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Meditation from Cold Start to Complete Mastery
:
a Manual of Global Wayfinding Meditation

by Mark D Lippmann and collaborators

Collaborators and Credits (needs to be updated): ...JD, __, __, __, __, __, __, H, A..., [...], and many more [I have to ask several of these people whether they want to be explicitly credited.] (Colophon: H, KQ, MO.)

Copyright: All rights reserved. You may fork/publish lightly transformed (formatted, edited, structurally rearranged) editions of this work if you prominently link back to this original document, possibly warning that the version they are reading might be out of date. No commercial use, nor fee-for-access, are permitted.

Quick Start Guide:

Who is this document for?

This document is for people are curious about, serious about (and anything in between) very long-term, goal-oriented meditation, as in years and a lifetime. (And "goal-oriented" includes "no goal" and/or radical, self-determined, open-ended provisionality!)

(So, this document is intended to comprehensively support both complete beginners and "maximally advanced" meditators.)

To get a sense of timescale, working with the practices in this document can be risky for approximately the first 10,000 hours or so, give or take a few thousand hours. (That’s ten thousand hours, 10k hours.)

(Do see the sections links, below, for more about risks.)

If meditating "full time" or "full time plus," ~10,000 hours takes something like three to seven years. If meditating an hour a day, ~10,000 hours takes about twenty years.

(Note! Sort of like how a weightlifter can’t get very strong by lifting weights for a week straight, night and day, without breaks, one can’t just choose to meditate "full time plus." "Maximum available meditation hours" follows a natural, personal rhythm, which is sometimes "five minutes per day." It’s more about how much someone is able to, or choosing to, prioritize meditation in their life, over other things, when potential meditation hours become "endogenously available." "Full time plus" might look like lots of long walks and lots of sleep. Most people will need/want to start very slowly, and take long breaks, and interleave life experiments and valued life experiences, and explore and synergize with, or cut over to, other practice systems or life priorities.)

It’s ok to noncommitally play with (or use à la carte) the practices in this document, or to circle back to this document, on and off, or to use this document as an intermittent touchstone/umbrella/index, while exploring lots of other things. (In any case, there's many ways "up the mountain," and there's no obligation to climb the mountain, and sometimes it happens all by itself, or with the tiniest of nudges.) Just know that this still carries risks! There’s an apocryphal saying, "Better not to start; if you start, better to finish." If one is dabbling, experimenting, tinkering (and there’s nothing wrong with that), one has to be careful, as best they can, to not "start" if one doesn’t intend to start, or one isn’t yet ready to start. (Of course, some people have aleady "started," long ago, etc., etc.)

*

Note:

Partial Guided Tour

Funding:

Please support this open access work: https://www.patreon.com/meditationstuff [As of this version, now at 10 patrons and $101/month USD. Next round number $110; 9$ to go; 92% complete.]

Author web presence: https://meditationstuff.wordpress.com

Canonical location of this document: https://github.com/meditationstuff/protocol_1

Alternative versions:

Sometimes individuals publish lightly transformed versions of this document to facilitate engagement with the material while it is still in draft form. These versions may be out of date:

Note: Separately, to get a readable plaintext version of the page you're reading, now, you can do a search replace of the source on "/​" to "/", without the quotes, to clean up all the zero-width space character encodings without affecting anything else.

Full Table of Contents:

preliminary and introductory things:

[This (super)section intentionally left blank. Scroll down for the contentful subsections!]

[Go up to this section's line in the Full Table of Contents][Go to the Partial Guided Tour (in the Quick Start Guide)]

document-level meta-warning:

[meta-meta note: I want to acknowledge that this document is sort of accumulating warning after warning, which are sort of epicycles on epicycles on epicycles at this point. They’re responding to a twist in the document. And that twist needs to be eventually be untwisted. There’s like (a) an absence or a "not" that needs to be rotated around into (b) a "presence"--from "not this" to "yes that." From FUD to concretes.]

Some things are "totalizing memetic objects." (I may be using that quoted phrase in an idiosyncratic way!) A totalizing memetic object sort of purports to legitimately be about, or say things about "everything." "Everything" could be "reality," or "all of reality," or "everything that exists," "how the future will go," "the world," and stuff like that. There's also things that are "relatively more totalizing" than other things, because they say things about real or illusory "things that touch a lot of other things" or "things that have a lot of implications for other things." Examples in this category could be "minds," "truth," "goodness," "personhood," and things like that.

Here's a couple ways a (relatively) totalizing memetic object works: It might say compact, explicit things like this: "X is A, or X is B, or X is C, and nothing else." In that example, in so many words, it says that X could be three things and those three things are exhaustive. The "and nothing else" does a lot of work. "And nothing else" can be stated explicitly, as above, or it can implied or hinted at, intentionally or unintentionally, reflectively or unreflectively. Another thing about the above is that the mutual exclusivity of A, B, and C (and nothing else) make the assertion "tidy," and/or "explanatorily elegant." Elegant things can be sticky or attractive; they can kind "sink in," sometimes at least a little bit, whether a person wants them to or not, whether a person realizes it or not, at least at first. (This last sentence is possibly an example of "FUD," which will be described below.)

Another way a totalizing memetic object can work is just by being very long and (at least seemingly) comprehensive. This has some of the effects like the above; a long document can lead to an experience of elegance "on the far side of complexity," and a long document, because it's so long, can lull someone into an experience of "this is everything."

The end result is that something might be (at least temporarily) more salient, or mentally or behaviorally, effecting in a person's life than they would retrospectively choose.

There's sometimes a second component to totalizing memetic objects, which is "Fear Uncertainty Doubt" (sometimes abbreviated or initialized as FUD). FUD is sometimes a non-specific warning about possible bad outcomes, or vague information that vaguely might imply possible bad outcomes. The nonspecificity and vagueness are very important because they then a person is affected in broader ways. Someone who has been subjected to FUD sometimes experience a chilling effect on experimentation, play, joy, and so on, because, reflectively or unreflectively, they're are a bit more inclined towards vigilance and caution, for better or worse, justifiedly or unjustifiedly.

Further, FUD doesn't even have to have language like "you might not realize it" or "you might not be able to tell," but language like that can be particularly (self-)undermining, cf. "uncertainty" and "doubt." A person might question themselves more in unproductive ways or be more receptive to authoritative claims, helpful or not. As above, it can cause a person to reduce their behavioral repetoire, including in the space of assertiveness, self-care, and self-regulation.

An alternative to FUD, is supplying mechanistic models, as precisely as possible, of how some things can sometimes lead to specific possibly bad outcomes, for some people, some of the time, as well as an explicit weighing of risks versus benefits, ways in which one might address risks and uncertainties, e.g. how someone might be "better able to tell," and possibly a list of graded alternatives that carry less risk.

Now, currently, as a work-in-progress, this document is long, sometimes elegant, sometimes comprehensive, and arguably has lots of information that shades into FUD. I currently think, especially now "called out," the arguable FUD may be pretty easy to spot, in the large and in the small. (And the charitable angle is what could be taken as FUD are comprehensive and even-handed cautions and highly pragmatic nuance! And this was ever always generally the intent! But I still don't do a good enough job at being specific and mechanistic, and more.)

The other totalizing aspects might be a little harder to spot. For example, I say it's ok to put down the document and come back to it later, that it's part of the practice, sometimes, to not be doing the practice and to not think about the practice. Now, this is intended, in part, to encourage someone to have "nonjudgmental spaciousness" and patience around the practice. But, for some people, this could be experienced as totalizing: There's practicing and not practicing--nothing's logically left out! And even not practicing is practicing! There's no escape! Or it can be uncomfortably felt that way, for some people, after engaging with the document. That's one example. There's a lesser thing, which is suggesting options: "this or not this or even this other thing, are all ok." Again, this is intended to encourage someone to hold everything loosely, provisionally, experimentally. But, sometimes, it could feel claustrophobic.

Generally, when someone or something linguistically/verbally refers to you, to your attributes, your affordances, your choices, it's sort of "nonnatively packaging you and handing yourself back to you," and this can be subtly, loopily problematic, depending on the person in question, word choice, content, and so on. This is a possible side effect, any time language is used.

In some ways, this whole document is actually about mitigating or skillfully handling, over time, the effects of linguistic packaging and (totalizing or non-totalizing) memetic objects. Suffice it to say, here, something that might be helpful on the front-end is inclining towards noticing when something might be "sinking in" in a problematic way, and then pausing and patiently keeping that company, then and there, perhaps neither pushing the experience away nor... [sic]

Even though this section itself could serve as yet more "totalizing-ness" and especially "FUD fodder," after all, a collaborator noted the title of the section includes the word "warning," and it didn't necessarily have to, and here I am being stubborn and keeping it, at least in this draft, I hope this section serves to give a bit of a "reflectively constructive" frame for engaging with this document. A better, future thing may be hunt for vagueness or lack of qualifying/hedging in key places the document. Additionally, it may be possible reframe whole sections "positively" or "optimistically" in way that sacrifices no underlying content, intent, or nuance whatsoever.

Also, not mentioned above, the "vibe" of a document will be reflective of "the whole state of the author" when they were writing (which can change over the course of along writing project). And that vibe can definitely be a little contagious to readers, for some people some of the time. As you might imagine, as you engage with some sections below, I did do some writing--well, you'll see. It's a work in progress. In some places more than others, especially in the meditation instruction proper, I've done my best-so-far, to use precise, general, language that is "uncontaminated" with my vibe--but of course that'll have it's own particular vibe, for better and worse! In any case, as you'll see throughout many sections below, after the philosopher Eugene Gendlin, among many other things, the document, as a living work in progress, is offered in a "multischematic and interschematizable" spirit.

*

a collaborator comments:

"I actually had a conversation recently with a friend as we re-read a year-old doc of his that had a warning at the start, about how the tone of a warning can have a kind of infantilizing effect, and we talked about your protocol as one example of that
[...]
ummm and I would say the new meta-warning sort of helps with that but it’s also sort of still committing the same thing, which it tries noting, but ugh ugh ugh"

a collaborator comments:

"I think the stuff you added [the "document-level meta-warning"] helps me understand a little bit more about what you are getting at with the later warnings. It almost gives off the impression that you are second-guessing yourself whether you would be reckless to put such information into just any old person’s hands, somehow you give off the impression that these methods are incredibly powerful, but also maybe no big deal all at once. It’s an interesting sort of ambivalence, like, "here is this stuff that might really affect you and I want to warn you somehow so that I feel less responsibility for this and get it off my chest." I admit I didn’t really get what the big fuss was about in the FUD sections you mention, which we talked about once. I get them a little better now after reading [...]. The bureaucratic language that [...] mentions about "don’t do if you reside with anyone under age 18..." etc. did also seem a both boilerplate-y and overwrought to me, but keep in mind I have very little experience, so my reaction to that is only interesting insofar as understanding how it might read to an uninitiated person, not to be taken as informed opinion."

an out-of-context, somewhat revised and extended reply of mine:

"[...] The meta-warning (and other warnings) are here to sort of speak to a very large spectrum of readers. One person did mention to me that the document was having a bit of the "totalizing" effect on them (which is not to say that adding the meta-warning necessarily, successfully cancels that effect!). And, a couple people have mentioned some similar effects the first time they encountered some of the practices below. Additionally, the unqualified warnings further down are a too-general way of protecting me from too many people (and protecting them, too!!) who are at least just slightly over on the side of 'shouldn't be engaging in the practices without support,' from reaching out and overwhelming my available time. Long-run, the warnings and risk discussions should be more nuanced, qualified, and backed up by data or representative anecdotes. (Though, there will be design decisions there, too, around thoroughness versus people skipping them because of length!) It’s almost like in a world where/when there is a very, very large community of practice and support one might soften these warnings. Right now, it's not necessarily the right tradeoffs, or the right evolution of tradeoffs in the right order, in how I present the material, but they are my best attempt at each update to the document. Some people skim the warnings and kind of get that that's what they're for, and/or they feel robust and well-resourced, with prior experience, and they proceed anyway. And some people have told me that they've read the warnings and, for better and worse, stopped reading. And, some people have read the warnings and then proceeded cautiously in both good ways and maybe not-so-good ways. And, some people have read the warnings and have reached out with really good questions about their personal situation. This mix of responses may not be god's-eye-view ideal, or in the right ratios, but it feels kind of ok, first pass. I do revisit concerns about both false positives and false negatives, a lot, though, as we learn more and more and as people supply critique and feedback!"

a collaborator comments:

"something something clicking for me about ways my actions within [public facing organization] became much more sane-seeming to collaborators once I was like '[hey], I am doing this because my personal reputation is on the line' or 'because if we don’t do this before [publication], people will storm/swamp me personally about this [...] and empathizing with you-as-document-author in these tradeoffs much better now'"

another note by me:

The verbose nuance, and many qualifiers, and qualifiers on qualifiers, and long introductions in the document can potentially impact readability. But the goal is sort of not to just obviate myself as an in-person teacher, but to err on the side of too much nuance, and too much information, to thoroughly obviate myself. I'd like there to be a big, thriving, supportive community across time, but I'd also like isolated people, where it catches their eye, and they're really willing to dig in and to digest (as a bunch of people have, so far!), to be able to pick this up and de novo use it to train and to even form a community and become a teacher/mentor/etc. without ever having interacted with me personally, if they would like, on their own terms. And that could be contemporaneously or one thousand years in the future, and so on. (Of course, many things will be different, in the future!) Note: All this being said about obviating myself, at this stage of the game, do please reach out, if you have questions!

[Go up to this section's line in the Full Table of Contents][Go to the Partial Guided Tour (in the Quick Start Guide)]

epistemic status disclaimer:

I make many bold assertions in this document, and sometimes I use words like usually, often, etc., that may seem to imply I’m working from a large dataset. Please understand that the protocol has been most heavily tested by me, with a small [though steadily growing, now] additional number of people who are using the protocol either heavily or at least semi-consistently. More and more people are trying this thing out as it becomes more widely known. But, we don’t have a lot of data, and, when I make bold claims, I’m extrapolating from everything I know, which will at minimum be many, many things adjacent to the protocol but not necessarily derived from empirical use of the protocol by other people, and in a small number of cases, even myself. But, for what it’s worth, I eat my own dog food as it were. The protocol has been my sole transformative practice for thousands of hours, and I’ve tried extensively to suss out all former prerequisites and to incorporate them into the practice. And I’m tracking some of the users very carefully. I currently believe other people besides myself can use this thing to take themselves all the way.

[Go up to this section's line in the Full Table of Contents][Go to the Partial Guided Tour (in the Quick Start Guide)]

risks; maximally cautious warnings/​directives (first-pass, without explanation):

  1. If you are at risk from sequelae of high blood pressure, intracranial pressure, or intraocular pressure (e.g. stroke, dissection, glaucoma), then you must not engage with the practices below or you must engage with them with extreme caution. If you have spinal or cervical abnormalities that could lead to spinal cord or nerve root impingement, then you must not engage with the practices below or you must engage with them with extrem caution. If you have other musculoskeletal risks then you must be careful.
  2. Individuals residing in households with other residents below the age of eighteen or over the age of 65 should not engage in these practices after practice has been initiated, unless there is no one under the age of eighteen in the household and anyone over the age of 65 has consented to your doing these practices in residence after they’ve read this numbered list.
  3. Women who are pregnant or you might become pregnant before asymptoting in these practices (e.g. 2-10 years, depending) should not engage in these practices.
  4. If you are at risk for suicide, psychosis, or mania then you should engage with these practices with extreme caution.
  5. If you have metabolic or cardiovascular disease such that a prolonged, inadvertent sedentary lifestyle (no exercise because of musculoskeletal sequelae) would be dangerous, then you should engage with these practices with caution.
  6. If your immune system is under- or overactive, then you should engage with these practices with caution.
  7. If you have experienced abuse, psychological trauma, physical trauma, etc., then you should engage with these practices with caution.
  8. If you engage with these practices then you must be aware that you could permanently ruin the rest of your life or die (sooner that you would otherwise). You must also be aware that the lives of people around you may be ruined or those people may die sooner as a result of your engaging these practices.
  9. You have to judge whether you have net enough money, food, shelter, social/relationship capital, "opportunity cost slack" to proceed. Ideally, a person either has "truly nothing to lose" or they have ample resources to last them three to seven years (just in case).

***

[from: https://meditationstuff.wordpress.com/2019/04/07/2000-hours-to-full-classical-enlightenment-plus-risks/]

The stuff below has a mild and transient version all the way up to an extreme and chronic version. I describe sort of the worst-case scenarios below. In the worst case, you might need to drop everything, or as much as you possibly can, for weeks, months, or longer to solve it, on your own or finding a teacher or teachers who can help. This could be very costly to finances and relationships. If you experience flickers of any of the below, and you likely will, it happens, a lot, it certainly doesn’t mean you’re on your way to a worst-case scenario, but you should treat flickers calmly but with great seriousness. Don’t make seeming "progress" at the expense of even a slight uptick in the direction of any of the below. Again, you will likely skirt the faint or even moderate edges of all this stuff, so don’t freak out, and/but this is all very, very serious stuff.

  1. At the very, very worst, some people will run into extreme 24-7 muscle tension somewhere in their body lasting months if not a couple years. (Some people also have a less terrible version where the muscle tension is only present while actually sitting down to meditate.) That’s fine though super not great at all if it’s in your thigh or something. But, if it’s in your head, then you’ve got significantly increased intracranial pressure or something, depending on how your body downregulates blood pressure or vasodilates or etc. I imagine this could be really risky for someone who is at risk for stroke. Additionally, if it happens in your neck or spine then you could be a risk for nerve root impingement and permanent structural or neuromuscular impairment or other disc injury sequelae. And your sleep could get really fucked up depending on how skillful you managing weird musculoskeletal stuff with pillows. These are real risks. It can mess up exercise, intimacy, finances, daily life, etc. [...]

  2. At the very worst, due to weird subtle stuff that you’ll begin experience extreme sensitivity to other people. Like, being around people, working shoulder-to-shoulder with people, being on the phone or video chat with people, sleeping next to someone you care about, will become radically intolerable for some number of weeks or months. This is a real risk. This could destroy relationships both intimate and financial. Due to the same weird subtle stuff, people might come to find being around you to become completely intolerable even if you’re fine being around them. And this as well could destroy relationships both intimate and financial. (To me, this means that meditation and pregnancy or even having kids under eighteen probably don’t mix or mix in risky ways.)

  3. Whether weird subtle stuff or not, your mind is figuring out how to change itself, and that’s a lot of power for a still-dumb mind to have. So we’ll call this interim magnification of negative traits. There is a (possibly quite long) period where self-deception as well as harm to others can very easily increase, where the meditator is blind to it and also really hurt by all the accusations and doesn’t respond to them in a super-constructive way. This will likely be you, especially if you think of yourself as a person who is generally really careful about this sort of thing and/or who doesn’t have the propensity or desire to hurt other people. For more, see here: https://meditationstuff.wordpress.com/2019/03/30/clickbait-title-you-are-so-bad-real-title-benevolence-subtle-imposition-manipulation-and-control-and-ideology/

  4. So then, finally, there’s emotional and motivational dysregulation, sometimes extreme, e.g. extreme suffering and can’t do anything, for hours or days or even weeks, or even more. How fucking weird and terrible things can get, in the worse case, cannot be overemphasized. And, it goes without saying that this can be bad for relationships and finances. Interestingly, I currently don’t think "psychosis psychosis" [sic] is much of a risk, even when things are super crazy weird, maybe like little flashes that are rapidly corrected, but there’s probably a non-zero risk.

  5. Finally, there’s opportunity cost.

Again, this could break you, this could ruin your life, ruin your mind, ruin your relationships, hurt a significant other, hurt your kids in entire-life-affecting subtle and overt ways, etc.

See also these sections:

[Go up to this section's line in the Full Table of Contents][Go to the Partial Guided Tour (in the Quick Start Guide)]

but what actually makes it risky?; how do risks obtain, when they do?:

A dialogue:

S

Not sure where this should go but I am wondering if anyone would be interested in helping me understand how the extreme negative side effects of meditation happen. I posted an article a little while back about a woman who went on a retreat that caused a psychotic break and ended in her suicide. I'd like to understand if this is a possibility with any kind of meditation, or if there is certain practices (which I would like to see described concretely and not reference to their traditional names since I don't have enough background in all of that to understand those names and their relations) that can cause this. And moreover I am wondering if anyone has an explanation for what the exact mechanisms along this causal path are. For example: mentally "normal" woman => spends 10 hours a day several days in a row silently focusing on her bodily sensations => ??? => psychotic break => suicide. Can you help me fill in the blank? For example, what is going on on a neurological level that would cause e.g., focusing on the breath to cause ... what exactly? disassociation? and then somehow you get wild beliefs that weren't previously held?

https://harpers.org/archive/2021/04/lost-in-thought-psychological-risks-of-meditation/ [Last accessed: 2021-04-11]

P

one point of reference would be a bad or even just really intense psychedelic trip, if you have experience with those

Meditation practices that involve intense concentration can be sort of like turning your consciousness into a laser that's strong enough to punch holes in the walls of the psyche. And then whatever those walls were doing, gets destabilized. If you're doing a lot of destabilizing, without much time to re-stabilize, to re-integrate, then it's possible to end up really lost, and have a really terrible time.

(That was very brief, happy to elaborate. Also I don't 100% agree with the destabilize -> integrate model, and I think mark's wayfinding concept is a nice corrective to it btw, but it's useful for this explanation)

S

I'm not sure I understand the analogy. What is the psyche such that holes could be punched in it? I have had intense psychedelic trips ... I don't actually understand by what mechanisms those work either.

Like, maybe one could say they artificially stimulate sensory neurons to induce sensations / hallucinations / thoughts the mind wouldn't naturally have, via some chemical activity in the brain. But how is intense concentration doing that? I am trying to understand on a very mechanistic if simplified level what is actually happening.

Would it be accurate to say another way to say "walls" is like ... important concepts the brain uses to model the world? So if you basically physically disrupt the neural patterns involved in that modeling then things will be a bit scrambled as the brain attempts to rewire on the fly?

P

Hmm, I don't think I have a real mechanistic model of this. One thing in that direction that might be useful is an analogy from physics, which sees both psychedelics and concentration as "adding energy to the brain", thereby (temporarily) increasing connectivity, and letting things come into contact that normally don't. See https://opentheory.net/2019/11/neural-annealing-toward-a-neural-theory-of-everything/.

By "walls" I meant the barriers between things in the psyche that don't normally come into contact. Like for example if you're planning a difficult project, you normally don't want to think about embarrassing memories of failures in the past, and your mind will probably keep them unconscious. Or maybe a friendship where you secretly resent the person but you would never ever let them realize that.

(which overlaps with what you were saying about "walls")

S

Ooh lol I am not sure I have enough such walls.

P

hehe. hmm ok when i said walls i actually also meant to include things that are more like, the way people walk through a city, where everyone's coordinating to maintain a certain amount of space & privacy, in this delicate dance of purposeful ignoring. And imagine how that would get destabilized if suddenly everyone's thoughts started being broadcast to every passerby

D

One kind of thing that happens in some cases I think is something like
X = some complicated phenomenal something or other
(For example, "the world" "exists" "the self")
P(X) = some very important load bearing/keystone belief involving X
("I am the sort of person who is such and such and the entire meaning of my life is wrapped up in this" "there are good things in the world and that's the thing that I strive for" "other people exist, and it is other people that I live for")
Then meditation gives you access to the associated phenomenology of X, and you realize that that semantics of X doesn't quite hold together, or that means that something else is true about X (it is "illusory" or "incoherent" or "nothing could be true about it" or something). This then destabilizes P(X), and so destabilizes this person's entire life

Worse, I think that for many "basic" or "primordial" X, like "self" and "being" especially, there is a sort of "default" conception which breaks down upon phenomenological reflection/meditation

And to beat my dead hobby horse, you either get absurd P(X) statements after going through them ("the self is an illusion" "everything is fake"), or you bracket the whole thing and slowly reconceptualize what X is given the constraints of the phenomenology, and the constraints of all the P(X) it is involved in (the relationship between the X's and P(X)s isn't strictly hierarchical, and also what is changing is often the reflective interpretation of X, or conscious access to X, not so much X itself, which can leave its role in a lot of stuff unchanged)

S

None of the practices in Mark’s document seem that close to the sort of "focus on the breath" / mindfulness work that you get in beginner-level / mass market meditation courses (except maybe in the aux practices which I confess to not having read in full...). Is there something particular about "mindfulness" meditation that is more likely to cause disassociation, psychotic breaks, etc.? And is it a "dose makes the poison" kind of thing?

Mark

Whew this is a complex topic. Some general things come to mind (and it’s a really good question that I personally haven’t tried to mechanistically answer, yet, anywhere):

(1)

Just like we typically don’t over-extend our musculoskeletal joints, like hyperextend our elbows, on a whim, the mind sort of learns, over an entire lifetime, "what not to do." (Sometimes this is too conservative, as in, analogously, a physical trainer will sometimes positively encourage someone do something they thought they couldn’t do, with a healthy, safe outcome.)

Additionally, different people’s systems are more and less "precariously arranged." For some people, if they’re somehow poked in the wrong way (whatever that might mean), nothing much happens, and the person’s system will sort of return to some equilibrium (like a ball in the bottom of a bowl). For other people, one small poke could set off a long cascade of further destabilizing and dysregulating effects. (Over a very long period of time, meditation helps a person’s mind to be more like the first example.)

(People’s minds become more like the latter, precariously arranged, when things have happened that are too fast, too surprising, too painful, too confusing, too adversarially perverse, etc., combined with not having a life situation where they can patiently work through all those sorts of things having happened. And, usually, there are internal and external vicious feedback loops, where some of those things beget more of those things.)

Meditation can be the one small poke. If meditation instructions are "sufficiently different" from what a person normally does with their (body)mind, they might not realize that what they’re about to do will have a potentially destabilizing effect (and it can escalate quite suddenly, very worst case).

I think it’s not TOOOOOOOOO uncommon for people to have "full blown delusions and psychosis" somewhere latent in their system, sort of carefully walled off, even unknown to them, sometimes in a precarious way. Where did this come from? It could be a sort of combination of childhood fantasy crashing into some sort of traumatic event, and that sorts of gets "avoided" and self mixes under the surface for a long time. Also, a person might encounter genuinely invasive nonverbal/coercive/"psychic" stuff from a "dark wizard-y" type person, and a childhood or religious part of them interprets what happened, earnestly (and understandably), as magic or aliens, etc. The adult mind recoils from this and walls it off, but then this "latent stuff" doesn’t get metabolized, processed, integrated, grown up, healed, etc. Then, if the person gets poked in the wrong way, all that stuff comes up and sort of (at least temporarily) "takes over," because it happens to be so traumatically intense or immersive (as if it had just happened or was still happening, because it never got fully metabolized).

(Meditation, properly done, slowly creates a sort of "complex cradle" or "complementary space" for dream, delusion, psychosis, and then slowly titrates those things in, over days, weeks, months, and years, so it can safely metabolized, helped, listened to, accepted, etc. Even then, it can get harrowing.)

(2)

Another thing that can happen is that a person assumes that meditation instructions should be executed in a stereotyped manner and that the effect of meditation is purely good.

Then, if ANYTHING AT ALL BAD happens, the person assumes the right thing to do is MORE OF THE SAME MEDITATION they were doing.

Worst case, this can produce colossal feedback loop escalations and amplifications of bad things.

(3)

Further, there’s a way in which most people don’t start out with a "general undo." They can undo mistakes that are sort of a common type, for them.. But if they’ve just done something new, or a bunch of new things in a row, the bodymind system may have no easy way at all to reverse what’s happened, and, counterintuitively, worst case, learning how to reverse a new, unwanted thing can sometimes take weeks, months, or even years. And, a destabilized person may not be "well resourced" enough to be able to start figuring out how to work through or undo something, for a very long time. And this can contribute to chronic stuff in addition to the acute possibilities mentioned in (1) and (2).

(4)

(As to why some bad states can have similar features between people ("I broke the universe," "everyone is fake"), there are only so many degrees of freedom of the system. And just like in "normal operatng mode" people arrive at similar conclusions (I am a person; I have a body), when the system is pushed to stereotyped extremes, a different people will come to similar conclusions, even if those conclusions seems strange or impossible to a person in "normal mode," e.g. "I am god, jesus, etc.")

(5)

(So, in my stuff, as best I currently know how, in case the reader is "1 in N" and their bodymind is precariously arranged (as are most people, at least a tiny bit), or they have latent intense stuff, or they’re predisposed to take instructions very literally and double down on them, that’s why I err on the side of all the warnings and qualifiers. Granted, they may obscure the forest for the trees or even prime people to experience some bad things.)

Q

S, here’s a concrete made-up story that vaguely resembles stuff that has happened to people i know. let’s say you were sexually abused as a child (shockingly common afaict), and it was really bad, and you did a really good job walling off the part of you that experienced that bc it’s too painful to get in touch with, and you sort of gradually develop a bunch of compensations to deal with this, like being really adhd or suddenly getting really sleepy whenever you get near that whole thing. "precariousness"

a way some people meditate can end up repeatedly forcing them to come into contact with material like this before they’re ready, like maybe they double-down on being with some feeling or sensation related to the trauma that is usually being dissociated or distracted away from, and it can sort of spill out into consciousness and be overwhelming in the same way it was when they were a child. it may not come with any explicit memories so it just feels like suddenly everything is terrifying and bad for no reason. and if they don’t have a way of dealing with this they could end up in an excruciating flashback that doesn’t end, that could be bad enough that it feels like suicide is the only way out.

M (not Mark)

S, one experience I've had that didn't lead to destabilization, but easily could have:

Near the end of a period in my life when I'd been doing psychedelics, well, a bit too often, I was sitting with some friends, totally sober, and suddenly "lost track" of which things were alive and which things were dead.

Best I can figure, there is something in me that tracks "alive/not alive" and "person/not person" and "me/not me." After spending a few months having those concepts poked at, dissolved, and relaxed, I suspect that the "trackers" got a little confused and broken for a bit. Luckily I was in a good place with good people and able to laugh at what was happening and commune with my couch for a few hours, but if it had happened under stress, or something else load-bearing had gotten confused at the same time, I can see how it might have been extremely upsetting

Meditation can break or dissolve those load-bearing but surprisingly fragile concepts much like psychedelics can, but you can also do stuff that will help you ride it out with few or zero side effects.

S

Ok thank you all, I think there are enough commonalities here that I am piecing together a little bit of an idea of what is going on from an inside perspective. Another question I have though is, I can see this happening with psychedelics use, but does anyone have a sense of what exact practices in meditation can lead to this -- some of what some people said sounded like P1 gone terribly overboard. Anyone able to summarize in a bit more detail what practices that lady in that Harper's article was using? Or is it just ANY meditation in general? waves vaguely I imagine different practices would tend to have different risks -- the article made it sound like the mass market mindfulness stuff can lead to not being able to feel feelings. I just find this topic so fascinating and wish there was something like this Cheetah House table but with more mechanism in it https://www.cheetahhouse.org/symptoms

L

It sounds like this was a [...] retreat, which is a pretty widespread/standardized version of a particular vipassana practice. You sit for an hour to two hours, multiple times a day, and I think mainly practice a body scan? So very granular attention to tiny areas of the body, scanning slowly through your entire body.

It’s seemed sketch because the main teaching is a recorded video, with other teachers around to ask questions. It seems noticeably less flexible/adaptive/responsive than other retreat formats.

The fact that the teacher here just doubled down on practicing through it is not surprising.

another description here: uggcf://fjvff-puevf.zrqvhz.pbz/gur-10-qnl-tbraxn-ivcnffnan-ergerng-n-jneavat-p6np4963sr50 [rot13 encoded by the editor; Last accessed 2021-04-11]

A

Mechanism-wise it could be something like privileging atoms of bare sensory experience with attention over more gestalt mental objects. For instance, when encountering pain from sitting, trying to notice the individual sensations that comprise the pain and finding that the pain suddenly dissolves. Reinforcing this kind of thing enough presumably will make it happen more easily and perhaps more globally. I don't know what kinds of meditation - I think this is related to your '10K hours of what' question upthread - but I suspect that to the extent that the meditation instruction includes some "attend closely to everything that is happening" line, something like this is bound to crop up eventually. My very crude story is that the thing that differentiates some practices is some method of integrating that stuff in a net enlivening and functional way, rather than blowing up load-bearing cognitive structures and seeing what happens.

For the record, the blowing stuff up approach was really fine for me for a long time. A lot of my stuff really just seemed to be straightforward spandrels that were producing neuroticism and in whose absence it was easy to reorganize. Then later I ran into stuff that wasn't like that, as far as I could tell.

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an exoteric doctrine (v0.2):

[Note, immediately below, it might seems like "nebulosity" or "emptiness" (or "noneternalism") isn't acknowledged, but note that this is a first-pass, orienting exoteric doctrine. In the document as a whole, I often use the term "inappropriate reification" or "provisionality" where "nebulosity" or "emptiness" could mostly be used in place of this phrase. Also see section: far reaches of meditation]

Objective and singular truth exists (and/or objective reality exists and objective truth corresponds to it).

Objective and singular goodness(/ethics/morality) exists.

The human mind is typically confused, uncertain, and ignorant. (Or, a typical person is...)

Nevertheless, we can know typically error-prone approximations of that objective truth and we can know/do approximations of that objective goodness.

Further, the human mind is asymptotically perfectible. That is, we can become better people in a practically unlimited way, all things being equal.

???There are more worse ways than better ways to interact with oneself and others.

In any moment you are the final arbiter of what’s true and good. You have to trust yourself while also being open to being wrong. This is hard but can get easier. [Remember, in the relevant sense, you are the sole and final arbiter of what’s true, good, and beautiful. Feel what you feel. Do what you do. And, again, I think Crowley got something right, here, in the relevant sense (and possibly other things, too; i just haven’t investigated): Do what thou wilt, that is the whole of the law. Love under will. (or something)]

It’s possible to do more harm than good when trying or intending to do good and become better. (Also, you are the final arbiter of what’s better.)

Using systematic (albeit self-adapted) method is often or at least sometimes a good way to improve one’s approximations of truth and goodness. Stated alternatively, we can systematically seek to get the things we want and we can systematically come have better wants (want better things).

Some methods are better than others, depending on what you’re trying to do, such as knowing and doing better.

We want what we want until we want something else, and it’s ok or good to want what we want for as long as we want it.

Perhaps evil or malevolence is objective but things are only bad relative to your skill, power, and knowledge. Perfectibility (asymptotically) includes solving all your problems on your terms, in your words, until there is nothing left that is bad.

You might not feel good and safe all the time, but it’s good to want to feel good and safe, and it’s good to seek to stably feel good and safe or to feel good and safe as much as possible.

Without exception, and no matter how subtle the feeling, there’s always a valid sense in which, if it feels wrong it is wrong. [i.e. if X makes you feel wrong, then X is somehow wrong.] People often will systematically and relentlessly deny the relevant sense in order to try to immorally coerce and control you. Senses other than the relevant sense can be used to Inappropriately destroy institutions. People trying to control you will try to convince you the former is the latter (among an unlimited number of other tactics that don’t refer to groups or institutions.) Of course, you could be mistaken about something or both could be happening. But that’s what the controlling people will do.

You might get hit by a bus or meteor or your cryo chamber might run out of geopolitics or something. But, it’s possible to have a good life, anyway, and it’s possible to impeccably work to reduce the chances of such bad things while having a good, complete, rich, full, life.

Most people will probably be happier striving for and maintaining a stable romantic pair-bond and having one or more kids.

Love properly labeled and defined is probably a uniquely important thing.

Some truths are exceptionless/universal and eternal or sempiternal or timeless or outside-of-time or something. With correct method, you can know those truths by making use of whatever experiences you’ve already had (because those truths will massively redundantly inhere in those experiences without exception.) Some truths and knowledge of correct/good/moral knowledge/behavior are contingent (or relative to, or contextually dependent on, this world and time and place) and, to obtain them, you’ll need to dispel ignorance, to have experiences, to learn. You’ll be wrong and bad a lot. Also, you are good.

Progress is often multidimensionally nonmonotonic.

These are just words. This is just your interpretation of these words. Are there even words? You can’t know anything for sure; and that can be ok, with application of method or just because. There are more precise and accurate and deeper and more correct ways ways to say all the above.
More and more and more of everyone may come together to do good things that we couldn’t do alone.
Sometimes, an edgy joke should go here.
Let go...

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an esoteric doctrine ("going full buddhist?" / "is this full buddhist?" / "is this even buddhist?" / "never go full buddhist"*):

Content warning: Maybe don't read this if you're in an existential dread spiral. Or do. Not sure. It's incomplete, ragged edges. Anyway, this is fuckin' random beautiful brutalist shit (in my opinion) written by some random person at some snapshot instant in time, about metaphysics, existentialism, (non-)eternalism, (non-)nihilism, cosmology, mortality

See also: eternity, suffering, death

*

There is no thing, nothing, that can perfectly, eternally last. Also, there are no gods; no god’s-eye-views; there is no heaven, no hell.

You’re probably going to die, sooner or later, and at uncertain time. This is even with the possibility of life extension, "health extension," though, at the time of this writing, everyone is, in some sense, dying of a terminal illness (aging). In any case, the sun’s going to go out, protons are going to decay, and eventually everything’s going to get cold and/or entropically isotropic. Or the universe is going to big crunch, or whatever. That’s a long ways away, but in any case, we probably can’t escape the universe. It’s just this, nowhere to go. It’s just us.

You probably can’t take anything with you, when you die, including memories, achievements, anything. It’s probably just nothingness.

Life generally involves a lot of uncontrollable and sometimes abruptly surprising suffering.

Nevertheless, excepting suicide, violence, accident, health misfortune, aging, we just keep spontaneously happening, we just keep living, we prefer some things to other things, we act: we seek wellbeing, satisfaction, intimacy, belonging, sex, procreation, interestingness, fun.

So, we want things; we care; it matters. And, also, you can relax! No one gets out alive, in the end. Ah, but you can’t relax! There are still hard problems of living right now and of wanting to keep living.

We’re sort of all in our own nebulous virtual reality bubbles. We make it real because that’s all we know. It’s both real and it isn’t real, like the stakes are real, as far as they go, which makes some things ghastly, horrifying, macabre, hellish. And also it’s possible to see through all that, though in some senses it doesn’t change anything, and/but, at the same time it does--any or all of that can be heaven, at least in principle, with time.

Nebulous virtual reality bubbles, or not, we ever reach across the gap, for each other, and arguably touch, alone and together…

Life is sort of about living in the light of all that, letting everything settle around all of that. Meditation helps everything loosen up, so everything can sort of settle around all of that. Better not to start; if you start, better to finish. Lots of people reading this will have already started. None of this has to be taken as sort of a premise, and none of this is something to hold onto. If any of this is a thing, you’ll find your way there through practice, bottom up, nothing special to be done.

It’s sometimes possible to love and be loved, and to be happy, in hell. And it’s sometimes possible to alight on wellbeing and beauty, for a time, together. Wellbeing and wisdom. Time, space, matter, energy, consciousness, computation, life itself.

Anyway, all of this might be partially or totally wrong! Don’t take my word for it!

*

*Re "Never go full Buddhist": https://knowyourmeme.com/memes/full-retard ** [Last accessed 2021-05-21]

**This is not politically correct.

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introduction; getting over the hump; text interpretation:

There’s an ongoing project of collecting all the reasons why people bounce off of the document, plus corresponding supplementary information:

  1. The document does require text interpretation. Even if it was written in clean, grammatical prose, it would still need to be incrementally parsed and interpreted. It does need to be studied. Lengthy explanations would lose the "cutting at the joints," in the document, where every word is included for a reason. Eventually, I do want there to be a softer entry. But that might be separate from the document itself. This does mean there are "startup costs" and initial cognitive overhead.

  2. The main practices do need to be learned incrementally. It’s not possible to just pick them up and start doing them. Even after one can "hold an entire practice in their head," the doing of it will still evolve substantially over time. So, there is additional cognitive overhead and a learning curve or even learning cliff, here, too.

  3. The main practices might initially seem not like meditation. But, they do asymptote at something that superficially looks like noting practice and shamatha without support. But, this is approached in a bottom up way, as opposed to a top-down way. (As a longer discussion, I currently think canonical concentration practices as well as things like metta being used as a concentration practice, are ultimately counterproductive, because their top-down nature sends a person off sharply on a direction that hasn’t been properly error-checked. And, I currently believe a person will have to do a lot of backtracking, given my understanding and experience of how the mind works.)

  4. Some of the auxilliary/preliminary practices might seem suspiciously non-meditationy, like cognitive behavioral therapy or something. One of my goals was to combine the best of "western depth psychology" with the best of meditation. Lots of meditation practioners and teachers do have crushed or unresolved trauma and behavioral issues. The so-called "purifications" do a bunch of the work of western psychology, but they don’t go all the way, hence the somatic issues, sex scandals, and behavioral blindspots of lots of meditators. One can think of this practice as supercharging the purifications, making them much more comprehensive and thorough. At the same time, the practices do produce an experience of emptiness, and, asymptotically, nonduality. These practices go all the way to the very end, and then some. There is further discussion of this in this later section:

"but is it meditation? (a dialogue between J and Mark)"

  1. My current best estimate is that these practices, even taking into account learning time, achieve various "classical milestones" maybe 1.2x to 2.5x faster than traditional practices (which I think takes somewhere between five and thirty years, of course towards the lower end if all goes smoothly and/or full-time-ly). Maybe. I’m still working this out. And, I expect speed gains and payoffs continue to accrue cumulatively and compoundingly. We shall see. In any case, this does continue to be an investment of thousands of hours. And, some payoffs come late in the game, while some payoffs to occur steadily. And there are still risks to be worked out and improved upon.

*

A, a collaborator, says:

>>>
My 30 second version for a[n...] introduction is:

This document contains meditation instructions, and some things you may want to be aware of before starting or in the middle of a meditative journey.

Some instructions and signposts are (probably) necessary, as figuring it all out on ones own is a tall order. Still, there is a sense in which you will have to "figure it all out on your own," anyway, instructions notwithstanding. Receiving any instructions causes problems, as people try to "do the instructions" instead of "do the thing." This document contains one stab at a "minimum effective instruction set" — use as though "some assembly is required" where "some" means "this document and your interpretation are two ends of the most difficult game of telephone yet devised, and there’s no way it was written correctly or interpreted correctly on the first n tries."

It starts by exploring in what way talking about "the end of the path" is coherent (or not). Then there are some notes on culture and other topics, and then the instructions and additional information are included after that.

Do the thing, and good luck.

[...]

this document and [the reader's] interpretation are two ends of the most difficult telephone game devised, and there’s no way it was written correctly or interpreted correctly on the first n tries

[...]

Might replace "do the thing" with "handle all your concerns, bottom up" or [something like that].
<<<

("Telephone" or "the telephone game" or "Chinese whispers" is game where players whisper a message, from person to the next, until the last person finally says the final received message out loud, and the first person reports the original message. There is almost always a nearly inevitable (and humorous) difference between the first and last message, due to all sorts of possible reasons for successive transmission error.)

*

I'll finally add that this document aspires to be more and more radically complete, over time. It's already quite comprehensive, along maybe all necessary dimensions, but more and more detail and clarity (including cleaner prose and smoother on-ramps) could be added, for a long time. Having an extremely experienced teacher readily available will maybe always be a massive accelerant, but my ideal would be to completely obviate the need for a teacher--I'd like future people to be able to completely reconstruct the practice, and succeed at it, even one thousand years from now (2020), even if the living, person-to-person lineage gets broken, i.e. if everyone using this document dies. That would be sad and likely people would change a lot over one thousand years (cf. biotech and neurotech), but it's likely this material would still be valuable, indirectly or quite directly, just as it is, right now.

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opinionated, telic, soteriological things:

[This (super)section intentionally left blank. Scroll down for the contentful subsections!]

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goal (draft):

The goal of the practice is to have a good life, in the most broad and ordinary sense, on your terms, in your words, in your frame, or in no frame. That might look still, quiet, and intimate. That might look big and beautiful. (That might or might not include a good death.) That might look superficially normative and be quite nonnormative under the hood and in the cracks. Or that might quite normative in lots of ways. But the important thing is that it is good for and everyone you care about (which might be no one, everyone, etc.). It might end too soon or go on too long or who knows. In some sense you might fail: Maybe you or people you care about will get hit by a bus, a heart attack, a meteor, or a nuclear war. But the goal is to have a good (peaceful, interesting, exciting, fun, intimate, quiet, safe, stable, normal, extraordinary) life. That’s the point of all of this. (Asymptotically, nonmonotonically approaching self-perfection might be an interesting, fun, mediately traumatizing, opportunity-costly, incidental side effect.)

Part of having a good life is preparing and account for (the likely possibility of) death such that you actually have a good life. One can have a dispreference for death, while not fearing it, while competently and proactively avoiding it, while seamlessly having that be a part of everything else that is good.

One might have to give up everything in the pursuit of this goal, strangely, weirdly, even as lots of things stay superficially the same. In some ways getting everything you want will first cost you everything, will cost you your entire world, as you realize what you want is nothing like what you initially thought, that reality is nothing like what you initially thought, even though what you want appears superficially similar, in some ways, to what you previously wanted.

You get the good stuff back eventually, though.

"Better not to start. If you start, better to finish."

"Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water."

"Before practice, the mountains were just mountains. During practice, the mountains were no longer mountains. Eventually, the mountains were just mountains again."

Your perception, behavior, ontology, judgments, and preferences get refactored, with lots of mistakes made along the way. Thousands of hours. Lots of opportunity cost. Also lots of opportunity gain. All things being equal, with enough starting resources (financial, relationships) and grace.

*

[This subsection originally published:

https://meditationstuff.wordpress.com/2021/02/17/commercialization/ and https://twitter.com/meditationstuff/status/1362449583633272843

last accessed: 2021-02-18

(I'll remove the commercialization/distribution pieces, and put them somewhere else, when that relative priority rises high enough!) ]

(0a) I’m having a low-key, exploratory, commercialization networking call, with respect to my stuff, and it inspired me to try to make some bullet points with respect to context and key, counterintuitive constraints.

(0b) Note! I ran out of time to edit this, so there’s super-compressed and maybe cramped and cryptic tweets jammed into this thread, but I figured better to get it out the door.

(1) Key insight: The mind is more malleable than contemporary psychology and, arguably, even contemporary contemplative/meditation communities of practice currently believe. I like to say the mind is 99% software, 1% hardware.

(2a) The space of this malleability is large and multidimensional, but it’s not arbitrary; it has directionality. That directionality, taken to its conclusion, in the "positive" direction, yields something like (a) wellbeing and (b) "creative, proactive, fit-to-context."

(3) Some features of "creative, proactive, fit-to-context" can be "outside view guessed," and planned for, but also must be "individually found, from the inside." This is sometimes a demanding, fraught, counterintuitive process.

(4) It’s also a lengthy process, say on the order of 10,000 hours. My suspicion is that this cannot be shortened without very large advances in neurobiology. The speed limit is simply the speed limit of "learning," involving protein synthesis, downtime, sleep, etc.

(5) Good things happen during that 10,000 hours, but one can’t count on any particular good thing on any particular timeline or ever. That is, part of the process is NOT "having NO goals" but self-alignedly releasing the need for most any PARTICULAR (object-level) goal.

(6) "No particular (object-level) goal" is fundamental to the process, because bodymind change is "path constrained." It can only proceed by gaining "slack," through finding increases in optionality, through "releasing particularities," little by little.

(7a) (It’s important to emphasize "non-arbitrariness," as "no particular goal" might seem nihilist, on face. Actually, though, while not "particularly" constrained, the system is "abstractly constrained," by one’s self-sovereign determination of "what’s good." It’s complicated.)

(8a) Somewhat more incidentally, not only are goals "non-particular" (and dynamic), or "fluid but not arbitrary," but so is ultimately ALL perceptual/representational/behavioral ontology. The system (un-)commits to "no particular thing, anywhere."

(8b) Yet, simultaneously, the system is somehow (aconceptually? preconceptually?) radically concrete and particular.)

(9a) Because of this sort of "global lack of particularity," a value proposition might be:

(9b) This process, in some sense, will cost you everything (all things) and give you nothing (no things).

But, to be a bit paradoxical or contradictory, you will get general wellbeing and wisdom. The ongoing tax on that is being fully open to everyday pain and even suffering.

(9c) (Wellbeing, wisdom, pain, suffering, etc., how all that works, is outside the scope of this tweet thread.)

(10) Regarding commercialization, the process is so hard and so personal, even though there are near-universal, highest-level features. It’s hard to generalize and streamline a 10,000-hour personal journey.

(11) Of course, so far, I have tried to generalize and streamline (though not commercialize!) the process, with my writing, most recently as ongoing work on a 100,000-plus-word "meditation protocol document," which people are putting to use.

(12) So far, I’ve mostly punted on money/commercialization, with an open-access promise, because there’s a way in which meditative progress is, in my current understanding, complexly facilitated or retarded in a "full-stack, culture-complete" sort of way.

(13) One aspect of "full-stack, culture-complete" are the "dynamics of exclusionary stratification": [see next tweet]

(14) I find people get really sensitive about commercialization, though not in the way you might think. (note: I’m not subtweeting anyone or referencing particular private conversations, here).

(15) There are maybe sentiments of how else could modern distribution-at-scale work but through commercialization or stratified monetary gatekeeping, that I’m actually limiting net access & adoption by not (yet) somehow having a high-status, ambitious, exponential business model.

(16) There are maybe sentiments that I’m playing too low-status, that I must insufficiently ambitious, and so on.

(17) But, my ambition is, in fact, global and multigenerational. It’s just that, memetic fidelity, antifragility, and multigenerational adaptability (without memetic perversion? memetic corruption?) is hard.

(18) And, we’re still learning, what the thing is that we, hopefully non-rigidly, don’t want corrupted in the first place. And/but, I/we could be wrong about risks and rewards, which I why I’m engaging with critique and feedback and suggestions, at an accelerating rate.

(19) I think the (maybe) grumbling is a really good sign. It means people perceive value and want to participate in network effects with respect to that value.

(20/20) Anyway, more and more, I’m looking to what’s next, with this work and more generally. I’m also interested in governance, DeFi, AI, and much, much more. So this is all swirling around, all together, in a good way.

(21/20) No particular fixed goal(s), no fixed ontologies (perception, representation, behavior), structural fluidity, might sound kind of chaotic and tangly, and it can be like that, at first, in a waxing and waning pattern.

(22/20) Eventually, across thousands of hours, things become generally quiet, still, and settled, while remaining proactively, creatively sensitive and responsive, as the world turns and true, limit-case unknown unknowns present themselves.

(23/20) It’s sort of the best of both worlds–on the one hand, relatively settled stability, perfectly suitable for pursuing adaptive, stable, very-long-term goals, contingent on the state and path of the world and everything, and, on the other hand, a capacity for continual growth and change, the pursuit of novelty and knowledge, adaptability to misfortune, and the passion and engagement and equanimity and appetite for all of it, whether quiet intimacy, the scope of the whole world, or both, or something else entirely.

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end state (draft!):

The end state is arrived at asymptotically. There’s always room for improvement because the world keeps changing. The journey will often be nonmonotonic, too.

In any case, what it sort of looks like is coming to be intrinsically motivated to optimize self and world, seamlessly, without limit or exception, to care for everything into the infinite future, including yourself, all together, all at once. (This comes with something like "getting lost in the intrinsically interesting whole-person intricacies of other people.")

Being this way, all the way down to the core of your being, sort of cleanly solves all your problems in the moment and in the limit. ["Infinity" is just a concept, etc., etc. Don’t take refuge in your interpretation of these words. Let it all go.]

Another way to express this is "true (global) total (maximum) positive sum with no negative externalities."

Another way to express this is "embodying a perfectly unified, eternal, sempiternal, and exceptionless will that’s going after the most good and best thing for everybody and everything, including yourself, without compromise or exception, all at once.

One comes to see that there are no terrible, hard truths and no terrible, hard tradeoffs.

One comes to know deeply that, if something feels or seems wrong, no matter how subtle, still, small, and quiet, then something is wrong, somewhere, and it doesn’t have to be.

You have to feel and listen, eventually, ultimately, to each, every, and all still, small, and quiet voice:

"If you’re good to them, then they’ll become good you."

All of the above is not "turiya" or "nonduality," but it is compatible with that "stateless state."

Progressive insight into emptiness unlocks the capacity for turiya and the capacity for all the above. And progress towards turiya is usually progress towards all the above, and vice versa. Using the practices in this document will steadily, albeit nonmonotonically, move you towards all of this. You’ll incidentally get all the meditation-y goodness, too, without having to do anything special.

You will get all the meditation-y goodness, in addition to everything else (which I suspect was the goal of many non-modern-Buddhist systems).

You’ll be aiming at and asymptotically, nonmonotonically arriving at "mastery"/"perfection"/"flawlessness".

There’s a final, additional piece which completes of all of this, that’s something like "proactive recursive bootstrapping," progressively structuring self and world to learn about self and world more and more efficiently and effectively.

Again, working with the practices in this document are intended to efficiently take you towards everything above.

A failure mode is trying to smash yourself into being what you think all the above must be like, by trying to directly aim at preconceived notions. If you don’t do all this "bottom up," then you’ll tie yourself in knots.

The better thing to do is to go after what you want, systematically and iteratively resolving or correcting internal conflict and contradiction and error (with respect to goodness, truth, will, desire, etc., etc., etc.) along the way, and you’ll likely eventually find yourself in the neighborhood of something like what’s described, here. It will eventually be unified and elegant and a simplicity on the far side of complexity and not overwhelming or scattering or impossible. That’s what solving the puzzle box of the mind does. And it will be fun, meaningful, interesting, equanimous, captivating, loving, intimate, exciting, erotic, whatever.

Remember, in the relevant sense, you are the sole and final arbiter of what’s true, good, and beautiful. Feel what you feel. Do what you do. And, again, I think Crowley got something right, here, in the relevant sense (and possibly other things, too; i just haven’t investigated):

Do what thou wilt, that is the whole of the law. Love under will. (or something)

A key insight: If you know you’re doing the absolute best you can at all times in each moment taking into account all future times and all possible futures deep down in your bones then you just relax and let go, and it feels good

Related: You can stop checking, compensating, reminding, self-correcting, etc., if you know both that you’re up to date and also that you’ll responsively and seamlessly update in the presence of new information.

The "good for everyone all at once thing" is equivalent to solving all of your problems.

[For everything above, don’t take refuge in your interpretation of these words, or, if you do, hold it lightly. Let it all go. Let it all go to get the real thing back, later, in the right way, beyond your current conception. This is all just words. The whole document is just words. You must find your own truth or lack thereof, meaning or meaninglessness.]

Said one more time, the goal and the end-state (cf. wisdom, mastery, compassion, love, altruism):

The goal is to arrange self, life, and the entire world so that the guiltless seeking of joy (fun, excitement, interest, intimacy) and the expression/exemplification of love/compassion is safe, good, constructive and unconflicting.

And then you arrive at intrinsically wholehearted, heartfelt, affinity-feeling, pleasurable and rewarding and satisfying [and non-naive, competent, strategic and error-correcting] altruism/compassion/love [that truly expects no personal gain in return and only hopes for something truly good and experientially good for the other person] that’s romantic, paternal, maternal, egalitarian, platonic, and globally inclusive, that nevertheless delivers equal or greater personal safety/fulfillment/everything than selfish[ly-oriented] planning/intention/behavior. [You may find that there’s nothing that you can securely or permanently or stably hold onto for yourself, anyway, that there even is anything to hold onto, anyway.]

There is no end-state, though. Eventually you perhaps become the practice and it just goes by itself, in activity and rest/alone-time, but then you keep going, improving, learning, learning how to learn, proactively learning, proactively living, living your life, etc.

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no fixed conceptualized goal or end state part one ("goodness"):

[Originally published as: "Post-conceptual meta-goodness and changing in the deepest of ways"]

[last accessed: 20200824 https://meditationstuff.wordpress.com/2019/03/28/post-conceptual-meta-goodness-and-changing-in-the-deepest-of-ways/]

So, what’s good? Like really actually good, not clunky blocky stilted cringy good?

Or we could say, what do you desire that you endorse desiring?

Or we could say, what are you always already in motion trying to get, whether you realize or it not, whether you’re reflectively thinking about it or not?

There will be maybe lots of things, probably one or more things is in the intimacy or connection space, partially involving in-real-life interaction or perhaps partially involving, say, creative expression. And then there will probably be things involving safety and achievement, including stuff that involves feelings of exhilaration or excitement or deep satisfaction or meaning.

Importantly, there will be ways in which all of this is deeply personal and idiosyncratic. For you, it’s not just some abstract "intimacy" that is good or feels good, but your highly personal, highly specific version, what you might even call "the real thing." And the same goes for everything else you’re trying to do, be, have, achieve, etc.

That is, some or even much of what’s happening around us or will happen to us, we have no preference about, but for some things, we have exquisitely precise preferences, perhaps especially for care and safety, mutual understanding, and sexuality.

Sometimes we want really, really specific things, and there is no substitute.

Perhaps the whole point of everything is that we create a world where everyone can pursue their personal desires and goals.

It’s all fun and games when people’s desires and goals are complementary and compatible.

And/but there’s another way of looking at desires, goals, and goodness.

Sometimes desires and goals can be both problematic and fixed.

For example, you want a really, really, really, really specific intimacy thing or sex thing or achievement thing, and sometimes other things are so good or more important that you can set that thing aside, but some things, for whatever reason, are so important that you can’t.

You can’t set it aside, even though, for example, you’re having trouble finding someone complementary to do it with or arranging your life to be able to do it.

I think for some people, the reason their relationships keep failing or life situations keep failing is because of extreme specificity in wants/needs/desires that are ill-suited to present, contingent circumstances. (There are of course many other reasons.)

So, when faced with extreme specificity, one might strive even more mightily to find the right person or to arrange their life in a particular way. Tremendous collateral and direct good can come from this and also agony. One might also finally resign on getting a particular thing. There can be peace and dignity in this and also agony.

With tools like meditation, there is an additional option which is to change ones deepest wants/needs/preferences. Some preferences can be changed with relatively superficial introspection or exposure to new environments or people. Other preferences can "go all the way to the bottom" and seem immovable, even if they cause tremendous distress. And these sorts of things can be a reason to invest in hundreds or even thousands of hours or meditation, even with its risk and opportunity cost.

If you decide to meditate to change deep things about yourself, that can take months or years, and patience and forebearance are assets here.

But, I’m definitely not saying "crush your desires." Nor am I saying indiscriminately indulge them, though I’m way more on that side. Your desires are your desires until and unless they’re not.

