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Emotional Intelligence

Rick Hanson: Cling Less, Love More

By body mind spirit, Conscious Living, Emotional Intelligence, Health & Wellbeing, Mental Intelligence, Spiritual Intelligence No Comments

by Rick Hanson, Ph.D. – Neuropsychologist and author of Buddha’s Brain and Just One Thing: Developing a Buddha Brain One Simple Practice at a Time

As a rock climber and a parent, I know some physical kinds of clinging are good — like to small holds or small hands!

Clinging as a psychological state has a feeling of tension in it, or obsession, or compulsion.But clinging as a psychological state has a feeling of tension in it, and drivenness, insistence, obsession, or compulsion. As experiences flow through the mind — seeing, hearing, planning, worrying, etc. — they have what’s called a “hedonic tone” of being pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. It’s natural to like what’s pleasant and to dislike what’s unpleasant, no problem so far. But then the mind takes it a step further — usually very quickly — and tries to grab what’s pleasant, fight or flee from what’s unpleasant, or prod what’s neutral to get pleasant: This quality of grabbing, pushing, resisting, or pressing is the hallmark of clinging.

Clinging is different from healthy desire, where we have wholesome values, aims, purposes, aspiration, and commitments — without being attached to the results. Yes, we could feel passionate about our goals and work hard for them, and the stakes could be high (e.g., the health of child, the success of a business, the fate of the earth’s climate), but when there’s no clinging, we are deep down at peace with whatever happens even if the surface layers of the mind are understandably disappointed, sad, or upset.

Watch your mind and you’ll see it cling to lots of things (remembering that pulling toward and pushing away are each a form of clinging). These include objects, viewpoints, routines, pleasures and pain, status, and even the sense of self (as when we take something personally).

Recognize the costs of clinging. It’s never relaxed and always has a sense of strain, ranging from subtly unpleasant to intensely uncomfortable. It sucks us into chasing problematic goals like stressing out for success, getting rigid or argumentative with others, being hooked on food or drugs, or seeking rewards in relationships that will never come. It clenches and contracts rather than opens. And clinging today plants the seeds of clinging tomorrow.

Most fundamentally, clinging puts us at odds with the nature of existence, which is always changing. The American Buddhist teacher Joseph Goldstein likens the stream of consciousness to a rope running through your hands: If you cling to any bit of it, you get rope burn.

But if you let it run free — if you let experiences come and go — you feel peaceful and happy. Your mind and body open, and love flows freely, the natural expression of the unclenched heart.


As Context

It’s familiar advice I’m sure, but do what you can to take care of your needs and those of others you care for, pursue wholesome aims with energy and diligence, and keep the needle of your personal stress meter out of the red zone. Each of these steps will pull logs off the fire of clinging.

Learn About Clinging

Pick something specific — like a position about how something should be — and first really really cling to it. Insist in your mind that it must turn out a certain way. Notice what clinging feels like in your body and mind.

Then really try to relax the clinging. It’s fine to wish for a certain result. But help yourself be at peace with whatever the result is by reminding yourself that you and others will likely still be fundamentally OK. Imagine whatever you’ve clung to as something small in a great space, such as a single stone in a vast plain seen from an airplane passing overhead. Disengage from over-thinking, ruminating, or obsessing. Help your body relax and soften, open your hands, let your mind open, and let the clinging go. Recognize the ease, the peace and pleasure in releasing clinging, and let the sense of this sink into you — motivating your brain to cling less in the future.

Set Down Your Burdens

Try the practice just above with other things you’ve clung to. Start with easy things and work up. Remember: You can be fiercely, energetically committed to something without being attached to the result.

Wake Up From the Spell

Investigate your experience of things you cling to — such as pleasant sensations, or certain sights or ideas. Isolate any aspect of this experience and look closely at it in your mind. Ask yourself: Is there real happiness in this (this sight or idea or sound, etc.)? I think you’ll see the answer is always “no.”

Stop Looking for Things to Want

Notice how the mind continually looks for a reward to get, a problem to solve, or a threat to avoid — in other words, something else to cling to. A little of this is OK, but enough already! Bring your attention back to the present moment, to this activity, this conversation, this breath. This will pull you back into now, the only time we are truly happy.

Open Your Heart

As clinging recedes, let love move in. Look for small everyday expressions, such as a kind word here and gentle touch there. As you cling less, it’s natural to lighten up, stay out of quarrels, have more compassion, put things in perspective, and forgive. As you let experiences flow through you without clinging to past or future, you’ll feel more fed by the richness inherent in the present, which makes the heart overflow.

Love in all its forms large and small crowds out clinging, which brings more love in a wonderfully positive cycle.


