Mindfulness for the unmindful

Angry birds.
Dog shaming.
Dubstep.
50 shades of grey.
Paleo diet.
Twerking.

What do all of these things have in common?

cdn2-content-compendiumblog-com_

Move switfly as the Wind and closely-formed as the Wood. Attack like the Fire and fuck shit up.

They are all fads, specifically, fads from the 2010s. Do you know another big fad? Sun Tzu’s Art of War. This book is probably the most read and most referred-to book of all time in the entrepreneurial section of society. Every manager, director, corporate executive, EVERYONE – seems to have read the Art of War and found wisdom therein.

And just like Crossfit and Paleo diets are new fads in the world of sports and exercise, the world of entrepreneurs has seen the emergence of a new fad too: mindfulness meditation.

Just google “mindfulness meditation entrepreneur” or “meditation business” and you’ll get scores upon scores of results where people claim that meditation will make you a better businessman, a better CEO, a better leader, a better everything.

And it’s not only the entrepreneurs, even though I personally find it amusing to see such fads emerge in the entrepreneurial sector. There are many studies that are trying to research meditation and try to quantify the results, measure correlations and do all the work needed to draw evidence-based conclusions. This fad is actually so strong now that we have even seen anti-meditation articles, criticising some aspects or even the whole of meditation.

FAD

noun
1. a temporary fashion, notion, manner of conduct, etc., especially one followed enthusiastically by a group. 

1825-35; noun use of dial. fad to look after things, busy oneself with trifles,back formation from obsolete faddle to play with, fondle.

Well, I don’t know about Angry Birds or dubstep or twerking, but I kind of like dog shaming memes. They’re funny. And I like to eat not completely Paleo, but Paleo-ish. Makes me feel good. And even though I haven’t read it yet, I have a hunch that the Art of War is a good book. And I know for a fact that meditation is probably the most impactful of methods for living a better life.
So the problem with fads is not that they are trifles, as the origin of the noun implies. Very often, fads are very good ideas, useful things, stuff that people actually should do in their lives. The problem with fads is that a fad will fade. It just gets pushed over by another one. Why? I don’t know. But I do know that we should try to stick to certain fads, such as mindfulness and meditation.

 

How to explain mindfulness to someone that’s not already mindful?

Explaining mindfulness to someone that isn’t mindful is like explaining the beauty of Japanese poetry to someone that doesn’t speak Japanese. They understand that if they had a skillset that allowed them to understand Japanese poetry, they would be able to appreciate it. They also understand that there is something there, but it’s not relevant for them – they just can’t get it, so they don’t try.

Or explaining to someone how exciting it is to skydive. A person will certainly have an image of what it must be, but this idea is nowhere near the real thing, the real experience of jumping out of a plane and diving towards the ground at 200 km/h. There is simply a limit to how vividly you can image something that you’ve never experienced.

To fully appreciate Japanese poetry, you kind of have to read it and experience it yourself.

To fully appreciate skydiving, you also kind of need to do it.

And meditation is similar in this respect, with a difference that it doesn’t demand a skillset (like Japanese) or it isn’t sudden, life-changing, extreme intensity (like skydiving). It’s very boring and it takes a lot of time to come to a state where you can appreciate it. You need to try it, and keep doing it for a long time, and you need to do it right – just unfocused thinking and semi-sleeping don’t really count as meditation.

And oftentimes people don’t want to bother with it because they don’t feel they need it. I’m not a “meditation evangelist” so I don’t go around convincing people to start meditating, but I really do think that meditation is good. Notice I said “good”, not “useful”. It can be useful too, but it’s more than just useful.

Useful implies that you’re going to live your life normally, as you would do without meditation, and that meditation has its use, its purpose. For some people it’s stress relief, for others it’s to calm their thoughts. If you see meditation as only useful, you think you are a certain person, let’s call you Bobby, that has an identity composed of many different things. Bobby is a man, he drives a car, he likes to drink coffee with cinnamon, he works at an IT company, he plays drums, he is under stress sometimes and he meditates to relieve his stress. Meditation is a technique Bobby uses within his identity. This is Bobby:

bobby

Some Bobby

And there is absolutely nothing wrong with Bobby. In fact, I’m pretty sure that Bobby is a much better Bobby because of his meditation. He is probably doing better at his job, he doesn’t get so nervous when his deadlines are approaching, he’s not angry when he’s sitting in his car on a crowded highway. He’s, like, cool with things he can’t influence. Good for Bobby.

