𓂀 signal vs. noise

All, LEVELS, Poetry

The Goddesses and the Gods sing my song
(La la la la la, La la la la la la, La la la la la, La la la la)
Sirens and The Princes sing my song and they love me;
For when vibrations resonate with their own frequencies,
There is (always) harmony:
It’s how friends, lovers, scoundrels, and fools fall thick as theives

Conversely,
When the energies, archetypes, and their consciousnesses are not aligned and do not resonate, vibrate, or match,
Then there is dissonance,
And things are (always) inharmonious,
Their presence grating on us like a loud motorbike,
And not the calming eye of the gods and goddesses
𓂀;
People are energetic mirrors,
Reflecting and communicating,
From their surfaces and their depths
Back to our own conscious and unconscious minds,
Creating space
Where something is shared:
The transference of meaning:
The truth of inner and outer sight,
So that from the goddess there emerges the god,
And in the intellect of another, we find our own intelligence,
Which wants no mask,
(tired as it is of not being seen and thus being masked)
For others reflect back their counterparts in us,
And we see ourselves in them
And the stage is set for the players to begin and end

Voice Memos: Your New Best Friend

All, Childhood, Happiness, health, Inner Child, Journal, LEVELS, Magic, MyFavoritez, Philosophy, Psychology, Ritual, Self-Actualizing, self-talk

The word ‘habit’ typically isn’t something I go gaga for, but when you integrate the right habits – from Latin habere, to have – into your life, you get the benefits of them. And sometimes in life we discover habits whose rewards are so enriching that it changes the game, leveling us up. Just as the wrong habits level us down.

I’ve recently begun a new habit that is so potent, so enriching, so rewarding and fulfilling, that I have to share it. Every single person I’ve mentioned it to seems to get it, and you’d think more people did this. And I think in the future more people will.

Frankly, we didn’t have the technology for it until rather recently. You carry the technology in your pocket or perhaps on your wrist, if you wear an iWatch. But if you’re like me, you never used your phone for this purpose before. Now that I have, it’s my favorite habit. Close to yoga. Invaluable.

If you’d like to try it, you only need the Voice Memos app, which comes bundled with your iPhone. If you’re an Android user, the Play store carries many free Voice Memo apps.

To try it yourself, open Voice Memos, press the red record button, and begin speaking – to yourself.

It might seem anticlimactic or appear mundane on the surface, to suggest you begin talking to yourself and recording it, but it’s far from purposeless. It is for me, the most purposeful thing I do. I’m over the moon for it.

It is, in short, Self Talk.

If you’re a regular or longtime reader of mine, you’ll recognize this term [self-talk] from my writings on the Navy Seals and self-talk, here, and here. Self-talk is no small thing. It’s the conversation we have with ourselves, in our heads, and the quality of our consciousness, our life, our happiness and wellbeing, depend on it – entirely. And the crazy thing is, most people live in their heads in a very passive, reactive relationship to themselves and their thoughts. You want to change your life? You want to get on track? You want growth? Start talking to yourself.

Now, before I did this, I would journal. But the problem with journaling is similar to the problem of typing: it’s very slow. We think faster than we can write. But we can typically speak at pace with our thoughts. Eventually, via something like Elon Musk’s Neuralink, we’ll be bionic cyborgs who don’t even need the phone. We’ll be able to google at the speed of thought and we’ll truly be connected to the internet. We will even be able to selectively communicate telepathically. But until then, we’re using two thumbs or a pen and it’s very slow. Voice Memos don’t have this problem. They allow us to think data and to dump it – and it becomes a conversation with our Self. And the more I do it, the more natural it becomes. It’s enjoyable. I get in the car and record hands-free voice memos while I’m driving alone. Basically it’s like having your best friend with you all the time. And they can always listen and they even speak back.

Now I understand some people might feel like it’s not normal to talk to yourself. And they’re right. It’s not normal. It’s extraordinary. Normal people are stuck in their heads. I know. I used to be one. My thoughts rising like a tide, me listening to them without ever really responding. Then getting so tired of my amygdala barking all day that I’d dump alcohol into myself to shut ‘er down. Yeah, that didn’t work for me.

In retrospect, I also notice that before I began this habit of self-talk via voice memos, I felt like I was missing that someone to listen to me (Dearest apologies to my ex-girlfriends and therapists and the blurred line between them). But now, I don’t feel that void. I don’t feel alone anymore. And both the quality of my consciousness and the capabilities of it have grown from using it actively in this fashion.

What do I talk about? Well, everything. Whatever I feel like. I just open voice memos and press record. It’s usually brief but sometimes it’s 20 mins or an hour. And I usually don’t listen to them, but sometimes I do – particularly if they were “inspired”. On that note, for anyone who uses plant medicines or entheogens, I can say that non-normal states of consciousness lend themselves to speech in this manner much more than journaling. The first time I ever did this was in-fact in a non-normal state of waking. And I knew after the first time that I had discovered something.

It’s a Yoga to me, a way, a path. And I’ll do it as long as I LIVE. I’m sorry, but it beats conventional thinking in the echo chamber of your head. Particularly for emotions, feelings, relationships, stresses, goals, anything of personal concern to you. It’s every single outer space movie ever where the person is alone and dialoging into a recording device…. “Day 735..”.

The night before I began this habit, I watched an old Twilight Zone episode about an astronaut stranded on a planet alone. He spoke aloud to himself almost the entire episode, usually into a recorder.

So perhaps that was the seed for the idea, but despite my living alone in the mountains, I had never done it before. As I said, I journaled. Now my main notebook is my daily to-do list, but my journaling has become entirely self-narrated into Voice Memos. But this wasn’t just a change in medium – it was a change in consciousness. From passive to active thinking. From being alone to having myself to face everything with – consciously.

Because that’s the big shift. From the unconscious – the sub-conscious – to the conscious. From thinking to doing: speaking. And by doing this, by speaking, by bringing our thoughts into being, we’re making the unconscious conscious.

As Jung says, “Until you make the unconscious conscious it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”

In the words of Dr. Bruce Lipton, PhD:

“The subconscious mind is learned habits. The conscious mind is creative programming. When you are conscious you can rewrite the instincts, and when you become conscious, you can rewrite the experience of your life. So that it is important to recognize that what we are not using enough of is consciousness.”

And having this practice of self-dialogue, of self-talk available to me and having found so much fulfillment in it, I have experienced the benefits of a boost in consciousness quite rapidly. It calms me down. It turns off my sympathetic nervous system and it turns on the parasympathetic nervous system. I can feel it. It grounds me in myself, and it allows me to tap into that part of me, the highest, the authentic self, where I have the resources available to me to handle any given situation.

As an added benefit, I’ve also experienced an improvement in two huge areas of my life. 1. My self-image and self-esteem – and 2. My relationship to myself.

When I speak aloud to myself, I become an active participant in my thinking. When I hear myself say something limiting or beneath my authentic self, I catch myself and I correct it. The quality of my thinking has gone way up. I’m no longer a prisoner of my thoughts. I’m the steward of them. The keeper of myself. And it’s helped me get to know myself better, and I’ve learned that I can count on myself, that I’m there for myself and will always be. As Nathaniel Branden writes, “Self-esteem is our reputation with ourselves.” By engaging in high-quality, conscious conversations with myself, my reputation with myself has improved drastically. It’s created accountability within myself. As I said (to myself) on one of my audios tonight, “I can’t get rid of my self-image: it’s who I am, and I have to live up to it.”

With that improved reputation with myself, my self-image has risen to the level of the Self, of authentic. It matches who I am. The inner and the outer of me have been joined into a unified whole. I’m no longer caught in the struggle of inner-self versus outer-self. Of unconscious versus conscious. It’s very liberating.

Whenever we bring the unconscious into consciousness, it frees us from the grip of the shadow, the repressed self. This weakens the psychic energy by removing repression from my being. The outer me is very interested in how the inner me feels, and I’m no longer bottling up my feelings inside myself.

