How To Become A Smarty Through Meditation

While conservatives and the religious right in this country continue with what Time Magazine’s Joe Klein recently called a “celebration of ignorance” by “denying evolution, denying the science behind climate change, the birtherism”, etc., some of us may be getting smarter without even knowing it.

I’m not sure what folks who follow a certain faith-based political agenda think of spiritual practices like meditation, but I have a feeling most of them don’t like it too much. Probably offends them somehow.

But, this week Time’s online Heathland section has an article titled “Can Meditation Make You Smarter?

Numerous studies suggest that regular meditation (about six hours a week) may actually change brain structure. Scientists have found meditation is associated with a thicker cerebral cortex and more gray matter — i.e., the parts of the brain linked to memory, attention span, decisionmaking and learning. But a year of silent meditation isn’t always necessary. One study found people who meditated at least once a week for four years showed increased cortical gyrification, the folding of the cerebral cortex that helps people process information.”

The author of this piece, Laura Schwecherl, acknowledges that no one is sure exactly how meditation changes the brain, but apparently focusing one-pointedly on a single object or thought “alters our neural networks.” Nothing is guaranteed, of course. But studies have shown that positive changes in the brain are associated with meditation. The other caveat, though, is that no one knows how long these changes last.

I have to admit that I’m a bit skeptical about any claim that meditation will make you smarter. But I recently read that Bill Clinton, who’s already pretty smart, just hired a Buddhist monk to teach him meditation. It’s true. So I plan to keep an open mind. Hey, look at what’s happened to Clinton and these other folks after just a few weeks of mindfulness meditation:

Bill Clinton decided to change the focus of his Global Initiative!

Carrot Top was awarded a Nobel Prize!

Flo, the girl in Progressive Insurance commercials, was invited to give the Harvard commencement address!

Mitt Romney found a conviction!

Prince Charles decided to apply for Muammar Gaddafi’s old job!

Unfortunately, even a three year meditation retreat didn’t seem to help this poor creature named Snooki . . .

And, as they used to say at the Warner Bros. Cartoon studios


To Zen Or Not To Zen, That Is The Question

Today a quick roundup of some recent online new articles on the subject of Zen . . . only they don’t have much or anything to do with the form of Buddhism known as Zen. It’s just the word they’re using, as a marketing tool or attention-grabber.

Like this one, 6 Keys to Having a Zen Home Buying Experience. That sounds cool. Have a meditative, mindful experience buying a home . . . According to Tara-Nicholle Nelson,

Zen homebuyers are the ones who tend to start educating themselves months, even years, in advance by reading books, frequenting smart personal finance sites, visiting open houses, scouting neighborhoods, and asking questions on discussion boards frequented by experts and fellow consumers.”

Seriously, that seems like good advice. I know this author knows what she’s talking about,

I can vouch: minimizing your home buying time pressures will maximize your Zen.”

And that, of course, is what you want, to maximize your Zen.

Sometimes I wonder if these people even know what Zen is . . .

I love this one: Steven Seagal is dangerously Zen. He may be just dangerous. The byline reads: “Steven Seagal will laugh at a lawsuit, like he laughs at his enemies.” That’s right. You don’t want to mess with Tulkus who can kick your ass.

Actually, this article is a collection of photos with humorous captions. Here’s one of my favorites (caption-wise):

Steven Seagal speaking the international language of Zen, at the Moscow International Film Festival in 2003.

I wonder if Seagal knows about Shinobido 2: Revenge of Zen? Apparently, “it doesn’t push the Vita too hard, but it does offer an engaging slice of old-school shadow-dancing” . . .Don’t you just hate it when the Vita is pushed too much . . .

Ever been curious about The Zen of Woody Allen?

Even funnier than Woody Allen is Zen Pencils, motivational quotes and poems illustrated with comic strip art.

This is another dangerous guy. I mean, we’re talking cupcakes here: The buff pastry buff: Spinning or baking, he is Zen.

Did you know that Fro.Zen.Yo is adding eight stores in DC region? Check it out.

I could go on and on. It never ends. There’s all kinds of Zen everywhere these days! Zen Bootcamp. Zen ski camps. Zentangle. Zen Pinball. Zen Table. ZEN software. And, of course, Zen Bicycles.

I tell ya, Zen is popping out all over! It’s all just so . . . Zenful! The only problem is there’s so much, how can anyone Zen it all? It’s a quandary, all right. I guess all we can do is to keep trying to get our Zen on and hope for the best . . .

In the meantime, Zen this:

This photo proudly has nothing whatsoever to do with Zen.

No Sacred Cows

They say humor is the best medicine. Norman Cousins famously recovered from a heart attack by watching Marx Brothers movies. I could use some humor. Last night I turned on the TV to look for some. I tuned in to the Emmys. There’s always some humor on awards shows. Well, let me tell you in case you missed it, there were jokes a plenty. Unfortunately, none of them were funny. Well, maybe they were. Maybe I’m just too old to get them. Now, that’s really funny, and the joke is on me.

