I am snoozing at the rest stop and when the tires leave the road when the dust fills the sky and the yees of the horned toad are fied in the distance ignoring the boots tramping around it and its home then it’s time to sing the song that sond that we keep in teh back of our minds whose melody made no sense but till we stshed it for the day, this day, when it will carry on the wind into the blue mountains and teh gray sky and not eaven the pearly luminescence of the smothers ed moon wil reaveal even a single note because the frequence=y is so different, like lighg and sound, until ess youve gone digital, abandoned the analog and then you acan meld synethesiass like a pro and perhapds this melding, with all ths colors and sounds and motion and when it brings in the tactile we can have a new cup for a little while, a cup that cn hold new forms of things of thoughts sand make new things but this cup might be for the young for the new for the dispalced, whose cups are alesast half empty so they may benefit from the openiness of receiving… and when we die and when we’re dold and hoepfully on haveppens the correct sequences a=maybe then too our cups will be empties and in that dusty old chiped receptabcle with the faded paint and the lad coatin fro some us we may contain someething we cannot even yet coneive and this is the essence od death
sometimes I think about a word, or rather, a word resonates in my mind, collecting from the far corners like a small pond ~ripples of affinity~ touching banks of memory at oblique angles and sometimes things from the depths surface to investigate, look around with somber alien eyes, ill-adapted to the light and then submerge back down to their home somewhere deep inside my home in corners I don’t know how to find
Today feels like the start of another transition, to another place, from this place. To another series of places in that strand of frazzled rope that stretches across my history and tangles with the histories of others. Siblings, family, friends, lovers, enemies, artists, zombies, masters, monsters, singers, poets, thieves, cheats. The corded knots of humanity in their swirls of existence but a node on mine as I on theirs.
Sometimes we hang out in bad company. Toxic relationships, negative relatives or pestiferous media feeds. Maybe recurring feelings or voices inside our head. Maybe drama we seem inexplicably pulled into, again and again.
And any serious expedition outside the protective boundaries of our comfort zones, with new projects or ways of being, draw undesirable attention as well.
These undesirables often present themselves as “reason givers.” As in only looking out for what’s best for you. Or what’s logical. Common sense. And they may sound quite reasonable indeed. Inside or out these false friends tend to fall into 4 categories:
- Obstacle revealers: who love to point out all the reasons why you can’t or shouldn’t be doing, thinking or feeling something.
- Self-judgers: revel in all the ways you aren’t up to a task or don’t possess a quality, and all the reasons you’re not ready and unworthy.
- Comparators: are quick to point out all the ways others have tried this and failed or why its easier for others with way more talent, opportunities, luck and/or drive than you. Or why others will think you’re foolish and why you should be more like them.
- Fortune tellers: bemoan all the ways you’re going to crash and burn or missed your opportunity and why the odds are stacked against you. Why you’re just not lucky that way. Alas.
These fake allies may trick you into arguing with them. But their real weakness is that their validity doesn’t matter. Instead, your secret sauce is to ask if they are helpful. And what would you be like, or your life be like, if you lived it by their “truths” as your guide? Would it be a life you wanted?
Everyone, without fail, will experience most of these “helpers.” Through themselves and/or others while trying or being almost anything different than they’ve done or been before. How you manage these advisors is critical to the success of your venture.
Given some healthy boundaries and new objectives, they actually can be shaped into powerful allies. This can be done with some simple questions for each:
- Obstacles: are you giving realistic appraisals and figuring out how to overcome them? Or just coming up with reasons not to try?
- Self-judgment: is this constructive advice on how to improve your skills? Or just tearing you down?
- Comparison: is it finding ways to learn strategy and avoid mistakes from others? Is it inspirational or simply discouraging any action?
- Prediction: are they analyzing how to respond to worse case scenarios, things to mitigate and improve the odds? Or just woe is you, you’re doomed and the sky is falling?
We can’t avoid negative thoughts, it’s just how we are wired. Suppressing or constantly venting them is unhealthy. But we don’t have to be “hooked” by them. Modern mindfulness-based therapies, like ACT, take the agenda of the Buddhists and Stoics into practical application. These posts will review some of these approaches. The points above are from a book called The Confidence Gap by Russ Harris.