How many of us long for a therapist? How many of us don’t have the access to that we would like? Having some experience with therapy and being on this side of 34, I can say that the therapist has no magic. It’s the talking – the talking cure.

I’m writing to tell you it works. And you may feel eccentric doing it, but you are worth your conscious attention. This is like being able to re-parent your inner child. And you can certainly talk to the other parts of yourself. You could, theoretically engage in dialogue specifically with say, the ego, the inner-child, the shadow, the anima – any archetype within you.

Consciousness has long been described as being like a computer. The word computer comes from the Latin “putare”, which means both to think and to prune. This is what I do in my audio logs. I think and I prune – cutting away what is not beneficial for me by way of choosing better thoughts and improving the conversation in my head – down to the subconscious. This is the brain folks. It’s your computer. Your duty to yourself is to program your computer to optimize your health, wellbeing, and success. By listening to your own voice. By making the inner voice the outer voice.

As the Gnostic text The Gospel of Thomas tells us:

“When you make the two into one, and when you make the inner as the outer, and the upper as the lower, and when you make male and female into a single one, so that the male shall not be male, and the female shall not be female: . . . then you will enter [the kingdom].”

It might sound cryptic but it’s the ancient philosopher’s stone of “As above so below, as within so without.”

These are metaphors for integration, to achieve wholeness. To reclaim who we are. Children talk to themselves. Adults stop. And I find it sad. Especially knowing the value of it now. I wish I had started this ten years ago.

Not only has it given me a better relationship to myself and a healthier psyche, I also have much more access to myself; I can query myself like a database, asking myself important questions. I’m no longer living in the vacuum of mind.

It is interpersonal communication. Animals do it. Watch a gorilla documentary. They are vocal animals. Silence in nature means danger. The wikipedia for interpersonal communication gives an interesting theory for this:

Joseph Jordania suggested that talking to oneself can be used to avoid silence. According to him, the ancestors of humans, like many other social animals, used contact calls to maintain constant contact with the members of the group,and a signal of danger was communicated through becoming silent and freezing. Because of the human evolutionary history, prolonged silence is perceived as a sign of danger and triggers a feeling of uneasiness and fear. According to Jordania, talking to oneself is only one of the ways to fill in prolonged gaps of silence in humans. Other ways of filling in prolonged silence are humming, whistling, finger drumming, or having TV, radio or music on all the time.

And how many people do you know who always have the TV on? Or music? I have found silence to be much more profound now that I’ve broken the taboo on talking to myself. I no longer need the energy from external sources. I have riches and love within me. Here for me. From me.

Negative self-talk, negative thinking will ruin your life. The science backs it up:

Negative self-talk has been implicated in contributing to psychological disorders including depression, anxiety, and bulimia nervosa.

The truth is, you need yourself. That’s what this has given me. Full access to myself.

Read about the benefits of private speech. I find it telling that our communication with ourselves in the form of private speech “goes underground” when we begin school.

It’s sad that society holds a stereotype that people who talk to themselves are “crazy”. I think this adult notion prevents many people from doing what all children do.

It’s not crazy. It’s very sane, from Latin sanus, meaning healthy.

Don’t live your life like a closed book, an enigma, a mystery to yourself. You deserve your own company and your own conversation. It’s been life changing for me. Liberating. Empowering. Beautiful.

I hope this compels others who read this to start recording their own private voice memos, to start engaging in their own private discussions. I think it’s something we can all benefit from. And I didn’t know until I began to do it myself just how lacking my life was without it.

So make voice memos your new best friend and make you your new best friend.

The Resources to Handle Any Given Situation

All, Happiness, health, humanity, Journal, MyFavoritez, Personal Mythology, Philosophy, Psychology, Self-Actualizing

I’ve something major to tell you:

There is no such thing as stress, only the belief that we don’t possess the resources to handle a given situation.

This isn’t new-age optimism or clever logic; it’s the truth. The idea comes straight from the Wikipedia page for psychological stress:

“Humans experience stress, or perceive things as threatening, when they do not believe that their resources for coping with obstacles (stimuli, people, situations, etc.) are enough for what the circumstances demand. When people think the demands being placed on them exceed their ability to cope, they then perceive stress.”

So let me tell you again:

There is no such thing as stress, only the belief that we don’t possess the resources to handle a given situation.

Let’s chew on this, digging deeper.

As humans there are myriad things that can cause us to feel stress – that is to say, to feel we do not possess the resources to handle a given situation. Not one person reading this can’t relate; however, by learning that stress is only the belief we don’t possess the resources to face what we perceive as the source of our stress, we suddenly have a much greater understanding about what stress is and how it is caused.

To provide a concrete example that demonstrates the nature of stress as a belief in inadequate resources, we need only imagine that what is stressful for us may be nothing to someone else – just as what is stressful to others may be a cakewalk for us. Think of public speaking, starting a new job, or meeting someone new. These are, like all potential sources of stress, stressful only insofar as they correspond to an individual’s belief in their inability to handle a given situation. Meaning: the degree to which we feel we can’t “handle” something, is the degree to which we perceive that thing as stressful.

This all may seem rather dry but the implications are staggering… I promise you. For once we realize that stress is dependent upon perceived deficiencies in our internal judgements – rather than something that stems solely from our assessments of external factors – something major happens: suddenly we become responsible for our stress. And when we become responsible for anything, it instantly becomes within our power to control.

That’s right. I pump good medicine – I’m a self-professed ‘mind hacker’, a programmer. Sure, I write code too, but the alphabet, words, are also code – and consciousness – the brain – is very much like a computer. Give someone a program – a belief – that says they don’t have the resources to handle a given situation, and they will experience stress. This is a program. And I’m writing to reprogram me, to connect the dots and achieve liberation through understanding. But we still need a few more dots to see the whole picture.

Interestingly, the word gnosis – from which we get ‘gnostic’, relating to knowledge – comes from the ancient greek gnōsis, meaning, to know. And many gnostics believe Jesus was not divine but, rather, was just a human who attained divinity through gnosis (Intellectual or spiritual knowledge), which he taught to his followers (Obligatory Gospel of Thomas shoutout). This gnostic interpretation of the Jesus archetype is a great parable for how we can “attain divinity” – i.e., achieve liberation – through knowledge.

I truly believe this having been to a hell and back of my own making. It’s only through knowledge, through understanding, that I have been freed from my past fears, insecurities, paranoias, doubts and stressors. And it is only via pain that I have ever been led to any real knowledge; for bringing light to the dark doesn’t work: it is only by bringing the darkness to light that we become visible, that we are enlightened. And you’re free to scoff at my indirect assertion that I am enlightened but I believe it is enlightened (From Old English inlīhtan, meaning, to shine.) to overcome oneself. For there is no other gatekeeper between you and the divine (From Latin divis, godlike.) I use old words because I’m talking about old concepts. The nature of human aspiration. We just have better metaphors than god and heaven now. I’ll take Self-Actualization for five-hundred, please.

Fulfillment. Wellbeing. Emotional and psychical health. This is my shit. I’m here to shine. And I’ve already transformed myself and made my world what it is. But the work never ends. It just gets higher and higher, and the freedom you find in following the seeking of the will gets deeper and deeper. And it’s all from knowledge. Learning. This is how we evolved, we’re just doing it consciously now.

So if there’s no such thing as stress – only the believe we don’t have the resources to handle a given situation – then let’s bust stress.

Like any phantom menace we need only demystify it. For when we demystify things, we remove all the mystery and confusion surrounding them. And I’d say the mysterious nature of stress has caused some serious confusion in all of our lives. We think it’s out of our control based on an assessment that is very much within our control.

And I’m here to tell you: are that person with the resources to handle any given situation. Straight up.