But many meditation practitioners see meditation as something else rather than a technique to aid you in your life, or, ONLY a technique to aid you in your life. This is where we first start seeing the word spiritual and where an instinctive allergic reaction appears on the skin of every skeptic, atheist or advocate of the scientific method. Let’s say that Bobby, after many years of meditation practice, has come to a certain realization. He still has his job, loves cinnamon in his coffee, drives a car, works at the same company – his life is mostly the same. But let’s say that he has been meditating more and more, and that he isn’t meditating because of meditation’s usefulness. Let’s say, without defining it yet, that Bobby attained enlightenment. This is Bobby now:

no bobby

No Bobby

If you don’t see him, that’s good, because Bobby went from some-Bobby to no-Bobby.

I assume that with this, I pissed off even the most forgiving of skeptics and rationalists.

What the hell is this cryptic, woo-woo nonsense? What you’re saying is undefined, it can’t be understood! 

Well, I shall endeavor to explain.

Some-Bobby is a person that has an identity. He has a story. Car-driving, IT-working, cinnamon coffee-drinking, drum-playing – these things make up who some-Bobby is. They are the building blocks of his identity. Then also the fact that he is male, and that his name is Bobby, and that he was born in America. All these things make some-Bobby who he is. They are what he is known for. If you were to list out these things to his acquaintances and ask them if they know a person that fits the description, people would point at Bobby. Even practicing meditation is a part of his identity. And Bobby, he thinks of himself in terms of his identity. In his mind, his name is Bobby, he drives a car, works at an IT company etc, etc. and that makes up who he is.

The second Bobby (the no-Bobby) doesn’t think of himself that way, though. He doesn’t think of himself, in fact. Actually he doesn’t think at all. No-Bobby just is. Or isn’t, depending on how you see it.

Wha… you…whaaaat?

In order to understand how Bobby came to be no-Bobby from some-Bobby, we have to meet his transition form: the maybe-Bobby  (also known as “I dunno-Bobby”, “not sure-Bobby”, “potentially-Bobby”, “probably not-Bobby”). We shall picture maybe-Bobby like this:

maybe bobby

Maybe-Bobby

This is what maybe-Bobby is thinking for the brief second he exists in between some-Bobby and no-Bobby:

“Dude. Like, my name is Bobby, but would I be me if I were called John? And if I didn’t play the drums? Yeah, I guess so. I don’t even have to have the same address or birthplace or car or job to be me. So what does make me – me? Is it my gender? Like, if everything else was the same and I was a chick, would I be me? Like, the same friends, same family, same life experiences – but just me being a girl. Yeah… Well sure, then it’s still me. But wait… If all of my identity is negotiable like that: my gender, race, possessions, activities in life, NAME – then do I even exist?

[at this point a break happens in Bobby’s line of thought and some-bobby and no-Bobby arrive at the scene]

Some-Bobby: ‘Yeah well, I guess that each individual element of my identity IS negotiable, but the relations between them aren’t, and my complete identity is also not negotiable. So you can change maybe one or two things, but not all of them, and you can’t switch the relations between them.
No-Bobby: [listens to some-Bobby talk]
Maybe-Bobby: ‘Who is this person listening to me talk, that is, think?’
No-Bobby: [listens to maybe-Bobby ask the preceding question]
Maybe-Bobby: ‘Wait, did I just say that there is someone else in my head except me?’
No-Bobby: [listens to maybe-Bobby ask the preceding question]
Maybe-Bobby: ‘Duuuude, this is sick. So I can listen to myself think. Lol wtf. I can see my thoughts as they form and listen to them as if I were a different person. But what kind of person is this?’
No-Bobby: [listens to maybe-Bobby ask the preceding question]
Maybe-Bobby: ‘Aha, I get it. This person that listens to the thoughts in my head is capable of only listening, but can’t produce anything. It can only perceive things. It’s just conscious. It just… is.’
Some-Bobby: ‘Dude, you remember those woo-woo bullshitters that talk shit like You are not you. You are a walking field of consciousness?? This must be it man!’ ”

