Part Time Zendrome

On the cushion, alert to attention drifting
or being absconded
—it’s hard work
using breath as anchor
tagging when attention strays…
simplistic, perhaps, yet the only specific meditation
the Buddha ever taught was this:
to be aware when breathing in that we are breathing in,
and out when out
and holding when holding

Each time I forget, pulled into thought or feeling
or a pool of memory
I slide a bead on a mala
and start again with thumb on a new bead
fresh attention returns with the breath
yeah, just try to pull me away now, I dare ya!
…and there I go
…next bead. try again

soon one may notice there is bleed-over
during the day we may be aware
of being caught up in thoughts or feelings
more frequently
and we realize we don’t have to be
we don’t have to push away or resist
just being aware, of this thought, this feeling
and suddenly, we are no longer thinking “from” the thought
or wrapped up in the feeling it produces
the thought thinks itself
and is heading out of the station
with a whole train of thought cars attached to its wake
and we can just stay here at the station
another train will be by shortly to test us again
until we master this

but we can also be hijacked
like when a thought thinks it’s all zen in distancing from other thoughts
but this detachment and indifference is not zen
it’s just attention seated in another thought
and this speedy, sleeker bullet train of wokeness
is just another train
that left the station with us stuffed inside
but we gradually learn, down the track
the merit of being formless

and so goes the day to day
of practicing mind
a mixture of real and false awakenings
mostly sleepwalking
but the discipline of releasing thoughts
on the cushion
seeps into the day
in curious ways and moments
and begins to bloom into pockets of iridescent freedom
…so we’ve got that going for us

more of a what

Talk to me
tell me stories
about why you want to be there
rather than here
of why if that
hadn’t happened
you’d be somewhere else now
if only this
then that
the fragile web of your circumstance

and I will diagnose your dis-ease:

you believe your thoughts
you trust your feelings
but… there is no “you” they pertain to
other than a fabrication, a shimmer

if you can not find everything
you need, want, could ever hope for
right now
you will never find it
then
because wisdom is timeless

because it is not something to obtain
rather something to release
not through adding more
more understanding, insight, experience, revelation, awakening
but by taking less
less belief in self as a noun
allowing presence as a verb to emerge
dismantling attachment
releasing to what you have always been
will always be
beyond any experience
simply
I am
which turns out is less of an I
and more of a what

You don’t know who you are, so you don’t know who you aren’t.

-whitey. Malice in Wonderland

The Game

A little boy is playing a game. It looks like futuristic pinball. Around him the most marvelous things… he is fascinated by everything, glances at the game, tries the paddles

The little boy is older now, continually plays the game. Seldom looks around. He learns hitting a certain row of lights creates a rush of joy, another embarrassment, another pain. There are tutors in-game. He studies strategies

The boy is now grown, the game is more intricate but his play is now routine. Occasionally he drinks, takes drugs to change the repetitive nature of the game, it morphs into different things, sometimes fun and amazing, other times scary, sometimes the game seems to be to trying to tell him something meta. But it’s mostly about depression and being at effect rather than cause

Players are on either side. He looks over and sees the score of the man to his right. It is higher than his own. He gets depressed, why even play the game? It is unfair. He rebounds… after a while… he will do better. Study self-help, best practices, first principles, law of attraction

He looks to his left, a woman with a lower score. He feels pleased. Elevated. He asks if she wants his help. She smiles at him. He notices two things. A glow radiating from her. And her hands are not on the paddles

The girl is watching the game play itself. While she also observes the wonders around her. She looks over at a man offering to help and smiles. He is confused. She is a verb. He goes back to his game perturbed, assuring his hands they are not superfluous.

Rebellion

A rebel is the one who does not react against society. He watches and understands the whole ride and just decides not to be a part of it. He is not against society, he is rather indifferent to what is going on there.

This is the beauty of the Rebellion: Freedom!

The revolutionary is not free He is constantly fighting, struggling with something. How could he be free? He is always acting against something. Where is freedom in the mechanical reaction to external things?

Freedom is born from understanding. We must first understand the mechanisms involved: society prevents the evolution of the soul. The system doesn’t allow you to be yourself. Once this is understood, you simply step out of the system without even a scar in the soul. The rebel forgives and forgets, he just takes a distance from society, with no bond of love or hatred with it.

Osho “Freedom”

Meditation and Attention

4 Modes of Attention

exploring an understanding of meditation in the context of attention via a bit of mind mapping that’s a work in progress…

briefly: attention is invested day to day in 4 different ways. Most typically it falls in the sleep/auto category where it is absorbed in thoughts, feelings and billiard ball like associations with events just prior to the current one. These reel all the way back to happenstance experiences and childhood conditioning. Most of the activity we call thinking, feeling and ego are mechanically triggered by chains of circumstance and shaped primarily by external events and internal habits. Free will in this state is an illusion.