Desire and perceived goodness aren’t arbitrary even if there’s tremendous idiosyncratic contingency in them and nor do they change arbitrarily.

Whatever desires you’ve got, whatever is good as far as you experience and can tell, it’s desirous and good until and unless it isn’t.

So let’s say you’re not crushing or smashing yourself, and little by little things start to change, even while some things are the same as they ever were. And eventually something deeper starts to change, but you can’t even let yourself imagine that this even deeper and more problematic thing will change. And then that finally does too...

So at first one is sort of trying to solve problems and achieve goals (and ignore them and resign on them).

And then with meditation (and therapy and journaling) one realizes that, at least sometimes, and then more and more, it can be possible to not just solve problems but also "dissolve" many problems and not just achieve goals but also to replace goals with better goals.

So there’s this meta-dimension that starts to come into focus. This perhaps whole new degree of freedom with which to relate to self and world.

And, eventually, as you get more and more of a taste of this moving through the contigency of desire/problem/goal space, you might start to ask what is even good anyway?

So much of what you thought was good, that felt immovably intrinsically desirable or good, turned out to be more contingent and more movable than you thought. (Again, you never have to give anything up in any deep way until it’s safe, natural, and effortless to do so. And until then it’s yours and if it’s good it’s good. And if it would hurt other people you then be careful or don’t do it unless there’s a way to make it safe for them.)

So then is there a higher good or more unconditional good? Or, like, what’s the goodness beneath the goodness? Or, maybe better, what are the dynamics of veridical goodness? As language and ontology and concepts are not arbitrary but loosen and start to move... And what’s good or what things are good for or what leads to what starts to move...

Or how does one even plan and live when what’s good is slowly and steadily changing, now?

Over time one starts to get a taste of the unconditional and one starts to get a taste of the laws that govern the dynamics of goodness. (Kant, by the way, I think says that the only instrinsically good thing is the good will.)

And then one can start to live in harmony with one’s own trajectory of self-transformation, in the knowledge that one’s ontology/concepts and one’s evaluation of that ontology or those concepts, one’s assignation of good and bad, is fluid. Not arbitrary, but fluid. And so there becomes sort of a goodness behind the goodness

This goodness might be called post-conceptual meta-goodness, or the goodness that is reflectively aware of its own construction, or reflective participation in the good will, or resting in (ever more) unconditional goodness or enlightened goodness.

To be sure, I personally am blindsided all the time by being arrogant, horrible, destructive, belligerent, stonewalling, creepy, sketchy, abusive, cowardly, selfish, ignorant, impulsive, perfunctory, hateful, feuding, controlling—in all sorts of subtle ways and also just blatantly obvious ways. It’s just right there. Put me in a wide range of unfortunate circumstances (i.e. life) and I’m just a jerk or worse. If I’m lucky people will tell me; if I’m unlucky they won’t or I’ll think I’m being gaslit.

And/but, also, there’s this call towards goodness and this discipline of goodness. Actual-oh-fuck-I-was-wrong-again-and-I-hurt-someone goodness. Actual-wait-this-goodness-isn’t-good-oh-I-misconceptualized-goodness-again goodness. Actual-flexibly-stably-intrinsically-motivating-fluid-extreme-problem-solving-problem-dissolving-ability goodness. Goodness that frees you, goodness that unleashes you, goodness that empowers you. Goodness that supports you in fitting yourself to the world without diminishment.

A bunch of stuff in the list below is more than a glimpse, now, more than a taste. Stable things somewhere or overtly if I think to look...

And it’s kind of weird and exciting that you go through a few rounds of atman dissolving into brahman (what?!), a few rounds of making deeper contact with the source (what?!), and there’s a sense in which you are not you, that was all a misconceptualization (what?!). (I still believe in neurons and forces and fields.) And also you feel like you had to give up everything, and I mean everything, at least once, to get a bunch of it back again.

And also you feel pretty normal. And the world is pretty normal, albeit you’re not confusing the map with the territory, or at least hugely less so.

And also, noting the possibility of getting hit by a bus or a meteor or cancer, you feel like this is barely even just the beginning.

And that’s exciting.

Appendix for this section:

See also:

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no fixed conceptualized goal or end state part two ("better"):

[Originally published as "better".]

[Last accessed: 20200824 https://meditationstuff.wordpress.com/2020/07/14/better/]

Sometimes, I sort of want to throw in the garbage concepts like arhatship and other milestones. I’d just like to replace it with the concept "better." I like "better" because it doesn’t assume any particular goal. There’s just better than the last thing. (The reason I use "good" so much in the protocol document and not "better" or even "best" is for local methodological, pedagogical, and philosophical reasons: better can sometimes be problematic for local, in the trenches wayfinding. And best is pedagogically misleading and philosophically twisty.)

*

I like better not only because it doesn’t assume any particular goal, and one could clarify that as "no particular fixed goal." Better doesn’t make a thing out of an end state; it doesn’t necessary connote, assume, or imply an end state at all.

It also doesn’t assume sort of "top-down directionality" or "top-down wayfinding."

To do better, to go in the direction of better, you just need to take one little step in some better direction.

Ah, but that’s not exactly right.

*

There is another piece that needs to be added to "better" and that’s "nonmonotonicity." That is, sometimes, to get to something better, sometimes things need to temporarily get worse. That dip is nonmonotonicity. (Monotonicity [as opposed to nonmonotonicity] is never going down [nor sideways??], only going up, but sometimes there’s going up slower, sometimes there’s going up faster.)

*

Ok, so with "better" and "nonmonotonicity," there’s still directions/directionality, there’s still wayfinding, in terms of (a) what to do next, and so (b) where to [hopefully or experimentally] go next, for (c) to eventually get somewhere (maybe unknown). And that somewhere, the sort of intuitive/implicit/inexplicit/felt planning horizon gets longer and longer, farther and farther out, the more skilled and experienced one gets; one navigates deeper and longer nonmonotonicity, as sometimes needed, over time.

And there’s always a next somewhere, and the "final" (not final) somewhere (no fixed somewhere) is always over the horizon. And sometimes one needs to massively backtrack, and that’s ok. There’s time. It’s built in.

*

And, so, you can just keep going. States, stages, gateless gates, stateless states, unconceptualizable states, pristine states (along some dimensions)—it can be very helpful to have and make maps and milestones. But, traditions recognize that, say, "deconditioning" continues after arhatship. The path always just continues.

You can just keep going—better and better.

Above, I haven’t talked about how all this is sort of "multidimensional." Things can be multidimensionally getting nonmonotonically better (and so also worse) at the same time, along a vast number of dimensions. There’s local and large-scale tradeoffs, at first. But the sort of "average" of the whole thing keeps getting better and better. And sometimes there’s big dips, even "late stage" big dips. But some biggest dips eventually just never happen ever again.

And eventually one starts exploring something like globality, optimizing the whole thing all at once (via mostly little, local operations), while, challengingly, somehow, everything is mediately/indirectly or immediately/directly connected to everything else. Things deconvolve and de-intertwingle over time, what’s weakly separable becomes weakly separate, gloriously non-interacting, to some degree, and to greater and greater degrees, when it wouldn’t be helpful if those things interacted, but it’s still all connected, somehow. It’s the ultimate puzzle, in part because the final goal is over the horizon and one is learning (and unlearning) better and better goals over time until the idea of a goal itself gets replaced with something better, too.

*

You can just keep going and going. Eventually meditation blurs and blends with life, being lost in life is the same as being in the meditative state, effortless, costless, engaged, nothing to maintain; it’s just what you are. You get to keep all your tools, they become you, they are you, and also you get to just live, to get lost in life, you can just let go, all the way down, and do what you want because what you want is the right thing to do. (Really right—wellbeing, self-aligned, nonartificial...)

If you have the right method, and by method I mean, sure, some invariances, of course, but also something creative, nonstereotyped, fine-grain, innovative, that nevertheless-and-in-any-case can navigate, can travel, in straight lines or along any n-dimensional line, and you just just keep going and going.

Again, you can just keep going and going, better and better.

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meditation is concrete problem solving:

full title:

meditation is concrete problem solving, capable of maximal indirectness/obliquity (under/modulo emptiness/nebulosity and under Buddha-nature)

compare with:

cf./vs. The goal of buddhism/enlightenment/etc. is happiness independent of conditions.

originally published as:

happiness dependent on exquisitely and flexibly handling your shit

original location:

https://meditationstuff.wordpress.com/2020/06/02/happiness-dependent-on-exquisitely-and-flexibly-handling-your-shit/ (Last accessed: 2020-09-05)

body:

It’s good that morality, horizontal progress, etc., are still emphasized in contemporary, secular meditation systems. I think this is important because part of my take is that meditation is implicit, concrete problem solving. And, explicit morality can bootstrap elegant and broadly applicable solutions to life’s problems. ("Becoming intrinsically good all the way down is the ultimate life hack.")

But, I can’t help but feel that Ingram’s morality and Shinzen’s horizontal progress are really bolted on, no matter how much they’re verbally or rhetorically emphasized. I know Ingram devotes even more time to morality in MCTB2.

My straw of the situation is something like, "Morality is really important, but also it’s really complicated. Anyway, so, meditate, on the cushion, and just kind of proactively do your best, off the cushion. And, meditation is supposed to help. And, by the way, also, meditation doesn’t help at all."

That’s a bit of a straw/mischaracterization. But, what???

Bolted on. (Or, I’m being impatient and uncharitable with their teachings.)

In contrast, my take is something like all the meditative attainments or experiences or stateless states are incidental to the point of the whole thing.

And, gesturing vaguely, the point of the whole might be something like solving all your problems; pursuing the good; solving homeostasis for all possible futures; having lots of babies; becoming an ever-more-efficient, far-from-equilibriium entropic dissipator, pursuing interest and intimacy, having a good life, etc.

My point is that there will be something the human bodymind is (a) "trying" to do, which (b) can be modeled as agentic telos, anthropomorphized or not, which (c) presumably has to perfectly hew to mechanistic, spontaneous causality under exceptionaless physical law (unified multiversal quantum gravity or whatever we figure out in 100-500 years), which (d) will feel a particular way from the inside, possibly really good or "satisfying," or something.

(The working assumption, here, is that what the human bodymind is "trying" to do, if fully actualized, will look god’s-eye-view rational and feel good from the inside.)

So, a human is system is bootstrap-learning the rules of the system, as well as doing a halting-problem-blind search of the goal landscape, while traveling the landscape, all at the same time.

In other words, the system doesn’t know what’s good for it, in advance, or how to get it. It will not be properly conceived/embodied. But, grace, Buddha, eros, entropic dissipation can contingently get people headed in the right direction, nonmonotonically, faster and faster (e.g., someone picks up a book about "Zen" meditation or Internal Family Systems therapy).

And that will involve rearranging the bodymind as well as rearranging the environment (up to and including the entire planet and beyond). And rearranging the environment, all things being equal, is relatively downstream of rearranging the bodymind. So, meditation.

So, this is sort of vague and poetic, but meditation isn’t some graft of state training plus following some moral rules to transcend those rules–

Meditation is solving the problem of optimal behavior (and procreation) under bounded rationality in an uncertain world. And, the better solutions you have to safety and sex (coordination, intimacy, health, biomedical engineering, space travel) the better you feel.

The ironic thing is that it’s not about happiness independent of conditions. WRONG!

It’s happiness because you’ve flexibly and exquisitely handled your shit. This is the whole of the path.

Ok, I lied, it’s sort of both, because of long-run-anti-wireheading indirect realism.

One could imagine a system having a "belief" about whether or not it will get (or whether or not it already has) "what it wants." The experiences that system has, over time, shape the belief and the want/preference. (The system has a little bit of hardwiring, some initial conditions plus an environment, and then one just lets it run. The system doesn’t have a model of any of this when it starts.)

And so let’s say, at any given time, the system is only in four subjective states:

(*) DOOM/NOT GOING TO GET WHAT I WANT (subjectively not going to get what it wants, though it objectively keeps doing its best, anyway)

(*) DEFINITELY GOING TO GET WHAT I WANT (subjectively feels good, objectively actually uncertain)

(*) NOT SURE IF GOING TO GET WHAT I WANT, DON’T BELIEVE I’M DOING MY BEST ("self conflict"; subjectively feels bad, objectively actually uncertain)

(*) NOT SURE IF GOING TO GET WHAT I WANT BUT WHOLEHEARTEDLY AND SELF-SINCERELY AND SELF-COMPASSIONATELY AND SELF-ALIGNEDLY BELIEVE I’M DOING MY ABSOLUTE BEST (subjectively feels good, objectively actually uncertain)

Anyway, I think those four states are roughly how people work. If the bodymind believes it’s doing its best, wholeheartedly, all the way down, self-consistently, to achieve stable godhood, infinite love-sex, and healthful immportality free of heat death, or if the bodymind believes in the certain inevitability of eventual stable godhood, infinite love-sex, and healthful immortality free of heat death, or if the bodymind is presently experiencing stable godhood, infinite love-sex, and healthful immortality free of heat death–all of those feel theoretically, in principle, exactly just as good (really good), though the system can still, just fine, discriminate between which of these obtain at any particular time. Anyway, that’s the theory.

So, again, I think meditation is actually just concrete problem solving that involves picking the correct, initially unknown problem. (Explicit, lineage-transmissible formulations of the problem+solution only go so far, as we see out in the world. One has to wayfind to an ever-more-correct internal representation/embodiment to make progress.)

All the emptiness and nondual phenomenology are still a thing, all the different parts of the elephant, including why traditional systems emphasize morality, compassion, etc. (Heartfelt compassion, all things being long-run equa(!)l, is a really good way to achieve babies and godhood, or whatever.)

But morality doesn’t need to be bolted on. (Straw?)

Meditation can be concrete planning, intellectual upgrades, morality training, epistemic training, strategic upgrading that will ingest whatever college textbooks and life experiences the meditator learns to ever-more-optimally seek out. (Of course, all this will look more like watching the breath or whatever than studying for a test. We initially think it’s the latter because the normative perpetuation of culture is very wrong about how the bodymind works and most everybody is "stuck in their heads." Still, "watching the breath," or whatever, is also pretty wrong, even though it’s in the right direction.)

So, I think there’s just "development," of a single thing ("bodymind"), not vertical and horizontal, where descriptive meditative phenomenology can be very useful. But, in any case, meditation is not general-purpose strength-training (for which the fruits are applied off the cushion); meditation, in fact, can be "direct" puzzle-solving and "direct" concrete upgrading (albeit weird and counterintuitive and up-front costly and risky, otherwise we’d all already be Einstein-Ghandi-Musk-meditators). I put "direct" in quotes because in one sense it’s direct and in another sense it’s nonmonotonic and oblique (the details are outside the scope of this rant).

To wrap up, to be fair, sophisticated assessors of meditative progress will pay less attention to phenomenology and more attention to (a) interpersonal sophistication (which, depending on niche, might look like impeccably kind, authentically empathetic, local-and-world-scale-win-win-win collaborative reliability) and (b) relative degree of winning at life (which will look different, depending on whether the person started out abused and poverty-stricken versus a childhood of complex and interesting experiences and wealthy, kind, empathetic, intelligent parents). And, from the inside, maybe one might ask, do I experience wellbeing, and do I have a good life, and are those the same thing?

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wellbeing and sacrifice:

originally published as:

good now good later wellbeing suffering paradox

original location:

https://meditationstuff.wordpress.com/2020/05/20/good-now-good-later-wellbeing-suffering-paradox-1300-words/ (Last accessed: 2020-09-05)

notes:

This should be cleaned up and adapted, in a bunch of ways, to be more appropriate for this location in the document.

body:

All things being equal, human beings are ridiculously ANTI-wireheading.

"I can’t feel ok, now. My life is shit, or falling apart, and/or my life has no meaning or purpose."

We balk at seeming tradeoffs between something like "feeling good, now" and "good later." The latter is something like the OPPOSITE of, "a tiger is behind that tree; and/or I’m going to get fired from my job and end up homeless; and/or the physical laws and the universal constants of this universe mean that human activity is a zero-sum game, and I’ll never be safe unless I destroy myself trying to be safe and not even then."

So, we’ll sacrifice "feeling good, now" for "good later," if we feel like we have to, to the point of sort coming to seemingly believe that "feeling good, now" is useless, pointless, or a dangerous distraction.

But there’s the weird thing where our physical body and mind, right here and now, is what enables the pursuit of the "good later." Bodily homeostasis is sort of the attractor from which straying too far is disastrous.

Some people intuitively or intellectually recognize the importance of homeostasis or bodily health, while also feeling that tension of "feeling good, now" versus "good later." And, they push homeostasis as far as they can, sacrificing sleep, using stimulants, eating problematic convenience foods, or even explicitly banking on future advances in healthcare to repair damage done now.

Some people aren’t thinking about health or homeostasis at all, and they come at it from "the other side" (granting that interoceptive wellbeing informs on the status of homeostasis). They’ve generalized to the point that "feeling good is bad," and they strategically avoid feeling good as such: "I’m going to AVOID feeling good, because feeling good, in spirit or actuality, is the same as twenty hours straight of videogames and total loss of momentum and no progress on this work project."

Some people go so far as to confusedly think that "good later" is the only "actual good," some distant, improper reification which demands great sacrifices.

***

I want to invent a new word, "teleohomeostasis." We don’t really need a new word, because people know that homeostasis can involve future-oriented and goal-oriented cognition and behavior. (And "telos" can be naturalized in various ways in a mechanistic universe.) See Derek Denton, Terrence Deacon, Karl Friston, Robert Rosen, Anatol Feldman, Alicia Juarrero, etc.

But, I want a new word because "diachronic is synchronic" (as the above authors say or allude to in various ways):

Any system’s "representation" of the future is somehow encoded or latent in its present structure.

Depending on how that "representation" interacts with "felt wellbeing," there ideally shouldn’t be a felt paradox between "good now" and "good later;" there shouldn’t be a paradoxical dissonance or a paradoxical suffering.

Maybe this paradoxical suffering is just our evolved, hardwired human nature, until we start messing with it, with nth-generation CRISPR and Neuralink.

But there are these weird hints that maybe it’s not hardwired at all. We "doth protest too much," maybe, in that ANTI-wireheading of, "I don’t want JUST/MERELY FEEL GOOD (unless maybe I’m transiently utterly dysregulated and desperate and despairing); I want things to ACTUALLY BE GOOD."

And when things tick towards being ACTUALLY GOOD, our FEELING GOOD is often only a few hundred milliseconds behind. (Sometimes it’s a slow dawning.) And note again that interoceptive feeling/wellbeing is intimately tied to (teleo)homeostasis. Hmm.

(Note that that "tick towards actually being good" can be because you realized a problem wasn’t actually a problem, and so was DISSOLVED (from inference on prior data or new incoming information) or you figured out a clean solution (or were handed one), and so was SOLVED (from chewing on available solution pieces/capacities, or friend/family/ally/deus ex machina). Both SOLVE and DISSOLVE will work, importantly.)

So, anyway, there’s both this seeming paradox between feeling good and having things be good. And, also, there are these strange links between things being actually good (or getting better) and feeling good.

I’m going to state some principles, now, mostly without justification, which resolve this paradox. I’m partly not giving justification because I’m still working out some palatable/credible/true/"true" reasoning. And I’m partly not giving justification because these principles are self-discovered in meditation. Stay tuned for perhaps more details in future blog posts.

(1) Suffering is not a hardwired, fundamental motivator. It’s actually a stopgap, emergent motivator. There’s no (intrinsic) suffering "at the bottom."

(2) Peak wellbeing is not only compatible with peak performance, peak vigilance, and peak contingency planning, but peak wellbeing is coreferential(?), coextensive(?), perfectly-co-something with peak performance, peak vigilance, and peak contingency planning.

wellbeing/well-being ~= the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy. (google)

(3.1) The Human Handledness is Already Success Principle (Human HAS Princple or just "HAS" Principle):

(handled ~= stably controlled, managed, dealt with)

In terms of felt wellbeing, the bodymind doesn’t differentiate between:

(3.1a) "already/currently have stably got it"

(3.1b) "going to definitely stably get it"

(3.1c) "utterly self-believed utterly already perfectly DOING MY BEST to get it, given truly all that is known, that accounts for literally the whole universe, everything, up to true-event-horizon-bleeding-edge-of-disclosure of previously-genuine-unknown-unknowns"

(3.2) Put another way, if the bodymind believes it’s acting on the best plan to get something (everything), where "best" includes fully error-checked and fully meta-error-checked, this already feels like total success (with no wire-heading-flavored guilt/dissonance).

(3.3) One elaboration is that the hardest most bleak situations can potentially feel like a (seemingly paradoxical, if one hasn’t experienced it) "real-stakes-vacation-adventure."

[end indent]

Something like the HAS principle can maybe be used to explain some things (though plenty of objections could be raised, and additional pieces would be needed to make it airtight):

(a) People put themselves in danger, like free-climbing, to incline towards artificially actualizing the HAS principle. (One would need to be much more precise and elaborated about my anti-wire-heading statements above, to nail something, in here, with respect to potentially outside-view-pathological environmental simplifications and stakes-raising.) And/or, "best plan" can be clarified to explicitly include self-ignorance and mental contingencies under personal "unknown unknowns.")

(b) Valued stories maybe exemplify the actualized HAS principle. A protagonist-environment fit that, nearing the climax, narrows down to an utterly clear best plan and glory, whether success or failure (though success is preferred).

***

So self-discovering and self-aligning with the principles above, and I’ve said things like this a bunch of times, is like a circa 10,000-hour Tower-of-Hanoi, constrained-evolving-state-space problem, involving arranging and rearranging millions of Tetris tetraminoes and LEGO bricks the size of quarks, or whatever.

(I’m not done with all this, and "done" probably fluctuates because one keeps acquiring new capacities (which raise the bar for what the "best plan" is), identifying new challenges/unhandledness via those new capacities (which also raises the bar), and also previously-truly-unknown-unknowns [relative to one’s local knowledge and all meta-meta-proactiveness] keep disclosing from the other side of the "event horizon." But, take this blog post for what it’s worth!)

So like the only shitty things, as I’ve said before, are that meditation is a privilege and luxury that requires some minimum amount of resources (some combination of time, money, food, shelter, relationships). And, the journey can be pretty terrible and seem like it’s taken everything from you, to the point of hopelessness, despair, and confusedly impulsive and risky/destrucive behavior. And there are physical health risks, too. And things feel sometimes/often hard and sad in the meantime; life is hard and sometimes/often sad. And, it’s worth acknowledging, as always, as an aside, that not everyone wants to or "should want" to meditate–life is pretty good for a lot of people, and/or they’re doing the right thing for them that might not look like meditation.

Anyway, we humans have a low-dimensional projection/representation of literally the entire universe, the entire Kosmos, inside of us. And meditators go over that with a fine-toothed comb, anyway. So let’s make meditation more accessible as part of that error-checked and meta-error-checked WORLD-WIDE-HUMAN-COLLECTIVE best plan, not to mention world peace; post-scarcity technological and health/longevity miracles; humane, millenia-long moon-shots, light-cone shots; and like VR Netflix or something.

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ok-ness and cosmology:

[Originally published: https://meditationstuff.wordpress.com/2020/06/22/ok-ness-and-cosmology/ (Last accessed: 2020-09-06)]

[Longer title: "ok-ness and wellbeing, cosmology, metaphysics, eschatology"]

[I’m indebted to a few people for some of the prior heavy-lifting and thinking in this post. Mistakes mine.]

[I apologize for the minimally edited choppiness of the prose below.]

*

If you had to pick being in one of the scenarios below, which would you pick? You can modify them as you’d like; it’s not a forced-choice:

(A) Let’s say you’re a billionaire with smart, kind, loyal friends. And, we could just keep piling it on: Say you’re part of a post-scarcity economy in an endlessly stable political climate. Say poverty has been solved; say crime and personal safety have been solved. Say friendly general artificial intelligence has been solved. Say the long-run destiny of human values and morality are well-understood and it’s humane and exciting. Say the fate of the universe is now understood, and there’s a way out. Say we can now enumerate and (re-)print out all possible humans—past, present, and never-before-existing, who would want this for themselves under the conditions they would want it.

(B) Or, let’s say you’re old, sick, alone, and homeless. Sad, scary, tragic stuff. And let’s say, somehow, tragically, something just escalated and escalated: There’s people who really hate you and want to really hurt you, or worse. Dark, ugly stuff.

(C) Or, let’s say things are pretty ok: good job and friends, interest and engagement, maybe a family and kids, and, to be sure, you’ve also got fears and regrets, about intimacy, money, meaning, health, the economy, the political climate, family members... But, overall, not bad, not bad.

***

First, I want to note that shit happens. We make mistakes, we get hurt, we run out of time, we realize we were wrong, people disappoint us, we disappoint ourselves, we disappoint and hurt other people, we have life surprises, health surprises, we hope, we fear, we dream, we get confused, we chase false idols, we get in car crashes or hit by buses. Life can be hard and painful, whether we have money and friends and health and safety, or not, world-scale projects, or not, cosmic meaning, or not, and regardless of whether many other desirable factors, all things being equal, obtain, or not.

Noting that, all things being equal, there’s still a way that things can be ok (if things are not currently ok). And this ok-ness is extremely, extremely specific and simultaneously also very general. (Cringe, cringe; this isn’t going to take the usual route; keep your hands and feet inside the blog post. To be sure, in any case, this ok-ness isn’t a thing.)

As the cliché goes, there’s indeed a sense in which you don’t need anything outside of yourself for this ok-ness, everything you need is already in you. And, also, there’s a sense in which this ok-ness takes resources—money, food, shelter, time, space, relationships, knowledge, something.

There’s a few broad failure modes that can happen when seeking this ok-ness (if you decide to do so, and it’s ok if you do or don’t, or start and stop, or take a break and pick it up again, later. In no way is it separate from "normal ok-ness.").

(*) One failure mode is seeking to achieve things that are very specific, very concrete, very hard, and very far away in time. (That’s not to say seeking to achieve such things is bad, just that it can be a failure mode of being ok.)

(*) Another failure mode is avoiding here, now, and everything, deferring everything, including the experience of this very moment, until you’re definitely, completely, one-hundred-percent stably, forever ok. And then you can enjoy right now and relax around people, right now. (This is the "meditation is a valueless slog right up until the instant before enlightenment, and any benefits of meditation are incidental to attaining enlightenment and facilitating them in any way might even make enlightenment take longer or make it impossible to obtain/acquire/achieve" model. This is the "separate thing" model.)

Ok, so, sometimes though, what has to happen, in order to be ok?

Even if things are/seem very not ok, sometimes just a little bit of "grace" is enough. You find an amazing therapist, you find out you didn’t get the recessive genetic disease, a long-lost relative left you enough money to keep you on your feet. Something that you thought would be hard is just easy.

Sometimes it takes a little more than that, or a lot more. You might ask, what’s the hit-it-with-a-sledgehammer option, hit it with a planet, hit it with a galaxy, when it seems like nothing else is working?

This is sort of the meditation option, though plenty of things can feed into that, like e.g. therapy, Alexander Technique, and all sorts of things. (A good meditation system will indicate and incorporate intersubjectivity and movement, in any case. But also a good meditation system will sort of "play nice" with all the other good stuff and people and offerings in the environment that don’t quite line up with the meditation system itself.)

Ok, so what does meditation do, anyway? Why can it sort of be a global option, even if not necessarily the most efficient one (time- and resource-wise)?

There’s a common misconception that meditation sort of makes you ok with whatever’s going on. This is concerning to people who want to be motivated by what’s going on, because they care about what’s going on (and what’s going to happen next), because they want to enjoy it or change it.

(There’s certainly a failure mode of meditation, to add to the two "being ok" failure modes above, which is causing oneself to be narrowly or broadly unresponsive to broad slices of self and world.)

Anyway, there’s a correction to this misconception that meditation makes one ok, regardless of what’s going on, that is, ok independent of conditions. Nuh-uh. More correctly, meditation makes one (long-run!) "well-fit" to conditions, regardless of what they are, and it’s the "fittedness" that yields ok-ness.

(One might ask, well, what if I’m in a crashing plane or being tortured or a loved one just got hurt or... Well, yeah, those things are bad. Things can be too intense, too fast, too uncontrollable... A meditation master will still claim, though... And you can explore the limits for yourself, too, in a "natural experiment" fashion, with hints along the way and better and better models of what’s to come.)

So, actually, the outcome of meditation is extraordinarily concrete, extraordinarily concerned with the concrete details of one’s life and future. (Though, this isn’t sort of a laborious, forced "mindfulness." Plenty will be unreflectively automatized: If there’s details, sensory details or otherwise, that you’d prefer to not get lost in, that’s generally going to be an option.) There’s things you want to get and there’s things you want to avoid, same as it always is.

So, CONCRETENESS. That’s piece number one.

You’re always going to be living your life. That’s what lives are:

"If[!] you’re going through hell, keep going [as long as you’re applying some sort of Meta Protocol, i.e. going in the right direction]"

And, I like to combine the above with this extraordinarily deep statement/insight:

"Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end." —John Lennon

So, anyway, you keep going and going, putting in the meditation time, and maybe your rigid, impossible future starts to unravel, and you maybe encounter piece number two: EMPTINESS.

Emptiness could also be termed, in my usages, nebulosity, indirectness, luminosity, etc.

When you started, mountains were mountains, physics equations were physics equations. Now, what the heck are mountains? What the heck are physics equations? What is anything?

But, this isn’t nihilism; emptiness isn’t arbitrariness. There’s an implicit/inexplicit lawfulness, a lawful evolution (though even this sentence and its meaning are empty.)

And, further, emptiness is only one side of a coin. The other side is form, structure, territory, actuality, noumena... (That’s depending how you slice all those concepts; there are more precise and consistent ways to render some of this.)

And, in any case, emptiness is only the beginning.

Because the next thing that starts to happen is that emptiness starts to chew up everything. And that includes things like the following:

existence, nonexistence, awareness, nothingness, somethingness, death, mortality, furniture, eternity, will, determinism, goodness, realness, necessity, contingency, duty, responsibility, obligation or lack thereof, freedom, goals, final ends, big bangs, big crunches, heat deaths, simulations, singularities, infinities, time, space, relativity, mortality, cryonics bets, the tides of history, the near future, the far future, quantum gravity, the Planck scale, harm, suffering, sanity, heaven, hell, afterlife, resurrection, eternity, outside-of-time-ness, causal history and final end of everything

***

One maybe (relatively) unobjectionable claim is that the human bodymind/brain/system/something has a low-dimensional representation of literally everything inside its "unknown unknown" boundary. We contain (represent) the entire universe. (Re "representation," one could potentially make an argument for something like distributed cognition or question where the representations live or how they’re encoded, enacted, etc.)

For now, again, maybe you’ll grant me that we literally hold (a low-dimensional, variable-fidelity representation of) the whole (multi/uni)verse in us, including our goals, fears, contingency planning, uncertainties, problems, etc.

I’ll further claim that, whether due to properties of consciousness minds, agency, darwinian evolution or entropic dissipation under this universe’s physical constants, something, there will sort of be some finite set of necessary "pieces" that all people are tracking, within that representational unity/totality.

This tracking will be sort of a mixture of explicit or reflective musings, from imagination, religion, fantasy, and science fiction, as well as implicit/inexplicit, practical "doing models" that have built up, "organically," bottom-up, over time. That will all sort of be mixed together, explicit, inexplicit, and entangled with the environment. And there will be adult stuff as well as childhood stuff, including very young childhood stuff and stuff picked up from other people. For example, you might have a bunch of heaven and hell stuff, which might be initially surprising, if you come across it, but less surprising in retrospect. Depending on your very-young childhood background, there could be miles and miles of heaven and hell stuff, maybe some sort of omniscient and/or omnipotent enabler of timeless intimacy or connection, as well as, say, depending on what you were reading as a teen or later, a future "Omega-point" situated in a manyworlds multiverse, and so on, all side-by-side or "scattered throughout" one’s mind.

And maybe there’s a "beginning of everything" and an "end of everything" and a "timeless/eternal ground of all of that," and so on.

Point being, the system may not be consistent (well, there are degrees), but the system is reaching for consistency, and there’s a particular kind of envelope or closure or unity that kind of enfolds or connects all this stuff into one unified thing. Sometimes it’s very fragmentary, but there’s going to be thin threads that maintain connection, somehow. (What happens in organic brain damage or neurodegenerative disease is an interesting question, but if a person is awake and behaving even a little bit coherently then there’s a probably shocking "unity"/"totality" for any of that to be happening at all.)

One could call all of this COSMOLOGY (and metaphysics and eschatology).

So, anyway, CONCRETENESS is sort of the unignorable sensory ground, though still a heavily interpreted datastream, from the "outside world," the thing that pokes you with sticks and surprises you, even if you stop believing in it. EMPTINESS is sort of the liquid ground that makes change possible. And COSMOLOGY is sort of the interpretive representation or encoding or explanation of the whole enchilada, as well as what you should do about all of it, how you should act, how you are acting, what the plan is.

So, in my gestural division, once again, there’s CONCRETENESS, EMPTINESS, and COSMOLOGY.

There’s sort of something sometimes terribly embarrassing, confusing, or scary about cosmology. Cosmology is just as scary, maybe even more scary, than concreteness. Yeah, you might run out of money, or get hit by a bus, and/or die. But, of course, what happens after that?And/or, what does it all mean? And, even if you live? What’s going happen, long-run? What if you get sucked into an interstellar black hole? What happens to your cares and concerns and the people you love, from your perspective?

It can be confusing and embarrassing to the degree how much cosmology matters to functioning in daily life. Plenty of people believe in god. And plenty of people believe in a future eschaton, divine or machine. And some people believe in heaven or the Tao or the multiverse. Or they believe in all of the above, all semi-implicitly mixed together, coming from various ages and sources and thinking and imagining. And, often we’d prefer to believe ("endorse" believing) in one of these over all the rest. (And often that preference is leaving out a bunch of "functionally necessary" features, and something else necessarily, constrainedly needs to pick up the slack, in sort of an explanatory-unity-or-comprehensiveness-over-explanatory-consistency, or something. And it won’t budge, it won’t effortlessly flow, otherwise.)

While money and health, concretes, can be super stressful, it’s sort of the cosmology that "tortures" us, as it were: If we’re, I don’t know, beings of light going to heaven, and we’re here to learn, then a bunch of worldly suffering isn’t as big of a deal. (Or "nonexistence" isn’t stressful, or it is.) So, as it usually goes, part of us may even believe that we’re beings of light (or in a benevolent simulation, or going to be cryonically or state-space-exhaustively resurrected, or whatever). But other parts of us do NOT. And, so money and health are stressful, and there’s also this sort of "cosmological shear" on top of that, the tension between mediately contradictory cosmological components.

***

So, the reversal, here, is that the fruits/goal meditation is not sort of being ok with whatever is happening or whatever you believe, independent of the details.

In fact, the fruits of meditation, usually mostly implicitly, are radically embodied (concreteness) and radically cognitive (cosmology). (Emptiness, which, in some sense, is the other side of the coin of concreteness+cosmology, is also in some sense a discovered cosmological component, as well as something experienced concretely.) Emptiness does facilitate equanimity, which is sort of, say, an interaction between concreteness, emptiness, and cosmology, which makes change and (transient or stable) unknowing safer and safer, as equanimity "grows." Equanimity does sort of become a "more and more powerful container of safety," but it’s, in some sense highly contingent/situated/specific, built out of progressively handling more and more, and more and more skillfully, in a deeply implicit and wise way. So, it’s not detachment but is instead concretely engaged wisdom under emptiness, etc., etc.

So, in any case, all of this is sort of one way of looking at why meditation takes so long—in order to sort of not be "tortured" (as it were, or whatever) by the concrete, sometimes one must refactor one’s entire cosmology, and I think this is pretty typical, because we don’t really get to choose our cosmologies, at least on the front-end. And so there’s a lot that’s very fine and also a lot to clean up, down/in there. And usually this has a combinatorial or recursive or iteratively recurrent complexity, of enacting the dependencies to make something safe to look at, and then looking, and then retracing and juxtaposing along high-dimensional path constraints... (And this is sort of inseparable from refactoring one’s phenomenology, and so usually nonduality, centerlessness, etc., pop out, too.)

***

And so, eventually, mountains are just mountains again, physics equations are just physics equations, again.

But, like, is there a right answer? Heaven and hell? God? Superdeterministic quantum gravity multiverse? Yeah, sure, up to your personal, bleeding-edge unknown unknown boundary. And, you can fallibly tack towards it.

And, in doing so, you may find that concretes get lighter, wellbeing increases, it becomes safe to not know, and also you do know, but you can say less. I’m not saying you’ll be able to write down novel physical laws or crack open the universe with the right intonation and gesture. But, you’ll be more comfortable with exactly what is, and where you are in it, in part because suffering and sort of even meaning are sort of limit cases of when things go wrong, and, because of grace, buddha nature, evolution, etc., sorting out all this stuff, under emptiness, under ockam’s razor, under unknown unknowns, is shockingly, generally doable, all things being equal, and it makes things progressively more and more ok. (Human minds have stunning epistemic abilities, if bootstrappingly used "correctly.")

And things become more and more stable, too, while remaining sensitive and responsive to new knowledge, new neuroscience, new physics, new interpersonal surprise:

It can take a lot of work to try to remember that, say, god is infinite and you’re a being of light (or that you’re experiencing focal bias, or whatever), when, say, your bank account balance is low.

But, in meditation, you’ll sort of be tacking towards a global convexity that doesn’t need to be maintained.

More and more, self and world just are, the world is just right there, just as it is, nothing to change, no effort, and, more and more, it’s fine/good/ok.

It’s partly fine/good/ok because that fine-ness/good-ness/ok-ness hasn’t made you unmotivated, reckless, nihilistic, careless. In fact, you’re more safely effective, in part because you’re more careful, more patient, more decisive, more peaceful, more ambitious, more compassionate, more impassioned, maybe even more afraid (in some sense, because it’s fundamentally safe to be afraid) while being simultaneously more equanimous and chill and good-feeling. There’s a deeper thing: sort of less everything and more everything at same time. Sort of "normal" but more "liquid." It’s a "this too shall pass" kind of thing, but, again, one that is harmonious with situated action, in a (relatively more sensible) cosmos. Anyway, none of this is quite right, but I’m pointing in the direction a thing. All in all, you’ll still fully proactively seek what you want and avoid what you don’t want, and what you want and don’t want will be more liquid but not arbitrary.

Refactoring your cosmology (as per your bodymind, your felt wellbeing) can be a huge, lengthy, overwhelming (implicit, liminially cognitive, felt-sensory) project. It’s an insane project, a crazy project, hard to grasp as a whole, on the front-end. ("Better not to start; if you start, better to finish.") You maybe should only start after you’ve talked to a therapist, a doctor, made a big, experimental life change, and/or you’ve accidentally already started. One wants methods that are sort of simple enough to actually consistently engage in, while "correct enough" to sort of "work eventually no matter what," all things being equal.

(But, in a sense, none of this is separate from what you’re already doing, which is just living your life. Some stuff is "deep" and "stuck" but, some "quite cosmological" stuff is getting sculpted all the time, when making a meal, when journaling, when spending time with friends. No separation.)

In any case, let’s say you’re systematically applying a method. And then... "impossible" problems, unexpectedly, unbelievably, are solved and dissolved, one, after another, after another (maybe with very long gaps and low-lows in between each solve), all things being equal. And after several wildly different "impossible" problems get solved or dissolved, you start looking at the remaining problems with more and more suspicion and patience (and excitement).

Anyway, probably some of this rendering is terribly misleading, so don’t take my word for any of it.

Wellbeing and enjoyment are good guides, as well as patiently, gently easing into, say, "intolerable" horror, if you happen to come across any. (There will probably be at least a little bit.) Remember, the whole point of all of this is something like wellbeing, enjoyment, self-alignment, and whatever follows from that. Maybe things are already pretty chill. Ask someone who’s pretty chill what their life philosophy is, and they might tell you about their pretty reasonable thing that works for them, even if it wouldn’t work for you.

Duty, necessity, obligation, should, responsibility, effort, sacrifice, and hardship are not red flags, but they are yellow flags, at the very least. The dashboard can/could/"should" be green, and/but you might have to refactor your whole cosmology to get there, and, while this is very doable, all things being equal (money, food, shelter, health, future money, technique, withstanding) that doable-ness shouldn’t be misinterpreted as one of those shoulds. No gods, no masters, no point (except your own), as it were.

And the "end" result is sometimes described as things like "fearless simplicity," "carefree dignity," effortless, costless, natural, etc. The WEIGHT OF ALL THAT COSMOLOGY, doesn’t "weigh" anything at all, isn’t a thing at all; it’s just your effortless being, the very flexible, fluid prereflective seeming of world, lighter than a feather.

***

(P.S. As for myself, I’m not "done," by the way! Plenty still to do, but it’s been a relatively smooth and "meta-predictable" ride, for a very long while, etc., etc. At some point, you run out of "meta-surprises," and you always, always, always know what to do next, as far as I’ve been able to tell.)

P.P.S. "Cosmology" includes stuff like how does personhood work, how do (body)minds work, what is intimacy, what is connection/"connection", etc.

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seamless hyphenation [draft]:

[Originally published: https://meditationstuff.wordpress.com/2020/11/14/seamless-hyphenation-draft/ (Last accessed: 2020-11-15)]

Sometimes people who are not novelists, bloggers, entrepreneurs, management consults, programmers, parents, financiers, CEOs, politicians, scientists, traders, consultants, models, etc., find that they want to become novelists, bloggers, entrepreneurs, management consults, programmers, parents, financiers, CEOs, politicians, scientists, traders, consultants, models, etc.

Sometimes it seems doable, or one can do some low-cost experimenting to see what it might be like; one has enough time, enough savings, few enough obligations. Though, sometimes it seems like that ship has sailed–too little time, too little energy, money, health, youth, something.

(All of this applies to not only "career," "income," "impact," something. All of this also applies to things like wanting to be cool, loved, loving, confident, etc., too.)

In any case, I think people often oscillate between, on the one hand, excitement and optimism about becoming something different, and, then, on the other hand, at least at the extremes(!), a sense of resignation, futility, or despair.

People do change their lives, all the time, of course. People accidentally find their niche, or have an epiphany, or a catch a break. Something "just starts working." And/but, people also have the intuition that some kinds of big life changes can be quite hard, can realistically take years or a decade, and often involve some kind of safety net, which might just be youth; or parental support; or savings from a former, high-paying life; or hard-won, opportunity-costly knowledge about how to be frugal; or a tremendously supportive community, or other significant resources.

In any case, a question one might ask, is how might someone systematically become something/someone different? (And what are the pitfalls and paradoxes involved in that!?) And, here, for the moment, we’re at least temporarily setting aside questions of food, shelter, money, opportunity cost–just, what are the gears-level things that need to happen, for true, deep, change, on the level of, say, "deep bodymind"?

Those gear-level things are somewhat outside the scope of this blog post, but there are at least two reasons that change of this kind is so hard. One is at least counterintuitive, and the other is at least paradoxical.

The counterintuitive thing is just how much, how expansively, how seemingly heterogeneously the things are, that sometimes need to change, for a person to change. One typically doesn’t have a model, a feel, a sense, of what all these things might be. They all fit together at "the level of mind," but teasing them out, semi-explicitly, can look pretty weird. It’s maybe stuff like this:

The above items aren’t mutually exclusive, though they’re arranged somewhat in order of expansiveness or inclusivity. You might note that I phrased it above as these items themselves need to change. That might seem kind of weird–the "universe" needs to change, for you or your life to change?

What I really mean is that your "model" of "the universe" needs to change, rather, the "very preflective seeming" that is, in part, your "physically embodied, moment-by-moment anticipations" that somehow involve "the universe," that need to change. (One’s "model" could be the reflective, explicit part of that.)

People change, all the time, for much less. But, sometimes, the whole universe needs to change.

Items in the list above might be counterintuitive for different reasons, but I want to focus, in particular, on "personhood."

People often have the experience, even when they kind of like the different parts of their life, of all those parts not quite fitting together. Something is bursting at the seams. But, their life goes on, their relationships continue, maybe indefinitely, their career continues, maybe indefinitely. So, it’s not exactly the "external" roles and obligations that are bursting at the seams, they just keep happening, steady state, but instead one’s "sense" of all of it, one’s embodied feeling, sense, deep-down planning, the constellation of sensory anticipations and physical actions that make up them doing all of that:

Somewhere there’s a little bit of shearing, a little bit of grinding, a little bit of jamming, and so there’s some stress, some shortness with loved ones, some muscle tension, ongoing "unsurprising surprise," because something, somewhere isn’t able to learn.

For there to be, instead, costless ease, a seamless life, sometimes a person’s very concept of a person needs to change, maybe subtly.

The way this goes, is, usually, a person’s intuitive concept of all the ways a person can be becomes more expansive, the basis vectors change, and then a pin is dropped, on the map: YOU ARE HERE...and perhaps you could be THERE. The voice can be soft. The reconfiguration profoundly shocking. This is sometimes on such a low, low level–the sensemaking of the blooming, buzzing confusion–it changes.

So that’s the counterintuitive piece; now, there’s the paradoxical one.

We’ve all heard things like this before, "what you resist, you’re stuck with."

There’s such danger in "deliberate, systematic, directed," change. First, where we’re pointed is usually somehow incorrect, some deep error of conceptualization or misunderstood personal preference, ignorance about the personal goodness/badness/possibility of the thing. That’s usually fine, when one starts with little bets as well as care, to mitigate overcommitment! (Granted, the bigger and more monolithic the decision is, the higher the potential stakes. College majors and career decisions, I hear you.)

Second, though, and this one is killer, "directed change" can sometimes mean away from something, in this case, parts of yourself, and this can be disastrous. So instead of away from yourself, you must somehow, at least first, if not forever, move towards yourself:

For you to become anything else, anything truly new, for you, you must somehow, simultaneously, become ever more yourself, in some sense, as you always, already, now and forever were, and will forever be.

And this is sometimes terrifying, the feeling of fucking cruel, cosmic joke. What if one hates oneself, seemingly irrevocably and irreparably? Sometimes: self-disgust, cringe, shame, horror–all of which, that you will always have been, written into the past, written in stone. Who wouldn’t, sometimes, want to reflexively try to smash all that out of existence? A bifurcation, a discontinuity, at least a forgetting, by you and everyone else–and then, finally, you can start to live your real life.

But no. That’s not how it works; that’s not what minds are. Usually, maybe, probably always, for the deepest changes, at least, you have to go back, all the way, for all of it. [Note: "Going back," can also become a top-down, smashy thing, if one isn’t careful............]

It turns out, in the end, in the end, in the end–that it’s ok. All the things you thought and did, your causal history goes through structure preserving transformations–the feel of it gets to change, almost nothing is what you thought it was, no matter what it was and is. It’s ok.

***

A bit of a tonal change, here:

I thought young kids often spontaneously hyphenate their aspirational professions? (I thought this was more of a thing, but google is failing me.)

Update: Commentators, mostly on twitter, have submitted these, to me:

Here’s some more, maybe tongue-in-cheek, though pretty indistinguishable from those above; this online article** suggests (additional) grown-up versions:

And, here’s even more, quick-imagined by me; I think lots of people crave a sort of heterogeneous seamlessness:

To be sure, sometimes having a "hyphenate" career or life (or multiple jobs) is an act of desperation.

But, modulo resources, privilege, and more, and often even then, with the right tools and avoiding counterintuitive and paradoxical failure modes, why not?

To be sure, as well, you may have to walk through hell and give up far more than you ever thought you’d get in return, and what you finally end up with may look nothing like you thought it would, and that might be heartrending on the front end.

But you may end up with a seamlessly satisfying life.

***

*https://www.fatherly.com/love-money/the-2017-imagination-report-what-kids-want-to-be-when-they-grow-up/ [last accessed 20201114]

**https://www.popsugar.com/smart-living/What-Multi-Hyphenate-Career-45742128 [last accessed 20201114]

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other practices (draft):

If you have the time and money, I don’t know, maybe find a good therapist (one in 1000-10,000), go get therapy or psychoanalysis.

If your friends are into interesting practices, go explore with them.

Everything can be integrated. Live your life, have all the experiences (as makes sense), read all the books. Learn all the options and the degrees of freedom. The practices in this document are intended to both be load-bearing and to fill in the cracks when something better isn’t available.

There’s some narrow sense in which these practices can "do it all," get someone all the meditation-y goodness, heal trauma, alter preferences and behavior, increase wisdom, increase moral intelligence. These practices are ideally an absolute bootstrapping foundation that can fill in any missing cracks. It can be worth it to clocks thousands and thousands and thousands of hours on these practices alone. It can be worth it to be narrowly hardcore with these practices.

But.

Use everything. Use all of it. There’s better and worse, and choices matter, but, ultimately, late-stage, end-game, there’s no relevant distinction these practices, any other practices, and life itself.

Lots of solo time is needed, and sometimes solo time is the only thing available, but someone who’s having a rich variety of experiences with a rich variety of compassionate, intelligent, interesting people will progress (possibly) faster (and possibly more safely), all things being equal.

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culture and community:

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an orienting model; layers and tangles; from "parts" to people to groups:

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part 1: a brief layer/tangle model of mind, "parts," personality, groups, and (global) culture:

Consider the mind to be made up of a large number of parallel (information) flows, or pipes, or tubes.

Countless numbers of these tubes all happening, all at once, is you.

Sensory information goes in one end of a tube (sensation) and immune system, hormonal, glandular, smooth muscle, and skeletal muscle activity goes out the other end of a tube (actuation).

(Sensory information flowing through the tubes spontaneously sculpts the tubes, spontaneously sculpts what’s happening in the tubes, spontaneously sculpts the length of the tubes, and spontaneously sculpts how the tubes are connected to other tubes. (There’s a way/sense in which the tubes, and interconnections, are all the sensory information that’s ever flowed through them.)

Tubes can be short and long.

A short tube goes from input to output, sensation to actuation, in a small number of milliseconds.

A long tube goes from input to output, sensation to actuation, taking hundreds of milliseconds.

In addition to normal input (sensory information; sensation), some tubes can incorporate information from other tubes prior to termination (actuation). And, in addition to normal termination (skeletal muscle, etc.; actuation), some tubes pass information to other tubes. Information transfer happens at junctions. [Note that this theory doesn’t have any "fully internal tubes" or tubes that are "sensation+internal" or "internal+actuation." A future theory might need to allow for this.]

When tubes pass information to other tubes, (internal) loops/cycles can form.

There is a shortest possible length of tube.

There is a shortest possible length of loop.

Below a particular tube length, there can’t be any loops.

Sensation alters tube lengths and junctures. (And actuation influences sensation.)

Some tubes pass through awareness. These are awareness tubes. If those tubes happen to have junctures with other tubes, then we can experience the sensations passing through those other tubes. (And, we can participate in our actuations via external loops.)

Tubes that happen to have junctures with awareness tubes are called junctured awareness tubes. Some tube lengths and junctures can only be modified or created when the relevant tubes are currently junctured awareness tubes.

When junctured awareness tubes are very short and contain no loops, then there is no self-experience, and "in the seeing there is just the seen," "in the hearing there is just the heard," "in the feeling there is just the felt," "in the doing, just doing," etc. There is just "what it feels like."

When there are loops in or proximal to junctured awareness tubes then there is self-experience. There is, partially, "what it feels like to be you."

Countless tubes at any given time are junctured awareness tubes, but most tubes at any given time are not junctured awareness tubes.

When loops are minimized there cannot be contention or compensation.

When loops are minimized there cannot be improperly reified concepts.

A state of minimal loops is primordial or natural (though not necessarily ordinary).

The minimization of loops correlates with but does not guarantee constructive, good behavior. The minimization of loops correlates with but does not guarantee the absence of destructive, bad, unskillful, and evil behavior.

Contention can cause ill-health, accelerated aging, excessive actuation, and suffering.

Contention in junctured awareness tubes is experienced as logical contradiction and (sometimes extremely subtle) muscle tension.

Compensation can be locally elegant but is globally inelegant.

If someone has a problem, a loopless solution to that problem will not have any compensation. A non-loopless solution will have compensation. Compensatory solutions are much easier to find than loopless solutions. Loopless solutions are minimally costly in the limit. Compensatory solutions are locally costly. The greater the accumulated cost, the harder it is to find additional solutions. The lower the accumulated cost, the easier it is to find additional solutions, though the solution-finding process may still be lengthy.

An example of compensation is "I’m doing X which is bad but if I also do Y then it will cancel the bad effects of X."

Compensation is usually not perfect and so begets further compensation. An example of this is "I’m doing Y to compensate for X but Y creates a further problem Z so I must do R to compensate for Z but R also has a problem..."

Compensation is fractally self-similar. That is, micro-compensation produces larger-scale patterns of compensation. Examples of larger-scale patterns are tics, neuroses, hangups, blindspots, personality disorders, etc.

Compensation can produce occlusion. Occlusion is when tubes are not and cannot easily or quickly become junctured awareness tubes.

Large-scale compensation and occlusion produces personality layers. If experience happens too quickly, too surprisingly, or too traumatically than personality layers are more likely to form.

So, someone can have childhood confusions or uncertainties or inabilities and/or (by defintion unhealed) hurts and traumas, and, on top of those, have adult-style regulation. (That adult-style regulation will be crippled in many ways because of the excessive cost of compensation. That person might read lots of books on e.g. relationships, but, without delayering, their relating might remain laborious and "unnatural.")

Because of mimesis, love, power, and technology, compensation and layering can extend to groups, cultures, and society. There are global-scale cultural layers, in part produced through famine, colonization, war, etc., as well as locally adaptive but global maladaptive traditions of child-rearing, etc.

Individual and group practice can de-layer and de-compensate, solving problems without the use of compensation, until individuals, and even communities, or larger, are relatively natural. Again, compensation is necessary and adaptive. And naturalization only guarantees a subset of good things, with opportunity costs. It is only better, all (other) things being equal.

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part 2: the blooming, buzzing confusion:

Layering and occlusion can make it very hard to turn tubes into junctured awareness tubes. But, sensation and actuation, the inputs and outputs of tubes can’t be blocked. Sensation is always happening for all of a person’s tubes, at every layer. And actuation is always happening at the termination of every tube.

If an adult has childhood confusions or uncertainties or inabilities and/or (by defintion unhealed) hurts and traumas in their system, then this can be problematic because that childhood self can be triggered. And then that person’s behavior, in a particular situation, will have behaviors reminiscient of childhood, which can be inappropriate, maladaptive, or dangerous to relationships or livelihood. So this must be careful managed.

A person manages always-triggerable lower layers by reducing the scope of their lives (never entering particular situations), creating controlled situations (only entering situations that they themselves have carefully prearranged), managing attention in situations (carefully using actuation to manage the sensation stream), or arranging temporary compensatory sinks (teeth-gritting, white-knuckling, stomach-clenching, etc.). [An alternative, of course, if resources are available, is to take the time to naturalize layer after layer, to find noncompensatory solutions and thereby widening the scope of life.]

A person will have learned to manage some of their lower layers. But, typically, many layers (and "pockets") will not be well-managed. A further complication is that lower layers, while not always, tend to be occluded and so can be affected outside of awareness and those effects may be hard to infer from downstream, ramified experiences. In short, it’s possible for vulnerable lower layers to become traumatized or further traumatized. (A way to restate this is that tubes can be receiving input from the outside world, but that reception and its proximal downstream effects might be outside personal awareness (though potentially evident in behavior that's observable by other people), and distal downstream effects (eventually, in milliseconds to days) will be in personal awareness, though not connected to the relevant (maybe high-dimensional, thin-slice) "causes" from the world. Over time, a person gets ever-better at connecting inputs/causes to effects.)

It gets worse in that everyone, at all layers have both functional ontologies as well as remaining blooming, buzzing confusion (as per William James). That is, everyone has patterns of input that can produce hard to predict effects in the system. This is a further dimension of vulnerabilitiy.

To explain further, when we were at our youngest, while we have genetic predisposition towards certain types of interpretations, the world doesn’t come pre-given. We have to assemble feeling, sound, light, touch, etc., into appearances, inferred objects, causal relations, and proactive management of self and environment. Prior to this, and always alongside this, there is blooming, buzzing confusion. There is "static," "noise" limning the edges of experience and even shot through all of experience, the "feel of reality."

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part 3: the demon-haunted world and science as a candle in the dark (as per Carl Sagan):

And, so, this static, this noise, this blur that colors everything, and it comes in layers, there is some at every layer—this is the domain of shamans, of magick, of the siddhis, of the powers.

Western and so-called "universal culture" has factored away much of this blur into legible ontologies and compenstory pockets.

But consider, childhood fears—monsters, ghosts, etc. Consider cultural and religious—demons, hells, etc. Consider childhood extremity—terror, loss of control, disregulation, bullying, abuse, violence, hatred.

Also consider, adult desperation around money, poverty, power, status, sex (coercive fantasy and actuality in kinks, fetishes, and paraphilias), intimacy, belongingness, health, aging, sickness, and death.

Consider the desperation of infant, child, adult to affect the mother, peers, adults, the powerful, and vice versa. Consider the childhood insecurities and fears still layered into the adult narcissist, the adult schizoid, the adult borderline.

Consider how desperately, out of love and fear, how desperately people are trying to affect each other all the time.

Consider that what the brain does is make sense of blooming, buzzing confusion, to find signal in noise. Consider as well that those vast number of tubes. Consider our sensitivity to transduce single photons. Consider facial expressions, flickering of the eyes, body language, voice tone, timbre and prosody. Consider temperature fluctuations in the air. Consider subtle changes in air currents as we move our limbs. Consider those vast degrees of freedom as well as that sensitivity. Consider the heights of skill of say olympic athletes versus weekly joggers.

And then is it any wonder that hapless creeps, dark wizards, cult leaders... and healers walk among us?

[continues in section "part 4: Everyday blah, hapless creeps, dark wizards, and cult leaders"]

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evil:

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part 4: introduction:

If you start doing work on yourself, you’ll become more sensitive to a lot of things. And that sensitivity, initially, can make you more vulnerable to bad things than you’d otherwise be. That sensitivity can also make you become a more dangerous or harmful person to be around, initially. Over time, asymptotically, nonmonotonically, what you were vulnerable to, what used to influence you or cause disendorsed changes to you, becomes just information. And this information can be used to enhance safety for self and others. And your sensitivity and responsiveness, from ongoing meditation, and the knowledge that’s easier to acquire because of that sensitivity and responsiveness, can make you safer and safer for other people.

Additionally, you may more often find yourself in communities of practice, as you explore things like meditation, energy work, shamanism, or whatever. Communities of practice sometimes have coercive things "in the air," and sometimes communities of practice contain, or have adjacent, "dark wizards," and sometimes they are created, run, influenced, or ruled by "cult leaders."

