7 Ways Meditation Can Actually Change The Brain

The meditation-and-the-brain research has been rolling in steadily for a number of years now, with new studies coming out just about every week to illustrate some new benefit of meditation. Or, rather, some ancient benefit that is just now being confirmed with fMRI or EEG. The practice appears to have an amazing variety of neurological benefits – from changes in grey matter volume to reduced activity in the “me” centers of the brain to enhanced connectivity between brain regions. Below are some of the most exciting studies to come out in the last few years and show that meditation really does produce measurable changes in our most important organ. Skeptics, of course, may ask what good are a few brain changes if the psychological effects aren’t simultaneously being illustrated? Luckily, there’s good evidence for those as well, with studies reporting that meditation helps relieve our subjective levels of anxiety and depression, and improve attention, concentration, and overall psychological well-being.

 

Meditation Helps Preserve the Aging Brain

Last week, a study from UCLA found that long-term meditators had better-preserved brains than non-meditators as they aged. Participants who’d been meditating for an average of 20 years had more grey matter volume throughout the brain — although older meditators still had some volume loss compared to younger meditators, it wasn’t as pronounced as the non-meditators. “We expected rather small and distinct effects located in some of the regions that had previously been associated with meditating,” said study author Florian Kurth. “Instead, what we actually observed was a widespread effect of meditation that encompassed regions throughout the entire brain.”

Meditation Reduces Activity in the Brain’s “Me Center”

One of the most interesting studies in the last few years, carried out at Yale University, found that mindfulness meditation decreases activity in the default mode network (DMN), the brain network responsible for mind-wandering and self-referential thoughts – a.k.a., “monkey mind.” The DMN is “on” or active when we’re not thinking about anything in particular, when our minds are just wandering from thought to thought. Since mind-wandering is typically associated with being less happy, ruminating, and worrying about the past and future, it’s the goal for many people to dial it down. Several studies have shown that meditation, though its quieting effect on the DMN, appears to do just this. And even when the mind does start to wander, because of the new connections that form, meditators are better at snapping back out of it.

Its Effects Rival Antidepressants for Depression, Anxiety

A review study last year at Johns Hopkins looked at the relationship between mindfulness meditation and its ability to reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and pain. Researcher Madhav Goyal and his team found that the effect size of meditation was moderate, at 0.3. If this sounds low, keep in mind that the effect size for antidepressants is also 0.3, which makes the effect of meditation sound pretty good. Meditation is, after all an active form of brain training. “A lot of people have this idea that meditation means sitting down and doing nothing,” says Goyal. “But that’s not true. Meditation is an active training of the mind to increase awareness, and different meditation programs approach this in different ways.” Meditation isn’t a magic bullet for depression, as no treatment is, but it’s one of the tools that may help manage symptoms.

Meditation May Lead to Volume Changes in Key Areas of the Brain

In 2011, Sara Lazar and her team at Harvard found that mindfulness meditation can actually change the structure of the brain: Eight weeks of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) was found to increase cortical thickness in the hippocampus, which governs learning and memory, and in certain areas of the brain that play roles in emotion regulation and self-referential processing. There were also decreases in brain cell volume in the amygdala, which is responsible for fear, anxiety, and stress – and these changes matched the participants’ self-reports of their stress levels, indicating that meditation not only changes the brain, but it changes our subjective perception and feelings as well. In fact, a follow-up study by Lazar’s team found that after meditation training, changes in brain areas linked to mood and arousal were also linked to improvements in how participants said they felt — i.e., their psychological well-being. So for anyone who says that activated blobs in the brain don’t necessarily mean anything, our subjective experience – improved mood and well-being – does indeed seem to be shifted through meditation as well.

Just a Few Days of Training Improves Concentration and Attention

Having problems concentrating isn’t just a kid thing – it affects millions of grown-ups as well, with an ADD diagnosis or not. Interestingly but not surprisingly, one of the central benefits of meditation is that it improves attention and concentration: One recent study found that just a couple of weeks of meditation training helped people’s focus and memory during the verbal reasoning section of the GRE. In fact, the increase in score was equivalent to 16 percentile points, which is nothing to sneeze at. Since the strong focus of attention (on an object, idea, or activity) is one of the central aims of meditation, it’s not so surprising that meditation should help people’s cognitive skills on the job, too – but it’s nice to have science confirm it. And everyone can use a little extra assistance on standardized tests.

Meditation Reduces Anxiety — and Social Anxiety

A lot of people start meditating for its benefits in stress reduction, and there’s lots of good evidence to support this rationale. There’s a whole newer sub-genre of meditation, mentioned earlier, called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts’ Center for Mindfulness (now available all over the country), that aims to reduce a person’s stress level, physically and mentally. Studies have shown its benefits in reducing anxiety, even years after the initial 8-week course. Research has also shown that mindfulness meditation, in contrast to attending to the breath only, can reduce anxiety – and that these changes seem to be mediated through the brain regions associated with those self-referential (“me-centered”) thoughts. Mindfulness meditation has also been shown to help people with social anxiety disorder: a Stanford University team found that MBSR brought about changes in brain regions involved in attention, as well as relief from symptoms of social anxiety.

Meditation Can Help with Addiction

A growing number of studies has shown that, given its effects on the self-control regions of the brain, meditation can be very effective in helping people recover from various types of addiction. One study, for example, pitted mindfulness training against the American Lung Association’s freedom from smoking (FFS) program, and found that people who learned mindfulness were many times more likely to have quit smoking by the end of the training, and at 17 weeks follow-up, than those in the conventional treatment. This may be because meditation helps people “decouple” the state of craving from the act of smoking, so the one doesn’t always have to lead to the other, but rather you fully experience and ride out the “wave” of craving, until it passes. Other research has found that mindfulness training, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), and mindfulness-based relapse prevention (MBRP) can be helpful in treating other forms of addiction.

