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Category: Mindfulness & Buddhism

Colour / Mindfulness / Depression

I chew through a lot of popular science writing on the web. It is nice to have someone dig out the sparky bits of research that may not hold up in the long run but that are fun to think about and just might be the next big thing.

I stumbled on an article in Discovery Magazine on  How Depression Dulls the World—Literally. It reports two lots of research:

The first paper appears to show that people who are depressed have reduced contrast perception. They do this by looking at the nerve impulses from the eye thereby bypassing any cognitive processes. The second paper shows that people with acute depression have reduced olfactory bulbs and therefore are not likely to be so good at detecting weak smells.

Neither Parenting Nor Mindfulness?

I just ready

“A Model of Mindful Parenting: Implications for Parent–Child Relationships and Prevention Research” Duncan” Duncan et al Clin Child Fam Psychol Rev (2009) 12:255–270 DOI 10.1007/s10567-009-0046-3

in a quest to find some papers on mindfulness in adolescents for my research assignment. I feel uncomfortable with the notions of  both parenting and mindfulness it presents.

What the Buddha Thought – Finished!

It took two transatlantic flights but I have just finished “What the Buddha Thought” by Richard Gombrich. I was inspired to read it by my boss, Charles Hussey, who kindly took me to a lecture for the old boys of St Paul’s School in London given by Richard.

My first piece of advice is – if you want to know about Buddhism don’t read this book. Go and read a few of the multitude of introductions.

My second recommendation is – if you think you know about Buddhism do read this book.

Richard Gombrich writes in a very straightforward, accessible style but the arguments he proposes are complex and require some thought and prior knowledge. He takes an scholarly approach to unearthing what the Buddha was thinking which is both refreshing and somewhat frustrating. As a aspiring ‘practitioner’ (I don’t like that word but it seems to fit) I am keen to Know what the Buddha experienced and part of this is knowing how and what he thought. Richard provides a wealth of material evidence (his detractors may say too much opinion) as to the context of the Buddha’s life and how we can interpret the canonical literature in this light.

The Present Moment Does Not Exist

It is just past Christmas and the turning of the decade so I thought it would be worth capturing a train of thought on time and space.

  • The future doesn’t exist yet.
  • The past no longer exists.
  • The present moment is vanishingly small.

Consider the sounds you hear in a piece of music. Sound is the changing in air pressure that moves our ear drums backwards and forwards. To hear Middle C we need to listen to a sound for a long enough period to judge that the air pressure is changing around 261 times per second. At any one moment our ear drums are stationary. There is no sound in the now.

Mindfulness and Mental Health – a glimps of the madness?

I have just come to the end of “Mindfulness and Mental Health: Therapy, Theory and Science” by Chris Mace. My motivation for tackling such a book is to learn more about the link between mindfulness meditation and the mental health/psychotherapy field.

The book has been an interesting but challenging read. I have a scientific training and I am a regular Buddhist meditator but I have little experience of the world of psychoanalysis/psychotherapy and other talking therapies. I saw the book as a way to glimpse into that world. Having persevered to the bitter end I feel I do have a clearer understanding of the field but that it is not a positive one.

GUID Persistence as Zen kōan


Most people are familiar with a few Zen kōans – the ‘nonsense’ sayings of the great Zen masters that are designed to make us think or rather not think. Their aim is to point more directly to what can’t be said in words. Examples include: “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” and “Does a dog have Buddha nature?”. Sitting silently and bearing a kōan in mind can be a powerful means of expanding our understanding. A kōan that would be useful for those of us involved in the discussions on Globally Unique Identifiers (GUIDs)  at the moment is: What is it that persists when a GUID is persistent? I have been dwelling on this for a while now and I’d like to share some of my thoughts.

Identifiers, Identity and Me


The nice thing about blogging is that you get to mix-n-match your thoughts together in a way that you couldn’t do in the constituant parts of your life. This post brings together the notion of Globally Unique Identifiers (GUIDs) from my world of work and Buddhist notions of identity. It isn’t really acceptable to talk Buddhist spirituality in biodiversity informatics meetings and bringing up techie stuff when talking to Buddhist friends doesn’t help communication much either but here I can bravely attempt to mash the two together and I hope  shed light on both.

Buddhism is widely and erroneously believed to propose the notion of anatman meaning ‘no soul’. Atman figures big in Hinduism and in Abrahamic faiths as ‘soul’. Buddhism has a different spin on the soul and this is where the error often comes in. Generally different-from-having-something is considered to be not having it. Therefore it is concluded that there are no souls in Buddhism – but this is confused thinking.

“Do you have a soul?” is a loaded question. It assumes firstly that the world can be split into things, secondly that these things can have possessive type relationships and thirdly there are two things ‘you’ and ‘soul’ that may have this relationship. If you have a problem with any of these assumptions it is difficult to say anything in response to the question. Any notion of a self or even a thing is totally contingent on everything else in space time. Buddhism finds it difficult to locate ‘you’ and ‘soul’ and so impossible to express an opinion on their relationship.

This is exactly where we arrive at biodiversity informatics and the problems we have with GUIDs.