Reading the sections below may help to minimize risks to self and others, in relation and in community.

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part 5: everyday blah, hapless creeps, dark wizards, and cult leaders:

[continues from section "part 3: the demon-haunted world and science as a candle in the dark (as per Carl Sagan)"]

The mind is vast and occlusion is a thing.

On the surface, most people genuinely and authentically want to be good to people and to be better people. Almost everyone has at least a little vicious hatred, or ill-will or at least just reckless terror at lower layers. Those negative things will typically be latent in lower layers. But they can be triggered under the right circumstances.

And, upon being triggered, negative behaviors, both gross and subtle, will feel right, normal, appropriate, justified. And then that person will do obvious or subtle bad things.

The obvious stuff is bad enough, from glaring to shouting or even hitting. But the subtle stuff can be really bad, too. It can be coercive, soul-damaging—it can create vulnerabilities which beget further harm.

We all do things we don’t endorse. We all can cause subtle harm. And, if we had adult abuse in our past, sometimes we can do harm "above our weight class," and it’s very regretful.

The above few paragraphs describe the spectrum from everyday blah all the way to hapless creeps.

The is a worse level, which is that of the "dark wizard." For the previous level, the ability to do harm is accumulated incidentally and unsystematically. But, a dark wizard systematically cultivates the ability to influence people. This can be both "deliberate and unreflective/accidental," "deliberate and reflective."

For the "deliberate and unreflective/accidental" category, a good example of this is in relation some kinks, fetishes, paraphilias (and also "vanilla-sexual"). Some kinks are pure fantasy, some involve "consentual nonconsent," and some, usually disendorsed, involve the actualization of nonconsent, either incidentally or essentially.

Unfortunately, all of those cases can potentially produce unwanted effects in other people because, even for the pure fantasy cases, there can be "actualization bleed." And, often people have lower-layer material/"tubes"/etc that want to realize some "actual nonconsent," even if this is disendorsed by much else of the system. And even if this is compensated for at the higher layers. There can still be subtle, harmful effects between people via lower levels.

The situation is analogous for safety/control fantasies and revenge fantasies. (For the safety/control case, the person wants other people to behave in highly specific ways so that that person can feel safe. Often, this will be in childhood, parent-child, or religious ontologies.)

In all of these cases, sexual, control, revenge, the person is cultivating the thoughts, fantasies, beliefs, material, behaviors over time. There’s something building up over time and becoming more powerful, more effective, more insidious, even if unintentional.

It would be a much better world if people’s sexual fantasies stayed safely inside our heads, but unfortunately this isn’t always the case. And that’s pretty intense, but it seems to be true. The worst of this, here, is perhaps "community sexual predators" that are somehow "more effective or successful than they should be."

Moving on from "deliberate and unreflective," pickup artistrty (PUA), "business influence," and "persuasion" type books are in a gray area between "unreflective" and "reflective." The person is systematically cultivating something but the ontology is pretty intrisically low-key, relatively speaking, as compared to sexual stuff or what follows below.

In "deliberate and reflective" proper, these are people that are reading spellbooks or doing chaos magic or summoning demons or dabbling in curses and in any case deliberately seeking to influence people for personal gain. There are cringy and toothless versions of this, and there are very, very terrible versions of this. Remember, all of this has naturalistic explanations, but the layers of the mind reify things and we experience it as real. And it can drive up blood pressure and cause heart attacks and stroke, subtly or grossly reduce quality of life forever, drive people insane, tear communities apart, etc. And, all the while, there is gaslighting and self-gaslighting that that isn’t what’s happening.

Historically, and in some places contemporaneously, each village had a shaman to deal the intentional and unintentional, from blah to terrible, stuff happening between people and villages/tribes/etc.

Cult leaders will be discussed more below.

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part 6: spot the dark wizard:

A final note is that, if you’re trying to influence people at all, if you have any perceived need at all with respect to other people (belonging, care, money, intimacy, sex), unless you and everyone are in a tremendously high-resourced environment, and everyone is engaged in mutually creative synergy, then you’ve likely got at least some baby dark wizard going on, or some latent dark wizarding that could get triggered.

And if you’ve been cultivating, ruminating, working over, developing in/on/over anything that in some way involves thinking, other people, or influencing other people, then you’ve likely got something either full-on dark wizardy or something that could easily be converted over to dark-wizard-ness with the right push.

This section is not to normalize the above, though. ("Oh, he’s saying everyone is a dark wizard, ok, so it’s not that bad.") This section is a warning. In other words, if you don’t think you can’t have "things that are that bad" in you, or you don’t think things in you will bleed out into the world, or you are "good at mind stuff" or "good at ethical interaction," then you should probably be very careful. These are all surfaces areas for you to do unrelfective harm. And doing transformative practices can make things worse, in the short-term or for a long time.

If you see yourself as a helper or a healer, this is also a yellow flag. Often "helping" or "healing" can contain perversity, not just good but also harm. And the goodness makes it harder to see the harm.

There’s nothing to be ashamed of, here. Layering and misconceptualization or non-conceptualization mean that it can take time to find the bad stuff, sometimes years.

But given that it’s possible to hurt people in the meantime, one should be listen to people when they say you’re being weird, creepy, harmful, etc. (Sometimes it’s munchausen or gaslighting when people say they’re being harmed, but you have to do due diligence—it could be both partially not your responsibility and partially you doing harm. If you dismiss people’s concerns as not valid then that’s a red flag that you’re at least low-resourced and probably doing additional harm on top of the dismissal.)

You have to be ready to isolate yourself, to walk away, and sometimes you should let people excommunicate you. Sometimes, it will be the case that you were in an unhealthy environment, and you defending yourself is further hurting people around you. But "active" defenses mean you aren’t skilled enough yet. When the environment becomes "just information" as opposed to something that needs to be defended against then you can consider yourself skilled. At that point you won’t be "actively" hurting people in such an environment, but they could still experience your being there as harmful because of things in them that don’t want to be exposed, even passively via your side, to things in you. Sometimes it can take a very long time to figure out who’s doing or not doing what to whom, and it’s better to just not interact.

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part 7: healers:

Healers, bodyworkers, energy healers, reiki practioners, healing touch practitioners, qigong practitioners, exorcists, shamans, etc., can be great. Keep in mind that there is a vast range of skill. Some people are completely ineffectual. Some are very effective but cause both harm and good things at the same time. The rare individual with decades of (lineage?) training and experience is excellent. (And some "healers" are dependancy-inducing predators.)

Minds are vast, people have weird beliefs, and the mind makes it real. Healers work in different paradigms and so there can be ontology shear and effect shear. Healers might have different beliefs than you (and your mind) about what changes are good and bad, and when, and why, and how. Healers will have their own blindspots and malevolent layered intentions. Healers can sometimes pick up lots of bad stuff from people they’re trying to heal (or teachers that they’ve worked with) that they haven’t entirely cleared themselves. And then they can pass it on to you. And sometimes healers can have bad days where they’re mean and ill-willed.

If someone has been practicing for decades and you can talk to other people they’ve worked with who say good things, then they might be a good fit for you. If someone has seemingly produced miracles (they’ve gotten a stroke victim to walk again or otherwise given someone their life back) but they seem creepy to you, then it might be better to stay away. (Most reading this will not be in need a miracle that they cannot ultimately produce themselves, possibly on a faster timeline with less resources.)

Generally speaking, for serious meditators, there are very quickly diminishing returns for working with healers. Meditation is essentially self-sufficient, self-healing that "goes all the way," all things being equal. Sometimes a healer can get you out of a rut or help you deal with an acute issue. Often, maybe almost always, you’ll have to rework whatever they did, in the future. Maybe almost always, what healers do are just a temporary patch, for a serious medtitator. (For non-meditators a "patch" can be life-saving. Just different needs for different life trajectories.) So, sometimes it’ll be net good and sometimes net bad.

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part 8: witch hunts, vulnerability, contagion, tragedy of transformation, community decompensation:

It can be hard to assign blame and decide what to do. We all can have layered material that can be vulnerable in idiosyncratic ways. Someone can have a sex or revenge fantasy that they’re barely broadcasting, that wouldn’t affect 95% of people. But, when you’re in a room with them, it does awful stuff to your system. So who’s at fault? In this case mostly nobody, but there’s still the issue that you can’t be in a room with them. It might be both people’s responsibility to change. The person with the fantasy to figure out how it’s bleeding into the world a little bit. And you to figure out why it’s affecting you. But, for one or both of you, that could be hundreds of hours of work (though which will produce all sorts of collateral positive effects along the way), and one or both of you might not currently be systematic meditators.

It gets harder when the content is occluded—one person might be competely unaware that something is bleeding through or that it even exists. Or they might sort of know but reflexively gaslight that it isn’t happening. Or they might be very scared and angry that a) they might be hurting people or b) that their fantasy isn’t actually private.

To make things even more complicated, people can manufacture or play up harm. They can accuse people of not just being creepy but also being subtly harmful. And sometimes they’ll be right, but it will be low-grade harm, and sometimes they’ll be mistaken, but some part of them, reflectively or unreflectively wants it to be true because it would be convenient if it were true.

To make things even more complicated, often people who are vulnerable to what another person is doing will in some sense want to be affected, in part, by what the other person is doing. Usually what the other person is doing will have "good" parts and "bad" parts, and a person’s system will "unreflectively/subconsciously choose" to take the bad with the good, in order to get the good. This will usually be reflectively disendorsed—the "good thing" upon examination, will be confused, somehow—but can still, in some sense, be used to point to complicity on the part of the person being affected. [One way of becoming less vulnerable, by the way, is to make it safe to see what is or feels good about what’s happening, or the current thing in the system, and to find a healthier version of the attractive but disendorsed thing, which can replace the net bad package as well as the receptive surface] In any case, often the seemingly good thing will in some way have been sculpted to have that attractiveness/temptation, and so on, to make it more likely that people will be hooked by it. And often the person who has the attractive/tempting thing will (at least eventually if not immediately) reflectively disendorse it being that way, too.

This is all very hard.

There is an additional phenomenon of people believing that they are protected by their rationality, reaonabilitiy, belief in science, or strength of will. But, very often, such people will still be affected in occluded layers. And so their behavior will become more harmful, because they themselves have been harmed by something, but they will be resistant or unable to investigate this. And they might also further transfer bad things to other people; they might unknowingly pass bad stuff along. Such people are good candidates for interaction with a healer, if they agree to it.

Another problematic thing that can happen is, when someone becomes a systematic meditator, they can start decompensating in ways that influence occluded material. They might have cycles of increased desperation or neediness that bleeds through in problematic or intense ways. And people who are good-faith trying to become safer to be around, or just better people, can actually become more dangerous to be around for a period of time. This extends to communities as well. For a community of self-transformers, things can get much, much, much worse until things get better—lives can be ruined and communities can get torn apart, even as people just wanted to get better together. All the bad stuff can come out in insidious and explosive ways.

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part 9: timelines and stopgaps and sanity checks:

Part of what makes this so hard is how long the timelines are. Self-transformation takes thousands of hours, and people’s patterns of vulnerability to each other are idiosyncratic. So if harm is occurring, it can take dozens, hundreds, or thousands of hours to to sort out who’s doing what to whom and to fix it. And this is superexpontential the more people that are involved.

Sometimes people just need to stop associating, even if they were lovers, friends, or colleagues before starting to self-transform. And this can be tragic when a relationship or community has formed with the best of intentions. (But people do grow apart under "normal" conditions, too.)

Discussing all this stuff up front can help. Documents like this can help. Effective self-transformative practices like the ones in this document can help.

If one is exploring the many protocol with people (see further in the document), it can be helpful to start very, very slowly, maybe just five minutes per day for months, or to not do it at all with some combinations of people. Sometimes solo transformation only is a better choice for a community.

It can be helpful to just leave the room for five minutes, if something is going on, to metabolize it and maybe come back more resilient.

If you feel buzzing or tingling in your body, localized or not, or the air seems "thick" or "shimmery," or the reality of the room seems to become "less," that doesn’t mean something is bad is necesarily happening, but something is probably happening.

But remember the issues with witch hunts, manufactured victimhood, and determining harm. But also remember the reality of gaslighting. If something feels wrong, something is wrong, somewhere.

You can intend to know exactly what’s going on. And you can intend to have a solution that’s good-faith, good-will for everyone. Sometimes you’ll need to leave or have people leave. But hopefully you won’t. May the best thing happen for everyone.

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part 10: the late-stage meditator in community:

People often become more sensitive and more vulnerable at first, possibly for months or years. But eventually...

This is just a conceptual model. The reality of it feels different, maybe, sometimes. But the below is a good way to provisionally think about what happens for a late-stage meditator.

So the late-stage meditator is mostly de-layered, de-occluded. They have access to most of their stuff, and most of their stuff healed or grown up or a bit wiser. Two particular dimensions are important, here:

The first is the dimension of self-other confusions. We can pick up stuff from other people and think it’s ours, think that it is us. And this becomes actuation just like everything else in our system. That part of us literally thinks its an extension of the other person, it feels like the other person from the inside. Any part of us that’s a little bit confused about self versus other can acquire "otherness" at any point during our lives. Over time, the systematic meditator helps their parts realize who they belong to and to realize that they only have to be themselves. Those parts, all things being equal, become "invulnerable" to future otherwise potential incidents of self-other confusion.

(Remember, you’ll always be bathed in the stuff, all the time. But it becomes information instead of influence.)

The second dimension is that of goodness/badness inversions. Sometimes we think something is good when it’s actually bad and vice versa. And often it’s highly contingent and contextual as to whether something is good or bad. And somethings can benefit one person at the expense of another. And childhood parts and layers can be quite confused or jumbled as to what’s good and bad, especially in cases of neglect and abuse but where that person was still dependent on an adult for love and protection. This can ramify as goodness/badness/self/other/boundary issues throughout a person’s system. A person is much more vulnerable to coercion when they believe something is good for them that is actually bad for them. They will "receive" material, content, intentions, will from another person to placate them, to be loved, all sorts of things, that might locally seem good to an occluded part is in fact terrible for the system as a whole. Over time, the late-stage meditator becomes wise and that wisdom percolates through the entire system. And, over time, the late-stage meditator is less and less likely to make local, perverse tradeoffs involving acceptance of ultimately unnecessary influence from other people.

So self/other confusions and good/bad inversions can be abstractly considered as the main sources or enablers of subtle interpersonal disendorsed effects.

(You may wish to temporarily skip to "part 17: the quiet interaction and the beauty of subtle interpersonal effects" before moving foward.)

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part 11: cult leaders:

Cult leaders are different. Anyone, including cult leaders, can change with luck and likely thousands of hours of work. But, a cult leader that’s a cult leader, right now, is different.

Bad things happened to them (very) early in life, or they responded to normal or bad early life things in particularly unfortunate ways. And then bad things accumulated on top of that. And now they are like this:

  1. Most people aren’t trying to affect everybody like they’ll be affecting "peers" or "potential lovers" or "direct competitive threats" or "people who are the object of my sexual fetish". And it won’t be turned on all the time. But some people, e.g. cult leaders, want to "affect all humans all the time" in some way or some significant subset of that.

  2. Not all effects have "teeth" in that there could be a superstitious element, like, the person is "doing a thing" like wanting people to die or be angry, and people are picking that up, but it’s not actually causing people to do that thing. Cult leader stuff will have teeth.

  3. There’s an issue of "grain," like people do have filters, but if someone is phenomenologically skilled (into meditation, spirituality, magic, etc.), in some literal sense a finer grain will get through people’s filters and affect them in ways that are too articulated for the average person’s system to manipulate and fix or much more likely at least "encyst".

  4. Some people claim special knowledge or authority about truth, goodness, power, sex, intimacy, connection, minds. And those claims might not be legitimate, but if the other person’s system believes them that makes it much more likely transmission will occur.

  5. Finally, that seeming special knowledge about truth, goodness, power, meaning, etc., will in some way be instantiated in that person’s mind, but will usually be in some ways perverted, warped, or incomplete (even if seemingly clear, persuasive, attractive, and valuable). And prolonged contact with such a person can have a whole-mind warping effect, which would not be the case for someone who hadn’t developed such coherent-yet-still-perverse views.

  6. FInally, some people are particularly schizoid or exquisitely walled off from the effects of sensations, somehow managing sensations such that they flow through a keyhole in order to preserve a fantasy reality of control, megalomania, (terror, fear), etc., sometimes hidden even from themselves. They might seem somewhat normal, if otherwise charismatic and/or creepy, but their minds will be arranged in a way that makes it very, very, very hard for them to responsively learn and grow, to understand the harm they’re causing and to all-the-way-down care about not hurting people or to realize, all the way down, that they’re even hurting people at all.

So charismatic cult leaders, or whatever, really are doing something especially bad.

If:

you find yourself tongue-tied, stupified, unable to argue with someone. And they’re charismatic.

And/or they make you feel sometimes incredibly good and sometimes worthless, like you and your entire life and anything you’ve ever done or will ever do again is worthless. Or that they are the only way to get X.

And if you do manage to argue, and they even don’t dismiss what you said, and even say it back to you in almost your own words, and it seems like they’re being reasonable, and something wrong still happens, you lose track of what you were going to say, or your "words get damaged," and you still find yourself tongue-tied, stupified, or ultimately unable to argue with someone.

Then, they might be a "cult leader."

They might have a magnetic pull on a person’s entire mind/belief/representational/behavioral system that causes a person to start layering. This might produce value in some ways but also produces a net global cost for that person’s system (usually). Prolonged contact might mean years of cleanup and significantly increased self-transformation timelines.

The will present themselves (overtly or subtly) as having extremely rare, or unique, critically valuable special knowledge, but, usually it’s a lie or it’s not worth it because it’s mixed with poison and detoxing before consuming is prohibitively costly.

A good self-transformation technique will typically endogenously generate sufficient value such that subtly and overtly authoritarian and coercive individuals can be in some sense ignored, at least for the purposes of acquiring the most precious things.

(Such individuals will claim to have such techniques, and will dribble out some initial value, but engaging in such techniques will likely ultimately be damaging and counterproductive. If you decide to collect "pieces" from such people, beware. Sometimes they will have stumbled on a special, rare thing. But it will be perverted in some way and will come at a price.)

It’s hard to overstate how much such an individual, one who, deep down, is relentlessly determined to control you and have you be a certain way, whether they realize it or not, can fuck up your life before you’ve realized it’s happened. Ten minutes with an individual like this can, worst-case, can mean hundreds of hours, or longer, to unfuck yourself.

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part 12: spotting a cult leader by overt signs:

Because the subtle signs are harder to detect and sometimes can’t be detected immediately, here is an incomplete list of overt signs that you’re possibly in the presence of a cult leader:

See also:

Amor, Aleaxandra. Cult, A Love Story: Ten Years Inside a Canadian Cult and the Subsequent Long Road of Recovery. Fat Head Publishing, 2013.

Lifton, Robert Jay. Losing reality: On cults, cultism, and the mindset of political and religious zealotry. The New Press, 2019.

Kramer, Joel, and Diana Alstad. The guru papers: Masks of authoritarian power. North Atlantic Books, 2012.

* "tool-ification" is someone else's term, and I might not be using it correctly

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part 13: incomplete list of relatively succinct concepts/definitions:

Of course there’s many ways to use the words below! The defintions given are partial, flawed, and idiosyncratic.

misleadingness -

It can be helpful to remember that someone can be misleading or deceptive without lying. They might very carefully only say things that are true ("selective-truthing"). They might very carefully only say things that aren’t quite relevant. They might say things in response to questions that aren’t actually answers to the questions asked. They might give special, private meanings to words and phrases that they can sufficiently defend at a later time as being what they really meant. They might say ambiguous things that can mean both something and it’s opposite, depending on later events or later clarification.

authoritarianism -

"the enforcement or advocacy of strict obedience to authority at the expense of personal freedom" [according to google]

Such advocacy, as mentioned above, can be both explicit and implicit. If explicit, there might be reasons given. If implicit, behavior will be presumptive. Reasons might involve appeals to the greater good or the need to make hard tradeoffs or for the (necessity of the) prevention of something highlighted as bad, either imminently or inevitably in the far future. Many other reasons and arguments can be given. Also: tragedy of the commons, volunteer’s dilemma, threat of anarchy or dog eat dog or inefficiency or...

One possible way to dissolve the seeming need for a blanket ideology involving overt or covert authoritarianism might be to get very concrete about "what would actually happen" in various particular, realistic scenarios, involving specific people, groups, or places.

coercion -

a person causing another person to unresponsively lock in stable or escalating patterms of mind or behavior, usually in a way that has utility for the preson doing the causing.Iif a person is coerced, then that person will have resources bound up in executing, elaborating upon, or being prepared to execute the mechanical behavior. The person will be less creative, less generative, less able to flexibly use environmental opportunities to changes and grow, relative to the degree they have been or are being coerced. [I threw this definition together, and there are cleaner, more self-consistent ones out there.]

A related concept is the usual "learned helplessness," where a person has now has new "waiting steps" such that they’re dependent on occurences outside of themselves in order to move forward on various things.

This is one route that these sorts of things can be facilitated:

  1. Demonstration of inadequacy, demonstrate a person is inadequate on some (possibly narrow) dimension. Do this be leading a person to a surprising, possibly negative result, with the implication they weren’t enough, that they were in error.
  2. Demonstration of generality. Demonstrate to the person some degree of generalization, that this inadequacy more generally applies.
  3. Hope for overgeneralization. Hope the person generalizes their inadequacy as much as possible.
  4. Demonstation of non-self-bootstrapping. Ideally-perversely, repeat steps 1-3, starting with some narrow demonstration that the person can’t resolve (at least once aspect of the original inadequacy) and again ultimately hope that person overgeneralizes to "not being able to become able to help themselves," on as many wanted dimensions as possible.

idolatry -

One might grant that goodness is objective, real, in some sense.

But, one might claim a fixed, "exteriorized" defintion for that good thing. "Goodness is X." "Goodness is righ there." "Goodness is this." "Goodness is in this." "Goodness has object-ness or thing-ness."

A possible correction is to consider that irrespective of any objective dimensions of goodness, it still must be subjectively, fluidly found, by route of a personal, unfixed path. One could take this as provisional and explore, over time, whether it has validity, including even the concept of "goodness" itself and/or the various/many senses that that word might have, inclusive of related useful concepts/words/ideas, and so forth.

maximization -

appeals to or capitalization on insecurity or paranoia ("never enough") by evoking ideas, images, or promises of "infinity," "hugeness," "foreverness," "everythingness," "all of it," etc." (as either carrot or stick)

pascal’s mugging (idiosyncratic interpretation) -

"I (may have) rare or unique things/goods of great value that you won’t be able to get anywhere else, ever, forever, if you don’t stick around or do as I say."

stipulation -

Stipulation is very useful tool when playing with arguments, thought experiments, and ideas. ("Stipulate, let, grant, given, say...") Here, I mean something more narrow.

There’s a pattern where someone will offer reasonable assumptions, and then narrowly follow the implications of those assumptions, while implicitly denying that any other reasonable assumptions are possible or that there’s even potentially another, better activity to be doing at all.

For example, one might say, "The world consists of agents who have goals." A bunch of implications would follow from that, and it seems reasonable as a starting point for discussion. But what of resources, nature, the material versus procedural nature of those goals, the implications for whether those agents have experiences or not, and the relevance of that or not, in the discussion, and so forth. (not to mention, for this example, considering e.g. humans to be agents who have collections of goals gets philosophically problematic very quickly, but, again, can be stonewalled or gaslighted as the only reasonable starting point for a large class of communicative contexts)

Besides "stipulation," other words for this might be "frame control," "schematic dominance," "framing," "out of sight out of mind," "what you see is all this is..."

An extreme version of this is foundationalism, according to wikipedia: "Foundationalism concerns philosophical theories of knowledge resting upon justified belief, or some secure foundation of certainty such as a conclusion inferred from a basis of sound premises." This is a very useful frame! But engagement with explicit premises as an activity as such is not the only way to interact or to seek truth or goodness or etc. And/but, the implication might be that any other activity is worthless, dangerous, immature, etc.

Stipulations can build up in the environment, can become implicit, omnipresent, and also interjective—it might become a norm that some people can add new stipulations at any time (whenever it’s convenient for them) and other’s can’t. And this is way to control discourse and behavior.

Another thing that can happen is "matching," where people’s perceptions and behavior tend to gel around explicat assertory statements, cf confirmation bias and/but with respect to behavior and perception as well.

more -

This list and the entries under each current item are very incomplete!

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part 14: teachers and leader timelines:

Timelines are very long. Meditative practice can take thousands of hours to make substantial progress. Real progress is "de-layering," but many seemingly good practices and produce a combination of layering and de-layering.

Even "fully de-layering" is insufficient because a person must also acquire lots of real-world knowledge about how to be good and safe for other people. And that real-world knowledge has to be "propagated throughout the system."

Becoming good, safe, and effective is a life-long journey.

If a teacher is doing something weird, it’s usually the case that they have a blindspot or hangup. It’s unlikely that they’re playing n-dimensional chess.

Good teachers can still have buried malevolence and sex stuff that even they aren’t aware of. Unburying and working through all of it will typically take someone thousands and thousands of hours, even if they have a practice that is doing very little initial layering.

But, "asymptotic perfection" is something good teachers and any serious practioner should be aspiring to, in my opinion.

Mistakes, blindspots, and fuckups should be expected, though. And if someone is doing something weird, that you’re vulnerable to, you might want to check back with them every few years instead of sticking with them and experiencing quite a bit of harm, before you realize it, that you ultimately have to undo to make further progress.

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part 15: layer theory and high-level principles of ethical, nonharmful, noncoercive, safe interaction:

Generally but not universally, de-layering, or at least not adding layering, is good. Layering is still good as a stopgap, when things are happening too surprisingly, too fast, or in some other unhandleable way, for a particular person.

Remember, layering begets more layering, and, the more layering a person has, the harder it is for that person to make further valued changes to their mind/self/behavior/etc., all things being equal. De-layering creates more optionaity for change, and faster change, all things being equal.

If a person is short-term "forcing themselves into a shape" or "trying to be or act in a particular way," at the expense of long-term growth, then that is, more or less by definition, layering.

The more a person can "just be themselves" around you, the less likely it is that they will be layering around you or layering in preparation for interacting with you. This is not universally true—a person can, for example, be layering all the time (almost everyone is, in some way), or layering before interaction with anyone, not just you, and so on. So, trying to have it be that a person can let their guard down around you, be unreflective around you, etc., will usually be at least neutral for them, relative to their baseline, and possibly good for them. One could describe this as a "low-stakes" interaction or a "safe" interaction.

There is a failure mode to the above, which is you overtly or explicitly communicating that you are safe or being seemingly safe, but, actually you are being unsafe because of subtle or overt coercive effects.

In subtle ways, you might be wishing (or "needing") that they would change their behavior, either in interaction with you or in other contexts, and that could subtly bleed through.

You might not even be aware of that wishing or needing, but if it’s safe for them to tell you that they’re experiencing it, then that’s really good. If you are aware of it, then, sometimes, often, it’s better to call it out, to explicitly note the problematic things that you’re doing, to create mutual knowledge. Sometimes, after that mutual knowledge is estabilshed, then it’s better to just end that particular interaction.

Talking about "truth" and "goodness," as such, can sometimes feel like the implication that the person needs to "change now" or "be different now." Any model or ideal or goal or concept or principle, etc., can be used as a hammer, and might be, even if a person disendorses doing so to themselves.

This can be less likely to happen if the interaction is truly low-stakes.

Interactions can become high-stakes when one person has something rare, hard-to-get, unique, and valuable or even perceived to be critically good or necessary by the other person. Then that other person is especially likely to try to be a particular way to get that value.

A situation can be made more low-stakes for that other person by good-faith and competently trying to either get that person that thing, or to show them how they can get it themselves, or to show them that it’s not actually valuable or real, or to show them that they are mistaken about its rarity or difficult-to-get-ness, and so on.

The more you can obviate yourself in the other person acquiring value, then the more low-stakes the interaction is.

Low-stakes interactions are more likely to be creative, in that both people can work together to do something even better for each other, and everyone, than they could alone.

There are of course issues of low resources (time, money, etc.), coordination costs, entrenched beliefs or preconceptions, excessive ill-will, preconceptions, etc., that it make it hard to have noncoervice, low-stakes, and creative interactions with another person. Sometimes, often, it can require tremendous preparation, over years and years, to arrange self and world to interact with other people noncoercively. But you can do your best, wherever you are on that journey, and it’s worth it.

One final pithy thing, if you’re looking for a quick-and-dirty way to try to know whether you’re being coercive versus, say ethically persuading, is you can ask, whether, functionally, you are influencing a person or informing them. Of course, seeming informing can actually be influencing, and vice versa. But I have found it helpful to check whether I’m influencing (bad, in this usage) or merely information (good, in this usage). If you need a person to respond in a particular way then there’s a real, stringent sense in which you cannot ethically interact with them, at least along that dimension, and more work is required on your part. If you have optionality, power, freedom with respect to X (or they do, or you both do) then the interaction becomes ethical with respect to X. Sometimes this can happen upstream or obliquely. For example, if both people have lots of money or other resources, then there’s less of a surface area, very generally, for either person to "coercively need" each other.

Of course, it’s nice to be needed, or is it? It’s maybe safer to be needed, in the short term. But true safety likely comes from flexible, creative interdependence, trust and reliance and skill versus brittle, inflexible (i.e. layered!) coercion.

Other people’s intelligence, skill, compassion, and love keep us safe, not them being forced into a narrow range of behaviors around you. Of course, people can locally disagree about what’s safe and good, and people can not realize how they’re being harmful, and people can be manufacturing victimhood or engaging in net-destructive self-healing strategies, and so on. So, ideally, as many people as possible are collaboratively and synergistically engaging in effective self-transformative practice and resource acquisition and distribution, etc.

In any case, if someone doesn’t need to layer in your presense, then they can grow in your presence. And, if this is mutual, then you can grow together.

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part 16: it’s not cool:

It’s best to consider the powers, the siddhis, the effects as not cool. They can become a thing in communities of practice. And they can become an ugly, escalatory, ruinous thing between practitioners. One or both people can do disendorsed, yet still hate-filled, tremendous harm to the other or to people caught in the crossfire.

(This is a bit of an overgeneralization, but: People uncontrollably (or deliberately) reach for the powers when they have social skill deficits, or they’re very afraid, or deep-down they’re resigned and feel helpless and hopeless. Otherwise, they would have already backchained to something collaborative and onstructive, both non-verbally smooth/friendly and explicitly clear, and they likely wouldn’t have found themselves in the triggering situation in the first place.)

If something especially subtly weird is going on, there is minimal to be gained from toughing it out, being seen as strong, by self or others.

And it can be very counterproductive to try to early-on become "invulnerable" to subtle interaction effects. (One is always vulnerable in the sense that we are bathed in it all the time, all things being equal. We can however transcend it, have unconfused, good information processing around it, to let it flow through us as "just information," "just background," etc.) Done too early, before enough meditative skill, trying to become "invulnerable" will produce additional layering, increase timelines, and not do much for becoming less vulnerable.

If negative effects are detected, try to separate early and often. Try to reduce incentives for unnecessary interaction (e.g. record talks or publish summaries so not everyone needs to be present).

Try not to hold grudges as this can increase meditation timelines. But, so too, if you are feeling strong negative emotions towards someone, don’t self-gaslight yourself into believing you’re not or that you shouldn’t.

And, you can just leave. You can find meaning elsewhere. You don’t need what they’re selling if it’s a group situation.

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part 17: the quiet interaction and beauty of subtle interpersonal effects:

(You may wish to read "part 10: the late-stage meditator in community" before this section if you’re skipping around.)

Over time, interactions between two trained individuals or one highly trained individual and other untrained individuals become relatively gentle and quiet, noncoercive, barely there. Interaction effects gently and liminally enhance intimacy, connection, etc.

(Remember, you’ll always be bathed in the stuff, all the time. But it becomes information instead of influence.)

Brave individuals might use intense interaction effects for training purposes, relating purposes, sexual purposes, etc. All is permitted, as it were. But I imagine most people will have no need or desire for such things, whether they’re leading quiet lives or doing big things, or doing both.

Sometimes, not all of the time, you can just walk away from shit like this.

All that said, sometimes communities become infected, and then one must engage with all this stuff in order to protect the community from the worst of what’s described above (harm to individuals or community dissolution). A community can need boundaries and sometimes "sterilization" or "clean room" approaches. That is, some communities may need skilled shamans*, some of the time.

But if a community hasn’t been "de-layered, de-compensated, cracked open" and there currently aren’t any "dark wizards" in or on the edges of the community, then it’s probably best to leave things well alone. Group practices** that can influence the boundaries between people should be used very sparingly and carefully. They are not games and even sporadic experimentation can have consequences. See the Many Protocol in this document. The Many Protocol should possibly only be explored when there is at least one highly-skilled practioner in the group (thousands of hours of effective practice).

*Stephan, V. Singing to the plants: A guide to mestizo shamanism in the upper Amazon. UNM Press, 2010.

**Katz, Richard. Boiling energy: Community healing among the Kalahari Kung. harvard university Press, 1982.

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part 18: depth of horror:

Horrible things have happened to individuals, often in childhood. Violent abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, extreme coercion. There is religious terror around hells, devils, demons. Terrible things happen to parents and grandparents, too, and that will affect the kids. There is also medical and death horror, we see relatives suffer and die in front of us or we walk in on dead bodies. Even if onself or relatives ultimately survive it can still be very tulmultuous. And there is cultural horror—slavery, extreme racism and bigotry, colonization, imperialism, genocides, holocausts, world wars, ancient curses, ancient gods, etc. All of this is rattling around in people’s minds and between minds, brought forwards through the centuries and decades. The skilled meditator will systematically work through all of this and their own stuff, over time. But there’s a lot and it takes a long time. In the meantime, one is exposed to it, in the water, as it were. And if something gets decompensated, cracked open in a group environment, then it can cause problems for multiple people.

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part 19: wisdom and antiwisdom:

Say there’s "wisdom" and "antiwisdom." Antiwisdom is childhood stuff that's hurt and confused, hidden away, nevertheless trying to affect self, others, and world.

Sometimes antiwisdom desperately seeks power, out of a combination of fear and grandiosity.

Sometimes this kind of power-seeking-antiwisdom masquerades as wisdom. When this happens, this power-seeking-antiwisdom gaslights, like, "we are bravely accepting power, to fix things or to do good," and things like that. It's gaslighting because this power-seeking-antiwisdom has reflective or unreflective, mixed or ulterior motives, e.g. exploitative self-enrichment or facilitating coercive dominance and/or sexual opportunities.

(Note, wisdom might sometimes say things like "bravely accepting power", too. So it can be hard to tell when antiwisdom is at play, just from surface words, alone.)

Besides power-seekig-antiwisdom, there is non-power-seeking-antiwisdom. Antiwisdom that is not seeking power can be irrationally hypersensitive to antiwisdom that is seeking power, especially when that power-seeking-antiwisdom is doing so by masquerading as wisdom, as above.

I say irrational for two reasons; one because the reaction to power-seeking-antiwisdom isn’t always targeted or constructive; any reaction to power-seeking-wisdom might be disproportionate, accidental, scorched-earth, disendorsed or accidentally involve collateral harm, or not involve compassion or routes to rehabilitation or redemption for that power-seeking-antiwisdom. (Some of this can be understandable, sometimes! A reaction that is targeted and measured and compassionate and constructive is a high bar—it involves wisdom!)

Power-seeking-antiwisdom (PSA) can use "irrationally hypersensitive non-power seeking antiwisdom" (NPSA) against itself by pointing out disproportionate, untargeted, or non-compassionate actions of NPSA with respect to PSA.

The second irrationality is that NPSA can sometimes mistake wisdom for antiwisdom, that is, it can be "irrationally paranoid" by seeing antiwisdom even where it is not, or can mismatch/misidentify/swap some seeming of wisdom and antiwisdom in the same person.

Non-power-seeking-wisdom can have an unboundedly aspirational relationship to wisdom and even power. That is, there are still ways in which NPSA (non-power-seeking-antiwisdom) could actually technically be "seeking power" (though that may be just to try to constructively engage with PSA or to just otherwise become safe from PSA.) And, finally, to reiterate an aside, above, wisdom and antiwisdom, including power seeking and non-power-seeking antiwisdom, and so on, can exist in the same person. (These are all too-simple abstractions, in any case.)

So, there are times when non-power-seeking-antiwisdom has to be multiple times as good/skillful as power-seeking-antiwisdom:

Non-power-seeking-antiwisdom has to learn how to distinguish (a) wisdom from (b) gaslighting, power-seeking-antiwisdom, sometimes in the same person. (Power seeking antiwisdom may not care to make some nuanced distinctions and so will have "more resources," more bandwidth, even on top of power it’s already acquired.)

Non-power-seeking antiwisdom ideally must learn how to contain, to distance from, and/or to rehabilitate power seeking antiwisdom. If the latter, one has to be less coercive than the power-seeking-antiwisdom, in order to not recreate/perpetuate it in a new form, which can involve seeking towards an ideal of "full noncoerciveness. And this has to be done in even in the face of bad examples and race-to-the-bottom attractors.

In short, sometimes non-power-seeking-antiwisdom sometimes might incline towards becoming wise, becoming wisdom and even "power-seeking-wisdom" or powerful wisdom.)

Note, even possible constructive inclinations (of non-power-seeking-antiwisdom possibly striving to become wisdom or power-seeking-wisdom) can be perversely coopted and exploited by power-seeking-antiwisdom, by somehow inclining people instead towards unhealthy versions of power or false wisdom: "we must be strong to combat evil or irrationality, and/but we must do so through self-sacrifice, self-martyring, and self-abnegation: it’s supposed to hurt." (Or they’ll say it’s not supposed to hurt but subtly "vibe" or imply that it is supposed to hurt: a subtle vibe-y, gaslighting double-bind.)

In any case, non-power-seeking-antiwisdom may sometimes seek wisdom and even power, in some way that is not self-sacrificing, not self-abnegating, not self-martyring, that is, not in a way that is just yet more, different, (self-)coercive power-seeking-antiwisdom in disguise, and so on.

To be sure, sometimes, often, wisdom consists of just maintaining boundaries and/or leaving a situation (or finding a way to leave the situation and doing so, if leaving isn't immediately possible). And part of wisdom is knowing or coming to know when that’s the right thing to do. And sometimes that's straightforward and sometimes that's complex. Outside perspectives, when possible, can sometimes be helpful.

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part 20: inappropriate reification:

Remember all the above is just a theory of convenience, a story. Find your own truth. Don’t inappropriately reify any of this or take my word for it. Good science is still true. Planes still fly. Government still do the thing they do. Computers compute. Stuff that’s true is simultaneously true. Give yourself time to integrate new, surprising stuff into a unified worldview. It will take some time.

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creativity:

What might (and could) we do together that’s better (more good), for everyone, than what we might do apart? What might we do together that’s better than what we might do apart? What might we do together that’s better than what we’ll do apart?

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the creativity of evil (plus sequence commentary):

*

auto-commentary from an online forum / email list:

Re “myopic, selfish desperation” and the whole “the creativity of evil” section. I’m not saying evil is good because it’s creative. That section was me, first-pass, trying to personally wrestle with how some (at least initially seeming) good, valuable, useful things can come from “evil” people and situations, and how does one make sense of that, and act with respect to that. If someone who’s caused a lot of harm also produces value, like, duh, that happens, but it was surprisingly jarring, to me, to finally see up-close, concrete examples, and then when is it ok to make use of that value, how do we recognize the value without de facto endorsing the harm, and how do we act towards people who produce some combination of harm and (at least seeming) value. (Maybe all the seeming value is illusory or is too laced with poison to be long-run useful, though, and so on.) I think now I would maybe say this discussion was too abstract to be useful, and articulated along the wrong joints, and one instead has to look at the concrete particulars and nth-order effects of those concrete particulars. All of this writing is due for an update.

Generally, a lot of that whole sequence was intended to be a bit of an exoteric stopgap, for harm reduction. Ditto for other earlier sections that talk about objective truth or goodness.

But every few sections, in the earlier sections, I try to mention at least some of emptiness, groundlessness, non-eternalism, and how all of that is supposed to ultimately come out of practice, over time. (I’ve been going back and adding more of those qualifiers.) The document sort of has a deliberate gradient from (a) [hopefully qualified] exoteric to (b) “explicit esoteric,” running from beginning to end.

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joy (stub):

safety = resolution of problems + mind autonomy
safety + creativity = joy

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lineages and transformative works:

There’s the Silicon Valley bromide, "A’s hire A’s; B’s hire C’s." So there’s this awareness of entropy or degradation or something.

There’s a joke about how philosophers or academics in general produce "lesser clones" of themselves.

There’s a big deal, I think, in artificial intelligence around "artificial bootstrapping," as in, if and how and when is it possible to make something better in some way than its originator.

I think, generally, in the self-help world, an academic or a sharp independent will create a technique, and then people will popularize it. Sometimes the popularization will be recognizable as the original or the original will even be referred to. Sometimes it’s called by the same name, and sometimes this is endorsed by the originator.

And, other times, the popularization will have its provenance obfuscated. The popularizer will call everything by different names, usually water the thing down, make it much easier for people to grasp.

Sometimes this will even be an improvement, but, I think, also, sometimes nuance will be left out that means that people that encounter it won’t be able to use that instantiation to "go all the way" with the material. This can still be a net win if the user would never have known about the existence of the original material or they wouldn’t have had an on-ramp to unlock the original material.

But, sometimes, a couple worse things can happen. First, people can encounter the watered-down version and then think that the original version must be likewise deficient, even though they don’t carefully investigate the encountered original. (They might not know that it’s the original gold standard, or whatever.) Another thing that can happen is that no one will want to invest in the original creator popularizing their work, when they eventually want to get around to it, because "it’s already been done." I vaguely remember at least one concrete case of this.

The above paragraph is sort of looking at potentially bad outcomes at the level of individuals, consumers and the original creators. There’s system-wide potential negative effects, too:

This happens to some extent in academic science, there’s a proliferation of low-quality papers (this is due to possibly too much funding as well as perverse incentives and metrics). And, skilled researchers can identify quality lines of work and build on those, but less skilled researchers and scientists in adjacent communties have a much harder time weeding through all the crap. This might be isomorphic to the idea of a market for lemons, which is a notable economics paper. If I recall correctly, in a market for lemons (as in lemon cars versus cherry cars?), there’s no way to tell which are the lemons and which are the cherries (back in the day), and so there was no incentive to sell cherries, and the average quality of used car was very low. (I’m probably getting something wrong, here.)

Transferring this over to meditation-land. If there’s too many techniques to try because of low-quality and even well-intentioned popularizers and teachers, and say a person can’t efficiently weed through techniques until they find quality ones, because, for that person, it takes too long to know whether a technique is working or not—they might just not try to engage with meditation techniques at all.

At think wisdom traditions, meditation lineages partially solve this by investing a lot of resources into a small number of people and authorizing some of them to teach and appointing one as a successor.

This helps with succession and quality maintenance but is still vulnerable. It’s hard to be invulnerable to quality degradation. (Sometimes synthesizers or revivalists [or popularizers who choose wisely!] figure out or semi-invent things that are as good or better than the originals, at least along some dimensions.) People from the outside still have to figure out which lineages are actually good, and so there’s still a market for lemons problem, even if the lineage itself is doing an ok job of maintaining quality. And there’s the scaling problem.

Even though science has its issues, it’s partially solved some of these kinds of problems, at scale, with with good feedback loops "truth", empiricism, explicitness, etc. Again there’s a proliferation of low-quality papers. And, I think we’ve lost a good deal of our ability to train skilled scientists. But something was working ok for a while, and we’re still limping along, and science and technology are still progressing. (I’m ignoring the moral angle as well as opportunity costs, what could have been, in some neighboring world, here.)

One can do a similar thing with self-improvement and meditation techniques. That is, while meditation traditions have texts, there’s often secret knowledge, or keys to unlocking those texts, that could only be gotten in person. (Sometimes people can bootstrap, one way or another, into unlocking texts without forming an intense relationship with a teacher.)

That similar thing is to write better meditation manuals, and to keep improving them. Make them comprehensively explicit and conceptually clear. (My material has a long way to go, but it’s arguably pretty good. It seems like people do best when they’ve had some prior contact with other meditation techniques, and often it takes at least a tiny bit of question-answering with me, but some fraction of people on-ramp pretty quickly. And it’s my hope that skilled people will be able to de novo bootstrap with my material even if they have no contact with anyone who’s used it before, say if they find it on the internet somewhere.

There’s still all sorts of dangers, here. It’s a trope of people destroying themselves with found texts and people mistintpreting texts or teachers, going too far too fast or perversely misterpreting, becoming dark wizards, cult leaders, arch nemeses, and so forth.

But there’s something better, sometimes, about freely available, explicit meditation manuals versus esoteric knowledge mostly locked up in people. (Back in the day, by being esoteric, that’s how some traditions survived, I assume, making it possible for as to know about them and build on them. They kept the knowledge rare and valuable, so they could eat and keep the thing going. Hard problems, here. It sometimes also avoided the dangers in the above paragraph, probably, but the tropes still exist for a reason.)

In any case, I worry that my material will be cleaned up and popularized in a way that both dilutes it and actually harms dissemination, breadth and depth, for some of the reasons above.

More to say, and more to come, I suppose.

It’s partially hard because I want people to take apart the material and rewrite it, because that’s a good way to learn, maybe the best way to learn. And I do want people to improve on the material, to the point that it becomes unrecognizable, in part because it’s better that way or just that it’s equally good (or whatever) but the new language speaks better to a different group of people.

Often when people recreate something, they get it working just enough for themselves, whether they realize that’s what they’ve done or not, and they distribute it anyway, and this contributes to noise in the system, lemon markets, people thinking they’ve already seen better thing but it’s not worth it, and so on. (I think something like this happens in open source software, for some language and some domains. Also the forking, which is sometimes critically excellent and sometimes divisive, resource-draining, and community-killing.)

So I guess I’m asking something like, if you lightly reshape the material, link back to my thing. If you heavily reshape the material, either make it so unrecognizable (if that’s natural) that’s there’s sort of no brand or community overlap, as it were, so that more and more people can be reached without instead just confusing people. And, in any case, try to make it excellent, try to make it so that it takes people all they way from many, many, many different starting points. Make it as excellent, effective, and comprehensive as you can, and powerful enough to take many different people at different starting points absolutely all the way.

It’s my hope that we can make it really obvious who’s stuff is good, somehow cutting through all the noise. And then we link all the good stuff to all the other good stuff, and then people can choose from superb protocols that meet them exactly where they’re at. And somehow there’s just enough choice to benefit people, and low enough proliferation that there’s a very high signal-to-noise ratio.

This is a theoretical-technical-empirical problem—makes the instructions interpretable and excellent. And partially a sociological problem—guard the community from entropy and noise. And those two problems are interrelated.

Let’s try to have the right thing happen, and I also hope that my writing this doesn’t have a chilling effect, somehow. Let’s do the best we can to get supremely excellent material safely into as many hands as possible.

Maybe it’ll be a long time before people’s work diverges and competes with mine (in a good(!) way or a bad(!) way or both). Or maybe it’s coming up fast. Unclear, at the time of this writing.

See also, if twitter still exists when you’re reading this: https://twitter.com/swardley/status/1200193566749921280

Well, he probably wouldn’t mind if I just pasted it here:

Thread
See new Tweets
Conversation
Simon Wardley #EEA #Labour
@swardley
Me : Gosh, your work is truly amazing.
X : Thanks. I'd like to make it more widespread like your mapping.
Me : That's easy. Just make it open, creative commons. People will ignore for years but don't worry.
X : What if someone steals it.
Me : They can't steal what you give away.
5:23 PM · Nov 28, 2019·TweetDeck
18
Retweets
70
Likes
Simon Wardley #EEA #Labour
@swardley
·
22h
Replying to
@swardley
X : But wha if someone else makes money with it?
Me : That's good news. The more the better. You're trying to create a community, a space for your work to exist in. Do you seek irrelevance?
X : No
Me : Then open it up.
Simon Wardley #EEA #Labour
@swardley
·
22h
X : Can't I get some VC to sponsor or invest in me?
Me : You're more likely to get someone with capital to steal your idea, cut yourself out of a market and never expand it. Entire markets are lost over legal squabbles and attempts to "own" stuff ... see Unix.
Simon Wardley #EEA #Labour
@swardley
·
22h
X : I wasn't around at that time.
Me : Oh, no problem. The entire future of the operating system was lost by a bunch of squabbling execs backed up by over enthusiastic lawyers, none of which could spell strategy let alone play it. This is a common story throughout history.
Simon Wardley #EEA #Labour
@swardley
·
22h
... into the mix, an "unruly" individual played an open source hand and asked for help. It was mostly laughed at, dismissed as lacking any business acumen and then won the world. It's another reasonably common story.
Simon Wardley #EEA #Labour
@swardley
·
22h
X : Reasonably?
Me : Yes ... an open play doesn't exempt people from making utterly daft mistakes. See OpenStack and differentiation on APIs with AWS.
Simon Wardley #EEA #Labour
@swardley
·
22h
X : I'm nervous about this.
Me : Well, that's a good sign. The numero uno of daft moves is to open by default. You're struggling with this question which means you're on the open by thinking path. Even my opening of mapping all those years ago had a plan but no guarantees

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practice preliminaries:

[This (super)section intentionally left blank. Scroll down for the contentful subsections!]

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timeline, mindset, trajectory, harm:

I’ve rewritten the below a few times. It still feels like a very early draft, and it could be rewritten one hundred more times.

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raw hours:

So there’s this partially open-ended thing that you can do with the bodymind. And it takes time, thousands of hours. There’s a part that can’t be compressed, sort of the raw thing you’re working with, the way your mind is, right now, in all its complexity, that has to be worked all the way through. And then there will be contingent things that will make all of that go faster or slower.

If someone is older, they’ll have more raw stuff to work through. [The following sentence is long and hard to parse, and I apologize.] I suspect, for, say, someone who’s, I don’t know, between eighteen and thirty years old, with no really perverse trauma that can confusingly mix good and bad together, for example childhood sexual abuse, who’s really good with working with documents and a teacher, maybe they could start to asymptote around 6000 hours. Maybe. There are still unknowns, here. I suspect something more realistic, for someone between eighteen and forty-five, is anywhere from 8000-12,000 hours. Maybe!

Every problem you encounter may seem like it’s the deepest last problem. But there will be another, and another, maybe with a delay but inevitably, until there isn’t. So plan for this, in resources (time, money, relationships), possible break-taking (to make money or friends), opportunity costs, etc. One can’t predict using timelines, or plan using timelines—one has to just assume it’s going to take 10 years 20 years even if it only takes 1.7 years. This can potentially be hard and risky, depending on available resources and opportunity costs, and likely or possible sequelae. This paragraph will be at the end of the next section as well.

I sometimes say that all of this, for some degree of "asymptotic done-ness," with optional plenty more to do, across a lifetime, takes roughly, on the order of, 10,000 hours.

Below is a discussion of the use of the number "10,000."

[...]

Mark:

the "[10,000] hours" thing may end up being problematic for a lot of people. [i do think it's a pretty good rough estimate; i chose that number carefully and i'm tracking data, as it comes in, to see if that estimate should be updated, and/but,] i just wanted to convey something about the seriousness of the investment, how long bad patches can be, and how counterintuitively long it can take to get certain benefits.

but like if people don’t meditate while falling asleep or waking up bc it’s hard to start and stop a timer, ahhhh. all sorts of goodharty stuff is possible, leading to too much grindy meditation and too little ad hoc meditation

collaborator1:

I also recently found the 10k number VERY helpful to get oriented (see "in an hour maybe you can cover 1% of 1%") so for me "Estimating" to get a sense of scale seems good for me right now, and "Tracking" seems hilariously bad

collaborator2:

@collaborator1 the 1% of 1% thing as expectation management and setting small goals / making sure I am not pushing too hard has been super helpful to me.

collaborator1:

!! Right: although they superficially seem the same (pointing at the scale of the endeavor) there is a huuuuuuuge difference in flavor between "in a given hour I can expect to cover 1% of 1% of what’s down there" versus "oof, lotta hours, gotta start churning them out - gotta do more hours"

The former encourages me to "push" or "force" a LOT less, to be WAY more patient

The latter makes me impatient

"This is a slow, gentle unfolding. It thrives when given breathing room, time, and space" versus "This is gonna be a herculean raw accumulation of effort."

"I am going to a meditation retreat so I can put in a bunch more hours" (latter) vs "I am going on retreat so I can give this process so much slack, so little pressure; allow it to bloom, to rest, to unfurl into the time abundance"

... I think this mood more or less is my practice, right now. The entirety of it

[...]

collaborator1:

Mooore musingssssss. Given that the timescale is "in" the state of the system (how tangled it is), and it "wants" to unfurl, my job is to make space where it could unfurl

So I win every time I clear space and time where I could meditate or whatever

Every time I’m not enforcing some constraint that’s incompatible with doing a little bit of untangling/unfurling right then

Even if I - even if "the system" - chooses to do "something else" with that time/space (edited)

Sometimes I end up going kinda deep on some interospective sifting, but sometimes I end up doing art or cleaning or something, that’s all good

[...]

collaborator3:

What’s the benefit of keeping track of how long you meditate for?

How is it not just an overhead?

Does it help anything? (aside from research, e.g. Mark would want to estimate how long it might take for the sake of people adopting his approach)

Mark:

for me, as a very, very rough guide of "where one is at" so it doesn’t feel like a vague infinity. it matters less if someone can "just tell" the time spent is good and valuable, but, even then, a very rough hour guesstimate can help someone gently persevere when/if things sometimes feel endlessly hard.

with current data [2020-12-03], "10k hours" seems like a good heuristic for a "first-pass tour of all the possible surprises and neat/terrible stuff before things mostly ongoingly chill out"

a GENTLE, loosely held, completionism thing, I think, can help, too, hour count-wise, if it doesn’t become goodhart-y and grind-y, for people who are particularly interested in "going all the way," for whatever that individually means to them. though whatever that means to them, individually, could come in/"finish" way under or over 10,000 hours. (and, 10k or not, in any case, some people, long-run, will be doing things across a lifetime, along a complex spectrum of priority and investment.)

[end discussion]

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better to finish, and smoothly:

[editing note: noting that the discussion just added above maybe confusingly tone clashes with this section]

One of the things that’s hard is that, I suspect, for most people, doing the thing will either consume their lives or they’ll get stuck. There’s the saying, "Better not to start. If you start, better to finish."

Some people will try to fit all this into the way their life currently is, their job, their relationships. That might work, meditating one to three hours per day, with more on the weekends, and intensely a few times per year. (But, again, see above how long that’ll take, calendar time, given the raw number of hours needed to asymptote.) One possible outcome of this is that they won’t notice many things changing. And that’s a safe tolerable outcome. But, if that person gets into some hard stuff, they might not have the "habitual intensity" to get themselves out. And they may get stuck in a state that’s hurting themselves, people they care about, and possibly many people that they incidentally come into contact with in their daily lives.

So there’s a certain safety in "really committing." You don’t have to do that in the beginning. You can ramp up slowly over six to twenty-four months, maybe, to see if you really want to do this thing. Maybe. We don’t have enough data, yet. This section will change as that data comes in. Be very careful about experimenting, to figure out whether you’re in or you’re out. Don’t accidentally get too far. It happens.

An important part of the that "really committing" is not just knowing that you’re going to put in a lot of hours. That other part is something like "cognitive burden" or "cognitive momentum." It often or even usually won’t look like normal "figuring things out," though it very well might, but your mind is going to be occupied solving problems of types its never, ever had to solve before. And, to make progress, this is sometimes going to be going on "in the back of your mind" when you’d potentially rather be, say, making money or enjoying or strengthening relationships. One person described it to be as "whole self demanding" as another full time job or another primary relationship. So, even if one doesn’t meditate for three days or something, that "job-ness" or "relationship-ness" in terms of how the mind is processing beneath the surface (or not) doesn’t go away.

A few paragraphs above, I mentioned, "they may get stuck in a state that’s hurting themselves, people they care about, and possibly many people that they incidentally come into contact with in their daily lives." Being "really committed" also involves trying to have life flexibility to sometimes dial the intensity up even more, to move through harmful states faster or more smoothly. Other sections will talk a bit more specifically about the possible harms to oneself and other people. But, if something like that is going on, one wants to be able to ideally isolate themselves for as many hours or days is necessary to get to something better. That’s going to put a strain on relationships, depending on how complete that isolation should be. It’s better to have kids after one or both people get on the likely far side of all of that.

This paragraph is in the section above, too: Every problem you encounter may seem like it’s the deepest last problem. But there will be another, and another, maybe with a delay but inevitably, until there isn’t. So plan for this, in resources (time, money, relationships), possible break-taking (to make money or friends), opportunity costs, etc. One can’t predict using timelines, or plan using timelines—one has to just assume it’s going to take 10 years 20 years even if it only takes 1.7 years. This can potentially be hard and risky, depending on available resources and opportunity costs, and likely or possible sequelae.

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a failure mode:

I’ve talked above about "intensity" and "really committing," but this can lead people into a very common failure mode. So this might be one of the most important subsections you’ll read in this entire document.

When people first start using this material, they might do a thing that could be called any of the things below:

magical button-pushing
excessive-faith meditation
superstitious meditation
"meditate-and-pray"

What these mean, and they all refer to the same thing, is to sort of be doing one’s best to follow the instructions maybe to the letter, but not trying to understand and enact the instructions to their very essence or core. Even if one is using the meta protocol, and the meta meta protocol, one can still be doing something like this.

It’s better to maybe pretend that the instructions are complete shit, a lossy telephone game, that’s pointing at a real thing (or is it), but something got hopelessly garbled. And, you want the value, but you should then interact with the instructions with the intention to find "the real instructions behind the instructions." This isn’t a new idea. But, even where some parts of this document are vague, some parts are crystal clear (in some sense), albeit hard to parse or initially interpret. And that (arguable) clarity can make it seem like "all one has to do is follow the instructions," which just isn’t true.

I tell people they would ideally create their own instruction document, that leaves out none of the essential complexity that this document is pointing to, but is entirely in their own words...

Without this section, I think the written instructions do eventually lead people to the "real instructions," but hopefully reading this will make that go faster.

I want to emphasize, though, that ALMOST EVERYONE inevitably starts with magical button-pushing. One shouldn’t be ashamed of this. Some percentage of people just won’t be able to help themselves. Not-being-able-to-help-it, to not do it, of course, is why we meditate in the first place. Finding one’s way to the real instructions, over tens or hundreds of hours, is just part of the thing.

Be precise, patient, and gentle.