Short Meditation Breaks Can Help Kids in School

For developing brains, meditation has as much as or perhaps even more promise than it has for adults. There’s been increasing interest from educators and researchers in bringing meditation and yoga to school kids, who are dealing with the usual stressors inside school, and oftentimes additional stress and trauma outside school. Some schools have starting implementing meditation into their daily schedules, and with good effect: One district in San Francisco started a twice daily meditation program in some of its high-risk schools – and saw suspensions decrease, and GPAs and attendance increase. Studies have confirmed the cognitive and emotional benefits of meditation for schoolchildren, but more work will probably need to be done before it gains more widespread acceptance.

Worth a Try?

Meditation is not a panacea, but there’s certainly a lot of evidence that it may do some good for those who practice it regularly. Everyone from Anderson Cooper and congressman Tim Ryan to companies like Google Google and Apple Apple and Target Target are integrating meditation into their schedules. And its benefits seem to be felt after a relatively short amount of practice. Some researchers have cautioned that meditation can lead to ill effects under certain circumstances (known as the “dark night” phenomenon), but for most people – especially if you have a good teacher – meditation is beneficial, rather than harmful. It’s certainly worth a shot: If you have a few minutes in the morning or evening (or both), rather than turning on your phone or going online, see what happens if you try quieting down your mind, or at least paying attention to your thoughts and letting them go without reacting to them. If the research is right, just a few minutes of meditation may make a big difference.

 

Link Source

Portugal Landscapes

 

“Life is an experimental journey undertaken involuntarily. It is a journey of the spirit through the material world and, since it is the spirit that travels, it is the spirit that is experienced. That is why there exist contemplative souls who have lived more intensely, more widely, more tumultuously than others who have lived their lives purely externally.”

― Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

 

Saudade (European Portuguese, plural saudades) is a word in Portuguese and Galician that has no direct translation in English. It describes a deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves. Moreover, it often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing may never return.

Aspartame: O Veneno do Século/The Century Poison

A talidomida dos anos 90 é o aspartame, também conhecido como NutraSweet, Finn, Zero Cal e outras marcas comerciais.

O aspartame pode ser considerado a talidomida dos anos 90. Com os nomes de NutraSweet, Finn, ZeroCal e outras marcas comerciais, os adoçantes com aspartame são extremamente perigosos por estarem presentes em todaparte, em alimentos dietéticos, supostamente saudáveis, e até mesmo em Vitaminas para crianças, remédios, pudins, gelatinas e adoçando o mais inocente cafezinho.

É encontrado também na Diet Coke e em outros refrigerantes diet. O aspartame é uma neurotoxina, ou seja, uma droga que destrói o sistema nervoso e o cérebro. Sua molécula tem três componentes: ácido aspártico, fenilalanina e metanol. Já se comprovou que o ácido aspártico causa lesões cerebrais em experiências com animais.

A fenilalanina existente no aspartame é neurotóxica, quando isolada dos outros aminoácidos das proteínas. Facilita a ocorrência de ataques epiléticos e bloqueia a produção de serotonina, que é uma das substâncias existentes no cérebro para regular o sono. Níveis baixos de serotonina, além de insônia, provocam depressão, angústia, mau humor e até sintomas de paranóia.

Finalmente, o metanol venenoso álcool de madeira que já cegou e matou milhares de pessoas converte-se depois de ingerido em formaldeído e ácido fórmico (principal componente do veneno da picada das formigas). O formaldeído, neurotoxina mortal que fica armazenada no tecido adiposo, principalmente nos quadris e coxas, é usado para embalsamar cadáveres e é um violento cancerígeno.

Há 92 sintomas documentados de envenenamento por estes produtos, entre os quais encontramos:
a.. dores de cabeça
b.. ganho de peso
c.. alterações no nível de colesterol
d.. alterações na pressão sanguínea
e.. urticária
f.. dormência
g.. fadiga
h.. xeroftalmia (olhos secos)
i.. dificuldade de salivação
j.. irritabilidade
k.. ansiedade
l.. depressão
m.. visão borrada
n.. tonteira
o.. vertigens
p.. espasmos musculares
q.. ataques epiléticos
r.. taquicardia
s.. zumbido nos ouvidos
t.. perda de audição
u.. cegueira
v.. fala arrastada
w.. perda do paladar
x.. insônia.

Um dos efeitos mais sarcásticos, embora não mortal, do aspartame é o GANHO DE PESO. Em sua ação sobre o cérebro, o aspartame faz com que a pessoa sinta mais desejo de comer carboidratos farinhas, açúcares, amido e, assim,acaba engordando. Forma-se um círculo vicioso: a pessoa toma aspartame para emagrecer; mas passa a ingerir mais carboidratos, e aí engorda; logo, adota ainda mais alimentos com aspartame. A pessoa presa neste círculo vicioso fica cada vez mais vulnerável aos efeitos letais da droga.

Se você usa aspartame e sente dores de cabeça, depressão, fala arrastada, boca sempre seca, perda de memória, perda de sensação ou dores repentinas nos membros inferiores, perda de equilíbrio, vertigens, ataques de ansiedade, fadiga crônica, se seus olhos se irritam facilmente, coçam,ou se sua visão está piorando ou com pontos brilhantes que piscam, se sofre descolamento de retina, ataques semelhantes aos epiléticos, espasmos musculares, palpitações cardíacas etc. você está com a doença do aspartame.

Muitos médicos têm diagnosticado esclerose múltipla quando o que existe na realidade é intoxicação por metanol. Esclerose múltipla não mata, intoxicação por metanol sim.

Algumas doenças provocadas pelo aspartame:
a.. tumores no cérebro e outros cânceres (seio, útero e pâncreas)
b.. esclerose múltipla
c.. epilepsia
d.. fibromialgia
e.. doença de Graves (disfunção grave da tireóide)
f.. síndrome da fadiga crônica
g.. doença de Epstein Barr
h.. doença de Parkinson
i.. mal de Alzheimer
j.. diabete
k.. retardamento mental
l.. linfoma
m.. defeitos no feto
n.. lupus sistêmico
o.. morte!

