Sunday, September 17, 2017

How 'Free' is Free Will?

Sunday September 24, we will meet at my office at 46 Riverside Drive in Binghamton at 2 pm for 15 minutes of silent meditation followed by a discussion of the concept of free will. We are taught to believe that we actively and consciously make decisions about our behavior. Since we decide what to do and not do, we are also responsible for our choices. A corollary belief is that we deserve to be punished for our ‘bad’ decisions and praised for our ‘good’ decisions. All religions have some version of the Christian notion of sin deeply imbedded in their core belief systems. In both the Old and New Testaments of the Christian Bible, there is frequent discussion of the painful results of sin. The God of the Old Testament is a frightening character indeed.

For the usual concept of sin to make any sense, there must be free will. There is an underlying assumption that we could make the ‘right’ decision or choice if only we would. If we don’t or won’t make the ‘right’ choice, then we must suffer the consequences. However, what does free will really mean? Recent scientific studies in neuroscience raise doubt about our ordinary ideas of free will. We will discuss several scientific articles which call into question the nature of free will, and consider the ramifications of a revised understanding of just how free we are to make our own choices.
 A quotation from the article referenced below: 

"There has been a long controversy as to whether subjectively ‘free’ decisions are determined by brain activity ahead of time. We found that the outcome of a decision can be encoded in brain activity of prefrontal and parietal cortex up to 10 s before it enters awareness. This delay presumably reflects the operation of a network of high-level control areas that begin to prepare an upcoming decision long before it enters awareness." 

Assuming this experimental finding is accurate, what does it mean for the concept of free will?

If you are interested in attending the talk this Sunday, please RSVP as space is limited. 
Below is one scientific article that will be considered in this talk.

Unconscious determinants of free decisions in the human brainNATURE NEUROSCIENCE VOLUME 11, NUMBER 5, MAY 2008. Chun Siong Soon, Marcel Brass, Hans-Jochen Heinze & John-Dylan Haynes.




Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Video link to last Sunday's talk

Here is a link to the video of today's talk. We have mastered making my voice understandable, but are still working on making it possible to hear questions and comments from the audience. It is unedited, and includes 15 minutes at the beginning of silent meditation. If you are interested in watching the talk, you might want to skip to 15'30". https://www.facebook.com/MichaelHallPhD/

Below are the books, in addition to the Bible, that I mentioned:

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth 

 Reza Aslan

 .

Resurrecting Jesus: Embodying the Spirit of a Revolutionary Mystic 

Adyashanti

Putting on the Mind of Christ: The Inner Work of Christian Spirituality

Jim Marion and Ken Wilber

The Gospel of Mary Magdalene

Jean-Yves Leloup and Joseph Rowe

The Gospel of Thomas: The Hidden Sayings of Jesus

Marvin W. Meyer and Harold Bloom

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Jesus Wisdom Transmission

Sunday August 20 we will meet at my office in Binghamton at 2 pm for 15 minutes of silent meditation followed by a discussion focused on several passages in the New Testament. We will particularly consider passages where Jesus makes clear that there are different teachings for different people. He says in 1 Corinthians 6 that he "speaks a message of wisdom among the mature". To what wisdom does he refer? To whom does he teach this higher level of wisdom/knowledge/understanding? How do we prepare ourselves to be a fertile ground to receive this wisdom transmission? In all of the wisdom traditions that I know something about, different teachings are provided depending on the level of consciousness of the student. Shakyamuni Buddha specifically instructs his monks to not discuss the concept of emptiness or the void with those who are not monastics. There are very good reasons for this instruction. Monastics spend full time steeped in these teachings as well as intense and continuous spiritual practice. They are somewhat prepared for such radical teachings that can immediately deconstruct one's ordinary understanding about life. Seeing the truth directly in a flash can be profoundly destabilizing for someone completely unprepared, with no background of disciplined spiritual practice and study. We see what happened to Saul when he met Jesus in a vision. His entire life was immediately  turned inside out. Teachings that are far above the heads of the listeners leads to irritation, incomprehension, and turning off. The resulting frustration could impede one's serious pursuit of more comprehensible teachings, and interfere with their spiritual growth. In today's talk we will explore the possible message that Jesus reserves for the spiritually mature. 

Another fascinating aspect of Jesus' teaching is the recognition of how completely uncomprehending his disciples are of his core teaching. This is especially true when we remember that these were men hand picked by Jesus, who spent full time with him, basking in his presence. The simple truth is that a direct, clear comprehension of this wisdom is very difficult, as Jesus repeatedly states. The crucial question is: How do we develop the ears to hear and the eyes to see?