Buddhism introduced the construct of skillful and unskillful thinking. Skillful thoughts are not about finding the true or right answer —which may not be helpful, and may never actually be known or knowable. In our lifetimes anyway. Instead, a skillful thought is a helpful thought. Something that contributes positively to your life and your resilience in dealing with things.
To get to the point where one can assess a thought as being helpful or not though, and act skillfully with it, we first next to be aware of our thoughts as they occur. Not hours, days or a lifetime later in the wake of their reactive calamities. Unnoticed, unskillful thoughts can quietly wreak havoc on our moods and energy states. And upon our resilience to meet life as it is.
For both Stoicism and ACT, the foundation starts with knowing what’s happening in our heads in real time. Then each discipline spins off in different directions for dealing with that, based on different objectives. More on this to come, primarily to tease out thoughts on how these disparate approaches fit together, and writing helps me do that. Which is not to belittle my appreciation for those of you reading these ramblings. Thanks for getting this far 🙂
The previous thought discussed Yin. The letting go of the hold things have on us. This thought is about Yang. With the freedom Yin gives us, we can act on the world with intent. To do one requires the other. To let go but have no inner value to cultivate is just dissipation; but trying to achieve goals in the world without the inner freedom to focus on process rather than results only creates suffering. Together, however, Yin and Yang form the middle way. Or as we say in the martial arts: you have to go slow to go fast.
- I enjoy flow more than happiness. Flow has a very specific meaning, a task that’s appropriately challenging, employing skills I enjoy mastering and the activity absorbs my attention in an enriching way. Sometimes this may be learning just the right difficulty of material.
- The less I like people, in particular, the more I seem to like them in general. There’s probably a section in the DSM-5 about this… that recommends strong pharmaceuticals and adult supervision.
- Meditation keeps me sane.
- My posture reflects my state of mind and my metaphysical status of alignment, presence, connection, sinking, expansion, confidence, and relaxation. It’s a physical koan I puzzle on during waking. My stance in the world is always changing and it’s my anchor into the now and portal into my psyche.
- My conscious awareness is but a fraction of being; learning to communicate with the larger field is part of my life purpose.
- There is nothing missing in our lives except the imaginary pieces in cookie cutter shapes of our acculturation. To be content is the greatest wealth imaginable.
- Preventing a creeping numbness of being requires my constant vigilance. Sometimes I feel like I’m passed out on the floor and something keeps shaking me awake saying “Don’t sleep! Don’t sleep!”
- Most of what I write is superficial drivel but it helps my process.
- It’s a far greater stretch to posit an imaginary world outside our head, that we can never know, other than its reconstruction through senses relaying data to the inside of our heads … than to just go ahead and admit that it’s all in our heads in the first place and realize our heads may be bigger than we think. Or rather, our heads exist in a continuum of consciousness much larger than our local eddies of identity. But it’s all the same stuff man.
- I agree and support the construct of gender fluidity, we are evolving, that is our nature, I see it as a springboard, not a stopping point of identity. Polarity is a system of propulsion. Hegel cinches this.
- “Blood is thicker than water”, is a biological construct at work deep in our evolutionary brain, telling us our genes are more important than others, thus we should sacrifice our higher faculties, common sense and true feelings to protect its propagation. But in fact, “The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life. Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof.” as quoted and noticed by Richard Bach in Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah …and recognized by many others before and since.
- Many things tend to stay in the same place. My room doesn’t re-arrange itself while I’m sleeping. The streets outside my door usually head off in the same directions. But magic has to be rediscovered anew each day. It’s seldom in the same place. But it’s worth finding, and seeking it out in most mundane of circumstances develops … abilities.
Some of us trust our brains far more than we should. We often wonder why others don’t see the glaring solutions to complex social and political problems. Things that are just plain common sense. And we may shake our heads, perplexed that the obvious is such a point of contention and debate.