I believe it was Sidney Poitier who wrote in his memoir that there was a well-worn groove in our DNA for every type of suffering. That any type of pain has worn a path into our being over the course of our evolution, so that we can handle it. I believe that no matter the situation, there exists an archetype, a version of you, within you, that can handle it. Heroes share in common that they are brave. They face things boldly, as one ought to. For it never helps to stress. It never helps to be insecure. It never helps to worry. It helps to be confident. It helps to be calm. It helps to be in control. This is why the Navy seals are taught diaphragmatic breathing, self-talk, mental rehearsal, and goal-setting. We teach our military operators to respond to adverse conditions as successfully as a human can. And while we don’t face deadly enemy-fire or the task of following orders into what may be violent annihilation, our amygdala all the same must respond to life via the same human hardware. None of us lives without the capability to experience fear and stress, and none of us lives free from the behavioral consequences of fear and stress. And it’s not just the fight-flight-or-freeze reactions of the sympathetic nervous system in response to the infralimbic cortex and the amygdala – the stress, the fear itself, which we suffer. The true costs of these undesired states are in-fact far more destructive to our wellbeing than the mere stealing of our joy, peace, and control in the moment. As Harvard Health tells us:

“Chronic stress can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease. It can dampen the immune system, increasing susceptibility to colds and other common infections. It can contribute to asthma, digestive disorders, cancer, and other health problems. New research even supports the notion that high levels of stress somehow speed up the aging process.

And if you’re psychical wellbeing, your health, isn’t a compelling enough argument to make you want to eliminate the experience if stress from your life, then how about thinking of the emotional responses to stress: anxiety and aggression. Or the adrenal responses to stress: cortisol and adrenaline.

But it gets worse: stress causes depressive like behaviors and adversely effects us socially. Big surprise: our relationships take the big toll. We’ve all seen this, and probably from both sides: from that of the stressed person and from that of the one in their vicinity suffering the consequences of their emotional dysregulation, which is linked to depression, anxiety, eating-disorders, smoking, self-harm, and substance abuse.

We know that stress causes depression and more. And stressful people stress others out, pushing a toxic cycle forward. It sucks.

I spent so long being this guy. Stress – my own lack of belief in my resources to handle a given situation – cost me all my relationships, and it cost them a lot too. I was depressed. I didn’t think I had what it took. And so I didn’t. I was the victim of myself. Then came the depression. Tons of self-medicating to feel alive again, and the self-abuse and self-abandonment that follows. Stress made me betray myself and those I love in turn. It made me a shell of myself. I was so afraid that I became a monster.

As Yoda says, “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. And hate leads to the dark side.”

I’ve been to the darkside. It’s what led me here. All that pain. It was too much to live with. There was a time before I emerged from the darkness in possession of my shadow (And thus myself), back when my shadow possessed me, back when I had to go somewhere safe and check myself in. And it wasn’t a hotel. And it wasn’t that long ago. But I survived. Pain as heavy as any I’d felt. And the heaviest pain when I saw what I had done to myself and others for years. You could say that it was very sobering.

Looking back on how I was, I was just afraid of how you saw me. And in an attempt to cover up my fears, I became what I feared and worse. Insecurity and worry and uncertainty and stress and doubt and fear are the most unfortunate of all self-fulfilling prophecies. They are the worst of all beliefs. They are awful programs to run and their consequences are absolutely heartbreaking. So why do we run them?

The answer is maddeningly simple: evolution.

While we evolved from fish and monkeys (Whom we can thank for our incredible biology.), most people no longer need to run for their lives or fight to survive regularly. Only this is what we are wired for. Our central nervous system doesn’t know the difference when we experience stress, which is essentially a survival mechanism designed to preserve immediate life at the expense of longterm health and wellbeing.

Given everything I know and my family experiences in life, I can honestly say that nothing is worth stressing out over in our modern world. Nothing is worth fearing.

For they are the same. Like stress, fear is not real. Danger is real. We just fear because we don’t think we have the resources to face the thing we fear.

And so now, knowing what I know now, how much stress do you think I allow myself to experience?

None. Zero.

Because to allow myself to experience stress or fear or doubt or worry is to believe that I don’t have the resources to handle a given situation – and that’s simply not true. I do.

I am the person with the resources to handle any given situation. And so are you.

By reminding myself that I can handle any given situation, I’m maintaining a powerful internal locus of control. And by doing this, by knowing that things are in my control, I’m no longer a victim of my biology. I’m actively strengthening my core self evaluation. And given the brain’s synaptic plasticity, I’m engaging in long-term potentiation – the strengthening of synapses that fire together. As chiropractor turned neuroscience guru Joe Dispenza says, “Neurons that fire together wire together.” So every time I respond to a potentially anxiety inducing stimulus by reinforcing my competency, I’m building a better me – one that absolutely has the resources to handle any given situation.

Lastly, I want to share a little anecdote about how I face external situations in a way that reinforces my ability to handle them, without reacting adversely (stress, fear, worry, uncertainty, doubt, insecurity).

I think of myself as a Star Wars character. I imagine that character archetype, someone like Rey – but me. Lord knows I’ve already been Kylo Ren. Hot-headed and reactive. But that doesn’t serve me. It has only harmed me and those I love. But by imagining what kind of hero I could be, I am connected to The Force, the Will, the knowledge that I have the ability to bravely face anything. And it’s getting easier and easier the more I actively engage that part of myself. I guess you could say it’s who I’m becoming. For we are all programming ourselves with our behaviors and our thoughts, whether we know it or not.

May The Force be with you: may you know you have the resources to handle any given situation – calmly, cooly, peacefully, and in control of yourself. Make your inner-child proud and give yourself this power. It’s within you. I promise you.

Alchemical Magic w a Spell for Liberation from Worry, Self-Doubt, and Fear.

All, Journal, Magic, Writing

“Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard.
It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.”
– Shakespeare, Julius Cesar

(Act II, Scene II, Line 32)

I forgot how much I just need to be in the dark, in the late of the night, sitting up, thinking on life: doing magic.

For writing is alchemical: it is a transformative means of reprogramming the self. What I am going to do here is magic.

Because when you study magic – not tricks (stage magic), but the ancient artifice, the craft of magic – you discover that it is a direct means of influencing The Will.

In fact, The ability to influence her own Will through her art is what gives the practitioner of magic her power, for she knows that mastery of the Self’s own Will IS mastery of the All.

You could think of the magician or the witch as someone training their own Jedi mind powers, their Will. And not for the purpose of moving lightsabers or lifting rocks, but to move the mountains standing in their way. It is an inner game. The bodhisattva knows how to play it. The Stoic knew how. So too the Jivanmukta.

Magic is the game of taking control of oneself by mythical means: meaning is the currency of magic. Meaning enables the magician to move from out of control into control: out of chaos, order. Magic is the bridge between the two. It is the integrating of new knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs. Through these powers, the center is found and returned to again and again on different levels.

Magic offers a means of attaining new truths. Magic is a messenger of synchronicity. It is the coyote I played hide and seek with behind the house today, and it is the new thoughts and attitudes reality has birthed within me tonight. And so, I cast spells using these magic symbols called letters to work with the energy of it all.

Long before the advent of modern language, one of the first tools of early humans was the stick. Used to draw things in the sand, it was the caveman’s magic wand, allowing him to communicate not only with others, but perhaps more importantly, with himself (The pen is my magic wand, as the guitar is John Mayer’s).

And history is so large we can imagine it all. So let’s go back in time to first magic wand: the stick. We see a young man, long ago, on the plains. He had an animal friend, a young coyote ancestor. And one day, the coyote was killed. So our friend sits alone that night, by the fire, in pain. And in his dejection, he picks up a stick and starts stretching in the dirt. A figure is soon formed out of an unconscious flow. He has drawn his coyote friend. And in this moment, he has become a symbol using animal. And the symbol does something to him, by means of the logos, the meaning behind it. And suddenly, he feels things about the coyote he did not know he felt. And those feelings change him, they become a part of his spirit. And he has discovered coyote magic. And it is only a lens, but he sees things almost as if from the perspective of the coyote now. And his world has grown bigger than the confines of his old pain. He has found meaning. Deeply personal, deeply powerful, and invaluable.

