Category — better thinking
Inspired by Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse (if you haven't read it, OMG DO) and a commenter on my previous post (thank you!):
Where do you go to escape your (little-s) self?
That voice in your head; all the Psychology that runs all the time; the riot of (mental) past and future?
Siddhartha comes to this realization: That everything he's done to escape that in fact is exactly where it lives.
Your little-s self LIVES in the ESCAPES you devise for it. It lives in your desires, your addictions, your vices, and your frantic attempts to quiet it.
Therefore, the only way to escape it is to STOP ESCAPING. The only place your useless thinking doesn't follow you to is…yup. Right here.
This does explain the (sometimes eerie) mental silence and that sense that things that seemed like immediate problems dissolve somewhat when thinking in 3D.
It's also just, I dunno, a really pretty idea. I like pretty ideas. ;)
December 8, 2013 No Comments
Life is crazy.
But Life is always crazy.
Deprivation in some things becomes a rain of frogs and bedknobs and broomsticks and cheeseburgers and tap-dancing…while things that you may have forgotten were lush and warm suddenly dry up and freeze.
The trick — she says from that wise place a bit outside of things — is to remember that those ups and downs are not Life; or rather that it's all always like that: Pleasure and pain are two sides of a coin that's spinning in the air until you die, and happiness doesn't — contrary to what pretty much everybody says – come from magicially always throwing Heads.
People who are happy have not achieved Pure All The Time Pleasure. Contrary to certain goofy stories we tell gullible people and children about white places in the sky, there's no such thing; and if there was, then people who are truly happy wouldn't want it.
So I have good company after many months of struggling with daily loneliness…but I'm terribly out of money. That's the spin. If I let either of those things — or any of the other things which could be in a good or bad state — control whether or not I'm happy, then either I'll never be happy, or my happiness will be totally at the whim of the weather.
Pain hurts, but it doesn't have to make me suffer. My thoughts make me suffer, and I can — especially with tools like 3D — control those.
Pleasure is great, but I don't have to need it in order to be happy.
Life can be crazy and I can still be happy.
November 23, 2013 5 Comments
Hey everyone — Going ahead and actually posting this one, because though I'm still weird about my face on-screen, I am really happy with the content of Derridian Work-In-Progress Video Series #10.
Enjoy, and thanks for indulging me in these! They're being super helpful as motivation to both keep working on something that nearly intimidates me into giving up almost daily, and to put my thoughts in order even when they're tricky. <3
November 16, 2013 No Comments
(I owe the polyphasic community like six hundred updates — sorry guys! My productivity has been miserable lately, for reasons that have nothing to do with sleep. Actually, that's one of the posts I need to write: How being polyphasic is different from "just" a productivity hack. But first I need to fix my shit so that I actually have time to write again!
ANYWAY. This one feels pressing, so I'm using it for motivation to Sit In The Chair And Press The Keys, which has been unreasonably difficult lately.)
Introversion has been "a thing" lately, and I think that's good overall, since as many of us know by now, people who are introverted socially are/were often mis-labeled as being unsociable, unfriendly, antisocial, or just not pleasant to be around — and that certainly isn't fair. Having different needs isn't a crime, and we should all be more understanding of each other and give each other the benefit of the doubt. Good lesson.
But as with many fad ideas, I think this one risks going too far. If I'm reading my feeds right, approximately half of all Internet-connected humanity thinks it's an introvert now; and we know for a fact that that isn't true. (Neither are half of them suffering from some mild form of Asperger's, I might add as a corollary.)
I point to myself as an early example: I was called antisocial and treated just the way introverts hate being, for a long time. Then I was more politely labeled an introvert and, well, pretty much treated the same way, though as the idea gained traction in the nerd community, it became easier to explain my loner-hood in a single word, I guess. I behaved like an introvert, as I think many people (especially Gen-X/Y-ers) in the "nerd subculture" do: I avoided parties, crowds and people I didn't know, preferred the company of just one person if any, and spent a whole lot of time with my face in a book or a screen, shutting out the world.