We said that Bobby attained enligthenment – and enlightenment is understanding that you’re not some-Bobby but that you’re no-Bobby. You’re just a group of atoms capable of perceiving itself, no less, no more. All of your identity – your house, your friends, the language you speak, your name, the very thoughts you think – all of this belongs to some-Bobby, and it is only an upgrade to the walking consciousness that no-Bobby is. In other words, the story about Bobby is not Bobby. Bobby is a group of atoms that can perceive the story of Bobby.

Let’s say that one more time. There is:

A. Bobby’s story. This is what we would call his identity. All the thoughts he thinks go here, ranging from work related problem solving to him remembering a prank he pulled in high school. His name goes here. His familial relations. Basically, everything goes here, and we call this Bobby’s story (or some-Bobby).

B. Awareness or consciousness. This is what the part of Bobby that can’t think, but can register thoughts, the same way it can see, hear, smell and touch. The best way to understand what no-Bobby is, is this: the next time you think of something, try to ask yourself “Who is it that is thinking this?” And when you ask yourself that question, try to simply perceive it, just as if you were looking at a bird flying by, or heard a noise. Just try to register your thought, but don’t think it.

And as long as this whole meditation business stays within the confines of A, many skeptics and rationalists will be okay with it. But as soon as it hits B and we start seeing words like awareness, consciousness, spirituality (this word is the closest word that comes to describe the state of being no-Bobby) – as soon as we get there, disagreements arise.

Skeptics and advocates of the scientific method often regard themselves as superior to those that are “spiritual”. You need only see the Facebook comments on The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe and similar places. They often mock spirituality and advocate that we should accept and live by rules of logic, science and empiric evidence. Of course, they are right. There are a lot of quacks and there is a lot of pure bullshit in the world of the “spiritual”. However, skeptics and rationalists – among which I count myself too, by the way – often don’t understand that they don’t understand.

When you try to explain the importance of mindfulness or meditation, the reaction is sometimes sheer lack of understanding, undertones of sarcasm, accusations of “woo woo” and so on. Naturally, there are woo doctors and quacks, using scientific terminology to create “sciencey” words that in their essence, mean nothing. By the way, here is a Deepak Chopra quote generator. However, there is importance in mindfulness, and there is a materialist, rationalist, skeptic way of explaining why it is so important.

According to this research, our actions are not really initiated by the conscious part of our minds. Our subconsciousness dictates our actions, the words we speak, the friendships we make, the jobs we take – and our consciousness simply observes what is going on. To quote:

“From this perspective, it is concluded that in both phylogeny and ontogeny, actions of an unconscious mind precede the arrival of a conscious mind—that action precedes reflection.”

Here’s an article explaining this a bit more. Here’s a study.

It is like we are a passenger in a driverless car. We think we’re the driver. It’s very intuitive to think so because we’re in the front, we see when the road is bumpy, or curved, or straight, or full of other cars. So we must be the driver.

But let me ask you this: have you ever been in a situation where you just did something, and afterwards thought “Jesus Christ, why did I do that”?

Of course you have. We all have.

You didn’t understand the reasons you did something, but you maybe rationalized it, or simply forgot about it. But what happened exactly?

Let’s say you’re being pulled over by a police officer. There’s nothing wrong, you haven’t been speeding or drinking, your car is in perfect order – there is absolutely no reason the cop needs to pull you over. You have absolutely no reason to be upset about it.

Then why are you nervous?
Why do you fumble while searching for your licence?
Why have your hands gone cold?
Why have you said that stupid awkward joke that was meant to ease the tension?

Well, the answer is obvious. You are not being controlled by the conscious part of you. You are being controlled by your subconsciousness, and your subconsciousness is a dumb animal that knows how to fight, run, eat, laugh, have sex – but it doesn’t understand that 2 + 2 equals 4. And your consciousness is all like “I’m just gonna watch this stupid motherfucker and tell him how stupid he was.” It kind of looks like this:

consciousnesssnes

Did you cheat in a relationship despite thinking that you wouldn’t and that it was against your principles? Bam, subconsciousness.

