, through the realization of its impossibility, it will obviously be absurd to think of Nirvana as someting which can be grasped or attained.  Mahayanists principle is “what has never arisen does not need to be annihilated.”

Dharma – Doctrine, teaching.  Specifically comprised of the eightfold path, more generally referring to ALL Buddhist teaching.

Prajna – Intuitive Wisdom.

Karuna – Compassion

If the Bodhisattva returned to the world on the basis that Samsara is Nirvana that “the void is precisely form”.  If Prajna is to see that “form is void”, Karuna is to see that “Void is Form.”  Karuna is an affirmation of the Suchness of the everyday world, which is one of the elements of Mahayana most strongly emphasized in Zen.  This is important to note that it refutes

a common perception of Buddhism as being a philosophy of “world-denial”.  This understanding became the principal inspiration for a type of art in China and subsequently Japan which stressed natural forms rather than religous symbols.

Citta – Mind

On the mind;  It is beyond all philisophical views, is apart from discrimination (i.e. classification), it is not attainable, nor is it ever born:  I say there is nothing but MIND.  It is not an existence, nor is it a non-existence, it is indeed beyond both existence and non-existence.

It is not an existence, nor is it a non-existence, it is indeed beyond both existence and non-existence.  Out of MIND spring innumerable things conditioned by discrimination and habit energy; these things people accept as an external world…What appears to be external does not exist in reality; it is indeed MIND that is seen as multiplicity;  the body, property and abode – all these, I say, are nothing but MIND.    From the Lankavatara Sutra

That which distinguishes zen of Ch’an from other Buddhism are difficult to put into words yet have unmistakable flavor perhaps best described as a certain directness.  There is in Zen a sense that awakening is something quite natural, something which could occur at any moment.

The creation of Zen can, Watts asserts, be sufficiently explained by the result of Mahayana Buddhism encountering the indigenous Taoists and Confucianists upon its arrival in China.

The genuine Zen flavor is when a man is almost miraculously natural without intending to be so.  The naturalness of Zen flourishes only when one has lost affectedness and self consciousness of every description.  But a spirit of this kind comes and goes like the wind, and is the most impossible thing to institutionalize and preserve.

In both life and art the cultures of the far East appreciate nothing more highly than spontaneity or naturalness (Tzu-jan), marking the action which is not studied or contrived.

“If it is held that there is something to be realized or attained apart from the mind, and thereupon, mind is used to seek it, (that implies) failure to understand that mind and the object of its search are one.  Mind cannot be used to seek something from mind…the day of success would never come.”

This impossibility of grasping the mind with the mind is, when realized, the non-action (We-wei). [My Taoist teacher names it "actionless action"]

Wu-hsin translates to “no mind”.

In acting, just act.  In thinking, just think.  Above all don’t wobble.

When one is so self conscious, self controlled that he cannot let go of himself, he dithers and wobbles between opposites.  This is precisely what is meant in Zen by going round and round on the “Wheel of Birth and Death.” for the Buddhist Samsara is the prototype of all vicious circles.  Herein we see an interpretation of Samsara setting entirely aside any question of literal reincarnation showing that figurative birth and death and the escape from this vicious cycle are available at every moment.  To make an end of illusion the mind must stop trying to act upon itself, from the standpoint of the idea of itself which we call the ego.

Lack of spontaneity arises from the mental vicious circle of trying to be in control of the mind with the mind.  In more modern terms we often use the term ego here.  In myriad ways the ego interferes with spontaneous action.  We want to control.  We wan to feel secure about what will happen in the future.  We are concerned about what we did wrong in the past.  We worry how others will perceive us.  Examples of this ego interference are seemingly without end.  When we can drop all labels and attachments the ego has nothing to grasp and is therefore no longer in the way of our spontaneity.  I find the terms, being in the zone and also , being in the flow very useful to help understand this.  I have studied with a teacher of Tibetan wisdom tradition who likes to translate his art into “The Art of Being in the Flow”.