But I wasn't an introvert. And I wasn't "antisocial" either, whatever that means: I was, in fact, an extrovert with a crippling case of social anxiety disorder, and a whopping history of childhood bullying and isolation that had left me unable to identify, express, and meet my own social needs. What the early well-meaning people identified as being "socially miswired" and the later people identified as "introversion" both missed the question: Was I *happy* that way? Because while I think we can all agree that it's cruel and stupid to look at a young person and say, "Fuck 'em, they're antisocial", is it really more helpful to label someone (or yourself, I might add, because this is an easy cop-out rather than dealing with it) "introverted", if the end result is still ignoring a problem?
A truly introverted person spends a lot of time alone, or with one or very few companions, and is happy that way. Their social needs — and we are humans with social needs, and not getting them met is no healthier than malnutrition — are being adequately met by their circumstances. You could compare them (sloppily, but adequately) with people who only need three or four hours of sleep: That's rare, and it is unhealthy and mean to force someone like that to lie in bed all night because "that's normal and normal is what we do" — but it's just as bad to ignore the sleep-deprivation of a friend who's only able to sleep three hours a night but is miserable that way.
I guess what I'm saying is, labels are dangerous. If we really want to be compassionate to each other and understanding of our differences, we need to empathize, to see each other as individuals, and to care whether whatever someone's doing is working for them or making them happy, rather than what box it fits into. The "introverted" label made it possible for me to continue to starve myself of social contact I actually needed — and more pertinently, the application of that label made it easy for people, even people who loved me, to ignore that I was miserable and needed to fix some things about my social life.
What happened, finally? I went to a very good therapist and after a few sessions I casually mentioned that I was an introvert, whereupon she actually snorted before saying, "You are one of the most extroverted people I've ever talked to!" From there it became gradually clear that I wanted and needed social contact that I wasn't getting because I'd been taught to fear or avoid it — but because I'd been taught to fear and avoid it, and then further taught that it was just "how I was" (i.e. "my" label), I didn't actually know that that was the problem: I only knew that I felt a lot of negative shit pretty much all the time, that I usually felt like an alien and had a hard time connecting to anyone, and that I wasn't very able to be happy either alone or in company; and that while having one safe-feeling companion seemed like a fix for that, it was often landing me in very dependent and unhealthy relationships.
And while my issues may have been pretty serious on the scale of things, I don't think it's at all uncommon for people to be misaligned with, unaware of, or not automatically able to meet their social needs.
In fact, I think "not aware of or able to get what you need for some reason" is a LOT more common a situation than "introverted". The difference is, the former shouldn't be written off or ignored: it's not a stable state, a comfortable label that's fine as it is. If you are intro (or extro) and fine, then great, awesome. You probably know what you need, then, and are capable of going out (or not) and getting it; and therefore there's not much reason to worry — the most discomfort you face is explaining your needs to others, which come on, isn't really that bad. (And if it is, well, stop hanging out with those particular others; they suck.)
But if you feel lonely, cut off, anxious, unsafe, unheard, or like you hate yourself or your life…that's not a label, not a thing, and not okay. Neither you nor the people around you should be ignoring it: You should be fixing it. And fixing it starts with believing that a fix is necessary and possible…something those neat handy labels can sometimes really get in the way of.
May you find peace, whether or not you find the "right" word for it. ;)
November 10, 2013 2 Comments
Still working on the site updates; thanks for being patient with me, everyone!
Scalzi's doing a thing I thought I might jump in on (and you totally should too, if you want!) — Ten Things I've Done That You (Probably) Haven't. This was a fun list to write!
1. Almost died one random day from a sudden rupture in my guts. Happened completely out of nowhere; I was 23. I barely made it to the hospital in time, and had emergency surgery that left me with 250+ stitches in my stomach and a few less organs. (Note to self: Never ask the Universe to better help you understand "memento mori", amiright? ;)
2. Shot a fish on breath-hold under fifty feet of water (and took it home and ate it)
3. Free-solo'd a thousand-foot cliff face to see the Anasazi ruins at the top (Note: this was stupid, my first adventure climbing, and I don't recommend free-soloing to anyone! I climb with ropes now that I know what I'm doing.)
4. Lived on the Uberman schedule for six months? I mean, I had to put that, right? ;)
5. Spent 22 hours in labor…not really recommending that one, heh
6. Road-tripped almost the entire length of Route 66 (which bisects the U.S. longways) on a motorcycle
7. Studied under a Shaolin monk
8. Had my tongue pierced
9. Urban-explored my way from the sub-basement all the way to the very top (not just the fourteenth floor or the roof, but the top of the ladder on the smokestack on the roof) of the famous abandoned train station in Detroit
10. Presented a paper to an audience of PhDs when I was an undergrad (and I should add that irrespective of everything else on this list, I still get heart palpitations when I remember this one!!)
