Latest Blog Posts:
  • “How Will I Ever Trust a Man Again?” + A Good Day for America

    First of all, a massive congratulations to all Americans today for the Supreme Court’s landmark decision to legalize same-sex marriage in all fifty states. Such a breakthrough would have been unthinkable even twenty years ago.

    Unfortunately, discrimination against homosexuals has been around for much longer than that. Fortunately, as Martin Luther King Jr put it so eloquently, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” In the past hundred years, we’ve gotten the vote for women and racial minorities, improved access to higher education for women and minorities, reduced violence significantly (The Better Angels of Our Nature: How Violence Has Decreased Over Time is a fantastic read on this), criminalized torture, stopped burning witches at the stake, nearly eradicated slavery, and seen democracy progressively displace hereditary tyranny all over the world.

    Although I’d like to think that, “Geez, isn’t this the way things should have been all along?,” the fact is that for nearly all of human history, people have been pretty nasty to each other. So it is with a joyous heart that I say halleluuuujah, it’s about time, and I for one will not take this for granted. There will always be meanies, but the good guys eventually win. San Francisco’s already lit up in rainbow colors all over the place, but with this announcement, the whole town’s going to go certified bonkers.

    In the meantime, we’ve had some interesting letters in the past week. Let’s see what the e-mailman brung: (more…)

  • How the Psychologist Found Love + Beta Testers Wanted for New Course + Birthday

    This last week was my birthday. I received a hundred or so messages from readers like you via my Facebook profile (to which I’d be delighted to add you should you wish to witness my miscellaneous ramblings), and another few hundred messages, texts and phone calls from friends and family. If you were one of them — thanks so much! By the end of the week, I was brimming with gratitude & joy from all of your kindness and support. This one below was one of the most heart-warming of all, and it wasn’t even sent for my birthday:

    “Hi Dr. Binazir! I don’t have a question, just a testimonial for your book (and I’ll add one on Amazon, too)! I read it about a year and a half ago after some unfortunate online dating experiences (I admit, you were right).

    weddingcake

    I’m a psychologist, but at times even the principles of therapy you provide for others just don’t sink in with regard to yourself. Your book really helped me with that, and I was able to let go of my desperate search for a partner. I think the things that helped the most were starting to attend a guided meditation practice, and using much of that time to focus on the principle of abundance. I really began to see my life as complete, and also kept my eyes and heart open.

    Almost the instant I reached and maintained a state of acceptance and peace, my friend happened to (more…)

  • Matthieu Ricard on Altruism and Loving-Kindness (audio)

    Last week, I saw Matthieu Ricard give a talk about his new book Altruism: The Power of Compassion to Change You and the World (hardcover, ebook and audiobook) in an event hosted by Soren Gordhamer and Wisdom 2.0. Ricard is an interesting fellow. After finishing his doctorate in molecular genetics in 1972 in the lab of Nobel-winning legend François Jacob, he promptly took off for a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in the mountains of Nepal, where he has resided since. Subsequent to participating in a pioneering study by Richie Davidson from the University of Wisconsin on the effects of meditation on brain physiology, the media dubbed him “the happiest man in the world.”

    AltruismMatthieuRicard

    You know this is a man grounded in reality because he is quick to refute that label not out of modesty but from the simple fact that all of his fellow monks would do (and have done) equally well on measurements of their brain activity that could result in such a label. My inclination is to think that if you’ve put in the 50,000 hours of meditation that Ricard has, your brain is bound to manifest some unusual phenomena.

    Ricard is an exceptionally lucid and engaging speaker, even in English, which is not his native tongue. In fact, he’s so engaging that I hardly took any notes. Here is some of what he mentioned in his talk:

    • Happiness is not the constant seeking of pleasurable experiences. That can turn out to be quite exhausting.
    • One definition of happiness: not excluding anyone from your heart.
    • Constantly making the world about you — why did this happen to me, why are people mean to me, why am I so unlucky — you create the phenomenon of “the world arising as enemy.”
    • If you find meditation boring, it’s not the fault of the meditation.
    • The word “meditation” itself has little meaning. It’s a bit like saying “training” — what kind of training? Weightlifting? Running? Tennis?
    • In the same way that you can’t expect to play the harpsichord expertly without practice, you can’t expect to be an expert at compassion, altruism, mindfulness, gratitude without practice either.
    • Mindfulness by itself is not enough. You could have a mindful sniper or psychopath. You must add the caring component to it.

    At the request of the moderator, Ricard led us through a 4-part compassion meditation.

    1. First, you project loving-kindness to several people in sequence, from easy-to-love to very difficult.
    2. Then, you wish for a reduction of their suffering. This is the compassion component.
    3. Rejoice in the existence of all the other people also wishing for the reduction of suffering and taking an active part in it.
    4. Make impartial your projection of compassion and loving-kindness to all sentient beings, without preference or special allocation.

    I have adapted that into this 12min audio, which you can listen to here. The clinical effects of loving-kindness meditation on positive affect and psychological health are well-documented. Besides, it feels good. If you do not have a meditation practice yet, you may wish to consider trying this for starters.

    You may download the audio here.

    Ricard is currently touring the US to promote Altruism. He will make two stops in New York City next week — check his event calendar here. I urge you to go see him if you have the opportunity.

  • “If he loves me so much, why won’t he move for me”: On expectations, blindspots and self-inflicted misery

    Ladies — At first glance, this email exchange I had with your fellow reader Karin seems to be about long-distance relationships — a dead horse that in the past I have beaten so thoroughly as to pulverize, nay, vaporize it. So how does this corpse seem to resurrect itself from the very air, and keep coming back?

    Well, that’s easy. For tens of thousands of years, humans used to live and die within a 10-mile radius of where they were born. So you basically hung out with the boy or girl next door, because, well, he/she was next door. Usually in the same tribe, even.

    But once you create means of transportation that take you to the opposite end of the planet in half a day, then the fast-acting mechanism of limerence — also known as that lovin’ feeling — could get activated somewhere very far away from home. For both parties. Add to that the exoticism of being in a novel place and the stress of being a stranger, and you have the optimal brain chemical cocktail to make you fall for someone exceptionally non-local.

    Further add to that the Western Romantic Ideal — i.e. “this temporary state of massively impaired judgment called being in love means I must destroy everything in my path to give in to it” — and that’s when the trouble begins. Here’s the exchange, mostly unedited and as it occurred: (more…)

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