Na gravidez os efeitos do aspartame podem passar diretamente para o feto, que é sensível a doses mínimas. O tecido fetal não tolera o metanol, e o médico americano Dr. James Bowen chama o aspartame de controle instantâneo da natalidade. A placenta pode concentrar a fenilalanina e provocar retardamento mental. Testes com aspartame em animais produziram tumores cerebrais e mamários. Não admira que o câncer de mama e a epilepsia estejam crescendo nos Estados Unidos.

Durante a Guerra do Golfo, vários caminhões norte-americanos, carregadosde latas de bebidas dietéticas para os soldados, cruzaram o deserto sob o sol escaldante. Acontece que, a 30°C, o aspartame libera o metanol na lata. Milhares de homens e mulheres voltaram para casa com síndrome de fadiga crônica e estranhos sintomas de intoxicação. Só depois de algum tempo as autoridades identificaram a origem daqueles sintomas.

Nota: imagine o que acontece num caminhão de Coca-Cola light parado num engarrafamento no verão de nossas grandes cidades!

Muto grave também é o efeito devastador do aspartame sobre os diabéticos. O Dr. H. J. Roberts especialista americano em aspartame e em diabetes), relatou, num artigo, 58 casos de reações adversas do aspartame em diabéticos. Já o dr. Russell Blaylock, neurocirurgião, disse, em seu livro “Excitotoxinas: o sabor que mata” (editado nos EUA pela Health Press,cujo telefone, lá, é: 1-800-643-2665) que o aspartame pode provocar a diabete clínica. Ele afirma que as excitotoxinas que podem ser encontradas nos adoçantes com aspartame levam os neurônios à morte, provocando danos cerebrais de vários graus. Diz também que “o que realmente preocupa quanto ao aspartame é sua associação com tumores cerebrais, pancreáticos, uterinos e ovarianos … e que tantos pacientes desenvolvam uma síndrome semelhante à de Alzheimer com a exposição prolongada.”

As empresas norte-americanas NutraSweet e Searle, cujos químicos descobriram o aspartame durante experiências com um remédio para úlcera, pertencem à multinacional Monsanto. Em 1969, a Searle contratou o Dr. Harry Waisman para estudar os efeitos do aspartame em primatas. Sete bebês macacos receberam o produto no leite. Um morreu em 300 dias; cinco outros tiveram ataques epiléticos. A Searle eliminou estes resultados quando submeteu o estudo à Food and Drug Administration (FDA), órgão do governo americano que estuda e libera para consumo humano alimentos, aditivos e remédios.

Muitos dizem que o aspartame não pode fazer tanto mal, se foi liberado pela FDA. Quanto a isso, é bom conhecer alguns dados. Vários estudos comprovam que 51% das drogas aprovadas pela FDA apresentam riscos sérios e podem causar reações adversas que levam à invalidez ou até à morte. Interessante é que o chefe da FDA, Arthur Hayes, ignorou os relatórios de sua própria comissão de pesquisas para aprovar o aspartame, e depois foi trabalhar na empresa de relações públicas da multinacional que fabrica o aspartame. O promotor federal Sam Skinner foi designado para processar a Searle por causa da fraude nos testes existente em seu pedido de aprovação do produto, mas mudou de lado e foi trabalhar junto aos advogados da Searle. O caso morreu quando os prazos se esgotaram.

Até 1996, a FDA recebeu mais de 10.000 queixas de consumidores contra o NutraSweet. Isso corresponde a 80% do total de queixas sobre aditivos alimentares, mas a FDA nada faz para alertar o público, que supõe que um produto tão anunciado como saudável deve ser seguro. Não seria a primeira vez que a FDA aprovou uma droga nociva.

Pesquisadores do Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) observaram 80 pessoas que sofreram ataques cerebrais depois de comerem ou beberem produtos com aspartame. O Community Nutrition Institute declarou a respeito:”Estes 80 casos ajustam-se à definição da FDA de risco iminente para a saúde pública, que exige da própria FDA a retirada imediata do produto do mercado.”

Esta é uma tradução livre para o português, feita por mim, Beatriz Medina, em julho de 1996.

 

Este texto da pesquisadora americana Barbara Alexander Mullarkey foi veiculado na Internet por Betty Martini e seu original pode ser encontrado em:

 

Information in English, link below:

http://www.dorway.com

 

 

Aspartame (youtube link)

Plato – The Allegory of the Cave

The son of a wealthy and noble family, Plato (427-347 B.C.) was preparing for a career in politics when the trial and eventual execution of Socrates (399 B.C.) changed the course of his life. He abandoned his political career and turned to philosophy, opening a school on the outskirts of Athens dedicated to the Socratic search for wisdom. Plato’s school, then known as the Academy, was the first university in western history and operated from 387 B.C. until A.D. 529, when it was closed by Justinian.

Unlike his mentor Socrates, Plato was both a writer and a teacher. His writings are in the form of dialogues, with Socrates as the principal speaker. In the Allegory of the Cave, Plato described symbolically the predicament in which mankind finds itself and proposes a way of salvation. The Allegory presents, in brief form, most of Plato’s major philosophical assumptions: his belief that the world revealed by our senses is not the real world but only a poor copy of it, and that the real world can only be apprehended intellectually; his idea that knowledge cannot be transferred from teacher to student, but rather that education consists in directing student’s minds toward what is real and important and allowing them to apprehend it for themselves; his faith that the universe ultimately is good; his conviction that enlightened individuals have an obligation to the rest of society, and that a good society must be one in which the truly wise (the Philosopher-King) are the rulers.

The Allegory of the Cave can be found in Book VII of Plato’s best-known work, The Republic, a lengthy dialogue on the nature of justice. Often regarded as a utopian blueprint, The Republic is dedicated toward a discussion of the education required of a Philosopher-King.