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meditation is not strength-training:

[Originally published: https://meditationstuff.wordpress.com/2020/01/20/meditation-is-not-strength-training/ (Last accessed: 2020-09-06)]

I think the repetition/strength-training/functional-reserve model of meditation is pretty misleading. The mind isn’t a muscle. It’s better to think of it as a digital state machine that can self-modify its state transition function, even though this borrows from the dubious computing metaphor. The mind is not analog and not mushy. It is shockingly digital and lossless. Seeming muscle-ness is an abstraction on more fine-grain dynamics. To succeed, one must eventually engage with those dynamics as they are (of course, but models matter). "Strength training" causes people to accumulate a great deal of momentum and cruft that they then have to reverse and undo. I’ve heard stories of people who wish they’d had a better sense of "right effort," earlier on.* I personally think it’s better to think in terms of puzzle-solving, test-check, and wayfinding right from the start.

An analogy I use is that the mind is made of a tangle of perfectly flexible, perfectly fluid steel cables that are also perfectly incompressible and inelastic. Maybe like cooked spaghetti or heavy rope, but "indestructible" or "unforgiving." And you can reweave the cables but nothing can be created or destroyed. (This isn’t entirely true because experience tangles in new cable(s) and correct reweavings cause cables to losslessly become one ["elegance collapse"].] No escape but ultimately clear directionality in the space of play.

I think Donald Knuth has an essay somewhere about programming. And he makes an analogy that, when people first start learning programming, they think it’s like drawing, where, if you push harder with the pencil you get a darker line. I think the more recent idea of "programming by coincidence" is downstream of this essay. I don’t agree with everything in the essay, if I remember it correctly, but some of the metaphorical/analogical distinctions are great.

Yes, experimenting, yes playing, yes learning. But not guessing and hoping, or doubling-down, over and over again!

To back off a little bit, there is something to the "train the microscope then use the microscope." There is "gathering" of content and method, over and over again. Behavior is, if not digital, then coherent–walking and talking and eating. Some behaviors are digital-ish, like speaking or writing, though they are waves in a preconceptual/postconceptual ocean. And/but/then/anyway it’s like the insights, the microscope(s), get perpetually rewoven through the entire system, while the system retains something of their character. This isn’t quite right, but I think it’s better than the strength-training analogy.

To back off a little bit more, I can imagine the strength-training analogy can be empowering and is a better model than "hapless, hopeless prisoner/captive of one’s own uncontrollable mind"!

But mind as collaborative puzzle-solving coconspirator (albeit with potentially miles and miles of terrible, torturous, self-reflexive, strange-loop confusion) might be better.

*Of the people in the wild who have succeeded or seem to be making inexorable progress, it does seem that "overshooting and correcting" does work. And the more likely failure mode is "not reaching escape velocity." But, I think explicit wayfinding might be best thing. Not enough theory/data, yet. And, I don’t know how much selection bias is in my (contemporary) "historical" data.

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entrenchment and active occlusion (layering):

Along with "intensity" and "really commiting" and "magical button-pushing," is sort of "creeping unreflective desperation and unresponsiveness." Often we start meditating because, whether we can put our finger on it or not, something is terrible, horrific somewhere. There is something really, really, really, really bad. And, the first impulse of the mind, in some sense, once the mind gets just enough knowledge to start making changes to itself, is to reflexively, in some sense, run as far away from the bad thing as it possibly can.

And that running away, paradoxicaly, tragically is exactly the wrong thing that ultimately needs to happen. (That’s often the case but not always. Sometimes the "running away" is the only way the mind can pick up tools to finally turn around and come back.

In any case, whether it’s good or bad, that running away will sometimes freeze not just that deep dark bad thing (or, usually, a bunch of deep, dark bad things) but will "freeze" a whole bunch of other things as well.

That is, a meditator can become more rigid, more neurotic, more belligerent, more unresponsive, more "unspiritual" before things turn around. And some of that rigidity might not go away for until the meditator is close to the "very end." Or it’ll painfully come and go in ways that are distressing to both the meditator and the people around them, hopes and expectations dashed, over and over again.

So, this section is both for caution and expectation setting but also to possibly make it a bit less likely that something like this will happen. Judicious use of the meta protocol and the meta meta protocol will help.

Another way to look at all this is, at a very different level of abstraction, "don’t even try to make yourself a certain, very specific way. And, even more so, don’t ever try to move forward without understanding why you’re not already that way." Beware, beware, "I should just be able to do X..."

Again, be precise, patient, and gentle.

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extreme skill and extreme standards:

It can be helpful to realize that you need to become a genius. You need to become brilliant. You will become brilliant, at least along some narrow dimensions, in the course of doing this thing. If you strive for that, relax into it, things will go more smoothly.

The level of skill and (mostly implicit) intricate knowledge that you need to acquire is shockingly high. It’s like you need to learn every single instrument in an entire orchestra, including the ones that, at least historically, very rarely get used, as well as how to be a conductor. But that’s what the protocol is for. The protocol helps you do that. But if you’re ready for that, you know what’s supposed to happen, then that can go more eaily.

Additionally, it can help to reach for words, phrases, and concepts like these:

[And eventually you will let go of the above! Perfection-in-imperfection type stuff, aconceptual and post-conceptual type stuff. Letting go of "done" and "done-ness" and "finished" and "end" and "completion," etc.]

[No-goal, no-plan, no-view, no-position, no-escape, no-refuge, no-end, no-next, no-later, no-elsewhere, no-elsewhen, no-success, no-failure, no-purpose, no-point, no-good[~], no-bad[~], no-evil, no-self, no-choice, no-stability, no-completion, no-path, no-fruit, no-refuge, nothing-to-do, nothing-to-hold-on-to, no-stability, no-foothold, no-bootstrap, nondual, not-two, not-one...][no old life to get back to, no "getting back to it" [afterwards], no elsewhere, no other place, no world out there, no people, no hope, no fear, no remainder, nothing left over, no permanence, no refuge, no foothold, no fixing/stilling, no depending, nothing waiting for you [to finish], no fact of the matter, nowhere to run, nowhere to hide]

That is, it can be helpful to realize, at the finest grain, there’s no vagueness, no "mush," no "slop." The mind, in some sense, is shockingly lossless. Like, there’s compression, to be sure, but that compression is shockingly lossless.

You might think of the mind as made up of incompressible, inelastic, lossless, indestructible steel cables that are all very long and tangled together. And you need to untangle them and thread one-hundred percent of them all the way through their individual needle holes. And because of the nature of those cables it’s simply impossible to cheat.

Or, you might think of the mind is made up of one’s and zero’s, like a computer program or something. (And, luckily, there’s tons of parity checking.) And, by the time you’re finished, not even a single bit can be wrong. No bits left behind, not a single one.

You don’t have to be stressed about this, in the sense that the mind is going to lead you to all those needed untwists or bits left behind. In some sense, which is part of the whole point, the mind isn’t going to let you half-ass anything. That’s not how the mind works.

But the main point is that, the more you go with the grain of this, the more smoothly it will go. There’s a right ordering to everything, to be sure. And sometimes it’s going to suck.

But, if you know that you might indeed need sometimes spend five hundred hours going after one "bit," and indeed you might need to do that twenty times, that’s just part of the practice. That is the practice.

Again, the protocol will lead you to this level of conscientiousness and skill. The protocol (and the meta protocol and the meta meta protocol) and how the mind responds will lead you to find every last one of those bits, in some sense won’t let you do anything less, will help you be sure you’ve got them all. You’ll eventually get a taste for perfection, flawlessness, etc.

You’ll learn how to work at the finest grain. You’ll learn how to act with continuity, continuousness, without inappropriate gaps, jumps, jogs.

The protocol might start out feeling super clunky, not like meditation at all. But, over time, bottom up, it’ll look more and more like "classical contemporary noting" [sic] and concentration without support.

Go with the grain of this, not against it.

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physical sequelae:

If you start inclining towards the very faintest beginnings of crippling muscle tension, nerve root impingement, intracranial pressure, intraocular pressure, then you’ve left something out. There’s a memory or a "bit" missing, somewhere. Engage the meta protocol and meta meta protocol and the preliminary/auxilliary practices and outside resources, if necessary, to go and find it. Ideally, do these things long before there’s even the faintest hint of muscle tension, etc. It’s much, much easier for any of that to creep up on you than it is to dispel it.

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the end of your world (after adyashanti, maybe?):

Along with that extreme skill and extreme standards, there’s also something needed like courage or bravery.

In some sense, everything you thought you knew about everything is going to be wrong. Things are going to seem pretty normal on the far end, but, holy shit, in the middle, sometimes.

Your deepest assumptions are going to be questioned, and you’re likely going be absolutely shocked, at least a few times.

And some things are going to creepingly seem like horrible, horrible, intolerable "truths" at least at first. Or you’re eventually realize you’re mistaken, or you’ll eventually realize it’s not actually that bad.

But, there’s probably going to be away in which "everything is taken from you," sometimes figuratively or at least psychologically (or even spiritually; or even literally, if understandably but tragically parts of your life get fucked up).

Bravery. Courage.

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drama:

Beware of decompensated impulsiveness. Don’t cheat on your significant other. Don’t blow up at your friends. Don’t create situations where you need to be saved. Don’t be dramatic. And/but, be exactly as dramatic as you need to be but no more.

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error propagation, wayfinding, grace of what minds are:

Holy shit, a lot of warnings here, about things that can go wrong. It’s important to keep in mind, and this has been a lifeline for me, and it’s true, the mind is ultimately reversible. Any "mistake" or mistake the mind has made, whether it was in the first moments of consciousness or a dumbass (as it were; or completely innocent) thing you were doing for two thousand hours in the course of meditation. The mind will ultimately untwist its way to that thing, raise that thing, backchain all the necessary prerequisites, complete those, and then correct the thing. And that’s whether you’re eighteen or ninety. All you need to do is practice correctly, to responsively, methodically, intelligently, intuitive crank. Meditation works because this is what minds are. This is what minds do and this is what meditation does and that’s why we’re doing it.

Error propagation, meditating (or just living) in a way that incidentally or systematically spreads and ramifies errors throughout mind, experience, and behavior is just a thing.

But meditation is also systematic error-correction, problem-solving and backtracking.

Meditation is global wayfinding.

Meditation is not, say, "strength training" or a "faith exercise" (although surrender and faith play a part).

Meditation is unlocking an intricate puzzle box.

Meditation is global wayfinding.

Meditation is wayfinding.

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on good and bad [draft]:

The words “good” and “bad” are used a lot throughout this document. In some sense, the entire document is built around these words--and, of course, not just the words, but what they might mean, loosely held.

But what do they mean, in this context? And why words with such baggage, such laden connotations (sometimes religious, moral, parental, self-policing, etc.)?

The words "good" and "bad" were chosen, because, even though their connotations are problematic, most all other words that were considered didn’t have quite the right denotations.

A few words that were considered for “good”: valued, useful, wholesome, skillful, wise... You could probably come up with a few much better ones, but, for my part at least, none of them really captured the sense that I was looking for. I even considered using (nonce? neologism? slang?) words like “yay” and “bleh” in place of “good” and “bad.”

But, ultimately, by “good” I just mean good. And by “bad” I just mean bad. By dropping the quotes in that previous sentence, I just did a particularly language-y thing, like I'm pointing to one specific there, there. Am I? Is there?

So, yeah, by dropping the quotes, that’s not to essentialize or eternalize good and bad, to fix and crystalize their meanings, to point at something enduringly real or existing, to point to them as something outside of you, or something eternal and authoritative. But that’s not to say that they don’t mean anything either, that it’s all meaningless or nothing or nihilism, that there isn't anything there. No no, on the contrary, "goodness"/goodness in particular can be an incredibly powerful concept (not to inappropriately reify concepts as such, either--and it's less: "concepts"--and more: "the very transparently, seamlessly appearing being and seeming of the world, through and through, without remainder). And, regarding that "power," not the least of which because of the perhaps singular way it can keep pace with a person's untwisting and untangling. Wrestling with "goodness" ("true goodness," "actual goodness," "really real goodness"--not to inappropriately reify "true" and "actual" and "really real" is perhaps singularly productive. Maybe. Another way to put it, and this is problematic too, is "what do I actually really truly all the way down wholeheartedly, heartfelty want just because I want it? Kind of, sort of.

What I’m pointing at, too, here, is something like,

“nth-order consequentialism across all time horizons, immediate, imminent, proximal, distal, and everything between, before, during, and after” (not to inappropriately reify TIME, eternity, sempiternity, now, anything--this is just a schema, just words)

That was a messy mouthful. Slightly shorter is "nth-order consequentialism across all time horizons." This is just my gloss, my handle.

To say more, it's something like, just, given this, in front of me, what’s going to happen, "exactly" what's going to happen (holding that loosely, not clenching around that or fixating on "exactly," it's just words) and is that good or bad, all of it, the whole of it, local-in-the-context-of-global? (not to inappropriately reify "global")

Again: just, relative to these different choices, or, loosely speaking, possible worlds, what's now/then going to happen, and is that outcome, or those outcomes, plural, or this/that unfolding future good? (not to inappropriately reify "future")

Good and bad are sort of only meaningful relative to local choices and short- and long-run outcomes, and what-could-have-happened-otherwise's, sort of.

And, then, in light of all of that, "good" and "bad" is a HARD thing to judge, to discern, to evaluate, to predict, to intuit! You could tie yourself in knots, trying! Though, at the same time, we’re doing it all the time, reflectively and unreflectively, through and through. Arguably, it's a thing you're not doing at all, or is it, or isn't it?

To make the point in a different way, there’s a daoist story, where seeming good and bad get reversed, over and over again:

I don’t remember exactly how the story goes, but maybe a farmer loses his most valued horse (bad?), but then the horse comes back, followed by more horses (good?), and maybe the farmer’s son breaks his leg training one of the new horses (bad?), but then the son doesn’t have go fight in a horrific war being waged for questionable reasons (good?), and perhaps the son is still crushingly, devastatingly ashamed for not fighting (bad?), but it engenders in him a thoughtfulness and sensitivity that puts him on the road to wisdom, which is valued by his peers, community, and potential intimate partners (good?)... And then maybe more seeming good and bad follows from that? And so then were all the prior events good or bad? Or both? Or neither? Maybe the story goes something like that.

Anyway, good and bad is sort of blurry, relative, conditional, dependent, interdependent, nebulous, provisional, uncertain. So, not eternal. But also not meaningless: good and bad might still be wholehearted and heartfelt, it’s ok to care, it’s ok for it to matter. But the use of these words isn’t intended to be moralizing and you aren’t being god’s-eye-view judged.

So, yeah, good or bad? It's hard to know, to tell. I've said in other places, sometimes good doesn't feel (completely) good (or feel good at all) and sometimes bad doesn't feel (completely) bad (or feel bad at all), or what's going on is mixed, or uncertain, and so on. (In any case, with respect to "X doesn't necessarily feel X," you should still trust yourself, as best you can! This isn't meant to be undermining! One can only just do their best, as best they can! And it's enough!)

But, again, you sort of have to judge, discern, evaluate (or you don't have to at all, truly, just let go, just surrender, too, over and over again). At first this might be a little too “head-y,” a little too intellectual, but it’s really meant to be intuitive, too, whole body, whole everything, felt, the global context of bodymindworldpastpresentfuture [sic]. That is, you sort of have to take into account what happened before, what’s going to happen after, what’s all going on now. The local sort of only makes sense in a global context. "Is/was 'this' good or bad or etc.," is not, generally, a (successfully) myopic question, though sometimes (often?), temporarily, you are just doing the best you can in a locally myopic and narrow vacuum, and that's ok. That's part of the process.

Anyway, all that said, sometimes, it’s just sort of too much, at too fine a grain, sometimes too fast (or at least ever-changing, ever-shifting). Like, say you’re doing something, or something happened, or there aren't any "things" that you can currently pick out of anything, or things keep changing, and then, in all that, of all that... is/was that good or bad?? It's ok, especially and first, and any time, if you sort of feel like you're playing continual catch-up, like the river is flowing too fast or slipping through your fingers. It's ok, any time, to float, to just go with the flow. Things will become clearer and "temporally appropriate bottom-up action" will "rise to meet the right things at the right times", more and more over time.

And, it’s ok, especially at first, and often, even late-stage, to just not know, over and over again, to be uncertain or to even have no idea whether “something” (perhaps blurry, fuzzy, shimmery, nebulous as it is) is “good” or “bad.” There can be pockets of "reconsidering," "not knowing," "unknowing," sometime really distinctly, sometimes brief and small, sometimes big and lasting for seconds, minutes, hours or days, in the beginning, middle, and lates stages of practice. When you find these pockets, that's gold--if safe, if it's the right time, if it's good to do... hang out with them, keep them company. You may find you're pressed up against them. And through all that...

Part of it all, is eventually getting to the point of having a real sense of what to do (not to inapproriately reify "real" or "sense")--and this is through experimenting, learning, watching, waiting, again—letting go, letting things happen. It's a process. And, the knowledge (loosely speaking, not to inapproriately reify knowledge) that grows, the wisdom, the discernment is local and global, object and meta, specific and general, precise and heuristic, always provisional.

Over time, bit of pieces of the (what's good and bad [to do, start, stop, maintain, facilitate, gently temporarily prevent, gently temporarily block] sensemaking, can explicated, verbally articulated, sometimes, sometimes even in abstract, general, architechtonic ways--rules, methods, theories, procedures, protocols.

But the real thing-behind-the-thing is implicit, inexplicit, nebulous procedural knowledge, implicit how knowledge. Meditation is more like riding a bike (or driving a car or jogging) than writing an essay or giving a speech. (It's a very complex, multidimensional bike, to be sure, though ultimately simple on the far side of complexity.) In the end, deep down, you don't quite know how you're doing what you're doing, even as you gently ease towards mastery. Somehow, somehow, the experimenting, the trying, the noticing, the letting go, yes even the thinking!, the figuring!, becomes skill and confidence, over time. In that unknowing and provisionality is simultaneously an unshakeable faith (in the positive sense), an unshakeable trust, in grace, in something, perhaps.

Anyway, especially, what "good" and "bad" mean or don't mean, to you, will and "should" evolve, over time, as you engage in the practices in this document. Sometimes they will semantically saturate, sometimes, you will realize your conception of something was too narrow, to head-y, not embodied, not em-world-ed, was leaving something out, was maybe not wholehearted and heartfelt and complete and something, as you thought (not that those words or anything have to resonate with you, personally). You will find errors and misconceptions and mistakes, on your terms, and the meaning of good and bad will change. And sometimes, of course, you'll go by how things feel and not even be thinking about good and bad, as such, at all, even unreflectively.

In any case, then, good is sort of every-always "seemingly maybe 'good,' in the appropriate sense, as far/best as you can currently tell, provisionally, maybe, at least right now," and bad is sort of ever-always "seemingly maybe 'bad,' in the appropriate sense, as far/best as you can currently tell, provisionally, maybe, at least right now," and/or/also you can reject the ontology, such as: "there is no good and/or bad, there is (just) X [and Y]," where X [and Y] is what works for you.

*

P.S. As far as I can tell, the very immediate and local and situated "doing" of meditation does ultimately harmonize pretty well with explicit ethics, steelmanned golden rules, categorical imperatives, subjunctive and counterfactual coordinative simulations of other agents, timeless decision theories... even if the "joins" are sometimes implicit and nebulous. It's pretty cool. And, I don't even really see a contradiction between consequentialism and virtue ethics, either... And so on...

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conclusion:

The mind is vast but practically, nonmonotonically, asymptotically finite.

Have you been cranking?

cranking = enacting regular and routine progress; doing the thing

idealized cranking = correct use of the different parts of this document at the correct times, responsively, personally as you concretely work with and through your individual mind

Have you been cranking?

You might also see the "gentle on-ramp"/"onramp" section elsewhere in the document as well as the "meditating by coincidence" section.

Also, some people are turned off by the "crank"/"cranking"/"turning the crank" metaphor. Another way of looking at is with a "learning to play music and playing music" metaphor: The preliminary/auxiliary practices are like playing the scales. The main practices are like playing from sheet music (with personal interpretation). And then after that is improvisation, jazz, riffing, creative, experimental, joyful--maybe "getting somewhere" (cf. "global wayfinding") and maybe not, depending on how conceived and you proceed, on your terms, but the system is changing and changing, always slowly and sometimes quickly.

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practice:

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nuts and bolts considerations:

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preliminaries and vacations; conceptualization as such:

Someone comments (slightly edited):

"I’m very interested in the demarcation between meditation and not-meditation (with respect to the instructions not ‘feeling like’ meditation. Can you just basically meditate all the time, by this system, unless you have something else to focus on in specific (job, a game, movie, in-depth conversation, whatever?)"

Answer:

It matters how you think about what you’re doing, how you explicitly or implicitly, reflectively or unreflectively, conceive of what you’re doing, while you’re doing it.

There’s a main practice, below, where one of the components is surrender, reverie, etc. Just as in that practice, where it’s ok to let go, to be lost, to forget, to daydream, to be in reverie, it’s also ok to get lost in life.

So when you’re working, playing, socializing, relating, it’s probably often better to just do that. (Maybe this changes, little by little by little, as one gets very far along, and there are practices, one described below, where it’s possible to explicitly practice with someone. But, 99% of the time, maybe, when meditating, meditate, and, when living, just live.)

Meditating of course happens in an environment, air conditioning, kitchen appliances in the distance, wind, traffic, machinery, conversations in another room. So meditation takes the environment into account. But there’s still sort of a difference between meditating in an environment and living (in an environment), until there is no difference, which never has to be forced.

***

An electronic dialogue (slightly edited):

[...]

Mark 15 minutes ago

to be fair, the protocol doc is me collecting 15,000+ words of highly detailed things to remember, for myself (and others). so there’s that. [in order to eventually "forget" it], to not need it, for it to become an inert pedagogical tool to share with others (edited)

[...]

Collaborator 15 minutes ago

i have some new thoughts on the protocol doc

Collaborator 15 minutes ago

nascent thoughts

Collaborator 14 minutes ago

i think you’d agree fwiw ...

Collaborator 14 minutes ago

[that] like for a (small?) percentage of minds [the protocol document] will drive them crazy

Mark 13 minutes ago

i’m more inclined to think this than in the past

Collaborator 13 minutes ago

[A long time ago I read a] quote [that] was like, "a meditator will choose the protocol that feeds their neurosis"

Collaborator 13 minutes ago

definitely not saying this is always or even usually the case

Collaborator 13 minutes ago

but like, i can see the ways i’ve gotten stuck * inside * of the protocol

Mark 13 minutes ago

... ...and then hopefully a protocol is good enough to eventually deconstruct that neurosis... ...

Collaborator 12 minutes ago

sigh

Collaborator 12 minutes ago

hopefully

Collaborator 12 minutes ago

i think eventually maybe

Collaborator 12 minutes ago

but there might be faster ways

Collaborator 12 minutes ago

jumping into deep ends

Collaborator 12 minutes ago

going to wild parties

Collaborator 12 minutes ago

^ not so much that last one

Collaborator 12 minutes ago

but you get the point i think

Collaborator 11 minutes ago

like i think i have to forget the protocol kind of to proceed

Collaborator 11 minutes ago

which isn’t exactly true

Collaborator 11 minutes ago

i’ll still be following the protocol

Collaborator 11 minutes ago

at least the most important ways

Mark 11 minutes ago

would say that this conversation, this being verbalized, is evidence of protocol at least partially working

agreed that some things will be hilariously ridiculously faster for some people.

"if i’d only done X first" is also kind of a thing. i’m guessing that X usually wouldn’t have had the same effect if it came first.

Collaborator 11 minutes ago

but like, i can see the ways i’ve gotten stuck * inside * of the protocol

but have to deconstruct several layers of how i baked it into my mind

Collaborator 11 minutes ago

partially yeah sure

Collaborator 11 minutes ago

but like wouldn’t have gotten there with just protocol

Mark 10 minutes ago

like i think i have to forget the protocol kind of to proceed

this needs to be more explicit, yeah. it’s near top of list.

Collaborator 10 minutes ago

like i think i have to forget the protocol kind of to proceed

but can’t forget protocol when inside of the protocol

Collaborator 10 minutes ago

or something like that

Mark 10 minutes ago

yeah

Collaborator 10 minutes ago

*for some people some of the time (edited)

Collaborator 10 minutes ago

like i still think protocol is Right [Editor: Ahhhh! I’m trying to point in the direction of something Right, "under emptiness."]

Collaborator 10 minutes ago

and maybe even Ultimate [Editor: Ahhhh! I’m trying to point in the direction of something Right, "under emptiness."]

Collaborator 9 minutes ago

but like it’s more clear to me how i’ve gotten trapped inside it and it’s assumptions (possibly the assumptions I gave to it)

Collaborator 9 minutes ago

and like how i might just need to go sing and roll in the grass and stuff for a couple months [kind of ..., not exactly ...]

Collaborator 8 minutes ago

protocol feels very platonic to me

Collaborator 8 minutes ago

or at least my understanding/interpretion of it

Mark 8 minutes ago

the way i’m thinking about it right now is there’s sort of micro-redo-to-undo, which can often be done in the context of main practice p2, conceptualized as such.

and then there’s also sort of macro-redo-to-undo, which can easily involve forgetting about the protocol for a few months to go have desired experiences and experiments. and both may be very necessary. and needing to do that one to twenty times, big macro orbits that forget about the protocol completely and then maybe pick it up again later. (edited)

Collaborator 7 minutes ago

fwiw i don’t think i’ve found anything that you’d disagree with perse

Collaborator 7 minutes ago

like you’ve always given room for going off and doing wild experiments

Collaborator 7 minutes ago

and so maybe i haven’t listened

Collaborator 7 minutes ago

but but

Collaborator 7 minutes ago

at the same time

Collaborator 6 minutes ago

i think there’s some assumption baked into the whole approach/attitude/mind life of protocol (and creator? maybe??) that’s leaking out here

Collaborator 6 minutes ago

some worldview, ontology, something something

Collaborator 6 minutes ago

maybe

Collaborator 6 minutes ago

or maybe just my (mis)understanding

Collaborator 6 minutes ago

not clear

Collaborator 5 minutes ago

nap time

Mark 5 minutes ago

like i still think protocol is Right

and maybe even Ultimate

I think the protocol captures something pretty well, albeit, abstractly. but everyone will interpret and reify the conceptual homomorphism in like a slightly different place in their mind. and sometimes may need to indulge discontinuities, like complete vacations, in order to pick it up again in way that’s seated more fortuitously.

Mark 4 minutes ago

i think there’s some assumption baked into the whole approach/attitude/mind life of protocol (and creator? maybe??) that’s leaking out here

for sure, inevitably, even though tried to maximally abstract that out. the vibe of the whole thing. will be my contingencies baked in a various ways. this convo one way of mitigating that to some degree.

Mark 3 minutes ago

@Collaborator Can I paste this into protocol doc with some light editing? Will remove some stuff at beginning of thread.

Mark 1 minute ago

Have been looking for a way to introduce the "healthy orbiting" idea. There’s also "pre-orbiting" where a person does a bunch of other stuff first, evaluating and comparing and maybe eliminating alternatives and complementary practices, as well as maybe refactoring life situation, while only lightly poking at doc, before really digging in. And that can be in stages or back-and-forth, plenty, too. And that’s fine and good.

Mark 1 minute ago

"healthy orbiting and pre-orbiting"

Mark < 1 minute ago

And for some people, there will be something much more direct than analytically deconstructing and insourcing a !5,000+ word document. Or they should do that first for X months or years and then fiddle with the document if they get stuck or something.

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transitioning from other practices (re "sharp cutovers"):

If you are coming to these practices from many hours of other practices or another lineage, it can be sometimes helpful to deliberately and exploratorily interleave your old practices with new ones, prior to a bootstrap of greater and greater intuition for what to do when and how. (This might be on a timescale of seconds, minutes, hours, days, or weeks. It just depends.)

"Sharp cutovers," where a person leaves an old practice behind, for a new practice, and never touches the old one again, can lead to problems, in part because a person will have to touch the old practices (or their results), again, eventually, in order to make continued progress. And, it's sometimes easier to do that sooner rather than later. (See, in part, the idea of "redo-to-undo," later in the document, as well as the idea of "layering.")

It's like the old practice, depending on how much "undoing" you were already doing, has built up scaffolding, built up more each time one engages the practice. And, it takes some fraction of that time, in the future, to take down that scaffolding (while keeping the benefits). If one switches over to doing a new practice, too soon or too completely, it can leave scaffolding behind that eventually gums things up, later. (Though, you will have the opportunity to clean things up, then, at that later time, of course; it just might be at greater expense. Or(!), you'll have much more experience in the future, and it's much better to just wait to go back (and you may spontaneously find yourself there when it's time, in any case). It all just depends.)

Note also, anyway, that many people should just keep doing something in the space of what they've been prevously doing, for a time, or on and off. The "meta framework" of this document smoothly admits any and all practices (see the preliminary/auxilliary practices, main practice p2, etc.) Many people import practices from other lineages or find those practices already in the document, in some same, similar, or otherwise nearby form. (Eventually one moves beyond "practices" to just step-by-step, concrete, fine-grain doing, a la radically unstructured global wayfinding.)

So, if things feel fine, or going back and forth is confusing and "grindy" it's (maybe very) ok to just cautiously go ahead and trust your felt/intuitive sense of what to be doing (which could be new things or old things or creative mixes or amalgams of the two). This is, at least, just something to keep in mind. You'll eventually return, somehow, to the things you've already done, maybe liminally, at least once, and usually many times.

In any case, it can be helpful to keep in mind that some people are sometimes inclined towards "sharp cutover(s)" in a possibly problematic way.

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environment and subtlety; (more) risks and rabbit holes:

[editing note: needs at least some editing to tighten up the point being made and for run-on sentences, at the very, very least. may go for more concrete examples, later, too, along a bunch of dimensions.]

As you dissemble and reassemble your idiosyncratically built up sensory processing system, as it were, choice about where and when you meditate can matter, more some times and less other times, over the long run, sometimes for idiosyncratic reasons and sometimes for more general reasons. Over time, you must come to be able to make good choices about when to modify your environment (time/money/mental/interpersonal cost-permitting) and when to leave it alone (time/money/mental/interpersonal cost-permitting), whether during meditation or just in daily life.

So, environment-wise, systematically or opportunistically, it can be good to try many different things, and to try to discern what makes differences if there are seemingly differences:

You can also get a lot of cheap variety if you’re doing walking meditation, indoors or out and about.

The claim is not that you must spend the time, money, and mental energy for exotic meditation experiences, definitely not that. And, surely, over time, you you want to be able to meditate effectively (and live fully) under a sufficiently wide range of conditions.

[Some environments might be good every once in a while to maybe get unstuck, but are not necessary, and can be prohibitively costly to do regularly: anechoic rooms, flotation tanks and other sensory deprivation chambers, etc. I’ve played with a couple of these a few times, but in no way relied on them. It seemed like a good idea to include them for completeness.]

But, all sorts of weird, counterintuitive things can matter over the short and long run, so it’s good to experiment. At least some of the variables are cheap to manipulate, and other variables can be manipulated opportunistically.

You’ll start to notice subtler and subtler things, which will afford data that might sometimes be interpreted "superstitiously." So, this is also yet another channel to explore and refine your epistemics, self-beliefs, meditation-beliefs, and cost/opportunity-beliefs, and to generate explanations of apparent influences on your practice, which you might find to be real or illusory, over time, and which you might become more and more robust to, over time, if they are real. (You might also transiently become more and more affected by them, which might be why they became more and more salient to you in the first place, whether for "superstitious" reasons, or not, which would not be unusual, and depends on idiosyncratic factors.)

In any case, sometimes it’s a very, very good idea to meditate when weird right-now distracting or unpleasant environmental stuff is going on. And other times, it’s more productive to seek out different conditions for meditation.

This is yet another area where you may go a little crazy before you go saner than you were before. And, trying to arrange one’s environment, because of believed/experienced effects, those effects may or may not actually being long-run problematic, whether one is meditating or living life, can become costly in way that, for people without the time and money, can be a net life negative.

In response to an earlier draft of this section, a collaborator writes:

[A]

[...]

You may discover that obvious and non-obvious stimuli have a distracting [or otherwise right-now-believed-to-be negative] effect[s....] And also, you may discover that some of these are chronically present in your environment, which you were not aware of, and you may become convinced they're bad for you, and please don't fuck up your life.

[...]

To expand on the don't fuck up your life part, some well-intentioned gaslighting may be in order. Point out meditator's pain which not really about the position of your leg, point out that even ordinarily you will sometimes find a sound intolerable that you live with otherwise, point out that you are already inhabiting the world including these aspects and removing yourself from that comes with trade-offs (morality is the first teaching etc)

[...]

By the way I think you really do have a tightrope to navigate here because one of the unique things about this system and this community is all the [...] baggage it comes with, positive and negative. Assuming that any sort of spiritual practice will make you start acting like a crazy weirdo for a little bit, I find it much preferable that it goes in the direction of buying an air quality monitor or talking about primal sleeping positions and doing things in the spirit of [...] weirdo optimizations rather than [...]

Like I blew $200 on that [air quality monitor] and now I wonder about brain damage when [...] lights a scented candle

But otoh it's nice to get a ping to crack a window sometimes instead of being distressed that I'm just not feeling smart or energetic today

Mark 1:15 PM

yeah.

it’s true. both. i think all of it can get integrated and sort of a costless choice to light the candle or not, open the window or not, but possibly crazy in middle and some people won’t have time/money/something to weather the crazy and it won’t be net good for them.

[A] 1:16 PM

Yeah, exactly

Eat less carbs when it's a cheap option because it is legit better, but still outperform when you're on a pasta-based diet

Learn what is orthorexia vs just being right

Mark 1:29 PM

Yeah. One of my ex’s knew me for a health nut and was shocked when I ate a huge Snicker’s bar in front of her. And I was like, well, a few of these will be like they never happened, and, I didn’t have time to cook, and, I know it won’t make sleepy and also I won’t be hungry for hours, and if I eat it all at once and then eat normal food later then it won’t contribute to insulin resistance. And I know I’m going to get some magnesium and potassium (etc.) later, and they have much lower trans fat than they used to, and peanuts are poison but only if you eat a ton for like a whole week or two, and...

And she was like, oh, [aspirationally] reality-based.

And I guess this generalizes to every single damn choice ever. (edited)

[...]

"now you have n+1 problems before you have n-1 problems" or something.

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movement:

How to engage with movement? One could think of movement as falling into these categories:

  1. subtle (including postural readjustment; sitting or standing, etc.)
  2. one-off overt movements (including postural readjustment; sitting or standing, etc.)
  3. structured (informal or "formal") repetitive movement (e.g. tai chi, qigong, slow-walking meditation, dish washing)
  4. unstructured (and structured) relatively still (standing around, shifting weight, looking around, Zhan Zhuang, whatever)
  5. unstructured in motion (walking, jogging, swimming, etc.)

***

All of the ways of engaging above can be helpful at different times, with varying degrees of "stringency."

Subtle movement, aliveness, poise (sometimes!) facilitates meditative progress!

Allowing only subtle movement (so suppressing one-off overt movements) can make very subtle things more salient.

Allowing one-off, overt movements can help the system get (move backwards) over (incorrect) "humps."

Structured repetitive movement is sometimes good for getting the benefits of movement as well as keeping the mind just a little bit occupied, in a good way.

Unstructured repetitive movement (e.g. a long walks) tends to draw people into reverie, daydreaming, etc., in a good way.

***

In general, urges and impulses to move can be deferred, but there’s usually something there that needs to be expressed, eventually, at least liminally. So it can be good to think of suppressed urges or impulses as debt that eventually needs to be paid off. Sometimes it can be good to hold movement in abeyance, to allow important subtlety to become salient. But, sometimes, it’s better just to "move now" because you’ll eventually need to "move later," anyway.

***

Structured repetitive movement can be thought of as an optional investment that doesn’t always net pay off. It takes time for such movements to become relatively automatic, such that they can be interleaved with meditation in a way that doesn’t clash and jar with meditation (or thought). For some people, it’s worth the investment, as a sort of delimiting container for meditation, where the movement helps to move things along and there’s just enough room for variation to get over state-space humps. For other people (perhaps most people?), such a container isn’t necessary and can add significant complexity, over the long-run, that isn’t worth it.

***

Unstructured repetitive movement (e.g. long walks) tends to draw people into reverie, daydreaming, etc., and sometimes people find this initially unattractive if they’re "trying to meditate," but sometimes reverie and daydreaming are the most important thing to be doing. People need almost as much unstructured reverie time as they do "meditation time," at least long-run, in order to "go all the way." Meditation masters take long, aimless walks, with no particular relation to their (body)mind, as long and as often as they have time for, and it’s unwasted time; it’s time well spent, in terms of their values and goals and hopes and dreams, as it were. If you do take long walks, a key piece is "nonvigilance," and so just make sure you’re in a safe environment, where you can naturally "space out." People are generally ok, if they’re undistracting strangers at a distance or just passing you on the trail. Cars can be more loud and disruptive, depending, even if you’re safely on the sidewalk.

If it’s hard to "sit down to meditate" or meditation has lately been "immediately going wrong" (in some very loose sense!), then often the right thing to do is to just take aimless walks, for hours and hours. One can also leave open blocks of time to do random chores at home and kind of slowly "back onto the cushion" and hop right back off again if things become problematic.

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posture (section needs editing):

You should be continually cycling through different meditation postures, to vary the kinds of feedback you’re giving your system. This reduces risk, including the risk of muscle tension issues. You might sit and stand in a single day. Or you can sit for three days, stand for two days, be in bed or on the couch for a day, etc. Never trade increased muscle tension for "progress." It’s not worth it. I personally meditate pretty equally sitting, standing, and lying down (I might do one of these for several days in a row then switch). I do less walking (while "meditating-meditating," but see below) and yoga asanas. Sort of unrelatedly, but I wanted to add it somewhere, I also alternate earplugs versus no earplugs, blanket(s) or no blanket(s), sleep mask or pitch black room versus bright room or open space, eyes open versus eyes closed, laying on back, laying on my right side, laying on my left side, etc.

Favorite meditation postures/combinations (unordered): sitting, lying down back/sides, Zhan Zhuang / standing, walking, running/jogging, yoga asanas, eyes open/closed, earplugs +/-, eye shades / complete darkness / pitch black +/-, netflix, amazon video, facebook, twitter, watching blog stats

Ah, also like "erect kneeling", knees on something padded, and otherwise "standing" straight. (If I'm doing standing meditation and my feet start to hurt, I switch between standing and this type of kneeling.) Different postures change salience of different feedback loops. Safer.

Others: leaning with back (butt) against low things like countertops where everything above the lean is unsupported/erect. Leaning back against walls. Finally, sometimes facing wall bracing with hands.

more distinctions: sitting without back support, sitting with back support (still erect), and hella slumped in some comfortable couch or chair in some long-term comfortable way. always mix with erect/unsupported sitting and standing!

more distinctions: sitting on a hard, very flat (parallel to ground, no tilting) surface; sitting on a very firm but nevertheless soft surface (like a big memory foam block)...

Sometimes you may find yourself drawn to particular, idiosyncratic "finger mudras," as well as leg crossings, and/or arm crossings.

Also, E Tai Chi (https://www.amazon.com/Tai-Chi-Basic-Book-Simplest-ebook/dp/B01MREOH1P/ ...), custom/ad hoc tai chi, and custom/ad hoc yoga asanas

[Also: ad hoc "internal martial arts" rearranging your weight, rearranging your stance, rearranging your relationship with gravity, rearranging your physical anticipations...]

Also, sort of "upright fetal position", maybe in the corner of a big chair or couch, with one’s back against the armrest and leaning to the side against the back. I am more likely to stay awake in this position if I’m tired but I can still drift in and out of sleep while meditating, and it’s a different kind of balance than laying in bed.

Also, custom/ad hoc device assisted stretches

Also, ad hoc dancing, bouncing, rocking, fidgeting, stretching, yoga pretzels...

Earplugs can enhance sensitivity to subtle muscle movement and body creaking in head and neck and elsewhere but make sure meditate plenty without earplugs, too.

Long-sleeve clothing, pants (vs shorts/skirts) or blankets reduce subtle air current and temperature changes on skin which can make it easier to attend to other things. (So, sometimes this is good to do and sometimes it’s better to be exposed to the elements.)

Long-run, retrospectively, you might have spent equal time sitting, standing, and laying down while meditating. Sometimes it’s good to switch every day or every hour.

On twitches and posture and readjustments—

Long walks while daydreaming or in reverie could be considered a posture—wandering aimlessly around in safe environments, where you don’t have to be "on," is also very important, ideally for hours and hours!

Another postural thing to vary: Surfaces from very hard concrete to very soft for standing, sitting, and laying down, for very different kinds of feedback. For lying down: both on back and side, with and without a pillow. You might look into "natural sleeping postures. Firmer head or neck pillows can give better feedback for spotting creeping muscle tension or having it not arise in the first place."

You should check to make you’re not losing flexibility or that certain physical movements (or patterns of attention) aren’t becoming subtly unpleasant or aversive. Also, barbell weight training and bodyweight exercise is good, too, as another way to check for whether something is off, e.g. if some exercises become aversive or you’re losing strength or less able to transmit power through structure.

If you do unfortunately run into some of the warned-about muscle tension, the below can be helpful. I’d imagine one would only experience likely one of these or zero:

For hand/finger cramps/clenching, a stress ball or a wadded shirt can be helpful to grip or to prevent joint compression.

Laying down with a cradle of pillows can give the neck something to support or push against.

For jaw tension, you might bite down on something or use a mouthguard, some things will better and worse for your teeth and better and worse for jaw alignment.

Generally, if an irritated joint wants to move, having things to squeeze, press against, or slide against can slow things down, reduce currently problematic degrees of freedom and/or increase feedback through resistance or friction.

In summary, it’s good to be able to meditate sitting or standing tall, but it’s also good to be able to arrange your environment when/if that’s the best thing, too.

***

More:

[book recommendations: feldenkrais awareness through movement, anatomy trains yoga, starting strength, becoming a supple leopard]

Some takes on "perfect meditation posture:"

"Perfect posture" should be explored for the possibility of maximal useful feedback and safety.

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breath:

Some traditions place great importance on the breath, as an aid to concentration, as a source of interesting observational data, as a way to affect thinking and emotions, as illustrative of the border or lack thereof between doing and non-doing, and more.

Additionally, some traditions place great importance on proper breathing, e.g. abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing, and more.

The methods in this document don’t place great importance on the breath, allowing the breath to correct itself over time. Sometimes it’s ok to deliberately attend to the breath and sometimes one’s attention (or etc.) will be magnetically drawn to the breath. Sometimes attention to the breath will be effortless and non-interfering, and sometimes attention to the breath will seem to "stop" or dysregulate the breath. Sometimes it’s good to gently and deliberately avoid attending to the breath or to forget about the breath as best one can, to let it settle down. And sometimes one might not think explicitly about the breath or "foreground" (or even "background") attend to breathing for a very long time, and this is fine. Sometimes breathing will be heaving or hitching, and this fine. Sometimes, one might briefly feel like they can only breath deliberately or that they can’t breath at all, and so on.

Long-run, one might barely reflectively attend very much or not at all to the breath, for thousands of hours or indefinitely, or at least do so only as much one might attend to anything else, generally, with respect to body, mind, and environment, etc., "in" the entire "phenomenological field."

Over time, all things being equal, with "right engagement" and right "non-engagement," breathing will tend to become ever-more-subtle, over time. This subtlety will be reflected in the barely perceptible use (or non-use) of all breathing muscles, from diaphragm, stomach/belly, chest, shoulders, and more. Sometimes the subtlest changes in posture are all that’s needed for "breathing."

What’s happening, here, is that breathing has "volitional" components and an "autogenic" component. And, over time, "volitional" components can get habitually convolved with the autogenic components, leading to overbreathing and other kinds of disregulated breathing. Through meditation, volitional components can be "deconvolved" out of breathing, leaving mostly just the autogenic component, which, generally, can take care of itself. (Note that this untangling, "deconvolving," may involve much of the rest of the system, too, so attention elsewhere than to the breath, may have long-run positive effects on breathing, and so on. It’s a global sort of puzzle, where breathing is only one piece and is indirectly affected, sometimes, by the rest of it.)

Deliberate or stereotyped attention to the breath, breath control (e.g. emphasizing inhalation or exhalation, or panting, belly breaths, even chanting, etc.), over hundreds of hours, can "tangle in" volitional components that need to eventually be untangled. (Sometimes this can be strategic, though, on a person-by-person basis.) Tingly lightheadness, needing to pee very often, issues with throat smooth muscle tone and sleep, can be signs that one is generally overbreathing, because of breathing’s connection to kidney function, autonomic regulation, and more. Aerobic and anaerobic exercise, such as jogging and sprinting, can short-term improve breathing issues, via effects on blood-gas CO2 tolerance. But, long-term, one must deconvolve volitional components from the breathing, as part of the global meditation puzzle.

Note: "attention," "foreground," "background," "in," "phenomenological field," are used very loosely in this section and are not technical or ontological commitments

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states:

Some traditions emphasize cultivation of altered states, residing in altered states, and/or mastery of altered states.

This meditation system doesn’t place particular emphasis on altered states and is of the position that systematic cultivation is unnecessary. Intermittent, gentle facilitation of potentially spontaneously arising altered states can be important, though. Through application of method, a meditator may spontaneously "stage"/"prepare" for entry into an altered state, "pop into" the state, "do whatever’s necessary" in that state, and quickly or eventually "pop back out." This can and will eventually, naturally, and spontaneously happen in the course of meditation and doesn’t need to be deliberately cultivated as such. It’s of course generally fine to incline towards interesting or attractive states (perhaps checked against something like the meta protocol) and it’s of course fine to explore and experiment with concentration and tranquility practices.

Deliberate engagement with concentration and tranquility practices can sometimes "burn in" (reversibly!) habits of mind that eventually need to be undone for further progress, which can be a lengthy process. Sometimes light (or even moderate) deliberate cultivation can be strategic, on a person by person basis—many of the preliminary/auxiliary practices suggest concentration-/tranquility-like things to try and experiment with. That being said, there’s a right thing, right time, right way, right dose, gently, sensitively, responsively (with plenty of room for error and backtracking) ethos. And much or quite all of engagement with "altered states" can happen spontaneously and naturally, in the course of practice.

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"headyness"/​"heady-ness"/​"headiness":

[This section refers to main practice p2, which is discussed in detail at a later time. One can still get a lot out of this section before encountering a full description of p2.]

There’s a particularly notable imbalance that may arise from modernity, which can be lengthy and counterintuitive to correct. And that imbalance is something like "being too in the head," "acting from the head," "living, thinking, being, etc. ‘from the shoulders up’ or even ‘the jaw up’."

Correcting this isn’t as simple as paying more attention to the body or trying to be in the body. Doing body things "out of order" or "monolithically" can even tangle things up more: "Right thing, right time, right place, right order, at a finer and finer grain."

The protocol as written (well, including this section or not), especially inclusive of the meta protocol, is intended to work as a proper antidote to headiness, implicitly, inclusively, as part of the practice progression as a whole, nothing more to say or add.

But, for some people, saying a little more may be very helpful. The protocol document, as a written/typed document, is, of course, verbal and even hyperanalytical, even if it’s very often pointing at something very undifferentiated, experiential, and sensual. So!—Even more words are written, here, as a corrective to that. :-)

For example, there’s a way that p2 can be initially be done "too much in the head," too conceptually, "too-conceptually-tangly." Note that p2 DOES account for this; p2, the other main practices, and the meta protocol do account for this. p2, itself, can and does undo its own potential headiness, all things being equal. But, again, some people might be greatly accelerated or have reduced (physical, or otherwise) sequelae by taking this section into account.

Some people will naturally do/interleave p2 "whole body" (whole everything) and some people, at first, won’t be able to do p2 except for in the head.

Meditation is ever, always, already with the whole body, of course (and mind, and everything)—all of experience, the entire phenomenological field and "envelope."

Some traditions particularly emphasize this, on the front-end; they explicitly say, "meditate with the body, not with the mind." This goes beyond even attending to the body or "body scanning," and is more things like these: "active sitting," "active ‘just’ sitting," "just sitting," meditation through posture, meditation exclusively through continuous postural adjustment, meditation through breathing and continuous effort and non-effort with respect to breathing, and so on.

I would consider these pith instructions incomplete (and the above is a straw and is not intended to refer to any particular tradition). But, in any case, instructions with this sort of flavor can be an overlooked dimension of much contemporary practice. Do explore them; they should probably get added to the preliminary/auxiliary practices (a bunch of them already are).

Again, p2 is "all-inclusive," pre-conceptual, post-conceptual, trans-conceptual: body, mind, bodymind, head, heart, concept, quality, etc.

And, don’t be TOO concerned about headiness—every meditator in modern culture will rightly spend PLENTY of time in the head, or flickeringly returning to the head, half-second by half-second, one-hundred-milliseconds by one-hundred-milliseconds, maybe interleaved with other things, while using these practices—e.g. as part of "do-to-undo" or "redo-to-undo." That is, the head ("mind, muscles, and more") is needed for untangling the head! Trying to do it just with the body will long-run cause more tangling.

So, one shouldn’t avoid the head or be afraid to spend time in the head, as it were. These are just words, the meta protocol and one’s intuition should be a bottom-up guide. And the "lists and more" section breaks down the "landscape" or "playing field" in many different ways, including a great deal of body phenomenology. There are, of course, many relevant preliminary/auxiliary practices, too.

In any case, use words to go beyond words. Use the head to go beyond the head. Don’t let words limit you, or cautions and corrections using yet more words, and so on. And also don’t be afraid of words, and so on. Traverse and/or allow everything, right time, right order, right grain, which is to say, what ever happens, or is happening, is part of the practice.

***

Below are notes from a call with a collaborator (jd), with further maybe-helpful corrections to the potentially "felt verbal/intellectual vibe" of parts of the document, for some people:

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"subtle energy" and "energy work" and mental models:

At some point, maybe incidentally, or quite centrally, or somewhere in between, you may encounter phenomena that correspond to something like subtle energy, qi, chi, ki, ruach, prana, fuzzing, buzzing, tingling, vibrations, etc.

Loosely speaking, you might find that you can do something like attend to it, move it, push it, pull it, accumulate it, dissipate it, circulate it, store it..

You might find that it’s somehow related to muscle tension, physical (as opposed to "energetic") sensations," or subtle muscle activity, or "somatic refactoring," or "autonomic activity," or glandular or vascular activity, or muscle tone changes, fascial changes, myofascial changes, body map changes, "phenomenological field" changes, sensory re-saliencing/re-factoring, etc., etc., etc., etc.

You might or might not eventually also start encountering phenomena that could be called knots, tangles, twists, coils, gates, blocks, blockages, complexes, closures, etc., etc. etc.

And you might naturally, or because of things you’ve read, want to untwist, unblock, open your "channels," "meridians," "energy centers," etc., etc., etc.

An important thing, here, is that you must, over time, go beyond any particular models, theories, etc., of (a) "what is" and (b) "what to do," to engage with the territory on your own terms with your own sensuous feedback loops.

It’s important to have agnosticism, an experimental attitude, care and caution, if you decide to do anything systematic (and "systematic" itself shouldn’t be inappriopriately avoided, too, cf. "cranking"!), and, in any case, to have open/modifiable/responsive ontologies and open/modifiable/resonsive methods.

You may be aware of historical concepts, in natural philosophy and physics, such as phlogiston or luminiferous aether. These are ideas that, over time, gave way to more contemporary theories about combustion, oxidation, electromagnetism, etc.

Similarly, you may find that "subtle energy," "movement," "accumulation," "circulation," etc., etc., etc., not to mention "attention," are useful initial pointers to, or hooks for, phenomena. But, these ideas may eventually get in the way.

That’s not to say that the experiences themselves, should be dismissed, ignored, downplayed, etc. It’s just that they’re part of a wider playing field, of all meditative and experiential phenomena, where local things can affect global things, and vice versa. All of spatial, sensory, temporal, meaningful, seemingly non-meaning-laden, seeming, knowing, etc,. etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., are all part of seamless playing field.

Consider, if you’re experiencing something like an "energy block" (or etc.), should you ignore it, push/pull/attend to it, deliberately push/pull/attend somewhere far away—in or on the body or even in the environmental surround? Should you not "push/pull/attend" at all? Should you do something "cognitive" instead? Or move your body? Or take a walk? Or talk to a friend? And so on, and on, and on, and on. It is sometimes the case that systematic "energy work" is far more tangling than untangling. And, engaging with "exactly that territory" may not ultimately look like "energy work," at all, depending on how so conceived. It just depends.

Sometimes local "untangling" will cause adjacent or global "tangling," because, in some sense, "everything in the bodymind is somehow connected to everything else," so one has to account for global effects in all local choices. "Local" has to be done in an order that leads to a global outcome, so one might revisit "localities" in complex interleavings and interweavings and so on, and localities themselves will mix and blur, etc., etc., etc.

Just as it’s often better to think of meditation as precise puzzle solving, versus "general strength training" ("puzzles versus muscles"); it’s generally better to think of "energy work" as a subset or seamless interleaving with meditation, and so again, as precise puzzle solving, versus "general energy cultivation," or etc.

Always guard against inappropriate reification (including inappropriate reification of "inappropriate reifiication"!) and "magical button pushing/mashing," via general intuition and things in spirit of things like the meta protocol. [sic] And, in any case, this "stuff," too, is not separate, not special, in some sense, with respect to the whole meditative enterprise.

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brief draft comment on first-pass, seemingly separate magisteria:

for my part, i want people to experiment, or systematically engage with, anything that calls out to them. my thing here is aim for people having "unified models" of the "entire playing field," so they don’t feel like they have to "master meditation" and "energy work" and "magick" and "trauma processing" and... I’m hoping people will understand that it’s all the same playing field, and that the entire playing field can be seamless mastered, transformed, something.

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body, self-trust, sensory processing, meaning:

[For this draft, if any single sentence doesn’t make sense, it’s probably ok to skip that sentence and keep reading.]

Deciding when to self-trust can be hard. Frameworks like the Meta Protocol can help. (The meta protocol will be discussed, soon, in a subsequent section.) In addition to protocols, procedures, etc., it can help to think about various dimensions of knowing (and perhaps understanding, and perhaps other things) as a sort of backdrop to self-trust.

One could consider knowing (intuiting, etc.) along at least two axes:

  1. degree of provenance/origin transparency
  2. degree of symbolic versus nonsymbolic representation/"representation" and provenance

The first axis is pointing at something like "knowing where it came from or how it came to be," knowing the causal history of how you came to know something, as it were. One can imagine "a knowing," knowledge, insight, something, sort of just appearing in the mind, and you don’t know where it came from or how it got there. One can also imagine, having (or being able to construct) a rich history of all the experiencing and evidence and thinking/figuring/inferring/something of how you came to know/feel/believe some particular thing. This history might be verbal or nonverbal, partial or complete, sequentially accessible or felt "all at once," sparse-symbolic or richly felt, or a mixture of any or all of these, all at once.

(Note that the "causal history" of some of your knowledge can be very different than, in no particular order, (a) your "current best argument," either the one you feel like you probably could produce, verbally, at least in bits and pieces, if pressed, or (b) the rich, felt anticipations in your body that are, well, the embodiment of that knowing, or (c) what you might tell yourself about that knowing that you wouldn’t necessarily share with other people, or (d) other phenomenological aspects of that knowing not specified in (abc). To summarize, your current and future states, are different than your previous states, and your current and future states can have different representations (or at least present lack thereof of those representations) of previous states, in degree and type/kind.)

The second axis is maybe a bit more self-explanatory—was the route to that knowing more or less symbolic? Is it’s current form more or less symbolic?

More symbolic routes of knowing might be things like thinking, "figuring," calculating, inferring, abducting, deducing, writing.

"Medium-symbolic" routes of knowing might be things like verbally describing, "iconically imagining," simulating, running thought experiments, sketching and drawing on paper. (Perhaps: "multischematic")

Less symbolic and non symbolic routes of knowing could be things like feeling, sensing, perceiving, gnosis, direct knowing, direct awareness, "expanded awareness," "listening/feeling for the subtle, distant, faint, interconnected," intuition. (Perhaps: "innumerable, ineffable, inchoate")

Both axes (1) and (2) could perhaps be very loosely, messily, and jointly summarized along a single axis from unconscious to explicit:

***

At least in modern times (for some very loose and general definition of modern), we have a habit of privileging explicit knowing and explicit justification. If we don’t have explicit knowing and/or explicit justification (or we don’t feel like we can produce it, or at least bits and pieces of it) it might be harder for us to self-trust (as well as it being harder to navigate the familial, social (and professional) worlds...). We might lose track of goals, lose track of reasons, forget desires, not act on goals and desires, and so forth. We might be more indecisive and act less consistently.

But, the basis of self-legitimate and self-credible self-trust (including, e.g. trusting that we can wield argumentation/justification if/when we ever need to) starts in the prereflective and the intuitive. Consider, the prereflective and intuitive are what choose to wield (explicit) argumentation, even if the producing, wielding, or consuming) of argumenation are things that modulate the prereflective and implicit. One could say that self-trust is constituted by the entire experiential field, which takes into account the present state of the self as well as past, present, and future of self and world.

***

We can learn to value and to legitimately and credibly trust the implict and intuitive more and more over time. Importantly, even if the provenance of some knowing isn’t "directly accessible," features of the knowing itself can be used for indirect accessment of value, correctness, etc. (This assessment itself can be intuitive, prereflective, "in a flash," though it doesn’t have to be. "Nonsymbolic regress" does bottom out, even when symbolic regress does not.)

Importantly, nonsymbolic knowing tends to come with relatively less explicit provenance, but nonsymbolic knowing does tend to come with more rich phenomenology, even when it doesn’t "experientially display" its provenance, all at once (and sometimes it does). And that rich phenomenology can still be "used" or experienced in a way that allows one to learn how to properly treat/engage/regard that richness with respect to behavior. And that treatment might be reflective or unreflective/prereflective—"already in motion before you even realize it" turns out to be retrospectively valid, much of the time, and more and more.

The felt, the implicit, the intuitive can be subject to (implicit or explicit) critique or error-checking, just like the explicit. And it can therefore it can be a basis of self-trust.

One can start with little bets, little tests, or just patience to see how an intuition or feeling evolves. You can start with things that are relatively costless, local, impactless, safe.

***

There are a lot of "negative feedback loops" when playing with intuitive knowing (and correctives will be discussed below).

When one first starts exploring intuitive knowing, one might treat it "almost analytically," in a way that’s sort of just as "slow and exhausting" as with more explicit knowing. So it can seem not worth it, because it’s "like explicit knowing but even more fragmentary and one can tell even less about what’s going on."