But consider this. You buy a bat and a ball for $1.10. The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball. How much is the ball? If you answer, “duh, 10 cents” you won’t be alone. In fact, you’ll be in the majority, it’s just common sense. And it’s just plain wrong. Our brains take short-cuts. Thinking about things quickly and superficially saves energy. And quick decisions may ensure our survival (or end us.) But we have slower, more accurate, circuits to think about things in more depth if we must. This is why, other than fight or flight, for more complex situations we need to reign in this instinct for snap decisions. Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman covers this engaging topic in-depth. And, by the way, the ball costs five cents. Think about it 🙂
Another thing modafinil1 illuminated was how we become buried beneath layers of inertia. So gradually it’s hard to notice. We may start with energy to explore exciting potentials, we may be “called” by things we can’t even name or describe, our hearts might ache with a nostalgic beacon of sweet pain towards some great inexplicable —but we may find ourselves later just looking for a place to sit, rest and watch a screen or escape into distraction. Which is a shame because I think it’s less a physical depletion than a gradual smothering of a spark we carry. When this spark is alive — or coming back to life— we see amazing possibility in the every day, in time unhinged from lethargy of spirit.
Maybe to ignite this, we must figure out —or decide— what our life is about, what we are here to do, explore, create or accomplish. And how best we can contribute to this masterpiece we live in through being nothing other than ourselves rather than the manufactured product of our acculturation. To do this, we may have to release judgment about what everybody should be doing, and how the world ought to behave and turn back inward to find again what WE are about. Maybe it’s time to come home. And maybe that’s the only way to authentically contribute to the world.
To be on our own path of discovery, exploration, expression, to be in-formed, is to abandon all reward from and dependence upon any opinion but our own. The strength to do this should be the power we seek and the first thing in this crazy world we set aright.
- I class modafinil in the same group as cannabis and psychedelics… it can show us useful things about ourselves. Not as a crutch to supply something missing that we then depend on, but to illuminate something we’ve always had or have always been, but perhaps have forgotten. All true learning is remembering, as a certain philosopher of antiquity once staked his life on. ↩
What happens when a pill engineered to increase focus is combined with a meditation practice designed to hone concentration? Let’s find out.
Subject: (see above)
Materials: Alertex (Modafinil) 200mg. Couch
Optional: Latin American electronica blaring from the appliance store across the street
Currently, my practice of meditation is called samadhi (or samatha). An exotic term for focusing on just one thing. Usually the breath. Samadhi, or concentration meditation, is often poo-pooed by other serious adherents to meditation like the Vipassana practitioners. At best they see it as stepping stone to stabilize attention for more serious practices. At worst they believe samadhi may lead to getting hooked on blissful states and paranormal phenomenon that sometimes arises.
Serious samadhi practice leads to a set of states (and strange phenomenon); these states are called jhanas, and are reached from a sort of staging area called “access concentration.” The staging area is reached by sustaining concentration for an extended period of time, long enough for things to start dissolving into very pleasant and distinct feelings that mark the entry to the 1st jhana. There are 7 more jhanas awaiting as concentration deepens even further.
Reaching the staging area requires stilling the mind; bringing it back to the breath again and again as it flits off with whatever arises. After a while, the mind gets like Teflon and thoughts and feelings arise to just slide off rather than catching the attention. At least it’s how it normally works. With modafinil, the process alters. Instead of mind getting slippery, formless and more relaxed, the attention gets stickier. That’s the best I can describe it.
Both approaches seem to facilitate passage to the staging area of access concentration, but the state waiting across the threshold is different.
Rather than the familiar pīti (bliss) and sukha (pleasure) bubbling up in the traditional first Jhana, another state is accessed in Modafinil which is a feeling of deep and resourceful “readiness.” Also pleasant, but very distinctive. Whereas pīti and sukha encourage one to hang out and enjoy, the readiness “Jhana” of modafinil, while not suggesting anything in particular, is ready to kick some ass somewhere. In a motivational sense. But it is not compelled to do so. It just wants you to know it could. If that’s what you wanted.
Will I repeat this experiment? Probably not. Modafinil demonstrated that concentration can also tap into a great reservoir of potential. A potential available to work with complete, settled focus rather than the low level, almost subliminal agitation of distraction that is usually a constant companion in our activities. Very useful, especially in contexts of learning.
But I prefer that type of focus that comes in samadhi practices as an encompassing and relaxed sense of abiding. A flow where the moment is complete as it is, there is nothing to add, that unfolds just as it should and must without effort. Which is sort of counter-intuitive to what one might think a strongly focused state entails. But some things change, once they deliver us to the threshold, and another journey begins. And it may have to do with whether the attention to get there was sticky or frictionless.