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Re: [Meditation Society of America] The Art of Defying Death

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  • sean tremblay
    I believe that locked within the genetic memory of every human being is the stuff, needed t survive most hostile situations.  Humans have endured many hostile
    Message 1 of 4 , Oct 19, 2009
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      I believe that locked within the genetic memory of every human being is the stuff, needed t survive most hostile situations.  Humans have endured many hostile encounters and every harsh condition and climate on this planet of ours.  Our ancestors have survived deserts jungles and frozen tundra along with the hostile beasts and other humans that go with it.  PTSD within it's context is a let over survival mechanism.  The cortisol spikes leave imprints seared into the memory of dangerous events, so that we we can be alerted in the future to similar events triggered by sights smells and sounds that precipitated the previous event.  I say in context.  But the modern world for most of us is not a daily practice of problem and resolution survival and danger...So the cortisol may spike, without resolution only to spike again by similar triggers with no real problem to be resolved in a flight or fight scenario.  So many find a damaging build up of fight or flight chemicals within he body also effecting mind and spirit.  But the Author brilliantly descries the resilience of the human being confronted with danger. That combined with our thumb has been the key to our success as a species.
      PS. glad to hear she made it through ok

      --- On Sun, 10/18/09, medit8ionsociety <no_reply@yahoogroups.com> wrote:

      From: medit8ionsociety <no_reply@yahoogroups.com>
      Subject: [Meditation Society of America] The Art of Defying Death
      To: meditationsocietyofamerica@yahoogroups.com
      Date: Sunday, October 18, 2009, 5:45 PM

       

      The Art of Defying Death
      By Elizabeth Kadetsky
      From theNew York Times 10/18/09
      On a misty spring night in 2005, I approached my
      apartment, on a tony block on the Upper West
      Side facing the Hudson. I felt relaxed and calm.
      Earlier that day I had attended a yoga workshop
      with a guru from India, then completed a writing
      assignment for a health and spirituality magazine
      about, as it happened, instinct — or antar-jñana,
      inner knowledge. I opened the outer door to my
      vestibule, then crossed through its inner door
      and into my lobby, leaving my back to the entrance.
      I got a prickly feeling, I don't know why. I turned.
      There I saw, pushing open the inner door, an
      ink-black, gloved hand, exaggeratedly large,
      controlled and deliberate. It charged toward me.
      It was trailed by a body, the picture of death.

      It is difficult for me to render the horror of
      the image of that man entering my building lobby
      that night, so great is the disparity between
      its emotional charge for me now and the stereotypical,
      almost comical picture he presented. He was a
      figment from a nightmare. I guessed his height
      and weight at 6'3" and 230 pounds, with the
      physicality of a boxer. The cops later told me
      that was right. His clothes were dark and
      innocuous — clean black jeans, black sneakers,
      a midnight-blue hoodie — as if chosen to leave no
      impression whatsoever. In contrast, on his face
      was a neoprene thermal ski mask, the type that
      tents in front to create a ridge and thus evokes
      to most anyone who's heard of him Darth Vader.
      I later discovered while searching on Google that
      this type of mask is favored by shoppers also
      enamored of vigilante-style military clothing
      and toy AK-47s — in other words it is meant to
      provoke a reaction. Of the figure's actual face
      I saw only slit-shaped, yellowed eyes and a
      broad, acned, coal-black forehead.

      This image seared in my mind, and somehow,
      thinking without thinking, I reminded myself
      to keep hold of it. Yoga's mental training,
      it is said, enables the yogi to "act at once…
      not stopping to think." I felt superhuman,
      unburdened by the back-and-forth of everyday
      deliberation, in possession of ekagra —
      single-pointed — concentration.

      In a half-second, I seemed to recall everything
      important I had learned in 20 years of practicing
      yoga. I remembered the feeling of command — of
      flexibility and control. I remembered the words
      of a writer on instinct I'd cited in the article
      I'd just written, Malcolm Gladwell: "Take charge
      of the first two seconds." And I remembered a
      women's self-defense course I took in college
      20 years before, and practice we'd done screaming
      with every bit of might in our bodies. This was a physical scream, performed with the same degree of exertion that, as it happened, we held our yoga poses.