Rick Hanson, Ph.D., is a neuropsychologist and author of Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom (in 22 languages) and Just One Thing: Developing a Buddha Brain One Simple Practice at a Time (in 9 languages). Founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom and Affiliate of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, he’s been an invited speaker at Oxford, Stanford, and Harvard, and taught in meditation centers worldwide. His work has been featured on the BBC, NPR, FoxBusiness, Consumer Reports Health, U.S. News and World Report, and O Magazine and he has several audio programs with Sounds True. His weekly e-newsletter – Just One Thing – has over 40,000 subscribers, and also appears on Huffington Post, Psychology Today, and other major websites.

For more information, please see his full profile at

Meditation: Soul’s Freedom & Bellow’s Breath

By body mind spirit, Breath, Conscious, Conscious Living, Podcasts, Spiritual Intelligence, Super Conscious No Comments

by Alan aAvidson

Meditation Talk: Your Soul’s Freedom + Meditation: Bellow’s Breath and Presence

I lead a weekly meditation at OutSmart Magazine. My bud Greg Jeu invites all his employees and anyone else who wanders in to sit with us.
Greg and I have sat in this meditation circle for sixteen plus years now. Our little group gives
me the chance to riff on my latest insights and research in the spiritual life.
Last week I gave a “festive” talk on Your Soul’s Freedom. Followed by a Bellows Breath exercise and Presence meditation.
The Bellows Breath is an excellent way to shift your energy and your mindset really fast. It really kicks up the chi…and relaxes the mind.
I thought you might enjoy listening in so here it is…
Let me know what you think, how you feel, what you shift. Please leave me a comment below…

Sacred Sex: I Sing the Body Electric

By Conscious Living, Health & Wellbeing, Sacrad Sex 4 Comments

by Alan Davidson

I sing the body electric: In a room high above SMU, serenaded by Donna Summer, I discovered a whole different way to be sexual … and to be myself.

I lift my head up to look around the room and think, “This is decidedly weird.”

I Sing the Body Electric

I’m in an old hotel ballroom, in downtown Dallas, with 21 other men, giving and receiving Taoist Erotic genital massage. Then an intense wave of sensation undulates from my groin, obliterates my ability to think of such mundane things, and I relax once again into the massage. The ministrations of my masseur, the intense breathing techniques, and the music combine to create a sustained level of pleasure I never imagined possible. The music fades. The leader calls for the masseurs to move to the next table. New hands caress my body and the first strains of Donna Summer’s I Feel Love pound through the speakers. I smile, remembering the fun of dancing to this song in the ’70s. With a flash I gain a moment of insight. Ms. Summer is not just singing about the thrill of being gay as I had imagined, or “hot sex;” which was most of my priority during those times. Suddenly that ’70s classic is saying so much more to me; it includes the love I feel now, on this table, vibrating with pleasure. It reminds me that conscious sex includes a love that dissolves shame and fear and instills courage and pleasure. In the immortal words of the beloved teacher from Kung Fu, “Ah, So! Grasshopper.” This is what sacred sex can be.

Western religions teach us that our bodies are the source of sin. They teach us that celibacy is the only path to God and that sex outside of marriage is a one-way ticket to hell. (Well, what if all the fornicators who have ever lived are in hell? Maybe there’s a wing just for gays and lesbians. It could be a fun place to spend a couple of millennia….). Fortunately Eastern religions hold a broader concept about sex and spirituality. They teach that sex, when used properly, can be one of the most dynamic paths to God. Why wait for hell, live now!

The mystical traditions recognize that sexual energy can be a potent source of spiritual energy. The kaballists have their sex magic. The erotic rituals of a sect of Chinese Taoism cultivate transformative energies which are used for great benefits for self and community healing. The East Indians and Tibetans have Tantra. Tantra, which gave us the Kama Sutra, is the art and science of cultivating sexual energy and directing it to spiritual transformation.

Tantric philosophy brought us the chakra system and a universe dripping with love

Deepak Chopra says, “Tantra is the closest you can get to magic or alchemy or transmutation. Tantric rituals are basically spiritual disciplines that allow you to trap and transform power. When properly understood, Tantra is one of the most dynamic and consistent paths to enlightenment. Of course, sexuality is a component of it. Tantra acknowledges that sexual energy is the most powerful energy in the universe because it is the creative energy in the universe.”

I believe exploring the concepts and practices of erotic rituals are important for Westerners. We have a deep sexual wounding from our Judeo-Christian heritage. Our sexual natures were first denied when Adam and Eve “saw their nakedness” and were evicted from the Garden of Eden. Original sin is the philosophical and psychological wedge that denies us the pleasures and experiences of our physical bodies. Healing erotic rituals allow us to experience our bodies as sacred, to experience sexual energy as the cosmic creative gift that it is.