Zen culture emphasized experiencing Zen in every day life, not just Za-zen (sitting meditation).  IN fact Watts explains how the very success of the Zen schools led to a change of emphasis of the tradition.  Initially Zen training was for experienced older people who were trying to free themselves from the fetters of conventional thinking instilled by the rigid dictates of Confucian rules.  In this sense Zen took the same role which was earlier held by Taoism. With widespread success and great numbers of student, especially younger students necessitated a different emphasis.  Older more experienced students of Zen needed to learn to drop their conditioning, younger students were not yet sufficiently conditioned, or disciplined in any sense.  therefore the discipline of Za-zen became more prevalent in Zen training in order to instill discipline in young students and monks.  It is important to note that man zen scholars and accomplished masters warned about the dangers of “sitting to become the Buddha.”  In yet another Zen paradox it should be understood that trying to awaken by doing anything is to make oneself unable to awaken.

“If you train yourself in za-zen know that Zen is neither sitting nor lying…the Buddha is not a fixed form.  If you adhere to the sitting position you will not attain the principle of Zen.”

It follows from this the idea that Zen mind can be present in any activity.  this principle underlies such arts as; Tea ceremony, flute playing, calligraphy, brush painting, archery, fencing (Ken-do), ju-juitsu, Judo.  Note that several Modern Japanese, Okinawan and Korean martial arts end with Do which is the same word as the Chinese Tao, Way.  Way meaning path to liberation.

The famous Zen Ko-an riddle teaching method is a method of “direct pointing” developed early on in Zen history. Watts makes the point that also during the time of Zen’s great popularity there arose a problem of standardization due to the vast number of disciples.  Therefore Zen training developed a standard curriculum of Ko-an riddles to pose to disciples in order to bring them along step by step.  It seems that this method did create controversy in those who maintained that such standardization is fully in opposition to the concept of spontaneity.  Nevertheless the Ko-an system does seem to  have come down over a millennia as a successful means of passing on the way of Zen.

The practice of Zen is not the true practice so long as it has an end in view.  When it has no end in view it is awakening – the aimless, self sufficient life of the “eternal now”.  To practice with and end in view is to have one eye on the practice with the other on the end, which is a lack of concentration and lack of sincerity.

Watts book is so rich that I find it difficult to continue to extract from it without extracting ALL of it.  To summarize Watts does thorough work revealing the paradoxes of the Zen mind in the subjects of Za-zen, the Ko-an, how Zen applies to the arts and to living life.  this book is a resource and a guide which I hope to have access to in the future.  This review is also my study guide for now as “The Way of Zen” is another step on my path of understanding and exploring the mystery of the mind, consciousness and living.  As a study guide, this summary does jump around quite a bit, but I tried to do what Watts does which is to convey the flavor of Zen and the flavor of this work.  I assure you his 201 pages are much more elegantly organized.

It is my experience that these ancient concepts are being reflected and affirmed in our culture globally through modern understanding and research into psychology, quantum physics and other related areas of science.  These new understandings have distinct implications for the future.  I shall endeavor to explore further in more recent works which synthesize ancient philosophy with modern science.  Watts work all the way back in 1957 stands out as a groundbreaking introduction of these ancient thoughts to the West whose impact is still being felt.

June 26 2012

Verlyn Craig Payton

Craig Payton/ Book Report: Quiet

June 26, 2012 in Book Reports by Craig Payton

Quiet

The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking

Susan Cain – 2012

Why this book?

I had heard a review on National Public Radio not long ago.  The subject matter intrigued me.  I have a lifelong interest in psychology and sociology.  I suspected that I shared many traits with those Cain describes as belonging to Introverts.

Cain; ”Extroverts and Introverts are opposite personalities.  While many might consider extroversion to be desirable or normal, this is definitely not the case in all cultures or at all times in history.”

This book is about introversion as seen from a cultural point of view.  It focuses on the differences between the person of action and the person of contemplation.  It tries to make the point about how we could improve society and the world if we could come to a greater balance of power between the two types.

Introverts recognize themselves as; reflective, cerebral, bookish, unassuming, sensitive, thoughtful, serious, contemplative, subtle, introspective, inner-directed, gentle, calm, modest, solitude seeking, shy, risk-averse, thin skinned.

Introverts opposite recognize in themselves one who is: ebulient, expansive sociable, gregarious, excitable, dominant, assertive, active, risk-taking, outer-directed, lighthearted, bold, comfortable in the spotlight, thick skinned.