The following selection is taken from the Benjamin Jowett translation (Vintage, 1991), pp. 253-261. As you read the Allegory, try to make a mental picture of the cave Plato describes. Better yet, why not draw a picture of it and refer to it as you read the selection. In many ways, understanding Plato’s Allegory of the Cave will make your foray into the world of philosophical thought much less burdensome.

* * * * * *

[Socrates] And now, I said, let me show in a figure how far our nature is enlightened or unenlightened: –Behold! human beings living in a underground cave, which has a mouth open towards the light and reaching all along the cave; here they have been from their childhood, and have their legs and necks chained so that they cannot move, and can only see before them, being prevented by the chains from turning round their heads. Above and behind them a fire is blazing at a distance, and between the fire and the prisoners there is a raised way; and you will see, if you look, a low wall built along the way, like the screen which marionette players have in front of them, over which they show the puppets.
[Glaucon] I see.
[Socrates] And do you see, I said, men passing along the wall carrying all sorts of vessels, and statues and figures of animals made of wood and stone and various materials, which appear over the wall? Some of them are talking, others silent.
[Glaucon] You have shown me a strange image, and they are strange prisoners.
[Socrates] Like ourselves, I replied; and they see only their own shadows, or the shadows of one another, which the fire throws on the opposite wall of the cave?
[Glaucon] True, he said; how could they see anything but the shadows if they were never allowed to move their heads?
[Socrates] And of the objects which are being carried in like manner they would only see the shadows?
[Glaucon] Yes, he said.
[Socrates] And if they were able to converse with one another, would they not suppose that they were naming what was actually before them?
[Glaucon] Very true.
[Socrates] And suppose further that the prison had an echo which came from the other side, would they not be sure to fancy when one of the passers-by spoke that the voice which they heard came from the passing shadow?
[Glaucon] No question, he replied.
[Socrates] To them, I said, the truth would be literally nothing but the shadows of the images.
[Glaucon] That is certain.
[Socrates] And now look again, and see what will naturally follow if the prisoners are released and disabused of their error. At first, when any of them is liberated and compelled suddenly to stand up and turn his neck round and walk and look towards the light, he will suffer sharp pains; the glare will distress him, and he will be unable to see the realities of which in his former state he had seen the shadows; and then conceive some one saying to him, that what he saw before was an illusion, but that now, when he is approaching nearer to being and his eye is turned towards more real existence, he has a clearer vision, -what will be his reply? And you may further imagine that his instructor is pointing to the objects as they pass and requiring him to name them, -will he not be perplexed? Will he not fancy that the shadows which he formerly saw are truer than the objects which are now shown to him?
[Glaucon] Far truer.
[Socrates] And if he is compelled to look straight at the light, will he not have a pain in his eyes which will make him turn away to take and take in the objects of vision which he can see, and which he will conceive to be in reality clearer than the things which are now being shown to him?
[Glaucon] True, he now.
[Socrates] And suppose once more, that he is reluctantly dragged up a steep and rugged ascent, and held fast until he ‘s forced into the presence of the sun himself, is he not likely to be pained and irritated? When he approaches the light his eyes will be dazzled, and he will not be able to see anything at all of what are now called realities.
[Glaucon] Not all in a moment, he said.
[Socrates] He will require to grow accustomed to the sight of the upper world. And first he will see the shadows best, next the reflections of men and other objects in the water, and then the objects themselves; then he will gaze upon the light of the moon and the stars and the spangled heaven; and he will see the sky and the stars by night better than the sun or the light of the sun by day?
[Glaucon] Certainly.
[Socrates] Last of he will be able to see the sun, and not mere reflections of him in the water, but he will see him in his own proper place, and not in another; and he will contemplate him as he is.
[Glaucon] Certainly.
[Socrates] He will then proceed to argue that this is he who gives the season and the years, and is the guardian of all that is in the visible world, and in a certain way the cause of all things which he and his fellows have been accustomed to behold?
[Glaucon] Clearly, he said, he would first see the sun and then reason about him.
[Socrates] And when he remembered his old habitation, and the wisdom of the cave and his fellow-prisoners, do you not suppose that he would felicitate himself on the change, and pity them?
[Glaucon] Certainly, he would.
[Socrates] And if they were in the habit of conferring honors among themselves on those who were quickest to observe the passing shadows and to remark which of them went before, and which followed after, and which were together; and who were therefore best able to draw conclusions as to the future, do you think that he would care for such honors and glories, or envy the possessors of them? Would he not say with Homer,