      But in truth, unfortunately, I was not so
      formidable as I'd have liked. The man's weight
      was more than twice mine. My heightened awareness,
      my attuned and trained amanaskata — intellectual
      clarity — was sufficiently developed to give me
      merely the certainty that this man could, and would,
      kill me. Alas, I had not yet acquired those other
      metaphysical powers supposedly at ready call to
      the ancient yogi, or siddhis — to make myself minute
      as an atom, or bulky as an elephant, or isatva:
      supreme over all. I knew only, with crystalline
      sureness, that I had to marshal every bit of force
      in my body and spirit if I wished to survive.

      Then, that palm became a fist, and met my face.
      I heard a loud crack. I was unconscious.
      I came to consciousness on the ground. The man was
      lunging toward me with fists. None of my knowledge
      left me. He intended to kill me. I remembered a
      dream I'd had once in which I'd been in an elevator
      that was plunging to the ground, its cable severed.
      In the dream, I held my breath and clenched
      everywhere, and then stared, hard, at the ceiling.
      I willed the elevator to stop plummeting, and it
      did. The dream felt mystical, more like a vision —
      a premonition, perhaps. Now, I created the same
      sensation in my body as when I stopped the elevator.
      And I executed the scream.

      What happened to me next in that lobby seemed no
      less numinous an experience than the single pointed
      mind-state described by the adepts as Samadhi.
      This is sometimes characterized as "pure awareness."
      The thrill of it is said to be a manifestation
      of spiritual, mental and physical harmony — which
      may be why the medievals called yoga "the art of
      defying death." Tennyson described Samadhi as
      "the clearest of the clearest, the surest of the
      surest, the weirdest of the weirdest, utterly beyond
      words." I was in possession of no less miraculous
      a power than what stopped the elevator in that dream.
      The man paused, mid-punch. As if in reverse motion,
      he then coiled backwards, slowly, his center of
      gravity solid and low. Assured, with graceful
      footsteps, he loped back out that door, and then
      disappeared into the black night.

      I was bloodied, my cheekbone was broken, and
      I was in a state of shock. Eventually the cops,
      and a friend, came, and I learned that an attacker
      by this same description had sent another woman
      for an extended hospital stay, with multiple
      broken ribs and other injuries. She'd taken longer
      before she screamed, they said. The cops
      not-so-helpfully also explained that the man was
      "an animal," his motive violence. He'd been
      stalking women of a certain physical type.

      They never caught him. I moved out from that
      apartment, and moved on, but suffered significant
      emotional trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder.

      I do believe that yoga, and other things, gave me
      the mental clarity that saved my life in that moment.
      And I also believe that my training helped me survive
      in other ways, in the aftermath.

      That night, I finally got to bed around 5 a.m.,
      my friend bunkered on my sofa. I survived, I thought,
      over and over, lying in bed. But when I closed
      my eyes, I saw three things in succession that
      drove home to me how nearly I hadn't: the ink-black
      hand on the door, the neoprene ski mask, and my
      face in the mirror bruised, cut and bloodied. I opened
      my eyes and watched the sky turn rosy pink. I closed
      them, and saw the same three images.

      This pattern continued, with lessening frequency,
      for month upon month. They were a natural, limbic
      response, I learned later: flashbacks. Flashbacks,
      like the Samadhi described by Tennyson, exist
      outside the realm of language and cognition. This,
      say trauma therapists, explains why survivors
      often manifest unresolved memories of trauma in
      non-verbal ways — for instance as inexplicable
      pains in the body or through a dissociative escape
      reflex. Samadhi is mimicked in "moments of spiritual
      or material emergency," wrote Geraldine Coster,
      an influential British yogi and psychotherapist,
      in 1944. Contemporary therapists have noted a tendency
      for survivors to enter that state of "pure awareness"
      so celebrated by the yogis during, and then
      repeatedly after, a trauma. This, they say, can
      become a bad habit. I learned this when, eventually,
      I did go in for counseling for P.T.S.D.

      This paradox has been acknowledged elsewhere.
      A "survivor who used dissociation to cope with
      terror" may eventually learn to use a "trance
      capability" towards otherwise enriching ends, allows
      Judith Herman, a pioneer psychologist in the study
      of trauma, in her seminal book "Trauma and Recovery."

      Before I sought the wisdom of the professionals,
      though, I did jury-rig my own program for managing
      those flashbacks, using techniques of "mental mastery,"
      as it were, that I'd learned in yoga. For instance,
      I tried to recast the images playing in my head,
      sometimes imagining they were moving around physically
      to different parts of my brain. I also inserted into
      the sequence of flashbacks the image of the man's
      miraculous turning and fleeing, and my mystical
      feeling of omnipotence in that moment.