To start, one bit of information which I found revealing is that the expressions “thick skinned” and “thin skinned” may be literally true.  Introverts tend to be more sensitive physically speaking, i.e. they literally feel more.  This sensitivity is not only to social interaction but is literally reflected in their sensitivity to all stimulus.  They feel MORE.  Extroverts are LESS affected by stimulus.  they are literally thick skinned, having less physical reactivity to stimulus.

This difference is one of the keys within the different personalities which is present from birth.  Each individual is different and is exposed to different environments during early life.  All are born with greater or lesser reactivity to stimulus.  Those who feel more, react more strongly and tend to become more cautious and thoughtful about their actions and the actions of others.  Those who feel less are affected less and can tend to boldly take action and notice much less the effect their actions have upon others.

Another important point made in this book is that introversion has been unfairly and unwisely undervalued in our culture.

“Introversion, along with it’s cousins sensitivity, seriousness and shyness, is not a second class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology.  Introverts living under the Extrovert ideal are discounted because of a trait that goes to the core of who they are.  Extroversion is an enormously appealing personality style, but we’ve turned it into an oppressive standard to which most of us feel we must conform.”

Cain shows that; It is a mistake to embrace the Extrovert as the ideal approach to life.  Studies have shown that talkative people are rated as smarter, better looking, more interesting and more desirable as friends.  These are all perceptions and have nothing to do with the talker’s true qualities as to how smart they are or how good a friend they might be.

“Science journalist Winifred Gallagher writes:’The glory of the disposition that stops to consider stimuli rather than rushing to engage with them is its long association with INTELLECTUAL and ARTISTIC achievement.’ ”

Cain notes;

Even in occupations less obviously suited to the introverted, such as finance, politics and activism, some o four greatest leaps forward were achieved by introverts.

This book examines the problems of institutional approaches to work and  learning wh ich are geared towards those who enjoy group projects and high levels of stimulation.  Nowadays classroom desks are often arranged as pods to better foster group learning, and research suggests that a large majority of teachers view the extrovert as the ideal student.  Susan Cain goes a long way in explaining how these views have been formed and how they are often mistaken.  True mastery of a subject is not the result of group learning strategies or teamwork, although there are important lessons to be learned from such collaboration.  Mastery of a subject such as matehmatics, chemisty or music for example comes primarily from focused, solitary study.  Playing a musical instrument provides an excellent example.  After reaching a certain level of mastery you may be able to collaborate with other musicians to create music together, but not until after you have spent many hours of solitary practice to perfect your technique.  To design classrooms entirely away from the opportunity for solitary study is to diminish the depth of learning available, as well as to create an over stimulating environment for children who are more thoughtful and sensitive.

Today it is becoming much more common to teach in pods of four or more desks put together to facilitate group learning activities.  Even subjects like Math and Creative Writing which certainly should depend on individual work and thought are often taught as group projects.  The author reports, “In one fourth grade classroom I visited a big sign announced the ‘Rules for Group Work’, including, ‘YOU CAN’T ASK A TEACHER FOR HELP UNLESS EVERYONE IN YOIUR GROUP HAS THE SAME QUESTION.”  This example to me is both startling and frightening.  I can only imagine how stifling it must be to the inquisitive yet shy student who not only must speak out in a way she finds difficult, but now must win the agreement of all her teammates to make an inquiry of the teacher.  I find this rule HORRIFIC.

Further exploration of our school culture revealed this statement from a fifth grade teacher in Manhattan, “This style of teaching reflects teh business community where people’s respect for others is based on their verbal abilities, NOT their originality or insight.  You have to be someone who speaks well and calls attention to yourself.  It’s an elitism based on something other than merit.”  This to me is strong evidence of the mistake of valuing style over substance.  Cain wonders, “whether some students would be better off if we appreciated that not everyone aspires to be a leader, or even part of a group.”

Cain takes on the origins of cultural preference for the extroverted personality in hir first chapter: The Rise of the Mighty Likeable Fellow – How extroversion become the cultural ideal.  In this chapter she reveals how a sea change in our culture took place during the course of the 20th century.  In 1913 Dale Carnegie published his first book, “Public Speaking and Influencing Men in Business”, followed more famously by his still famous “How to Win Friends and Influence People”.  Cain remarks that Carnegie was a prime mover in the change in America from a Culture of Character to a Culture of Personality.  The ideal in the Culture of Character was serious, disciplined and honorable.  Ones impression in public was not what counted but how one handled ones private affairs.  Even the word Personality didn’t even exist in English until the eighteenth century, and the idea of having a “good” personality did not become widespread until the twentieth.