If you are interested in attending the talk this Sunday, please RSVP as space is limited. I don't intend to stream on Facebook as we are still working out audio issues.

Below are a few of the passages we will investigate.

1 Corinthians 2:6-16


God’s Wisdom Revealed by the Spirit

We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written:
“What no eye has seen,
    what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”—
    the things God has prepared for those who love him—
10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us.13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.[ 14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness,and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments,16 for,
“Who has known the mind of the Lord
    so as to instruct him?”
But we have the mind of Christ.


Mark 4: 9-12


Then Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”
10 When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. 11 He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables 12 so that,
“‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving,
    and ever hearing but never understanding;
otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’”

Matthew 13:34-35


34 Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable. 35 So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet:
“I will open my mouth in parables,
    I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.”





Saturday, July 8, 2017

Must You Lose Everything to be Reborn in the Spirit? The Story of the Prodigal Son

Sunday July 9, we will meet at my office in Binghamton at 2 pm for 15 minutes of silent meditation followed by a discussion of the topic: Must You Lose Everything to be Reborn in the Spirit? The Story of the Prodigal Son. We will use the Biblical story of The Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) as a touchstone as we consider what must be lost to find who and what we are. Here is a link to one version of the story: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=luke+15%3A11-32&version=NI. The most powerful and moving lines of the story to me are the last ones: "But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found." What does it mean to be lost, and then found? What does it feel like? Reading the story, do you identify with the Father, the son or the brother? Don't we all possess qualities of each?  The story says the Prodigal "came to his senses". What does this mean, and how do we do come to our senses? 

If you are interested in attending the talk this Sunday, please RSVP as space is limited. Suggested donation is $20. 

Matt LaBarre of Evolving Binghamton has graciously agreed to manage videotaping this talk and streaming it live on Facebook from Evolving Binghamton's home page: https://www.facebook.com/evolvebing/. If you would like to attend but cannot come in person, please join us on Facebook. We offered the last talk at the end of February in this manner, and had a good response despite a few technical difficulties. The primary problem was the audio, which hopefully has been largely fixed by upgrading the audio card in my computer and upgrading the webcam. It will be possible for those watching on the internet to write in questions. I would appreciate hearing from you if you intend to watch online so we have some idea of how many people to expect. I would also welcome any feedback afterwards about ways we can improve this medium.


www.facebook.com
Endwell, New York. Expanding consciousness through community and education in Greater Binghamton.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Public person site on Facebook

After much encouragement from a few friends, I have decided to activate a "public person" account on Facebook, which can be accessed here: https://www.facebook.com/MichaelHallPhD/. This Facebook page as well as the blog you are currently reading will be where I announce upcoming talks as well as other teaching activities. My website: http://www.waybeyondpsychotherapy.com/ has been neglected almost from birth. I will be taking it down in the near future for a complete update and revision. I have posted an edited version of my talk in Binghamton on February 28, 2017 to the Facebook page. When this talk was streamed live on Facebook, the audio was minimally adequate and required too much of listeners. Since then I have upgraded my video cam and installed a much improved sound card in the office computer I used. Based on a few test calls, I believe future Facebook streaming talks from Binghamton will be much improved from a technical perspective. Interestingly, it was relatively easy to greatly improve the audio quality of the recorded talk using Final Cut Pro, which Margot Ridler: http://www.margotridler.com/ is laboriously teaching me. She learned it in the same manner from old friend Richard Miller: http://www.nevernothere.com/richard-j-miller. Thanks Margot and Richard!

I particularly want to thank Matt La Barre: https://www.facebook.com/evolvebing/and Katie Edwards Corbin: https://www.facebook.com/COBwellness/ for encouraging me to make this work more widely available. Many people locally in the Binghamton/Ithaca, New York area, as well as around the United States and Europe have expressed interest for years in being able to access these talks either live or after the fact via video streaming. While I was working in my psychotherapy practice on a full time basis, it was practically impossible to accommodate these requests. Now that my workload has been substantially reduced, I would like to make current and past talks available to whomever is interested. This will take some time and is a labor intensive project. Currently, it is possible to see a few previous talks of mine and several other teachers on my Vimeo page: https://vimeo.com/michaelhallphd.Thanks to everyone who has contributed to this emergence in ways seen and unseen. God bless us all everyone!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Noticing and returning


Michael Hall
February 26, 2017

“In going and returning I never leave home”.
Master Hakuin’s Chant in Praise of Zazen