      My therapist later gave these methods a stamp
      of approval. Being able to re-conceive the meaning
      of an assault to one of empowerment versus
      self-blame proves a deciding factor in overcoming
      trauma. "You didn't almost get yourself killed,"
      she said to me. "You saved your life." Recreating
      a narrative also helps a survivor overcome a
      fragmenting of memory that is typical in trauma.
      "It is difficult to see more than a few fragments
      of the picture at one time," writes Herman, "to
      retain all the pieces and to fit them together."
      The sufferer struggles to reconnect disjointed
      visceral and rational memories of the trauma.
      Healing, writes Herman, "involves the active exercise
      of imagination and fantasy." The psychologist Mary
      Harvey includes in her seven-point checklist for the
      resolution of trauma simply to gain "authority"
      over the memories.

      Perhaps every survivor overcomes trauma differently,
      and at a different speed. My flashbacks continued.
      Nightmares catapulting me directly back to that
      horrific episode lasted for years. The dreams
      were often a feeling, of prickly dread, or they
      were more literal, about being trailed on a dark
      street or ambushed in an enclosed space.

      I charted my recovery through the evolution of
      those dreams. Eventually that feeling of palpable
      terror subsided. Once, around the time it did,
      the black figure appeared as a comical-looking,
      blob-like character in a black body-costume; he
      was like one of those actors dressed as a piece
      of licorice in a movie trailer. I told him he
      could remain in my dream as long as he stayed in
      the background and didn't hurt me. He agreed.

      In a dream several months later, the man with
      the mask was sitting in my hallway waiting for
      me to come home, holding the mask in his hand.
      At first when I saw him, I was scared, but when
      I saw his face I also saw that he was human. He
      told me he was struggling with guilt over having
      hurt someone. I tried to imagine if I could
      forgive him.
      ------------ --------- --------- --------- --------- ---
      FAIR USE NOTICE
      This site contains copyrighted material the
      use of which has not always been specifically
      authorized by the copyright owner. We are
      making such material available in our efforts
      to advance understanding of environmental,
      political, human rights, economic, democracy,
      scientific, spiritual, and social justice issues,
      etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use'
      of any such copyrighted material as provided
      for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law.
      In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107,
      the material on this site is distributed
      without profit to those who have expressed a
      prior interest in receiving the included information
      for research and educational purposes. For more
      information go to:
      http://www.law. cornell.edu/ uscode/17/ 107.shtml.
      If you wish to use copyrighted material from this
      site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use',
      you must obtain permission from the copyright owner



    • Papajeff
      Thanks, Bob. This story is as provocative as it is many-layered Reports of pure awareness and Samadhi are typically the result, as least in part, of entering a
      Message 2 of 4 , Oct 19, 2009
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        Thanks, Bob. This story is
        as provocative as it is
        many-layered

        Reports of pure awareness
        and Samadhi are typically
        the result, as least in part,
        of entering a silence, a
        stilling of internal chatter
        an absolute surrender of
        linear thought, and an open
        embrace of whatever will come.

        At first digestion, this
        account of an attack and how
        it was handled doesn't seem
        to fit - when the author tries
        to compare her experience to
        yogic attainment of awakening
        to pure awareness or, but...

        after reading it a second
        time, a recollection of a
        conversation with my wife
        (at the time) came to mind.

        A close if not precise quote
        from her went like this:

        "If someone were to swing
        a baseball bat at you, it
        would stop in mid-air...
        because the idea that anyone
        would do that to you is
        something you would not allow
        into your consciousness."

        When that came to mind, the
        parallel popped up. The author
        of the story stopped the
        attacker in mid-air by refusing
        to allow another blow to be
        struck (in the same way she
        stopped the elevator in her
        dream) by slipping into a pure
        awareness of her own construct.

        She completely surrendered the
        linear rational world to a
        mystical one in which her
        siddhis (mystical powers) came
        to the fore.

        Chill. Very cool, even.

