Do you need a yogi?

yogi_bearA urologist for whom I’ve a lot of respect inspires this post (no idea whether he should go near your prostate with a scalpel, but Ranjit-ji is a beautiful soul who shares enlightenment in a blog – EVERY SINGLE DAY!) My blog at also borrows from his sentiments.

In answering a question as to the necessity of a guru he suggests that rather than following a leader, we can take advantage of their experience in walking a similar path. Thus avoiding many pitfalls. Like a spiritual practice which needs support when motivation is low, the yogi encourages us through times of disinterest or difficulty. It’s easy enough to memorise the yoga routine, or follow a new one from DVD. But human interaction hasn’t yet been superseded (standby for Internet v2.0) as a source of inspiration, so an accomplished master is to be valued rather than resented for their amazing flexibility. And since yogis come in all shapes and sizes, it’s easy to find one we can relate to.

Physical Training Instructors Course 2nd class 1/13
Navy PTIs are nicknamed ‘Clubz’, which reflects their rate insignia of crossed clubs.

Personal coaches have a can-do persona, much like the Physical Training Instructor (PTI) in the Armed Forces. Psychologists could learn much from their verve, since motivating a hungover ships crew onto the wharf for a workout takes fortitude. Plus the nous to confine the vomiting consequent to a first night of shore leave well away from the decks. Though their intimidating biceps and CO’s delegated authority enforce discipline, there’s much more leadership learning to be had. A senior, grizzled PTI yelled to a squad of HMAS Creswell recruits at 5am in winter: “Does anyone NOT want to do exercises this morning?”

The one respondent was told, “Right then, back to bed with you…. Squad, follow me to the soft sand for an endurance run”.

Enough reminiscing (there wasn’t that much to recall with amusement), and onto future trends. Harvard Medical School visionary dean Oliver Wendell Holmes stated “I firmly believe that if the whole materia medica [drugs], as now used, could be sunk to the bottom of the sea, it would be better for mankind-and all the worse for the fishes”. This was well before 20th C breakthroughs, but he specifically mentioned the opioids that are only now being universally condemned for their harm. Richard Smith, 25 years at the ethical helm of the British Medical Jnl writes that ‘Medical Journals Are an Extension of the Marketing Arm of Pharmaceutical Companies‘, which by inference makes doctor’s surgeries an extension of Pfarma’s distribution department. The power of the med as a fix has diminished greatly due to corrupt regulatory governance, and powerful researcher statistic’s ability to glean small improvements in symptoms during trials. The lack of success in later, epidemiology studies on society has led to proposal of a new paradigm by Health, where the fee-for-service paid to GPs would be transformed into outcome-based merit payment.

The Latin ‘doctor’ meaning teacher reflected the joint responsibility for improving patient health. This origin has been lost, as the divide of responsibility for psychology limited their focus to physiology. Only recently has Integrative, or Holistic medicine “in which the ‘whole person’ is focused on, not just the malady itself” factored in mind, and body. The GP may be the last health professional to adopt the thinking that Health Coaches and Positive Psychologists have been advocating.

If you want to make major change, start at the top.

Author: Geoff Kirwood was privileged to have given his best shot as an Officer under the Australian military’s highest ranked moslem, who also happened to be female. But the strength of mind that forged mine belonged to ‘Fish’, a PTI.


Deluded thinking about happiness

The trouble with quotes on the Internet is that you never know if they are genuine.” — Abraham Lincoln

buddAnyone wishing to add credible weight to their article can be grateful for Einstein’s passing – it means you can make shit up, and put his name to it without provoking ire or litigation.


A common quotation attributed to Einstein begins “A human being is a part of the whole, called by us ‘Universe’, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest — a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness.”, and is usually followed by someone’s mashup with another quote: “This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us...”. But the true letter as verified by a scanned image continued thus: “The striving to free oneself from this delusion is the one issue of true religion. Not to nourish the delusion but to try to overcome it is the way to reach the attainable measure of peace of mind.” This was written to a US Chaplain who participated in the liberating of survivors from Nazi concentration camps.

We live in an era where the veracity of information is quite suspect. History can be sanitised and adapted for political purposes, and the virtual world supplants reality in many ways. Shops become eCommerce supply chains, identities become avatars. Maya means ‘illusion’, which gives an excuse to share a backing track by a friend of ours …. while you read. All the thought-provoking intro to this post was in order to stress the confusion between reality and dreams, so who better than the Father of Relativity? For all his brilliant intellect, Einstein was a compassionate being with a common touch. We’re deluded to think that we’re not connected – Donne instructed in 1624 “No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent...”

Robert Butera, whose PhD on HIV/AIDS preceded many other studies on mindfulness and immune system breakdown, wrote wisely in ‘Meditation for your Life’: “The mind does not accept that every possession is changing, so we become mired in attachments to things remaining constant…. a secondary and more insidious type of thought generated by the desire for things is the fantasy or dream of having something that you do not yet own. Now the irony in this illusion is that ownership of material items is an impossibility in the first place“. In fact we’re possessed by possessions – they demand maintenance, storage, upgrading, and our partner’s acquiescence to tie-up of assets.