Did you play computer games for 3 hours instead of doing what you needed to do? Bam again, and yes, subconsciousness again.

So no, you’re not the driver. Your body is the car and you’re a passenger. At least that’s how it is most of the time.

It seems highly counter-intuitive, because we have been conditioned to see ourselves as the creators of our own destinies, but it goes hand in hand with – laws of physics!

We are made of atoms.
Atoms obey physical laws.
That means that our brains obey physical laws.
Furthermore, that means that our decisions are chemical reactions in the brain.
And seeing that chemical reactions follow physical laws, our decisions follow physical laws.

You could say that we’re predetermined. Which might go hand in hand with M-theory in which time would be a “flat circle”, and all events exist at once, while we simply cycle through them.

One chemical reactions means raising your left hand, another means raising your right hand, yet it was impossible that one came instead of the other, precisely because it didn’t. It is like saying that water spilling out of a cup could have not spilled – of course it couldn’t have. Gravity has precisely the same effect on matter – it pulls it. The water had no choice in the matter – it was simply pulled down. Much the same with our actions. We are simply governed by the very rules that govern the rest of the universe, and our brains are no exception. It is the illusion of choice we have, not true choice.

However, this is not fatalism. I argue that even if it is true that we have no choice, it absolves absolutely no responsibility. It simply means that, if we do something, we were, so to speak, destined by the factors of the universe to do just that, but it doesn’t tell us anything of the future. Even if it is predetermined (which we don’t know), the future is always unclear to us, and we should regard our illusion of choice as true choice.

How does mindfulness play into all of this? The answer is quite simple. When you practice mindfulness, you stop having the feeling you’re the driver. You’re simply a passenger, looking out through a window and observing what your car does. You observe what it thinks when it does certain things, and how its thoughts change upon changing environments. This is the true value of meditation and mindfulness – the genuine understanding that you’re not driving the car – the car is driving you.

Horrible, isn’t it?

When you’re deep in meditation, you might even come to worse realizations than not being a passenger. Maybe you also realize that you’re not even a car. Or that numbers are a human invention and don’t exist in nature. All sorts of weird, feeling-based realizations can come up when you’re meditating really deeply. Some of it can be explained, some of it has to be felt.

And yet it is not all that horrible. It is what it is. AND it also might be useful. Because imagine this:

You practice meditation a lot so you’re a lot more mindful of what your thoughts are doing, real-time, during interaction with people. You are about to make a dumb decision.

BAM

You are aware of what you are about to do.

You start thinking of it. 

You think some more.

You don’t do it.

BAM

MEDITATION BITCH

It could have been you cheating on your girlfriend, or drinking too much alcohol, or using drugs, or buying a new car or any sort of decisions you would later be sorry for. Because you were much more aware of your thoughts and of yourself thinking these thoughts, conscious of your own urges and wants, this awareness translated itself into action – that is, non-action, not doing a stupid thing.

Isn’t it funny that we end with this Zen-like, logic-defying paradox, where the illusion of choice actually gives you a choice?

Well, Zen. Can’t get enough of it:

A monk asked Zhao Zhou to teach him.
Zhao Zhou asked, “Have you eaten your meal?”
The monk replied, “Yes, I have.”
“Then go wash your bowl,” said Zhao Zhou.
At that moment, the monk was enlightened.

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Problems “beneath” an Overhuman

I didn’t know how to name this post and this is the best I came up with. Problems “beneath” an Overhuman are problems that are so commonplace and low-level and ubiquitous that an Overhuman does not deign to bother with them. (S)he is simply above them and considers them trifles, things not worth his/her time, things that – this is going to sound bad – are reserved for the “ordinary” people.

An Overhuman assumes what might be seen as a condescending attitude toward many things that other people worry about. Fortunately, this condescending attitude is not condescending at all because it is coupled with high emotional intelligence and, thus, empathy.

