Monday, December 29, 2014

Buddhism 101 with Rick Hanson, PhD: The Four Noble Truths and Noble Eightfold Path

Rick Hanson, author of Buddha's Brain (2009), Just One Thing: Developing a Buddha Brain One Simple Practice at a Time (2011), Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence (2013), is a neuropsychologist, Senior Fellow of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, and a practicing Buddhist.

Dr. Hanson has been a trustee of Saybrook University and served on the board of Spirit Rock Meditation Center for nine years, where is a regular teacher. 

Over the last couple of months, Dr. Hanson posted a series of articles on the basic premises of Buddhism, the Four Noble Truths. These are those posts, along with an older article on the Noble Eightfold Path.

In essence, this is Buddhism 101, and if we could master just these principles, we would be very successful on our spiritual paths.

The First Noble Truth – The Noble Truth of Suffering

posted on: November 17th, 2014 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

To Be a Man: A Guide to True Masculine Power - Robert Augustus Masters,204,203,200_.jpg

This post is to welcome the important new book, To Be a Man, by integral psychologist (an actual practicing psychologist, not of the Ken Wilber variety) and personal growth facilitator, Robert Augustus Masters, author of the instant classic book on spiritual bypassing, Spiritual Bypassing: When Spirituality Disconnects Us from What Really Matters, and the equally classic book on relationship as a spiritual path, Transformation through Intimacy, Revised Edition: The Journey toward Awakened Monogamy.

When publication of this new book was announced, I knew it was going to be an essential read - and it is. This is from the Introduction to the book:

This demand does a lot more harm than good. It's a powerful shame amplifier, packed with "shoulds" - and the last thing males need is more shaming, more degradation for not making the grade.

Men - and boys - who are on the receiving end of "be a man!" get the message that they are lacking in certain factors that supposedly constitute manliness.
And this . . .
Many boys are subjected to the demand to "be a man!" - or "man up" - from an early age. Such pressure, however well-meaning, can shame and harden a boy well before he reaches adolescence, shrinking him emotionally, making him shun softness and overvalue performance and the appearance of "having it together." Showing vulnerability may invite gibes about being less than masculine. Many a boy has had to force himself not to cry or show tenderness in order to become "one of the boys" rather than a reject or someone to shun. 
He is describing my childhood, and likely that of a large number of men in my generation. What he describes here has often been referred to as the "man box," the tiny little space in which men are allowed to exist if they are to be considered "real men."
The problem with this box is that it forces men to jettison a good deal of what makes a man human, including tenderness, vulnerability, compassion, and exuberance. Within the confines of the box, we are allowed to feel any emotion as long as it's anger. We are allowed to shed a tear when our dog dies or our favorite athlete announces his retirement (and crying about one's dog is questionable).

The good thing is that this is changing, slowly, with each new generation. The bad thing is that there are a whole lot of men who raised in the man box, who still live there, and who think that is exactly how it should be for all men.

This book is for those men.

Here is the publisher's ad copy (thanks to Sounds True for bringing this book to the market!):
  • I've got it all-a great job, relationship, and lifestyle-so why do I feel so dissatisfied and disconnected?
  • Why am I not happier in my intimate relationships?
  • How do I become more powerful-without becoming that jerk everyone dislikes?
Robert Augustus Masters has helped thousands of men address and work through such issues. What he's found is that the common solution to these dilemmas is challenging yet clear: we must face our unresolved wounds, shame, and whatever else is holding us back, bringing "our head, heart, and guts into full-blooded alignment."
With To Be a Man, this acclaimed psychotherapist and relationship expert offers a groundbreaking and deeply insightful guide to masculine power and fulfillment. To Be a Man clarifies what's needed to enter a manhood as strongly empowered as it's vulnerable, as emotionally literate as it's unapologetically alive-a manhood at home with truly intimate relationship.
In this book, readers will explore:
  • How your past may be dominating your present
  • Shame in its healthy and unhealthy forms, and how to make wise use of it
  • How vulnerability can be a source of strength
  • Emotional literacy-an essential skill for relational well-being
  • Releasing sex from the obligation to make you feel better
  • How to disempower your inner critic
  • Bringing your shadow (whatever you've disowned in yourself) out of the dark
  • Embodying your natural heroism and persisting regardless of fear
  • What women need from men
  • Understanding and outgrowing pornography
  • Entering the heartland of true masculine power
If you've read your share of popular advice on relationships and being a man-but realize on a gut level that it's going to take some serious inner work-here's a great guide to that most rewarding of challenges: doing what's needed to fully embody your authentic manhood.
Here is some of the "praise" for the book (i.e., solicited endorsements).