        Jeff

        --- In meditationsocietyofamerica@yahoogroups.com, medit8ionsociety <no_reply@...> wrote:
        >
        > The Art of Defying Death
        > By Elizabeth Kadetsky
        > From theNew York Times 10/18/09
        > On a misty spring night in 2005, I approached my
        > apartment, on a tony block on the Upper West
        > Side facing the Hudson. I felt relaxed and calm.
        > Earlier that day I had attended a yoga workshop
        > with a guru from India, then completed a writing
        > assignment for a health and spirituality magazine
        > about, as it happened, instinct — or antar-jñana,
        > inner knowledge. I opened the outer door to my
        > vestibule, then crossed through its inner door
        > and into my lobby, leaving my back to the entrance.
        > I got a prickly feeling, I don't know why. I turned.
        > There I saw, pushing open the inner door, an
        > ink-black, gloved hand, exaggeratedly large,
        > controlled and deliberate. It charged toward me.
        > It was trailed by a body, the picture of death.
        >
        > It is difficult for me to render the horror of
        > the image of that man entering my building lobby
        > that night, so great is the disparity between
        > its emotional charge for me now and the stereotypical,
        > almost comical picture he presented. He was a
        > figment from a nightmare. I guessed his height
        > and weight at 6'3" and 230 pounds, with the
        > physicality of a boxer. The cops later told me
        > that was right. His clothes were dark and
        > innocuous — clean black jeans, black sneakers,
        > a midnight-blue hoodie — as if chosen to leave no
        > impression whatsoever. In contrast, on his face
        > was a neoprene thermal ski mask, the type that
        > tents in front to create a ridge and thus evokes
        > to most anyone who's heard of him Darth Vader.
        > I later discovered while searching on Google that
        > this type of mask is favored by shoppers also
        > enamored of vigilante-style military clothing
        > and toy AK-47s — in other words it is meant to
        > provoke a reaction. Of the figure's actual face
        > I saw only slit-shaped, yellowed eyes and a
        > broad, acned, coal-black forehead.
        >
        > This image seared in my mind, and somehow,
        > thinking without thinking, I reminded myself
        > to keep hold of it. Yoga's mental training,
        > it is said, enables the yogi to "act at once…
        > not stopping to think." I felt superhuman,
        > unburdened by the back-and-forth of everyday
        > deliberation, in possession of ekagra —
        > single-pointed — concentration.
        >
        > In a half-second, I seemed to recall everything
        > important I had learned in 20 years of practicing
        > yoga. I remembered the feeling of command — of
        > flexibility and control. I remembered the words
        > of a writer on instinct I'd cited in the article
        > I'd just written, Malcolm Gladwell: "Take charge
        > of the first two seconds." And I remembered a
        > women's self-defense course I took in college
        > 20 years before, and practice we'd done screaming
        > with every bit of might in our bodies. This was a physical scream, performed with the same degree of exertion that, as it happened, we held our yoga poses.
        >
        > But in truth, unfortunately, I was not so
        > formidable as I'd have liked. The man's weight
        > was more than twice mine. My heightened awareness,
        > my attuned and trained amanaskata — intellectual
        > clarity — was sufficiently developed to give me
        > merely the certainty that this man could, and would,
        > kill me. Alas, I had not yet acquired those other
        > metaphysical powers supposedly at ready call to
        > the ancient yogi, or siddhis — to make myself minute
        > as an atom, or bulky as an elephant, or isatva:
        > supreme over all. I knew only, with crystalline
        > sureness, that I had to marshal every bit of force
        > in my body and spirit if I wished to survive.
        >
        > Then, that palm became a fist, and met my face.
        > I heard a loud crack. I was unconscious.
        > I came to consciousness on the ground. The man was
        > lunging toward me with fists. None of my knowledge
        > left me. He intended to kill me. I remembered a
        > dream I'd had once in which I'd been in an elevator
        > that was plunging to the ground, its cable severed.
        > In the dream, I held my breath and clenched
        > everywhere, and then stared, hard, at the ceiling.
        > I willed the elevator to stop plummeting, and it
        > did. The dream felt mystical, more like a vision —
        > a premonition, perhaps. Now, I created the same
        > sensation in my body as when I stopped the elevator.
        > And I executed the scream.
        >
        > What happened to me next in that lobby seemed no
        > less numinous an experience than the single pointed
        > mind-state described by the adepts as Samadhi.
        > This is sometimes characterized as "pure awareness."
        > The thrill of it is said to be a manifestation
        > of spiritual, mental and physical harmony — which
        > may be why the medievals called yoga "the art of
        > defying death." Tennyson described Samadhi as
        > "the clearest of the clearest, the surest of the
        > surest, the weirdest of the weirdest, utterly beyond
        > words." I was in possession of no less miraculous
        > a power than what stopped the elevator in that dream.
        > The man paused, mid-punch. As if in reverse motion,
        > he then coiled backwards, slowly, his center of
        > gravity solid and low. Assured, with graceful
        > footsteps, he loped back out that door, and then
        > disappeared into the black night.
        >
        > I was bloodied, my cheekbone was broken, and
        > I was in a state of shock. Eventually the cops,
        > and a friend, came, and I learned that an attacker
        > by this same description had sent another woman
        > for an extended hospital stay, with multiple
        > broken ribs and other injuries. She'd taken longer
        > before she screamed, they said. The cops
        > not-so-helpfully also explained that the man was
        > "an animal," his motive violence. He'd been
        > stalking women of a certain physical type.
        >
        > They never caught him. I moved out from that
        > apartment, and moved on, but suffered significant