An Overhuman understands his fellow humans’ pain and suffering and anxiety, an Overhuman understands its causes and the mechanisms why these negative emotions come about, but the Overhuman does not share in their pain.

I shall give practical examples:

You have a bad relationship with a parent. Your parent is very controlling and has bad physiological influence over you. You are stressed because of your parent’s expectations, you are unsure of yourself and you seek your parent’s approval for everything you do.

You can be the best deductionist in the world and also speak 7 languages and be an incredible fighter, but if that is what’s bothering you – you are not yet an Overhuman.

An Overhuman cannot exist with problems that usually come up in normal human affairs. Why? Precisely because an Overhuman is not normal. Merely possessing Overhuman skills is not enough – it’s like having a Ferrari and not knowing how to drive it, or driving it badly, or only driving it during daytime. Skills are nothing without the state of mind that employs them.

Another example:

A war breaks out in your country and thousands of people are starving because the supply lines to your area have stopped. You starve too – primarily because you never stocked up on food in case of such events.

Or another example, based on that very same war I just mentioned: You are forced to take to the streets and because it is cold, you cannot bear it and have to change plans that involved you staying out.

What do these two examples have in common?

Well, generally speaking, the correct answer would be – weakness.

An Overhuman is an Overhuman because (s)he is not weak in any form, neither in body nor mind. For these two examples it is a certain weakness of the mind that has assured us that you are not yet an Overhuman: failure to prepare.

You see, an Overhuman is a prepper by default. Stocking up on food is done as a matter of course. It takes no thinking through – being a prepper, and – nota bene – a good prepper – is just something that goes without saying, something that is so blatantly obvious that it needs not be addressed.

And an Overhuman is also a practitioner of the Wim Hof method – by default. It goes without saying.

Are you starting to see the bigger picture?

Well, if no, I will outline it clearly.

The very foundation of an Overhuman, its base – is a high success level in other disciplines. What some may consider as the pinnacle of achievement in their art, an Overhuman considers as merely a starting point for his/her own art.

Thus fighters will strive to be incredible fighters and will consider it a great success when they become incredible. Overhumans are incredible fighters by default. For fighters, it will be their end-goal. For Overhumans, it will be their starting point.

Thus Zen monks and Stoics will strive towards mental clarity and acceptance of whatever life brings, and they will see this as “enlightenment”, as their final phase. Overhumans are enlightened by default. It’s their starting point.

Thus survivalists and preppers will strive to be as prepared as possible for various events, ranging from bad, to catastrophic to apocalyptic. Overhumans – you guessed it – are good survivalists by default. What the community of survivalists and preppers sees as high capability and preparedness, an Overhuman sees simply as a necessary base for other things.

And so, the problems “beneath” an Overhuman – being too fat or out of shape; having insecurities; not having enough money for strategical investments; speaking only one language; having a bad immune system; having bad people skills; having unresolved family disputes etc. – are truly “beneath” an Overhuman. An Overhuman simply has no time or patience to deal with such matters he or she considers as trifles. Naturally, (s)he will show empathy and give advice to those that need it, but in his/her personal life, such problems simply do not arise. They are just too low-level.

Hyperawareness

The mind can go either direction under stress – toward positive or toward negative: On or off. Think of it as a spectrum whose extremes are unconsciousness at the negative end and hyperconsciousness at the positive end. The way the mind will lean under stress is strongly influenced by training.

Hyperawareness is not only related to stressful events, even though its biggest quality lies in the fact that it can be present in high stress events. But hyperawareness is something that can be exercised and practiced in any situation, stressful or not. I describe hyperawareness as a sort of Zen Rampage mode. It’s an oxymoron, but for me it’s just that.

It is not a very pleasant experience. It includes quick change between thinking (deductions, analyses and so forth) and perception, observing the world around you. Even in observing, one does not simply relax and observe, but observes in quite a proactive way – you do not merely wait for an observation, you seek it.

So, if you were to happen to be in a room during a meeting, you would not simply meditatively look at your surroundings, you would try to watch the reactions of many people at once, jumping with your eyes from one to another. You would be aware of movement and direct your gaze towards it. You would shift from multitasking to singletasking: from listening to a person speak and actively interpreting it while looking at their body language (multitasking), to just analyzing it (singletasking), to looking at the reactions of people (singletasking), to seeing someone shift in their chair uncomfortably and interpreting their behavior (multitasking). This exchange is rather rapid in nature, and, for me, quite tiring.