 Praise for To Be a Man

"Any book that unveils the male mystique with empathy and compassion, helping men understand themselves and helping women understand men, and that helps the culture understand the masculine dilemma should be hailed as a miracle. This is what Robert Augustus Masters does in To Be a Man. Every man should read it as autobiography, every woman should read it as revelation, and our culture should embrace it as a healing balm."
- Harville Hendrix, PhD, author of Getting the Love You Want and co-author (with Helen LaKelly Hunt, PhD) of Making Marriage Simple

"Robert Augustus Masters has written a powerful guide for men that integrates rigor and receptivity, aggression and authority, vulnerability and potency. With highly developed emotional intelligence, and a nuanced understanding of adult development including the importance of shadow work, Masters delivers a vision of mature, embodied male empowerment. To Be a Man is a fearless book from a master of psycho-emotional healing and awakening."
Diane Musho Hamilton, author of Everything Is Workable: A Zen Approach to Conflict Resolution

"Masters' insights populate every page of this compelling book, and offer creative ways of thinking about many of our era's most complex and controversial issues, among them, pornography, sexual violence, militarism and war, the effects of trauma on men's psyches and identities, and much more."
- Jackson Katz, PhD, author of The Macho Paradox and Leading Men, and creator of the award-winning films Tough Guise and Tough Guise 2

"After thirty years of pioneering men's work, if I were to write the classic handbook for men-this would be it. To Be a Man calls out the 'warrior' to do battle inside, to find authentic masculine power, allowing truly intimate relationships with women, other men, and self."
- Bill Kauth, cofounder of The ManKind Project and author of A Circle of Men and We Need Each Other

"To Be a Man dissects the three words that echo in every man's psyche: "Be a man!" As a seasoned therapist, Masters identifies the accompanying shame men manifest and gives us a guide toward healthy, sustainable masculinity."
- Joe Ehrmann, former NFL player, professional speaker, cofounder of Coaching for America, and author of InSideOut Coaching: How Sports Can Transform Lives

"As a man, this book honors, challenges, teaches, and nurtures me all at once. It shows me where I have the greatest opportunity to grow. Best of all, it celebrates what's truly sacred about being a man."
- Raphael Cushnir, author of The One Thing Holding You Back and Surfing Your Inner Sea

"Every once in a while someone comes along and writes a masterpiece, and Robert Augustus Masters' To Be a Man falls into this category. His book is a true hero's journey of healing and awakening, one that encourages men to cultivate a deep and enduring intimacy with everything that they are for the benefit of one and all."
- Hank Wesselman, PhD, author of The Bowl of Light and the Spiritwalker Trilogy

"As a woman, I am genuinely thankful for the cogent and thoughtful exploration of masculinity that he has offered to the dialogue between men and women. And, as the mother of two boys, I am delighted that he is sharing these fruits of wisdom with the men of today, and the generations to follow."
- Sarah Nicholson, PhD, author of The Evolutionary Journey of Woman

"This book is an invitation to wholeness, to awakening, to the next step man. Compassionately written and wise, it invites men to make a conscious distinction between their benevolent and malevolent identifications, and paves the way for a way of being that is both sturdy and heartfelt. Highly recommended for anyone who has grown tired of limiting gender identifications!"
- Jeff Brown, author of Soulshaping
"A brave and full-blooded dive into the challenges and opportunities facing men and masculinity in the 21st century. Masters brings an array of insights, taken from years of personal practice and gleaned from decades of work with clients, to support men on their journey towards mature manhood."
- Vanessa D. Fisher, co-editor and author of Integral Voices on Sex, Gender & Sexuality: Critical Inquiries