When our culture embraced the Culture of Personality we started to focus on how others perceived us. We were captivated by people who were bold and entertaining.   Every American was becoming a “performing self”.  An instructive view of this change can be seen when viewing the history of the self help genre from between the late 1800′s compared to the early 1920′s.

Earlier works featured attributes such as: Citizenship, Duty, Work, Golden deeds, Honor, Reputation, Morals, Manners, Integrity.

Newer guides such as those written by Dale Carnegie emphasized traits such as: Magnetic, Fascinating, Stunning, Attractive, Glowing, Dominant, Forceful, Energetic.

From the early 20′s to the mid century this idea of developing the personality took greater hold until the emphasis in school began to shift from book-learning to “assisting and guiding the developing personality.”  In 1950 the slogan of the Mid-Century White House Conference on Children and Youth was, “A healthy personality for every child.”  In this emphasis perhaps we can see the seeds of decline in scholastic achievement in this country which continues in dismal proportion to this day.

Cain makes some effort to understand the current culture of personality and how it is promulgated at our institutions of higher learning.  She explores the nature of students and culture at Harvard Business School.  In so doing she finds one Chinese/American student who while attempting to keep up with the practically compulsory extracurricular activities of his more social peers does acknowledge cultural differences.

He observes: ”In China there was more emphasis on listening, on asking questions rather than holding forth, on putting other’s needs first.”  In the U.S. her feels, conversation is about how effective you are at turning your experiences into stories, whereas a Chinese person might be concerned with taking up too much of the other person’s time with inconsequential information.

A middle manager at G.E. shared with Cain about that corporate culture;”People don’t even want to meet with you if you don’t have a power point “pitch” for them.  Even if you are just making a recommendation to a colleague, you can’t just sit down in someones office and tell them what you think.  You have to make a presentation with pros & cons and a “takeaway” box.”

A major media company human resources director shares with Cain; ” We want to attract creative people,” Cain,”What do you mean?” Answer, “You have to be outgoing, fun and jazzed up to work here.”  To me this demonstrates clearly that this HR director knows what personality traits she likes and which foster fun and good times, but these traits don’t necessarily correspond to a “creative personality”, or demonstrate competence in the particular area this media company operates.

The culture norm of overvaluing extroverted personalities leads to leadership styles which value quick and assertive answers over quiet, slow decision making.  Cain cites a teaching game played in business school called The Subarctic Survival Situation Game.  In playing this game the whole group contributes to trying to find the best solution to save themselves.  ONe group had a young man with extensive backwoods experience.  His group failed to listen to him because he expressed himself too quietly. “Our action plan hinged on what the most vocal people suggested, ” said one student,”When the less vocal people put out ideas they were discarded.”  Sound ideas which would have “saved” them were ignored because of the conviction displayed by those who were more assertive, but Wrong!

Harvard Business School Professor Quinn Mills responds to the question, “How did this happen?”

“Usually they’re carried away by people who are assertive and domineering.  The risk with our students is that their very good at getting their way.  That does not mean they are going the RIGHT way.”

If we assume that the quiet and loud people have the same number of good ideas, and bad, then we should be concerned fi the loud and more domineering people carry the day.  This will mean inevitably the loss of good ideas and also the promotion of bad ones.  Group dynamics study shows this IS what happens.  Even though better, faster talkers are perceived more favorably, research shows NO correlation between verbal skill and intelligence, judgement, creativity or analytical power.  Do we now place too much value on presenting and not enough on substance and critical thinking?

Cain explores this further and gives ample proof of the mistakes of the workplace which is overly focused on group work and doesn’t value working alone.  The spread of “groupthink” can kill creativity while the most forceful personalities promote mediocre ideas and kill good ideas being promoted by those less skilled at presentation.  This is the triumph of Style over Substance.