Better to be the poor servant of a poor master,

and to endure anything, rather than think as they do and live after their manner?
[Glaucon] Yes, he said, I think that he would rather suffer anything than entertain these false notions and live in this miserable manner.
[Socrates] Imagine once more, I said, such an one coming suddenly out of the sun to be replaced in his old situation; would he not be certain to have his eyes full of darkness?
[Glaucon] To be sure, he said.
[Socrates] And if there were a contest, and he had to compete in measuring the shadows with the prisoners who had never moved out of the cave, while his sight was still weak, and before his eyes had become steady (and the time which would be needed to acquire this new habit of sight might be very considerable) would he not be ridiculous? Men would say of him that up he went and down he came without his eyes; and that it was better not even to think of ascending; and if any one tried to loose another and lead him up to the light, let them only catch the offender, and they would put him to death.
[Glaucon] No question, he said.
[Socrates] This entire allegory, I said, you may now append, dear Glaucon, to the previous argument; the prison-house is the world of sight, the light of the fire is the sun, and you will not misapprehend me if you interpret the journey upwards to be the ascent of the soul into the intellectual world according to my poor belief, which, at your desire, I have expressed whether rightly or wrongly God knows. But, whether true or false, my opinion is that in the world of knowledge the idea of good appears last of all, and is seen only with an effort; and, when seen, is also inferred to be the universal author of all things beautiful and right, parent of light and of the lord of light in this visible world, and the immediate source of reason and truth in the intellectual; and that this is the power upon which he who would act rationally, either in public or private life must have his eye fixed.
[Glaucon] I agree, he said, as far as I am able to understand you.
[Socrates] Moreover, I said, you must not wonder that those who attain to this beatific vision are unwilling to descend to human affairs; for their souls are ever hastening into the upper world where they desire to dwell; which desire of theirs is very natural, if our allegory may be trusted.
[Glaucon] Yes, very natural.
[Socrates] And is there anything surprising in one who passes from divine contemplations to the evil state of man, misbehaving himself in a ridiculous manner; if, while his eyes are blinking and before he has become accustomed to the surrounding darkness, he is compelled to fight in courts of law, or in other places, about the images or the shadows of images of justice, and is endeavoring to meet the conceptions of those who have never yet seen absolute justice?
[Glaucon] Anything but surprising, he replied.
[Socrates] Any one who has common sense will remember that the bewilderments of the eyes are of two kinds, and arise from two causes, either from coming out of the light or from going into the light, which is true of the mind’s eye, quite as much as of the bodily eye; and he who remembers this when he sees any one whose vision is perplexed and weak, will not be too ready to laugh; he will first ask whether that soul of man has come out of the brighter light, and is unable to see because unaccustomed to the dark, or having turned from darkness to the day is dazzled by excess of light. And he will count the one happy in his condition and state of being, and he will pity the other; or, if he have a mind to laugh at the soul which comes from below into the light, there will be more reason in this than in the laugh which greets him who returns from above out of the light into the cave.
[Glaucon] That, he said, is a very just distinction.
[Socrates] But then, if I am right, certain professors of education must be wrong when they say that they can put a knowledge into the soul which was not there before, like sight into blind eyes.
[Glaucon] They undoubtedly say this, he replied.
[Socrates] Whereas, our argument shows that the power and capacity of learning exists in the soul already; and that just as the eye was unable to turn from darkness to light without the whole body, so too the instrument of knowledge can only by the movement of the whole soul be turned from the world of becoming into that of being, and learn by degrees to endure the sight of being, and of the brightest and best of being, or in other words, of the good.
[Glaucon] Very true.
[Socrates] And must there not be some art which will effect conversion in the easiest and quickest manner; not implanting the faculty of sight, for that exists already, but has been turned in the wrong direction, and is looking away from the truth?
[Glaucon] Yes, he said, such an art may be presumed.
[Socrates] And whereas the other so-called virtues of the soul seem to be akin to bodily qualities, for even when they are not originally innate they can be implanted later by habit and exercise, the of wisdom more than anything else contains a divine element which always remains, and by this conversion is rendered useful and profitable; or, on the other hand, hurtful and useless. Did you never observe the narrow intelligence flashing from the keen eye of a clever rogue –how eager he is, how clearly his paltry soul sees the way to his end; he is the reverse of blind, but his keen eyesight is forced into the service of evil, and he is mischievous in proportion to his cleverness.
[Glaucon] Very true, he said.
[Socrates] But what if there had been a circumcision of such natures in the days of their youth; and they had been severed from those sensual pleasures, such as eating and drinking, which, like leaden weights, were attached to them at their birth, and which drag them down and turn the vision of their souls upon the things that are below –if, I say, they had been released from these impediments and turned in the opposite direction, the very same faculty in them would have seen the truth as keenly as they see what their eyes are turned to now.
[Glaucon] Very likely.
[Socrates] Yes, I said; and there is another thing which is likely. or rather a necessary inference from what has preceded, that neither the uneducated and uninformed of the truth, nor yet those who never make an end of their education, will be able ministers of State; not the former, because they have no single aim of duty which is the rule of all their actions, private as well as public; nor the latter, because they will not act at all except upon compulsion, fancying that they are already dwelling apart in the islands of the blest.
[Glaucon] Very true, he replied.
[Socrates] Then, I said, the business of us who are the founders of the State will be to compel the best minds to attain that knowledge which we have already shown to be the greatest of all-they must continue to ascend until they arrive at the good; but when they have ascended and seen enough we must not allow them to do as they do now.
[Glaucon] What do you mean?
[Socrates] I mean that they remain in the upper world: but this must not be allowed; they must be made to descend again among the prisoners in the cave, and partake of their labors and honors, whether they are worth having or not.
[Glaucon] But is not this unjust? he said; ought we to give them a worse life, when they might have a better?
[Socrates] You have again forgotten, my friend, I said, the intention of the legislator, who did not aim at making any one class in the State happy above the rest; the happiness was to be in the whole State, and he held the citizens together by persuasion and necessity, making them benefactors of the State, and therefore benefactors of one another; to this end he created them, not to please themselves, but to be his instruments in binding up the State.
[Glaucon] True, he said, I had forgotten.
[Socrates] Observe, Glaucon, that there will be no injustice in compelling our philosophers to have a care and providence of others; we shall explain to them that in other States, men of their class are not obliged to share in the toils of politics: and this is reasonable, for they grow up at their own sweet will, and the government would rather not have them. Being self-taught, they cannot be expected to show any gratitude for a culture which they have never received. But we have brought you into the world to be rulers of the hive, kings of yourselves and of the other citizens, and have educated you far better and more perfectly than they have been educated, and you are better able to share in the double duty. Wherefore each of you, when his turn comes, must go down to the general underground abode, and get the habit of seeing in the dark. When you have acquired the habit, you will see ten thousand times better than the inhabitants of the cave, and you will know what the several images are, and what they represent, because you have seen the beautiful and just and good in their truth. And thus our State which is also yours will be a reality, and not a dream only, and will be administered in a spirit unlike that of other States, in which men fight with one another about shadows only and are distracted in the struggle for power, which in their eyes is a great good. Whereas the truth is that the State in which the rulers are most reluctant to govern is always the best and most quietly governed, and the State in which they are most eager, the worst.
[Glaucon] Quite true, he replied.
[Socrates] And will our pupils, when they hear this, refuse to take their turn at the toils of State, when they are allowed to spend the greater part of their time with one another in the heavenly light?
[Glaucon] Impossible, he answered; for they are just men, and the commands which we impose upon them are just; there can be no doubt that every one of them will take office as a stern necessity, and not after the fashion of our present rulers of State.
[Socrates] Yes, my friend, I said; and there lies the point. You must contrive for your future rulers another and a better life than that of a ruler, and then you may have a well-ordered State; for only in the State which offers this, will they rule who are truly rich, not in silver and gold, but in virtue and wisdom, which are the true blessings of life. Whereas if they go to the administration of public affairs, poor and hungering after the’ own private advantage, thinking that hence they are to snatch the chief good, order there can never be; for they will be fighting about office, and the civil and domestic broils which thus arise will be the ruin of the rulers themselves and of the whole State.
[Glaucon] Most true, he replied.
[Socrates] And the only life which looks down upon the life of political ambition is that of true philosophy. Do you know of any other?
[Glaucon] Indeed, I do not, he said.
[Socrates] And those who govern ought not to be lovers of the task? For, if they are, there will be rival lovers, and they will fight.
[Glaucon] No question.
[Socrates] Who then are those whom we shall compel to be guardians? Surely they will be the men who are wisest about affairs of State, and by whom the State is best administered, and who at the same time have other honors and another and a better life than that of politics?
[Glaucon] They are the men, and I will choose them, he replied.
[Socrates] And now shall we consider in what way such guardians will be produced, and how they are to be brought from darkness to light, — as some are said to have ascended from the world below to the gods?
[Glaucon] By all means, he replied.
[Socrates] The process, I said, is not the turning over of an oyster-shell, but the turning round of a soul passing from a day which is little better than night to the true day of being, that is, the ascent from below, which we affirm to be true philosophy?
[Glaucon] Quite so.

