building muscle

Now this is interesting:

Self-Regulation and Depletion of Limited Resources:  Dose self-control resemble a muscle?
Mark Muraven & Roy Baumeister, Psychological Bulletin (2000) No. 2, 247-259

Abstract: The authors review evidence that self-control may consume a limited resource.  Exerting self-control may consume self-control strength, reducing the amount of strength available for subsequent self-control efforts.  Coping with stress, regulating negative affect, and resisting temptations require self-control, and after such self-control efforts, subsequent attempts at self-control are more likely to fail.  Continuous self-control efforts, such as vigilance, also degrade over time.  These decrements in self-control are probably not due to negative moods or learned helplessness produced by the initial self-control attempt.  These decrements appear to be specific to behaviors that involve self-control: behaviors that do not require self-control neither consume nor require self-control strength.  It is concluded that the executive component of the self- in particular, inhibition – relies on a limited, consumable resource.

So… some situations extract a cost in self-control resources.  If that cost is high, the next event requiring self-control can’t be “purchased.”  More important, not being aware of the cost, I may not gauge accurately my ability to be skillful in engaging with the next event.  Others authors/researchers have talked about mindfulness as a muscle that supports awareness in the service of self-control (not getting hung up here on the self-non-self issue).  In essence, it’s about how seamlessly we can re-set from one exertion to the next and, I think, only practice will strengthen that particular muscle and replenish that well.

Time to log more hours on the cushion.

Thank you for practicing,


is there an app for this?

I’m crunched for time.  In two days we leave for Upaya and the Zen Brain retreat.  It promises to be another intense set of rounds with neuropsychology’s heavy hitters: Al Kazniak, James Austin, Amishi Jha.  Retreat participants received a set of articles via email by many of the  presenters and I’ve muddled through them.  It’s not that the topic is overly difficult; probably the most valuable skill my education gave me was the ability to scan a research paper, get the gist of it, and ear-mark it for future reference if it was applicable.

Now, that’s the sticky point: applicability.  The further I get into practice, the more my romance with research on meditation has faded.  It’s not that I have lost respect for the researchers and philosophers who try ever so hard to connect the practice of mindfulness/meditation to something substantive that may lead to good health via new interventions.  But there you have it: the convolution and expanse in that sentence alone makes me take a deep breath and ask: how is this helping me understand and live Dharma?

Of course, some of these folks – Evan Thompson, John Dunne, Al Kazniak – could expound on the telephone book backwards and I would defend that as Dharma.  But I’m partial to brilliant minds with charming smiles.  Hence my very successful 30-year marriage to He-Who-Tolerates-All-Things-Genju.

After Zen Brain and a three-day excursion around Santa Fe, I dive into the second retreat of the Chaplaincy with Fleet Maull and Jimmy Santiago Baca teaching us to live “Dharma at the Edge.”  Last week, I met with a hospital Chaplain and we discussed the intensity of being with those who are dying.  For two hours we dug into what it means for a family member to not look away from the suffering of a loved one, to make life-and-death decisions on their behalf, and what being a supportive advocate means in that context.  I was infected with her enthusiasm and her commitment to living her livelihood.  I’m glad I met her before I set out on this second phase because I am having a hard time folding aspects of this process into my practice.  Again the question arises: how is this helping me understand and live Dharma?

Yesterday, the answers was to download my garden as an app.  Over the next 10 days, who knows?

Thank you for practicing,