It can go in the other direction, too—one could accidentally sort of "turn on the tap," and get flooded with urges, impulses, sensing, illumination, something, that’s overwhelming, far too much, that one doesn’t know how to shut off, let alone interpret or trust.

Part of problem, here, is that there’s sort of a whole additional dimension to all of this, that gets overlooked, because it’s so counterintuitive and time-delayed.

While overlooked, it’s sort of also a cliche at this point: And that is... the body.

***

So, regarding the body, there’s yet another way to slice things:

  1. symbolic knowing (knowledge involving symbols)
  2. nonsymbolic knowing/thinking/etc.
  3. meaning-laden sensation (and "imagination")
  4. non-meaning-laden sensation (and "imagination")

The line between (2) and (3), nonsymbolic knowing and meaning-laden sensation is a bit blurry. Also, it’s worth calling out that symbolic knowing doesn’t exist without nonsymbolic knowing (and perhaps meaning-laden sensation) somehow being present, simultaneously.

In any case, the entire discussion above, in this section, so far, has been loosely referring to (1-3) but not 4. And, people typically ignore non-meaning-laden sensations unless they’re particularly salient—hunger, thirst, pain, sensuous stretching, sexual pleasure, orgasm, etc. But, the rest of the time, we don’t pay attention to body sensations very much. (One could further subdivide (1-4) according to whether their "valence" is (a) pleasant/pleasurable/attractive versus (b) unpleasant/noxious/etc versus (c) neutral...but things complexify when considering "hurts so good" phenomena, from delayed-onset-muscle-soreness, after exercise, to BDSM.)

Attending to non-meaning-laden body sensations might feel like a waste of time, annoying, or even terrifying if it draws someone into the "here and now," and they don’t want to be there, for whatever reason.

(I want to call attention to a particular concern that people sometimes have, when body sensations are discussed. People sometimes wonder if they’re going to get the advice (or have it unspoken but heavily implied) that they’re supposed to walk around paying attention to body sensations for the rest of their lives in some "mindful" but distracting and even pointless-feeling way. Don’t worry, that’s not where we’re going with this.)

In any case, let’s talk theory, for a moment. I’ve been using the word "sensation" loosely. One might also use terms like apprehension, perception, and interpretation and so forth. Let’s be a little more careful, here. One could imagine a human "sensory processing pipeline" starting with "raw perception" or "raw sensaton," that’s perhaps almost immediately processed and interpretated (or, even, is never "uninterpreted, in some sense), and then that "data" participates in higher- and higher-level "processing," perhaps while still being "non-meaning-laden," and then, at some point, through perhaps some opaque process, this "sensory data" tips over into participating in "meaning-laden inference and knowing" (whether unconscious or conscious).

Provsionally assuming some kind of pipeline like that, I want to offer an immediate correction, which is something like, non-meaning-laden sensation and minimally-symbolic knowing, or some sort, are paired, almost instantly, at the beginning of the processing stack. Almost as soon as there’s sensation, there’s rudimentary (or not) knowing about that sensation, even if we’re not consciously aware of it. (This may be quite a bit different than, say, one of Daniel Ingram’s schemas, that may look superficially similar, just FYI.)

So, this may make immediate sense because, there’s plenty of sensation and noise going on, all the time, only a small portion of it making it ("all the way up") into consciousness, for example if it’s (maybe subliminally) surprising or about something possibly dangerous. And that sort of "meaning-laden" decision-making needs to start before it’s conscious. We learn over time what to filter from consciousness and what to promote to consciousness, and this is getting sculpted in real time, all the time, and the sculpting process itself (or at least its real time effects) are sometimes unconscious and sometimes conscious. (I might say "sometimes unreflective" and "sometimes reflective," depending on how we’re precisely using all these words, and whether something can be "conscious" without our being aware of it or at least remembering being aware of it, and so on, and so on.)

Ok, so, again, anyway, there’s this (massively parallel) "pipeline" that has both a non-meaning-laden and a meaning-laden component much earlier than is typically consciously obvious.

And, let’s add a few more pieces:

  1. Any stage or branch of the (massively parallel, branching and joining) processing pipeline can be "raised" and "lowered" into and out of consciousness.
  2. When pipeline stages/branches are raised into consciousness they are and can be "refactored," both the non-meaning-laden sensory processing as well as the meaning-laden component, as well as the relationship between the two. (This refactoring "interwingles" with local and adjacent sensory memory that has previuosly been processed by that part of the pipeline. In some sense, that sensory memory is constitutive of the pipeline.)

A qualifier: When I say "any" stage of the pipeline, there may still be some prior "never conscious" stage of sensory processing, of course, especially looking at the neurophysiology, but it sure can practically feel like one can be directly conscious [being philosophically loose, here] of the very first wiggle of one’s sensory neurons, ear hairs, retina, etc., and anything "after" that.

Another qualifier: "Raising" and "lowering" isn’t "separably direct;" it’s a highly constrained "puzzle" over the course of thousands and thousands of hours. For example, to raise "piece" X, when might need to raise and lower thousands and thousands of other "pieces" in a complex order, in order to "get to" X. And raising and lowering can seem very indirect—it’s "tied" to "the movement/change of attention/awareness" in nonlocal ways. That is, "attending" to something, somewhere may influence raising and lowering "elsewhere."

Another qualifier: "Raising, lowering, depth, up, down, etc." not to mention "pieces, pipes, parts, branches" are all leaky abstractions or a less-well-differentiated complexity. There’s some sense in which the brain and/or mind is, not only massively parallel, but also "flat" (and/or its activity is simultaneously reconstituted, all in parallel, in a periodic pattern). Don’t sort of inapproriately reify any of this! Phenomenology-first, as it were!

In any case, for whatever reason, the non-meaning-laden components of the sensory processing pipeline tend to be more salient to us, especially when we’re deliberately paying attention to sensations, making paying attention to sensations often seem dumb and pointless.

***

But, provisionally given the above, we can see that body sensations are already, in some sense, meaning-laden, even if they don’t seem to be, and body sensations heavily influence meaning-making (of course, but perhaps much more so than is initially intuitive). Further, body sensations, in some sense, influence the sensory processing pipeline itself as well as the process of meaning-making itself—what we even might usually think of as hardwired cognition or even hardwired intelligence, itself. Body sensations are the first step in sort of sculpting and meta-sculpting everything, all the time. Very little is hardwired—I always say the mind is 99% software and 1% hardware, metaphorically. I’m not doing a good job of unpacking it in this section, but, in some sense, our minds are nothing more than all the experiences we’ve ever had—and through memory and imagination we can have any experience. And, add two more pieces: the mind is practically lossless (in that any distinguishable sensory memory can be ultimately recovered) and that the mind is simultaneously "utterly malleable" (even while being lossless!). And, so then, the degrees of freedom for a mind are just cosmologically vast, with no prior way of thinking/feeling/behavior set in stone. Note that cosmologically vast doesn’t mean arbitrary or unconstrained! The "envelope" is nevertheless highly, highly constrained and going from state to state is exquisitely path-dependent, as mentioned above. This gives gods-eye-view-predictable-and-repeatable meditation journeys, with a wide variation in concrete details and asymptotic well-fittedness to whatever situations people might find themselves in.

***

So, in any case, paying attention to body sensations is important. But, there are some practical "buts."

First, one shouldn’t necessarily focus exclusively on, say, "body" sensations, or, rather non-meaning-laden sensory inputs or sensations of any kind. The entire experiential envelope participates in the sensory processing pipeline, as it were (including feedback loops, whether non-meaning-laden, obviously meaningful/knowing or not)—

The order in which one does everything matters. There will be tremendous interleaving of "attention"/awareness in different "locations" (from body to meaning to etc.) typically, but not always, at a finer and finer grain.

Second, paying more attention to the body is sort of a phase (which could be repeating, which could be sort of periodic, spiraling, nonmonotonic). It’s sort of like, most people are "in their heads," and have sort of "built up body awareness (or lack thereof)" suboptimally. And, so, there will be a period of "re-attending" to things (body, memories, sensory field) in the right order, which will refactor the pipeline, including awareness of sensations, cognition, meaning, everything. And, during that refactoring, a bunch of things can become salient that sort of "need" to temporarily become salient, because of path-dependent change, and, over time, things will sort of "reflow," and most body sensations (and other sensory processing) will once again become relatively less salient, and/but everything will be working better, from sensory processing to cognition.

So, it’s less "I need to pay attention to the body much more, and for the rest of my life" and more, "I need to carefully, correctly, perhaps extensively but in the right way and the right order, pay attention to the body so as to be able to forget (and enjoy) the body when I want to, along with all sorts of other good things, happening." And, it’s less "top-down attending" and more "obliquely doing whatever’s necessary to have body attention be prereflective and automatic in ways that it’s not already but could be."

***

So, this was ridiculously roundabout, but, the basis of self-trust is not just in intuition (which can’t get trapped in infinite regress, among other things) but in the body (and sensory field). Attending to the body, in the right way and in the right order (interleaved with other things, including reverie and plenty of thinking), eventually refactors intuition, making it prereflective, broadband, and powerful, and also refactors even the intellect (as well as preflective sensory processing and much more). This includes more and more resolution of inconsistencies, contradiction, contention in behavior, antcipation, cognition, "belief," and more.

In some ways, self-trust is the resolution of just enough inner conflict and the acquisition of just enough (inner and wordly) skill that one is confident that they can resolve and acquire all the rest, in a way that’s safe enough and good enough for themselves and others.

And part of that, and only part, is very counterintuitively attending to the body (and plenty of other things) for an accumulating thousands of hours, where it may initially seem like almost nothing is happening at all, and for long stretches after, even after some things do start happening. And, with tools like the meta protocol (or in the spirit of the meta protocol), one can more quickly bootstrap confidence and self-trust that the process is working. And that self-trust can quickly extend to other areas of life and self-trust in general. (And experimenting and living in the world is of course also an important component of [gaining] self-trust as well part of the whole point.)

Something not explicitly noted in the above, but implicitly there, is that, at least locally, the mind is always spontaneously doing the right thing. (Choose some evolutionary, physical, or cosmological theory, here.) And the mind can net-globally do the right thing, too, especially if context and preconditions are set up just a hair on the side of sufficiency. And this is why, with a few inputs, just a little "grace" (which is usually bad and good mixed together) like mixed-bag mentors/"mentors" and/or mixed-bag meditation instructions, the whole mind (and one’s entire life) can kind of unwind and rewind itself in retrospectively and prospectively desired and endorsed ways. And this sponteneity of (body)mind, is the ultimate basis of self-trust.

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but is it meditation? (a dialogue between J and Mark):

J

a couple more things that come to mind maybe for future versions. excuse the ramble-i-ness

do you think it could be useful/important to table set a little bit? something along the lines of (but not necessarily this, just something in this direction): this will likely feel different from previous meditation you’ve done, if you’ve done some. i think past versions had something like this. and kind of for the reason I mentioned in [...]: I could see people spending a fair amount of time trying to shoehorn this practice into their prior conception of what meditation practice is. i guess p2, p8, and p1 stand a good chance of addressing this directly without it having to be written out. i wonder how useful or not some making this explicit would be. :thinking_face:

and i also wonder if there’s some basic basic theory of mind that is good to mention right off-the-bat. it may very well not be a good thing, i’m not sure. here’s the kind of theory that might be good imo, for example:

`there’s like some kind of universal gradient/basin/attractor that the mind/brain is always, always, alway, always trying to fall down. one single direction, which might be why correct meditation works elegance, free energy minimization, dunno

or

how the mind is really smart in some ways, sometimes/often moreso than the "personality" (i might be butchering the thing but that’s how i remember it)

and lots of little related things like this

for example wrt to the above, knowing stuff like this has made it easier for me to trust that the right things are happening at times, or trust that my mind can do good things, and stuff like that. depending on the models of mind people are running on i could expect there to be a lot of self fighting and self flailing and not self trusting in ways that might be bad. for example, if you’re coming from a tmi practice you might believe that your mind is this thing you need to wrangle, that you know better than, stuff like that. little bits of theory like this could help people understand how the practice works, why it’s different than practice they’ve done before, and possibly have the needed faith to try it out for 100+ hours

J continues

The way I've been orienting to [this protocol versus other meditation protocols] myself recently is not through the meditation frame (though it is that and becomes that feel again eventually) but through the "going all the way to the bottom and from first principles as it were figuring out how to use a mind" frame, or something in the ballpark of that

It just cuts through a lot of the "is this meditation", or "am I doing the right thing" stuff, if you forget about meditation for a couple months and pretend it's not that, or something (At least in my experience)

I guess this is a bit of a tangent now

Mark

Cool. It is really different than [other] meditation [procedures] in a lot of ways. [...]

J

yeah. i definitely think it is meditation. i'm probably being critically unappreciative, but there's a way in which other meditations are more narrow/constrained and this stuff is still meditation but wholeheartedly takes on the whole mind and every part of it. maybe it's all the same in the limit or something.

the concern is that i think i probably spent something like 50 - 100 hours (total total total total total ballpark) trying to make [this protocol into] what i understood to be meditation, or at least hours where this was on my mind and undermining practice, in a way. and even afterwards there have been and has been threads in my mind like "huh this doesn't feel like meditation so i must be doing something wrong". of course i think a lot of this is par for the course and part of tacking towards good and tacking towards better models of mind and meditation. like why does it feel wrong? why is one thing more meditation than another? but maybe with the right upfront expectation setting there's a way to just nip the shoehorning in a bud and save people time

[...]

Mark

trying to make this what i understood to be meditation

how does that look? can you say more? want to innoculate (and i'm sorry)

J

so after like n years knowing about tmi and noting and related practices, i had implicit models about how meditation works. the general general shape of the model was something like: your mind is a tool/machine, and you need to make it sensitive tool/machine such that one day it can finally pick up on some details of experience that lead to insight. step 1) develop powerful tool [powerful experienced as stable in the case of tmi, and perceptive in the case of noting]. step 2) use tool to examine reality

importantly nowhere in this model was there a sense that meaningful progress was being made up until the point of insight

Mark

so like train tool/build microscope, then use microscope? does that simplify it too much?

J

nope that's pretty much exactly it

Mark

hmm k

J

i'm guessing this is common, but i'm not positive

Mark

i think ingram sort of implies this

J

and there was a model for what made a good microscope too

M

like if you just use your microscope enough

J

i think it was the model of what i thought made a good miscroscope that was especially problematic

Mark

so then ppl like spend 1000 hours examining the blobs behind their closed eyes

i think it was the model of what i thought made a good miscroscope that was especially problematic

say more?

J

sure. and eventually we should try to figure out why it is possible to have success with that metaphor. like, is it success in spite of the misconception? or is something else happening? [and ofc not everyone does have success and stuff]

Mark

like, is it success in spite of the misconception?

i currently think so

noting is close enough that people can slip into doing the right thing, especially with a teacher who succeeded

J

so as mentioned with both noting and concentration, even tho the skills are different, what a successful microscope looks like in both cases involves something in the ballpark of mindfulness or "with it ness" "with it ness" that builds up into long interrupted stretches of "with it ness" over time and so if you're doing one of these practices it's getting into one of these stretches that makes it feel like you're finally doing it right "fuck, i'm really with the breath." or "fuck, i'm really with these vibrations" something about sustained continuity of a thing over time seems to be the thing

Mark

so like almost indiscriminately maxing out continuous contact with bare sensations, sort of?

i guess that's what you said

J

yeah yeah that's in there too

and with this stuff, it doesn't seem like striving for uniterruptedness is important (until it happens on it's own), and it seems like there's plenty of room for non purely sense stuff too

Mark

(noting that i myself thought exactly all of this. pretty much exactly.)

yeah

J

and so it didn't really feel like i was developing a microscope

Mark

ah, ok

J

yeah. even people who ahven't meditated before often have a model as it being about "no thinking", or "staying with the present"-ness all of [that] is distinct from [this protocol]

(noting that i myself thought exactly all of this. pretty much exactly.)

oh cool! affirming yay

Mark

yup

J

Actually I just kind of remembered something funny. I remember at SFDC in the fall with Shinzen, you were telling [S] and I something like, "I think the updates that happen leading up to streamentry are as important as streamentry". And I remember internally thinking: "what do you mean updates before streamentry??" In quite a literal sense I thought streamentry was like a single belief toggling from off to on (preceded by no updates of significance).

I think this sort of all or nothing thinking is quite common.

[... I]t also bounced off in the most important way because I had no mental model of how practice could work that would have being patient, locally-oriented, not obsessed with the supramundane as being the correct strategy. The reaction was something like, "ok [...] that's very cool [...] but there's still this streamentry insight waiting for me out there and nothing will be good until that"

So yeah, in many ways, I think for many meditators and nonmeditators, a very big update will be that updates happen along the way and the mind gets better and more liveable along the way. and what a relieving update too. being super explicit and not at all sidelining this (as you're doing) will go a long way to that end.

For this all to work, for the claim that updates happen along the way to be credible, one need's a place for those updates [i.e. mundane insights] to live.

[...]

I'm sure all of [other] teachers would claim that "things are supposed to get better along the way, and if they're not, you're missing the point." But I blame their implied models of mind and implied models of progress! You can claim that "things are supposed to get better along the way" but if you're not providing the right model of mind/progress or otherwise really really emphasizing it, it's just going to bounce out of students brains and sound like hollow wishful thinking or something. So in summary heh: good models of mind and progress are super duper helpful and consequential to practice

[...]

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practice in daily life or no?:

Some meditation systems emphasize the importance of practicing in the midst of daily life or making daily life part of the practice.

As opposed to "firewalling" practice, or practicing in a carefully delimited box and forgetting about it at other times, it can be helpful to reflect or feel into past or future practice in stolen moments. And, it's certainly ok to do a little bit of practice, self-reflection, gathering oneself in those stolen moments or otherwise interleaved at other times.

But, generally, it can actually be good to not mix practice with the activities of daily life. As in, it's ok to practice when praticing and to just live when living.

The ultimate goal of the practice is sort of to "get lost in life" (safely, constructively, endorsedly), anyway.

And practicing in daily life or using daily life activities for practice is sort of adding something extra to life, an extra thing, extra metacognition, something. And this can interfere with spontaneous, constructive action.

It can be better to use practice to alter the "upstream causal factors" that indirectly trickle down to affect experience and behavior and choices, in daily life.

So practice does, short-run and long-run, affect daily life, of course.

And, eventually, practice sort of eats itself:

The lines between practice and daily life do blur, do mix.

There becomes just one seamless thing, with context dependent, manifold evolving qualities, whether "on the cushion" or off.

So/but, anyway, here, in this practice system, we're sort of coming at this blurring/mixing, indirectly, from the practice side, rather than top-down trying to mix practice and daily life directly.

Importantly, doing any of the practices is X% finding new things to do and/but Y% finding ways you're already doing these things, and, of course, eventually it's X+Y% the practice doing you, or finding yourself naturally slipping into the practices, or participating in the practices, or participating in life and the practices, all at once, and/or simply, eventually, perhaps thousands and thousands of hours in, there's just life, just this.

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what about concrete/proximal problems?:

[This section was partly inspired and came out of discussion with collaborator k.]

It’s ok to try to or to explore applying meditation to concrete or proximal problems. You might meditate/will/think/feel/etc. towards their being solved or dissolved, directly, in the context of your practice.

In the course of that, if something starts to grind or jam, just make sure you sort of notice this as quickly as possible, and then "take your foot of the gas," gently, fully stop trying, in that particular way you were trying, before you try something a little different or very different. (This helps to reduce the possibility of a "runaway proliferation of activity" or "leaving scaffolding or activity behind." It’d be fine if you do leave stuff behind, and/but then you’d likely have to clean it up later, someway, somehow. And that’s fine, too; it just might cause handleable but undesirable problems in the meantime—it can increase the chances of some of the things in the "risks" section happening, in the worst case.)

And things will probably grind or jam, within seconds or minutes, for an early- and middle-stage meditator, because of the nonarbitrary, structural relatedness of everything "in" the (body)mind. If things weren’t all intertwingled and dependently interrelated (at first) then one wouldn’t need to meditate! Problems would just sort of spontaneously unravel, solve, and dissolve themselves. (And they often do already! And, you don’t notice it! Because, it’s just spontaneously, effortlessly happening for lots of possible problems and desires and hopes and goals that never need to become problems and desires in the first place! That’s just what the mind does and is trying to do, in some sense, all the time, for everything, anyway. Sometimes it just needs a little help on the front end, and that’s what meditation is.)

Meditation is for things. Meditation is concrete/proximal problem solving, though sometimes the solution involves going very oblique, very indirect, up to and including one’s entire cosmology, metaphysics, and the very seeming and experiencing of the world. And things can get rocky when that’s happening. But, sometimes, to solve a very important, concrete problem, that’s what one ends up needing to do.

Part of why the concrete/proximal problem solving aspect of meditation is deemphasized or dismissed is because direct problem solving not only kind of tends to quickly grind or jam but because usually the "energy" or "directionality" of that problem-solving activity is what’s causing or perpetuating the problem in the first place.

There’s a way in which that’s almost tautological or analytic (in the analytic versus synthetic proposition sense): The problem-solving activity, if crystalized as such, must somehow be trapping or preventing solution pieces inside of itself, in some sense. Otherwise, the problem would have never become a problema in the first place, in some sense—it would have somehow been automatically, spontaneously, effortlessly handled at some point in the past. So, while/when a goal or problem-directedness is fixed/frozen/crystallized, problem solving potentiality is sort of trapped within it. But, if that goal or problem-directeness can relax, let go, recede, lose momentum, become fluid, then those solution pieces can be released and sort of mix profitably with the rest of the space, and then suddenly (or gradually/eventually) the solution might become clear or the problem might dissolve.

So trying to solve some problems "directly," and trying to solve problems directly with meditation, can sort of be a trap. But, it’s ok to play with it, and try, because solving and dissolving problems is kind of the point, whether it happens directly or indirectly.

Note, of course, "dissolving problems" can be a huge space of coming to want different things over time because "you and your bodymind" decide those things are much better than the things you wanted before, intrinsically, or because lots of knock-on problems just sort of fall away.

In the meantime, and forever, it’s ok to want money, mansions, anything. It’s ok to want whatever kind of life you want, and it’s ok to want your life to feel however you want it to feel. (The "endless non-end non-state" can be exciting, engaging, passionate, interesting, playful...)

The ways in which you’re "hey wait a second," to any of the above, are part of the inputs to meditation. If you’re concerned "enlightenment" or mansions or money won’t make you safe or happy, then, through meditation, you might turn towards having merely "enough" money (which might be a little bit or might be billions), and being the kind of person that can participate in every more stable and expansive intimate care relationships. And politics. Who knows.

Even if embodying "no-self" and nonduality (or whatever), the system will still be moving towards homeostasis and procreation (all things being equal) across all time horizons, and all sorts of things interrelated with those.

It’s ok to try to get specific, concrete things, and it’s ok to try to use meditation to get them—especially as one gets farther along, as the system becomes more and more nonarbitrarily fluid. And sometimes, when directness doesn’t work, the right thing to do will be to let things go, to incline towards indirect, oblique, provisional, noncommital openness, when one can, to facilitate the solving and dissolving of one’s problems, in ways that couldn’t be appreciated, pursued, or conceived, ahead of time.

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how much and how often:

For the first few days weeks or months, it can be good to stick to 2-20 minutes per day, slowly working up to 40-60, 40-90 minutes per day. (Eventually, sometimes, you might meditate many hours in a single day, with plenty of stretching, changing positions, and so on.)

During that initial time, if anything is "grinding" or "jamming," or there's growing muscle tension, it can be good to stop immediately and to explore again, slightly differently, the next day. The bodymind is learning about safety and so on.

If one finds that they can only do 2-15 minutes per day, that's ok! If one takes a few days or weeks (or months) off, that's ok!

If you find you "can't meditate," any of, "you find you're not making time to do it," or, "there's theoretically time to do it, but you 'just can't,'" or, "you're sitting/standing/laying down to do it, but then, while there, you're 'not meditating'"--that's ok! There will be life situation reasons, front-loaded opportunity-cost-balancing reasons, bodymind "pre-preparation" reasons, and so on. (You might re-read the "preliminaries and vacations" section, above.)

Troubleshooting "can't meditate" is very large topic, beyond the scope of this section. But, it can be good to know that it's normal and that possibly (likely!) a lot of good things are happening, and need to happen, before/between when one is regularly meditating. (Briefly, briefly, briefly, this is an infinitesimal sliver of a suggestion, that ellides any deep structure, deep reasons, and it, for sure, won't work for everyone, and that's ok--there can be helpful things like "more gently backing onto the cushion," as it were, different ways to gently ease the bodymind system into it, that sort of thing.)

Eventually, eventually, eventually, there can/may/will be periods of time where meditation is sort of a black hole, that will suck up all available time. In those periods, it'll be easy to meditate for hours and hours, and you'll even lose time. So, if one "wants to be meditating more (seemingly efficiently)," then one will eventually get the chance! (This can, of course, be quite disruptive, too, and one should do their best to life plan for this, even though that can be quite challenging.) It is intermittent and temporary, if/when it does happen, though it can come in blocks of weeks or months.

***

As time passes, prior to having a good, intuitive sense, there's the question of "how long should I meditate"? (Why did I say "40-60," "40-90," above, in particular?)

It can be helpful to consider "local settling dynamics" and "unpacking and (re-)packing" dynamics, as it were, as well as distinctions between particular kinds of momentum.

One could think of there being one kind of "'bad' momentum" and two kinds of "'good' momentum."

(Note, it can be hard to distinguish between (a) good momentum, (b) bad momentum, and (c) good and bad momentum mixed together. That's ok, that's normal, part of meditation is a reduction of the "bad" to a clean zero over a patient hundreds and thousands of hours.)

"‘Bad’ momentum" is/are things like potentially automatized (reversibly so!), unresponsive, possibly overly enthusiastic or indiscriminate e.g. "pushing," "forcing," etc. which can "leave behind scaffolding" and especially "leave behind occluded runaway processes," both of which "have to be cleaned up later," and, in the meantime, can cumulatively lead to muscle tension, longer timelines, and other problems. All of this can include an attitude of "trying to get stuff to stick" or "trying to get stuff over humps to make it stay there," to "trying to lock in gains." Ahhhhhh!!!!!! (Long-term, meditation is sort of about "positive disassembly" and structural/structure-preserving fluidity--not trying to stably make oneself any particular way. The "bodymindenvironment" should sort of take care of ways of being for you, as it were, ever more, over time.)

And, then, by contrast, two "good" practice states, are, like, (a) and (b):

(a) "pre-zone" or "non-zone" meditation: anything one does is progress, in-principle--long-run, cumulative, data, learning, incrementality, even including, especially including, during long stretches of 'seems like nothing is happening'" [and this even also includes, too, experiences of "bad momentum"!]. Note that, some of the time, sometimes most of the time, hundreds or thousands of hours, "pre-zone" isn't pre-anything. It's just "normal daily meditation!" And this can be true ten hours in or 10,000 hours in.

(b) "in the zone" or "'good' momentum."

"'Good' momentum," emphasis on momentum, is a bit of a misnomer. The word "momentum" is used because being in these states can feel like there is especially fast, smooth progress happening. And/but, first, misnomer-wise, there's a sense in which smooth progress is always incrementally happening, no matter what, as per (a), no matter whether it's two-steps-forward-one-step-back, long, wrong turns, "seems like nothing's happening," or anything.

And, second, misnomer-wise, the dynamics, at a fine grain, aren't precisely "momentum-y;" it's very much more, just, that, "the right, specific things are happening," full stop. That is, top-down or spontaneous/bottom-up, or, of course, both, what's happening is generally measured, concrete, specific--sometimes patterned, sometimes globally unique—personal-causal-history-lock-and-key, more like puzzle-solving and not painting nor stirring. (To be sure, though, puzzle-solving can still be long-stretches of shimmery, flowy, fuzzy, buzzy, fizzy, rippling, vibrate-y, waft-y, etc., experiences! The language is hard to get right.)

So, how do these distinctions relate to "how much and how often"?

There is a thing where the bodymind, all things being equal, as one becomes more experienced, in a single meditation session or "superblock" (maybe fuzzy around the edges!!!), is that one sort of goes through this sequence:

The bodymind (w) prepares itself to make "deeper" changes ("entry"), perhaps for long minutes or hours, (x) makes/allows/explores "deeper" changes ("momentum"), perhaps for long minutes or hours, and then (y) prepares itself to stop meditating and to get on with the day/evening ("wind-down"/"safety") (for minutes or even hours). Also, there's something like (z): post-meditation--while doing other things, the bodymind can still be rearranging itself to facilitate further non-meditation activities ("local post-meditation settling dynamics").

In the sequence above, (w; "entry") can tend to have the flavor of (a) "pre-zone/non-zone," above--patient incrementality, where it can be somewhat harder to tell what's going on. And then (x; "momentum") is more likely to be (b), being "in the zone."

(The stages/states of (w) and (x) do, all things being equal, eventually somewhat kind of blur together, over hundreds or many thousands of hours, with any particular day or stretch being an exception. Eventually, all things being equal, "long range proactive precomputation" sort of reduces context switching dynamics (and context switching costs), more and more, over time. But, (x; "entry") and (w; "momentum") flavors, as more distinct, can be especially prominent, in the beginning.)

So, finally, punchline, there will still be cumulativity, traction, even if one doesn't do the following(!), but one can sometimes make more efficient progress if one meditates more than forty minutes in a single session. (Forty minutes seems to be the magic number for lots of people, in terms of "paying the cost of entry," as it were.)

Further, if possible, having a day, or a weekend, or a week, with fewer interruptions and responsibilities, can also facilitate sort of "extra-meditation supercycles" of multi-day super-"entry" and super-"wind-down," as a larger container for meditation (and long walks, and anything). Leaving plenty of time for super-"wind-down" can be a large "retrocausal" boost to meditation efficiency/effectiveness because it makes it safe to "go deep" (because there's plenty of time to "come back").

*

Note! If things grind or jam, etc., before forty minutes, then one is doing plenty with what's currently available (and it's better if one can stop well before grinding or jamming), and one, ideally, can gently explore, over time, how to not have that happen in the first place!, because grindy/jamminess can sort of problematically accumulate before the bodymind gets very good at fully cleaning it up and/or avoiding it entirely. Additionally, if one meditates well over forty minutes, remember one can generally move around, change postures/positions, stretch, etc., quite a bit without "disrupting momentum."

AND, ONE SHOULD NEVER DIRECTLY TRY TO DIRECTLY [sic] "GET INTO" (w; "momentum")! THAT'S SORT OF HOW ONE IS MORE LIKELY TO ACCUMULATE "'BAD' MOMENTUM.":

WHETHER ONE IS IN (w), (x), ETC., ONE IS STILL, IN SOME SENSE, DOING THE SAME THINGS, THAT IS GENTLY, SOFTLY, PATIENTLY, ETC. WORKING THE PROTOCOLS, OR WHATEVER: THERE CAN BE A SEAMLESSNESS AND ULTIMATELY A SORT OF "META JUST DOING ONE THING" (at least while practicing) THAT HOLDS/APPLIES ACROSS ANY PARTICULAR STATE/STAGE/PHENOMENA. So, one's only responsibility is gently inclining towards executing gentle, impeccable practice, nothing more, nothing less, and, in some sense, things just happen on their own, can only happen on their own, when the time is right.

Depending on one's current life situation, e.g. current life-partner expectations/agreements, life/family/etc. responsibilities/obligations--in addition to meditation for e.g. forty-plus minutes, it can be helpful to meditate right when one wakes up, without even opening one's eyes, to take advantage of "sleep lability." And, it can be helpful to meditate in the hours before bed, and while falling asleep.*

(*as long as one is, in general, making use of something like the meta protocol, meditating while falling asleep doesn't turn one into a sloppy meditator or put one at risk of entrenching "subtle dullness" and stuff like that.)

Note: To emphasize again, plenty of cumulativity is still possible, long-run, in fuzzily bounded sessions and under forty minute sessions. And good things of course happen prior to the forty-minute mark in longer sessions. Over time, one can get a better and better sense of whether one or multiple shorter sessions are "worth it" on any particular day, if that's all one has time for. And, a "session" is a nebulous, "fake" construct, a leaky abstraction, and forty minutes could be zero/five/twenty/sixty/eighty/120/.../etc. minutes, on any particular day, and so on, all things being equal.

Note: In some ways the distinction between pre-zone and in-the-zone is real or at least useful or apparent; and, in other ways, it's a "fake" and/or artificial distinction, riding on an underlying continuity or complexity. And, pre-zone versus in-the-zone will be different for different people at different times. There won't necessarily be a sharp felt/experiential distinction between the two, or even a vague one, on any particular day or in any particular session, or even ever-ish--someone can feel like they are almost always or even always "pre-zone"/"non-zone", and that's normal and ok, too, and doesn't necessarily mean things will be slower or different in any particular way, in terms of progress or trajectory, for them relative to other people.

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what to do when:

This is a very, very, very, very rough breakdown of how you might use your time while practicing. It could be more granular, and all the percentages could be tweaked more. Note that each "level" adds up to 100%. For example, it’s ballpark suggested that p2 might be 80% of 72% of your total practice time. Or, stated more imprecisely, if you’re doing the protocol proper, explore doing lots of p2. These percentages may change as we learn more. For example, the ballpark suggestion for doing the meta protocol might go down or up. Also, in the beginning you might spend much more time on the preliminary/auxiliary practices, and so forth. These are intended to be the very-long-run breakdowns.

Important: It’s normal to "orbit" this document and the practices, to read this and put it down for a while, or to do the practices and then do other life things for a while. There are many paths up the mountain and many often necessary "detours," which aren’t detours at all, of course.

Alternative note: A future draft of this should maybe include percentages for "lost in life, including maybe forgetting this document even exists" as well as doing all sorts of random things for oneself that don't immediately seem to have any connection to meditation or this protocol. Though, that might get too complicated or so inclusive it become less useful as a rough guide.

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top-level practices/​categories:

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meta practice [solo and otherwise]:

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meta protocol:

(0) Notes

(1) Interleaved or Retrospective Evaluation of Happening and Doing

(2) Solo or Dyadic Tight Feedback Loop

*

Notes: how/​manner/​way

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collaborator formulations:

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collaborator formulation 1 (mh):

so, a quick rephrase of the meta protocol:

evaluation of happening and doing:

[they comment further:]

I think I’m getting a better handle on "right place, right time." it’s interesting how the definition of "good" shifts according to some kind of need, even when I don’t know what the need is

there’s this all-inclusive okay-ness thing but so many fine-grained variations in what kinds of "good" and "bad" and "locally vs. globally good-or-bad" are available or necessary in any given moment

[...]

there’s something like...the whole system keeps shifting around the definition of "good" (placeholder for the real thing), different "senses" of good/bad/?? seem useful locally at different times, but there’s definitely Something I’m moving towards...but I can’t actually pin that thing down

like, moderate confidence that all of the different "flavors" of "good/better" and "bad/worse" are integral to the thing, but no verbal/explicit? knowledge of what the Big Thing actually Is

or, well

a lot of me/"the bodymind" seems to have an answer here. and actual knowledge about what the thing is. but the part of me that explains it to myself and can actually explain it to other people is like ??????

where before it was like I was getting some kind of representation or map of good/better/bad/worse/??, it feels like a whole bunch of Knowing and Not Knowing has opened up around the territory and it is...resistant to representative explanation/maps

or, just not compatible with them

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meta meta protocol:

[minimally edited placeholder transcript; 1:1 message reply] I want to do something like not over or under sell the meta protocol, like, one thing that's important is that one should sort of also apply The Meta protocol to itself so sort of a Meta Meta protocol, and I'm sure there's better and worse ways to kind of weave it into the meditation practice itself.

I know that it's as you know, it's sort of written as like a separate thing, but you picked up immediately—I’m doing the same thing where I'm sort of naturally weaving the spirit of it into the main practice itself in terms of—that was not under selling it—but there's also a thing about not overselling it.

I've recently hammered: meta protocol, meta protocol, meta protocol. I think that's right, and I did say, like, "If non-forcily available" because it can be a thing that’s not good for the mind to do at particular times. And I think that'll be like pretty obvious; the mind just sort of won't be able to do it or it'll feel forcy or effortful so one shouldn’t, just like everything else.

It shouldn't be forcy, as with the main practice. One is interpreting the instructions and applying them in contingent idiosyncratic ways at least in some ways. So this is where the Meta Meta thing comes in.

As with the main practice, let go, hold it loosely, experiment; don’t prematurely reify ontological elements or commitments that seem to be implied by the text.

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solo practice ("main protocol"):

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Note: No practice is intended to assert/​hide/​entrench/​embed ontological presuppositions. Assume all practices, as explicitly written, are metaphysically//​existentially//​pedagogically//​phenomenologicaly/​linguistically flawed, incomplete, broken, and ultimately in need of discarding, going beyond, or dropping completely.

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preliminary/​auxiliary practices:

The preliminary/auxiliary practices are sometimes useful to explore before and concurrently with the main practices, especially main practice p2.

These practices won’t take you all the way and can even tie you in knots, but they can get things going and sometimes unstick things. They are presented in no particular order.

Consider creating for yourself and/or submitting your own preliminary/auxiliary practices for inclusion in this document. Submission could be very useful to other people. If you wished that it had been here, instead of you needing to discover it, or you just think it’d be useful to other people, please submit. Preliminary practices are intended to be unsystematized, ad hoc, a little bit vague, brief, and jargon-free. Ideally they are titled with a short, imperative phrase, but that isn’t necessary. Your submissions will be indicated by your initials or pseudonymous initials (please choose/indicate).

[People besides me who've submitted preliminary/auxiliary are credited with parenthetical initials. Sometimes other people help with significant curation as well, including (h) and others. If a parenthetical initials contain an asterisk, then the original submission has been lightly modified in some way.]

Don’t take these too seriously. Don’t reify them. They might or might not point to deep, metaphysical truths. If they happen to, it’s probably not in the way you initially think. You might or might not have to intermittently throw some or all of these away, forget them, in order to make progress.

You don’t have to do all or any these. Eventually you’ll throw almost all of them away, or at least they’ll be essentialized and seamlessly convolved with so much.

Something being in a preliminary/auxiliary practice isn’t committing to any particular ontology. Take these as experiential games, dialogues between words and experience, physical or mental action and result.

Because the preliminary/auxiliary practices are an ad hoc, open-ended list, the current set of practices became too large to be manageably contained in the current document.

See

for a bare list of the current names of the preliminary/auxiliary practices. You can skim this list quickly for ones that look interesting.

See

for the actual preliminary/auxiliary practices.

Contemporary meditators sometimes dismiss the preliminary/auxiliary practices (and sometimes, based on this, the entire document/protocol), because they seem "too intellectual" or "too conceptual." There's a few things to say, here. First, experimenting with versions of these that do sometimes tend to be too "top-down," too "heady"/conceptual/intellectual, at first, can help the system learn how to do "bottom-up"/automatic/spontaneous versions. Many of the p/a practices are pointing at phenomena that spontaneously precede insights.

Contemporary meditators sometimes also dismiss preliminary/auxiliary for being "too therapeutic." If meditation is the total transformation of (body)mind, then anything is fair game and potentially relevant, and ordering matters. Sometimes a meditator will be "stuck," then go talk to a therapist about something seemingly unrelated, and then be "unstuck" in their meditation practice. To the degree that a meditator can be "unstuck" "on the cushion", their practice will precede more systematically and efficiently. It's all the same system, and "mundane" insights can bottleneck "the big stuff" as viewed through traditional maps or contemporary lenses.

All that being said, sometimes the long list of preliminary/auxiliary practices can just seem paralyzingly overwhelming. "Do I have to do them all?" No! Explore the ones that look interesting or resonant. You will generalize from these. If you get bored or you're not "stuck," don't use them. The idea is to do just enough that you begin to generalize towards finding new degrees of freedom and the right high-dimensional, deeply personal and situated things to do, on your own. Eventually the mind becomes fully self-generative and "omni-directional." The preliminary/auxiliary practices are intended to facilitate that bootstrap, not to be a laborious and exhaustive set of practices that need to be completed before moving on.

An analogy used elsewhere is that the preliminary/auxiliary practices can be thought of as playing the scales, as in when learning to play a musical instrument. It's not a perfect analogy, but it might be a helpful one. One doesn't play all possible scales and one doesn't want to mistake the scales for sheet music performance or jazz. Though, sometimes, they're an excellent and helpful/healing/something thing to do.

Most people aren't exercising all the degrees of freedom of their minds--there's a way in which it can be hard to see all the different things one might do in any particular moment. (The "all you see is all there" bias.) Lists like can help people to fill out their "missing degrees of freedom." Almost everyone has a speckle pattern of blind spots, for things they could do but don't spontaneously think of doing, at times where it'd be helpful (e.g. in daily life, or in reflection, or while journaling... or while doing p2!)

Further, "generalization" runs "deep," to ever-finer things one might do with ever-finer nuance and variation. Again, one eventually goes "beyond" the preliminary/auxiliary practices, though even "meditation masters" will dip back into the list, every so often, for all sorts of reasons.

(Degrees of freedom and fine-grain-ness have relationships to the classical concept of "pliability.")

Finally, for any given person, sooner or later, they will experiment with a preliminary/auxiliary practice and find that it's jarring, grindy, disruptive, something. Not all practices will be net good for people at all times, and plenty will be potentially detrimental. (Maybe only a tiny, different fraction of them will be useful for any particular person.) As one progresses in meditation, less and less "top-down" or "random" "mental actions" (not to inappropriately reify anything of that) will be useful! It's ok to put preliminary/auxiliary practices down and never pick them up again (or to never try some of them at all, ever), and so on.

Meditation is global wayfinding. Everything you do changes you. Have every degree of freedom at your disposal in the service of better and better--the right things, in the right order, a the right time, ultimately beyond reason and conception (though reason and conception are still good, before, sometimes during, and after).

If the list is overwhelming, the meta protocol can help bootstrap intuitive navigation and selection of practices, from the preliminary/auxiliary practices and of course what to do, when, with respect to the entire protocol. It's ok to choose randomly and experiment. There is time. It's included in the "10,000 hours."

Again, the preliminary/auxiliary practices are sometimes useful to explore before and concurrently with the main practices, especially main practice p2.

***

Addendum:

In a similar vein to the above, some people have that the tweet below is one-pithy-way-to-express-one-way-of-how-one-might [sic] explore bridging practices that seem more cognitive, therapeutic, top-down, etc., with more "traditionally meditation-y feeling/seeming" practices:

https://twitter.com/meditationstuff/status/1360397644498165763
"If you're solo working w/ Internal Family Systems Therapy (IFS; e.g. w/ the Self-Therapy Jay Earley book) or Feeding Your Demons (see appendices in the back of both books), & they've come to feel laborious or heavyweight, you can do them NONVERBALLY & SELF-TELEPATHICALLY, too."

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main practice(s):

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introduction:

Unlike the preliminary/auxiliary practices, which are ad hoc and open-ended, the main practices are designed to be a seamless unity, a seamless, closed set. As with the meta protocol, the verbal rendering of the "main practices," in this document, could be considered one possible schematization out of many. That is, there are multiple ways that the main practices could be validly rendered into words, using maybe completely different (or overlapping) words, for each rendering. As always, it’s important to keep in mind that this entire document is a telephone game, pointing at bodymind practices, progressions, and ways of being that are "beneath" words. That being said, one hopes that this rendering (eventually), and other renderings, are in some sense "relatively losslessly complete." That is, this rendering and other renderings will hopefully retain (point to) the same amount of "essential complexity," without loss of important and unifying detail and sense. Ideally, each rendering of the main practices would be, in some sense, a "complete, seamless, closed set."

"Complete" (successfully rendered so, or not), conceptually or otherwise, note, though, that different people will use different main practices in greatly different proportions, time-wise, e.g. many people may spend much more time with p2 than the others. And, something like the meta protocol, or the "real thing behind it," your intuition, should be the final arbiter of what one could/"should" be doing at any given time, as per usual. No magical button pushing, here, or anywhere. By exploring each of the main practices, and engaging the meta protocol with respect to them, you must come to implicitly, and sometimes explicitly, understand their interrelationship and appropriate usage, for yourself, on your terms, in your own concepts and words. You must find the "real" practice(s), the correct thing(s), behind the words below.

All that being said, some people have taken a preliminary stab at pithy glosses for each of the current main practices, as a way to remember what they are and as a way to bootstrap an understanding of how they might fit together and support each other. At a later time, I will work out how to explicate more of the principles behind their design.

Example glosses by a collaborator (br):

Another collaborator (d) offers these relationships:

I think of p3 as more inviting, each point modifying or coming after the first; and p5 as keeping things that are already there still. p3 to me is more about turning up new things and p5 is about stilling turbulence

For p3, parts or feels can be threatened by knowing they will immediately become subject to p2 immediately upon being grasped

For p5, you can turn up things and create turbulence so that everything is moving so fast it becomes so slippery that you can't do anything about them.

My response to the above collaborators:

p3 is yeah sort of maybe (very) slow, soaking concentration-flavored noting practice, that self-generates new noting labels over time

p1 is more conceptual grain and fluidity than anything else

p5, very loosely, yeah could be considered a "continuous"/"indiscrete" [sic] version of p3, but it teaches a bunch of different things than p3, too, around stability, change, "grasping" (maybe in non traditional sense) and control

p3 is also a different take on "learning how to not change things" (as well as the limits of that) versus p2 which is more change oriented (though right thing right time)

p6 is sort of a "continuous"/"indiscrete" [sic] version of p2

p7 also has a bunch of relations to different "halves" of p2

Another collaborator (h/H) notes:

[p3 is] like an antidote to (what seems to me to be) the strong doingness/acting-upon-ness of p2

***

In general, as mentioned in other places, if things feel stuck or "jammy," or things become "forcy"/"force-y", it can be good to change which main practice you’re doing, to switch to a preliminary/auxiliary practice, to engage the meta protocol or meta meta protocol, to change postures, to take a walk, to take a break, to do the most minimal, personal thing in the (meta) spirit of the meta protocol, etc.

Finally, H notes:

>>>
i’ve recommended the prot to several people now, and i notice that each time i do i include some kind of disclaimer/warning about the language of especially the main practices. like "don’t think too hard, don’t spin your wheels trying to understand every caveat & get it all in your head at once." i’m not sure it’s best to do that, but i want to sort of encourage people to sit with it even if it is overwhelming or doesn’t make any sense in the beginning. "just let it wash over your subconscious" <-- problematic phrase maybe & i haven’t actually said that to anyone, but it’s kind of what i’m thinking
<<<

The current renderings of the main practices are below.

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practices:

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p0:

[Gently, conservatively, cautiously, patiently will that you become (incline towards becoming) someone who uses the practice regularly and effectively to achieve the goals of the practice.]

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p1:

[old names: Elemental Analysis, Comprehensive Elemental Analysis]

(1) Incline towards producing one of

(2) Get down (think or write down) as little or as much material as comes easily, even just a single relevant word or phrase. (And you can also patiently compose and/​or revise as you go, or set up an outline structure to fill in, or do lots of messy freewriting, or a combination...)

(3) Choose, from the material you produced,

(4) Lift it out, while remembering its context, and you might put an equals sign to the right of it.

(5) Now, on the righthand side of the equals sign, say the same thing using more words than on the left side of the equals sign. It’s ok if you produce something partial, imperfect, or nothing.

(6) Now, you might return to the original material for more content to repeat the exercise, or take something from the zoom/​expansion/​analysis you just did and zoom/​expand/​analyze further.

(7) Feel free to refactor, revise, expand, reboot the original material as much or as little as you’d like.

(8) For anything you produce, be willing to throw it all away, plan to throw it away, be willing to forget for something better in the future. Don’t push, don’t force, don’t strain. Let the whole thing go. Let the whole thing move and flow.

(9) You can also, and this is recommended just as much as the above, create new wholes. For example, if X = M + R + T, and, Y = Q + G + V, then take, say, R and G. And, do this: "Z = ? = R + G." Now, what is "Z", what is that "?" between Z and R+ G? In other words, instead of putting things on the left hand side of the equal sign and then putting more things on the right hand side of the equals sign—instead, first put things on the right hand side of the equals sign and then put fewer things on the left hand side of the equals sign. Find new wholes and larger contexts. You might find wholes contained in larger wholes contained in larger wholes...

(9b) You might play with this template:

[this/​these] whole(s) Y is/​are/​contain(s)/​= [this/​these] parts M[, F...] + "just exactly/​precisely [this/​these aforementioned]/​and nothing else"

That is, M and F are known; you have some words for them. Now, what is Y? What are some words for Y?

(9c) Another kind of inverse is adding a subscript to the word on the left hand side of the equals sign and then looking for definitions for the other subscript. For example, you might have "suffering =" and maybe before you even try to fill in the right hand side, you might do:

suffering_1 =
suffering_2 =
suffering_3 =
and so on.

You might ask, what is everything I could possibly mean by this word (or phrase) "suffering"/​X?

In this way, the word "suffering" can become more detached and flexible from the underlying language, while at the same time making each use of the word more precise. The subscripts do not have to be numbers; they can be anything that helps to differentiate which meaning/​usage/​sense of the word that you mean. That might be times or durations or conditions and so forth. [See also General Semantics for more on the idea of "indexing."]

(10) Also, consider intensional multischematism. For example, you might say that the same M can be referred to by single word R and single word H. That is R and H have different meanings/​intensions but they refer or point to the same thing or set of things. Further, R = G + H + T and X = V + W + Q. That is, (G + H + T) and (V + W + Y) each have different meanings, but correspond to R and X, respectively. Further, you might notice that, say, T and W, while using different words and meaning different things, in fact refer to the same thing(s), have the same extension. Another way of saying things like this is that the concept M, or that which directly represents M, or , refers or applies to M using the word "M". Or, you might say that both and refer or apply to the same extension; "M" and "K" refer to M and K which are actually the same. In our syntax and semantics, here, M = K.

Example a: This M and this K are the same (thing). [not just the same type of thing. and corefer to M (which is K) and K (which is M).]

Example b: All Gs are also Hs.

[note that the above is ambiguous as to whether X, Y, Z, etc. are "bound" or "unbound" for any given X in the language/​wrting above]

Examples:

Places likely worth investigating:

  1. Where something seemingly X somehow leads to (or somehow depends on) something seemingly Y, or vice versa. (e.g. when doing something bad is good or when doing something good is bad)
  2. Where something is seemingly somehow X and Y at the same time.
  3. Where something is seemingly somehow X and Y at different times.
  4. Where something is seemingly somehow either X or Y conditionally. X, Y =

Further notes:

Final note:

This could be woven in better with the rest of the practice and likely will be in subsequent versions. As per usual, beware of inappropriate reification and inappropriate eternalisms. Do treat all this as multischematic and interschematizable language games. How you use language now, how language is "seated" for you, now, may not be how you use or seat language in the future. Hold it all lightly, playfully. If something is grindy or jammy, let it go. Private language is useful in the ways it's useful and not useful in the ways it's not useful. Plenty (wordlessly holds up flower, here) is tacit, implicit, inexplicit, nonsymbolic, etc. Language is what happens between people. (another flower, here)

Final final note:

Main practice p1 has an appendix in this document.

Yet another brief sparse note:

Language is bodymind-"full stack" or "bodymind-complete", or even bodymindworld-"full stack" or "bodymindworld-complete. And, there's a practically "infinite" number of language games, in the Wittgenstein-ian Philosophical Investigations sense. Language use can of course be both self-directed and other-directed. Language use nebulously shades into "thought", verbal self-talk, and non-symbolic cognition, and all of these nebulously shade into, and mix with, (all) other phenomenology. It's all nebulous, and it functions and is "phenomenologically seated" differently between people. (Remember, 99% software and 1% hardware.) That's not to say that language use is arbitrary--it's definitely not--there is an envelope of tradeoffs constrained by the physical body and brain, but there are large degrees of freedom. People using the same words may have very different things going on "under the hood," so to speak, with ultimately different behavioral (and etc.) implications. Through high quality self-transformative practice, one's relationship to language in general may subjectively converge, in some ways. When people talk about language, when people use meta-language, and talk about concepts, meanings, referents, intentions [sic], intensions [sic], aboutness, reference, definitions, etc., it's important to guard against inappropriate reification. Meta-languages are themselves nebulous language games that nebulously shade into other language games and nebulously enmesh with all other behavior and experience. Over time, self-transformative practice allows one to wayfind through "where language games come from", which is coextensive with the bodymindworld system. And that can mean that learning new language games, whether other's or one's own inventions, happens on the same timescale as other meditation-y things, which is over thousands of hours. But one might get an itch that there's something new that can be done with language, or a new way to writes stories or give voice to ideas, or to express oneself. Self-transformative practice, over time, unlocks extraordinary capacity for self-renewal and exploration, beneath culture, in pursuit of what one wants, which transforms in tandem with language, which can end up yielding art and progress and paradigmatic shifts, and so on. In short, p1 is just one language game.

[Go to appendix 3: main practice p1 appendix (usa english; "en-us"]

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p2:

Background intention:

Will Instructions Part 1:

Will Instructions Part 2 (the "opposite" or "absence" or "antidote" of/​to will):

Action Instructions Part 1:

Action Instructions Part 2 (the "opposite" or "absence" or "antidote" of/​to action):

Notes:

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p3:

Notes:

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p4:

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p5:

*

Rambling scratch note: One might expect a practice, here, instead of, or alongside, the above, that's something like "allow/accept things to be just as they are," but in my experience it's a bit more instructive to try to actively stabilize things and to see how and when that fails (plus perhaps other more direct things, for some people). Regarding "for what’s good to and you can and it's not bad to," immediately or eventually, the "for what (and when)" will be, long run, never. That is, active stabilization will give way to effortless flux (which has a certain restful clarity/stability). But aiming at that directly seems less productive than sort of aiming at indirectly, but having the distinction somewhere in back of mind and acknowledging when it happens, bit by bit. And, also, very important point, there will already be tremendous stabilization actively and latently in the system, already--so exploring intentional stabilization (or especially importantly, also, letting it bottom-up come to the fore) is critical for the redo-to-undo process, though it can show up in many different conceptual/ontological/liminal/nebulous ways and not necessarily some or any sense of "stabilization as such," however labeled.

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p6:

*/

Rambling scratch note: Notice how and when the above practice jams or grinds, when it's better to instead do something else, something not conceptualized as such, as the above, and when all of that gives way to something effortless, spontaneous, costless, not conceptualized as such or above. [The previous applies to all the main practices.] Better, likely, to let this happen over time than to aim at it directly or conceptualized as such.

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p7:

*

Rambling minimally edited scratch note, may especially contain errors: This is sort of a letting go, arbitrariness, fluidity practice, not that letting go is always safe or makes sense, and not that it's always or often possible, and not that arbitariness is a goal or even possible, in a sense. Optionality and fluidity sort of yield "positive/good couldn't be any other way," eventually, in any case. But one might imagine "effortlessness" practices and "acceptance" practices, in place of this one. But, for "letting go," "effortlessness," and "acceptance," especially the first one and the last ones, I think aiming at them directly is likely to engender "insta-resistance," for some people. (And, really, with global wayfinding, "resistance" is sort of a signal that something has gone wrong, or someone should never really encounter resistance unless it's already in the system and then encountering it is via redo-to-undo. In any other case, "if can't/won't--then don't; that is, some different, safe, possible "can," will come later. And so the appearance resistance should sort of only be from something previous and latent or from karmic momentum still in the system. Note "should"/"shouldn't" doesn't imply "not ok." Resistance, if it appears, is ok! It's just that resistance isn't meant to be overcome. Instead, backtrack.) In any case, "letting go" is something to play with, and true letting go only really happens when the system finds something even better, and in that case never-have-to/never-need-to-until-want-to,-until-it-safely-spontaneously-happens-all-by-itself. So, here, the term "letting go" is a bit more local, experimental loosening or experimenting or exercising or playing with perhaps micro-slack, micro degrees of freedom. And then "acceptance" as a practice seems pretty bad--what if you don't want to accept something? That then seems like a recipe for layery resistance and self-disalignment. You don't have to accept anything. It's a problematic concept, I think. Let the bodymindworld refactor [around you] so that acceptance is never needed. Better is "just-is-ness," maybe, and that sort of takes care of itself, through correct practice, over time. Because of redo-to-undo, or just because you want to or need to, because something matters and you care--it's ok to fight, ok to want, and of course ok to prefer, and so on. So that's sort of why there's no "acceptance" practice. All of that sort of takes care of itself in better "concepts" or however a person finds the right thing for themselves. Sort of subjective convergence by finding one's own way on one's own terms. Finally, I think effortlessness (or sponteneity) is more fundamental, but it's still maybe better used as a lead indicator than a practice or even a direct goal. There's something very, very, very, very, very important going on with seeking out (or finding or simply noticing, over time) where "effort" or "efforting" is occurring (sort of perhaps "doing+will+wanting something to be different") but this might be better sort of conceptualized/coalesced/found "bottom-up", which is why effortlessness is mentioned a lot, throughout the document, but it's not a main practice as such. It's a lead indicator, to be sure, and has attendant potential affordances or pre-affordances, and/but it's also more fruit than path, in some sense. Sort of.