This is what the artist, the alchemist, the philosopher, and the seer do: they come to conclusions of greater value than their environment, than what they started with. It is an inner art, this artifice of birthing truths. One that allows the practitioner to fashion reality per her own lens. Perception is reality. And the wise one knows this. Their problems are problems of perception, and so, living in the matrix of self, the means of solving perceptual problems are beyond mere cognitive might. Thinking is the cause of their suffering in the first place, so a new level of thought must be reached.

In this way, magic can be thought of as the acts which enable us to transcend ourselves. They are almost shamanic in their nature, and very often are brought about via shamanic states of consciousness.

The magi / shaman / artist / practitioner is a creature imbued with the ability to will things into existence – even their own perceptions. Magic is only the means by which the necessary meaning we must integrate into ourselves is brought about and integrated, according to the purposes of our Will.

This all expressed, let’s practice some magic – now, by virtue of my tools (INTENTION, FLOW, SPELLing) I’ve already been practicing it this entire entry.

But let us go straight to the great work, the magnum opus:

I just no longer want to worry and stress about life. It’s too short. We all die. Memento-fucking-mori – remember that you will die. What now is worth stressing out over; it’s all going back to dust. We may as well be spirits. Only, the gods don’t die, so we are either braver than the gods or we are the gods. Either way is fine by me. The animal dies with grace. And humans are no different than animals, which is to say, we are no different than we were 100,000 years ago. Eat well, sleep well, work hard (hunt). Love. This is all you can do. You’ve spent years worrying, stressing out, the whole world seems to do it. Or we convince ourselves if we had X, Y, and Z, we wouldn’t stress out either. But we don’t have it because we are stressed out. Only we think we are stressed out because we don’t have it. When really, we are just addicted to worry by way of habit and have not even the strength to still ourselves. And why? Where came this lack of strength: weakness and hysteria by example. Mass neurosis. Ignorance. Shallowness. Fear. The world. You must be one who is in this world, but not of it, so much as you know you will not be “here” forever. But what a zoo. And it is. Only, let it be. People forget about death or render its omnipotent power impotent through religion. Be not one of them. Come to the gates now. Understand that in the everlasting book of time you are but a page. And no one cares if you are really happy. They may wish the best for you, but it’s your head game. If you succumb to it, to fear, and stress, and the dark magic of self-abuse and abandonment, they cannot save you. Love cannot save you. You can save you. Only you. But die to fear. Do it now. Let it go. Be as brave as the coyote, as noble as the sheep suffocating in its jaws. Both are no more or less important than you. Consciousness is relative to us all, and the coyote is in his head, the sheep in her’s, and you in yours. All experience hunger. All experience desire. All experience the feelings of having a body. Only, the sheep and coyote do not create their own hells. They live in a more natural reality. One in which life and death are just that, the way of life and death. So, they follow their instincts. And they live but for a minute of beauty – but it does not pass them. They receive and pursue the pleasure that is theirs. The raccoon does not deny himself his raccoon-ness on the basis of guilt or fear. Hell no, he just does it. And so to is your duty to be yourself. But there must be a deprogramming from all past thought patterns. Now is a day. The only one you really ever have. To waste it in worry is sad. Like some poor monkey in the zoo without his kind. He is missing them and he is depressed. Knows no other mode of thinking to free himself from this. Has no magic. Or maybe you’re a little runt of a Wolf, and your brothers beating up on you has made you fearful and passive, and you know no other way of feeling as good as your brothers do, in their dominance. And perhaps your chances of reproducing are lessened by your genetics. Well, life isn’t fair. But you are not wolf, you have a choice: let the stuff that has gotten you down for years of your life keep bringing you down for now and forever, or accept it and accept that society is always going to judge you for some things, and is always going to worship other things. The word sentence, as in a ‘prison sentence’ comes from the Latin ‘sentiere’, which means “to feel”. A sentence is merely an opinion. Live in your own truths. Don’t accept the opinions of others as your reality any longer. Know your own worth. Know your own validity. Know that despite failures and setbacks and mistakes, you are a damn good person who has done their all at the time, every time. Practice self-compassion. Love yourself like you love that lone coyote. Be secure. Let nothing ruffle your feathers. Let no sentence judge you for you, no person’s judgement summarize you. Whatever adversities you will face in life you will transform to your highest purpose and development. But there is nothing to develop into. Nothing to become. You are enough. Your existence has meaning, purpose, passion, desire. But arrive now: be here now. And stop negativity in its tracks. If you are tired in front of the mirror remind yourself you are tired and do not allow you to treason against yourself, because it is all a head game. The female alpha wolf knows who the alpha wolf is because he is the alpha wolf in his head. And there’s no need to fake anything. You are the living one. Full of gifts and kindness, but also a savage strength. And not one of anger but of peace. Simply care for yourself, do your best everyday, and plan for the future based only on what you can control. Worry not for what you can not. Be your best friend. But be more the that. Be at home in the world. Among 7.5 BILLION people alive today, do you really think your worries are that important that you are the center of the world, that your whole experience of reality need be made unpleasant because things aren’t the way you want them to be! Good god man, how you need to remember once and for all. This life is but a short gift. And the only place you’ll ever find it is in the Present. So, accept the world isn’t how you wished it was as a child, and let go of all the very unfeeling and unphilosophic opinions ever passed on to you by a world that values stupid, unimportant shit. You have a lot to be grateful for. See it. Experience it. The only way to transcend thought is in feeling. Feel good. Feel worthy. Feel grateful. Feel relaxed. Feel capable. Feel strong. Feel secure. Feel safe. Feel at ease. Even if the cause for worrying ever came your way, worrying wouldn’t help. Worrying is like praying for what you don’t want to happen. It’s a total alignment with failure. And the failure isn’t the result we cannot control but the attitude. The judgement. “Remove the judgement and you have removed the hurt (Marcus Aurelius); “Remove the thought, ‘I am hurt’ and you are no longer hurt.” Yes, Emperor, but we must also genuinely feel we are not hurt. Then we do not hurt. Denial solves nothing. So, you got hurt. So you had to do something difficult. Shall we pour our entire lives away as poor, suffering children who know no better. No, we must learn to be. To be here. Now. Still. Secure. Not there. Then. Restless. Insecure. Those are old ways you will no longer tolerate and perpetuate. The new way is a liberation of your soul in the knowledge of the impermanence of life and in the knowing that for what time you are here, you deserve to feel good. At peace. Secure. Present. Free from worry. Calm. Loved. Stable. Impenetrable. Strong. Worthy. Capable. And free. Liberated from all fear knowing you will pass the gates of death one day. And even then, you will not fear. The self-doubt is gone. Only the Self remains. Now go relax, freed from old patterns of attached fear. Go relax. Don’t think: BE. Try it. You deserve it. Go relax now – and know that you can return to the relaxed freedom of your liberated state at any time by simply remembering that you will die. So live while you are alive. Your days of merely existing are done. Live. Be. Breath. Trust. Calm. Strong. Love. Will. Safe. Secure. Worth it. So worth it.

Wake Up With Your Dreams

All, MyFavoritez, Poetry, Self-Actualizing, Timeless Truths

N.G.U
Never Give Up
It warrants a seriousness – you see
You musn’t ever, ever give up on your dreams

For if you do dear child,
You will awake without them
And a day without,
Is spent in doubt
But a day with,
Is-a life well-lived
So to the wise,
These words I give:

Before each night’s sleep,
Stow dreams to keep
In your heart of hearts,
For a blessed start


Background

When I was seventeen years old I got my first tattoo: n.g.u (On my right inner-forearm). It’s an acronym for never give up; an oath of sorts, a vow of commitment to my hopes and dreams. Dreams I have at times forgotten, which is to say, dreams I have at times given up – for to forget, to go to sleep not relishing the dream in your heart, is to have given up.