        > emotional trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder.
        >
        > I do believe that yoga, and other things, gave me
        > the mental clarity that saved my life in that moment.
        > And I also believe that my training helped me survive
        > in other ways, in the aftermath.
        >
        > That night, I finally got to bed around 5 a.m.,
        > my friend bunkered on my sofa. I survived, I thought,
        > over and over, lying in bed. But when I closed
        > my eyes, I saw three things in succession that
        > drove home to me how nearly I hadn't: the ink-black
        > hand on the door, the neoprene ski mask, and my
        > face in the mirror bruised, cut and bloodied. I opened
        > my eyes and watched the sky turn rosy pink. I closed
        > them, and saw the same three images.
        >
        > This pattern continued, with lessening frequency,
        > for month upon month. They were a natural, limbic
        > response, I learned later: flashbacks. Flashbacks,
        > like the Samadhi described by Tennyson, exist
        > outside the realm of language and cognition. This,
        > say trauma therapists, explains why survivors
        > often manifest unresolved memories of trauma in
        > non-verbal ways — for instance as inexplicable
        > pains in the body or through a dissociative escape
        > reflex. Samadhi is mimicked in "moments of spiritual
        > or material emergency," wrote Geraldine Coster,
        > an influential British yogi and psychotherapist,
        > in 1944. Contemporary therapists have noted a tendency
        > for survivors to enter that state of "pure awareness"
        > so celebrated by the yogis during, and then
        > repeatedly after, a trauma. This, they say, can
        > become a bad habit. I learned this when, eventually,
        > I did go in for counseling for P.T.S.D.
        >
        > This paradox has been acknowledged elsewhere.
        > A "survivor who used dissociation to cope with
        > terror" may eventually learn to use a "trance
        > capability" towards otherwise enriching ends, allows
        > Judith Herman, a pioneer psychologist in the study
        > of trauma, in her seminal book "Trauma and Recovery."
        >
        > Before I sought the wisdom of the professionals,
        > though, I did jury-rig my own program for managing
        > those flashbacks, using techniques of "mental mastery,"
        > as it were, that I'd learned in yoga. For instance,
        > I tried to recast the images playing in my head,
        > sometimes imagining they were moving around physically
        > to different parts of my brain. I also inserted into
        > the sequence of flashbacks the image of the man's
        > miraculous turning and fleeing, and my mystical
        > feeling of omnipotence in that moment.
        >
        > My therapist later gave these methods a stamp
        > of approval. Being able to re-conceive the meaning
        > of an assault to one of empowerment versus
        > self-blame proves a deciding factor in overcoming
        > trauma. "You didn't almost get yourself killed,"
        > she said to me. "You saved your life." Recreating
        > a narrative also helps a survivor overcome a
        > fragmenting of memory that is typical in trauma.
        > "It is difficult to see more than a few fragments
        > of the picture at one time," writes Herman, "to
        > retain all the pieces and to fit them together."
        > The sufferer struggles to reconnect disjointed
        > visceral and rational memories of the trauma.
        > Healing, writes Herman, "involves the active exercise
        > of imagination and fantasy." The psychologist Mary
        > Harvey includes in her seven-point checklist for the
        > resolution of trauma simply to gain "authority"
        > over the memories.
        >
        > Perhaps every survivor overcomes trauma differently,
        > and at a different speed. My flashbacks continued.
        > Nightmares catapulting me directly back to that
        > horrific episode lasted for years. The dreams
        > were often a feeling, of prickly dread, or they
        > were more literal, about being trailed on a dark
        > street or ambushed in an enclosed space.
        >
        > I charted my recovery through the evolution of
        > those dreams. Eventually that feeling of palpable
        > terror subsided. Once, around the time it did,
        > the black figure appeared as a comical-looking,
        > blob-like character in a black body-costume; he
        > was like one of those actors dressed as a piece
        > of licorice in a movie trailer. I told him he
        > could remain in my dream as long as he stayed in
        > the background and didn't hurt me. He agreed.
        >
        > In a dream several months later, the man with
        > the mask was sitting in my hallway waiting for
        > me to come home, holding the mask in his hand.
        > At first when I saw him, I was scared, but when
        > I saw his face I also saw that he was human. He
        > told me he was struggling with guilt over having
        > hurt someone. I tried to imagine if I could
        > forgive him.
        > ---------------------------------------------------
        > FAIR USE NOTICE
        > This site contains copyrighted material the
        > use of which has not always been specifically
        > authorized by the copyright owner. We are
        > making such material available in our efforts
        > to advance understanding of environmental,
        > political, human rights, economic, democracy,
        > scientific, spiritual, and social justice issues,
        > etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use'
        > of any such copyrighted material as provided
        > for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law.
        > In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107,
        > the material on this site is distributed
        > without profit to those who have expressed a
        > prior interest in receiving the included information
        > for research and educational purposes. For more
        > information go to:
        > http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml.
        > If you wish to use copyrighted material from this
        > site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use',
        > you must obtain permission from the copyright owner
        >
      • Papajeff
        The scream was her abracadabra .
        Message 3 of 4 , Oct 19, 2009
        • 0 Attachment
          The scream was her "abracadabra".