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p8:

(There will be a right way and a wrong way and a right time and a wrong time to incline towards answering any of these questions.) If can ask in a way/​manner/​sense that’s good, and it is good to ask at/​during the time of asking through the interval of (possibly) answering or partially or fully answering:

  1. Who am I being (right now)?
  2. What/which is me and/or mine? What/which is you and/or yours? What/which is his/her/it and/or theirs?
  3. What is this/that/my [(necessary) essence/]nature here/there? What is this that I am being right now, here/there and how does it/that [(necessary) essence/(nature)] work?
  4. What is this/that that I’m or this part of me is currently knowing/believing/understanding/representing/thinking/expecting, there/here? What do things feel/seem to be from its perspective, as it, from it? How does the world seem to be to/from it?
  5. What is/are this/these practice(s) for? Why, for what (purpose/goal/good...), am I doing (any of) this/these at all?
  6. Why, for what (purpose/goal/good...), am I doing anything at all rather than doing nothing?
  7. What question of these or any would be good to ask next?
  8. How is one to understand/know themselves?
  9. Why is there something, anything rather than nothing?
  10. what is the basis or ground of everything? What does everything depend on but this?
  11. cf What would be good to do?]
  12. What minimally and correctly/truthfully explains everything?]
  13. What is the deepest or most fundamental or most unconditional determining or causal factor or truth of what you experience or are aware of or attend to next?
  14. How does will and/or volitional doing work? How does nonvolitional or currently uninfluenceable enacting of self-change or self-telos work? What is the relationship between efficient(?) cause and telic or final cause?
  15. How do you come to know what is good and bad?
  16. Recall, feel back, to the immersive childhood (or prenatal or any age, as far back as you can go or wherever you’re drawn to or what makes sense or is good) feel, that sensory experience, that sensory feel, from the inside, from that perspective.
  17. Is this [current (self and) world] the best of all possible worlds? How do you know?
  18. What terrible tradeoffs am I making? For what am I holding out on, keeping what door open, for good or bad, for the slightest chance of X? How does that work and is that good to do? How do I know?
  19. What seems both terrible and (critically) necessary/needed?
  20. What will you never ever share with anyone no matter what about yourself, or your past, or who you were, or who you are, or what you want/desire?
  21. Where do you need to maximize something? Where will you never have enough? Where will nothing ever be enough? Where is infinitly needed or where is even infinity not enough? Why not determinate satisficing?
  22. For what must you risk the destruction of everything? What is worth risking everything for? What are you already risking everything for? For what must you risk destroying what you already have? What is worth that much that it is (seemingly) worth more than everything (or almost everything) else? What is so good about having a shot at X? Is (risking everything for) having a shot at X for some further good?
  23. Where must you be (self-)consistent and for what purpose?
  24. What would you do differently if you were truly alone or never accountable, in a good way?
  25. What do you have no choice about?
  26. What must you do no matter what?
  27. What outcome(s) must you avoid no matter what?
  28. What goal(s) must you achieve no matter what?
  29. In what ways can you not give up, in a bad way?
  30. In what ways can you not commit, in a bad way?
  31. What is taking (up) or consuming everything?
  32. How do things absolutely have to be? What absolutely has to be true? What absolutely has to be true in absolutely a particular way?
  33. What are all the things you’re doing or solving just so you can get back to X?
  34. What does or does not dictate global stringency or vigilance or room for error? How careful do you have to be in your life and why?
  35. Is the world (reality, the planet, the cosmos, life, being alive) good or bad?
  36. What would you tell someone if you could trust them completely?
  37. What would you tell someone if you knew the could and would safely and competently help you in a way that was ok or good for you?
  38. If I can do X then I can do Y; If I can do Y then I can do Z. So I should just do Z. But, then, what good things about X and Y might never happen?
  39. For what do you believe if you don’t do X then Y will never happen?
  40. What would be intolerable if it unexpectedly happened?
  41. What options or option types are you automatically/unreflectively discarding?
  42. cf the perfect is the enemy of the good; is the "perfect" the enemy of the perfect?
  43. Where are you getting the order wrong? Doing (or trying to do) A before B instead of B before A?
  44. What isn’t getting a chance to breath? What doesn’t have a chance to breath?
  45. What do you still feel (e.g. fear) from your childhood?
  46. In what ways do you still feel the "real immersive feel" of being a child? In what ways do you really feel like you haven’t aged?
  47. What was the first thing that happened to you or that you experienced that contributed to you becoming like this instead of like that?
  48. What are the real rules for how things work?
  49. Do you feel like you are the whole of your past?
  50. What did you leave behind? What were the clean breaks? What of your past must you confront or become or embrace?
  51. What would you do if you had unlimited resources? What would you do if you could snap your fingers and magically make anything happen? For what would you push a button to instantly make it happen? For what would you think you would push the button, but, if it were actually in front of you you wouldn’t or couldn’t? Why? Everything were to suddenly become OK, what would’ve changed?
  52. Where do other people’s "insides" or "insideness" live?
  53. What is the relationship between other people’s "insideness" and "outsideness"?
  54. Where is other people’s "insideness" and "outsidness" in relation to your "insideness" and "outsideness"? 1.What is the relationship between your "insideness" and your "outsideness" and environmental sensation and your experience of environmental location?
  55. How do you know where things are in relationship to yourself?
  56. Is the knowing of spatial location (of, say, sounds) "inside" you or "outside" you?
  57. Where is knowledge of spatial location? Where is awareness of spatial location? What is the experience of spatial location?
  58. Where is knowledge of spatial relationships? Where is awareness of spatial relation? What is the experience of spatial relation?
  59. What is living a life like? What is being alive? What is it like to live a life? What is it like to go through life? How do you describe "what a life is"?
  60. Where does the past live? Where does history live? Do history or the past exist outside of interpersonal interaction/"social reality"?
  61. "Where"/"how" does death live? Can that "location" be otherwise?
  62. "Where"/"how" does the future live? Can that "location" be otherwise?
  63. "Where"/"how" does forever/​immortality/​deathlessness[ or not]/​sempiternity/​eternity/​timelessness/​"end-of-time-ness" live? Can that/those "location"(s) be otherwise?
  64. Where/how does pain and/or suffering live?
  65. What is the only thing that’s real?
  66. Where does truth and the transitivity of truth preservation live?
  67. Where and how does truth live in mind, experience, and behavior?
  68. What is the relationship between truth and freedom?
  69. What is the relationship between truth, freedom, and intolerably critical badness?
  70. What are you expecting? What would be better? What would be better than that, better still?
  71. What’s being left out? What is a frame that can hold everything (relevant)?
  72. What do you feel like doing? What do you feel like doing right now?
  73. Where is "infinity" and how is it represented?
  74. What is your basis for action? What are you acting from? What beliefs or world-seeming are you acting from?
  75. What is a basis for unconditional action? What is a basis for unconditional, a whole hearted action?
  76. What do you take responsibility for? (cf duty obligation)
  77. What is your basis for belief?
  78. What is an unconditional basis for believe?
  79. What is the difference between good and better?
  80. What is the difference between contextually good and ultimately good; contextually bad and ultimately bad?
  81. What is the difference between personally good and universally good?
  82. What is the difference between good and necessary? (goodness and necessity)
  83. What is the difference between good and right? (cf right=duty/obligation/responsibility)
  84. Is there any greater whole worth dying for (the good of)?
  85. What is the difference between this protocol and becoming a student of posture and movement?
  86. What is the difference between unconditional goodness and ultimate goodness? (cf imminence, temporality, sempiternity, eternity, timelessness...)
  87. Are causes singular, plural, or total/everything?
  88. What is true/existing/obtaining in all places, times, (worlds,) universes, contexts, conditions, timelessly, eternally, sempiternally, unconditionally?
  89. What are the limits on what is conceivable? What is the space of all conceivability? What are the limits on what is conceivable separately from other somethings?
  90. What is good to unifiedly [sic] experience?
  91. What do you want your life to concretely look, sound, and feel like? (etc.) How do you want your days to be filled?
  92. If there is or were one "intrinsic motivation" in all times, all places, all situations, all contexts, what is or would it be?
  93. What is the difference between one’s self-boundary and one’s sphere of influence?
  94. When something is bad, when should you change yourself and not the world, your intentions, plans, goals, etc.? When should you change the world?
  95. What’s real? What’s actual? (What things are real? What things are actual?)
  96. What are bodies? What is your body? Are bodies real?
  97. What is and isn’t reality?
  98. What desire or problem are you avoiding at all costs?
  99. What are minds? How do they work? What purpose do they serve? How does that feel from the inside? How should it be used?
  100. What is a (human) mind?
  101. Is everything perfect; are things perfect? If not, where/why not? (What’s bad? What (of everything) is bad? What’s bad here/everywhere? Where/what is concretely (or abstractly?) bad? What’s wrong? What’s not right?)
  102. How do you account for (the contents/value/means/ends of) "having believed" (X) without needing to still believe (X)? [small-/medium-/large-scale reformatting]
  103. What is everything that I rely on to know what I "should"/should be doing? [cf should, duty, obligation, responsibility, rightness, correctness, necessity, goodness, liking, loving, enjoying, wanting, desiring, hoping, longing, wishing, needing, preferring, nice-to-have, need-to-have, X-to-have][identity, self, other/not-me-but-another-self, me/I/myself, selfhood, personhood, grouphood]
  104. What is should-ness? What is allowed-ness/permission? What is beyond either? [cf obliged, permitted, forbidden, other/by-whom-ness, authority, for-what-purpose/goodness-ness]
  105. How do I know/tell when something (sensations, anything) is me? How do you know/tell when something (sensations, anything) is you? (How is that like something I do? How is it different?) [identity, self, other/not-me-but-another-self, me/I/myself, selfhood, personhood, grouphood]
  106. What is authority? What is the basis of authority? What or who makes authority authoritative, and how? Who grants authority? Who enforces authority? What are the benefits of obedience?
  107. Who will and won’t take care of you? Along what dimensions and what not? Who is and isn’t coming for you? Along what dimensions and what not? Who is coming/going to save you, and how or how not? Who won’t save you, and how or how not? Who do and will you love? Who does and will love you?
  108. When are self-trust and self-reliance safe? When, if ever, is a lack of self-trust good? When self-trust is lacking, in what ways is self-trust actually (still) present?
  109. How can self and other be confused?
  110. Who determines what goodness is? Who determines what things are good? What determines what things are good? What makes something good, likeable, desirable, enjoyable, ethical, moral, safe, correct, constructive, useful, valuable... ?
  111. If you’re experiencing pressure from someone, where is it actually coming from? [Is it coming from you? From them? Both? Other? etc.]
  112. What If X weren’t just so? What If X weren’t exactly just so? What If X weren’t exactly a particular way? What would be bad about that? What would happen? What would happen instead? What would that mean? What would be the improbable, fantastical ideal? What’s good about that? How would that feel?
  113. What are all the good things about all the bad things? What are all the good things in all the bad things? What are all the mixed things in the good things? What are all the mixed things and the bad things? What are all the good things in the mix things? What are all the bad things in all the mixed things? All the good things about all the mixed things? What are all the bad things about other mixed things? [What are all the good/bad/mixed things in/about all the good/bad/mixed things?] [cf. comprehensiveness; exhaustivity] [x]
  114. What does it all mean? What does it all signify? Where is all the lack/absence of meaning? Where is all the lack/absence of significance? Where is the meaning? Where is the significance? What is meaningful? What is significant? What is not meaningful? What is not significant? What is basis of significance? What is the basis of meaning? [cf. comprehensiveness; exhaustivity] [cf [x]]
  115. What are all the true things about all the false things? etc. [What are all the true/correct/false/wrong/incorrect/mixed things in/about all the true/correct/false/wrong/incorrect/mixed things?] [cf. comprehensiveness; exhaustivity] [cf [x]]
  116. What are all the real things in all the fake things? etc. [What are all the real/actual/obtaining/existing/veridical/fake/illusory/imaginary/mixed things in/about all the real/actual/obtaining/existing/veridical/fake/illusory/imaginary/mixed things?] [cf. comprehensiveness; exhaustivity] [cf [x]]
  117. How are you being tripped up or slowed down by belief in belief?
  118. "Why is the badness objectively real, something ‘out there?’"
  119. "Why are you a bad person?"
  120. "Why is anything objectively real, something ‘out there?’"
  121. Are you allowed to come up with/find your own solutions?
  122. What of your problems have you not yet solved? What of your problems do you assume you can’t solve?
  123. How does a mind decide anything? How does a mind decide? How does mind choose anything? How doesn’t mind choose?
  124. What if fear was unnecessary and you had none?
  125. What could you have done differently? What could anyone have done differently? [question is unrelated to the questions above and below]
  126. What concepts become unnecessary or ultimately meaningless?
  127. Why are you doubting this right now instead of something else right now?
  128. Is that necessary? What can happen anytime or next time?
  129. If you provisionally assume it will be like this forever, how would you move forward (with all of that exactly like it is, now)?
  130. What makes X bad?
  131. How would you move forward if you never meditated or used this protocol or did anything "inward focused" ever again?
  132. What if you completely stopped meditating or doing this protocol, temporarily? What then?
  133. What if you gave up the idea of meditating? What if you tabooed "meditation"? How would you move forward?
  134. What if you were "like this" for the rest of you life? How would you move forward?
  135. What if meditation/protocoling wasn’t the only way out? What if there was no out but also no need to get out?
  136. What do you do as you’re sitting down to "do the meditation activity"? What happens in the first milliseconds. And before that? What has already happened in the doing of that? What makes "doing meditation" separate from everything else? What if you dropped all that? What would meditation be then?
  137. What if there was no meditation or pre-meditation or post-meditation but just mind?
  138. What is meaningful for you?
  139. What is your meaninglessness? (e.g. personal death, e.g. heat death of the universe)
  140. What is the relationship between desire and intent?
  141. What is the relationship between desire and intent and behavior and outcome?
  142. What is the relationship between meaning-laden phenomenology and body?
  143. Where does agency originate from?
  144. What are the errors in your doing?
  145. What are the errors in your willing?
  146. What are the errors in your surrendering?
  147. What are the errors in your undoing?
  148. What is the relationship between self-conceptualization and doing?
  149. What is the relationship between self-conceptualization and agency?
  150. What is the relationship between self-conceptualization and planning/intending/intent/will...?
  151. Is it ok to look at the way "you’ve just been happening"?
  152. What would anyone do in this situation?
  153. What is the relationship between phenomenology or "internal" experience and plan/"plan"? [sic]
  154. What is the relationship between phenomenology or "internal" experience and expectation?
  155. How is your "plan" the same or different from simply everything you currently are?
  156. What are the relationships between natural planning and artificial planning?
  157. For what open questions do you already have the data ["within you"]?
  158. Does the world need to make sense in a very particular way? How/what is that way?
  159. How is your mind working right now? In what manner?
  160. What language or meta-language is your mind using? What is the lingua franca of your mind?
  161. What is the world?
  162. What is the relationship between meaning, completion, imminence, now, and stability, in no particular order?
  163. Say there’s something X that nothing "external" to you can give you, or that you can’t get doing "external" things. What is X?
  164. Say there’s something X that can only be gotten through "internal rearrangement." What is X?
  165. Has anything ever-always-as-yet-still been completely untouched by all goal-seeking in your life? If so, what/where is that?
  166. Do you want to fuck and/or be accepted by your mom? Do you want to fuck and/or be accepted by your dad? Do you want to kill either or both of your parents or any or all your siblings?
  167. What as an AMAB or AFAB (a male assigned at birth, a female assigned at birth) or intersex or contingent anything, can you definitely or merely apparently never receive, have, get, do, etc.?
  168. Who’s trying to get things for whom?
  169. Where are you?
  170. When are you?
  171. What are you doing (to undo) that’s an instance of a(/the very) thing you’re trying/intending to undo?
  172. What happens in the seconds and milliseconds before you start "officially" meditating, and what does that mean?
  173. What is always already now complete and unified and pure and...?
  174. What is (your) fundamental insecurity?
  175. Would you harm, rape, kill, one-up, take advantage of, and/or gain advantage over another person if you were absolutely certain you’d never, ever get caught or face any (external, gross) consequences, on your terms?
  176. What are you doing to yourself X to prevent yourself from doing bad/shameful/evil/destructive/etc thing Y? (And/or to keep yourself doing either good or believed necessary thing Z?)
  177. The whole point of meditating was to never have to face what/X? What is X?
  178. How is [the very fabric of] reality broken?
  179. Does every towards have an away from?
  180. What is the unity of opposites?
  181. What is the unification of concepts?
  182. How does X contain Y? ("containment relations ")
  183. What’s the one thing you’d never allow yourself to be cornered into having to talk about? What are the things you’d never allow yourself to be cornered into having to talk about?
  184. What conversations can’t you (yet) have?
  185. What can’t you extemporaneously talk about (a lot), pretty quickly, maybe with a bit of a delay before you get going?
  186. What is the relationship between "cognition "and "embodiment "?
  187. What things in your mind that cannot express themselves are the same time?
  188. Is it safe to be radically vulnerable to yourself? If not, how might that come to be?
  189. What would still be the problem even if you were certain you were perfectly healthy and you had one hundred million dollars in a trusted bank?
  190. What would still be a problem if you were rich, stably physically healthy, and immortal?
  191. What are the relationships between inside, now, future, outside?
  192. How would you choose differently if no one you ever knew would ever know? Put a different way, if you could live perfect double or triple lives, where no one in each life would ever, ever find out about the other lives, what would you do in each life? Put another way, if everyone you ever knew or know gave you perfect permission to do as you wanted and also would never or know or be able to cast judgment on you or whatever you did, what would you do or do differently?
  193. In what ways are you not taking unified and total responsibility for your life? And what are the ways in which you are?
  194. What is/was your entire life going to be, including in light of possible sudden and/or unexpected death?
  195. What problems would yet persist even after "all your problems were solved"?
  196. Could you just exist like this, if you had to? (How could that be ok?)
  197. What’s your meta goal?
  198. What are you actually doing?
  199. Is here and now bad?
  200. Do you hate reality?
  201. What are the places from which you’ve never left?
  202. What are the ultraprecise, hyperprecise (interpersonal or otherwise) experience you want to have, need to have (to unlock, to uncoil, to move forward, to love, to anything, etc.)?
  203. How is your current trying/doing/solution-ing getting in the way of actual no-brainer, will-be-fully-endorsed/wanted, solutions, positive changes?
  204. What is terrifying for it to not already be true?
  205. What is the difference between any and every "two" "sensations"?
  206. What are you trying to maximize? Why not sufficiency? What will never be enough? Why or how do you know?
  207. Do you want it all to just stop/end/finish/cease?
  208. Are you trying to directly/​immediate/​instantly/​something control (change, precent, block, cause) sensations?
  209. How are you beyond beyond [sic] fucked?
  210. What can you not accept?
  211. What present limitations of yours can you not accept?
  212. What are the things that nothing will fix (even if you do fix it?!)?
  213. What can’t you keep out?
  214. What destabilizes you?
  215. How do you know/tell what’s actually real?
  216. Who are you and what should you do?
  217. What class of person are you and what should you do?
  218. What in-group versus out-group are you really truly in?
  219. What automatically makes someone a parent or an adult or The Man or The System? (Automatically makes it so that those things are real and someone must be seen as an agent or personification of one of them?)
  220. What is the fabric of your world? (that completely comprises it, or parts of it, with nothing left over)
  221. What must the world be? What must you be and what must other people be for the world to be(come) that?
  222. What are the limits of your knowledge of outside this moment? What are the limits of your knowledge of the future? What do you and can you know about this moment? What do you and can you know about the future? What do you and can you know about outside this moment?
  223. If you had a remote (or option) that could fast forward through time (you'd still be living your life but would "wake up" at a future moment), what would you do? Would you use it? would you do it? [jd]
  224. Under what circumstances would you betray your loved ones/yourself/your ideals in order to survive? [what’s that like?] [h]
  225. What dead ends are you heading toward or stuck at? [h]
  226. What has been the same or unchanging since your earliest memory?
  227. Why do you expect everything to work, versus suffering, failure, disappointment, harm?
  228. Why do/did you think anything was/is going to work out at all? (preconceiving/presupposing X)
  229. Why do/did you think you were an agent with (a) goal(s) at all? (preconceiving/presupposing X)
  230. Where is the future seated? In there? In here? Up there? Out there?
  231. Where are goals seated? In there? In here? Up there? Out there?
  232. Where is the goal seated? In there? In here? Up there? Out there?
  233. What are you wrapped around?
  234. True of false and why: "I"(?) believe "I’m"(?) evil and therefore undeserving.
  235. What would happen if you basked in the goodness of your seeming/provisional perfect irredeemability?
  236. Where is the sky judge? How can it/they be known?
  237. What mouse are you to what reality cat?
  238. Where are the credentialers, the certifiers?
  239. What if, whatever all this actually is, is ok?
  240. What if life is suffering?
  241. What if you’re being utterly carried and held in this physical world, this very moment, and this one?
  242. What would happen if you were ok?
  243. What are all the ways actual empathy could work?
  244. What are all the ways perspective-taking could work?
  245. Are you a person, through-and-through? Is it safe to not be a wholly a person or to not be a person, when/if needed?
  246. Are you willing to have X forever?
  247. Are you willing to be exactly this way forever? How would that look? What would you do right now in that world?
  248. What is the true/actual (self-)language of the body(mind)?
  249. What is your lifeworld built out of?
  250. What for you is context bound?
  251. Are you a person in the world?
  252. What glues together ongoing narrative?
  253. What is/are (a) [whole] world(s) and how should one relate to it/them, morally or generally?
  254. What do you actually/truly/really want? (*)
  255. What is the nature of "hell"?
  256. How can suffering by an interpersonal strategy?
  257. Is it safe for something to not have meaning and/or not have meaning "attached"/attached/??? ? [sic]
  258. Have you considered the possibility that you are , that there never was to being with, or that are dead, that don’t exist at all, not to mention that there are no people and there are no things, and that what’s happening is happening to no one? That you were never alive in the first place?
  259. Have you considered that everyone else is good and that youare not good?
  260. What if you’re already dead?
  261. What if you were never alive in the first place?
  262. What is the actual badness of the world or actually real? Is there an actual badness of the world or actually real? Where might there be an actual badness of the world or actually real?
  263. Why do (body)minds suffer, in the first place?
  264. What will never be ok?
  265. What is the nature of "true bad"?
  266. What is the answer/solution to "true bad"?
  267. What is your original impulse? Or, what emerges as your original impulse?
  268. Just this or not just this?
  269. Can you do it without coercive dominance?
  270. What are your "behavioral anomalies", historical ways in which you surprised yourself by what you did, how you acted?
  271. How could anyone give that to you except for your own true self?
  272. What can you keep?
  273. Who are you [liminally verbally] narrating for? (Who’s your audience? Who’s observing?)
  274. If not permanence, then what?

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p9:

Explore what your "normal ideal day" would be like, do this imaginatively, generatively, "concretely immersively." That is, as best you can, experience it as if you’re actually there, in the first person, in real time, in full sensory and perspectival detail, including inner experience.

So, this includes, but is not limited to, your thoughts, feelings, everything, successes, failures, ease, challenges, rote tasks, fun tasks, texts or artifacts you’ll write/create or consult as you’re doing so, the reactions you get, how people respond..., how you feel, who will be there..., includes experiences of planning, expecting, anticipating..., remembering, thinking (content of those thoughts), beliefs, willing, doing..., how you feel in your body from first person, how you think about your body, what you want the whole world around you to be like, how the whole world works, your past accomplishments, you expectations of future success, your imminent experience of the past, present, and future.

This is not a concentration exercise. It’s ok to do it partially and imperfectly. Planning and reverie and (seeming) off-topic-ness are ok.

See if you can minimally effortfully do this, with as much allowing as possible. If anything gets stuck or jammed, let go and try something different. No forcing.

Let go as you do this. Allow what you thought you wanted to change endlessly (if it does). Also, try not to impose on what you want. What you want right now is what you want to the degree that it’s safe to want it. What you want can change to the degree that it’s safe to want it right now.

Again, experiential/sensory/qualitative, first-person concreteness is what’s key to this practice. Concreteness.

Additionally, with respect to "ideal," above, also consider "intrinsic motivation," what is "intrinsically motivating." (The use of this phrase is intended to capture a certain pre-reflective ease, excitement, interest, and drive and is not intended to be a theoretical or ontological commitment.)

Also, holism is key to this practice, at least as something to keep in mind. The experience you’re exploring is a slice of an entire life, a slice of an entire universe, moments in an entire consciousness. Holism. Unity. Wholeness. Unifiedness. Seamlessness. Simultaneity. All together, all at once.

If you find that the concreteness is "too much detail" in that you "don’t care" about certain details and would prefer thinking more abstractly, see if you can fill in that "don’t care" (non-)detail with something concrete, and then see if you can fill in that detail with something intrinsically motivating. You don’t have to keep it. You can let it go afterwards. "You have to fill your days with something."

You might find you can’t do parts of this or can’t do any of it at all. You might be blocked or cut off or cut out. This might be because you have the experience of being not allowed, or too selfish, or what you want is too childish, impossible, immoral, evil, pathetic, hurtful, dangerous, too hard, to risky, imaginary, a fantasy.

If that’s the case, just do the best you can. You might try, for each objection, to see if you can correct or handle that objection. If you cannot, just let it go for now; choose another practice and come back later, as with all the practices. Here you can also mix in practice [p2], the willing/doing practice.

Finally, all the above is the canonical, main practice. And/but, you can also try similar things with "the rest of the day," e.g. when you wake up you can concretely explore your ideal rest of the day. You can do something similar for "tomorrow" and finally "goals" and "milestones" if those sorts of things are in your felt ontology.

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p10 [experimental]:

This practice might be called "minimal unit partially ordered imaginative/generative concrete planning." That is, in some sense, it is a planning practice.

Explore what you want and what you might do by imagining/generating immersive, concrete experience, as if you’re fully living it, in two subsequent moments. And repeat.

first person concrete experiential qualities in —> first person concrete experiential qualities out

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p11:

[p11 gloss: "Stop meditating. / Stop X"]

Gently stop(/​block/​prevent) meditating, completely, either immediately, if you can, or durationally incline towards this (if it seems good enough, safe enough, etc., to do this). And/​or/​rather, continuously "don't meditate." And, then, see what spontaneously, ongoingly remains, even so. That is, see how/if meditation (or anything) continues, if/​when you've completely stopped meditating, any/​all of which might be good or beyond goodness.

Other options and formulations (one at a time! not all at once!):

Notes:

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theory:

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incomplete, alternative renderings:

A collaborator (mh) notes:

I find myself mentally replacing much of the "will" or "intent" language in the protocol (particularly p2) with something like "invite" or "permit," both of which feel like "cleaner" versions of doing something volitional (cleaner=less mental baggage).

**

Another collaborator (jd) notes (paraphrased):

Regarding doing, willing, etc., and different understandings of the underlying concepts, the ontology of course being imperfect to begin with, there can be a distinction between more volitional doings and less volitional doings. And, there’s a way in which doings can feel more and less willful, from effortful to having a "nondoing" flavor. And, there’s an important distinction between the two: I can do a very topdown, or willful, willing or doing or there can be bottom-up doings, that are just kind of happening on their own. And there can be more bottom-up intention [will] as a companion to willing. And they feel very different. I’ve been inclining more towards surrender, but there’s still been a lot of doing going on. More precisely, I’m less and less the one doing the doings, in a way that happens more easily and on its own. And the word I’m using is "allowing," or I’m allowing it. The doings are allowed, somehow, and maybe being lightly facilitated by me. It’s not like the practice is missing doing, it’s just light and gentle. [...] Where I got stuck was doings and willings that were more an exercise of will versus allowing that was more bottom-up.

*

I note/respond:

the p2 language has [and has had, for a long time] "allow" and "participate" on the backend, but, yeah, this is coming up more with people. [One reason I haven’t emphasized top-down versus bottom-up, in the main practices, is that the distinction, eventually, in some sense collapses. Or, the line gets ever more blurred, or it very saliently moves. Some of the preliminary/auxiliary practices intentionally have a bottom-up flavor, e.g. "be moved." Also, the baked-in emphasis on ability/can/can’t hopefully gives a flavor of circumscribing problematic top-down-ness. All that said,] I’m wondering if there could be something more explicit [or front-loaded, in the main practices, to help good things happen maybe sooner]. so instead of:

will/intend/[...] :: ~surrender ... "allow or participate in that happening"
do :: undo ... "allow or participate in that happening"

maybe should be more like:

will/intend/invite/permit/facilitate [...] ::surrender [...] "allow or participate [...]"
do/non-do :: undo [...] "allow or participate [...]

reminding myself the current structure of p2:

2 main parts will/do,
each with two subparts will/surrender, do/undo,
each with three subparts: good/bad/can’t

**

notes on a couple takes/facets metaphysics of causation:

**

I offered another partial schema, that maybe doesn’t front-load or specially emphasize "bottom-up" but is more explicitly balanced about this:

**

Another collaborator (rv), tweets the below:

https://twitter.com/nosilverv/status/1377214273471008775
>>>
Language is stupid.

Proof:

"Not doing X" equivocates between the following:

If you understand this you understand Alexander Technique.

FURTHERMORE:

"Doing X" equivocates between the following:

If you understand this you understand Wu Wei.

MEANING:

You can have whole ass (effectively) philosophical schools spring up and develop immense literature and practicum to teach you something which isn't a priori obvious for no reason other than living in between lapses of language.

THEREFORE, language is stupid.

Q.E.D.
<<<
(incorporated inline, with permission)

*

[I would add, in addition to active and passive, there is sort of a third between them, "participation," after another meditation teacher.]

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creativity(/​unsticking) protocol [solo and otherwise]:

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what to do when nothing's happening/​working:

[stub]

Sometimes, especially somewhere near the very beginning, or eventually, it seems like nothing's happening, or nothing's working, or nothing's changing, or things are just as bad, or things are changing but nothing's actually getting better, or absolutely nothing is happening at all.

In these times, maybe counterintuitively, it can be helpful to incline towards doing ever-less, not more. Trying and experimenting and "thrashing" can be loud. They can make it harder to detect subtle and new (to you; or old) [SUBTLE] POSITIVE LEAD INDICATORS.

These might be things like subtle, distant puffs of relief, subtle, over-the-shoulder, was-already-there-at-least-in-the-moment-before memories or insights, subtle changes in muscle tension, and so on. And, it can also be very counterintuitive things or things that maybe feel bad but are actually in the right direction, slight changes in the "pattern of pixels" (not to inappropirately reify any of that), maybe a little patch in a region of bigger "pixels." Or voxels, or definitely don't inappropriately reify anything like pixels, voxels, space, time, etc., anything.

More: right-there-over-your-shoulder-there-all-along-at-least-for-a-little-bit creeping sense of something, a faint dreamy, dreamlike dawning around the edges, little phenomenological glimmers in strange inner spaces, little bits of somatic/muscle refactoring, faint, distant puffs of "relief," somatic tingles...

So, it's important to explore how to "take the foot off the gas," sometimes, in times like these, to make it easier to detect and discern and find SUBTLE POSITIVE LEAD INDICATORS (which won't necessarily feel good, but "feels good" is an excellent heuristic).

You might in particular explore the "do less" preliminary/auxiliary practice. It's not a panacea and, in my opinion, it generally won't take people "all the way," as per this whole document, but it's a good thing to explore while being careful of tangling or counterproductiveness, perhaps via the meta protocol.

Over time, one can use patterns and meta-patterns to approximately predict aspects of the future.

>>>
https://twitter.com/meditationstuff/status/1301623971323015168

[...] over time, one learns patterns of subtle lead indicators allowing navigation across larger & larger nonmonotonicities, to months of hardness where you're barely 51% sure, if that, that you're doing the right thing. it's fallible but practically doable, cf. buddha nature, etc. [...]
<<<

An example of the the above is knowing that even though things actually feel worse, you're 51% confident that something better is on the other side.

Another example is, suddenly, you seemingly know less about something than you did before, but you stably rest in this, you don't claw back to knowing, you rest in this new unknowing (because you're confident that it's ok to do it, safe to do it, and you can do it), for seconds, minutes, many minutes, or a day or two, and you come out the other side, better off, knowing more or knowing differently.

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creativity(/​unsticking) protocol:

Intructions:

Notes:

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interpersonal practice:

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formulation 1 (including Many Protocol):

[(strategy flavored; mutual epistemics flavored):]

A move M could be in the context of conversational or other local, real time interaction. Or a move M could be composite and part of a long-term plan. So, a move could be right here and now (or soon), taking place, once initiated, in a single moment or across a small number of contiguous moments, or a move can be planned for future, as part of a global strategy, or anywhere in between. And the number of people considered can be from n=2 to n=billions.

Less obvious moves, in addition to particularly other-directed moves: "non"-moves, receptive moves, waiting patiently moves, self-care moves, time out and stopping temporarily or for a longer duration moves, being-helped moves (e.g. free-associating, saying what’s most bad, saying don’t feel safe disclosing X, saying prefer not to do X without explanation or apology), listening quietly, going with the flow of what the other person is doing...

And, to be sure, we’re "moving"/"move-ing"/making-moves continuously and contiguously. We can’t turn it off. Any "non move" is a move.

It can be helpful, when doing the many protocol with new people, to start with just five minutes at a time, maybe trying five minutes just once in a single day, then five minutes again or ten minutes the next day, and so on. If it’s not working, don’t force it! Just do solo meditation or some other group activity.

It can also be helpful to start very far apart! Everyone ten to thirty feet away from each other! And then move in slowly over minutes or even days.

alternative presentation:

alternative presentation: [yay = good; bleh = bad] "Many Protocol" (Last updated: 2019-09-06; 09:19 CDT)

[See some interesting definitions in Appendix 2]

(1) Let there be A and B, which comprise a group G. A is a single person. B could be a single person or multiple people.

(2) Person A considers a move M. M can be (a) physically verbal, physical nonverbal, mental, or even (b) a "non-move that’s still a move." Examples of (a): a verbal observation, verbal question, a verbal request, a quizzical look, a shrug, eye contact... Examples of (b): thinking about what to say, waiting patiently, waiting patiently with an open mind, leaving the vicinity temporarily... Moves can be complex, that is, moves can be made of submoves that are simultaneous and/or sequential in time.

(3) Now, say, something can be "yay" or "bleh" for someone. And, something can be believed to be yay or bleh for someone, by someone. And, two or more people, at a particular time, might disagree as to whether a particular something is yay or bleh (for someone or in general). Also, say, for our purposes, that there’s a fact of the matter or a ground truth, that that particular something is actually/truly (contextually, for a particular person at a particular time) yay or bleh, with no other possibilities. And let those possibilities be possibilities for M. That is, we can have a big list (exactly 64 items) of things that could be the case for M, where only one entry/line in the list is true at a particular time. That list is in Appendix 1.

(4) Now, so, person A selects and makes the best move M they can make, in consideration of as many moves as they have time to consider, and in consideration of the 64 possible classifications of moves (in Appendix 1).

(5) So, now, the move has been made, and results have obtained. And, now, everyone in G implicitly or explicitly chooses a new A and B(s). Now, go to (1) or (6).

(6) If things are moving smoothly and slowly, then, at any particular time, with perhaps some periodic indeterminateness, there is only one A and everyone else is a B. If things are moving smoothly and more quickly, then everyone is simultaneously, at the same time, at all times, both an A and B. Now, go to (1).

appendix 1:

appendix 2:

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formulation 2:

[(persuasion flavored)]

Can I cause people to know what’s good for me? Can I cause people to understand the synergy of reciprocity? Can I cause people to long-term coordinate with me? Can I give people a reason to long-term coordinate with me? Actually these are all superfluous or they are abilities that follow from the original ability lay down..

Good for everyone and everything. Strategically helping; recognizably good cascades...

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formulation 3:

[(after Leibniz)]

What is the best of all possible worlds? How do I/you know? What does this imply for my action?

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formulation 4:

[(after Kant’s Categorical Imperative)]

What would anyone ideally do in my exact situation?

If a random person were perfectly airdropped into my exact being and situation, what is the best thing they could do?

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formulation 5:

[(mutual knowledge)]

You know that I know that you know that X is good.
You know that I know that you know that Y is bad
I know that you know that I know that that same X is good.
I know that you know that I know that that same Y is bad.
We have mutual understanding that X is good.
We have mutual understanding that Y is bad.

Notes:

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formulation 6:

(*) If something feels bad, then something is bad, somewhere, somehow, and it’s ok to completely stop any particular thing, or the whole thing, at any time, smoothly or abruptly, if that’s what feels right. (If something has changed for the worse, it’s ok to reverse or revert, to walk anything back, too, if you want to, that you don’t like or find you don’t like, when you find it’s time to do so, immediately or later.) If in person, you can leave the room any time. If online, you can turn off your mic, turn off your speakers, turn off your video, etc.

(*) Moment by moment, sensitively, responsively, patiently:

(**) If, as far as you can tell, it’s good for both/all of you for you to somehow lead, in some somewhat particular way or not, and you can do so, start doing so or continue to do so; top-down or bottom-up, actively or passively, do, allow, surrender, release, participate in that happening. If you know or find you can’t do any of the relevant ones of those, incline towards completely stopping any of your trying to do so, for those relevant ones for which you can’t, at least for just right now.

(**) If, as far as you can tell, it’s bad for both/all of you for you to somehow lead, and you can stop or not start leading in that way, do that; top-down or bottom-up, actively or passively, do, allow, surrender, release, participate in that happening. If you know or find you can’t do any of the relevant ones of those, incline towards completely stopping any of your trying to do so, for those relevant ones for which you can’t, at least for just right now.

(**) If, as far as you can tell, it’s good for both/all of you for you to somehow follow, in some somewhat particular way or not, and you can do so, start doing so or continue to do so; top-down or bottom-up, actively or passively, do, allow, surrender, release, participate in that happening. If you know or find you can’t do any of the relevant ones of those, incline towards completely stopping any of your trying to do so, for those relevant ones for which you can’t, at least for just right now.

(**) If, as far as you can tell, it’s bad for both/all of you for you to somehow follow, and you can stop or not start following in that way, do that; top-down or bottom-up, actively or passively, do, allow, surrender, release, participate in that happening. If you know or find you can’t do any of the relevant ones of those, incline towards completely stopping any of your trying to do so, for those relevant ones for which you can’t, at least for just right now.

(**) If, as far as you can tell, it’s good for both/all of you for you to somehow coerce, in some somewhat particular way or not, and you can do so, start doing so or continue to do so; top-down or bottom-up, actively or passively, do, allow, surrender, release, participate in that happening. If you know or find you can’t do any of the relevant ones of those, incline towards completely stopping any of your trying to do so, for those relevant ones for which you can’t, at least for just right now.

(**) If, as far as you can tell, it’s bad for both/all of you for you to somehow coerce, and you can stop or not start coercing in that way, do that; top-down or bottom-up, actively or passively, do, allow, surrender, release, participate in that happening. If you know or find you can’t do any of the relevant ones of those, incline towards completely stopping any of your trying to do so, for those relevant ones for which you can’t, at least for just right now.

(**) If, as far as you can tell, it’s good for both/all of you for you to somehow resist, in some somewhat particular way or not, and you can do so, start doing so or continue to do so; top-down or bottom-up, actively or passively, do, allow, surrender, release, participate in that happening. If you know or find you can’t do any of the relevant ones of those, incline towards completely stopping any of your trying to do so, for those relevant ones for which you can’t, at least for just right now.

(**) If, as far as you can tell, it’s bad for both/all of you for you to somehow resist, and you can stop or not start resisting in that way, do that; top-down or bottom-up, actively or passively, do, allow, surrender, release, participate in that happening. If you know or find you can’t do any of the relevant ones of those, incline towards completely stopping any of your trying to do so, for those relevant ones for which you can’t, at least for just right now.

(**) If, as far as you can tell, it’s good for both/all of you for you to somehow phase-lock, in some somewhat particular way or not, and you can do so, start doing so or continue to do so; top-down or bottom-up, actively or passively, do, allow, surrender, release, participate in that happening. If you know or find you can’t do any of the relevant ones of those, incline towards completely stopping any of your trying to do so, for those relevant ones for which you can’t, at least for just right now.

(**) If, as far as you can tell, it’s bad for both/all of you for you to somehow phase-lock, and you can stop or not start phase-locking in that way, do that; top-down or bottom-up, actively or passively, do, allow, surrender, release, participate in that happening. If you know or find you can’t do any of the relevant ones of those, incline towards completely stopping any of your trying to do so, for those relevant ones for which you can’t, at least for just right now.

(**) If, as far as you can tell, it’s good for both/all of you for you to somehow desynchronize/decorrelate, in some somewhat particular way or not, and you can do so, start doing so or continue to do so; top-down or bottom-up, actively or passively, do, allow, surrender, release, participate in that happening. If you know or find you can’t do any of the relevant ones of those, incline towards completely stopping any of your trying to do so, for those relevant ones for which you can’t, at least for just right now.

(**) If, as far as you can tell, it’s bad for both/all of you for you to somehow desynchronize/decorrelate, and you can stop or not start desynchronizing/decorrelating in that way, do that; top-down or bottom-up, actively or passively, do, allow, surrender, release, participate in that happening. If you know or find you can’t do any of the relevant ones of those, incline towards completely stopping any of your trying to do so, for those relevant ones for which you can’t, at least for just right now.

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lists and more:

A few of these sections are sort of "less clear" in some ways than the main practices. Those are sort of "noncanonical" in some sense. I’m not sure how to slice and dice all this yet

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nonmonotonicity:

So, I suspect the way it goes is, there will be something both so bad and so difficult to change that a person tries everything and then becomes a systematic meditator.

And then a person it meditating and all sorts of things start to get better, but, highly disconcertingly, the deepest worst stuff that can barely look at or can’t look at it all seemingly starts to get worse.

And then finally, finally, finally, finally, finally hundreds but likely a thousand or two thousand hours in, or more, that very worst thing uncoils. (With sometimes intermediate mini-uncoilings.)

I think the combination of intermediate very hard things getting better (when nothing else was really touching them) combined with short- and long-range nonmonotonicities. "So much getting better! So much getting worse?!" makes all this very confusing even if you sort of know what’s going on.

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definitions:

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undefined and explications:

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bodymindenvironment:

("bodymindworld" ht twitter)

Sensation and representation and belief and expectation, how are all these related? It can be hard at first to experience things like "sensational imprint as such" or "representation as such" or both at once or are they two sides of the same coin? The analogies below are wrong but possibly evocative...

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can’t-look-yet ("avoidance"):

There will be thousands of things that are hard to "look at." For any particular thing that you can’t look at, you won’t be able to look at it until you can. Your mind figures eventually figures out how to make it safe to look, and then you find yourself looking or you remember to look and you find that this time you can figure out how to do so.

Usually the way your mind figures out how to make it safe to look will be necessarily roundabout and indirect, in a way that you couldn’t have planned or directed in advance. So it goes.

Nevertheless, it can sometimes be helpful to make a list of the classes of things that are hard to look at, as a way to help your mind more quickly get it’s bearings. Below is a messy sample list of the kinds of things one might classify in one’s mind as "avoidy" or "attention-redirecty."

Again this is a hard thing to do willfully, and one shouldn’t do it forcefully, but it can be helpful to keep in mind "(self-)cornering", as in "nothing left to do but look" and "surfing up the terribleness gradients", using experiential badness as a way to prioritize and navigate. Sometimes badness will come up that seems tangiential or in reaction to what you’re doing, but, in fact, it’s directly related, and in some sense should be prioritized.

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systematicity, ontologies, phenomenological and otherwise:

If only one could make a list of what needs to be attended to, and then one could just go through the list. Unfortunately, people’s ontology and ordering for what’s good to do when will be idiosyncratic and complex and evolving and ultimately (often) very fine-grain

But, it does matter what you do when, and that’s part of wayfinding. But, when you just don’t know what to do, you can be systematically experimental. This helps at least somewhat to keep from systematically leaving something out.

Sometimes you might experimentally want to increase the rate and depth of breathing, if breathing has become too subtle to offer certain kinds of systemic feedback.

also: the subtle movements of your eyes, the subtle movements of muscles in the back of your head and neck, subtle movements of the tongue and jaw, glottis, lips, palate.

states can be important too: sexually aroused, not sexually aroused, desirous of sex, not desirous of sex, possibly various states of emotional arousal

Finally, here are some ways that people systematically leave things out; as best you can make sure to not be systematically avoiding anything, of course with fast moving mind (belief/expectation/thought/imagination/feared possible truths and outcomes, etc.) and sensation stuff, but also old injuries, unsettling or unpleasant sensations around permanent pins or staples from old surgeries, scars (injury or cosmetic), genital circumcision, feared body stuff (cancer? precancer? did i fuck up nerve/ligament/tendon permanently? etc), phantom or feared teeth and jaw stuff, unpleasant "wrong, nervy" stuff. or maybe you don’t like your hands or feet or stomach or thighs or something. don’t avoid.

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exhaustivity and bottlenecks:

don’t skip anything, don’t bypass anything, don’t force anything. don’t double-down, you’re probably missing something somewhere else. if you accidentally force, reverse it as soon as you possibly can. rare, weird, unusual, surprising, or uncommon stuff matters. it could be a clue to a systematic avoidance or a bottleneck. eventually you have to touch everything in every way, think "everything," believe "everything," do "everything", remember everything, often from multiple angles, over and over again, in the right global order, though with plenty of room for backtracking and mistakes. every good thing, every bad thing, every trauma, every childhood terror. it’s finite. don’t do so any session indiscrimately; and catching small details can save dozens or hundreds of hours, tiny (or large) unexpected body locations or depths from particular angles or along particular paths, far removed from each other in partially repeating, complex orders; the right turn or surrender to memory or thought or reverie—spending hours painstakingly untangling (local or distributed) X is worth it and necessary, interleaving doing that with large excursions to elsewhere in body and mind may help you find what’s "secretly" blocking that untanglng. sleeping, watching tv, conversing, throwing yourself into experience may offer clues to what to do next. it’s finite.

"slow is smooth: smooth is fast", blah blah

So sometimes things can look a lot like "contemporary classical noting practice." [sic]

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ordering matters / order matters:

I mean something like if there’s “meditation moves” A, B, C…:

(A, B, C, etc., are actually pretty good first-pass "moves," out of a large space of mix-and-match, combinatorial possibilities, but, over time, "moves" will become more and more "shimmery," high-dimensional, maybe local/​small/​isolated (or not), pixel/​voxel precise (not that pixels/​voxels are "real" or necessarily useful, of course--nebulous all the way down!), and radically personal. And of course there's the surrender-y, bottom-up, spontaneous, it's-just-happening-to-you component.)

For someone, they should do AEDCCGFGF…. But someone else should do EEEABCJJE…., and so on. But if the first or second person did DDEDDEFQ…, that wouldn’t be as good, and so on. Each person's "evolving personal move" list, and the order in which they apply those moves, matters.

Like each person has a god’s-eye-view perfect ordering, million-moves long, ten thousand hour combination lock, and it matters, for meditating efficiently and not getting horribly tangled up. Because of buddha nature, there’s in some sense no mistakes and/or all mistakes are recoverable, and making a gazillion “mistakes” is fully accounted for in 10k hours, or whatever. But the exact radically concrete thing a person is doing in any moment, and the order that they’re doing those things in, “perfectly structurally matters.”

If someone should do ABABABABA…, then if they do AAAABBBB, instead… that won’t work. It’ll eventually tangle them up.

Like there’s plenty of slack, all things being equal, but no magic. It’s mechanism, almost like gears, bits, steel cables, all the way down, and those steel cables can’t magically pass through each other. There’s only one way to unwind the machine. (Eventually more and more and completely it spontaneously self-unwinds.)

(And also nebulosity and emptiness and groundlessness, and there is no god’s eye view, and there are no bits or steel cables or A, B, C, D, and this is a model and the “real” A, B, C, D are intimate and concrete and fine grain and etc.)

So when someone is “doing a practice,” like investigation, noting, concentration, anything, the first thing I ask to myself is, short run, is it doing more good than harm, for them? And second, is it, over time, going to self-bootstrap into a practice that self-modifies itself and ultimately eats itself, that can clean up every last prior misconception and mistake, recursively, and work itself out of the most entrenched and gnarly tangle at the finest grain?

(Not to inappropriately reify harm, self-bootstrapping, self-modification, “eat itself,” “clean up”, mistake, recursively, entrenched, gnarly, tangle, and grain..)

*

Note: The above may seem super top-down, but it's sort of a corrective on other pespectives on meditation. Main practice p2, loosely speaking, is 25-50% "surrender," "let it happen," etc. For more qualifiers, search elsewhere in this document for "homunculi" (without the quotes).

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(mental action) and the attentional manifold:

When you’re "doing things" in meditation, with what are you doing it? Your muscles? Your mind? Your phantom/ghost hands? Subtle or gross eye activity? Your jaw? The muscles in the back of your neck? The muscles in the back-base of the skull? Are the big motions or small motions? Sweeping or perfectly still attention? Vague or pin-point precision? Two dimensional, three dimensional, or conforming to a surface?

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the use of the will:

one can of course will changes in life situation and that can be really good

the will stuff explicitly in the practice is (obviously? not obvious at all?) intended to largely be in relation to the practice. some of it will be life goal stuff and intention stuff and planning stuff because of how all that is "imminent" in the mind.

indeed, specifically things like "have this resolve without the use of force in a way that I retrospectively endorse" <-- and keep error checking and tweaking the thing behind the words (and refining the words) "have this muscle tension go away in a way that doesn’t fuck up something somewhere else" and there’s a very feely/modulatory quality to it, error checking the willing as feedback starts to come in, ways the willing isn’t achieving or heading towards the right thing, so somehow the "how" or the "endpoint" of the willing has something wrong with it

I’ll usually explicitly will something for brief periods, tweaking it as a I go, and then drop it when I eventually understand how it’s problematic or it’s done enough work that doing something else practice-related is higher-value.

I’ll also examine what I’m already implicitly willing, what I’m already implicitly trying to have happen, because it might be problematic. I might be pushing against something that’s not ready to move, or I might be trying to achieve something problematic out in the world, in the what, how, when, or order. there might be something better to mediately will that gets the same thing or better distally.

>>> Jonathan [8:24 AM]
[...] for better or worse i have distinctions like (quick and nonexhaustive list):

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a note on force (plus a brief mention of "redo-to-undo"):

[minimally edited placeholder transcript] I want to call this a brief note on Force. I've made it pretty clear in different places to not be forcy. And I don't think I'll define forcy, here. But, there's something about getting something to happen, something about threading a needle in a way that feels potentially bad. (Though it might only feel slightly bad! It might feel like necessary-tradeoff progress. Try to avoid needle-threading in the first place! It might almost never be worth it, if avoidable. Try to figure out or incline towards why it’s happening in the first place versus something cleaner.) There's potentially a sense of effort. It can be extreme, subtle, or somewhere in between.

But let’s say needle-threading has already happening. Force has already been used in the system. (Usually there’s some, or even a lot, even if there’s been minimal needle-threading. [And then, by definition-ish, there will have been force, if there has been needle-threading.] Force is often a strategy that gets used, in any case, maybe prior to even having started to meditate.)

There's a thing that the mind does, which is, in order to sort of do something for the last time or in order to sort of undo something, the mind kind of like replays it or re-does it, that one last time.

So if a person is shying away from force completely, but there's already force in the system, then there's a way in which it will be harder for that remaining force to get undone.

So sometimes it's important to surrender to or to go into that what is generally "not supposed to do," (in this case, force) so I don't want to say like globally don't be forcy. But sometimes subtly or not so-subtly ease into forcing, or already existing forcing, or allow latent or hidden forcing to appear.

And this "going into," or "allowing," or "surfacing," is for the purposes of sort of self-liberating that remaining forcing or dissolving it or undoing it or undoing its leading edge.

So this is nuancing on top of the general but not universal principle of avoiding forciness or forcing. (And this "redo-to-undo" principle/heuristic also more generally applies. See p2 for more pith pointers to this.)

Note on needle-threading or threading the needle: One can use needle-threading as sort of a neutral term, and there can be good versions and bad versions. Neutrally, the term is intended to invoke a sense of "‘correctly’ navigating a narrow path forward." Good versions might be careful, gentle, precise that lead to ultimately stably expanded optionality. Bad versions are sort of "carefully, precisely making a globally-net-negative tradeoff, making seeming local progress but also ultimately making more work than if had done something different." This latter version might sometimes feel like "doing something that’s alongside or causing joint-grinding muscle tension, somewhere." Use of the meta protocol can help to determine whether a good version or bad version is happening or if it might be better to be doing something else entirely. [The opposite of needle-threading might be "breadth-first-ing" [cf. depth-first-ing, too]. Both/all can be good, for various reasons, at different times.]

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a brief note on effort:

Some traditions, as almost the whole of their entire instructions, say something like "incline towards non-effort, effortlessness, even including this inclining."

And, that's it, that's the instruction. There's ways in which this sort of cuts to the heart of everything. The connection between this and main practice p2 is something loosely like:

effort ~= will + do
effortlessness ~= surrender + undo

And, indeed, long-term practice of p2 looks like more and more of the latter and less of the former.

So can you just tell someone "incline towards non-effort [...]" and leave it at that? Instead of, say, handing someone a huge document, like the one that this section is a part of? Sometimes!

It's not quite that simple, in that simple instructions usually come with a community and teacher. And, simple instructions can sometimes get lost in the whirlwind, or it's hard to remember to use them, or it's hard to maintain legitimate credence in their usefulness. And it can get experientially/intellectually tangly--it can be hard to align the simplicity of such instructions with frothy, reactive experience, that "actively responds" to one's interpretation of instructions. Hence, this entire document, as one possible practice framework.

Effort as such isn't much seen elsewhere in this document, though it's there in some places, so it seemed like a good idea to include an explicit topical section on it. Some people will find effort to be a clean and elegant experiential concept, and may put it to use at some time or another.

One last connection to other parts of the document: "Force" might perhaps be "effort + effort" or "effort on top of effort" or "effortful effort."

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more on "undo":

[See also the section: "technical debt and inverse operations"]

A dialogue:

S

I cannot confidently say that I have an undo mechanism, since I only sometimes think that I get it (the tech debt article helped but I read it a while ago and don't feel as confident in my understanding as I did when I first read it). How would one know? What is the subjective feeling of undoing something, concretely? What are the exact steps? The closest I can think of is how in exposure therapy, you expose yourself to the frightening stimulus in such a way as to break the undesired response.

M (not Mark, not necessarily the same M as in other dialogues and sections)

Here's one reference experience I had: Through meditation and psychedelics I've occasionally felt like I "returned to a previous save point" in some domain, and I could recognize that long ago I made a certain choice of how to go forward, but I now have a choice once again

This is my best referent for undoing for now

From what Mark says I suspect it can be a lot subtler tho

Actually a subtler example: i re-learned how to squat over the last few months, and I ran into over and over assumptions about the "right" way to do it or what I "knew" about what would happen if I did it differently. Those have steadily dissolved and been replace by new knowings (which are also moer correct AFAICT)

Mark

There’s ways in which "undoing" is so general that it’s sort of a (useful!) empty concept. I’m starting to also use "finding your way back [and then doing something different]," too.

Any time someone changes their mind or revises a belief or skill, some initial "undoing" has occurred. Meditation eventually facilitates very deep undoing, but it’s all the same continuum.

(Undoing is related to "memory reconsolidation," in the technical sense. Rather than "adding more compensation," something old actually becomes labile and then truly changes (while preserving memory and value).)

P

hmm, realizing that Mark’s notion of "general undo" really doesn't make sense to me. i think because it's like, how could i know that there wasn't something good in the thing to be "undone"? There's a sense where everything that happens, feels like it's "mine to integrate". And I don't know how to grok "undoing", but it feels like it would be disclaiming that responsibility, and giving up on something

undoing = getting rid of, and it feels wrong to get rid of something that could be good

M

[Ed.: See also the section: "technical debt and inverse operations" for more on "general undo"]

something is preserved, like the doing and undoing has been meta-recorded. something is latently, implicitly/"costlessly", recoverably preserved, even in "undoing"

and just generally, unless it’s really truly truly truly truly safe to let go of something, the system won’t let go of it. ultra conservative. maximally conservative.

H

to me, undoing feels like it's necessary in places where I'm sort of "locked into doing". Like part of me is stuck in 3rd gear (or neutral, or park, or..) and to undo is to free up the stick shift so the car can drive fluidly again

this metaphor might be incomplete and/or wrong in a bunch of ways but i like it

***

Notes:

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meditating by coincidence:

Mark 1 day ago have you ever heard of so-called "coding by coincidence" i think from dykstra? he’s kind of a dinosaur and it’s not the right thing to write careful proofs for one’s code before coding 99% of the time. but there’s a nice thing in there, something like: maybe hope yes experiment but don’t guess? kind of? sort of going for exact knowledge of what does what. or to know that if one does X, given this context, within 7-31 hours Y will happen, inevitably. sort of.

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failure and other seemingly permanent and bad things:

Sometimes parts of the mind believe they will fail, even when, say, the rest of the mind believes in, say, trying and hope and best-effort. Sometimes the way to help that part of the mind is to "fully go into it," to (temporarily) fully and completely believe that part, be that part, in such a way that you really believe that you will fail, or that you have failed, even forever. This sometimes does not feel good (understatement) and can be scary, especially the first time, and possibly every time (in the likely case that multiple parts of the mind believe that it will fail). But, in that "fully going into it" that part of the mind ultimately relaxes, updates, realizes all the goodness around it and comes to believe that it in fact will not fail. Sometimes you have to fully become something (bad) to become something else (good) even if it temporarily takes you over. Remember that you don’t have to go into something until and if it’s good and safe to do so and only when you in fact can do so. So don’t necessarily, say, try to up front find all the places and ways that you will fail and then, say, try to fully believe that you will fail in that way. Engage p2, the meta protocol, etc. Right time, right place, right manner, etc. (All of the same goes for failure, failing completely, giving up hope, failing forever, forgetting completely, and other seemingly scary, bad, or permanent things.)

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how bad does it have to get?:

[...] Today at 10:45 AM

[Question/comment wondering if it might be possible to never have to "go into badness," that, in principle and possibly even in practice, whether there’s always a better option, and then there would be value of reminding people of that over and over again in the world where it’s true.]

Mark 34 minutes ago

I think it will be exquisitely personal/idiosyncratic/contextual, depending on the fine-grain details of that person’s mind. Generally, there does seem to be an at least micro-redo-to-undo, mitigated or made safe by equanimity and various other preparatory things. Agreed that wording and preconceptions will have significant influence on "how bad things are," though.

I do somewhat less qualifying in the document, or a different pattern of qualifying, because a lot of stuff sort of "comes out in the wash" with hundreds or thousands of hours of meditation. And the meta protocol is also intended to help people correctly orient around interpretation of the instructions. I certainly am not fully accurately calibrated and if I had more resources I would likely qualify more. There is a lot of gentleness in the prelim/aux practices that is elided in the more terse main practices.

Mark 31 minutes ago

There is also, I suppose, "the law of equal and opposite advice"--some people will shy away too much from discomfort. And of course some people will flagellate themselves. I think, long-run, it’s very good to be able to "go into badness"--this becomes ever more safe and constructive/productive over time, generally, I think. cf. "equanimity"

Mark 31 minutes ago

ever-less looping and piling on over time

Mark 27 minutes ago

Sometimes (often) "a better thing" just isn’t locally available and one has to "keep going through hell." Other times a precise (and possibly necessarily personalized) reminder that something better is available makes a colossal difference. And calibrating how and when to remind or not will be somewhat empirical, given patterns of students, though of course deep principles could be elicited.

[...] 19 minutes ago

[...]

Mark < 1 minute ago

I will note that there’s an important question here of how "soft/safe/gentle" [not to conflate gentle and safe but they are correlated] meditation can be in the limit. If we understood this better, and I hope to, plan to, intend to, in collaboration with others, it will make meditation accessible to a much wider range of people, in a much wider range of life circumstances. If someone could trust that nothing particuarly terrible could happen or that it would happen predictably, then it would be more likely they could do work/career/money and relationship/family things while being a serious meditator. And that would be a much better world. This is an open area of research and an extremely important area of research. Safety and effectiveness (including consistency, monotonicity, ease of starting, initial palatability and interpretability, ideoloogical non-clashing, minimizing negative musculoskeletal involvement, minimizing "temporary trauma," ease of talking about with other people, everything.