Never give up; never forget; never let go of your dreams.

I hope you sleep with your dreams snug in your heart of hearts, and I hope you awake filled to the brim with excitement, eager to continue progressing ever forward on your journey.

Do not ever let yourself forget what makes you tick. For if you do, you won’t know why you’re getting up in the morning. And that’s a sad life – one I vow never to return to.

Zoom Way Out

All, Ancient Wisdom, humanity, Meditating, meditation, MyFavoritez, Philosophy, spirituality, stoicism, Timeless Truths

Imagine you are on a plane, reclining in your seat at cruising altitude – comfortably aware of the smooth, motionless flight. Now, imagine that below you, thirty-thousand feet beneath the fuselage where you reside, there is a single person going about their day. This single individual is the central character in their life – and like every life, theirs has it’s unique share of adversities and troubles and tribulations. And like every living individual, they are doing their best to face the challenges they must face; however, as is the case for all of us – their best isn’t enough to provide them with a secure and lasting sense of inner peace. So they, like all humans, live with a fearful heart; their inner disposition is subject to their circumstances, and like the seas – their inner world constantly stirs.

But from your vantage point on the plane, wrapped in the white noise of the jet’s engines, their problems are nil.

Yet to them, as to us all – our bills, our relationships, our hopes, our dreams, our fears – all of our expectations and dreams are the entirety of the universe. But they aren’t really, are they?

Yet still, we [humans] constantly find ourselves in a terrible way – anxious, worried, nervous, fearful, completely neurotic about our problems. Yet we are infinitesimally small.

earth

We are even smaller than this.

This is one of the great paradoxes of life. Over 7 billion humans existing on one planet – each finding him or herself the center of the universe. And for the last fifty-thousand years our ancestors (Homo Sapiens) – an estimated 100 billion of them – have lived before us, sharing this same experience – hopes, dreams, fears, stress, worry; their lives were as real as our own. And today they are scattered like ancient leaves, their remnants either dust or fossils. And what was their worry worth? What good did their fears and their sadness bring? Their worries were a mental illness. As Marcus Aurelius wrote 2,500 years ago, “Socrates used to call the popular beliefs ‘bogies,’ things to frighten children with.”

Take a minute to get a true idea of our place in the universe. 

Tell me what you were worried about again?

As far back as the ancients, man was zooming out – mentally envisioning his place in the universe.

Observe the movement of the stars as if you were running their courses with them, and let your mind constantly dwell on the changes of the elements into each other. Such imaginings wash away the filth of life on the ground. Marcus Aurelius

Donald Robertson, of Philosophy of CBT writes on this, in the words of 16th century politician, writer, and philosopher Anthony Ashley-Cooper, The 3rd Earl of Shaftsbury:

View the heavens. See the vast design, the mighty revolutions that are performed. Think, in the midst of this ocean of being, what the earth and a little part of its surface is; and what a few animals are, which there have being. Embrace, as it were, with thy imagination all those spacious orbs, and place thyself in the midst of the Divine architecture. Consider other orders of beings, other schemes, other designs, other executions, other faces of things, other respects, other proportions and harmony. Be deep in this imagination and feeling, so as to enter into what is done, so as to admire that grace and majesty of things so great and noble, and so as to accompany with thy mind that order, and those concurrent interests of things glorious and immense. For here, surely, if anywhere, there is majesty, beauty and glory. Bring thyself as oft as thou canst into this sense and apprehension; not like the children, admiring only what belongs to their play; but considering and admiring what is chiefly beautiful, splendid and great in things. And now, in this disposition, and in this situation of mind, see if for a cut-finger, or what is all one, for the distemper and ails of a few animals, thou canst accuse the universe.

Shaftesbury, Philosophical Regimen, Deity, p. 19

Donald Robertson has also created this excellent guided meditation, designed to allow us to step into the same perspective the ancients enjoyed, viewing our life from above.

I publish this because this is the truth of our place in the universe. A universe that according to Carl Sagan, contains more stars than the total number of grains of sand on all of planet earth.

We are conscious beings on a planet; we are the echo of the big bang – we are the consciousness of the universe itself. We were not meant to live in a state of misery and fear. I submit this to you, my dear reader: we can transcend the petty – unfathomably small magnitude of our problems. We need only zoom out and see the forest beyond the trees, the stardust floating in the ether – a pale blue dot, on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

Carl Sagan: Pale Blue Dot


And if you don’t feel like zooming out – simply look at the size of the world.

Samsara Official Trailer


Do read this next: Nothing. Stardust. The Illusion of Thought and the Nature of Reality.

 

Completely Uncommon Advice on Happiness from Robina Courtin

All, Buddhism, Happiness, Psychology, Quotations

Robina Courtin Quote

30-year Tibetan Buddhist Nun (and total bad ass) Robina Courtin delivered a talk at Google in 2008 that’s chock-full of immensely refreshing, yet completely uncommon advice on happiness, neurosis, and “being your own therapist”.

Powerful, powerful stuff.

Uncommon Advice on Happiness from Rebina Courtin’s 2008 Talk at Google: Be Your Own Therapist

Overview from Youtube:

We spend our lives being seduced by the outside world, believing without question that happiness and suffering come from “out there.” In reality, Buddhist teachings explain that they come from the way we perceive and interpret things, not the things themselves.

This deeply held misconception is at the root of our dissatisfaction, self-doubt, anger, depression, anxiety, and the rest. But our minds can change. By becoming deeply familiar with the workings of our own cognitive processes through introspection and learning to deconstruct them – truly, being our own therapists – we can loosen the grip of these neuroses and grow our marvelous potential for contentment, clarity, and courage, which are at the core of our being.


Note: Typically when I watch a talk, or read a book, I am thrilled if I can walk away with one really good idea to put into my toolkit; however, at 29 years old, the following quote is perhaps the best single piece of advice I’ve heard on happiness in the last five years. It’s the psychology of happiness in a single sentence.

“Happiness is – it’s really simple, it’s what you get when you give up the neurosis.” Robina Courtin

The rest of the entry contains a WEALTH of additional wisdom from the same talk, expanding on this idea.

Giving up Neurosis to Find Happiness

“The extent of which we are caught up in any given moment in low self-esteem, depression, anger, jealousy, you name it… The extent to which we’re caught up in those is the extent of which we suffer.

The extent of which we are not caught up in those and therefore the extent which we’re involved in kind of, you know, connecting with others, empathy, being harmonious, forgiving…T he extent of which they’re prevalent in our minds at any given moment is the extent to which we are happy.

It’s an incredibly simple little recipe in Buddhist terms. We (most people) think it [happiness] is what you get when you get what you want. He [The Buddah] says it’s what you get when you give up the neurosis – so the technique is learning to know your mind, being your own therapist.”

Don’t Think About Calming Your Mind, Think About Steadying it’s Focus

“A calm mind can be a busy mind. And if you think about it, what causes the problems isn’t a busy mind, it’s when the–the busy mind is caught up in fear about yourself and worry of what people think about you, am I good enough, am I too fat, am I too thin and depression and jealous and anxiety and all the rest. That’s the stuff that causes the misery. If you’re full of thoughts about being useful to others all day and being content with yourself, well, please go for it, you know. You don’t have a problem, believe me.”