The other 3 reflect different ways of developing response-ability over our attention and define 3 major schools/approaches to meditation and “awakening.” Along with the potential ability to do and experience outside of our conditioning.

“Tell Me What You Pay Attention to and I Will Tell You Who You Are.”

– Jose Ortega Y Gasset

Thought is a Virus

I didn’t really understand viruses. Or how they interact with cells. Or cells themselves for that matter. Luckily a trove of engaging resources abound for us opsimaths. And it was far more enjoyable (re-)learning this round for personal rather than performative satisfaction. All misrepresentations, over-simplifications, errors and misunderstandings in this riff are solely my own and bear no reflection on the fine resources linked to above.

A cell is a little maker workshop with a code book for manufacturing. A gene is a recipe from this code book for making a specific protein. How big is this code book? How many recipes does it hold? What do proteins do anway? Good questions I thought. If my calculations are correct, our DNA, aka code book, contains about 375MB of information with built in redundancies. These instruct operations (i.e. which amino acids and what sequence to put them together) for making ~20k different proteins in humans, each protein embodies a specific technique, a specialized skill, for manipulating matter. All orchestrated god knows how.

Returning to the virus then, which is but a scrap of code without a processor. About the size of what you’d put in a memory buffer overflow, if you do that sort of thing. Not even a living thing by most definitions. It’s just a chassis whose shape attaches to compatible contours on cell surfaces and some helper proteins. Just floating around waiting to get stuck to a cell. When it docks, it passes a code string through the cell’s membrane. This code is in a common biological format that can be run by processors in the cell looking for work. The code’s sole objective, like most organisms built of code, is simply to replicate. To passively find a processor in the cell (a ribosome) that will execute its program for making its protein building blocks. The code just needs enough scrap material to make a copy of the chassis and copy of itself until the cell is so full of these little escape pods it bursts. Then the pods aka viruses float free attaching to more cells. Leaving a wake of destruction behind that the body tries to clean up. By invoking fire through inflammation. (A nastier type of virus, the Retro-Virus, attaches itself to our own cell’s code book. Like AIDS. It then spreads via our cells natural reproduction so it’s harder to identify and catch.)

Thoughts are also similar to viruses. Both simple and retro. Some thoughts can survive on paper surfaces for centuries and then unfold inside a brain, mobilizing it to replicate its code to other brains through speech or writing. Many spread electronically now. In higher bandwidths than speech, like music, graphic imagery and visual story. Math and design.

Credits to Laurie Anderson and her Language is a Virus song, and William Burroughs before that. Language assembles sequences that act like genes, for building functional ways we perceive and interact with reality. Much like proteins work to manipulate matter.

Sometimes replication depends on survival of the host, and even the host’s well-being, in which case it’s called symbiotic. Organism and host work as a team. Microbes of this type make up more of our body than our cells. We are a multitude.

Sometimes, however, an organism is only about its own replication, host or environment be damned. This model is called a pathogen. i.e. “pathos”-producing. Pathos from the Greek “what befalls one.” Concerned only with their own survival and replication, everything else is the “other”, they destroy their hosts with strategies designed to find new hosts. The end game is unsustainable and results in total destruction, but it seldom gets that far.

Information seems to be a fabric of nature, like energy and matter. And code instructs biological processes of growth and maintenance, including processes of our brains. Our thoughts are fabrications of our biology as much as our cells. Code can build allies, making a union stronger than the parts, making the whole more resilient.

Or code can maximize its own survival, spreading sensationally and utilizing channels and mammalian habitual behaviors in ways that leverage and accelerate its chances to jump ships while its current one is sinking. As media accelerates and globalizes the spread of thoughts, code has unprecedented vectors for both symbiosis and pathology. Until we can quarantine our awareness from thoughts, we will continue to mindlessly and haphazardly embody both.

It may behoove us to practice some social distancing between our awareness and identification with thoughts so we aren’t unduly infected by the pandemic of panic and fear and so we do not become carriers of these for others. Or not.

“I choose to live by choice, not by chance.” — Miyamoto Musashi

Pivot

We take reasonable precautions, but I suspect we either already had, or we will get covid this year and then we will roll the dice. We’re preparing for any combination of outcomes, as best we can. Logistically, psychologically, spiritually. It’s a good wake-up, because we often don’t take our mortality that seriously. The next rising sun is not guaranteed for any of us, and there will be a day, soon or distant, when we leave this body, this existence, this drama and perhaps even these memories. And we will leave alone.

So bringing all the strands of life experience together. Inner housekeeping. Releasing blame, regret, judgment, attachments to suffering, virtue signaling. These outward and temporal identity hedges lose relevance and interest. Sinking into the understanding and exploration of what might be beyond the physical, getting in touch with dreams and thresholds, living in the present, being grateful, speaking/acting with integrity, kindness and wholeness. Stopping trying to fix things, in both self and others. Taking nothing personally, letting impermanent be impermanent.