Okay, seriously, that was super fun. We all know Scalzi's a genius, so I guess it doesn't bear repeating; but do make up your own list, whether you post it there, here, on your own page, or nowhere!
October 28, 2013 No Comments
Among the many fundamental things about Taiji that are tricky to grasp and incredibly powerful when you do, lately I'm being blown away by this one:
It is never as powerful, useful, or meaningful to move as it is to be moved.
How do you "be moved"? Simple(ish) — instead of pushing something with your muscles, you shift your focus to perfecting how everything is lined up and balanced so that the energy can flow through you as smoothly, as uninterrupted as possible. (See also "Redirecting Lightning".)
Yes, you do both things all the time: The difference is where your focus is. Try this little exercise: Stand up and lift your arms to straight out in front of you. Great; put them back down. Now, focus on your core (stomach / oblique) muscles, feel them activate, and without doing anything at all with your shoulders or biceps, let your arms float up. The latter is trickier — especially the part about keeping your shoulders relaxed – but the end-result is more graceful/controlled, and because it uses core rather than arm muscles, hella stronger. In the first case, you're just forcing energy through; in the second, you're clearing a path for energy to follow. (Bonus exercise: Try the above and focus on feeling the kinetic energy that drives the motion coming all the way up through your feet and legs to your core-muscles and then floating your arms up. Now drop everything, shake it out and just lift your arms the old way again, and feel the difference. Wild, eh?)
The energy is there already — you have motion in you (unless you're dead), and making more is as simple as putting a little pressure on the ground with your foot — so the challenge is really to make it go the right way. Which is, considering the subtlety of the energy we're talking about — are you with me here, physicists? — an impressive task.
You can't, by the way, learn to do this without learning to feel said energy. There's no shortcut where you just "put your arm at thirty degrees and blah blah blah". There are certainly guidelines, but at the end of the day whether they're working comes down to just one thing: Where'd the energy go? Did it get stuck and/or dissipate, or did it go where you wanted?
Other ways to say it:
Instead of initiating / forcing / "doing the yang", you relax / prepare / "focus on the yin".
The act of moving still has to happen, but it is in essence easy; the hard part, and the part that gives strength and perfection to the movement, is all the space of non-movement around it.
You don't "bring (a) God"; you prepare the altar just so. The god is arguably there all the time (whether because it's omnipresent or a metaphor for energy / existence or whatever); what makes this different from everything else is how it's prepared — the intention and reality of it, and its ability to channel that energy effectively. This is the essence of what we look for in an altar, a ritual, a prayer; yeah? Something that can channel god-energy. It's not your energy that matters, which is why even very inexperienced spiritual people know that the person loudly wishing for a million dollars isn't doing praying right.
(Holy shit guys. Praying–correctly–is taiji training.)
"Moving" in the life-activity sense is pretty easy, too. You can always create change, though anyone can tell you how much easier it is to create bad change than good change. All bad change requires is unleashing some energy. Good change requires aim: In fact, arguably it requires just aim.
You don't "throw a punch" any more than you "bring a God": Even though the act in that case does come from you (well…we could argue that the energy you're channeling is just as validly "god-energy" as the one that's making the trees grow, but let's leave that for another time), acting is 1% of your total effort, the other 99% of which is prepatory stillness.
When you get good, you can do this work quickly (perhaps like a "good" spiritualist doesn't need much in the way of trappings anymore); but when you're a student, you may spend five minutes just standing there, adjusting everything, in service of calling forth a single motion. (Yes, to answer the implied question, I do this. Pretty often. Probably looks seriously weird from the outside, heh.)
Other ways to mean it:
Quick, name your three biggest challenges right now. Better job? Huge goal? Lacking something relationship-wise, or need a new purpose in life?
Do you think the best answer to those things will come from "moving" — from throwing action at them — or from standing still and preparing everything so that the energy that's all ready all over the place can flow through you in the right ways?
You've heard the same ten thousand platitudes I have, about how like attracts like, about how if you do the right thing the right opportunities will come to you. But why? How can you make it happen? Do you "just wait"?