On Using the Full Brilliant Power of Your Mind to Your Advantage

“Don’t try to hold yourself back. Love the fact that you’ve got a brilliant mind, that you’re a real thinker – this is the technique, this is the tool that you can use to be your own therapist, to use this cognitive process to deconstruct your own stuff. Okay, alongside that intelligence, you need some, you know integrity, you need humility, you need the wish to look at yourself, you need the will to want to, the ability–and the wish to want to go beyond blame and hurt that alongside this intelligence, that’s a marvelous packaging I tell you. That’s the stuff that we need. Intelligence on its own is a disaster. You can still be in an infantile at the age of 90 even if you’re a genius, you know?”

On Anger, Jealousy, Fear, and Attachment

“Lack of emotional intelligence is what we have when we have anger, and jealousy and fear, and attachment because these are totally self-centered, unhappy, miserable states of mind.”

Facing Self-Knowledge With Courage and Self-Compassion Rather Than Low Self-Esteem and Self-Loathing

“It’s a question of knowing yourself well – taking responsibility, but on the basis of the fact that you can change – not, “Oh, I’m so guilty, I’m so bad”. Not that at all, which is a knee-jerk reaction we tend to have when we point out problems in ourselves. That’s not the attitude here. It’s a courageous attitude. It’s just, “Okay, I am jealous, I get depressed, I am this, I am that, what a drag, it’s breaking my heart.” You’ve got to have compassion for yourself really, which is a brand new idea for us. We love to hate ourselves.”

The Importance of Identifying with Your Positive Potential

“The more strongly you can kind of identify with your positive potential, the more you have the courage, don’t you, to see the things that are holding you back. But the crucial one for me is we take one thing from this room: I can change. It sounds so simple, it’s almost embarrassing but you check the major level at which we suffer when things are going bad, we cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel. This is why we despair.”

Mindfulness as Kind of Cognitive Behavioral Tool

“We can mold our minds, our thoughts and feelings into any shape we like, you know and this is the thing here. The level of which I’m discussing here, the level of practice based upon these really marvelous techniques where you can learn to focus your mind, you then use the skill of–of this–really a process of cognitive therapy and I’m really not kidding. Buddha is a master of cognitive therapies. You learn more and more clearly, literally to hear the millions of voices inside there that now are racing like I said out of control all day everyday.”

The Neurotic “I” – Neuroticism as a Product of our Sense of Self and Self-Centeredness

“The basis of the neurotic voices, the fearful ones, the angry ones, the jealous, the depression is a neurotic sense of self of”I.” You think about it, even if Monica and I are sitting, having a very friendly conversation, I’m listening to her and she is listening to me and I crack [her jokes]–you know I laugh at her jokes and she laughs at mine. You think about this carefully when it’s very easygoing, there’s no real vivid sense of “I” this, “I am listening to Monica” – you’re kind of connected to her. There’s a sense of interdependence, isn’t there? There’s a sense of “we.” Now you watch what happens when you start to argue, that “we” is cut in half right there. The unhappy “I” is kind of quiet like a sleeping lion, and there’s a sense of connected to otherness. But then when that’s cut, you kind of revert back into yourself and the “I” rises loudly and you’re panicking and your heart’s beating and the blood’s racing and ‘she did this’ and ‘I said that’, ‘it’s not fair’, ‘poor me’ this – that’s the voice – the “I”, the neurotic “I,” behind all the unhappy states of mind – that’s their character.”

The Neurotic Voices are Not at The Core of Your Being, They Can be Changed

“So even to think ‘wow, that’s interesting, maybe it’s possible, maybe what Buddha says is possible, that they’re not at the core of my being [the neurotic voices], that I can learn to look into these and deconstruct them and hear the voices and unpack them and slowly, cognitively change myself.’ This is the process I’m talking about here. “

A Question About Materialism and Happiness: The Distinction Between The Thing and Your Interpretation of It

Note: This might be the magnum opus of the lessons here. An attendee asks an assumptive question about the best way to live in order to be happy and the reply is just not at all what you would assume.

Question: “So since it’s pretty pointless to pursue a job and the girlfriend and the dollars and the car, would the most practical thing for us to be, is to just take care of a little bit of shelter and food and spend all the rest of the time in contemplation?”

Answer: “How revolting. I couldn’t stand a life like that. No, you’ve gone ridiculous. There’s nothing wrong with millions of dollars and jobs and girlfriends and gorgeous things, no, no you’re chucking the baby out of the bath water. You went too far, you became kind of nihilistic. No, that’s not the point. You can have your cake and eat it too sweetheart, and I’m really serious here. The Buddha makes this enormous distinction between the thing itself and your interpretation of it, and what he is describing here–the problem is our interpretation of the girlfriend, of the money – if you put all your eggs in those baskets, believing primordially that having them equals happiness, he says that’s when you will be disappointed, because you just got the wrong recipe. So he doesn’t say give them up, he says change your way of interpreting them.

Happiness is dependent upon you changing, getting rid of your neurotic attachment, getting rid of all your craving for people to love you, getting –I mean I am talking of the neurotic side here–rid of the craving for people to approve of you, to think you’re fantastic, for the dollars in the bank – the neurotic dependence on that stuff is what I am talking about, not the stuff itself. …So that’s not the answer, we’re in this world of abundance and money and things and color and shapes and music and sounds, it’s kind of a sophisticated view. The first level is maybe you back away for a while, while you go into retreat mode, you know. But eventually with skill, you’re going to have your cake and eat it too. It’s giving up the neurotic attitude towards the things, not the things themselves. That’s a major, major point. Makes sense, doesn’t it?”

Watch the full Talk Below

Note: I really enjoyed Robina Courtin’s demeanor – she seems like a definite non-people pleaser, which I mean as a compliment; although I did cringe at a few of the things she said, but watching this was a reminder that spirituality does not have to strip you of your confidence nor your personality and that decreasing your suffering can empower you to live the highest manifestation of both.

Follow Robina Courtin on Facebook.

Update: 11/8/2014

The following was a comment I posted on a thread in the Stoicism group I am in on facebook. I wanted to add it here as it relates to my own personal ethos on life, from an increasingly Buddhist perspective.

In my very limited (but growing) understanding of Buddhist teachings, I feel that The Buddha was a master of perspective. I feel like Buddhism compliments Stoicism very well; through Stoicism I gain understanding, through Buddhism I gain perspective. Definitely something I would love to see a dedicated thread on in the future. And regarding positive thought, I am inclined to agree with you, especially when examining the Stoic practice of negative visualization (imagining loss, ex: preparing for bad traffic in LA). The older I get the less I subscribe to new age positive thinking, instead favoring wisdom. There’s certainly a point at which mere positivity becomes an almost weakness, disconnecting you from the true reality of things. If there’s a lesson to be learned from positivity, I think it’s “don’t be neurotic”.

 

 

On Choosing to Be Kind

All, humanity, Philosophy, Psychology, Self-Actualizing, stoicism, Timeless Truths

Update: 10/31/2014

I wrote this entry while being emotionally riled, and while I feel I did an effective job of being constructive with my emotions and providing a great deal of substance to the reader, I do not feel I wrote all of this in the proper tone or from the optimal perspective.

As such, I was thankful to come across a good article this evening on the subject of good and evil, as the ancient Stoic philosopher Epictetus saw it.

While I feel this doesn’t negate what I have written, I think it contributes a vital perspective to my narrative.

To quote:

“When you see people, things, and circumstances during your day, Epictetus advises us to break away from of our habit of seeing them as good or bad. Their labels of good and bad can only be attached by our judgment, not from who or what they truly are. They are simply part of nature and the world we all work within.”

Even from one who reviles us?’
Why, what good does the athlete get from the man who wrestles with him? The greatest. So my reviler helps to train me for the contest: he trains me to be patient, dispassionate, gentle. You deny it? You admit that the man who grips my neck and gets my loins and shoulders into order does me good, and the trainer does well to bid me ‘lift the pestle with both hands’, and the more severe he is, the more good do I get: and are you going to tell me that he who trains me to be free from anger does me no good? That means that you do not know how to get any good from humankind.” – Epictetus.