What does it mean to “never leave home”? Life happens, changes occur, the unexpected and unforeseen become normal. All around us, our carefully constructed life as we know it appears threatened. In the face of the unknown, how do we react? Although continuous change is the very nature of existence, there is simultaneously a ground of being that is rock solid, impervious, unaffected. Its nature is our nature-calm, present, open, curious, receptive. Now this, just as it is. Can we embrace all of this, every last drop, leaving nothing out? Who is it, really, that picks and chooses? Why would we think and believe deeply that our minds know what is best? It is only our minds, which aren’t really ours, that imagine a different this would somehow be better, more appropriate. These minds we know to be conditioned, programmed, constructed. Isn’t an essential aspect of the spiritual path to gradually let go of our addiction to our thoughts and beliefs? The more attached we are to being right the more trouble we will experience in life. It’s that simple. When distressed by some event which hasn’t turned out the way we wanted, can we return to the mind that doesn’t know? Can we wait and see, allowing life to have its way with us? What would that feel like? Not knowing is the greatest blessing. What a relief to sink deeply into this present moment, exactly as it is, needing nothing to be different.
It’s a sometimes comforting fantasy to assume we know what is best. All spiritual paths stress the importance of surrender. “Not my will but thy will be done”. Understanding the nature of surrender is the challenge. It is our perceived sense of separation that makes acceptance of what is so difficult. The belief in separation has a corollary-the belief in the need to be in control. These assumptions and beliefs need to be brought into full awareness and seen directly. They cause us so much difficulty. Yet even in deep acceptance and surrender, there is ‘coming and going’. When life itself encourages action, then action occurs, freely. The action encouraged by life usually is engagement from the perspective of not knowing. The appearance of such action is loving kindness, empathy, and compassion. In the face of this genuine goodwill, the ‘other’ relaxes, let’s their guard down, as it is human nature to want to be seen and understood. It seems the compassionate perspective is required to bridge the perception of separation.  It appears to me that real compassion only emerges from not knowing. If we really believe we are right and the other is wrong, there is no basis to begin. Suspend belief, and let life show you the way.

It is enormously important to remember to notice our inner experiences. When we notice that we have lost our ground, we need to remember what it feels like to be present and open. Normally, when we lose our solid footing we double down on our attachment to belief. This is the time to let go, accept that you really don’t know, and allow life to show you what is currently not being seen clearly. None of us see clearly all the time. We all are capable of being triggered when we perceive challenge or threat. Our goal is to remember to pay attention and be as honest as possible with our self. Notice-stop, breathe, allow, let go. You really don’t know. It’s ok to not know. Not knowing is your true nature. The mind that knows is closed, rigid, defensive. Allow yourself to not know. It’s ok. Maybe you can learn something! In this open allowing exists the possibility of returning to the ground of being. Welcoming everything, rejecting  nothing. 

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Tomorrow we will meet at my office in Binghamton at 2 pm for 15 minutes of silent meditation followed by a discussion of how to stay grounded in the midst of stress, fear, anger, trauma, chaos, and grief. When something difficult and upsetting happens, we tend to ricochet like a pinball between these emotions and experiences. How do we maintain our perspective, especially when those around us are clearly losing theirs? How do we remain grounded in reality, fluid, and open to being present when the world around us seems to be going up in flames? The temptation is to overreact and become part of the problem instead of part of the solution. Yet all of us on a spiritual search have at some level a commitment to assist all who suffer. Of course, if we are currently unmoored, it is impossible to be of any real assistance to anyone else. It is essential to have knowledge and methods that work to recognize that we have lost our own stable ground, and to enable us to return to a calm and playful presence. There are many ways of noticing and returning, and we will discuss some of these methods in this talk.
Although the in person talk tomorrow is full there is a way to participate with us on Sunday if you have a Facebook account. I will be broadcasting the talk live through the Facebook page below.

www.facebook.com
Evolving Binghamton, Endwell, New York. 66 likes. Expanding consciousness through community and education in Greater Binghamton.
This link is to Evolving Binghamton's page. A newly emerging digital resource/directory that I am experimenting with using. If you "like" the page you will be informed of when we go live. Or you can go to the page directly 15 minutes prior to the broadcast.

A Facebook account will be required to view the live stream. After the event, if the video records well I will share a link that can be viewed without a Facebook account. The video will be shared on the Evolving Binghamton main page: www.evolvebing.com as well as my Vimeo page: https://vimeo.com/michaelhallphd
vimeo.com
Michael Hall PhD is a member of Vimeo, the home for high quality videos and the people who love them.

www.evolvebing.com
Up until recently, an individual’s spiritual practice (or lack thereof) was largely determined by his family line. When a child is brought into this world, it has ...
There will be no charge for this live stream but being a new medium I cannot guarantee it will be effective. I hope to experiment with more digital offerings from Florida in the weeks to come and will send out more information on them when they've materialized.

