What is all that fuss about mindfulness?

  Mindfulness has become a buzz word and for some a movement that has strong reservations or objections against it. Mindfulness classes, events and retreats abound in many circles: in some pre-schools, elementary and higher education, work places, corporate and not for profit agencies, jails and federal prisons, health systems, congress, (well, one took the course), the armed forces and of course on many phone apps. As with anything that draws attention and a certain velocity, praises as well as much criticism are abundant. Many articles have been written lately, not always favorable ones,  by three main factions; some who never took the time to experience classes, some by those who have had long time meditation practices, as well by some Buddhist practitioners, all wondering about the current surge of interest and most of them  challenging the purpose and validity of the practices of mindfulness. The typical critical arguments and negative charges about mindfulness programs from these three groups are as follows: “Mindfulness is another fad. Mindfulness classes only reduce stress marginally. The teachers use scientific research and neuroscience to justify its use but it has very little scientific validity. It is another modality being marketed to vulnerable folks for greed. Some Buddhists, claim that it is and unconscionable practice without the ethical focus as the primary foundation. Meditation can be a dangerous practice for some. Some teachers are not qualified and make unsubstantial benefit claims or use them for marketing benefits. It is a program geared to white middle class people or for those who have money.” I am going to address these comments one by one, but first...

Facing Cancer with an Attitude

  It’s been over thirteen years since I was diagnosed with a stage four transitional cell carcinoma and was given four months to live. Often people ask what factors do I attribute to recovering from cancer. I am not sure as to what determinants were effective, there were probably as many as there are variables for so many of us being diagnosed with the big C. One assumption, funda-mentally, I dare say, has lot to do with attitude. What I mean by that is that there are correlations and cause and effect between the mind, the body and the immune system and how they function or become dysfunctional. We all have cancer cells in our body. The questions then become: which particular people have cells that become malignant, what gives the impetus for those to propagate and how do they vanish or come back with a mission after remission? Edwin Friedman in his book “A Failure of Nerve” explains that normal cells have a specific identity and gravitate towards other cells that have similar functions; they specialize in order to contribute to the overall functioning of the larger body. They communicate with other cells in a mutually reciprocal network that regulate each other’s growth and behavior and they become cooperative. They know when to quit and have a gene for self destruction when they are dangerous to the host, which is a formidable altruistic phenomenon, build in bodhisattva cells! Malignant cells differ from normal cells in all the respects mentioned and they lose their capacity for self definition, they are un-self regulating, reproduce uncontrollably, compete and instead of self...