          --- In meditationsocietyofamerica@yahoogroups.com, "Papajeff" <jeff@...> wrote:
          >
          > Thanks, Bob. This story is
          > as provocative as it is
          > many-layered
          >
          > Reports of pure awareness
          > and Samadhi are typically
          > the result, as least in part,
          > of entering a silence, a
          > stilling of internal chatter
          > an absolute surrender of
          > linear thought, and an open
          > embrace of whatever will come.
          >
          > At first digestion, this
          > account of an attack and how
          > it was handled doesn't seem
          > to fit - when the author tries
          > to compare her experience to
          > yogic attainment of awakening
          > to pure awareness or, but...
          >
          > after reading it a second
          > time, a recollection of a
          > conversation with my wife
          > (at the time) came to mind.
          >
          > A close if not precise quote
          > from her went like this:
          >
          > "If someone were to swing
          > a baseball bat at you, it
          > would stop in mid-air...
          > because the idea that anyone
          > would do that to you is
          > something you would not allow
          > into your consciousness."
          >
          > When that came to mind, the
          > parallel popped up. The author
          > of the story stopped the
          > attacker in mid-air by refusing
          > to allow another blow to be
          > struck (in the same way she
          > stopped the elevator in her
          > dream) by slipping into a pure
          > awareness of her own construct.
          >
          > She completely surrendered the
          > linear rational world to a
          > mystical one in which her
          > siddhis (mystical powers) came
          > to the fore.
          >
          > Chill. Very cool, even.
          >
          > Jeff
          >
          > --- In meditationsocietyofamerica@yahoogroups.com, medit8ionsociety <no_reply@> wrote:
          > >
          > > The Art of Defying Death
          > > By Elizabeth Kadetsky
          > > From theNew York Times 10/18/09
          > > On a misty spring night in 2005, I approached my
          > > apartment, on a tony block on the Upper West
          > > Side facing the Hudson. I felt relaxed and calm.
          > > Earlier that day I had attended a yoga workshop
          > > with a guru from India, then completed a writing
          > > assignment for a health and spirituality magazine
          > > about, as it happened, instinct — or antar-jñana,
          > > inner knowledge. I opened the outer door to my
          > > vestibule, then crossed through its inner door
          > > and into my lobby, leaving my back to the entrance.
          > > I got a prickly feeling, I don't know why. I turned.
          > > There I saw, pushing open the inner door, an
          > > ink-black, gloved hand, exaggeratedly large,
          > > controlled and deliberate. It charged toward me.
          > > It was trailed by a body, the picture of death.
          > >
          > > It is difficult for me to render the horror of
          > > the image of that man entering my building lobby
          > > that night, so great is the disparity between
          > > its emotional charge for me now and the stereotypical,
          > > almost comical picture he presented. He was a
          > > figment from a nightmare. I guessed his height
          > > and weight at 6'3" and 230 pounds, with the
          > > physicality of a boxer. The cops later told me
          > > that was right. His clothes were dark and
          > > innocuous — clean black jeans, black sneakers,
          > > a midnight-blue hoodie — as if chosen to leave no
          > > impression whatsoever. In contrast, on his face
          > > was a neoprene thermal ski mask, the type that
          > > tents in front to create a ridge and thus evokes
          > > to most anyone who's heard of him Darth Vader.
          > > I later discovered while searching on Google that
          > > this type of mask is favored by shoppers also
          > > enamored of vigilante-style military clothing
          > > and toy AK-47s — in other words it is meant to
          > > provoke a reaction. Of the figure's actual face
          > > I saw only slit-shaped, yellowed eyes and a
          > > broad, acned, coal-black forehead.
          > >
          > > This image seared in my mind, and somehow,
          > > thinking without thinking, I reminded myself
          > > to keep hold of it. Yoga's mental training,
          > > it is said, enables the yogi to "act at once…
          > > not stopping to think." I felt superhuman,
          > > unburdened by the back-and-forth of everyday
          > > deliberation, in possession of ekagra —
          > > single-pointed — concentration.
          > >