No better example is the yacht, the lifestyle dream when sold, but a millstone to its owner. The truism that a yachtie has two happy days – when it’s purchased and when it’s sold, is borne out by the majority of expensive vessels cluttering the marinas. You may randomly see a fleet participating in a race, but most boats don’t leave their berth. And skippers are always desperately seeking race crews who’ll tolerate wintry misery.

Watch these Nth & Sth hemisphere webcams to see how few vacancies appear on the weekend.

We don’t float alone, but are all tied to the same fates. And tides. Our connectedness remains, whether or not we think we can just sail away from it all.

Geoff and Carole Kirwood are partners in the Mindful Gap, and have found great contentment in sailing.

Author: Geoff regularly blogs and can be followed on as well as  Continue reading “Deluded thinking about happiness”

Biofeedback and mindfulness

Today’s business paradigm of rewarding performance on the basis of measured outcomes isn’t a new idea. Learning and Development goals for improvement rely on three simple aspects. The tuition, the practise, and the assessment. Measurement is not simply to verify a competency as closure to studies, but it’s vital to correcting and enhancing understanding.

“If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it” …. Lord Kelvin 1883 *
Athletes seeking peak performance are being joined by all and sundry seeking motivation for exercise, in usage of metrics. Simple weight and repetitions, or distance and times logged, or biometrics such as heart rate (to keep inside a safe envelope of effort). Recently heartrate variability (HRV) sensing has been adopted to inform the decision of whether to train today. Or sleep in. It all depends on your mindset, whether your intent is openness to whatever the experience offers or simply going through the motions on autopilot.

To explain the anatomy behind the theory:
♥ Fight & flight is from the sympathetic nervous system causing endocrine outputs such as adrenalin (epinephrine as it’s known in the US). It’s a survival response arising in the reptilian depths of our brain, around 6 times faster than rational thought process in the cortex. DON’T STEP ON THAT SNAKE ………………………………………………… no, wait up – it’s just a stick. However heightened arousal has already set off neurotransmitter and hormone cascades. Chemical affect upon the heart ticker has a delay in effecting increased rate via circulatory system, which means that the beat-to-beat changes are subtle but steady.

♥ Rest & digest parasympathetic balances autonomic nervous system to moderate that panic, and is effected by the vagus nerve. This electrical settling of heartrate took time to formulate in the brain cortex, but works near instantaneously on rate. Thus beat-beat (R-R, or NN) intervals change markedly when your mind exerts control. Reporting on R-R through an HRV check is being suggested by coaches, to ensure the exercise activities are undertaken with the right mindset, mindfully.


HRV training uses biofeedback to display this measure of autonomic balance (or Vagal tone) in realtime, and seeks to amplify your increases in rate with the in-breath – a natural observation known as Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia. Gevirtz and Lehrer provide many journal articles and video explanations, and a few months ago ‘Treating the mind to improve the heart‘ appeared in Frontiers in Psychology journal announcing studies underway at a US Veteran’s Affairs medical centre. The simplicity of the measure means it’s already quantified in a number of ways, thus a trackable assessment for the diary. Neurofeedback training adds a level of complexity, by selecting EEG leads on the scalp to quantify, and visually report focus in regions of the brain responsible for control – such as sensorimotor for chronic pain. The history of training by reward for helpful brainwaves goes back to Sherman’s meditating cats in ’65. It’s the reverse of the classical conditioning in Pavlov’s dogs, being operant response reinforcement after a behaviour. This is the second aspect, a practise.

Finally, the didactic beginning: tuition. Educational courses in mindfulness abound, this is a no-brainer! Breathworks ® happens to have scientific endorsement from the University of Cambridge, using fMRI imaging to investigate participant neuroplasticity.

Practicalities. HRV is supported by many ECG cheststraps which very accurately measure the electrical R-R interval, and upload this to smartphone apps capable of Bluetooth LE e.g. Polar H7 and Zephyr HxM. Rather than this BLE protocol, Garmin uses Ant+ wireless as does 60Beat – and SweetBeat for iOS interfaces on both these protocols. iThlete have a simple sensor to detect blood pulsing in the finger,  and this has been validated against the gold standard of ECG as a tool for developing countries in a medical rather than sports context.

 Heartservice- webp image for Chrome browsers
Tomorrow’s tools today: technologies such as this are featuring at HyperWellbeing in Nov 2016

The screenshot is from a free app by Heartservice to prove the concept (using the mobile’s camera) which is linked from FB page Impermanence. Though mostly precise, the odd few inaccurate pulse start points have a major bearing on the result. Just 5% difference is reported as major variability, so a false result is possible.




* Actually the quote attributed to Kelvin is drawn from a speech which began thus: “In physical science the first essential step in the direction of learning any subject is to find principles of numerical reckoning and practicable methods for measuring some quality connected with it…..”