The Cave

10 Reasons You Should Never Have A Religion

While consciously pursuing your spiritual development is commendable, joining an established religion such as Christianity, Islam, or Hinduism is one of the worst ways to go about it. In this article I’ll share 10 reasons why you must eventually abandon the baggage of organized religion if you wish to pursue conscious living in earnest. 

(Link)

 

1) Spirituality for dummies

If you have the awareness level of a snail, and your thinking is mired in shame and guilt (with perhaps a twist of drug abuse or suicidal thinking), then subscribing to a religion can help you climb to a higher level of awareness. Your mindset, however, still remains incredibly dysfunctional; you’ve merely swapped one form of erroneous thinking for another.

For reasonably intelligent people who aren’t suffering from major issues with low self-esteem, religion is ridiculously consciousness-lowering. While some religious beliefs can be empowering, on the whole the decision to formally participate in a religion will merely burden your mind with a hefty load of false notions.

When you subscribe to a religion, you substitute nebulous group-think for focused, independent thought. Instead of learning to discern truth on your own, you’re told what to believe. This doesn’t accelerate your spiritual growth; on the contrary it puts the brakes on your continued conscious development. Religion is the off-switch of the human mind.

Your own intellect is a better instrument of spiritual growth than any religious teachings.

2) Loss of spiritual depth perception

One of the worst mistakes you can make in life is to attach your identity to any particular religion or philosophy, such as by saying “I am a Christian” or “I am a Buddhist.” This forces your mind into a fixed perspective, robbing you of spiritual depth perception and savagely curtailing your ability to perceive reality accurately. If that sounds like a good idea to you, you’ll probably want to gouge out one of your eyeballs too. Surely you’ll be better off with a single, fixed perspective instead of having to consider two separate image streams… unless of course you’ve become attached to stereo vision.

Religious “truths” are inherently rooted in a fixed perspective, but real truth is perspective-independent. When you substitute religious teachings for truth, you mistake shadows for light sources. Consequently, you doom yourself to stumble around in the dark, utterly confused. Clarity remains forever elusive, and the best answer you get is that life is one giant mystery. Religious mysteries, however, arise not from what is truly unknowable; they arise from the limitations of trying to understand reality from a fixed frame of reference.

A more intelligent approach is to consider reality through a variety of different perspectives without trying to force your perceptions into an artificial religious framework.

3) Engineered obedience training

Religions are authoritarian hierarchies designed to dominate your free will. They’re power structures that aim to convince you to give away your power for the benefit of those who enjoy dominating people. When you subscribe to a religion, you enroll in a mindless minion training program. Religions don’t market themselves as such, but this is essentially how they operate.

Religions are very effective at turning human beings into sheep. They’re among the most powerful instruments of social conditioning. They operate by eroding your trust in your own intellect, gradually convincing you to put your trust into some external entity, such as a deity, prominent figure, or great book. Of course these instruments are usually controlled by those who administrate the minion training program, but they don’t have to be. Simply by convincing you to give your power away to something outside yourself, religion will condition you to be weaker, more docile, and easier to control. Religions actively promote this weakening process as if it were beneficial, commonly branding it with the word faith. What they’re actually promoting is submission.

Religions strive to fill your head with so much nonsense that your only recourse is to bow your head in submission, often quite literally. Get used to spending a lot of time on your knees because acts of submission such as bowing and kneeling are frequently incorporated into religious practice. Canine obedience training uses similar tactics. Now say, “Yes, Master.”

Have you ever wondered why religious teachings are invariably mysterious, confusing, and internally incongruent? This is no accident by the way — it’s quite intentional.

