Mindfulness Matters

Mindfulness Matters

Metaphor Monday :: Welcome to the Starfish Revolution

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

In the compelling book, The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations, Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom present the case for decentralization as an agent of profit and social good. 

Many entities are decentralized, including our brains. There is no central command post in the brain, no single agent issuing orders, no one neuron that holds a particular memory (despite what Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind represented). Memory is distributed across networks of neurons. 
Likewise, there is great power in decentralized organizations. Some of these “starfish” organizations discussed in the book are the Apache, AA, Wikipedia, and more. A starfish has no centralized brain and command center. If you cut off the leg of a starfish it grows back. If you cut it in half you get two starfish. 
A spider organization is the traditional model with a CEO at the top who’s in charge. These organizations are good at doing some things but not so good at others. If you cut off the head of a spider it dies. 
If we look upon the starfish and the spider as a metaphor for the self, we can see clearly in to the Buddha’s concept of anatta or no-self. We tend to regard ourselves as spider organizations — there’s someone at the top who is in charge, a CEO, a president, an ego. But when the self is examined carefully as mystics have done for millennia and scientists have done for the past 100 years or so, there is no CEO to be found. What we regard to be self arises out of the aggregation and dynamic integration of different processes. 
We are starfish.


Stress Reduction Sunday: Mindfulness: The Art of Being in the Present Moment

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

It’s Stress Reduction Sunday. Read my weekly post in the Connecticut Watchdog, This week’s entry, The Art of Being in the Present Moment:

In my last entry, Mindfulness: An Ancient Remedy for a Modern Problem, I discussed the importance of mindfulness and gave an overview of a mindful approach to life. In this entry, I will discuss how to practice mindfulness.


Some of us are naturally more mindful than others. That is our attention tends to stay in the present rather than generating worry about the future, regret about the past, or complaints about the present. I am NOT one of these people, so I must practice mindfulness.

Read more …


Mindfulness in Sport: The Embodiment of Awakening (Part Three)

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

It’s Sport Saturday. This entry continues an essay on using sport to awaken. Click here to read part one and part two here

Mindfulness and sport-samadhi can also impact how we deal
with exertion and the limits of our body. I have noticed, especially when I am
running uphill, if my mind is engaged in a future-oriented conversation, that I
am more apt to give up and not push through the pain and discomfort of that


This future-oriented story may be mindless chatter, or it can also be
focused on the activity itself. For instance, if I look up the hill and think
to myself, “my god, that’s a long way up, I’ll never be able to stomach that,”
it is very different than staying with the experience of embodiment at that


The running, when it becomes an experience lived in the moment is a
succession of moments. And as intense as they may be, because attention is
focused on now instead of moments from now, the crush of the future is
relieved. Again, an important distinction is to attend to the experience of the
body at the level of description versus the level of analysis. 


At the level of
description there are sensations, and these may be described as intense, warm,
pulsing, constricting, sharp, dull, and so forth. Notice that I did not mention
pain or fatigue. Pain and fatigue are labels applied by the thinking mind after
it has analyzed the sensations. 

By identifying with the label we are moved away
from the experience. I find that whenever I do this – think about how painful
the running is or how much pressure I feel in my chest — I am apt to stop
running and walk the hill. However, I get a lot more out of myself by staying
in the moment of now and feeling the sensations rather than thinking about


This is not the same as brute gutting through the experience of what
might be called pain. We need to listen to our bodies and to extract any vital
information out of the sensations and perceptions we are having. We should know
the difference between sensations that can be pushed through and those that
should be respected. 

The experience of attending to sensations at the level of
description can become a useful analog for all of life with similar benefits
from staying with our experiences as experiences in the present moment. 

many of us though, this mindfulness experience comes off with the running
shoes. No transition occurs and a split between our sport life and the rest of
our life can emerge. Daily meditation practice can help to eliminate that
transition and to facilitate moving between the meditative experiences of sport
and the activities of your day, including all the activities we do such as
eating, washing dishes, driving, loving, and working.


Site/Sight :: The Mindful Art of Ellen Kozak

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak


Over Labor Day Weekend I visited the gallery opening for my cousin, the artist Ellen Kozak at  Argazzi Art in Lakeville Connecticut
Ellen’s work Site/Sight is a reflection on the impermanence of nature from the perspective of the surface of water. She lives part of year along the bank of the Hudson River and goes to the river for her inspiration. Her work is a meditation on the changing nature of reality.
Here is an excerpt her artist statement:
I work from observation sometimes finishing paintings in one session but more often continuing to work on a painting for days or months. i am interested in looking at things, at change at the passage of time through the mediating lens of reflective surfaces. 
The Buddha loved river metaphors comparing the self to a river. It has some kind of identity and is changing moment-by-moment.  
To sit in the “chapel” of Argazzi Art and contemplate these representations of nature can be a meditation experience. Each piece captures a moment of perception, a moment of being alive and awake to see the beauty that is around us at all times in the form of light reflecting off surfaces.
We, too, are reflections off a surface. We don’t apprehend reality as much as construct through our perceptions. What we take to be “self” is such a reflection. Changing depending on the light and the angle from which it is construed. We too are fleeting representations of color and light. 
If you are local to Lakeville, CT, I encourage you to go see the show, which hangs until 6 October 2010. 
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