          > > In a half-second, I seemed to recall everything
          > > important I had learned in 20 years of practicing
          > > yoga. I remembered the feeling of command — of
          > > flexibility and control. I remembered the words
          > > of a writer on instinct I'd cited in the article
          > > I'd just written, Malcolm Gladwell: "Take charge
          > > of the first two seconds." And I remembered a
          > > women's self-defense course I took in college
          > > 20 years before, and practice we'd done screaming
          > > with every bit of might in our bodies. This was a physical scream, performed with the same degree of exertion that, as it happened, we held our yoga poses.
          > >
          > > But in truth, unfortunately, I was not so
          > > formidable as I'd have liked. The man's weight
          > > was more than twice mine. My heightened awareness,
          > > my attuned and trained amanaskata — intellectual
          > > clarity — was sufficiently developed to give me
          > > merely the certainty that this man could, and would,
          > > kill me. Alas, I had not yet acquired those other
          > > metaphysical powers supposedly at ready call to
          > > the ancient yogi, or siddhis — to make myself minute
          > > as an atom, or bulky as an elephant, or isatva:
          > > supreme over all. I knew only, with crystalline
          > > sureness, that I had to marshal every bit of force
          > > in my body and spirit if I wished to survive.
          > >
          > > Then, that palm became a fist, and met my face.
          > > I heard a loud crack. I was unconscious.
          > > I came to consciousness on the ground. The man was
          > > lunging toward me with fists. None of my knowledge
          > > left me. He intended to kill me. I remembered a
          > > dream I'd had once in which I'd been in an elevator
          > > that was plunging to the ground, its cable severed.
          > > In the dream, I held my breath and clenched
          > > everywhere, and then stared, hard, at the ceiling.
          > > I willed the elevator to stop plummeting, and it
          > > did. The dream felt mystical, more like a vision —
          > > a premonition, perhaps. Now, I created the same
          > > sensation in my body as when I stopped the elevator.
          > > And I executed the scream.
          > >
          > > What happened to me next in that lobby seemed no
          > > less numinous an experience than the single pointed
          > > mind-state described by the adepts as Samadhi.
          > > This is sometimes characterized as "pure awareness."
          > > The thrill of it is said to be a manifestation
          > > of spiritual, mental and physical harmony — which
          > > may be why the medievals called yoga "the art of
          > > defying death." Tennyson described Samadhi as
          > > "the clearest of the clearest, the surest of the
          > > surest, the weirdest of the weirdest, utterly beyond
          > > words." I was in possession of no less miraculous
          > > a power than what stopped the elevator in that dream.
          > > The man paused, mid-punch. As if in reverse motion,
          > > he then coiled backwards, slowly, his center of
          > > gravity solid and low. Assured, with graceful
          > > footsteps, he loped back out that door, and then
          > > disappeared into the black night.
          > >
          > > I was bloodied, my cheekbone was broken, and
          > > I was in a state of shock. Eventually the cops,
          > > and a friend, came, and I learned that an attacker
          > > by this same description had sent another woman
          > > for an extended hospital stay, with multiple
          > > broken ribs and other injuries. She'd taken longer
          > > before she screamed, they said. The cops
          > > not-so-helpfully also explained that the man was
          > > "an animal," his motive violence. He'd been
          > > stalking women of a certain physical type.
          > >
          > > They never caught him. I moved out from that
          > > apartment, and moved on, but suffered significant
          > > emotional trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder.
          > >
          > > I do believe that yoga, and other things, gave me
          > > the mental clarity that saved my life in that moment.
          > > And I also believe that my training helped me survive
          > > in other ways, in the aftermath.
          > >
          > > That night, I finally got to bed around 5 a.m.,
          > > my friend bunkered on my sofa. I survived, I thought,
          > > over and over, lying in bed. But when I closed
          > > my eyes, I saw three things in succession that
          > > drove home to me how nearly I hadn't: the ink-black
          > > hand on the door, the neoprene ski mask, and my
          > > face in the mirror bruised, cut and bloodied. I opened