What you get during such hyperawareness sessions is a chaotic mass of new knowledge without any obvious hierarchy of importance. You get that your professor is bored, and you get that the college board is granting money to a magazine, and you get that a professor-assistant has weight loss issues, and you get a million other things that are absolutely chaotic in their organization. That’s what you get. A million pieces of info in a great swarm. That’s also the reason why hyperawareness is so hard to maintain for a long time. It’s much like sprinting – you cannot sprint 5K. In a lot of ways, the brain also works as a muscle – you use it and train it, and it becomes better at what you do. But the thing with the brain is that it CAN actually sprint for hours on end, and it can also get better at its sprinting speed. For example, my hyperawareness can last maybe an hour or so, but the intensity of it, the speed of the deductions I make and the amount of data I perceive are almost triple the amount I got three years ago. I remember myself several years ago because it’s then I started to write a journal, and from reading it today, I know how much I would get from my surroundings. I have multiplied both my hyperawareness intensity (the “hyper” part of awareness) and the length of time I can maintain it without relapsing into normal awareness. Of course, the natural goal of hyperawareness training is to maintain it indefinitely.

However, there are certain caveats that are important and should be shared. It would seem that hyperawareness causes hyperproduction during later, normal awareness stage. I have been told that I speak a lot (like, really a lot) and I have seen that my creativity drive and will to express myself (be it through words or movement) are almost indomitable. I must do something! I must write, sing, walk, run, jump, move in general, talk, explain – in one word: produce.

This is both a good and a bad thing. Good because, obviously, being creative is good. Producing things is go(o)d. Bad because, if you cannot control your will to express yourself, you do not control yourself, and if you do not control yourself, then all of this is in vain, because the whole point of overhumanity exercises is achieving control.

Control
Balance
Stability
Mutability
Fun
Growth

Control, because great powers without control are useless, and quite literally so. Useless = without use. Why develop something neither you or anybody else can use?

Balance, because life is best lived through balance. Eat an imbalanced diet, you get sick. Be overly emotional, you get into situations were you don’t want to be. Laugh too little and you’ll die wondering why you didn’t do it more.

Stability, because only through perseverance, hard work, dedication and a certain stubbornness do you achieve great things. Nothing good in life comes easy. Also, if you are stable, life doesn’t knock you over when it gets windy. The problems come and they go. You stay.

Mutability, because change is the only true constant. Nothing is ever complete or defined. There is no closure. There is no job safety, and there is no personal security. Everything changes. In a world where everything changes, one is obliged to adopt an attitude and a physique that also adapt. Discard your opinions and practice naivete. Discard your blunt force and flow.

Fun, because it’s the ultimate generator of the human condition. We can, of course, give rationally supported arguments why we do some things and not do other things, but at the root of it all is plain old fun. Be it throwing rocks into a pond or practicing a Seven Star Praying Mantis form on top of a remote mountain in China – we all do it because we enjoy it.

Growth, because that’s how you achieve all of the above. You grow. You see better, you fight better, you think better, you write better, you garden better, you program better, you eat better, you live better, you die better. You grow.

There are many other words I could use to describe this journey, and maybe I could have done so with much less. It doesn’t really matter in the end because the point is not to describe the journey, the point is to take it.

 

On unexplainable emotional states

I have this thing I call my “blackness”. It’s the best term I can find to describe it. It’s a sort of sadness, mixed with frustration, anger, and resentment. I would even say hate, sometimes. It’s also a sort of depression. Absolutely no creative drive and no will to do anything. It’s a type of thing that gets you nailed to your bed, not wanting to get up and do what you need to do, not wanting to have a drink of water when you’re thirsty. It’s a kind of thing that chains you to your thoughts, and builds a wall that obscures the outside world, so you just spin around and around in your mind, thinking, living again through past episodes of life, imagining new ones.