[...] 10 minutes ago

[...]

Mark < 1 minute ago

One way to resolve possible contradictions somehow involving badness being good is to make the distinction between something feeling bad and something being bad. That is, one might accept that feeling bad can sometimes be good. Further, to equivocate, one might accept that feeling bad can sometimes straightforwardly feel good! (Some people will say, of course! cf. "hurts so good," painful pleasure, massages, erotic pain, etc.)

The deeper thing, here, is something like "goodness" and "badness" are words and a person’s concepts of goodness and badness will contextually, contingently, and idosyncratically apply to, and in the context of, complex phenomenology and knowing that will be a complex mixture of valenced and unvalenced experience. And those concepts and that phenomenology and the relationship between the two will change as life and meditation progresses.

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regarding "better not to start; if you start better to finish" (draft):

[ht MO for pushing on this]

The phrase: "better not to start; if you start better to finish"

The phrase unpacked:

Some people have the option to not start or to stop. "Starting" is something like entering a regime where "bad things" (in some loose sense) are more likely to (spontaneously) happen.

If someone chooses to keep going or has no choice, it’s important that one prioritizes sort of acquiring the tools to "go all the way," or "to finish."

"Finishing" is something like entering a regime where "bad things" (in some loose sense) are less likely to (spontaneously) happen. Things chill out, eventually, even though there can still be big swings very late in the game. Even so, things get safer, more stable, more predictable, in general, especially in the limit.

The reason that it’s important to prioritize sort of acquiring the tools to "go all the way," or "to finish" is that, if something bad happens (speaking loosely and generally), then getting through that is more likely to be shorter and safer, if someone has previously made that prioritization.

That is, sometimes it’s better to acquire tools and commitment to get through bad things before those bad things happen, because it’s harder to do that during the bad thing. And, that’s sort of the hedging implicit in the "better not to start" part of the phrase.

"Better to finish" is sort of shorthand for "sort of make the commitment to keep going so as to frontload acquiring the ability to keep going, when things get hard, because then the hard things will be more likely to be shorter and safer."

And then "better not to start" is sort of saying "that frontloading above is a lot of commitment, so if you don’t have to make that commitment, yet, consider retaining the option of not making that commitment as long as you can, as best you can, if you still have that option."

*

Note:

"Bad things" is loosely pointing at real possible stuff, for some people, but "bad things," as such isn’t pointing at some real thing, de re.

*https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_dicto_and_de_re [Last accessed: 2021-05-22]

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extremity replay and creativity: panic, trauma, sexual arousal:

Sometimes old stuff will "come up" (come into awareness). Sometimes it will be obvious that it’s coming up to "burn off" (become stably absent) and other times this won’t be obvious (or it needs to come up but it’s not yet time for it to "burn off."

The general principle is that sometimes the mind needs to at least partially re-experience something bad in order to make sense of it or fully metabolize it so better things can happen in the future.

(Also, sometimes the mind, in the course of problem-solving puts together things in novel (and not entirely correct) ways that are temporarily scary [terrifying] or otherwise bad [horrible].)

Sometimes this old or new stuff will be quite experientially extreme:

e.g. panic attacks, derealization, depersonalization, automaticity, edging into fugue states, air hunger, traumatic sleep paralysis, distorted phenomenology, fragmented phenomenemogy, weird feeling ness, strange feeling ness, re-living or de-novo inventing medical scares, feel like dying, feel having a stroke, confusion (from low blood sugar or a bad trip or transient psychosis for whatever reason), "brain not working, "mind not working," "feel like you’re going [permanently] crazy," "can’t think straight," "feels like I’m dying/I am dying," seeming or sense or awareness of critical wrongness, "sleep or dream wrongness like vision or consciousness are distorted during dreaming, altered states of consciousness from fevers or infections or metabolic or digestive or etc illness or fatigue or brain fog, or weird transient consciousness-altering bloodflow hiccups for whatever reason, childhood night terrors or sleep disturbances or panic attacks, suicidal ideation, suicidal impulse/urge, fuzziness, fogginess, unreality, static, chaos, dissolution, dreaminess, drowsiness, liminality, (partial) loss of mental control or unified will, medical scares or realities for yourself or friends or family, feel like you’re (re-/newly-)experiencing a traumatic event or someone else’s if you witnessed it or helped by e.g. calling 911 or emergency services in your country, or overheard, or inferred, etc. —so go to the e.r., have a friend talk you down, see a doctor about risk factors. If you’re experiencing an extreme event, usually it’s just a mind thing and sometimes it’s a stroke, heart attack, etc. [Feeling out of control can sometimes come with very aversive feelings but being feeling of control isn’t inherently bad and doesn’t necessarily lead to bad outcomes. It can lead to good outcomes especially if that out-of-control-ness is burning off.]

When it’s safe, and usually it will be, you can learn (and likely need to learn, slowly, slowly, slowly, precisely, to enter into these states and transform them from the inside.

I’m not a doctor but if you’re experiencing sudden and intense pain then go to the emergency room. If not then just depends.

Sometimes the right thing to do is to not just let it be but to even facilitate whatever it is:

The right/good thing to do might be to go into fuzziness, into fog, into unclarity, temporarily and possibly for long minutes or hours, again and again. This can be extremely counterintuitive when you’re, say, seeking crystalline clarity or whatever turns out to be good (for you, in your concepts, mediately or ultimately).

Sometimes what comes up will at least partially feel good but might often feel in some ways unwanted or problematic:

An example of this is sexual fantasy and sexual arousal. A heuristic is that, if safe or sufficiently not costly, it’s usually good to indulge the fantasy, imagine the scenario, read the erotic story, write the erotic story, search for the pornography, etc.

If there is an impulse/urge to act out something sexual, to actualize something, then it just depends whether it’s good to do that. The heuristic, here, too, is that if it’s safe and sufficiently not costly to do so then seek the experience. If there are unsafe or costly elements then it can be better to work with the fantasy/desire/planning experience as such rather than working to consummate it. There will be many good and redemptive things in there to untangle, to get them separately from a sexual encounter, or you might come to find that wanting (and/or getting) the/an inherently sexual thing is, partially or wholly, temporarily or stably, good to get and that you should work on creating a context in which it’s safe and wholly good to get the thing or part of the thing mostly or partially just as it is.

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x-desires, fulfillment, transformation, discussion:

Elsewhere, I say that "indulgence plus meditation," when possible, is the fastest way to transform desire. (This is pre-supposing that there's something "bad"(?!) about some particular desire. More on that later.)

I say that indulgence makes sense when doing so isn't prohibitively (or even a little, depending) too dangerous, too financially costly, too opportunity costly.

But what about desires for things that are (endorsedly or dangerously) illegal, non-reifiedly unethical/​immoral, or otherwise physically or emotionally violent or coercive?

(Let's call such desires, for lack of a better term, "X-desires.")

Is there still something that can be done, somehow, with respect to indulgence?

Let's say there's "levels of fulfillability":

Often, a desire is "composite" and is composed partially of, say, non-X-desires and sometimes also X-desires. Also, often a desire can be partially satisfied by a mixture of fulfillment types 1 and 2.

So, if a person:

(a1) indulges the non-X parts of their desires, and (a2) indulges only available fulfilability of type 1 and type 2, for the relevant X parts of their desires, and (a3) refrains from fulfilability type 3 of X-desires, and (b) gently inclines towards total self-acceptance and generally works their preferred meditation system (and all other resources that are available to them)

then (a) and (b), working together, possibly taking years, will lead to the transformation and evaporation of X-desires--or, rather, desires that one chooses to never actualize--sort of semi-indirectly and from the outside.

That is, eventually, all things being equal, a person will no longer have those X-desires.

Stated a different way, even if you have a seeming unshakeable and hardline desire, whether pretty innocent (but problematic) or a full-blown X-desire, you can come to no longer have that desire even without ever having directly fulfilled it, even with the principle of "redo-to-undo," withstanding (and even when you've previously "done," in the redo-to-undo sense. There will ultimately be enough "replay" even if you never directly re-actualize a past behavior).

Now, four important points:

First, it's ok to scenario-craft and "lawyer" it out, in your head! (This sort of heavily mixes with fulfilability types 1 and 2.) And so this can be both for fantasy indulgence, which may yield considerable satisfaction, but also to try mixing fantasy and real-life considerations, in various combinations, as a problem-solving strategy, to see if you can find your way to something being not actually an "X-desire" at all (as we've defined it, here). Maybe you're wrong about it being an X-desire--maybe it's actually safe, ethical, legal, whatever, as you globally understand such things, not to reify "globally".

Second (and really this is one of the most important points and maybe should have gone last) you may (likely for lots of things) find that having or fulfilling a particular desire just ok, or that it's been ok all along, or that you can arrange self, life, and/or world for it to be truly, stably good. Maybe it's ok to write that novel, or the weird sex thing is both fine and even wholesome, and you'd been looking at everything completely wrong. Maybe writing that novel and doing that weird sex thing aren't hurting anyone and, not only that, but will save the world, or whatever, etc., etc.

Third, for completeness, as I've mentioned elsewhere in the document, it's possible for even unrealized wants, desires, urges, impulses, etc. to somehow hurt people around you. This is sort of the "subtle interaction" domain. It's possible. It's something to keep in mind. But it's an edge case; it's unlikely, all things being equal.

Fourth, you might in fact be concerned that you'll hurt someone through actualization of an X-desire, and that thinking or feeling about X-desires might increase the likelihood of that. In these cases, one thing you might try to do is make distinctions between all of these:

Modulo "subtle interaction," only (d) is the problematic one--except to the degre that exploring (a), (b), (c) might make (d) more likely. So you might then carefully meta-explore the degree to which exploring (a),(b), and (c) does or don't actually make (d) more likely. And then only do any of what is both helpful while erring on the side of not increasing the chance of (d).

Of course, talk to someone if your credence of risk of harm to self or others, absent that talking, crosses a generously cautious threshold. And of course you can talk to someone long before then, if it seems like it might be helpful. (But, be scrupulously careful that someone doesn't mistakenly think you're a risk to self or others in the case that you're definitely not. This could be expanded on, a lot.)

With some interlocutors, it's possible to choose different levels of detail and abstraction, for ease and comfort with discussion. You might ultimately talk straightforwardly, concretely, and plainly with someone, but you can also often talk abstractly or vaguely, or even metaphorically, but potentially still very productively, while maintaining select privacy. You can sort of meta work that out with some people, on the fly.

In conclusion, X-desires aren't the end of the world or a meditation or self-transformation showstopper.

The reason for all this odd lawyering, hairsplitting, and even any brinksmanship (erring on side of safety) is because it's so important to be able to think and feel within oneself, if and when it's safe to do so, which it usually is. And sometimes it's really, really helpful to talk with other people, too, though it's not critically necessary, in principle.

And sometimes distinctions like all the above can facilitate all this.

In any case, too, it's also very possible that "safe-to-look, then look," etc., can nebulously, fluidly happen just fine without anything like all the stuff above. This is just one optional way to optionally schema it all out. [sic]

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on falling asleep:

Sometimes it’s good to use postures such as sitting without back support or standing, in order to avoid falling asleep (see the posture section for more postures and thoughts on postures). But, it can be extremely profitable to meditate while curled up comfortably in bed both while falling asleep for the night, right upon waking up (without even opening one’s eyes), and also during the day. One can drift in and out of meditation, sleep, and reverie (sleep and reverie could be conceived as falling under the surrender portion of p2 but don’t have to be.).

One could imagine that meditating in liminal states could lead to "bad form" or meditating incorrectly. But, I have found this to not be the case, at least empirically. It seems to be the case that this protocol is specified both precisely enough and generally enough that meditating and drifting (reverie) and sleeping seems to be extremely valuable, especially when often, sometimes, or eventually mixed with meditation in other postures.

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a gentle onramp:

Mark 8:55 AM

More questions welcome and please poke for different kinds/styles of answers if there’s something better

Mark 9:03 AM

It’s not universally true, but, generally, "forcing," "powering through," or "needle-threading in order to keep going and going" should be avoided because these can create puzzles that need to be laboriously undone later to make further progress.

If something seems like it’s "jamming" or "grinding," I would halt that prelim/aux exercise and engage the meta protocol to see if that illuminates a better thing to do. The meta protocol itself can jam, in which case one can do lighter and lighter versions of the meta protocol (as described in the meta protocol section), or do the "meta meta protocol" (apply the meta protocol to itself), or browse through the document and choose something else to do, as per intuition (such as other prelim/aux practices or one of the main practices), or take a break and do something different and/or fun. (edited)

Mark 9:12 AM

For intuitions, to my mind, meditation is less like strength training and more like a single [many-typed, many-peg] Tower of Hanoi-type puzzle, if that makes sense. Long-range, global [maximum] wayfinding through a multidimensional, nonmonotonic space. (edited)

And the [open set of] prelim/aux practices reveal new dimensions of movement and new feedback loops, to be fed into the global wayfinding engine [automatically and by application of the meta protocol]. (edited)

And then p2 is the enactment of global wayfinding which includes upgrading itself en route, interleaving handoffs to other practices for indirect upgrades, and finally undoing and self-transcending itself.

Mark 9:33 AM

Not universally, but generally, increases in muscle tension (including subtle, slow-growing) and contortions of face and posture mean it’s important to cut over to or at least interleave the meta protocol. An "uncoiled" posture such as sitting without back support, or standing, can make it easier to detect increases in muscle tension (though reclining and supported postures should be used, too, for decreasing incidental factors).

Shaking, twitching, emoting, vocalizations, and large movements are sometimes necessary and sometimes "self-distraction" (and sometimes a mixture). The meta protocol can be engaged to sort though and piece apart what should be allowed and encouraged and what should gently be disengaged or blocked.

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good(ness) bad(ness):

What is goodness? What is badness? What is good? What is bad? What is good for you? What is bad for you? What does "good" mean to you? What does "bad" mean to you? Morally good, ethically good, personally good, good feeling? For you? For others? Morally bad, ethically bad, bad feeling? For you? For others? Usefulness? Value? Worth? Worthiness? Helpfulness? Spiritually? Practically? Partially good? Partially bad? Generally/contextually good? Generally/contextually bad? Universally good? Universally bad? Wholly good? Wholly bad? Mixed good and bad? More good? Less good? More bad? Less bad? Better? Worse? Best? Worst? [why not in meta, p/a, main practices and instead in lists and more is left as exercise to reader. Cam of course play with in relation to any of p/a, main practices (including p1) meta, and so forth.] doing good vs being good vs having good vs experiencing good. Doing bad vs being bad vs having bad vs experiencing bad(ness). Intrinsic/essential/inherent goodness vs extrinsic/secondary/acquired/contextual goodness. Intrinsic/essential/inherent badness vs extrinsic/secondary/acquired/contextual badness. Goodness of form. Goodness of mode. Badness of form. Badness of mode. Goodness as an attribute. Badness as an attribute. Subsistent goodness. Subsistent badness. Where and what and how and when and why and for what purpose is goodness? Where and what and how amd why and when and for what purpose is badness? What causes goodness? What causes badness? When is goodness an effect? When is badness an effect? When are goodness and badness neither a cause nor an effect? Is felt goodness always good? Is felt badness always bad? Immediate goodness. Mediate goodness. Immediate badness. Mediate badness. Direct goodness. Indirect goodness. Direct badness. Indirect badness. Sometimes good. Sometimes bad. Acting good. Acting bad. Appearing good. Appearing bad. Somehow good. Somehow bad. Artificially good. Artificially bad. Naturally good. Naturally bad. Stably good. Stably bad. Tending (toward) good. Tending (toward) bad. Historically good. Historically bad. Historically mixed. Eventually good. Eventually bad. Highest good. Lowest good. Highest bad. Lowest bad. Initial good. Initial bad. Final good. Final bad. Good for X. Bad for X. Good for X for Y. Bad for X for Y. Structurally good. Structurally bad. Independently good. Independently bad. Dependently good. Dependently bad. Separably good. Separably bad. Inseparably good. Inseparably bad. veridically good/bad, certainly good/bad, illusorily good/bad, apparently good/bad, good before/after/at/when/during/while X, bad before/after/at/when/during/while X, good now/later, bad now/later, lower good, higher good, net good, net bad, "too good," "too bad," "infinitely" good, "infinitely" bad, permanently good, permanently bad, contagiously good, contagiously bad

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some "big" useful concepts:

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poem of self/other confusion and interdependence:

Is this me? Is this you? Is that me? Is that you?
I am you, and you are me, and we are we.
No.
This is almost me, similar to me, but it is not me.
That is almost me, similar to me, but it is not me.
While plausibly me, this was historically never actually me.
While plausibly me, that was historically never actually me.
I am not you, and you are not me, and we are not we.
I am me, and you are you.
She is not him, and she is not you, and he is not her, and he is not you.
I am not him, and I am not her.
I am me, and you are you, and I am not you, and you are not me.
And, we can be we.

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states (draft):

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invitation of acceptance:

[(so-called "Litany of Gendlin")]

What is true is already so.
Owning up to it doesn't make it worse.
Not being open about it doesn't make it go away.
And because it's true, it is what is there to be interacted with.
Anything untrue isn't there to be lived.
People can stand what is true,
for they are already enduring it.

—Eugene Gendlin

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nutrition:

I am not a doctor or other kind of licensed health professional, and this is not medical or nutritional advice.

If you are lacking mental or physical stamina for meditation, you might try adding butter and/or MCT oil to your diet. (Some MCT oils have three different lengths and some just have two lengths. Sometimes just two lengths is advertised as "better" in some way, but I felt like I was getting some kind of weird metabolic deficiency on the two lengths variety. That last longer length chain seemed to really be good to have in there, for some reason, at least prior to adaptation, which I didn’t try to do.) Less likely to be helpful, but depends, you might try adding a bit more cheese or other animal saturated fat to your diet. (Each will have different chain length profiles.) You might also try adding a bit of choline, which can take a few weeks to month for you to notice any difference.

If you’re not, consider jogging or other aerobic exercise to you life, 2-5 times per week for 40 minutes, minimum, to avoid fat metabolism disfunction. You maybe should probably get your cholesterol checked periodically, too.

You might also consider adding non-rancid flax seed, some good source of sulfer, and/or some quality source of collagen.

You might also switch to all slow-release carbs, to even out insulin. The steadier energy release is, the less you’ll have boom and bust mental energy before and after meals. You want super-steady energy release for hours and hours. If you have insulin resistance, your body will release fuel from storage too slowly, and you’ll have to rely more on proximity to meals for meditation enablement.

If you have insulin smoothed out, your food craving system will be smarter, and you should generally indulge food cravings for weird food, as best you can.

If you’re eating fewer, larger meals, be careful with your kidney’s and liver.

Consider a multivitamin in powder form or in many pills per day, so you can titrate. I know multivitamins are supposed to do nothing or be detrimental, but you might find subdoses to be seemingly very helpful.

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historical and contemporary difficulties and uncertainties of life [experimental section]:

Warning: This section is experimental and should be approached with caution if you have live existential/cosmological/eschatological/metaphysical issues or live mania, paranoia, or possibly other things.

In no particular order: deaths of parents, significant others, children, other family, natural disaster, solar flares, pandemics, war, invasion, food insecurity, authoritarian surveillance states, violent feuds, systemically messed up and flawed healthcare, accidents, nuclear war, phishing, failure of cryogenic preservation if you go that route or being tortured and unable to die when you wake up until some very large energy source runs out, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, chronic fatigue, physical disability, nation/state/country failure, sudden death, cancer, stroke, agents of power knowing exactly who you are and the uncertain threat of them coming to harm, kill, or take you away (in front of significant others, children, or other family of friends).

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a brief and incomplete theory of muscle tension risk in meditation:

Untrained operation of the mind is relatively more Spreading, than Gathering, of Relevance.

(Trained operation of the mind is relatively more Gathering, than Spreading, or, perhaps, rather, there’s a nuanced, sensitive, responsive, situated, contextual balance.)

Relevance is original sensory impressions.

Spreading is sort of, loosely speaking, following implications to reach conclusions, increasing transitive closure.

Gathering is sort of, loosely speaking, regathering spreading, reevaluating relevance, and refactoring (relative or deep) premises and presuppositions.

One property of a mind is unresponsive (occluded, inaccessible, layered) Momentum, with respect to spreading.

Sometimes relevance-to-be-gathered is arranged relatively nearby. Sometimes relevance-to-be-gathered has Outliers, that is far away, long-range relevance. This can be things like, say, an early childhood experience, or, say, a traumatic experience from any time in one’s life, that was somehow unique or isolated, and, so far, seemingly irrelevant to most things.

Momentum, in long-range interaction with not-yet-gathered outlier relevance, causes tangling, twisting, or even iterative wrapping. (It's almost like one's current "location," at one "pole," and the long-range relevance, at another "pole," creates a bar, an axis, a line segment, through the system. And then, unfortunately/unluckily, things can twist and wrap along/around that axis.)

Eventually, momentum is bled off, integrated, metabolized, harmonized. And, eventually, long-range relevance is finally gathered.

Once essentially ALL relevance is gathered, with respect to some nebulous something, the system can, (loosely, relatively speaking) somewhat sharply, re-conceptualize, re-preference, re-plan, re-expect--that is complexly (perhaps) lock-and-key Pivot to new, niche-fit intentionality around that relevance, and sort of now re-spread, anew, from that relevance. (Premature pivoting attempts, perhaps via momentum, are sources of twisting.)

(Twisting, tangling, wrapping eventually accumulates into noticeable muscle tension.)

Regathering, untwisting, etc., nonmonotonically releases/relaxes muscle tension. Sometimes completed or near-completed gathering-into-relevance is accompanied by immersive flashbacks and/or insight.

The above is somewhat simplified, and doesn’t go into “safe to look then look,” contextual equanimity, “inner space,” or lack thereof, "motor output contention," "immediate/mediate/long-range contradiction," and more.

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when things get worse again--burn-off, integration, suppression, unsuppression:

[Note: This section has, relatively, a bit more of a not-quite-right, "toy model" feel than other sections, on average. Some nuance and exceptions are dropped around the edges. Some statements could be better hedged/qualified. The model down't quite hew to the territory, and so on.]

"burn off" and "integration"

The phenomenology can be a bit different for each of these, but they are both loosely equivalent.

The gist of these is something like:

burn-off/integration ~= "activity that (previously) needs to be conscious, then instead becomes appropriately automatized (and 'unconscious')"

An example is when one is reminding oneself to do something later in the day, over and over, in one's head. This reminding is "pre-integration." But, if the mind figures out how to "automatically be sure that you will do the thing, later in the day," then the reminding stops. So, pre-integration, the mind is loud, for some thing. Post integration, the mind is quiet, for that thing, because the mind is sure enough that it will be automatically handled. "Burn off" is like integration but there's nothing further in the future. It's just a thing that's no longer needed, and the mind figures out how to no longer need it.

suppression

The opposite of burn off and integration is something like "suppression." This is where something is sort of made unconscious, but without resolving the underlying thing, so it's still there kind of potentially gumming things up.

With integration/burn-off, it's sort of like what was conscious has been positively transformed into something that no longer needs to be conscious. With suppression, something is no longer conscious, but, sort of, no transformation has occurred; that something has just been sort of papered over.

Usually, when someone first learns to meditate, they're doing maybe 50% burn-off/integration and 50% suppression (or even much more of the latter than the former). When someone becomes very skilled at meditation, they're doing, long-run, with some qualifying, 100% burn-off/integration and 0% suppression. Doing a lot of suppression, at first, for even thousands of hours, is very normal, and part of the process of learning to meditate. Some people will naturally do more or less, when starting out, and anyone may have intermittent periods of heightened suppression. Suppression isn't bad, per se. Sometimes it's intermediately helpful. It's only "bad" if that's the only thing one is doing.

All that said, that way it can be problematic, is that there's sort of only a finite amount of "room" for suppression, only so much "slack" for suppression. After too much suppression, things will ultimately lose steam and meditative progress will potentially get stuck and slow down. (Worst case is behavioral rigidity, muscle tension, and potentially even more extreme things.) On the other hand, integration and burn-off, actually make more space--integration and burn-off let meditative progress continue and continue.

(By the way, suppression is a form of "technical debt.")

unsuppression

If something got much better during meditation (like e.g. "self attacking" was very frequent but became infrequent or nonexistent), but then it starts to get worse again, this can actually be a good sign.

Because, it can mean that previously suppressed things are becoming unsuppressed.

If something is suppressed, unsuppression is necessary for burn off or integration to ultimately occur: the mind can't go directly from suppressed to integrated--there has to be an intermediate step of things being unsuppressed and conscious. And then, from consciousness, integration or burn off can (eventually!!) occur.

It's hard to tell, at least at first--sometimes despair, fragmentation, etc., can mean one is doing something wrong.

But, especially if what's coming up is reminiscent of things previously experienced, and especially if there was a previous period of not too much happening, and especially if one isn't pushing/forcing, and especially if there isn't any muscle tension, then things "getting worse" can actually be positive signals. It's unsuppression. And, tentatively, cautiously, one should keep doing whatever it is that they were doing (sensitively, responsively).

Note that brain fog, lack of focus, distraction, moods, impulsive states--ANYTHING that can be consciously experienced!--can be the kinds of things that get suppressed and unsuppressed.

Integration, burn-off, suppression, unsuppression, etc., are very general dynamics.

*

Note: Not all "getting worse" is due to unsuppression, though, often (though not always--see next note), "getting worse 'again'" is due to unsuppression. "Getting worse" can also be due to, in some sense, "error propagation," uncovering old trauma (this is kinda unsuppression and kinda not, cf. "undo" and "gathering" and "finding one's way back," phenomenological shearing, realizing/inferring things on the basis of what one already knows, subtle (or overt) accumulation of evidence, planned/strategic or unplanned/unpredicted nonmonotonicity, and more. (Some of these overlap; and a few of these, including suppression, sometimes, coudl fall under "error propagation.")

Note: Sometimes seeming "getting worse again" actually isn't that, actually isn't suppression+unsuppression. There can be "copies" of stuff (or nearly the same or distantly similar) strewn/spread/sprinkled through the (body)mind. (These copies get made for all sorts of practical and problematic reasons.) So sometimes encountering something similar, at a later time, is not unsuppression but encountering a copy or a "spread." (In either/any case, it doesn't mean you've done anything wrong. Copies are sometimes error propagation but are often made for good reasons at the time or their creation. It's not necessarily good to "collect all the copies" into one thing, or to refactor near similarities and differences into more distinct ontologies. Suppression may have been a good idea at the time, etc.)

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integration, settling, unsettling, resettling, locality, globality, unity (draft):

[This section was meant to be a brief contrast and addendum to a previous section, but it turned into a bit of kitchen sink, not quite hanging together, even though it's still short.]

[Note: This section has, relatively, a bit more of a not-quite-right, "toy model" feel than other sections, on average. Some nuance and exceptions are dropped around the edges. Some statements could be better hedged/qualified. The model down't quite hew to the territory, and so on.]

In another section, integration was contrasted with suppression. If something is integrated, it's "samskaras" are (relatively) fully worked through. That little, integrated "patch" of "stuff" (very, very loosely speaking) is deconditioned, fine-grain structurally fluid, and "settled." It remains sensitive, responsive, alive, nebulously interconnected with everything else, but there's nothing more to be done (with it), right now.

(I use the word "deconditioned," in the above paragraph, and that's a bit of misnomer--deconditioning, in some sense, is always also reconditioning, though potentially very qualitatively different in grain, possibility, valence, everything. And reconditioning [sic] can continue for one's entire life, long after it no longer makes sense to talk about deconditioning [sic]. that is reconditioning continues long after deconditioning is relatively complete, loosely speaking.)

So, in any case, we can speak of (a) suppression and unsuppression, and we can analogously speak of (b) the settling of integration, as well as unsettling (and resettling).

As noted in a previous section, if something that was suppressed is then unsuppressed, dispositional propensities come back with it (and some subset of those propensities don't even go away, and, worse, they get stuck as long as there is the related suppression.

If something that was integrated/settled then unsettles, at worst there can be some nonmonotonicity, very generally speaking. At best, things are just perhaps limned a bit more with subtly shimmering potentiality, sometimes with attendant original sensory impressions and evolving insight.

(And it barely makes sense to speak of or reify all this as "it"s, "somethings", "things"--all this "stuff" shades into nebulous, inchoate, aconceptual, etc., in a good way. The language is just easier, when speaking of "something" or "patches,", etc. One must be careful to avoid inappriopriate reification, including inappropriate reification of inappropriate reification, etc..)

Why would "settled" things need to unsettle and resettle? When settling first starts to occur, its "done for now-ness" is very local. The system doesn't have much of a sense yet of "how it all fits together," doesn't have even the beginnings of a costless, effortless, implicit, embodied, felt sort of "map" of the global landscape. And, there are sort of mediate or latent contradictions, inconsistencies, tensions, paradoxes, contentions sort of spread throughout the "landscape of bodymind." (Also, settling that is merely local will always have subtle "flaws"--gossamer threads, tangled through, or molecule-thin sheets, overlaid, that prevent settling from fully completing. [Note: This parenthetical isn't quite right.])

As progress continues, "patches of settling" start to grow and sort of eventually encounter "disharmonies" or "impedance mismatches" in relation to "adjacent" "encroaching" patches. These might be disharmonies in plans, strategies, solutions, compensations, intentions, skeletal muscle motor plans, interpretations, hormonal regulation, energy metabolism calculations and plans, nebulous interleaved and multithreaded means-ends chains (and loops!), metaphysical incompatibilities, and so on.

Globally resolving all these disharmonies, asymptotically and nonmonotonically, over time, is astonishingly and recursively (and nebulously) combinatorial. It's an NP-complete problem. And it's also astonishing that it's asymptotically solvable! (And it's never FULLY complete because of ever more proactive action in the world, which uncovers surprises at the very bleeding edge of unknown unknowns. We seek learning, seek true surprise, and that surprise "invalidates" some fraction of settledness, necessitating at least a limning of ongoing unsettling and combinatorial resettling, over time. And that's ok!)

This is intimately related to so-called buddha nature--everything in/of bodymind is interconnected, and constituted, through life experience, in such a way that its all harmonizable in principle, in some sense no matter what. For any bodymind, in principle, there is necessarily an existing sequence of constrained and nonarbitrary operations that yields enlightenment, or whatever.

Also related to all this is finitude--the extent/expanse/structure of (body)mind is finite, in a good way, which affords strategies such as process of elimination, and making "all" the recoverable mistakes, as a really, really big part of all of this.

In addition to process of elimination, the other thing that starts to happen is "precomputation." For reasons really, actually, interestingly related to the halting problem, in computer science (really), the (body)mind can't know exactly what's going to happen next, based on operations with respect to itself. But, it can imperfectly approximate this knowledge, and it can get asymptotically better and better approximations of what's going to happen next. (These ideas were developed with a collaborator, with some critical pieces originating with them, and all mistakes with respect to those pieces are mine.)

Over times, local settling instead becomes more and more global settling, as local wayfinding becomes more and more global wayfinding, over thousands and thousands of hours. And, in that process, there's a tremendous amount of unsettling and resettling.

Importantly, you don't (and can't) sort of "hold the globality in your head"--you are the globality, as it were. All you need to ever do, is make local operations as best you can (doing, undoing, "nondoing," top-down, bottom-up, surrender, etc.), and those local operations become more and more appropriately global situated, sequenced, etc. You can only ever make local operations, as it were. You can only do whatever you can locally do. And that is enough. It just gets more and more surefooted, over time, with plenty of not knowing, sometimes for days or weeks or months, and including fundamentally.

I hestitate to say that everything ends up in a "harmonious unity," "one thing going in one direction." These descriptions can be very "heady," very intellectual, very abstract. Wayfinding, settling, unsettling, resettling is ultimately nonverbal, ultimately proceeds on the basis of procedural knowledge (sometimes interleaved with explicit knowledge). And milestones related to wellbeing, locuslessness, "sensational/'out there' computation," and potentially "centerlessness" and "agencylessness" (depending on your personal experience of how everything shakes out), not to mention knowing what to do even when you don't know what to do, inner peace, handledness, love, no inside/outside, one taste, nonduality, wisdom, etc., not to mention plenty of pain and sorrow, are maybe better ways to think about this, outside of these schemas and toy models.

In any case, in addition to the long-run, less optimal dynamics of suppression and unsuppression, there is also long-run integration/settling, unsettling, resettling.

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last gasps:

One is sort of making it safe to re-experience things, as part of how meditation works—eventually a re-experiencing is sort of the "final burning off of the (conditioning of the) thing." So often a person will re-experience at least a shadow of old, bad things, over and over again, until not again—things that they thought were long resolved, in the course of a great deal of meditation. (One trap is thinking that one is not making progress, because this thing has come up more than one time. It is progress! That’s just how the mind works.)

But there’s another thing that’s more problematic: If a person was crushing down a bunch of stuff, let’s say they then stop crushing. But say they haven’t fully worked through the thing(s) under the crushing. If something happens in the world to trigger them, around those now uncrushed things, like they see their old girlfriend or whatever, they might have a more extreme, more impulsive, more destructive reaction, in that particular case, than if they hadn’t ever meditated:

Behavior, belief or the very seeming of the world, and its attendant justification, will become live again, seem like the right thing to think/see/do.

And then they’ll/you’ll be in old destructive patterns, transiently, as bad or even worse than when those initial patterns were getting laid down. And then it’s maybe doubly regretful because this "last gasp" can go by fast. It can be embarrassing, especially if one is a self-styled advanced meditator. And if only you’d gotten to that old stuff, metabolized it, before being triggered. One just has to be as careful and meta-careful and meta-meta-careful and responsible with and around other people as one can be, and to make amends and reparations, if warranted, in a way that actually delivers, that takes into account all this. Not your fault, yet no excuse, all at once; it’ll be ok, but you can’t morally rely on that, etc.

Last gasps can be discouraging ("I thought I had made progress on this, but it seems like I've made no progress on this! It's been ready to blow all along!"). But, actually, you have been making progress all along: The mind can be very digital and all-or-nothing, sometimes. That is, "15%" progress can still be "100% problematic reaction." "85% progress" can still be "100% problematic reaction." "99% progress" can still be "100% problematic reaction."

And, but, finally, "100% progress" yields, sort of suddenly, almost digitally, "0% problematic reaction."

Sometimes "99% progress" can mean, unfortunately, "120% [sic] problematic reaction," because all "compensatory layering" or "counteractive layering" has been removed, in preparation for integration, metabolization, harmonization (i.e. the drop to 0% problematic reaction). Thus, "last gasp," "worse than ever."

But if one realizes that this can be a thing, one can be more careful about the possibility of last gasps (though usually one shouldn't avoid triggering contexts entirely/completely--they help with processing), and one can be less discouraged (or not discouraged) if a last gasp still unfortunately occurs, in a problematic way.

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involuntary movement, semi-involuntary movement, kriyas:

In meditation, sometimes one might go through periods of having involuntary movements (as distinct from sort of finding oneself sort of involuntarily inclining into different postures or body positions, and also as distinct from muscle tension, but/though all of which have pretty similar deep causes).

Involuntary movement can be arm movements, hand movements, head movements, shoulder movements, full body movements like arching of the back, eye movements, pretty much anything. Sometimes vocalization is a thing. Sometimes it's repetitive rocking or turning, sometimes it's more isolated and intermittent twitching or jerking.

Sometimes it can catch one by surprise and so be quite involuntary. Other times, because it's more rhythmic, one can incline towards gently, experimentally suppressing or quelling it, but as soon as one sort of semi-forgets about it, and attention goes a bit elsewhere, the movement will start up again, for a time.

As with lots of phenomena, questions that come up a lot with involuntary movement are, (a) is this a thing (for other people or in general)?, (b) what's causing this?, and (c) is it good or bad? (or, is it an indicator of progress?).

We'll mostly only focus on the latter question, here, though the other questions may be partially answered somewhat incidentally.

As an answer to "is it good or bad," as a general theme in this book, the answer, here, too, is, it depends.

(a) Sometimes movement is part of "redo to undo," and so it's "good." This can include some repetitive-seeming movements.

(b) Sometimes movement that is sort of repetitive means something is "stuck," like the body is trying to "compute out" something with movement but it can't quite complete the calculation. In this case one might consider this "neutral" or "bad." (As per usual, big scare quotes on "bad.")

(c) Sometimes movement, repetitive or otherwise is because other parts of the system are getting "squeezed" and so the movement is sort of "pressure release." I think in these cases, this is more likely to indicate entrenchment/burn-in, or at least loss of slack elsewhere but with a twist still remaining, and so this is "bad."

(d) Sometimes movement that looks a lot like (previous) (b) or (c) is actually (a). That is, one starts out with movement that's stuck or entrenching, but, in seconds, minutes, hours, or months, the system figures out how that that prior movement was counterproductive, and so repeats it to undo whatever the suboptimality was.

But, as per usual, it can be hard to tell which of these is going on at any given time, in part because it can often be a mixture of one or more, including all four, going on at once.

Do note, not all suboptimal movement needs to overtly redone as per redo to unto. There can be "liminal redo to undo" even when movements were very large and overt. That said, some overt movement, for some people, will eventually need to repeat itself, intermittently over weeks or months, at some point during the three to five to seven to ten to twenty to thirty years of the path (depending on how much time or resources a person has to meditate and how amenable one's system is to high temporal density practice, on average, etc.). Sometimes this is just a little bit and sometimes it's an almost "exhaustive" replay, though not necessarily all at once. It might come and go over months or even years.

In terms of generalities:

So, in general, maybe, if someone is experiencing a tiny bit of movement, fairly regularly, then this is a weak positive lead indicator.

If someone is experiencing a lot of movement early-to-intermediate, I consider this a weak indicator that someone might benefit from exploration of their models of practice.

If someone is experiencing a lot of "high-amplitude" movement "late" in their practice, in a meditation system that doesn't have something vaguely like global wayfinding, I consider this maybe a medium indicator that their practice took a wrong turn somewhere and they would have a decently long way to go, still (and maybe still heading partially in the wrong direction with a lot of momentum, as it were--and I'd then also be on the lookout (especially but not assuming it's necessarily definitely there, or anything, and it might not outside-view/​observationally useful, in any case) for possible behavioral/​cognitive/​emotional rigidity or suppression and other issues such as lots of reduced slack). And not to reify or pass judgment on on of this, in a vacuum, all of this subject to outside-view provisionality and the limitations of anemic, vague, or abstract concepts, and, etc.)

If someone is experiencing a lot of low-amplitude movement (and maybe a tiny bit of high-amplitude movement); (especially that maybe keeps coming back but is interleaved with lots of other things), medium-to-late in practice, in a meditation system that has something vaguely or explicitly like global wayfinding, I would consider that a neutral-to-positive indicator, and first-pass assume that their practice was going fine, and I wouldn't be especially worried or find it remarkable or even notice, at all, if they had counterfactually reported no movement.

In any case, there are exceptions to all of this. It'll depend very much on the contingencies of that person's system, including earlier life experiences and the types of practices they might have previously engaged in.

In general, over time, nonmonotonically, movement becomes less and lower amplitude, more shimmery, people general become more still when not overtly moving, though not in a suppress-y way (and, for what it's worth, late stage, at the time of this writing, I change positions all the time, for comfort and self-care, and I jiggle a leg a little bit, or whatever, if I'm a bit too much in caloric surplus).

See also:

"subtle energy" and "energy work" and mental models
https://meditationbook.page/#80

a brief and incomplete theory of muscle tension risk in meditation https://meditationbook.page/#147

breath
https://meditationbook.page/#77

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kundalini:

Through movement, postures, pressure points, vocalization, and/​or breathing, it can be possible to cause the experience of strong sensations in any or all of the perineum, lower abdomen, spine, crown of the head, and brow. Different people might experience this in partial or more complete and stereotyped ways. I personally haven't experienced this, and I tend to think it's a pretty extreme out-of-ordering. In some practice systems and supportive contexts it might be fine, though. I would loosely model it as placing a lot of "pressure" on the system to change, or as creativng a very strong sensational feedback loop. Though, if this had accidentally occurred, for me, I would have used it as feedback loop in the sense that I would heuristically treated a reduction of sensation as more likely to be on the right track, all things being equal. As with muscle tension (described elsewhere in this document) or anything, taking possibly stereotyped action, to narrowly increase the sign of any particular sensation or set of sensations, or as part of any single narrow feedback loop, can potentially take slack out the system in a way that can make it harder to experimentally navigate or backtrack and thereby potentially significantly increase meditation timelines rather than shortening them.

There's nothing super special about sensations in any of these areas, all things being equal, versus sensations anywhere else. They're meaningful, there's certainly correlative structure with respect to body and mind, it's not arbitrary, but, still, they're only meaningful, only generally so, insofar as sensations anywhere else are meaningful.

To be fair, the perineum is a bit special in that it loosely tends to correlate with early in life "stuff," and so on, and later in life tends to go up the spine, and so on, but these "top down" models should be treated cautiously, and the important thing is exquisitely sensitive personal global wayfinding at the finest sensational and temporal grain (speaking loosely, without reifying sensation, temporality, grain, etc.). And the perineum and spine and brow and etc. will intermittently be involved and/lor liminally involved all the time, as much as anything, etc.

See also:

ordering matters / order matters
https://meditationbook.page/#129a

"subtle energy" and "energy work" and mental models
https://meditationbook.page/#80

a brief and incomplete theory of muscle tension risk in meditation https://meditationbook.page/#147

breath
https://meditationbook.page/#77

involuntary movement, semi-involuntary movement, kriyas
https://meditationbook.page/#148a

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can't talk:

The use of language is relatively "full stack," it's a more total "bodymind act" than lots of other things, with real-time speaking even more so. There's a bit of a hierarchy from:

Because of this full stack-ness and how meditation is multidimensionally nonmonotonic, as in lots of a least little things are at least a little "broken" at any given time, midway through the journey, it's not uncommon for meditator language use to be "disrupted" or temporarily unavailable (except in an extreme emergency and sometimes even then(. This might be for minutes or hours or even days, on and off.

Sometimes this is a pretty blanket thing and other times it's more localized to particular topics, situations, or people.

Note that this isn't an agoraphobia type thing, though of course that can be a thing, too, but literally a physically can't form words (though often they're still thinkable, though very not always). Sometimes it's a can't or sometimes it's somewhere between "can't and won't though still often wanting to or at least feeling like it'd be locally expeditious".

In particularly sucky fashion, this can include a meta component of "not being able to talk about not being able to talk."

If this is too often or goes one for too long or it hasn't been flagged in advance to intimate partners and etc., it can be as bad as catastrophic for relationships. (Just reiterating that not everyone will experience this "can't talk" thing.)

It seemed important to note this phenomenon here. It might be good to warn friends, family, intimate partners, etc., well in advance before you've ever remotely experienced such a thing, to help them understand what it (doesn't) mean(s) and so on. It might be helpful to write out post-its before hand though sometimes even pointing counts as "talking" and so is unavailable to the system.

More to be said, here.

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being (not) ok tangles:

If I’m ok, I won’t be able to connect with the people who are not ok, and lots of people are not ok, and I need to be able to connect with them. So, I don’t want to be actually ok.

If I become ok I’ll lose everything that makes me actually good and me. Not being ok makes me safe, compassionate, empathetic, and sensitive. I like being those things, and I can only be those things if I’m not ok.

People won’t see who I am if I’m actually ok (because actually ok isn’t who I actually am), and it’s critically important that people see who I actually am.

I can’t actually be ok because then no one will love me. People will only leave people who aren’t completely ok, because such people are safer, more compassionate, more empathetic, more reflective. Only people who aren’t ok can actually know each other. Only people who aren’t ok can take care of each other. I can only be taken care of, when I need it, if I’m not ok all of the time.

I’ll be struck down if I’m actually ok. Being actually ok isn’t safe. Being actually ok makes one a target.

If I’m actually ok, I will have to do things that I don’t want to do, that I’m ideologically and constitutionally against doing. I don’t know any other way of not doing and not having to do those things than not being ok.

Being ok is against my belief system/ideology. Being not ok is what makes people good. Being not ok is what makes people transcendent. Being not ok is an act of transgressive power.

Furthermore, it’s not ok to bask in the goodness of not being ok. Given that I’m not ok, it’s also not ok to fully enjoy not being ok. It’s not ok to enjoy how being broken is incredibly delicious.

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brief note on space and sensations:

It can be tempting to "reify" "space" as such and "sensations" as such, to "feel space," to "point to sensations in space or in the body," the raw sensory experience as such, the shimmering/blinking "voxels," the "pixels" in extreme fine-grain detail.

Yes! Do this! if you’re drawn to it. This might be essential to do for at least a little bit. Let interest, intuition, meta-protocoling guide you. But, in some sense, "sensations as such" are no more/less real than chairs or tables. "Space itself" is is concept-laden, meaning-laden, and no more/less real than chairs or tables.

There are maybe subtle traps in "trying to make space real," "treating space as real," "pointing to things, extensions, volumes, manifolds" precisely in space or in the the body, and so on. This can lead to tangling, twisting, knotting. But a little bit of exploration like this (or a lot, depending on the person) can lead to untangling, untwisting, unknotting. It’s very contingent, what concepts, moves, etc., will be helpful, deliberate or spontaneous.

"Space" and "working with space" can be an excellent metaphor but is maybe not a good basis of practice. But for some people, some of the time, it might be a metaphor that very cleanly gives way to emptiness. It just depends.

And of course try to not to "reify" "reification," "inappropriate reification".....

(All of this pretty much applies to "time", as well.)

[See also: https://twitter.com/quotidiania/status/1367900435013644290 [Last accessed: 2021-03-05]]

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brief, loosely related notes on unknotting, untwisting, untangling:

(1) There’s sort of a way in which experience accumulates or "tangles up" from the perineum to the crown of the head, over a lifetime. This may have something to do with ontogeny/phylogeny/something of the neural cord/crest, etc., in prenatal development. Around the perineum can be especially tangly. Around the neck can be especially tangly too.

(2) Part of untangling things is something like applying "structure preserving transformations" to "safely move things out of the way" so one can "metaphorically peer deeper and deeper down into the system," as if one was above the head looking down into the neck, down through the volume of the body. It can be like the center of a square of tissue paper is placed on top of the perineum, with a dab of glue securing it to the perineum, and then the tissue paper is "crumpled and twisted upwards through the volume of the body. And so what’s described here is gently untwisting and uncrumpling the tissue paper to expose that anchored part of the tissue (and finally then even that can flow, sort of).

(3) Knotting and tangles can feel like knots and tangles, but also "seams," pockets, bags, crumples, etc.

(4) Unknotting, untangling is a combination of directness and indirectness. The "knot itself," not to "inappropriately reify" a "knot as such," while of course being spatially/experientially nebulous, dynamic, might seem to be localized or semi-localized in "body experience" and/or "inner space" and/or muscle tension and/or some or all of these. And/but, it can be helpful to consider there to be thin tendrils reaching diffusely basically everywhere. So, sometimes, one might focus too much sort of on "the knot itself," but untangling will likely involve a tremendous amount of time "very far away" from the knot. It can be good to balance directness and indirectness. And, of course, these are "leaky abstractions," and "puzzle solving" will ultimately be radically concrete, engaging with the specific, particular details of one’s own life history, mindbody, bodymind, etc.

(5) In addition to "within the body" or "within inner space" (or pocket worlds, or pocket realities, suffusing or entangling with "the world out there," and so on), one might also explore the surface of the body. It can be as if bedsheets or very-high-surface-area, thin parachute material is wrapped around the body again, and again, and again, including through the body, multiple times. This is to give a sense of just how wrapped and tangled things can be. And this can be pretty normal, over a few decades of living! And then meditation is partly a painstaking unwrapping, untwisting of these wrappings and wrappings, slow, shimmery, tingly, undulation or buzzing over large surfaces areas. Just another way it can be like, of many, on and off or over extended periods of time. And so, "untangling" something "seemingly very small," say, in the perineum, or the face, or the neck, etc., might involve sort of unwrapping football-field-amounts of sensation, material, something, to kind of "get all the way down" to unwrapping that small twist. That is "everything" was kind of involved in that small twist.

Note: when I say "unwrapping bedsheets," it's sort of like it slides along the surface, like all this is happening in cylindrical or concentric layers, layers of surfaces, multiple simultaneously layers of cloth sliding against each other in different directions, mostly, until there's only a single layer, and not like sort of "big-unwrapping-ness-es out into space around the body," or something. Just metaphors, though relatable to sensation and experience, sometimes.

[thank you to a collaborator for giving me an opportunity to articulate a chunk of this]

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attention is not fundamental:

Everybody does "attention" and "attending" differently. There’s sort of a sense in which there’s "only awareness" and "attention" is an illusion. Some people "attend" in a very "heavyweight" way, much "comes along with it." And some people attend more lightly.

Often, "attention" is "too tangled up" with "other things," and this can be a bottleneck. "Untangling" makes "attention" more "light."

The way to untangle attention [from other things and even completely] is no different than untangling anything else from anything else (muscles, imagery, knowing; see other sections). It’s all bodymind, all experience.

[See also: https://twitter.com/eating_entropy/status/1367920780823044097 Last accessed: 2021-03-05]

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"inner space" and physical/social grace:

(epistemic status: not exactly, maybe too extreme, needs more qualification, at least, and, but, etc.)

"Internal" action, "mental" actions, perhaps (but not exactly*) even "subtle" actions are essential until they’re not (if ever) but there’s a sense in which perhaps all such actions are inherently jammy, grindy, frictiony, contradictory, contentious somewhere deep down. As in, any action that doesn’t stabilize or move the (")physical(") body, smoothly, coherently, is perhaps in some sense wasteful or ultimately superfluous.

*This isn’t quite right because perhaps something like "inner space" transforms, thins, becomes re-known (cf. "just this" and luminosity**). But that doesn’t negate fantasy, imagination, play, shared dreaming, the positive (inner) spaces between (us). And/but/though/also, there’s senses in which thinking ("mental" action, mental effort) ultimately isn’t needed for any of that***. ("Ultimately," as in eventually, because mind stuff is sometimes for sure needed until it isn’t.)

**"in the seeing just the seen, in the hearing just the heard"; centerlessness, agency-less-ness (not saying these are necessarily good, necessary, inevitable but sketching out the space)

***see section: merely just having the experience itself, and, technical debt is good, actually

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dark phenomenology and presence/absence conceptions:

Something to keep in mind is that some phenomenology is relatively more prone to being "misinterpreted" or "misconceptualized," still not committing to any particular thing when using the words "phenomenology," "mistinterpretation," "misconceptualization," etc.

In particular, phenomenology that is "dim," "dark," "black"(!), is not just harder to "see" than gross/overt/bright/clear/something phenomenology or even subtle/low-intensity/low-magnitude that’s not "black." It’s, again, more prone to being misinterpreted/misconceptualized.

"Very dark" or "black" phenomenology sometimes contributes to people, in part, locally, isolatedly, in some part of their "system," "believing" that they’re nothing, or that they’re dead, or that nothing’s there, or the phenomenology itself is nothing, or there’s a black hole "there" that one might get sucked into, and so on.

It might be worth noting that "black" phenomenology is still phenomenology! It’s still present!

As a caveat, this doesn’t mean all "black" phenomenology is "safe" or "harmless" or "the same" as all other "black phenomenology." I mean, it’s definitely safe in some absolute sense, but don’t interact with it mechanically or unresponsively, as per usual! Possibly engage in things like the meta protocol in inclining towards what to do! There’s still a sense in which bad/"bad" things could be lurking/hiding in "the black," in "the dark" (or in bright stuff, too), depending on all sorts of factors.

Again, please don’t "fix"/"stabilize" the meaning of pretty much any word in this section (or in the entire document), but there’s a thing, here.

Additionally, given some relationship between quality and conception, there’s a related thing with conceiving presence and absence.

For example, it’s important to distinguish between (a) not X, (b) the absence/lack of X, (c) the presence of the representation of the absence/lack of X, and so on. Making a light, local distinction between something like "experience" and something like "concept." Conceptualization or experience of the lack of X, which, in some sense, technically, is presence, not absence, may be accompanied by dim, dark, or black phenomenology. (Again, not all dim, dark, or black phenomenology is "the same.")

Example:

lack of belief and/or lack of disbelief is not the same thing as "active/present" disbelief, which might be some combination of feelings, thoughts, "phenomenology," sensations, etc. And some of that might be very dim, dark, or "black."

Note:

There are parallels, here, to "unvalenced" phenomenology and memories. (vs "valenced" as in phenomenology/sensations that is/are directly positive/pleasurable/good or negative/noxious/bad/etc or, more loosely, sensations or experiences that are associated with such.)

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daily limits:

When weightlifting, there's only so much training one can do in a single day (and there are also weekly to fourteen day limits and even longer periodicity supercycles). One can't lift weights one hundred hours, in a row, and then eat and sleep for seven hundred hours, in a row, gain a ton of muscle, and then repeat. There are daily-ish limits after which one needs sleep (and food).

Brains (and the nervous system) aren't muscles, but there's something kind of similar going on, with meditation.

When one first starts meditating, one won't know what to do to produce efficient change, or even much change at all. (And, just to be clear/emphasize, producing efficient change involves a lot of non-effort and patience and surrender.) And then, over time, one gets better at producing change. (This is still not great wording.) And/but, at first, that initially constructive change will lead to grinding or jamming (if one unresponsively persists) sort of before even more fundamental limits get hit. Eventually generally avoiding grinding and jamming, via increased affordances and structural fluidity, one eventually learns to sort locally of max out an even "deeper limit," in a good and safe way, until the next time one sleeps. Doing this is sort of locally brushing up against a sort of "fundamental slack." Eventually, one learns to max out even this limit, in a few different areas, instead of maybe just one or two, almost in a widespread global sense, sort of sussing that out maybe over hours, until the next time one sleeps.

It's like there's "fundamental slack" and meditation eventually uses this up. And then sleep provides new fundamental slack for the next day. The more 90-minute cycles of sleep, the more new fundamental slack becomes available.

At first, this can sometimes be a little fraught. Like brushing up against it can lead to at least a little destabilization and/or almost narcolepsy. But eventually the system learns how to sort of max out this available change, while still apportioning exactly enough slack for doing, learning, interacting, in general, for other daily things.

There's a variable amount of meditation slack available, each day, it depends on day-to-day, in-flight structural features, as things unwind, move around, and settle. Sometimes it's a ton, even like twenty hours worth, but it's generally finite. Maybe every few months, for maybe many days in a row, there will only be five to twenty minutes of meditation slack available that day, until one gets another 4.5 to nine hours of sleep, and that's normal. Sometimes a twenty or ninety minute nap can unlock a lot more and sometimes not.

It may take quite a while to get a sense of this--for several years, one might not have the deftness, degree of fine-grain-ness / structural fluidity, something, to regularly bump up against this limit. And that's ok. It's a gradual process to kind of start bumping up against this limit (and to sort of suss out all available nooks and crannies that have remaining daily slack), and that's ok.*

While global wayfinding prowess is still developing, over thousands of hours (of including meta protocol-ing), it's a bit of a mixed blessing to be able to really use up daily slack, because it's not a guarantee that one won't be doing a mix of both undoing/untangling and tangling/entrenching. And it's ok if one is. It's a gradual process of moving the mixed ratio to more and more untangling/undoing.

So it's not even critical that one finds comes to get a sense for and regularly find their way to this limit. And again, it's not exactly the same thing as "having no moves to make that aren't grinding or jamming," though it's related--grinding or jamming is usually the next thing that happens once all "fundamental slack" is used up, though grinding or jamming can definitely happen long before that, too (and indeed is typically the thing that happens, if one persists unresponsively, and sometimes even if not--under unfortunate subterreanean momentum--before one starts reaching and getting a sense of this other limit).

"Grinding and jamming" is sort of just running out of local available "software moves" or not yet having some degrees of freedom or structural fluidity, speaking abstractly and too generally. And, on the other hand, this "fundamental slack" thing is sort of running out of available daily "hardware moves" or "hardware capacity."

Patience over days, and meta protocoling, can help sort out the differences and relationships between the two, and having a sense of the difference is definitely a useful input into global wayfinding (and, of course, global wayfinding applies both during and outside of "meditation," in whichever way that's narrowly, widely, or very widely defined, with "just lost in life," as an option, very withstanding.)

While it's not critical, one may eventually start getting a sense of this fundamental slack, and it does have some bearing on long-range efficiency over thousands of hours. And/but again, running up against this too soon, with too much "momentum"/​pushing/​forcing, before those sorts of things are long-run relatively untangled and integrated out of the system, can be a very problematic thing.

And, by the way, what is this phenomenon, neurologically speaking? I think it has something to do with local (high-dimensional) synaptic potentiation and depotentiation getting maxed out (or "minned" out). And then sleep (I forget which phase of sleep) does global synaptic renormalization [1], which makes those synapses available again. Sometimes it feels like it's "the same"** synapses getting maxed/minned out, over and over again, each day, over several days or even weeks, before things shift around to a new bottleneck. And sometimes it feels like sleep can only do so much renormalization, if there is that sort of a bottleneck, so those same synapses get maxed out again in like five to twenty minutes of meditation, sometimes in the early morning, if one starts meditating soon after waking up, while still in bed. And that's ok! Mediate bottlenecks happen.

What's particuarly interesting is how this phenomenon can be a thing, while, when it obtains, it's still possible to go about one's day and do various routine and important things. This says something about brains, and "load distribution," and "network"/"operational" dimensionality, and multi-network neuronal participation, and "content addressable memory," and malleability and ongoing spontaneous remodeling and didactic organisation [2], and structural fluidity, and all sorts of other things. (The previous list mixes scientific terms of art and my idiosyncratic usages particular to this document.)

And, sometimes it's too hard to have a "functional throughline," i.e. there's functional nonmonotonicity and one does need to stay in bed or only do light tasks, especially privilege withstanding.

In any case, bumping up against this "fundamental slack" starts to be a thing, and it's something one can kind of start planning around. If one bumps into meditation limits in just twenty minutes, a couple days in a row, then one might expect meditation will only be possible for twenty minutes the next day or two, after that, and so nonmonotonicity notwithstanding, one might plan more ambitious things in those next few days, to allow for more shifting and settling, more accumulation of fundmental slack (and non-meditative spontaneous reorganization!!!!!!!!!!!!), facilitated by novel, enjoyable, useful experiences, out in the world.

So this is one thing to keep an eye out for, in terms of meditative rhythms and day-to-day or week-to-week planning, of weaving meditation with other valued and "that's the whole point" sorts of things.