Anyway, I gave up on the Emmys about half-way through and decided to create some humor of my own. At least, that’s what I intended it to be  . . . So, today’s post is a toast . . . to sacred cows.

Sacred Cow — n. informal; a person, institution, custom, etc, unreasonably held to be beyond criticism (or bad jokes).

Sacred cows make the best hamburger.

– Mark Twain

Secretly, the Buddha knew that enlightenment could only be found at Dairy Queen but he was reluctant to reveal the teaching because the people's minds were not ready for it.


Surprisingly, few people are aware that the Dalai Lama is also a pulp fiction hero.


No one gives a dharma talk quite like Thich Nhat Hanh.


Professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies at Columbia University, Robert Thurman couldn't help but be frustrated when Ron Artest broke in on his lecture to announce he was changing his name to Metta World Peace.


Actually, I do have one sacred cow.




In response to yesterday’s post, someone left this comment, “based on this you just might be a stream entrant who just doesn’t know it yet.” Now, I don’t know if he was being sincere or not. It occurred to me that it might not be a compliment, but I figured he probably meant well. Anyway, it’s late in the evening here and I had a brief moment of flippancy and unfortunately it ended up in my reply.  It was a small attempt at humor, apparently very small . . . and he took it the wrong way.

You know, I get so few comments that when one comes in I really hate to screw it up.

I have some sacred cows, but not many. Me, myself and I are certainly not among them. I’ve made light of myself on this blog from time to time. Even though I have never been known for having a particularly jocular personality, still I find that I can only be serious for so long and then I have to crack wise.

Besides, I like humor. I’m not any good at being funny, but I like it. And I have a tough time finding funny stuff these days. I haven’t had a really good laugh in a long time. I prefer humor that is rather dry, like a good martini. Haven’t had one of those in a long while either. What passes for humor today, which seems to be mainly about bodily functions, leaves me cold.

I like Tina Fey, but I don’t think 30 Rock is very funny. Aside from her and Alex Baldwin, I can’t stand anyone else on the show. By the way, when receiving the 2011 Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, Ms. Fey remarked how she was only the 3rd woman to receive the award, and then she said something to the effect of how nice it will be when we no longer chart women’s progress by numbers. Think about it.

"Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand."

I used to like Dennis Miller. I’d watch his show on HBO and laugh so hard I cried. But, alas, he was a fake. With his 60’s references and rock ‘n roll and drug references and lines like “Inaction is more entrenched in Washington DC than Rush Limbaugh in a hammock,” I pegged him for a liberal kind of guy. That was just a smokescreen. After 9/11 he revealed his true self. It turned out he was a right-wing reactionary all along. And now, he appears on the Bill O’Reilly show. On Fox. That’s just sad.

I hated to see Al Franken enter politics. He has a very dry sense of humor. Then he had to get serious. Politics can be very funny, but it unfortunately turns funny people into bores.

My philosophy is similar to that of Abner Doubleday, the founder of baseball, who famously said, “Don’t take the world serious. That’s it! The world serious . . .”

I’ve never given anything away on this blog, but I am willing to give a free no-prize to anyone who can identify the source of the Abner Doubleday line. Not only that, I will give 2 free no-prizes to anyone who can tell me where the concept of no-prizes originated. (On the latter, you have to be very specific.)

Life is too short to take everything serious. I am facing some rather serious health challenges right now, so keeping things lighthearted is not only a strategy, it’s a necessity. To paraphrase someone (I don’t remember who and I’m too lazy tonight to Google it.) I can’t afford the luxury of a negative thought. I have a tendency to be too serious, and negative, anyway.

This is probably as boring as a political speech, and I apologize. I also apologize to the commenter if he thought I was being sarcastic. I was, but not towards him. This ties in with what I wrote about yesterday. Another way we make Buddhism overly-complicated is by taking it all so seriously.

Well, it is serious. But I remember a teacher telling us that we should practice with joy. And he laughed all the time.

So, I say laugh and feel happy as much as you can. Do it today, before the vortex of suffering comes along and tries to suck all the laughter and happiness right out of you.

Here’s a poem that I first read over 40 years ago and it reflects my thinking right now. It was written by a young Jewish girl who was in a Nazi death camp:

From tomorrow on I will be sad
From tomorrow on
Not today, today I will be glad
And every day no matter how hard it may be I will say
From tomorrow on I will be sad
And not today.

And now I am going to watch Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights.

This, however, is from Modern Times:


Smile tho’ your heart is aching,
Smile even tho’ it’s breaking,
When there are clouds in the sky you’ll get by,
If you smile thro’ your fear and sorrow,

Smile and maybe tomorrow,
you’ll see the sun come shining thro; for you

Light up your face with gladness,
Hide ev’ry trace of sadness,

Al -‘tho a tear may be ever so near,
That’s the time,
You must keep on trying,

Smile, what’s the use of crying,
You’ll find that life is still worth-while,
If you just smile . . .

Lyrics by John Turner and Geoffery Parsons – 1954
Music by Charles Chaplin – Modern Times theme