Matthew LaBarre has offered to help me with this. He can be reached through Evolving Binghamton at info@evolvebing.com for additional information and support with the broadcasting.

Michael

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Hail to the Chief?


I was beginning to wonder if Donald Trump was an agent of the KGB (FSB), given his penchant to rationalize the Russians’ successful attempt to undermine our presidential election, his massive denial of the profusely documented Russian invasion of the Ukraine, and his love affair with Vladimir Putin. The Russians, who are still fighting the Cold War while we blithely pretend it is over, look for weak leaders they can easily control. Trump fills the bill perfectly. Therefore, KGB General and Russian leader Vladimir Putin did his best to make certain Trump won the presidency. He succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. Putin knew Russian spy agencies would have no ability to manage Hillary Clinton. If you were a spy working for the FSB, who would you rather have as US president? As a Russian intelligence agent, would you prefer someone you absolutely know from 30 years of experience to be an extremely tough nut like our former Secretary of State, or a loose cannon screwball know nothing like our new president? Putin has known for a long time that all that he must do is praise Trump and he becomes mush-putty in the hands of the master manipulators of the Russian spy service.    
     
 However, given the new revelations of the secret and explosive dossier the Russians compiled on Trump, there is no doubt that Trump is merely a dupe, an unwitting agent of the Russians- not an actual operative. It now appears the Russians have compiled enough damning information on Trump to insure he will continue to comply with their foreign policy objectives. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Isocrates on Democracy

Musing on our President-elect and some of his supporters, I came upon this quote from Isocrates in Boomerang by Michael Lewis: "Democracy destroys itself because it abuses its right to freedom and equality. Because it teaches its citizens to consider audacity as a right, lawlessness as a freedom, abrasive speech as equality, and anarchy as progress."

Monday, October 24, 2016

Infamous Stringdusters in Ithaca

My son Andy and his band The Infamous Stringdusters will be playing at the Haunt in Ithaca November 16. Here is a link to the site to purchase tickets: https://events.applauze.com/events/3189427 
Dusters backing up Ryan Adams on the Late Show: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FYFrhnWy5DU

Here is a link to Andy singing lead on the Grateful Dead's tune Scarlet Begonias backed up by long time Dead bass player Phil Lesh and Phish's Page McConnell & Jon Fishman at Phil's Lockn' music festival August 27, 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jhFhTCNxDlY&list=RDjhFhTCNxDlY#t=65

The following link is to a set the Duster's played at the same festival with Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks and Joe Russo on Sugaree. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y62dFmUObnA&index=2&list=RDjhFhTCNxDlY. Andy has a solo and Dusters playing with some serious blues greats.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Constellation Work Discussion Sunday October 16

Sunday October 16 we will meet at my office in Binghamton at 2 pm for 15 minutes of silent meditation followed by a discussion of my current understanding of Constellation Work. I have seen many examples of how helpful this process as conducted by Margot Ridler has been with long standing psychological issues, in both others and myself. It provides a unique method of identifying, accessing, and resolving issues that may seem intractable. I am also very curious about this method, especially as practiced by Margot, in facilitating the awakening process. We will explore these issues next Sunday. Margot will be joining us for this session via Skype from Florida. It is not necessary to have experienced Constellation Work to attend, as I will describe the method and rationale in depth for those who are not familiar with it.
Below is a link to an interesting article published in a recent issue of The New Yorker magazine, which gives a good overview of this work from the perspective of an interested but naïve observer.
I would also encourage those who are interested to check out Margot’s revised website, which conveys her unique perspective on Constellation Work: http://www.margotridler.com/
Here is a link to a page on Margot's website, which includes several video clips of me describing my understanding of Constellation Work several years ago:http://www.margotridler.com/v-const-intro.html
If you would like to attend the talk this Sunday, please RSVP as space is limited. Suggested donation is $20.