By putting forth confusing and internally conflicting information, your logical mind (i.e. your neocortex) is overwhelmed. You try in vain to integrate such contradictory beliefs, but it can’t be done. The net effect is that your logical mind disengages because it can’t find a pattern of core truth beneath all the nonsense, so without the help of your neocortex, you devolve to a more primitive (i.e. limbic) mode of thinking. You’re taught that this faith-based approach is a more spiritual and conscious way to live, but in reality it’s precisely the opposite. Getting you to distrust your own cerebral cortex actually makes you dumber and easier to manipulate and control. Karl Marx was right when he said, “Religion is the opiate of the people.”

For example, the Old Testament and the New Testament in the Bible frequently contradict each other with various rules of conduct, yet both are quoted during mass. You aren’t meant to ever make sense of them since that would defeat the whole purpose.

If you want to talk to God, then communicate directly instead of using third-party intermediaries. Surely God has no need of an interpreter. Don’t fall into the trap of becoming a mindless minion. It’s a mistake to think that turning off your neocortex and practicing mindless “faith” will bring you closer to God.

4) Toilet-bowl time management

If you devote serious time to the practice of religion, it’s safe to say you practice toilet-bowl time management, flushing much of your precious life down the drain with little or nothing to show for it.

First, you’ll waste a lot of time filling your head with useless nonsense. This includes reading some of the worst fiction ever written. Then there are various rules, laws, and practices to learn..

Next, you can expect to waste even more time on repetitive ritual and ceremony, such as attending mass, learning prayers, and practicing unproductive meditations.

If I add up the time I attended mass and Sunday school, studied religion in school as if it were a serious subject, and memorized various prayers, I count thousands of hours of my life I’d love to have back. I did, however, learn some important lessons, many of which are being shared in this article.

5) Waste of money

In addition to being a serious waste of time, religious practice can also be a huge waste of money.

For starters when you donate to a major religion, you support its expansion, which means you’re facilitating the enslavement of your fellow humans. If you feel the urge to donate money, give it to a real and honorable cause, not a fabricated one. Better yet, go outside and do something yourself that really helps people. If you can’t think of anything better, grab a can of paint and clean up some local graffiti.

Your religious donations fund freeloaders who mooch off society but who generally provide little or no value in return. Sure there are some religious people who perform valuable public services, but for the most part, that isn’t their bailiwick. These freeloaders typically operate tax-free, meaning they’re effectively subsidized by taxpayers. That’s a great racket if you’re on the receiving side… not so great if you’re funding it though.

Would you seriously consider this sort of structure a “good cause” worthy of your hard-earned cash?

6) Religions create separation

Religions frequently promote inbred social networks. You’re encouraged to spend more time with people who share the same belief system while disengaging from those with incompatible beliefs. Sometimes this is done subtly; other times it’s more obvious.

If you’re one of the saved, blessed, or otherwise enlightened individuals who stumbled upon the one true belief system, then supposedly everyone else remains in the dark. Certain religions are overtly intolerant of outsiders, but to one degree or another, all major religions cast non-subscribers in a negative light. This helps to discourage members from abandoning the religion while still enabling them to proselytize. The main idea is to maintain social structures that reward loyalty and punish freedom of thought.

This us-vs-them prejudice is totally incongruent with conscious living. It’s also downright moronic from a global perspective. But it remains a favored practice of those who pull the strings. When you’re taught to distrust other human beings, fear gets a foothold in your consciousness, and you become much easier to control.

When you join a religion, your fellow mind-slaves will help to keep you in line, socially rewarding your continued obedience while punishing your disloyalty. Why do they do this? It’s what they’ve been conditioned to do. Tell your religious friends that you’re abandoning their religion because you want to think for yourself for a while, and watch the sparks fly. Suddenly you’ve gone from best friend to evil demon. There’s no greater threat to religious people than to profess your desire to think for yourself.

There are better ways to enjoy a sense of community than joining a slavery club. Try making friends with conscious, free-thinking people for a change — people who are willing to connect with you regardless of how silly your beliefs are. You may find it intimidating at first, but it’s quite refreshing once you get used to it.

7) Idiocy or hypocrisy – pick one

When you subscribe to an established religion, you have only two options. You can become an idiot, or you can become a hypocrite. If you’ve already chosen the former, I’ll explain why, and I’ll use small words so that you’re sure to understand.

First, there’s the idiocy route. You can willingly swallow all of the contrived, man-made drivel that’s fed to you. Accept that the earth is only 10,000 years old. Learn about various deities and such. Put your trust in someone who thinks they know what they’re talking about.

You’ll be saved, enlightened, and greeted with tremendous fanfare when you die… unless of course all the stuff you were taught turns out not to be true. Nah… if the guy in the robe says it’s true, it must be true. Ya gotta have faith, right?

Next, we have the hypocrisy option. In this case your neocortex is strong enough to identify various bits of utter nonsense in the religious teachings that others are trying to ram down your throat. You have a working B.S. detector, but it’s slightly damaged. You’re smart enough to realize that earth is probably a lot older than 10,000 years and that pre-marital (or non-marital) sex is a lot of fun, but some B.S. still gets through. You know homosexuality should not be a criminal offense and that it occurs in nature all the time. You don’t swallow all the bull, but you still identify yourself as a follower of a particular religion, most likely because you were raised in it and never actually chose it to begin with.

To you it’s just a casual pursuit. You’re certainly not a die-hard fundamentalist, but you figure that if you drink the wine and chew the wafer now and then, it’s good enough to get you a free ride into a half-decent afterlife. You belong to the pro-God club.

In this case you become an apologist for your own religion. You don’t want to be identified with the extreme fanatics, nor do you want to be associated with the non-believers. You figure you can straddle both sides. On earth you’ll basically live as a non-practitioner (or a very sloppy and inconsistent practitioner), but when you eventually die, you’ve still got the membership card to show God.

Do you realize how deluded that is?

8) Inherited falsehood

What if you were born into a different culture? Would you have been conscious enough to find your way back to your current belief system? Or are your current beliefs merely a product of your environment and not the result of conscious choice?