Well, yes and no. You don't just wait, or to say it another way, you don't do nothing; you in fact do nothing. You do the 99% that isn't the action itself — you clear all the blockages; you make the altar, the body, the pathways, the yin bits, perfect. And then, because the force for such changes doesn't come from you, you hold still and wait for a bolt of it to come — which, depending on the force required, usually doesn't take very long; most life-changes are predicated on types of energy that fly around among humans all the time. (Right? We're not talking about preparing the ground for the coming of the next Messiah here; we're talking about getting the right frame of mind together to accept a pulse of finance, or friendship, or luck — all pretty common things.)
This feels totally different.
It's both easier and a million times stronger.
When you do it right, you tend to be dumbstruck, looking at your hands and wondering where the hell that came from.
It's not that there are "things you can't do" in this world. It's that there are things you can't do in this world; that require the kind of power that can only come from yin-doing, from making the situation such that they can happen with maximal efficiency.
The difference is that between a toddler throwing blocks and a student constructing a block-throwing robot: So much more preparation "work" goes into the latter, but what you see, the final outcome, is just a shockingly more powerful and efficient use of the same simple energy that's there all the time — in fact, what you see is one person flailing with all their strength and missing, and someone else sitting back and having a nice drink while perfect shots just happen for them. You wouldn't say the student put in "less work" than the toddler, but because their work was more focused on preparation and efficiency, at the moment of throwing, they're having to do very little — in fact, if they prepared right, then the less they "do", the better.
"Stillness," says the I Ching in places, "is a sacrifice that you make to enlist the help of the Creative."
It is a sacrifice, too — it's difficult, when you desperately want to Fix The Things, to force yourself to focus on the yin-stuff and on being ready for the energy when it comes. When you're hurting or miserable in some way, you want to poke it, to do something about it, not to let it be there; but that's exactly the point. Tensing around it will hold it still, and shoving it will only cause damage. Flailing, in any sense, is never optimal. Even if all you can do is force yourself to relax, even if you accomplish nothing else in either the yin or the yang sense, you're better off for not having made things worse than if you just started throwing (literal or metaphorical) wild punches.
OK, I think I've run out of usefully different ways to say it. But yeah, Internet!
I'm about to go try my punching skills on my job problem.
Wish me luck. ;)
October 24, 2013 2 Comments
I've been challenging myself (with others' help ;) to explicate more clearly what the hell I mean by "3D thinking", which I've referred to here and in the videos repeatedly, and tried to explain but been unsurprisingly unsuccessful at.
It is, to say the first thing, the quintessential Thing Which Must Be Experienced. Explaining will never get there, so even if you love reading words about it as much as I do, just stick your expectations — that secret suspicion you have that, given the right argument and evidence, you could understand anything – in the sock drawer right now.
And if you know me, then you're raising an eyebrow seriously high at how easily I, of all people, am willing to show my palms and back away from trying to explain something fully in words. "You can't write what love is like," "You can't argue for/against God," and "You can't possibly encompass the sheer size of the universe in words" are ALL things I've steadfastly refused to accept prima facie.
But this? Nope. In fact, hilariously, it's the same things about logic and word-dom that make them work so crazy well for everything else that make them explicitly impossible when it comes to this. Impossible, yes — a real argument or explanation is impossible — but, I hasten to add, that's not the same as useless. It's impossible to climb Everest in an hour, but that doesn't make an hour spent working on it a wasted one.
So grab your chalk-bag and let's spend an hour climbing.
(…Actually, I spent many hours on this, so I appreciate any feedback on my degree of success!)
(Read more for the chalky bits.)
October 14, 2013 1 Comment
I haven't disappeared! I am, in actuality, almost completely re-structuring this site, and hopefully improving things a ton in the process — but that process is largely invisible from the yonder beyond the fourth wall, so I apologize for the apparent radio-silence.
I did run across this article this morning on embarrassing yourself, though, and in doing so I realized that it was a good vehicle to help me make a point I've been meaning to get to here at some point anyway. From the title, I think you've probably figured out what it is, but indulge me in a short story:
Once upon a time, there was a depressed and unhappy young-ish woman who, in spite of numerous blessings and accomplishments, could never seem to win the fight to get out of bed for more than one day at a time. She struggled constantly with self-loathing, despair, and a lack of direction; and rather unsurprisingly given all that, in her mid-twenties found herself divorced, homeless, jobless and pretty well fucked.