“Here, Epictetus isn’t only saying problems aren’t bad but that they can be beneficial! If this still doesn’t make sense to you, then consider the weightlifting room at your local gym. Some people spend hours using those heavy weights in various positions and movements. In fact, they usually pay membership dues just for the privilege. They view these weights as a good. However, if someone has a job that requires he lifts boxes with similar weights as found in our gym example, would he think lifting those boxes is a good? Probably not. He certainly wouldn’t pay membership dues for the privilege. Instead, he expects to be compensated. So there you have two similar activities that are viewed by people as different because their interpretations are different, not the activities themselves.”

“Therefore, next time we run into someone angry or face a hopeless situation, we must remember what Epictetus has taught us today.”

This reinforces the themes of Stoicism and the value of adversity that were originally included initially within this entry, but I wanted to add this update as I think it places greater focus on these perspectives, which can greatly lighten the burden on our soul. All in all, not my favorite entry because of the emotionally fueled place it came from, but I’m happier with it after the addition of this update. For all intents and purposes I must remind myself that ‘this is a blog’, and as such I am allowed to make mistakes in conveying my ideas. – LB


I want to make this a short entry because it’s not worth many words, but it’s worth saying.

Edit: this is not a short entry, but it’s very much worth reading. Enjoy.

There are shitty people in the world.

As much as I have clung to the denial of this truth in my unconquerable lust for idealism, I can no longer deny this as a basic tenet of life – some people just fucking suck. And I don’t mean this in the way of people letting you down, sure that happens; however, what I’m talking about is the people who are well over the black and white line of decency on the spectrum of humanity.

I’m talking about people who physically threaten others, people who project their ugliness onto others where they inherently sense vulnerability, and people who just don’t give one iota of fucks about you and would probably enjoy whatever harm would come to you. People who in fact make a concerted effort to perpetuate whatever kind of harm or injury they might inflict on you – verbal, emotional, physical, or psychic.

If you read me you know that I’m a positive person. If you know me, you know this. But there’s no use in pretending these people don’t exist. We’ve all encountered them – within and beyond our circle of friends.

These are the bullies in life – male and female, straight and gay, of all races and classes. These are the people who wish others ill will – and whether they gain pleasure from it I cannot say, but they certainly aren’t averse to your suffering and at the very least they are indifferent to it.

And what of these less than great individuals – how do we go about living in a world where we have to share the same beautiful air with these absolute jerks?

I’ve never really asked myself this.

Up until now I suppose I’ve reacted as child might when confronted with someone who is just plain nasty; I’ve felt a mixture of equal parts hurt and shock. A kind of how on earth? feeling.

But I’m tired of it. I’m tired of being surprised by the ugly side of humanity, and in my twenty-nine years I’ve seen my fair share of it. As I once heard someone quip: “If you ever meet someone who tells you they haven’t been abused, then you are talking to a goddamned liar”. We’ve all been subject to abuse; we’ve all been treated far worse than we deserve -whether we know it or not, but it’s not difficult to single out instances in our lives where another has denied us our humanity, our dignity. This is a part of life. As is said in Rocky IV, life ain’t all sunshine and roses; the world is a very mean and nasty place.

Regardless of the inevitability of this, I’ve always done my best to meet incredulous persons with compassion. After all, we have all acted poorly; we’ve all been guilty of being shitty at one time or another and we all carry the scars of living. But at the same time, some of us don’t put our poison into others – instead, we use coping mechanisms and we integrate our experiences into our interpersonal behavioral schemas in a manner that is basically benevolent towards others.

So, what separates those who internalize their pain and transfigure it into something livable from the people who externalize it in a manner that makes life less livable?

I suppose compassion has a lot to do with it. But one of the little known things about compassion, and one of the things that makes compassion so interesting, is that compassion for the self is not relative to the amount of compassion we have for others. This is grounded in university research (Kristin Neff PHD).

The lack of correlation between compassion for the self and others is very counter-intuitive at a certain level – but once you examine this it makes perfect sense: some people possess ample compassion for others, yet have very little for themselves, yet others have ample compassion for themselves, yet they have very little compassion for others.

Frankly I’m slightly envious of those in the latter category. Not that I think it’s admirable to have less compassion for others than for yourself, but it’s certainly rational and pragmatic to a degree. I’ve lived my life with a deep degree of compassion and empathy for others. And as anyone in my shoes knows, there is a thin line between compassion for others and being an absolute doormat.

Being compassionate has caused me to remain attached to people long after I should have let go. Being compassionate has made me love people who could care less about what city I live in today. Being compassionate has made me very naive in many ways. It’s difficult to look back on this facet of myself and feel like this has been a strength of mine – but it’s been a virtue nonetheless. It’s made me a better person. It’s helped me stay connected to my innocence. It’s helped me stay optimistic and openhearted. It’s helped me be forgiving of others, but the downside is that I have always assumed I was due the same forgiveness I would give another.

And this is where life starts to feel unfair – when you feel like the world’s not nearly as kind to you as you are to it.

And so, at 29, here I am – and as I write this I am feeling like there are far too many rough edges and sharp corners in the world.

A Meditation Infographic from Happify

All, Meditating, meditation

As a happify user, I was delighted to come across this meditation infographic in my assigned tasks today, created by meditation ambassador and mindfulness expert (and ABC news anchor) Dan Harris. As an aside – check out this video to see his story and how meditation changed his life.

Enjoy the infographic. SO MUCH good info here.

meditation-happify

If you want to learn about mindfulness meditation, check out this post of mine.

The Importance of Mindfulness and The Connection Between Mindfulness and Meditation

All, Buddhism, Meditating, MyFavoritez, Psychology, Self-Actualizing, spirituality, Videozz, Zen

If I would have tried to conjure up an impression of mindfulness in my head a couple years ago I would have imagined an affluent woman in her sixties, drinking tea and looking out over her oceanfront view, with a warm and contented look on her face.

Today, I’ve come to know better. Mindfulness isn’t some far off, esoteric destination only available to those who meditate and live on a higher plane. No, mindfulness is simply the practice of observing yourself and consciously focusing on your emotions, thoughts, and feelings.

Wikipedia defines mindfulness as the intentional, accepting and non-judgmental focus of one’s attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment, which can be trained by meditational practices…

Now, the interesting thing about this [this definition] is that I personally came to understand and know mindfulness not as a result of study, but as a result of practicing meditation. And when I began meditating, I did not even know this was going to happen. I wanted inner peace. And meditation helped me connect to that – but more importantly, I became aware that there was something within me more still than my thoughts, and I became aware of what it felt like to transcend that [my thoughts and feelings].

As a result, I became more self-aware. I realized when my feelings were making me feel poorly. I began to automatically notice on walks when I wasn’t being attentive to myself – when I was out of touch with the present moment. And I would focus on my breath, and I would return to that stillness. And I would feel better. I felt better because I could stop identifying with whatever I was thinking or feeling, and I could check back in with myself, with the eternal part of my soul that’s always present and connected – whether my mind is or not.

Mind you (pardon the pun), I’ve never read a book on mindfulness. And I have a lot of work to do to improve on this practice – namely, I need to not only practice the awareness of my body, thoughts, and feelings – but I need to consciously choose to practice the intentional non-judgement, and acceptance of these sensations – because for me personally, I typically go straight into self-talk, and other cognitive behavioral practices so that I can “optimize” how I feel. And while I don’t think this is a terrible thing to do, I think the act of acceptance and non-judgmental awareness will help me let go of some of these [less positive] feelings with greater ease.

So, this morning I wanted to look into mindfulness and I watched handful of videos, the best of which I have included below for you, my dear reader.

Sam Harris: Mindfulness is Powerful

This is an important video to watch, because aside from Sam Harris describing the purpose and value of mindfulness, he asserts that mindfulness should not be viewed as a religious experience, but rather as a bridge we can use to close the gap that exists between science and spirituality. I think disconnecting meditation from Buddhism makes it more approachable and less seemingly unobtainable. The power to transcend ourselves is truly within us all.