In section two Cain makes some attempts to color in the gradations between the two poles of Extroversion/Introversion.  Of course almost no one is purely one or the other, although I find it interesting to note that pure Extroversion finds it’s expression in the sociopath.  She writes about strategies to overcome the limitations of the introvert style while still honoring itas a valid approach for as much as half the population.  She makes the point that the most well adapted introverts have come up with ways to behave in a more extroverted fashion. The difference is that these are learned behaviors and the introvert is well advised to seek out and understand their deep motivations to take on more extroverted tasks such as the most difficult of all public speaking.

In part three Cain explores briefly the distinct differences between the West and the East, demonstrating that Asia, especially China has not adopted the Culture of Personality as have we American and Westerners in general.

In part four Cain seeks to offer solutions with chapters such as;

9.  When should you act more extroverted than you really are?

10. The Communication Gap; How to talk to members of the opposite type.

11. …How to Cultivate Quiet kids in a World that can’t hear them.

In my view this last chapter is a very important one and one whose ideas I hope all teachers can be exposed to.

One of the most heartbreaking stories she tells demonstrates the problems of a poor fit in style between Parents and their children.  With two outgoing, active, competitive parents the child in question was quiet, passive, bookish.  The parents sought help for their son who they incorrectly judged to have a problem.  This was a problem of misunderstanding that their child processes things quite differently than they do.

There are more examples of this type of misunderstanding and I think they are tremendously instructive for parents and teachers.  We all wish popularity for our children.  This style of having many, many firends is definitely not appropriate for everyone.  If a child has a few, or even two or three good friends this is also quite healthy and normal.  An important point made is that many people find school very difficult but after leaving that environment seem to mysteriously blossom.  In fact those with a tendency to need more down time, more solo processing of the world, more contemplation may find that after leaving school they are able to operate in a way much more suitable to their style, leading to great success in their chosen field.  This is the story of so many so called geeks and nerds, who we all know formed the foundation of our modern computer filled society.  Forcing such individuals to socialize in a manner which is unnatural to them is not good for their development or self esteem.

There are some excellent pieces of advice for teachers.  The fact is that introverts need different kinds of instruction than do extroverts.  If a child prefers to work autonomously and socialize one-on-one there is nothing wrong, except that it doesn’t fit into the prevailing model.

1.  Dont think of introversion as something that needs to be fixed, or cured.

2.  Studies show that 1/3 to 1/2 of us are introverts.

3.  Encourage introverts to pursue any deep interests they may have.  This intense level of interest tends to develop into true talent in that field.

4.  Some collaborative work is fine, but best to take place in small groups.

5.  In many fields it is impossible to gain master without knowing how to work on ones own.  This is a lesson the extroverts need to learn from their quieter peers.

Cain goes on to list some traits to look for should you have the great luxury to pick and choose the school your child may go to.  I am delighted to report the charter school in our town fits most of these criteria.

In summary I feel this book is a very important counter point to the trends in our culture created by the emphasis on the Culture of Personality.  Cain emphasizes the need for a balance, not a struggle to suppress either side, but a recognition that both styles are important.  I feel this is an essential book for teachers and parents, but also for Business managers and human resource professionals especially.  I give this book my highest recommendation.

Through the study of Quiet I have learned a great deal about myself, my children and our culture.  These insights will prove useful to all of us.

Craig Payton/ Class 3: Accountability

June 25, 2012 in Accountability, Straight-A Guide Curriculum by Craig Payton

97. Describe your thoughts on whether accountability logs would help, hinder, or provide indifferent to your opportunities for success upon release.

I definitely agree that keeping steady track of your progress in all areas is tremendously valuable.  I can say that I have never before tracked my efforts in such a way.  It serves to keep on focused on goals and values.  As you work on achieving goals you connect daily to the values from which the goals have sprung and realize that by maintaining this level of integrity you have already realized a degree of success as a person.  As this process helps me to better accomplish goals and see new goals and aspiration it cannot help but make me a better and more productive person who takes on challenges and stays focus on achieving those goals he sets before him.  Although I agree with the goal setting and personal accountability, I cannot personally see the benefit of submitting a daily blog about what progress I have made.  I have opted for a periodic update of my progress.  I blogged my first update after 60 days into the new year (2012).

98. In what ways will probation officers respond to efforts you’ve made at documenting your values, goals, and commitment to preparing for a law-abiding life upon release?