I have my blackness under firm control. Each time I feel it trying to resurface, I know that I’ve loosened up some of the ropes that hold it down: it might be that I’m not meditating enough, it might be a question of perspective (like, becoming too focused on some things in such a way you forget how truly unimportant they are on a cosmic scale) or it might be that my surroundings influence me – for example, certain people that have the amazing gift to make me feel bad – make me feel bad.

In any case, I do what I need to do in order to stop it from devouring my soul. Sometimes it just means taking a break, lying down and doing absolutely nothing until I become drowsy, fall asleep and wake up replenished and not blackened.

I manage it. In order to become overhuman, one must first become human.

It took me a long time to understand that a lot of times, my emotional states were just a reflection of the chemicals running through my veins. High serotonin, low dopamine, that type of stuff. My knowledge of human biochemistry is practically nil, but I do know that what we perceive as emotions is measurable by the amount of secretion of certain chemicals, such as serotonin, dopamine and endomorphin.

It’s nothing but a bunch of chemicals.

With that being said, one must understand that our emotional states are caused by these very chemicals, and that there are certain situations where it’s only and just them.

I know that not all people can relate to this, but I figure some can. You know those situations when you’re just sad or angry, or frustrated, and even being completely and utterly honest with yourself about the reason of that emotional state you still cannot find the source of it?

If you’re like me, you try to figure out why the hell you don’t feel good. You speak with a person that cares about you, and trying to speak about the problems you have, you see that, from a distanced rational perspective, your problems are no true problems at all. Yet you still feel bad.

I believe it’s called cognitive-emotional dissonance. Even though you rationally KNOW that your problems aren’t so problematic at all, you still feel bad and it won’t stop.

Well, enough with searching deeply within the psyche to find the grand source of the issue! There may or may not be a childhood trauma behind all those bad emotions you’ve been experiencing, but the fact is that even childhood trauma is only a simple chemical conditioning you never became aware of. CHEMICAL CONDITIONING. That’s that thing junkies do with heroin.

So, even though it may be the hardest thing in the universe, when you’re feeling bad, and you’ve removed all the factors that make you feel bad, you’ve seen your problems, and rationally, logically, they are so little that they shouldn’t even be problems, distance yourself. It’s hard to think about yourself in such a way. It’s hard to see your emotions as not having some grand issue behind them. It’s hard to reduce them to something so worldly and non-spiritual as chemistry. But we who seek control and unclouded thought must do this. And it can be done. So yes, distance yourself.

Distance yourself and recognize that the source of your misfortune might well lie in a complex chemistry equation.

And then, rise.

Numbers are important

Here’s a new exercise for you: when you get into a train, into a bar, into a classroom – close your eyes and try to remember the number of certain things. How many sunglasses were there in the room? How many white sneakers? How many cellphones were visible?

This exercise will give you more precision in your analyses. With it, you also develop your memory and visualization skills. It happened to me more than once that upon entering a certain place, I looked around, spotted the best exit options, spotted the most colorful people and the good-looking women, but had absolutely no idea who else was there. I could give a pretty good description of what I saw, how the place looked like and so on, but had astoundingly low precision when it came to numbers of things and things I didn’t find interesting.

The reason is this: I didn’t find it interesting enough. But then one day I rode a train and after some 20 minutes I became aware of the presence of the most dangerous man in that entire train. The tattoos said war veteran, the insignia said patriot/nationalist, the look said nervousness and potential PTSD, the hands said strength. One could easily infer a presence of a weapon. Understand the gravity of this: for twenty minutes I didn’t notice somebody that could do real physical harm. I didn’t notice him because there were more interesting things to watch. I glanced over him, and my superficial glance didn’t find anything interesting, EVEN THOUGH he was loaded with information.

This exercise will teach you too look at people and things you think do not have any meaningful information. And with it, you will learn an important lesson: it is often the most meaningless, bleak, uninteresting thing that has the most interesting story behind it.

Learn to love the fight

Throw away your ego, don’t try to prove you’re better or stronger or more capable or right. When you encounter an aggressive person in the street, do not become as aggressive as that person. You have nothing to prove. The only acceptable option that includes physical contact is when you have no other choice, when it’s fight or die (or get hurt).