"This important book covers the whole spectrum of men's experience and challenges today. Masters explains the development of men's many strengths as well as their compensations, the downsides that so many adopt to 'be a man,' including burying some parts of themselves so deeply that they forget that such parts are even there. A book for men who want to embrace their inner life as well as well as for women who want to understand them."
- Ian Macnaughton, PhD, author of Body Breath and Consciousness

"Robert Augustus Masters is one of the essential wisdom teachers of our time. To Be a Man reflects his deep learning, humility, and decades of experience as a therapist, clinician, and healer. In the section of my library where I have a small collection of books about being a man, this book has moved to the top of my list. I enthusiastically recommend it to any man who wants to wake up, grow up, and show up."
- John Dupuy, author of Integral Recovery

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Why You Might Want to Refuse the PSA Test for Prostate Cancer Screening

If you are a man of a certain age (say, over 40-45), you have likely had at least one prostate screen in your regular exams (and if you haven't, DO IT NOW). The old school test is the digital rectal exam (DRE), you know, the one where the doc inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into your arse and feels for the size of the prostate gland. Most men dread this part of the physical. Once prostate specific androgen was discovered (by Richard Ablin, in 1970) and a blood test was developed, PSA screens became the most popular diagnostic tool.

The problem is that PSA screening is not a very effective tool. Dr. Ablin, and a lot of other researchers, worry that "the use of the PSA test has led to overdiagnosis and overtreatment, with millions of unnecessary surgeries, complications and deaths." There is considerable research to support this concern.

This is from "Prevention of Prostate Cancer" (Algotar, AM, Stratton, MS, Harryman, WL, and Cress, AE); Fundamentals of Cancer Prevention, D. Alberts, L.M. Hess (eds.), 2014.
Treatment of clinically silent cancers is termed “overtreatment” (Klotz 2012 ). Estimates place the cost of this phenomenon in excess of $31 and $55 million respectively (Heijnsdijk et al. 2009 ).
After extensive review of literature, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPTF) has issued a grade D recommendation (“discourage the use of this service”) for screening with PSA (Force 2012 ). This means that the USPTF believes there is moderate or high certainty that screening with PSA has no net benefit or that the harm outweighs the benefit. This grade D recommendation applies to healthy men of all ages, regardless of race or family history. (p. 495-496)
Perhaps the most scathing review of PSA testing in recent months comes from Dr. Ablin himself, in a New York Times editorial, The Problems with Prostate Screening (Nov. 25, 2014).

In this editorial, he dissects some serious issues with two major studies - European Randomized Study of Screening for Prostate Cancer, and the so-called Swedish Goteborg study - both of which support the use of PSA tests to reduce prostate cancer deaths. These studies appeared in highly prestigious journals, The New England Journal of Medicine and Lancet Oncology, respectively.

The researchers in the European Randomized Study of Screening for Prostate Cancer (ERSPC) have refused to make their data available to outside researchers, despite government and charity funding of the project. This is a HUGE red flag. More troubling, however, is that this project transferred 60% of the data from the Swedish Goteborg Study, which is unique "among country-specific studies in showing an almost 50 percent reduction in prostate cancer deaths for screening recipients." Without this data (which is an outlier in PSA research), there would not have been any clinically relevant survival rate in the ERSPC study.

Another HUGE red flag is that several of primary researchers in the European study have interests in the PSA screening industry. This is from Dr. Ablin's editorial:
Finally, several senior authors of the European trials, and their American supporters, have potential conflicts of interest that relate to payments from companies involved in marketing PSA tests, or in holding patents in the PSA and prostate cancer diagnostic space — relationships documented by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors, in the forms that accompany the PSA-study publications and in disclosures found in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.
None of this serves the men who rely on prostate cancer screening to protect them and identify possible tumors as early as possible (early detection = much higher survival rates).

In the end, the decision to get a prostate cancer screen (of whatever type) should be made by the man in discussion with his physician. For men who are not in high-risk groups (high risk groups include African-Americans, first-degree relative with prostate cancer before age 65, and so on), the American Cancer Society does not recommend prostate cancer screens.

For myself, I have chosen to go with the DRE in my physicals, and I made this choice in conversation with one of the leading researchers in prostate cancer, Dr. Anne Cress of the UA Cancer Center (and a friend of mine). This feels like the best choice for me.