I have no idea how the particular officer in my case may or may not respond to my activities and documentations of same.  I would hope that any person would be able to discern that I am making a concerted effort towards self-improvement while incarcerated and that I am focused on succeeding upon my release from prison.  Holding up my values and living by them should demonstrate that I am not all the type of person who would seek to break the law again.  With a shorter sentence, it is certainly difficult to make the case that what I did was a youthful folly which I have grown out of, but I will carry on with the Straight A Guide process to do the best I can to document efforts above and beyond the average prisoner to show my sincerity in my goal to rejoin the mainstream of society.  

99. Elaborate on ways that full transparency with regard to your prison adjustment through accountability logs can influence potential employers or support networks.

The idea of accountability logs is to track what you are accomplishing.  I understand that accountability logs have already proven effective to provide incentive and impetus towards achieving my goals and also enabling me to each for new goals and aspirations.  As for how this may affect those within my support network or prospective employers I am a bit dubious.  What is most important is to demonstrate that you are making progress and achieving the best you can while incarcerated.  I am a bit skeptical honestly of the values of showing someone my fitness goals and logs or some of the other daily goals I am tracking.  These are not something I publish on the Straight A Guide therefore they are not as tangible.  This is why I have been doing 100 day challenge reports to update anyone interested in what I am up to.  Therefore, I see the accountability logs as much more personally important than they may be to a prospective employer or others in my actual or potential support network.  More important is my ability to communicate my thoughts, my process and my accomplishments over the time I have remaining in incarceration.

100. Describe the role accountability logs played in their success:

Accountability logs are useful across all sectors of the pursuit of excellence in any field.  The definition of accountability logs can be applied broadly to define any record keeping that allows you to see where you have been and where you are going, whether you are making progress or not and also can lead to course corrections which would not have been possible without the insight provided by keeping track of the data in question.  There is no doubt that good record keeping is essential to survive in our modern world.  Just keeping basic tax records in an orderly fashion will make once life much less stressful early each year.  Beyond that, keeping excellent records of different aspects of one’s life will reveal more information about progress or lack thereof and by its very nature calls for and creates discipline.  How can you live within your means when you aren’t exactly clear on what you earn or what you spend, daily, weekly, monthly, etc.  It is difficult to plan for your future if you do not have a firm grasp upon the nature of your present conditions.

101. How do universities evaluate which students to admit?

Universities evaluate potential students based upon their records.  Their course work, their GPA and also test records such as SAT.

102. What information do creditors consider when deliberating on whether to extend loans?

Creditors take into consideration many factors.  Besides the obvious factor of current employment and household income, lenders take not of overall financial status, outstanding debt, total credit available and other factors.  These together form ones credit score and upon the basis of this score and the amount of loan sought they will determine how able the individual has shown he will be to pay back the loan.  This is obviously a good example of being held accountable according to past performance and present and future potential to have the same or better results.

103. What governs investment decisions that people make?

Individuals make investment decisions primarily upon the judgment that they will be able to realize anticipated or better than anticipated ROI (return on investment).  They make these decisions based upon the terms of the investment and their knowledge of the investment and the likelihood of the investment to perform as represented.  The performance expectations are based upon real data gathered about the opportunity, the marketplace, past performance and projected forecasts of performance.

104. How do your responses to the above questions support or refute the value of accountability logs?

The above answers do support the value of accountability logs very well.  There are many documents generated in our society that could be labeled as accountability logs, even the record of your checking account is an accountability log of sorts.  I am convinced of a certain degree of value to maintain an accountability log.  This is why I have been maintaining my own

logs since Jan 1, 2012 (April 7the 2012 as of this writing).  It has been helpful to keep track of the pursuit of my goals.  It has led to course correction, likely much sooner than would otherwise have been the case.  However, given the relatively short amount of time I will spend in prison compared to Mr. Santos, I have some difficulty in visualizing how a daily posting of my log will advance my opportunities.  I have elected to a quarterly update (or perhaps more frequently) to sum up my progress instead of the daily log M. Santos posts.  I do keep daily logs but I prefer to save my internet minutes (5 cents per minute) for the Straight A Guide, intermittent blogs and non-fiction book report/reviews.

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