But when that moment arrives… You need to be a beast. You need to be aggressive and ruthless and brutal. Don’t spar with your attacker, destroy him! All the more if there are more of them and only one you.

Not only you need to become very aggressive when it truly comes to a fight, you need to change your perspective before the fight. Learn to love the fight. It’s a bloody chaos, but it’s a blessing because it’s so rare.

So, avoid the conflict, but when it’s inevitable, learn to recognize that it truly is inevitable. Do not twist reality so that the conflict seems inevitable, while it really is avoidable. Be realistic. When it’s inevitable, recognize it, and learn to love it. Cherish the moment when everything falls and you need to defend yourself. You will be surprised as to your own reactions. The complete lack of conscious control over what you do. Everything happening so fast. You can’t even think. After the fight you shake. You maybe start to laugh hysterically or cry. Observe how your body reacts to true stressors, because that will show you what you need to work on to improve.

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In defense of multitasking

Many people dislike multitasking, and with good reason. If you try to do many things at once, you do them badly. And there is also the fact that it goes against the basic meditative practice of living in the moment. Multitasking is basically having your mind wander off to other things while you do something, but in a quasi productive way. But I have been thinking and came to the conclusion that multitasking might not be all that bad. If we take the confucianist idea that you should be moderate in everything, the proper conclusion would be that sometimes you should multitask, and sometimes you shouldn’t, the only question being one of moderation.

Let me give a personal example: I have a day job that takes between 4 and 6 hours every working day. I go to college too, which also takes some 3 hours per working day. In the evening, I hold instructions two times a week  (one “session“ lasting some 2 hours). On Saturday, I also have a job in the morning that takes 4 hours. Travelling between my home, college and jobs takes around 2 hours daily. I try to train Parkour for one or two hours every day, and Wing Tzun Kung Fu takes 2 hours three times a week. I also read, write, meditate, learn Japanese, practice sword fighting,  practice card magic, stretch, do Qi Gong, do strength sessions, take naps, cook, clean my house, do the laundry, wash the dishes, etc etc.

How?

How the hell?

Sometimes it is like hell, I admit it. Bruce Lee’s idea of daily decrease is a bloody great idea, but it seems to me that the only thing I do is I increase the number of things I do. Sometimes it’s too much. Sometimes I just can’t cope with it all. But I know that the things I WANT to do are good things – and these things, unfortunately, don’t pay the rent or the food.  One day, hopefully. But at this moment, nope. I would rather quit my job (and fortunately, I won’t have one in two months meaning the ending of my economic incarceration) but right now it’s not an option. Taking into consideration that I don’t do anything truly important on my job, I started multitasking.

Just the other day, I was walking by the river, listening to the Pimsleur English – Japanese track and practicing the move in card magic called “the pass”.  Triple multitasking right there, bam! Don’t get me wrong: I’m NOT saying that multitasking is better than” being in the moment”. It’s not. Truly. Being in the moment is, in my opinion, way better than multitasking at everything. If you write, you only write. If you walk, you only walk. If you read, you only read. If you cook, you only cook. Being in the moment is being at peace and living completely Zen.

Sometimes there is just duty, and doing what you have to do. If throwing it away isn’t an option, you can only use it. And there are two ways of using it: being in the moment, savoring the moment, despite the fact that it’s not an activity you want to do OR multitasking and doing things that make you better as a person. Both of them go fine and both should be practiced. What I’m saying is that multitasking is also an option that can pay out nicely in some time.

I think I must have read at least 10 books on my jobs.

The problem arises, however, in the case when you lose control, and start escaping reality via multitasking. That’s not a good thing. But if you are in control, if you don’t let multitasking control you and keep controlling multitasking, then you can make the most of your time.

So, my concrete advice to you, reader, is the following: if you have a job that doesn’t fulfill you, leave it. If you can’t, or if you can’t at the time, either multitask or savor the moment. Do what you must, earn your wages, but advance as a person. Learn a language, stretch, draw, write, read, practice card magic. Living in the moment can be somewhat hard when you’re right inside the office (which you hate), but it’s possible – and it’s also a subject for a different text.