These are the new priorities. I think our current chances of catching it are low, but it will have many opportunities for ambush. But even if we are snagged, with my conditions probably registering a 1 in 20 chance and my mate maybe a 1.5 in 20, or less since she is female and had the BCG vaccine in childhood. Odds I’d definitely bet against the house on in Las Vegas, although not voluntarily with life and death at stake. Still, the best we can do in any case, is to live this year to the max. As if we did not have another. And use this opportunity to learn what it is like, for the time remaining to be enough.

Margo: “You guys know our life is about to get weirder in some insane way we can’t possible predict?”
Group: “Yes”,”Yes”,”I mean yes”
“And I find that, somehow, perversely comforting”
“So do I”
“And that’s how I know it’s our story”
-Magicians. Season 5

Recommended Reading

pandemics

I have stoic tendencies, so not so good at the consoling stuff —more like: “ok, so that happened, now what?”
with that in mind…

how you feel about the pandemic seems to boil down to three questions…

  1. how do you feel about risk and luck, your luck in particular, given your history, age, condition, beliefs, etc.?
  2. how do you feel about your own mortality, or sense of immortality?
  3. how do you feel about others you might affect, do you think they are on their own trajectories independent of your actions?

there are all sorts and sources of information, opinion, and on the ground reporting, which you may attend, or not —or just enough to get an assessment of the risk. But it all filters back to the same 3 questions, regardless of the source and content of your information, that everyone will answer for themselves, I think. And there are no wrong answers.

it may be a blessing or a curse, to be forced to clarify our stance. regardless, it is a wake-up call

Reconsidering Lucid Dreams

from kentskyo at ddg

I’ve been stepping up to a more subtle relationship with dreams. Instead of just stomping around trying to change stuff, leveraging or seeking entertainment like an ugly tourist, I’m transitioning to a better behaved guest. Realizing lucidity is not a gift but an obligation, to cultivate a consciousness in the waking state too, of the type of thinking and relating done in the dream world. To better understand the messages of both. The key is working with states of consciousness which come bundled with their own capabilities and limitations.

“Rather than act like the lord of the
manor, I would rather behave like a
guest.” — Lao Tzu

In waking, getting dreamy entails a shift of mindset from analytical/verbal modalities to other types of discourse with the body, for example, without words. And with the “field”, all those things “out there” seen and unseen. Images. Flashes. Felt sense. It’s like listening to a new, much fuller conversation about reality. Intriguing intimations flooding in. That I have no idea what to do with. But seems to make me a more trustworthy immigrant in the dream worlds, as I stop trying to over-analyze with waking habits. And I’m being invited to more dream scenarios now, and being less antagonistic.

I believe when the student is ready, the teacher arrives. Mine have usually been in the form of books. Sometimes movies. For others it may be music, synchronistic encounters. This dream world reorientation was nudged by a book from a talented and creative hypnotist, physicist and therapist from Canada with a unique approach and some incredible inductions on the tracks included.

Perception vs Interpretation

I’m learning to draw, and the hardest part of drawing has little to do with the mechanics. Other than learning to use the shoulder more than the wrist or elbow. Nope, to unlock skills in drawing the key is seeing what’s there. Which I naively assumed I was already doing. I was wrong.

This has deeper implications than art but art is proving a visceral way of understanding it.

Perception and interpretation are deeply intertwined. This can be easily demonstrated by any number of optical illusions. Rather than seeing what’s there our brains reform perception to expectations based on habitual cues. It takes shortcuts, in other words.

When trying to draw something the brain seems to identify, categorize and abstract in ways such that we’re no longer looking at outlines, contours, shading and color. Even simple things, like a chair. Or our hands. In fact, it takes sustained effort to unhook our interpretation circuity and see the raw elements of what we’re perceiving. And, like optical illusions, we have to actively fight the tendency to snap back to what we think we are seeing instead of what we actually are.

There are reasons (and experiments) that demonstrate, as tenacious as this is at the sensory level, the habit can be even more insidious on the level of concepts, stereotypes and ideologies. In fact, we seldom realize that we’re usually looking at a map rather than the territory for just about everything. Maps are always condensations of what they represent. By necessity they leave out more than they portray. (Although one of Lewis Carroll’s characters in Sylvie and Bruno proposed a map where 1 mile would be 1 mile but it would be impractical to unfold!)

“The map is not the territory,” is a famous quote from the founder of General Semantics, Alfred Korzybski. He developed a system of mental checks and balances that work much the same way drawing does to keep our attention calibrated to what we are actually seeing. He warns against getting lost in our interpretations and mistaking them for perceptions (intensionality), and proscribes ways to maintain awareness through various tools for calibrating and correcting our maps.

A. Vogt, a famous science fiction writer, wrote about a time when Korzybski’s approach is taught in society at large, like grammar in grade school, resulting in a more sane population. Less susceptible to living in descriptions of the world rather than the world itself.