          > > my eyes and watched the sky turn rosy pink. I closed
          > > them, and saw the same three images.
          > >
          > > This pattern continued, with lessening frequency,
          > > for month upon month. They were a natural, limbic
          > > response, I learned later: flashbacks. Flashbacks,
          > > like the Samadhi described by Tennyson, exist
          > > outside the realm of language and cognition. This,
          > > say trauma therapists, explains why survivors
          > > often manifest unresolved memories of trauma in
          > > non-verbal ways — for instance as inexplicable
          > > pains in the body or through a dissociative escape
          > > reflex. Samadhi is mimicked in "moments of spiritual
          > > or material emergency," wrote Geraldine Coster,
          > > an influential British yogi and psychotherapist,
          > > in 1944. Contemporary therapists have noted a tendency
          > > for survivors to enter that state of "pure awareness"
          > > so celebrated by the yogis during, and then
          > > repeatedly after, a trauma. This, they say, can
          > > become a bad habit. I learned this when, eventually,
          > > I did go in for counseling for P.T.S.D.
          > >
          > > This paradox has been acknowledged elsewhere.
          > > A "survivor who used dissociation to cope with
          > > terror" may eventually learn to use a "trance
          > > capability" towards otherwise enriching ends, allows
          > > Judith Herman, a pioneer psychologist in the study
          > > of trauma, in her seminal book "Trauma and Recovery."
          > >
          > > Before I sought the wisdom of the professionals,
          > > though, I did jury-rig my own program for managing
          > > those flashbacks, using techniques of "mental mastery,"
          > > as it were, that I'd learned in yoga. For instance,
          > > I tried to recast the images playing in my head,
          > > sometimes imagining they were moving around physically
          > > to different parts of my brain. I also inserted into
          > > the sequence of flashbacks the image of the man's
          > > miraculous turning and fleeing, and my mystical
          > > feeling of omnipotence in that moment.
          > >
          > > My therapist later gave these methods a stamp
          > > of approval. Being able to re-conceive the meaning
          > > of an assault to one of empowerment versus
          > > self-blame proves a deciding factor in overcoming
          > > trauma. "You didn't almost get yourself killed,"
          > > she said to me. "You saved your life." Recreating
          > > a narrative also helps a survivor overcome a
          > > fragmenting of memory that is typical in trauma.
          > > "It is difficult to see more than a few fragments
          > > of the picture at one time," writes Herman, "to
          > > retain all the pieces and to fit them together."
          > > The sufferer struggles to reconnect disjointed
          > > visceral and rational memories of the trauma.
          > > Healing, writes Herman, "involves the active exercise
          > > of imagination and fantasy." The psychologist Mary
          > > Harvey includes in her seven-point checklist for the
          > > resolution of trauma simply to gain "authority"
          > > over the memories.
          > >
          > > Perhaps every survivor overcomes trauma differently,
          > > and at a different speed. My flashbacks continued.
          > > Nightmares catapulting me directly back to that
          > > horrific episode lasted for years. The dreams
          > > were often a feeling, of prickly dread, or they
          > > were more literal, about being trailed on a dark
          > > street or ambushed in an enclosed space.
          > >
          > > I charted my recovery through the evolution of
          > > those dreams. Eventually that feeling of palpable
          > > terror subsided. Once, around the time it did,
          > > the black figure appeared as a comical-looking,
          > > blob-like character in a black body-costume; he
          > > was like one of those actors dressed as a piece
          > > of licorice in a movie trailer. I told him he
          > > could remain in my dream as long as he stayed in
          > > the background and didn't hurt me. He agreed.
          > >
          > > In a dream several months later, the man with
          > > the mask was sitting in my hallway waiting for
          > > me to come home, holding the mask in his hand.
          > > At first when I saw him, I was scared, but when
          > > I saw his face I also saw that he was human. He
          > > told me he was struggling with guilt over having
          > > hurt someone. I tried to imagine if I could
          > > forgive him.
          > > ---------------------------------------------------
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