A Few Thoughts About Thinking

I recently finished reading “Anathem” by Neal Stephenson, for the second time, (not something I usually do) and I was struck by an offhand observation that the young main character makes about another man who may be hundreds of years old. At one point, the old man is chanting and holds the same note for hours, (clearly some kind of re-breathing technique), and the young man ponders what it’s like to have such a different notion of time that you would want to chant the same note for hours. Then he has the insight that a mind that has done that probably has very different thoughts from a mind that hasn’t.

Now, “Anathem” is a novel of big ideas: quantum mechanics, multiple worlds, Platonic ideals, religion vs. science, etc., so when I highlight the old man chanting I’m pretty much focusing on the tiny dot of the “i” of the smallest idea here. But this one line resonated with me immediately — probably because I’ve been chanting daily for the last few months as part of my Qi Gong practice. I realized immediately that it’s true, that I am thinking thoughts that I would not have had if I hadn’t chanted.

This led me to think about what other activities I’ve done that led me to “new” thoughts. Meditation, hypnosis, and self-hypnosis come to mind immediately but then I entered into those activiites expecting – hoping! – for new thoughts. Lest these and the chanting seem too New Age-y, I would add gardening, woodworking, and almost anything that leads to a flow state. However, I have noticed that beyond the flow state, there’s something to a sustained level of activity that inspires fresh thought. Walking more than five miles, watching the birds for hours and days and months, meditating for over 10 years, all lead to a depth or breadth of thinking that early efforts do not.

For that matter, it’s possible that playing Tetris or Spider Solitaire for 20 years may lead to fresh insights, but I’ll have to get back to you about that…when I finish my game.


Have You Seen the Garden of 1,000 Buddhas in Montana?

| by Cheryl Shainmark

This video has lighted up our imaginations! Can you say road trip? Dateline NBC has captured the peaceful and sacred feeling of this wonderful site, called The Garden of a Thousand Buddhas. Located just north of Arlee, Montana, the multi-acre garden is nestled on a beautiful valley that is part of an Indian reservation for the Salish and Kootenai Tribes. Created through the visionary guidance of Gochen Tulku Sang-ngag Rinpoche, the Garden aligns positive properties of the physical world…

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If Plants Are Consciousness, What Happens When We Eat Them?

| by Cheryl Shainmark

Last week The New York Times ran an article, Sedate a Plant, and It Seems to Lose Consciousness. Is It Conscious? The new evidence that plants have a type of “conscious,” joins a host of other research indicating that plants are intelligent, understand where they are in space, respond to threats and obstacles, and communicate with each other. We’ve known for years that plants grow faster and lusher when you play the right music or speak nicely to them, but now there is evidence that plants form memories. Does that mean they remember that you were kind to them? And what does it mean now to eat them? What, if any, are the moral or ethical implications?

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Asking the Big Questions

| by Cheryl Shainmark

A dear friend of mine, Nick Borrell, says that when you ask the BIG questions, you open a window into the Universe. As he puts it, “It creates the opportunity for fresh air to flow in and for a fresh answer to emerge.” It invites the enormous energy of creativity to pour in, and you must be very careful to leave the window open long enough to get the answers you seek — you must be patient. Now, in the beginning of the New Year, is the time that we traditionally ask the big questions: what do we want in our lives? What do we want in our world?

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Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It

| by Cheryl Shainmark

I just finished reading “Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends on It,” by Kamal Ravikant. I have to say that this slim volume completely jumpstarted a whole new spiritual practice for me. I don’t usually rave (in print, at least)… but this is one of the most accessible, transformative books I have ever read — and at 57 pages, you’d have to be in a coma not to get through it. Actually, if you are in a coma I will come and sit by your side and read it to you, because I want “Love Yourself” to be the earworm that gets stuck in your head. You’ll thank me later.

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Moved By Mountains

| by Cheryl Shainmark

Moved By Mountains – Several years ago I dreamed I flew as a hawk, high above seared mountains, gazing down on granite soil marked only by occasional stunted evergreens. In my dream I soared and twisted, riding the air currents until I actually felt dizzy and then, as soon as I thought, “This is too much!” I woke up in my bed. I remembered the details vividly, though I had never seen those vistas in real life. Last week I saw the mountains of my dreams, that is, the dry stretch of the Rockies where the rain does not fall.

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Zen and the Art of Home Buying

| by Cheryl Shainmark

It used to be that buying a home – a house or condo – was one of the more fraught experiences we had as adults. People seem to move more frequently now, but I think for many of us it can still be stressful. It’s still one of the most expensive purchases many of us will ever make and, no matter how well researched, represents both a gamble… and a commitment. Most of us would be immobilized and still living in our first home if we really thought about it too much — so we do our due diligence and then take a deep breath, cross our fingers, and jump.

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Tell Me A Story: Stirring Up Cellular Memories with Meditation

| by Cheryl Shainmark

I have been meditating for over fifteen years now and find it an essential part of my life. Many have written about the substantial physical and emotional benefits, and while I’ve certainly found that to be the case, too, I’ve also noticed that there is a component of releasing “cellular memories” that is rarely addressed. People shy away from phenomena that are not so easily explained, but whether you call it “cellular memories,” “past lives,” or releasing “old patterns,” I have found that there is something extraordinary happening that also brings welcome relief to the body and the spirit.

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Take A Walk on the Wild Side: Encounters With Animals in Nature

| by Cheryl Shainmark

Most of us have had the experience — wonderful, heart-stopping, sometimes terrifying — of unexpectedly encountering an animal in the wild. It may be the tranquil sight of deer off in the woods, or a hawk circling in the canyons of Manhattan. It can be scary, as in some of the recent bear sightings on the East Coast, or inspire reverence for the raw beauty of the creature sighted.

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Anchoring the Reality That We Want

| by Cheryl Shainmark

We’ve all experienced this phenomenon before: you’ve never heard of a particular item, idea, or person and then once you do you find it popping up all over the place. It’s as if the whole world (or at least everybody you know on Facebook), all got the same buzz at the same time. Of course, we all know that someone had to be “the first” — the first to think that thought, invent that item, do the research, say or do or discover something new — and that everybody else caught on later….

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