As happens when the karmic troops raze the fields this way, many decisions were made, good and bad, and a new life built, also with flaws that eventually took it apart — but one thing happened then that changed everything forever, and that would eventually prove the foundation for a more permanent, deep-seated and trustworthy happiness and sense of self-worth: The young woman finally girded her courage and took a martial-arts class. Ten years later, whatever else has happened, she's fit, confident, much more at home in her own mind and body, parsecs more socially well-heeled, and spiritually much closer to peace and understanding than she ever suspected she'd get. Starting so late in life — being 28 and still fumbly and stiff in a class where the really good people started as kids — may have felt overwhelming at first, but as it turns out, years of study make a difference, and the difference between 28-and-fumbly and 35-and-badass is huge.
That's all a very neat story, yeah? But let's unpack a bit of it that happens far too quickly: The young woman…took a martial-arts class.
What was the pivotal moment there?
Researching and choosing a place to study? She'd done that many times before. Steeling herself and going to that first difficult class? Maybe–that was hard all right, and it's probably the part they'd show in the movies. But she'd done a first class before, several times, and it didn't do anything but make her feel even more clumsy and embarrassed and cut-off from everyone else than before. It certainly didn't help: She went home after that first class and cried, and–well, no, that's a lie. She was crying before she got all the way in the car to go home. "Alienating" is not even the word for stumbling your way through something that makes you look stupid in front of people you don't know but really wish you could impress.
Ok, so…What about the fifth class? No, she'd done fifth classes before…they're just as embarrassing and difficult as first ones, if not a bit more so.
Sixth, then? Tenth? Fiftieth?
What was it, when was it, in the process of that big verb "took [martial-arts]", that the woman found something that turned her life around? When did it stop being scary and embarrassing and difficult and start being fulfilling and wonderful?
Well, it's been almost a decade now and I'll say this, as I get my gear together to bike to my lesson this morning — much more advanced lessons now, three times a week plus self-study – it's still embarrassing. I may look somewhat "cool" to some people on the outside now, but there's always so much more that I don't know, and endless ways to screw up, and big holes in my skills that are easy for anyone to spot — and the better I get, the more advanced people I find myself around, so I'm perpetually in situations with endless opportunities to look stupid. It's not as hard to make myself go to class as it used to be, since a) it's become a habit (I developed a hard rule in the first year that I was only allowed to miss a class I'd planned on attending if there was a stone-cold emergency stopping me, and now by default I don't miss classes), and b) I've gotten to see so many of the positive benefits that I can easily convince myself that it's worth the cringing. But it's never stopped being embarrassing.
And that's actually a good thing.
It wasn't just getting over being embarrassed that got me all the good I've gotten from kungfu – it was learning to appreciate being embarrassed itself. Sort of like when you learn to appreciate the pain of sore muscles (because it's a sign that you're getting stronger) — the pain of embarrassment is a signal. It means that I'm getting out there and learning, pushing myself to places I'm not comfortable, and hanging around people I admire (or I wouldn't care enough about what they thought to be embarrassed). I didn't "get past" the embarrassment involved in going to those early martial-arts classes: Instead, I learned to appreciate embarrassment, and now, instead of avoiding it, I grit my teeth and seek it out. Which is why I learned to play underwater hockey…and sail…and spearfish…and started climbing…and plenty else, personal and professional. Knowing that something will embarrass me at the beginning (and possibly longer) has become a sure sign that it's something I'll probably be glad I did. And because of that, the humiliation itself isn't really so bad.
So go on! Do something embarrassing today!
(This message brought to you by your local Screw Stodgy Old People Club and the letter "O!" ;)
October 4, 2013 7 Comments
…from the mightily awesome Calvin & Muad'Dib tumblr.
September 24, 2013 No Comments
"So you never feel completely sad, or completely happy. You just feel kinda…satisfied with your product…and then you die."
- Louis C.K., explaining why confronting the essential loneliness / sadness of being human is preferable to compulsively reaching for something (a text-message, food, whatever) to kill the pain.
I could make arguments against Louis' generalizations of technology here, but the important point is that this is insightful talk about human emotions made funny and accessible, and whether you understand it or not yet, it's good to hear it put so simply (and on TV no less). Enjoy!
September 22, 2013 3 Comments