Retirement

Below is a description of my impending retirement from my psychotherapy practice. Although intended primarily for current and past clients, I am sending it to my entire email list and posting to my blog. I want to make as many people as possible aware of this change in my work status.
Michael

I have decided to close my private psychological practice effective October 31, 2016. As most of you know, I partially retired over 3 years ago, but discovered then that I wan’t ready to stop completely. For the past few years, I have maintained a part time practice. However, I just turned 70 years old, and that seems like a good time to reduce my work responsibilities further. I have been discussing this topic for at least the last 3-4 years, so I do not think it will be a surprise to anyone. I first arrived in Binghamton in August of 1975 to work as a staff psychologist at the University Counseling Center of Binghamton University. Within a year and a half, I opened a part-time private practice at 46 Riverside Drive, which became full time in 1982. I have grown and learned so much from my years working in our community. I am tremendously grateful to all of you who shared your life’s journey with me. I appreciate your trust and hope I have been helpful to you. Those of you whom I am still seeing in individual psychotherapy will have an opportunity to discuss with me the need for further psychotherapy and possible referral resources. For those of you whom I am not curently seeing, I am available to discuss opportunities for referrals for further psychological work with local psychotherapists as needed.
I am looking forward to continuing to teach, write and especially travel. I will continue to live primarily in Binghamton, and to give talks and workshops locally. Thank you all for your support and kindness over the years.

Michael Hall, PhD

Constellation Work with Margot Ridler November 19 in Binghamton, NY

Below is a description of a day-long Constellation workshop with Margot Ridler November 19. I am delighted Margot has agreed to return to the area to provide this powerful emotional and educational experience. I encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity. I look forward to participating and hope to see you.

Michael

Join us for a full-day of Constellation Work on Saturday, November 19, 2016
at the office of Dr. Michael Hall, Binghamton, NY

Seating is very limited. Please RSVP early!

Constellation Work is a powerful trans-generational healing method with the potential to bring about quick and lasting changes. Constellations often generate release of lifelong restrictive thinking patterns, painful feelings and emotions, as well limiting behaviors that have not responded to regular counselling, therapy or medical treatments. After participating in constellation work, the obtained results are often experienced as miraculous, providing immediately or within a short time much more freedom, peace and ease in one's life.  

Looking at life challenges from a trans-generational viewpoint is very powerful and enlightening and can quickly release difficulties carried for many years. The trans-generational view to individual problems takes a person's entire ancestral lineage into account. Thereby, a much larger scope is taken into consideration from where our life challenges could originate. For instance:

A couple's relationship issues might be linked to a miscarried child they never grieved.
A life threatening illness or reckless behavior may be tied to an unconscious wish to die in order to follow a loved-one into death. 
Feelings of guilt could be connected to our ancestors who might have abused, killed or exploited other people. 
If a child acts out, the behavior is often tied to the disrespect parents feel for one another. 
Chronic anxiety or self-sabotage might be connected to a child that was aborted many years ago. 
....the list of unconscious connections is endless.

For a more in-depth description of Constellation Work, please click here.
Video clip by Dr. Michael Hall about the history and benefits of Constellation Work by click here.
How Constellation Work is beneficial in the spiritual awakening process click here.


It's my pleasure to offer you the opportunity Saturday, November 19 to participate in the magic and power of constellation work. As already mentioned, we have extremely limited seating. Please reserve your space early. We will have time for six people to set up a personal constellation. If you are interested in a personal constellation set up, please email Margot using this email: ReachMargot@gmail.com. Thanks.

Date: Saturday, November 19, 2016
Time: 9 - 6 pm
Location: Binghamton, NY 13905 
Fee includes catered lunch, snacks, tea and coffee
$100 for General participant - No personal constellation set up
$300 Personal Constellation set up (Fee also includes pre-constellation email contact and 30 min. constellation follow-up phone or Skype session)  

Email: Please email Margot directly to this address: ReachMargot@gmail.com
WEBSITEMargotRidler.com

All participants must register. Please email Margot directly to this email address: ReachMargot@gmail.com Thanks!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Opening to Grace

Sunday August 7 we will meet at my office in Binghamton at 2 pm for 15 minutes of silent meditation followed by a discussion of opening to grace. What does it mean to be open to grace? Those who have awakened to their true nature recognize the power and importance of grace. Although it is important and necessary to make our own best efforts, in spiritual awakening the final step is taken by God, as David Hawkins once said. However, we can become more amenable to the workings of grace. In this talk, we will discuss specific ways of approaching life that appear to facilitate our ability and willingness to surrender to grace. We can learn to recognize the actions of the divine in our life and learn to trust and let go of our fears and notions of how life should be. This understanding leads to a gradual and progressive recognition of how limited our beliefs and perceptions are. As we learn to recognize the action of grace in our life, it becomes easier to let go of rigid and defensive beliefs and the need to be right. We lose interest in judging our self and others. Life becomes easier, more natural, with effortless and effective words and actions occurring spontaneously.
This will be the last meeting of the summer. Our next meeting will be in mid-September. If you are interested in attending the talk this Sunday, please RSVP as space is limited.