What caught my attention – week of 10 February 2020

Greetings from sunny Bali this week! Below are a selection of readings from neuroscience, through zen practice to dreams. Enjoy.

1. Neuroscience

Title: The man who saw time stand still

Link: BBC

It started as a headache, but soon became much stranger. Simon Baker entered the bathroom to see if a warm shower could ease his pain. “I looked up at the shower head, and it was as if the water droplets had stopped in mid-air”, he says. “They came into hard focus rapidly, over the course of a few seconds”. Where you’d normally perceive the streams as more of a blur of movement, he could see each one hanging in front of him, distorted by the pressure of the air rushing past. The effect, he recalls, was very similar to the way the bullets travelled in the Matrix movies. “It was like a high-speed film, slowed down.”

2. HeartMath research

Title: Psychophysiological Correlates of Spiritual Experience

Link: HeartMath

Heartfelt positive emotions, such as love, appreciation, care and compassion, have long been associated with spiritual experience. However, because of a fundamental lack of mental and emotional self-management, such emotions, and associated experiences of increased spiritual connectedness, remain largely transient and unpredictable events in most people’s lives. Here, we summarize our research that has linked sustained positive emotion to a distinct mode of physiological functioning, termed psychophysiological coherence. This mode, characterized by heart rhythm coherence, increased heart-brain synchronization and entrainment of diverse physiological oscillatory systems, is associated with increased emotional stability, improved cognitive performance, and a range of positive health-related outcomes. Additionally, individuals frequently report feelings of increased spiritual connectedness during psychophysiologically coherent states. Using heart rhythm coherence feedback training, individuals can readily learn to self-generate the coherent mode and sustain genuine positive emotional states at will, thus establishing an internal environment that is conducive to fostering spiritual experience.

3. Zen Buddhism

Title: The Bright, Boundless Field

Link: Daily Zen

If you accord everywhere with thorough clarity and cut off sharp corners without dependence on doctrines, like the white bull or wildcat (helping to arouse wonder), you can be called a complete person. So we hear that this is how one on the way of non-mind acts, but before realizing non-mind we still have great hardship.

4. Gratitude

Title: Gratitude Is the Key to Peace of Mind

Link: The Tools

[…] There’s a word for that kind of thinking: superstition. Your worrying is no more effective at preventing bad things from happening than a rabbit’s foot is in bringing you luck. All negativity does is destroy your peace of mind. You need to find something stronger than positive thoughts, something that shifts your perspective of the universe from a survivalist one to one in which you feel supported and connected to something greater than yourself. You can believe that this other universe exists, but you need to be able to feel it to really free yourself. The best way to feel it is with gratitude. What does this have to do with the universe? The universe is leaving you boxes of chocolates all the time. If you become aware of them, your experience of life will radically change. When you realize there is something out there constantly giving you things, then you realize you aren’t alone and that you are supported by something greater than you. As you relax into that, you can stop worrying.

5. Dreams

Title: How Dreams Change Under Authoritarianism

Link: New Yorker

When the Nazis came to power, the writer Charlotte Beradt began collecting dreams. What did she learn? 
These are two of about seventy-five dreams collected in “The Third Reich of Dreams,” a strange, enthralling book by the writer Charlotte Beradt. Neither scientific study nor psychoanalytic text, “The Third Reich of Dreams” is a collective diary, a witness account hauled out of a nation’s shadows and into forensic light. The book was released, in Germany, in 1966; an English translation, by Adriane Gottwald, was published two years later but has since fallen out of print. (Despite ongoing interest from publishers, no one has been able to find Beradt’s heir, who holds the rights.) But the book deserves revisiting, not just because we see echoes today of the populism, racism, and taste for surveillance that were part of Beradt’s time but because there’s nothing else like it in the literature of the Holocaust. “These dreams—these diaries of the night—were conceived independently of their authors’ conscious will,” Beradt writes. “They were, so to speak, dictated to them by dictatorship.”

+1 Book of the week

Author and title: Phil Knight – Shoe dog


This was probably one of the best business biographies I read in a good while. A lot of business books tend to simplify ideas into formulas or 5-step plans but from my experience life is nowhere near as linear. Yes, there are universal truths but everybody is on a different journey. Shoe Dog is a very honest take on what went right and wrong with the building of Nike and one I thoroughly enjoyed reading.

“The single easiest way to find out how you feel about someone. Say goodbye.”

“So that morning in 1962 I told myself: Let everyone else call your idea crazy . . . just keep going. Don’t stop. Don’t even think about stopping until you get there, and don’t give much thought to where “there” is. Whatever comes, just don’t stop.”

“I’d tell men and women in their midtwenties not to settle for a job or a profession or even a career. Seek a calling. Even if you don’t know what that means, seek it. If you’re following your calling, the fatigue will be easier to bear, the disappointments will be fuel, the highs will be like nothing you’ve ever felt.”

“I thought back on my running career at Oregon. I’d competed with, and against, men far better, faster, more physically gifted. Many were future Olympians. And yet I’d trained myself to forget this unhappy fact. People reflexively assume that competition is always a good thing, that it always brings out the best in people, but that’s only true of people who can forget the competition. The art of competing, I’d learned from track, was the art of forgetting, and I now reminded myself of that fact. You must forget your limits. You must forget your doubts, your pain, your past.”

“How can I leave my mark on the world, I thought, unless I get out there first and see it?”