I am standing in a circle of men. This is my first Body Electric seminar. I am anxious about what this weekend will hold. I know soon we’ll all be naked and that at some point I’ll be giving a complete stranger a genital massage. Not that that’s never happened before. Just not in broad daylight, in a room full of other men overlooking SMU. (That’s a cosmic joke in itself which gives me great amusement). I had heard of the Body Electric School before. It’s based in California and offers sex-positive experiences for men who love men and women who love women-as well as for some especially brave straight people. They offer a variety of weekend seminars and longer retreats which facilitate sexual healing, intimacy, and exploring a variety of erotic pleasures.

With my own fears and insecurities about my body and sexual performance, I discounted the Body Electric School. Years passed while I explored other spiritual practices and slowly matured emotionally. I practiced Tai Chi, chanted the OM, discovered yoga and insight meditation. I went from being bartender at Rich’s to becoming a massage therapist and teacher. As a massage therapist I am fascinated by the subtle physical energies that animate the grosser tissues of the body. I explored reflexology, polarity therapy, and deep-tissue somatic massage, which all have a spiritual component. However; my dream of a committed, intimate, sexually potent, life-changing relationship still eluded me. I had studied Tantra, but not practiced it. I was feeling inadequate about my sexual skills. My friend David called to share his own extraordinary experience with Body Electric. He assured me I’d love it. The emotional and psychological payoff (not to mention sexual payoff) of the class was well worth the risks he’d taken. I remember David as one of the more sexually modest members of our old group. If he could do it, I knew I could too. Insecurities be damned.

As the workshop unfolds I realize something quickly. This weekend is more about intimacy than sex. I have spent years moving through spiritual communities learning about intimacy. Much to my regret I rarely found much emotional depth with other gay men. The Body Electric work emphasizes connection over technique. And there are great techniques. John, our seminar leader, explains the penis is the part of a man’s body which “gets the most amount of massage with the least amount of imagination.” There are opportunities to reveal ourselves and to share; to look deeply into the eyes of other men … or not. The thing I notice is the respect that each man is given. No matter where a man’s at physically, emotionally, sexually, mentally, or spiritually, he is honored. There is a constant celebration of the male body and we are encouraged to embrace our erotic selves. For all my insecurities over the shape of my body or the size of my genitals I have never felt more welcome in a group of gay men. That is a gift I will take to my grave.

Presence: Be Here Now!

A primary key in Tantra is the ability to be present with your partner; to focus with eye contact, to match the rhythms of the breath, or meditate together. Tantra also teaches the importance of mastering the orgasm. Women have four levels of orgasm: the clitoral orgasm, the vaginal orgasm, multiple orgasms, and the amrita, or divine nectar. Men are taught to master ejaculation. Rather than lose their sexual energy out through the penis, the orgasm is directed up the spine through the energy centers of the body (called chakras in Tantra). Thus men become capable of multiple or “full body orgasms.” As a friend recently observed, “If both partners are capable of multiple orgasms, how do you know when to stop?” What a dilemma.

Tantric rituals are most effective in committed long-term relationships. The defenses and barriers of our personality are healed in the safety, intensity, and intimacy of our primary relationships. My friend Sean Michael used to say, “Intimacy means Into-Me- See.” Keith Hennessy, a San Francisco-based performance artist and spiritual teacher, defines intimacy as, “The ability to be naked with another person and relax. Naked in all its connotations.” I explain intimacy as an undefended encounter between two or more individuals. Each of these describe the expression of a self without the armor of defenses, the vulnerability of just being with another person.

Trust is necessary to create a level of intimacy. I was having coffee at Starbuck’s with my friend Joe the other day. He jokingly asked me for my definition of trust. I didn’t readily have one. After some soul searching and contemplation, I came up with this: If I trust you, it means I’ve put my confidence in you, relying on your character, your strength, your truth. I believe trust is earned and sustained over time. There are levels of trust, as with trusting someone with my respect, my home, my dog, my money, my life, my heart. I also come back to something Keith Hennessy said about trusting in relationships. “Once I determine that the other person is not a psychopath or going to overtly abuse me, the emphasis of trust changes from them back to me. It’s not an issue of whether I can trust them, but can I trust myself enough to take care of me in the relationship.”

Once trust and intimacy are established, commitment is needed for that maximum healing. Especially with the intensity that tantric relationships generate. Commitment is needed to create the container that allows for all the personality defenses, or character armor, to present themselves (and they do!). Character armor is the defenses we habitually use to protect ourselves from being hurt. For example, when I feel vulnerable I may try to cling or grasp onto my partner for reassurance. In the brilliant way that the world works, I generally choose partners who feel smothered by that clinging and they retreat. Which usually creates a spiral of more grasping and retreating. A solid commitment and good dialogue skills can diffuse that spiral and allow real healing to begin. Dissolving those defenses does create more safety and vulnerability, which is the true measure of spiritual strength. Mastering erotic energy has two primary results. In the art of lovemaking it creates ecstatic satisfaction. It also generates intense energy for healing on all levels of body, mind, and spirit.