Many religious teachers (i.e. priests, rabbis, ministers, etc.) are just brainwashed slaves themselves. They don’t have any real authority and aren’t even aware of the agenda being set by their superiors. This makes them better minions because they actually believe the B.S. they’re spouting and don’t know the truth behind it. A priest, a rabbi, and a minister walk into a bar, but that’s as far as they get. They may interact with the bartender, but they never get to know the guy who owns the bar. They suffer from inherited falsehood just like everyone else.

Is your religion based on the inspired word of God? No more than this article. Just because someone says their text is divinely inspired doesn’t mean it is. Anyone can claim divine inspiration.

Even the central figures in major religions didn’t follow the religions that were spawned in their names. If they didn’t swallow the prevailing “wisdom” about gods and spiritual leaders and such, why should you? If you want to be more like the people you worship, then follow their lead by striking out on your own.

9) Compassion in chains

Religious rules and laws invariably hamper the development of conscience. This causes all sorts of problems like pointless violence and warfare. Those who preach nonviolence as a rule or law tend to be the most violent of all.

When you externalize compassion into a set of rules and laws, what you’re left with isn’t compassion at all. True compassion is a matter of conscious choice, and that requires the absence of force-backed rules and laws.

Historically speaking, religious people love to fight each other. Instead of unconditional love, they practice conditional loyalty. If you disagree with them, you’re a target… either for conversion or destruction (both of which are really the same thing).

If you value the ideal of unconditional love, you won’t find it in the practice of religion. Real compassion doesn’t arise from believing in God, from practicing various rituals, or from studying the concept of karma. Compassion can only result from conscious choice, and this requires the freedom to choose without the threat of punishment or the promise of reward. If you’re obedient to your faith, it’s a safe bet that compassion is absent from your life.

10) Faith is fear

Religion is the systematic marketing of fear.

That’s the kind of nonsense religion pushes on people. They train you to turn your back on courage, strength, and conscious living. This is stupidity, not divinity.

Religion will teach you to fear being different, to fear standing up for yourself, and to fear being an independent thinker. It will erode your self-trust by explaining why you’re unable to successfully manage life on your own terms: You are unworthy. You’re a sinner. You’re unclean. You belong to a lesser caste. You are not enlightened. Of course the solution is always the same — submit to the will of an external authority. Believe that you’re inadequate. Give away your power. Follow their rules and procedures. Live in fear for the rest of your life, and hope it will all turn out okay in the end.

When you practice faith instead of conscious living, you live under a cloak of fear. Eventually that cloak becomes so habitual you forget it’s even there. It’s very sad when you reach the point where you can’t even remember what it feels like to wield creative freedom over your own life, independent of what you’ve been conditioned to believe.

Stop trying to comfort yourself by swallowing religious rubbish. If you really need something to believe in, then believe in your own potential. Put your trust in your own intellect. Stop giving away your power.

Dump the safety-in-numbers silliness. Just because a lot of people believe stupid stuff doesn’t mean it isn’t stupid. It just means that stupidity is popular on this planet. When people are in a state of fear, they’ll swallow just about anything to comfort themselves.

 

 

Miguel Vieira Blog

Difference Between Religion and Spirituality

Since all religious subjects are much controversial and as the terms, religion and spirituality, are used by many as if they are synonyms, this article brings out the difference between religion and spirituality. Religion can be defined as a belief in and reverence for a divine power. It can be a personal or institutionalized system grounded in such belief and worship. Institutionalized Religion focuses on dogmas and rules whereas spirituality focuses on the soul that dwells within you. The American psychologist William James (1842–1910) defines spirituality as “the feelings, acts, and experiences of individual men in their solitude, so far as they apprehend themselves to stand in relation to whatever they may consider the divine.” Religion and spirituality are two terms that do not appear to have any difference at all in their sense, but they do have some difference for sure.

What is Religion?

Religion is all about beliefs and worship. In short it can be said that religion refers to a group. Religion focuses more on the outside due to its indulgence in dogmas and rules that are often felt rigid by the people.

Religion, on the contrary, aims at imbibing faiths in you about certain dogmas pertaining to a group of followers of a particular faith. It helps in shaping your character by giving importance to the adherence of the dogmas and rules. It says once you stick to the rules and dogmas you are sure to emerge out as a man with character. Religion is in short a character-building concept.

Religion leads towards discipline. Religion builds discipline of the individual.

What is Spirituality?

Spirituality is about the soul within matter. The matter corresponds to our body. Soul is different from the body. Anything pertaining to the soul or the spirit is spiritual. Spirituality refers to an individual. Unlike religion, spirituality on the contrary concentrates and focuses more on the ‘within.’ The term ‘within’ applies to the individual soul.

Spirituality is all about the individual. It is about the realization of the supreme self within you. The realization of the innate power within you to combat all situations in life is the goal of spirituality. Spirituality aims at building strength of the mind and the spirit. It speaks about the real truth of life. Spirituality aims at making you strong by mind. It aims at the elimination of what are all untrue. Spirituality is a mind-building concept. It shapes the mind of the individual. It is individual oriented in content.

Spirituality leads towards enlightenment. Spirituality builds the individual himself.

What is the difference between Religion and Spirituality?

• Religion focuses on dogmas and rules followed by a particular sect or group of people whereas spirituality focuses on the soul that dwells within you.

• It can be said that religion focuses on the outside; spirituality focuses on the within.

• Religion comes from outside whereas spirituality comes from within.

• Religion shapes the character of the individual whereas spirituality aims at shaping the individual himself.

• Religion makes a person disciplined, whereas spirituality makes a person strong by mind.

• Religion aims at building faiths and customs, whereas spirituality aims at building the strength of the soul. It makes the person ready to combat any situation in life.

Hence, you can say that religion is a subset of spirituality. If you think deeply then you will come to know that once you are spiritually strong you need no religion to survive. You become a polished individual once you train in spirituality.

 

Miguel Vieira Blog