…the sense of self that we all carry around from day to day is an illusion. And cutting through that illusion I think is actually more important than stress reduction or any of the other conventional benefits that are accurately ascribed to mindfulness.

The enemy of mindfulness and really of any meditation practice is being lost in thought, is to be thinking without knowing that you’re thinking. Now the problem is not thoughts themselves. We need to think. We need to think to do almost anything that makes us human – to reason, to plan, to have social relationships, to do science. Thinking is indispensable to us but most of us spend every moment of our waking lives thinking without knowing that we’re thinking. And this automaticity is a kind of scrim thrown over at the present moment through which we view everything. And it’s distorting of our lives. It’s distorting of our emotions. It engineers our unhappiness in every moment because most of what we think is quite unpleasant. We’re judging ourselves, we’re judging others, we’re worrying about the future, we’re regretting the past, we’re at war with our experience in subtle or coarse ways. And much of this self-talk is unpleasant and diminishing our happiness in every moment. And so meditation is a tool for cutting through that.


Dan Harris: Hack Your Brain’s Default Mode with Meditation

Dead on. Selected quotes and citations follow:

There was a study out of Harvard that showed that short, daily doses of meditation can literally grow the grey matter areas of your brain having to do with self-awareness. and compassion and shrink the grey matter associated with stress. 

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3004979/

There was also a study out of Yale that looked at what’s called the default mode network of the brain, it’s a connected series of brain regions that are active during most of our waking hours, when we’re doing that thing that human beings do all the time, which is obsessing about ourselves, thinking about the past, thinking about the future, doing anything but being focused on what’s happening right now. Meditators not only turn off the default mode network of their brain while they’re meditating but even when they’re not meditating. In other words, meditators are setting a new default mode. And what’s that default mode? They’re focused on what’s happening right now.

From an article on the study out of Yale:

“Meditation’s ability to help people stay in the moment has been part of philosophical and contemplative practices for thousands of years,” Brewer said. “Conversely, the hallmarks of many forms of mental illness is a preoccupation with one’s own thoughts, a condition meditation seems to affect. This gives us some nice cues as to the neural mechanisms of how it might be working clinically.”

And finally, Dan Harris’ closing words on happiness as a controllable choice:

The common assumption that we have – and it may be subconscious – is that our happiness really depends on external factors: how was our childhood, have we won the lottery recently, did we marry well, did we marry at all – but in fact, meditation suggests that happiness is actually a skill, something you can train, just as you train your body in the gym – it’s a self-generated thing, and that’s a really radical notion. It doesn’t mean that external circumstances aren’t going to impact your happiness – it doesn’t mean that you are not going to be subject to the vagaries of an impermanent, entropic universe – it just means you are going to be able to navigate this with a little more ease.


Chade-Meng Tan, on Mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence: 5 Lessons

If you want to learn more in depth on mindfulness, I suggest watching this full talk, but Cade-Meng Tan, delivered to an audience at Google, but at least watch from 24:12 to 31:50

If you do not wish to watch those seven minutes, here are my five takeaways from that portion of Chade-Meng Tan’s talk.

The Ability to Turn Emotions Off

There are a couple of very useful things, and they’re so useful that the degree of self-awareness that you can gain can create profound changes in your life. The first example is that if you’re able to perceive an emotion the moment it is arising, that gives you the power to turn it off if you want to. It gives you choice. Therefore, you have a choice of, “Hmm, I feel anger rising. Should I be angry or should I be not?” You can choose. I mean, there are situations where I chose to be angry, and because I was getting ripped off [to be purposefully assertive]. I figured the best reaction is to put that out to other people. And the situations where you’re “Nah, I don’t want to be angry, especially since she’s my boss. Let’s turn it off.” So you have a choice. The first thing, already, this is life-changing. If you have to ability to turn off anger. Already, it changes your life.

How Self-Awareness and Emotional Awareness Translates into Self-Knowledge, and Opportunity

Another example is that if you have a lot of strong self-awareness, emotional awareness, the emotional awareness translates into self-assessment. You get to know yourself a bit better. You get to know your resources. This is what I’m good at, this is what I’m bad at. These are my strengths, these are my weaknesses. This is what I really like to do, this is what makes me happy, and so on. And the effect of that is that once you are able to figure out, quote on quote your “deepest values and motivations”, then you know what opportunities to look out for. If you did not have the insight, the opportunity would just come and go. However, because you had the insight, you catch the opportunity when it’s there. Therefore, you’re always successful. And then people will think you’re very lucky. I mean, you’re lucky, but at the same time, you’re there to catch your opportunities and you’re able to catch opportunities because you have deep knowledge of self.

Making the Shift from Existential to Experiential

There’s a third one, which is even more profound, which is this: if you experience an emotion, we like to think that our emotions are existential experiences. What does that mean? We like to think the emotion itself, is us. And it reflects in the language that you use. For example, we say, “I am angry. I am sad. I am happy.” So the emotion becomes me. I become the emotion. However, as the power of your mind, the sharpness of mind, your resolution, your vividness becomes stronger over time. You discover something about a process of emotion and then you read an emotion in a very subtle way that has a profound change in your life. And that profound change is this: is going from existential to experiential, which means going from “I am angry” to “I’m experiencing anger. I’m experiencing happiness, or sadness, or whatever.” What does that change? Now it changes from “I am this, this is me” to “My mind is like a sky.” Then emotions are the clouds occupying the mind, but they’re not the mind. So that’s a powerful shift.

Separating Emotion into a Physiological Experience – Changing Your Perception

But wait, it gets better. The way it gets better, which is – there is another step you can go. As your attention becomes even more refined, you discover something else, beyond being experiential. You discover that the process of emotion, the experience of emotion is physiological. You experience emotions in the body. Every emotion has a bodily correlate. And then you discover something. You discover that painful emotions are not that different from painful feelings in the body. For example, I hurt my hand. Ow! And then I know this is pain, I know this is unpleasant, but the pain is not me. It is a sensation in my body. Having that perception changes everything. Because it’s not me, I can do things about it. I can take Tylenol. I can massage. I can put in ice. Or I can ignore it. Or I can experience it mindfully. Or I can just eat ice cream and forget all about it. And so on. There are things I can do because this experience is not me.

Using Mindfulness to Practice the Habit [intention] of Loving Kindness

The first habit that is very conducive to being socially skillful is the habit of kindness, or loving-kindness. That is a habit of looking at any human being, anyone you’ve never met before. Looking at any human being, my first thought is, “I want this person to be happy.” I want this person to be happy: that’s just it. Already, you can imagine if you have that mental habit coming effortlessly, it changes everything. You go into a meeting room; you look at everybody, you think, “I want all these people to be happy.” It reflects unconsciously in your body, your face, your language, your tone of voice, your facial expression. Because it reflects unconsciously, it’s picked up unconsciously by the other person. Their feeling, their perception is, “I like this person. I don’t know why. This Meng guy, I really like him. Maybe it’s his good looks. I don’t know.” [laughter] But it’s not just the good looks, it’s because I’m wishing for this person to be happy. I want Tara to be happy, and Tara can sense it unconsciously. In a situation like meetings and so on, if you have that mental habit all the time, people want to work with you. Then you find yourself becoming successful. You’re not clear why. But it’s this; it’s just simple things like that.

Note: You should read Chade-Meng Tan’s book Search Inside Yourself, I will be!


Start Your Own Mindfulness Practice

The following three videos will allow you to practice what mindfulness feels like. Start with the first and build up to the third. As you learn what this feels like, you’ll be able to do each without a video guide; although, I am still a big fan of practicing guided meditation on a regular basis.

The Quick Mindful Check in

5 Min Mindfulness Check in

Guided Mindfulness Meditation Practice