As a teacher and a professional body-worker, I think it wise to add: Spiritual and body-centered transformation is a personal journey The practices that involve a teacher, therapist, or facilitator are not to be used for cultivating sexual energy. Healthy, consensual sex is defined as sex between two individuals who share an equal balance of power. This excludes professional relationships such as doctor/patient (or psychotherapist/patient), lawyer/client, or teachers/student. Sex between a professional and his or her client is abusive. Erotic rituals invoke powerful energetic experiences. Utilized unconsciously they can hurt relationships and spiritual evolution.

It is the final afternoon of the weekend workshop. For the past two hours I have received erotic massage from six masseurs. I have breathed, thrashed, shuddered, moaned, and sighed. After 40 years I have experienced myself in a totally different and unique way. I am also delirious from the session. The music fades and John leads us in a minute of deep rhythmic breathing, then three deep breaths followed by a sound. We are instructed to begin the Big Draw which directs the accumulated erotic energy throughout the body. I tighten all my muscles, including my breath, and hold them as long as I can. I finally collapse onto the table. I am wrapped in the sheet from the table which gives me the sense of being shrouded. A stream of total relaxation spreads from my belly, through my legs and arms, and to my mind. I continue to breathe as the first strains of The Mission soundtrack begin. It is a most beautiful piece of music and one of my favorites. The next thing I realize is that my consciousness is floating above the massage table. I’m looking down on my body. I’m having an out-of-body experience. I am peculiarly comfortable with this event. I feel perfectly right with the world and my place in it. I am once again reminded that conscious sex, intimacy, and connectedness make something else possible: a way of being human that transcends the limitations I often place on myself. For a rare moment I feel free! Ah, So! Grasshopper. So this is sacred sex.

Started by gay sexual pioneer Joseph Kramer, Body Electric is based in Oakland. For more information and a complete calandar of workshops, their contact information is:


By body mind spirit, Breath, Classes & Seminars, Conscious Living, Emotional Intelligence, Fun and Fabulous No Comments

Brilliant Heart, Still Mind
Live-Event with Alan Davidson

Friday evening, Saturday, and Sunday – November 16, 17, 18
Houston, Texas

  • Emotional Brilliance – Transcend poisonous emotions and toxic beliefs
  • The destructive emotions in each of the chakras.
  • Resilience – Rebound from stress and drama
  • Master your Five Vital Intelligences: physical, emotional, mental, moral, and spiritual
  • The neuoscience of Spiritual Wisdom
  • Pure Being – meditate in exquisite stillness
  • The SIX essential meditative states

Guest Faculty:

Helen Terry, world class Nia Trainer – conscious movement, embodying change
Tristan Truscott – co-founder of the Satori Method – Chi Qong and breathing
Katherine Moyer – Advanced PSYCH-K trainer and Energy Medicine practitioner – Test your vibrational scale

Price today – $297

After October 1st, 2012 – $397

Brene Brown: The power of vulnerability

By Conscious Living, Emotional Intelligence, Fun and Fabulous, Health & Wellbeing, Spiritual Intelligence No Comments

Brene Brown studies human connection — our ability to empathize, belong, love. In a poignant, funny talk at TEDxHouston, she shares a deep insight from her research, one that sent her on a personal quest to know herself as well as to understand humanity. A talk to share.

From Brene’s new book…The phrase Daring Greatly is from Theodore Roosevelt’s speech, Citizenship in a Republic. This is the passage that made the speech famous:”It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again,

because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;

who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly . . .”

The first time I read this quote, I thought, “This is vulnerability. Everything I’ve learned from over a decade of research on vulnerability has taught me this exact lesson. Vulnerability is not knowing victory or defeat, it’s understanding the necessity of both; it’s engaging. It’s being all in.”

Vulnerability is not weakness, and the uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional. Our only choice is a question of engagement.

Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose.

When we spend our lives waiting until we’re perfect or bulletproof before we walk into the arena we ultimately sacrifice relationships and opportunities that may not be recoverable, we squander our precious time, and we turn our backs on our gifts, those unique contributions that only we can make.

Perfect and bulletproof are seductive, but they don’t exist in the human experience. We must walk into the arena, whatever it may be – a new relationship, an important meeting, our creative process, or a difficult family conversation – with courage and the willingness to engage. Rather than sitting on the sidelines and hurling judgment and advice, we must dare to show up and let ourselves be seen. This is vulnerability. This is daring greatly.

Brene Brown: Daring Greatly and Being Vulnerable