*

[1], [2] These terms, and others, are worth googling, on wikipedia, google scholar, and in other places. Quanta magazine has decent popular articles exploring some of the above, too. [Poke me and I'll get some more references, here, sooner or later.]

*Over time, one gets better and better at sussing out more places to "gently" use up additional fundamental slack, even after apparently having solidly run out (after which it's good to sort of gently stop on a dime, as best one can). So I don't mean to be too absolutist about this--sometimes it seems like everything is used up but then patient "non-meditation," for three hours, sort of floats up many more hours worth of things to do. This isn't too common, at least in my experience, but it's definitely also a thing. Usually it's better to just stop for the day. But if one has some spaciousness/slack, body-wise, and a relatively low degree of currently active "runaway processes," then sometimes, if one has a very light touch to sort of wait things out, without running into grinding, jamming, muscle tension, or other issues, then more useful degrees of freedom and slack becoming available, can be a thing. Again, this won't usually be the case, the better one gets at first-pass making use of what's available and the more structurally fluid, late stage, one is. But sometimes there's a little or a lot, with a very, very light touch and patience. The reason it's usually better to stop for the day is that there will be a tiny bit of slack left in the system, and that's sort of a safety buffer. If one kind of uses up that buffer, and then there's a bit of runaway momentum in the system, then inadvertently things can be pushed a bit too far, leading to muscle tension, and so on. And too little slack can kind of compound and make it find one's way out if runaway processes keep using it up, and so there's an increased change compounding issues and eventual high blood pressure, intracranial pressure, nerve impingement, and so on. So, it can be good to just let things go, depending on local concrete structural features of one's situation, at any given time.

**"The same" is in quotes above because maybe it is indeed the same physical synapses, maybe it's different synapses but the same pattern, as transferred through didactic organisation, and so on.

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brief thoughts on substances like psychedelics:

This is a complex topic, so these are just some brief thoughts, to start. I (Mark) personally have never used psychedelics. (I wanted to "figure it out for myself.") It does seem like there's overlap between what psychedelics do and what meditation does, based on many conversations.

I want to discuss two points. First, I write in the section "no one gets pixel-perfect possibilities" that there's sort of a "right place for everything," though noting that that "final ground state," loosely speaking, is stable, self-repairing, costless, effortless, "natural." It seems like psychedelics, with each use, sometimes, for some people, take a person vaguely, fractionally in this "natural" direction, but not precisely/exactly in this "natural" direction.

Second, I rely a lot on the idea of redo-to-undo. So, say, psychedelics (or other substances) don't take a person in quite the right direction; say they cause some "error propagation" (??confusion, delusion, distortion, confabulation??).

(I mention error correction and error propagation elsewhere in the document, not to inappropriately reify those two things/ideas, as per usual.)

Then, at some point, a la redo-to-undo, a person will need to recover aspects of the altered state (perhaps liminally, subliminally) in order to "clean up" or "correct" some things (dipping in over and over again, contiguous with returning again and again to all sorts of things, as sometimes generally happens in meditation). To the degree that psychedelic aspects are hard to return to, and so "redo" takes longer, this might extend a person's meditation timeline. (In any case, popping into or easing into and out of "altered" states is a part of meditation, whether or not someone has ever used substances, as mentioned in the section "states," and other sections.)

Some people may feel like substances are "experientially instructive," or are sometimes healing or make the journey better, irrespective of timelines, or are otherwise a "net timeline win."

I suspect that the long-term meditator may eventually generally find substances to be net disruptive, but possibly not, given aspects of "final ground state."

Again, I personally don't use, haven't used, and don't intend to use psychedelics or other substances (really, truly). And/but also, it's presumably not the end of the world if you do. And, also, don't do anything illegal, etc., etc. And, all that being said, a subset of people that I regularly interact with do systematically, regularly, or intermittently use mind-altering substances.

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getting triggered, usefulness and risks:

Sometimes getting triggered can save time, whether that triggering is accidental, surprising, or even prospectively (and retrospectively) net undesirable.

Somehow, someway, the meditator will make it all the states/places in their bodymind state that they need to or want to, to have things change in ways that are nonmonotonically, retrospectively good. One doesn’t need an external trigger, in the limit, which is good because sometimes triggers aren’t available, e.g. a childhood context or friend or enemy who’s passed away or unavailable. (Often, though, too, something far removed from an original context has an element of, or enough of a similarity, to an original context/person/situation, to serve as a trigger or cause triggering.)

But, if triggers are available, sometimes they can cause really fast pinpointing and learning, if the meditator is ready. Sometimes, this will alleviate a bottleneck, and it’ll be doubly useful. Even if they’re not ready, it’s still data that will be useful later.

Whether intentional or accidental, getting triggered isn’t always safe, because being triggered can sometimes involve an increased propensity for destructive behavior. (Part of being triggered is sometimes not realizing one has been triggered, and then destructive things sometimes feel "right" or "justified," in the moment.

Being mindful of safety, sometimes it’s better to avoid being triggered, and sometimes it can be net-helpful to be triggered. And sometimes undesirable triggering can happen, and it can be useful, even if it’s partially or net-problematic.

Finally, "retraumatization" is a thing—being exposed to "triggers" too early can also cause net more "layering" and "compensation" and thereby make things take fractionally longer, on net. This can be discouraging if one didn’t intend to be triggered, but it’s normal to get triggered and retriggered, and it’s very possible to think one os being "re-traumatized," etc., but it’s actually net "redo-to-undo," and net progress. It can be hard to tell in the moment, and, in any case, getting triggered is par for the course, grist for the mill. It’s ok.

All that said, it can be fine good to systematically, actively seek out some triggers, some of the time, when you’re ready or as a careful (or accidental) experiment.

informal working definitions:

trigger ~= something that can or does cause an abrupt (negative) state change, or change to local, behavioral propensities, that doesn’t depend on the rest of the environmental context

trauma ~= bodymind state/feeling/content/material that’s needs extra steps to be safe to re-experience, that in its dormant/latent state is a bottleneck/dependency on other/further valued changes

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some narrowly conceived phenomenological investigations that may or may not be useful:

[This material is taken from a deprecated document and isn't strictly neccessary material; the ontology isn't quite right and isn't commensurate with the ontology in the rest of this document. But there's material here that could be woven into the rest of the document, perhaps in a later version, that would possibly enhance the document, for some people. So, it's being included, here for completeness and initial convenience. Overall, what's here is not a complete method, in part because it's not a method that can "eat itself," and in part because there isn't a global wayfinding aspect, and for other reasons, too. The below has been edited from the original version. Beware inappropriate reification, anchoring, magical button pushing, etc., etc.]

(0) Some Phenomenological Methods

This section details phenomenological methods. We’ll look at techniques for what to do you when you want to investigate experiences that are challenging to investigate, for various reasons:

We’ll talk about what to do when experiences go by too fast to examine.

We’ll talk about what to do when experiences are too complicated, messy, or vague to examine.

We’ll talk about a common mistake that’s made when investigating phenomenology.

And, we’ll talk about what to do when you don’t know what you’re looking for.

(1) Afterimages, Replay, Interference

[Note: Beware of inappropriate reification (or localization) of "felt meaning," "felt models," etc.]

The first thing to point out is the process of observation more generally. When you look, see, or notice something, there’s (arguably, sometimes) a very predictable pattern that then occurs.

First, there is your contact with the actual sensory experience. This is very, very brief. Almost immediately, your mind moves to phase two.

In this phase, you are no longer paying attention to the actual sensory experience, but you are instead paying attention to a sort of "afterimage" of the experience. This is what your mind actually collects and takes away from the outside world, and this is what you actually think about, make sense of, and reason about.

What is this afterimage like? It’s (maybe) composed of felt meaning, quasi-imagery, and often a felt model.

Regarding the parts of the afterimage, the felt meaning might represent what you experienced. If there’s a felt model, one of the "icons" in the model will be the "what" that you experienced; and maybe the model will be a model of the process that you think generated the experience (for example, what made the noise).

A good way to get practice at noticing afterimages is through paying attention to bodily sensations, especially proprioception. Where is your foot in space? How do you know? Can you separate the actual proprioceptive sensations from your phenomenological afterimage of the sensations? On and off, you could play with this for a few minutes, until you get bored.

Another way to get a sense of afterimages is to generate a short sound or some other sensory experience and then ask how you know it happened. For example, snap your fingers. Ok. How do you know you just snapped your fingers? You remember you did, right?

Unless you wait too long, part of the experience of that memory is the afterimage of you snapping your fingers. And, there’s often a special property of afterimages that you can play with: You can access the afterimage to more fully replay the experience that led to the afterimage. A replay is not available for some experiences and you might lose the replay for the experience if you wait too long before accessing it. Finally, even if a replay isn’t available, the afterimage may still contain some detail that you can inspect.

So, being aware of and using afterimages is one way that you can inspect subtle phenomena, especially phenomena that goes by very fast. When doing so, there are some caveats to be aware of.

First, it’s good to remember that the afterimage is not a perfect replica of the experience. It is a "tag" that the experience happened, that may contain or evoke some of the structure or phenomenology of the original experience. If you’re using afterimages to investigate experience, you have to make some effort to to separate out what the experience of the afterimage is versus what remains of the original experience.

Second, it’s important to note that afterimages will always have some conceptual contamination. Afterimages are part top down and part bottom up. That is, afterimages are partially composed of what you expect to see. That’s why you can be positive you just saw a bug skitter across the flow but when you look closely it was just some very suggestive dust caught in a draft. The afterimage is what your reflexes and emotions actually react to, and the afterimage is not the same thing as what was actually there. The way to partially get around this is to try to not have preconceptions and to try to take lots of careful observations of the phenomena.

Finally, there’s a subtler point, here. It seems to be the case that you may be able to "take" or "get" an afterimage only if you already have some inkling of what you’re looking for. That is, if you already have some hint of an idea or concept of what’s there. That doesn’t mean you have to have a name for the experience. And, it doesn’t mean that you’ve had to explicitly reflect, before, on some prior occasion, on having those sorts of experiences. I just means that somewhere in your mind there has to be some sort of... familiarity for the experience before you go looking or paying attention in general.

So, how do you get that initial experience, if you can only have the experience if you’ve had the experience? It seems to "bootstrap" slowly, by simply paying attention in the vicinity of what you’re looking for. You brain eventually, faintly discerns a pattern on the edge of experience, and you gain a creeping sense of familiarity that becomes clearer and clearer, until finally you can put your finger on it, haltingly describe it with great difficulty, and maybe finally name it as a thing or break it down into further parts.

In the next few subsections, we’ll give more tips that can help this process go faster. In any case, you’ll already have the capacity for afterimages for many interesting and valuable things, just by gaining tacit familiarity with them of the course of your life. For some of those things, you might immediately think to yourself, "Oh yeah, I recognize that. Maybe I should give it a name." For other things you’ll have a faint, barely-there sense of something, and it’ll take effort and concentration to bring it into focus without scaring it away by doing the wrong thing with your mind. (We’ll talk about "scaring things away by doing the wrong thing with your mind" in a subsequent section.)

Overall, when an experience is somewhat fast, contained, and almost gone before you look, afterimages are a great tool to investigate and get a clearer sense of it.

(2) Where / Spaces

[Note! Be careful about inappropriately reifying space! Let space go completely! Asking "where," narrowly conceived and mechanically executed, is a trap!]

Another challenge to investigating experiences is that they can seem too fuzzy, vague, diffuse, or too complicated. Like, there’s too much going on and you don’t know where to start. In contrast to afterimages, where you might have been able to grab something relatively discrete and contained, sometimes there’s just too much going on and there’s nothing (yet) for your attention to obviously focus on. You just can’t get a sense of the whole thing that feels precise and clear. What you can do in this case is ask ​where you’re experiencing things. Sometimes this, all by itself will be tremendously clarifying.

It seems to be the case that experience is organized into overlapping "qualia spaces." And, I really do mean spaces, like three-dimensional spaces, though some of these spaces don’t seem to intersect with normal three-dimensional space and some of these spaces seem to be "differently dimensioned" or more than three dimensions, if you can believe it. But maybe you’ll have that experience for yourself.

Some of these spaces seem to partially "interpenetrate" or "take up the same space" but each space feels slightly different and has different things in them. An example is that felt meaning and emotions sometimes seem tightly interwoven, where one spatially picks up right where the other leaves off. Other times, these two experiences don’t exist quite in the same place, like they’re coexisting but not interacting. In contrast to felt meaning and emotion, emotion is more likely to be felt "somewhere in the body" though it might not have quite the character of a bodily sensation. Emotion exists a bit more in a three-dimensional space that overlays on the more obvious proprioceptive body space, the feeling of the body that seems to live in normal three-dimensional space. Felt meaning and felt modeling don’t seem to exist in quite the same space, but those spaces can overlap.

Felt meaning, for me, at times, seems to live in an infinite dimensional, infinitely textured space that almost doesn’t interact with "normal reality" at all. (I maintain metaphysical neutrality in this document! I believe in brains and physics.)

Some things seem to be more "up and back" in my head, and, by "up and back" I mean some sort of "extra dimension," different than our usual three dimensions. See if you can tell if inner imagery exists in a different space than inner talk. Where do you experience each of these? That’s the question to keep asking. Where am I experiencing that? ​Where is that happening?

The point of asking ​where is that it separates out experiences that were seemingly diffusely mixed together. It clarifies them, as sort of a divide-and-conquer approach, as meditation teacher Shinzen Young might say. (I got the "where" idea from him.)

You’ll find that some experiences seem to wax and wane and travel according to their own agenda. Other experiences seem to be time-locked together. That is, the waxing and waning of two or more experiences arise and fall together, somewhat synchronously. Another thing you might find is that certain experiences closely follow each other in time, one after another, or the sequentially kick off with slight delays from each other.

All the above might initially seem hopelessly tangled together, but, by asking "where" it becomes possible to separate all these experiences apart and then understand and see how they fit back together in a dynamic unfolding. And, when separated out, it’s much easier to inspect each aspect of that separated experience, to better understand its composition and function.

When experience is vague or complex, ask "where..."

(3) Describing

[Note! Be careful about language, conception of "raw sensations" as such (or even "pixels" or "voxels" of sensation, and the relationship between the two! They're all great, but beware of inappropriately reifying them! Let it all go! "Describing raw sensations in space and time at the pixel/voxel grain," narrowly conceived and mechanically executed, is a trap!]

After you ask where, sometimes it can be helpful to incline towards "exactly verbally describing" (silently in your head) what you're experiencing, including "spatial relationships," and trying to "[locally] leave absolutely nothing out," whether what's under observation is quasi-static or dynamic, whether it's amorphous or something else.

(4) Secondary Attention

[Note! Be careful about inappropriately reifying "secondary attention." Exploring "secondary attention," narrowly conceived and mechanically executed, is a trap!]

[Note! Beware of inappropriately reifying attention and movements of attention! "Attention" (compare with perhaps experience, awareness, and lots of other things] is a trap! Maybe see section attention is not fundamental]

Here is an exercise you can explore that is, in some way, an analogy and in other ways points exactly to another phenomenological technique.

Ideally, look at something at least twenty feet away, though it doesn’t have to be. Looking out a window is best. This something should be small enough or far away enough that you can see the whole thing clearly, that you don’t have to move your eyes around to take it all in.

Now, with your foreground attention on that visual object, become aware of your entire field of peripheral vision. Notice how your eyes want to be captured by things in the periphery. Do your best to keep your eyes on the original object, and do your best to keep paying attention to it.

Now, while you’re gently, firmly paying attention to the original object, let’s go back to your entire peripheral field of vision. Notice that, even if your peripheral vision is sort of flat and blurry, because your main focus of vision is gently, firmly stabilized, you can still make out peripheral objects. If you’re looking outside, notice you can even "watch" or "track" walkers, cars, bikers, or birds go by in your peripheral vision.

Call your main visual object the object of foreground attention, or primary attention. Call your peripheral vision peripheral awareness or just awareness. Call your ability to track objects in awareness while foreground attention is occupied ​secondary attention. (The terminology of "attention" versus "awareness" is from the meditation teacher Culadasa. The concept of "secondary attention" is my own.)

With foreground attention occupied by one visual object, you can still track other visual objects with secondary attention.

Now, I will claim that you can do the same thing with any combination of visual or non-visual experiences, or "inner" objects.

For example, you can pay (primary) attention to a neutral object in your visual field and then explore your emotions with secondary attention. You can pay attention to a bodily sensation while exploring inner imagery with secondary attention. You can gently rest primary attention on felt meaning and or something else.

I will make the provisional claim that some experiences are only accessible via secondary attention and that secondary attention is a powerful phenomenological tool.

Now, some caveats. First, secondary attention is and is not an analogy.

Sometimes, secondary attention to "inner" objects and experiences feels exactly like the peripheral vision exercise. Other times, secondary attention feels more like a "flick," a "twitch," a nudge, more like a sidelong glance or a special gesture in "not-quite-three-dimensional space." Please don’t be misled by the analogy of secondary attention. Explore what works for you, and when, and why.

Second, some experiences seem to be on the border between being accessible by primary or secondary attention. For example, for me, experiencing felt meaning doesn’t seem to be quite primary or secondary attention for me.

Third, the analogy to peripheral vision would imply that "secondary attention" for inner objects is a space where you can just look around and pick out objects or experience for examination. Sometimes, especially after a bit of time spent exploring, it really does feel this way, like you can just look around and examine stuff at your leisure, like you can just "rummage around." Other times, the space of secondary attention seems "more than three dimensional," like you’re a two-dimensional flatlander on a plane that exists in three dimensions, and someone says look up and you have no idea how to orient in that direction. Sometimes secondary attention is like that; you don’t know how to look in a particular direction. (Patience can reveal the correct direction, sometimes. This will be discussed in a subsequent section.)

With the above caveats in mind, secondary attention can be a very useful idea to keep in mind. Whether or not there are some things you can only see with secondary attention, there’s another point to keep in mind:

Foreground attention is "loud" and "disruptive." That is, moving foreground attention around sort of "stirs the waters" or "drowns out" subtle activity. Or subtle activity changes into something else the moment you look directly at it. There are definitely times when keeping foreground attention very still or keeping its movements very delicate and slight can be very, very useful. And this is where peripheral awareness and secondary attention can really come in handy. Keep in mind that if you’re looking hard for a particular experience, the best way to find it might be by keeping foreground attention mostly very still and stable. This takes gentle practice, but being able to notice and gently influence the movement of attention is very worth it. This is a very important tip for being able to explore your mind.

[Note: One meditation teacher makes a very similar distinction to my primary/foreground and secondary/background attention. They call them attention and awareness, respectively. They have a great suggestion, and I'm adapting it and riffing on it a bit, that attention and awareness can kind of be "overlaid," so it's not just like concentric circles: Sometimes you'll want to "look through" one or the other, to see the other one.]

(5) Snapshots

[Note! Beware of inappropriately reifying attention, movements of attention, or "mental actions"! It's a trap!]

In a previous section I discussed afterimages as well as their limitation that you needed a glimmer of familiarity with an experience in order to be able to use them as a tool to investigate that experience.

In this subsection, I will discuss a particular tool which can help to get around this limitation. It partially makes use of the concepts of primary and secondary attention.

What you do in this technique is take a "snapshot" of a large portion of your awareness, in a relatively general and non-specific way. When in doubt, you can just "take a snapshot of everything," and your "field of view" will sort of take care of itself. This is a little bit like getting a very large afterimage. And then you can inspect it.

The way to do this is, at the moment of taking the snapshot, you keep your attention very still and incline towards gently stabilizing all of peripheral awareness, too. And in the same moment, you pay attention to exactly everything that’s there, no more, no less, without moving your awareness at all. There’s very much a sense of "catching yourself in the act."

This is hard at first, especially getting exactly the moment you want, and especially doing it without accidentally first moving your attention and messing up the landscape. It takes practice, and it can help to get good at exploring afterimages and using secondary attention, first.

If you incline your mind towards the experience you want, that experience will typically be more likely to happen repeatedly, even if you don’t quite know what you’re looking or how or where to look for it, and you’ll get more opportunities for snapshots.

There’s a bit of a sense of pre-deciding to take the snapshot or "instantaneously deciding," or "habitually, spontaneously" taking snapshots, at least during the time you’re exploring. That’s because any "deliberation" or "deciding" can obscure the very experience that you were trying to take the snapshot of. So you sort of just have to set yourself up and go for it, over and over again. And then you inspect the interesting ones.

This technique takes practice, but it’s very, very powerful. And it can come to feel very spontaneous and natural.

(6) Read-Off versus Inference

[Note: Beware possibly "artificial distinctions" between read-off and inference! Beware privileging one or the other! Beware mechanically executing either!]

[Note: One might make the analogy that "read-off" is "appearing," and "inference" is "seeming" or "knowing." Or, "seeming" is sort of a blend of both "appearing" and "knowing," or...]

In the previous subsections, we’ve discussed several techniques to aid in phenomenological exploration. Here, it’s worth emphasizing a distinction mentioned before, that between read-off and inference.

It’s worth keeping in mind whether you’re thinking about something versus looking at something just as it is. When you’re using phenomenological techniques, part of the time you’re going to be doing the technique and part of the time, maybe even most of the time, you’re going to be thinking hard and trying to figure out what’s going on and possibly how to describe it. And those two things are going to be mixed together in complicated ways, as you peek at something for a moment and then think about it, then maybe have a realization, and then peek again a few times between thoughts.

The mind is very, very prone to mistaking thoughts about a thing for the thing itself. (That’s not to say that thoughts about a thing aren’t very interesting in themselves, and you can directly investigate those as well!) And, the mind is very prone to get into very long chains of thinking.

This is fine! This is not meditation where you sometimes want to suppress parts of your experience. Better, here, to err on the side of letting experience do what it wants and then direction attention and making distinctions within that ongoing experience.

But, it’s worth checking that you’re spending enough time actually looking at what you’re investigating, and, also, that when you’re looking you’re actually looking.

Actually looking is read-off. Everything else is inference. Both are important, but don’t mistake the latter for the former. This requires ongoing vigilance, though it eventually becomes somewhat habitual.

If you get the answer through thinking about it, that’s inference. If you get the answer through, there it is right there, and I’m just reporting it, that’s read-off. Both are useful; know which one you want in any particular moment.

(7) Looking versus Seeing What's There

[Note! Beware of inappropriately reifying attention and movements of attention! "Attention" (compare with perhaps experience, awareness, and lots of other things] is a trap! Maybe see section attention is not fundamental]

[Note! Beware of inappropriately reifying attention, movements of attention, "brightening," "dimming," or "mental actions"! It's a trap!]

We've talked about primary versus secondary attention, and we've also talked about read-off versus inference. It's worth making one more distinction. All of these distinctions are pointing at a very particular way of exploring within yourself, and it's being emphasized because it can be very counterintuitive.

It can be dangerous to write so many words and to (try) to be so specific about what you might find when you look inside yourself and also how you might do that looking. That is, it's very easy to fall into the trap of looking versus seeing what's there. Daniel Ingram makes this distinction, perhaps in different words, in his book, Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha.

The idea is that the act of looking, the act of moving your attention around too much, will obscure the very things you're trying to see. And if you have expectations about what you're going to see, that will bias your attention to move, to try and catch in the act the fruit of those expectations. But, unless you have some familiarity with the phenomenon already, all you have to go on are words. And, words can be very misleading when don't already have at least some slight experience with the territory (which you might).

One of the ways to get around this is to try to keep investigating, as closely as you can, what's actually right there in front you, what you're actually experiencing right now. I don't mean in daily life, like, when you're eating an orange, though you can do that. I mean while you're exploring the distinctions and techniques in these recent subsections.

For example, find a neutral object, as in the secondary attention section, and, then, don't look for things, per se, but follow the instructions and see what happens. It's ok to take plenty of time amidst all that, to think about whether you're following the instructions right and whether you should deviate and experiment, and stuff like that. But, follow the instructions, and see what happens. Let experiences arise as opposed to going looking for them. Look at what you're experiencing right now, as opposed to going looking for more things to experience.

Eventually you might notice how everything outside the primary focus of attention wants to "dim." You might start to notice when the primary focus of attention is no longer the primary focus attention, even though your eyes haven't moved and the primary focus of attention is still right in front of your eyes. You might start to notice gentle tugs at your attention that you don't have to fully follow through with. You might start to notice what happens between moments of attention.

You might notice you non-specifically brighten "everything" in order to see these things happen. You could brighten or focus on specific things, even without moving your primary attention and obscuring phenomena. And you can non-specifically brighten, too, so as not to obscure anything with attentional movement, and, then inspect the afterimage, to get a better look.

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inappropriate reification (stub):

(This is a bit of a joke stub, but also it's serious and not meant to be flippant.)

"Be careful not to inappropriately reify inappropriate reification."

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a dialogue between N and Mark, on reasoning and pre-reasoning:

[we use the example of "feet" a lot, but that’s just one example! we might have used hands, belly button, something. feet are a good heuristic thing to try, but it’s not a rule.]

N

[...]

I guess the next logical question would be [...]

Mark

Want to say something like I think there’s a pre-rational step that’s being missed

N

Say more!

Wdym by pre-rational?

Mark

You probably should pay attention to your feet a bunch or something versus trying to answer questions like [...]

maybe.

but something vaguely like that, maybe extensively

N

You think there's a frozen thing in the body that constrains reasoning and needs to be moved around a bit by correct placing of attention?

Mark

YES. but, a lot, not a little bit

N

Why won't reasoning work? The right answers simply won't pop up in my head or something?

Mark

reasoning for most people mostly happens in a "virtual machine" and there’s only a trickle from that down to preference changes, behavior changes, and goal changes, even if one comes up with "right answers." a failure mode is to keep collecting right answers indefinitely without them becoming a part of the "motivated seeming" of the world

N

In my mind reasoning isn't disconnected from behavioral change, ala critical rationalism

IME in any case where I see lack of progress, I can sort of clearly see why and what problems aren't solved yet

I've never been in a situation where my problem seems explicitly solved, but no behavioral change follows

Mark

That is true for some people, for some domains, contingently

In my mind reasoning isn’t disconnected from behavioral change, ala critical rationalism

do you mean all minds or just some minds, like your mind?

N

The latter, but I'd assume that they're reasoning incorrectly, i.e. missing important signals from the body or getting themselves in conceptual tangles without noticing

Mark

yeah

N

So maybe I got lucky with my mind, hehe

Or I'm just deluded

Mark

but incorrectly is a massive gradient, from extreme virtual machine to radical integration. almost everyone has a lot of confusions, at least at first

N

Do you have any reasons to believe that certain mental moves, e.g. look at feet, just plain don't work and are based on spurious data?

Mark

for some people doing that specifically will be the wrong thing to do at any given time. right thing right time in right order

that’s why there’s 500+ p/a practices, etc., etc.

N

Or, have you considered it?

Mark

considered what?

N

That they don't actually work

Mark

the meta-protocol is a schematization of error checking and meta error checking. it’s an ongoing consideration of whether such things don’t work

at any particular time for some particular person

N

I see, I see

But you don't have an explicit model that accounts both for the usually psychotherapy stuff and mental moves such as that, and can legibly translate from its language into their?

Or do you

Mark

sensory experiences sculpt the future propensities of the system. talk therapy is narrow sculpting that leaves out a huge range of possible experiences that can be used for sculpting

the mind is highly intertwingled such that feet are involved in reasoning, usually confusedly. gotta sometimes e.g. pay attention to the feet to use e.g. talk therapy, correctly

N

[...] how/why sensory experience of one's feet can be useful for sculpting one's higher-level behavior and goals and shit?

I understand the general idea

But I don't understand how experiencing one's feet could be useful for changing beliefs about the world

Feeling one's feet is very different from trying out new food and liking it, me thinks

In this sense feet seem irrelevant

To any major stuff

Don't understand how feet are involved with reasoning :(

Or can be

The way you talk about it is very different from the language/ontology I personally use to make sense of this area

Mark

one’s epistemic stack involves sensory experience of elbows, knees, voice tone, prosody, everything. all of it becomes the substrate for reasoning

Mark

to improve reasoning one sometimes needs to unpack some of the lower-level stuff that doesn’t feel "meaning-laden," like weird body sensations

N

So suppose a person feels their feet

And suppose she did it at the right time

What happens next?

An insight suddenly pops up in their head?

Or maybe weird sensations appear in some body part

Mark

they realize they were doing reasoning wrong, somehow, that was systematically biasing their conclusions. it’s usually not that direct but sometimes it is

usually it’s lots of small steps

that don’t seem to add up until the end

N

And when it's not direct, what happens is something like 'next time they do think, they're able to look at the problem from a slightly different perspective or something'?

Mark

that’s object-level, and that’s a thing too. but, meta-level, the reasoning system itself will work slightly differently, sometimes a bit worse before it’s long-run net better

N

Aight

And they could also maybe never experience anything meaning-laden throughout feeling their feet?

Mark

yeah, plenty of stuff stays non-meaning-laden, contentless [throughout]

N

But they find out that reasoning works a lil better (or worse) when they try it next time?

Mark

yup

N

Ohh

Fuck, these inferences are, indeed, hard to make

Mark

yes

N

Like unless the person is systematic, they might never notice the connection

Right?

Mark

even if reasoning works a little better, that doesn’t mean a conclusion is guaranteed to pop out in any particular thinking/feeling session, ofc

N

Yeah

Mark

Like unless the person is systematic, they might never notice the connection

yes exactly

N

You really need to put this into protocol

Mark

it’s ridiculously long-range/counterintuitive, all things being equal

N

It connects the right stuff

For me and probably certain people

N

Could it be that some people simply notice stuff like 'when I work out or do open awareness, I sort of can think better afterwards', and the model above explains why?

Mark

yeah

could you see if this existing section kind of says it:

"headyness"/​"heady-ness"/​"headiness"

N

I've read it, I think

And it didn't

Mark

ok

N

How does one start noticing patterns such as this? (e.g. look at feet now, see more progress later)

Mark

I think need to study a ton of people from the outside, or need a methodological bootstrap, from the inside.

N

How could studying people work?

Mark

the methodological bootstrap, for me, was p2 plus the meta protocol.

N

Like, it's so hard to notice it in yourself

Mark

wayfinding in methodology/theory space

N

How would it be easier to notice in others?

[delay]

Mark

i’m looking for the original Gendlin Focusing research study

N

Go on

Oh

Mark

they tried to figure out why some people made progress in therapy and others didn’t, and that’s how they isolated "focusing moves"

N

It has something about that

Yeah

I know

Doesn't seem like something that's possible for a regular Joe to do

Mark

and so my stuff, for example, could be considered a generalization of that original observation

N

Aight

What do you think determines the amount of time one needs to look at their feet? Like, why a lot or a little in certain cases?

Mark

Doesn’t seem like something that’s possible for a regular Joe to do

it is very freaky when it feels like "me or someone maybe couldn’t have figured out this important thing without outside stimulus"

very unpleasant, at first, at least for me

N

Does anything else matter, aside from looking when feel stuck?

Mark

What do you think determines the amount of time one needs to look at their feet? Like, why a lot or a little in certain cases?

has to do with deep contingent structure of any particular system based on experiences that person has had and prior attentional propensities

Mark

hard to explicate which is why personal global wayfinding can help

N

Wanna unpack 'prior attentional propensities'?

Mark

including possibly reads by people who are a bit farther on the journey

the experiences we have determine the structure of the system and the future propensities of the system

N

What do you think determines the amount of time one needs to look at their feet? Like, why a lot or a little in certain cases?

Wanna try unpacking the gears behind 'deep contingent structure of...'?

Mark

so the necessary order of refactoring of a system will depend on that causal history

N

What do you think determines the amount of time one needs to look at their feet? Like, why a lot or a little in certain cases?

Maybe with an example

Mark

it’s really hard to say. if someone ignored their feet a lot or spent a lot of time attending to their feet, at some point in their life. then, in meditation or whatever, they’ll probably need to spend a lot of time with their feet.

it’s like a collection of loosely coupled stacks, in the computer science sense. LIFO: last in first out, in terms of the order one needs to sort of touch stuff in to refactor

loosely coupled partial orderings

N

So from a subjective experience viewpoint, what mostly happens is just you staring at feet and nothing really happens while you're doing it

And you do it for a long time

Maybe regularly or at once

Mark

kind of. one can keep running navigational stuff like meta protocol, but there can be a lot of up-front uncertainty.

the "how" matters, too. things like top-down attending vs "letting feet come to you" and stuff like that. and might need to interleave many other things. could extend timeline if just forcefully tried to attend to something in a contiguous block. needs to be patient, gentle, curious, cautious, etc. etc.

N

Is it a linear thing? I.e. the less you looked at feet before, the more you gotta do it? What happens behind the scenes while you do it?

Mark

but yeah, it can take a long time before one gets a sense of whether "something’s happening" or not. it’s a very gradual increase in sensitivity and long-range wayfinding

i think it’s sublinear for any particular thing and superlinear globally

but still practically finite. a fraction of the time one has already been alive

N

^ don't understand sub/supra

Also would like to get an answer to 'what happens behind the scenes', if ok

Mark

so like if feet stuff was weird for five years, then maybe only need 500 hours of feet stuff and not five years of feet stuff

there’s a compression thing

but there’s still sort of a combinatorial explosion of pairwise e.g. feet interaction with other things.

lots of recursion

behind the scenes it’s like A comes into contact with B and yields A-prime and B-prime, and there’s like a huge number of these little interactions that have to occur and reoccur

N

What's ‘A-prime'?

Mark

A-prime is A but a little different

N

(prime, is that from maths?)

Ok

Mark

yeah

N

And A and B are beliefs or something?

Mark

beliefs, anticipations, synaptic potentials, something

N

Cool

And that happens unconsciously?

I assume

Mark

one can infer it sometimes from skeletal muscle changes, tingles, insights, and other phenomenological changes, but it can seem like nothing is happening sometimes for many hours

N

If something bubbles up to consciousness, then in what form?

Cool

Mark

insights, realizations, muscle tension changes, yeah

N

You have a list in the end of all stuff that could be useful to look through

Mark

yeah

N

Is there a way you can dissect that list? E.g. hands/feet usually are more useful, so try maybe starting with those first, but be gentle and self-aware etc etc

Mark

i think i give some rough heuristics somewhere

in various lists and more sections

N

Where?

Hm

Can't recall seeing that

Mark

extremities and stomach, not the head, are good places to experiment with, first. but too much can tangle further, etc,. etc.

N

Aight

N

Is there more info in those places in the protocol?

Mark

Is there more info in those places in the protocol?

i don’t do too much of this because it’s so personally contingent and blocky suggestions might cause people to ignore subtle stuff that’s not in my suggestions

N

Cool

Aight thanks

Oh

How can you notice that I need to e.g. look more at feet?

Is it something you infer from what I say and the types of problems I'm dealing with, for example?

Mark

If something feels stuck, wrong, etc., but usually hope to e.g. look at feet long before that.

N

Oh

Mark

Is it something you infer from what I say and the types of problems I’m dealing with, for example?

usually not object level problems, though sometimes, but general patterns, yeah

N

So in my case I don't feel like I'm completely stuck, more like 'it's moving too slow'. But I don't feel that I literally tried all I can and that my current way of dealing w stuff can't give me more progress atm

Is that why

You say that I should continue with what I do

And maybe eventually naturally exhaust the potential

Of what I'm doing?

Mark

Maybe!! But can be good to keep alternatives in mind, too, and maybe interleave a little bit, increasingly over time

N

But if I interleave, I won't be able to clearly notice that that's what's helping me

And I'll keep thinking that my method is working

Mark

There may be ways to do it while not confounding too much. Not entirely overlapping lead indicators.

But it’s a good point

N

Say more?

Re ways

Mark

you may notice different good things via your current way versus trying new things, making it possible to know where the good things are coming from

there will be some overlap, probably, but not complete overlap

N

Oh

Ok

Aight, cool

Thanks for doing this conversation!

Mark

you’re very welcome. thank you for your questions

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bridge building and dialogue:

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bridge building:

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making connections between my stuff and lineage traditions, in three parts (draft!):

This post/section comes in a three parts, and, as a whole, it’s meant to explain and demonstrate similarities and especially overlap between practices that I write/teach about, as well as commonalities and overlap between all self-care, self-transformative, and spiritual or meditative practices and traditions.

It’s still in a draft/unfinished state–re-reading, it’s just really really dense with technical terminology, so it might seem convoluted (and it is a little convoluted), but I think it’s all sort of schematically there, for those who spend some time with it. And future drafts will unpack and explain and clarify and de-convolute.

I’m also unhappy that there’s still a bit of a “bite” in some places, and I want to soften that, too.

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part 1: "same playing field":

This post/section depends on a few premises, so I’ll list them now:

(The below starts off very abruptly and densely, in the first premise, but if you kind of let your eyes glaze over on the first read, and just skim, it quickly gets easier to follow after a few paragraphs.)

The first premise is something like the “redo-to-undo” principle. The the redo-to-undo principle is something like, for a particular latent (high-dimensional, distributed) “patch” or “area” of bodymind “state,” i.e. the way the bodymind (latently) is–for that area of bodymind to change or transform, that area must be “redone” or “replayed” or “reactivated” or “re-evoked” or “activated.” After being re-evoked, it is labile, changeable, and it can participate in mutual transformation with other “bodymind” that is also concurrently activated. (And this implies that there is “doing” (and redoing) and “undoing.”)

The second premise is something like liberated mind, natural mind, ordinary mind is the same thing as “settled” mind. (“Settled” shouldn’t have a connotation of static or fixed. It’s still open, sensitive, responsive, (structurally) fluid. But just like water in a container, it can be at rest until stirred, and it can smoothly resettle if left alone).

The third premise is something like “connectedness of mind.” What this means is something like, if the mind is changed somewhere, then it’s like, from that change point, there are tendrils all throughout the mind, that either ever so slightly tug a little bit or every so slightly become more slack. And so, after ANY change in the mind, either through meditation (prior to “enlightenment”) or spontaneously (after “enlightenment”) [both very loosely speaking], a “global settling process” is kicked off, a perturbation, a reverberation, that ultimately touches at least some of the mind, and, in principle, in the most general case, needs/does touch ALL of the rest of the mind, sometimes many times, to reach global settledness.

The fourth premise extends the second premise and is something like, in addition to premise 2–a “liberated mind, natural mind, ordinary mind is the same thing as ‘settled’ mind”–such a mind is also a “fully untangled mind.” (And this implies that there’s such a thing as “tangling” and “untangling.” And, so, some “doing” is tangling and some “doing” is untangling (and some is neutral). And let’s say any/all “undoing” is net or mostly, if not entirely, untangling.)

The fifth premise is something like, explicit meditation instructions can only ever be incomplete, and can only ever partially specify what needs to be done for “complete untangling.” That is, they can’t fully specify all the things that need to be done in the technical sense. (In parallel, a teacher cannot fully specify all the things that need to be done, either. Of course, for explicit instructions, or teacher interaction, it can be a long, patient, extended text interpretation, or interaction, with multiple texts or teachers, to finally get all the pieces that one needs, to get all the rest of the pieces that one needs, through individual practice.)

Therefore, a personally adequately liberatory practice must implicitly contain the seeds that, through practice, self-generate all the things that need to be done, for that person, in order to be fully liberated, settled, etc.

And, a universally adequately liberatory practice (which doesn’t exist except empirically by degrees) must implicitly contain the seeds that, through practice, self-generate all the things that need to be done, for any person, to complete full liberation, settledness, etc. (Note, for completeness, that I think this is only asymptotically possible and also environmentally contingent.)

Note that anything that can be done, including nuances, shades, modulations of any particular “doable thing,” must be something either explicitly specified or “self-generate-able” by a universally adequately liberatory practice (UALP). Because, some person, somewhere, in imaginable principle, will need that particular thing, and it won’t necessarily be in their starting repertoire.

What the above means is that anything doable is potentially a part of practice, either as seeking out similar experiences one has had in one’s past (“environmental redo-to-undo”), or finding one’s way internally to original sense impressions (“memory redo-to-undo” [successful environmental redo are also memory redos]), or internally recreating missing experiences, when adequate, that one can’t have out in the world (because impossible, dangerous, unethical) and also never had in the past (“imaginal non-tangling ‘do'”)

And so anything non-tangling or untangling (and even things that locally tangle in the service of future untangling, cf. technical debt), is partial spiritual practice, including things that aren’t normally thought of as “spiritual” practice (by some people), like focusing or therapy, etc. (Some people will say, of course focusing and therapy are spiritual practice, and so on.)

And so the conclusion or punchline of all of this is that, I don’t think most lineage/wisdom traditions will claim that their path will work for “everybody,” so they’re not claiming universality or near universality. But, they might claim something like “generality,” as in “kinda completely works for some relatively large-ish reference class of people, and at least does some good things for an even larger-ish additional set of people.”

But, to the degree that a tradition says, “X isn’t a part of our path, we don’t do that, that’s not buddhadharma,” they are leaving out anyone who needs any of that doing or redoing, and are sort of “removing all doubt” that their path is not universal. Because, any path that leaves something out will then not work for all bodyminds/people, as it were, because of connectedness and other premises.

And, all of this is why I sometimes say “same playing field,” whether it’s vipassana, yoga, focusing, tantra, therapy, etc. None of those, narrowly specified, are complete and adequately universal spiritual practices, but they must necessarily “inhere” in any truly universal spiritual practice or path.

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part 2: continuity between "mundane" and "supramundane"; breadth-first vs depth-first:

So there’s sort of a “continuity” or “contiguity” between “mundane” beliefs and “supramundane” beliefs.

Before getting to that I want to just note that the idea of “belief” is problematic in a lot of ways, so maybe swap that out for anticipation, expectation, or perhaps “the very being and seeming of the world,” like how it appears, the prereflectively felt affordances and possibilities one has, and so on. And you can also swap out “beliefs” for “insights” or knowing, understanding, etc. (We can stop before adding “thoughts” to this; one can have knowing or understanding without thoughts, per se, verbal or otherwise. Even non-symbolic cognition, felt senses, and perhaps arguably even knowing, might be potentially left out or at least unnecessary, to backpedal a little bit. All of this has to interface with aconceptuality as well, which is beyond the scope of this section.)

So the claim that I’m making is something like “mundane” beliefs, or whatever, and “supramundane” beliefs, or whatever, are qualitatively and functionally the “same kind of thing,” and the only difference is sort of of a matter of degree along some particular axes that I’ll talk about in a moment. (Also, when I say the “same kind of thing,” this is all being written in a toy linguistic schema, and, in another sense, of course beliefs, knowing, etc., isn’t/aren’t thing-like, to the same degree nothing is thing-like and especially phenomenal stuff isn’t thing-like. But it’s just easier to talk about “things” and “somethings” when that’s good enough for local purposes.)

So mundane beliefs or stuff are things like your recollection or remembering of what you ate for breakfast, or the color of your car or your friend’s painted fingernails, or what someone said earlier, or what you think is going to happen tomorrow. This is sort of the relatively contemporaneous stuff that you use to navigate the world, and also semi-episodic (or not) childhood stuff and beliefs or guesses about the future, and so on.

And then supramundane stuff are the things that are “really deep” (and we’ll actually talk about “deep” in a moment) or “really phenomenological” or existential or metaphysical. Where there’s a sense that these things are qualitatively different because, when they change, something big or small changes about “the very being and seeming” of self, world, everything.

And, so, in a nutshell, I’ll claim that even “mundane” stuff is changing the very being and seeming of the world, just ever so slightly and barely noticeably, more “locally.”

Ok but why does the supramundane stuff sort of take so long (sometimes) to change and why does it sometimes feel so “big,” what is different about it.

We’ll need some conceptual pieces:

The first is something like “durational time attention bottlenecked updating,” and so the idea is that the whole body mind can’t change all at once (though any “single” change can be really high dimensional and touch many little things, all at once, but it’s still only the tiniest of a fraction of the “whole thing). So there’s a constraint on how much can change at once, and that sort of implies a “real time” constraint or that changes happen over real time. We can encapsulate this as something like change only occurs where “attention” goes, and “attention” is in scare quotes because I’m referring here to neither quite what we sort of phenomenally think of as our “attention” (for which many aspects of which sort of evaporate over long-term meditative practice) nor do I mean a pretty theoretical construct like in abstract cognitive science (and the neuroscience is outside the scope of this section). But, close enough for now, ok, anyway, you could think of like a spotlight of attention sweeping around, and stuff changes under the spotlight.

This metaphor of a spotlight is helpful, because sometimes changes that occur happen in a way that “goes on top of” other changes, and occludes whatever’s beneath. So the “light of the spotlight” can’t reach what’s underneath, and so what’s underneath can’t change, until the spotlight and surrounding stuff interacts with what is on top in a way that gets it out of the way. In summary, though, some changes can (reversibly) lock in other changes. And the thing underneath can’t be labile, can’t be changeable, malleable until “unlocked.”

Ok, and this “on-top-ness” or “locking” can be in layers. Like, whatever locks something underneath, can then have something go on top of that, which then locks that in place, and so on. So there can be these sort of very tall “microcolumns” or vast sheets of layers on top of layers on top of layers, like heuristically, hundreds of thousands of layers deep, and so on.

So this gives us the idea of “depth” (which is loosely correlated with a feeling of “inwardsness” or “inner space-ness” or “lower chakras” [cf. neural cord development], but don’t get hung up that! It’s a very loose and loopy correlation, that goes all over and within the body and beyond, and lower and inner unwind and untwist and evaporate into a positive phenomenal flatness and just-this-ness and isotropy over thousands of hours of meditative or spiritual practice).

Now, we’re sort of at least shallowly layering and delayering all the time, learning and unlearning, revising beliefs. Layering is fast and dirty and easy for the mind to reach for (but sort of takes slack out of the system and “uses up” “mind space” faster). And we do unlayer shallow stuff fairly easily, like if, ok, the color of our friend’s car or someone’s nail color, we realize, is more of an off-white (instead of gray, for the car) and a pink (instead of an orange; for our friend’s nails). But unlayering deep stuff takes a long time. Some of it is sort of working through no-longer-needed upper layers. And some of it is “structure preserving transformations,” that functionally keep the same beliefs/stuff but move it “off to the side” to expose deeper layers. This latter requires “slack,” and so the system has to figure out how to work through at least some things before doing structure preserving transformations. (It’s all a bit like tetris, metaphorically speaking, with the modification that you can sometimes move the topmost pieces upwards and re-place them, with fewer “holes” and also the right placements (“oh i really truly don’t need any of this, right here, anymore”) can make more space. And you can temporarily stack existing placements higher to get access to deeper placements.)

In any case, supramundane stuff tends to be at deeper layers.

Now, in addition to the dimension of depth, there is also the dimension of “tangledness.” Recall we can pretend attention sort of moves around like a spotlight, but also let’s say attention “strobes” or blinks. And each time attention is “on,” say that’s a “mind moment” or even a “snapshot” a photography picture (though not quite so static, of course). So attention is a series of mind moments. And let’s say, for an untrained mind, mind moments are tangled. That is, each snapshot has sense doors, “self-ness”/witnessing, motivational aspects like suffering, ontology, belief, relevance, all sort of tangled together.

And, say, some things are pretty “non-fundamental,” like they tangle into, say, 2% of mind moments. But, some things are “relatively fundamental” and they tangle into 80%-95% of mind moments. And, say, to have an insight about something, it has to be relatively more detangled or even completely detangled from everything else. When fully detangled, gathered, deconvolved, disembedded it can sort of be taken as object as such, can come into contact with other stuff in the mind as such, and get spontaneously transformed, metabolized, all sorts of things.

Untrained mind and non-meditating mind moments (pre enlightenment, or whatever) is at least lightly tangled or tangling, like at least 51% tangling. And during meditation (or post enlightenment, or whatever) mind moments are at least 51% to 99% untangling or untangled.

Now, stuff corresponding to the three characteristics (as well as other stuff, to be sure) are relatively much more deep and much more tangled than other stuff in the mind. Self, suffering, permanence/eternalism, perhaps at least one of them are found tangled into almost every mind moment–other stuff, too, not just these. And early childhood conceptual stuff can be even deeper, and childhood trauma can come pretty close to just as deep, too. (And, also, do they even EX-ist (exist) prior to detangling, gathering, etc.? Or might they latently SUB-sist (subsist)? There’s something conditioned-ly universal or quasi-universal going on, here. But this parenthetical is a suggestion to not overly reify the three characteristics or anything else in the mind as different or more special than anything else. But something cool is going on, here. Something can sort of starkly and conceptually “pop out,” in a way that might be really similar across people. And perhaps that has a particularly genetic/developmental basis or its a near-universal “psychological stopgap solution.”)

Some traditions are sort of “supramundane first” or “depth-first,” which still involves a great deal of mundane, slack-increasing, structure preserving transformations. A tremendous amount of mundane-involved delayering still needs to occur for “depth-first” practices. But, even given that, a tremendous amount of mundane work is still needed after things related to the three characteristics unravel (and other related stuff, cf. luminosity, and so on). And sometimes this can involve a lot of destabilization, integration sickness, and so on. And so someone might benefit from conventional therapy (or plenty of other stuff) after “going depth-first” because a lot of things will be left still unfinished, as it were. And some things will be easier, because so much will be untangled, and some things will be harder because lots layering might have happened, to move things out of the way, in order to go deep.

An alternative to depth-first is breadth-first. Breadth-first might spend a lot more time near the surface, at first, might sometimes look more introspective and navel-gaze-y, but inexorably, more and more on the surface will be dissolved or profitably settled and off to the side. And “descent” might be slower, but there will be much less to do after descent, and possibly less time will have been needed, overall, because, as mentioned above, depth-first can involve a lot of layering that eventually need to be delayered. And breadth-first tends to be relatively more unlayery, all the way through, and insights tend to be more fleeting in salience because they don’t have a lot of “integration debt” arriving in their wake, as it were. Notably, breadth-first can still be a really rough ride, maybe often almost as rough as depth-first, it’s hard to get around that. And I could see breadth-first sometimes being slower, for some people, depending on the ordering of some things around fine-grain-ness of action and perception as well as steady stick-to-it-ive-ness. But breadth-first might sometimes involve a bit less behavioral/psychological rigidity, which can sometimes come with a lot of excess practice-related layering. Breadth-first can be harder to get traction or good feedback loops, up front, though, because there’s initially so much optionality. And depth-first can sort of profitably “bunch up in time” or stereotype-ify some things, which can make some kinds of patterns of territory and meditative action easier to see. (Issues with breadth-first can be somewhat mitigated by instructions that have explicit global wayfinding as mentioned in part three.)

In any case, both breadth-first and depth-first are just two alternative ways to engage with the same territory, same playing field, as it were. But either are sort of an attentional “space filling curve” that sort of has to touch everything anyway, for complete untangling, complete deconditioning and reconditioning. And so there are plenty of paths/curves that are a MIX of breadth-first and depth-first, and since breadth-first and depth-first are just schematic abstractions, any persons particular concrete path will look like a nebulous, personalized mix of both, with maybe some overarching features or one or the other, or not at all.

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part 3: implicit and explicit global wayfinding (or having the best shot of generating everything you need):

“Global wayfinding” is sort of how one finds just the right mix of breadth-inclined and depth-inclined in their own practice, really just concrete engagement with the territory that leaves behind and transcends any particular set of heuristic abstractions.

Very briefly, if one considers the bodymind to be in a particular “state,” at some point in time, call it state A. And there are future maybe possible better states like B, C, D.

Wayfinding is finding one’s way to those future states, not knowing, in advance, exactly what they are or how to get to them.

And global wayfinding is looking for future better states that have fewer and fewer tradeoffs, overall, compared to all other states, and sometimes necessarily passing through worse states to get there.

The relationship to main practice p2 is that doing or maintaining good things and stopping or preventing bad things (loosely and briefly speaking), cashes out as one way to directly do global wayfinding.

Each doing/maintaining/stopping/preventing slightly alters the system, moving from A, to A-prime, and so on. And one could replace p2 with an ever shifting constellation of practices from various traditions or the preliminary/auxiliary practices, and so on. In those latter cases, even those will probably give way to something ever-more sensitive and nuanced and personalized, beyond any sort of conceptualization.

Another reason it’s called “wayfinding” is because often the route is not direct. It’s twisty, with backtracking, “can’t get there from here,” and one must use care and sensitivity to gently avoid messiness or tangliness (long run) over time.

Many traditions/practices do have implicit or informal global wayfinding. For the latter, "what to do when" happens as the meditator moves between practices out of interest or practicality, or through discussions with peers or a teacher. For the former, the meditator gets better and better at "finding their way," during practice; they are less attached to particular instructions or the how of particular instructions, and are more and more nuanced, situated, specific, concrete, intuitive, spontaneous. And/but it can sometimes help to lightly, non-reified-ly, explicitly call out global wayfinding as a "thing."

q&a about global wayfinding

(Below, questions are indented and in italics, and my answers are in normal font.)

questions:

This was helpful for me to better contextualize with the protocol doc, but have some q's. It makes sense that each doing/maintaining/stopping/etc. will alter the system, but isn't that true for /any/ action regardless of whether you are "actively meditating" or not? Why is it that those specific actions (maintaining good or stopping bad) imply better wayfinding -- couldn't those also seem locally good, but actually be globally detrimental? (and vice versa, couldn't doing something seemingly "bad" be the best thing for you globally?).

If P2 is working because of cultivating goodness (and preventing badness, loosely speaking), then why would replacing that practice with other traditions (that seemingly(?) have nothing to do with goodness) work in the same way?

I get that in global wayfinding (in this context, or any context really), you can only act on the information you have, so it is obviously difficult to make the "perfect" decision from such a vast input space. So is "goodness" just the chosen heuristic here because its better/less disruptive than alternatives? Take a more rigid practice like noting for example, could you argue that noting is also global wayfinding where the heuristic you are optimizing for is sensory clarity as opposed to goodness (and therefore vastly limiting your input space for next steps)?

answers:

but isn’t that true for /any/ action regardless of whether you are “actively meditating” or not?

yes!

couldn’t those also seem locally good, but actually be globally detrimental? (and vice versa, couldn’t doing something seemingly “bad” be the best thing for you globally?).

yes! so they counterfactually would really [in some sense] be (globally) good and bad. there would be some mediate error propagation.

then why would replacing that practice with other traditions (that seemingly(?) have nothing to do with goodness) work in the same way?

things can be good and bad while not being directly conceptualized as such

So is “goodness” just the chosen heuristic here because its better/less disruptive than alternatives?

it starts out a heuristic but becomes more and precise and concrete (if imperfect) over time

it won’t “linguistically/​phenomenologically/​conceptually “seat well” [sic] with everyone, at first or ever, which is why there should be a lot of practices out there.

but goodness, held loosely in way that allows it to evolve as understanding grows, is a pretty special concept. it can be tangly at first though because of how metaphysically/ethically connotation-laden it is.

could you argue that noting is also global wayfinding

noting has implicit global wayfinding, or is general and fine grain enough to support implicit global wayfinding, which may be why it’s seemingly, empirically one of the more empirically effective practices.

heuristic you are optimizing for is sensory clarity as opposed to goodness

as a thought experiment, to the degree someone hewed rigidly to a sensory clarity feedback loop and only this feedback loop, they would eventually get stuck, because it’s an incomplete measure of progress. eventually error propagation and layering would dominate, imo.

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open informal response on social media to someone in a contemporary practice scene:

[Some of the style and word choice in this are callbacks to earlier in the interaction.]

"not about to engage with disagreements from people who can’t demonstrate that they’re anywhere close to my peers"

I didn’t have this ready-at-hand, yesterday, but I woke up with a bit more, a hopefully charitable and constructive critique, though still "twitter-superficial."

On the plus side, I think partly what’s going on, here, is "elitist gatekeeping," and/but I do mean this in the most positive sense. To try to take your perspective, "there’s something precise and precious, here, too easily diluted by newcomers and clueless ‘teachers,’ who inject noise into a wider community of practice, making it harder to find the real thing and to teach the real thing. There are times when it makes sense to manage the ‘noise level’ proactively and aggressively."

And, trying to take the perspective of a strawman subset of the pragmatic dharma space (not your teachings, specifically):

"There’s a concentration gold standard, an insight gold standard, a ‘done’ gold standard, a ‘morality/integration versus nonduality gold standard,’ and so on. And, if someone isn’t operating from something like this collection of ‘gold standard practices,’ ‘gold standard attainments,’ ‘gold standard distinctions,’ then chances are they are missing one or more of the most important things."

Ok, explicit perspective-taking over. (I’ll just use forceful language, now, to be expedient and concise. And, I’m going to refer to pretend "you guys.") As far as I can tell, you guys are shit at working with sankhara/samskara/formations. To be fair, you sometimes organize things by Wilber’s "Four Ups" to be less shit about this [which is a huge and amazing achievement], and most systems don’t even have something like that.

(Again I’ll be strawman and forceful.) But, again, you guys are shit with formations, and therefore your teachings around morality and integration are tragically incomplete and inadequate. As much as people are being protected by your adherence and promotion of your highest standards, people are also being hurt by your blindspots and methodological inadequacies around formations, conditioning, etc..

Noting-/noticing-heavy, three-characteristics-focused methods treat formations incidentally and haphazardly, but there is a highest rigor, precision, and relative finitude, available, for what you sort of dismiss as "pimping samsara." In fact, your methods, as elegant as they are, are full of errors and artifacts that often lead to integration sickness, unnecessary suffering, muscle tension, etc., even after "fourth path," however defined with the highest standard. That’s weird and tragic, but fixable.

In conclusion (short first pass, because twitter), I’ve tried to communicate above with a bit of a different style. Surely, I could have done so much better. And, of course you are busy and have responsibilities, and there’s no obligation to respond. But, I hope so much for something that feels less like rigidity, dogma, credentialism, triumphalism, around the edges.

Come on, bruh.

Again, I get the priors, but less rigidity, credentialism, triumphalism, please. From a distance, I think you might be missing something vast and critical, from within your own standards.

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a note on "making progress," "regression," and redo-to-undo:

It's important to have a model of progress that accounts for, nonarbitrarily, "anything could be happening at any time." Say things are sort of getting "easy and smooth" (or whatever), and it's been that way for a day or weeks, and then the next day things are choppy or distract-y, or whatever. That doesn't mean things have "regressed" or that progress isn't being made. Anything that the system has experienced in the past, thoughts, brain fog, depression, fear, anything--has to come up again sometime, in the course of meditation, because of the "redo-to-undo" "principle." Sometimes it'll be liminal, barely there, to be sure. Sometimes it'll be "in a "cradle/container" of "equanimity."" And, sometimes, something intense can/will come up that sort of takes over everything, like an immersive flashback or, less obviously, an old outlook or way of being, etc. It can also be very subtle, piecemeal things like "habits of mind." This can happen a lot, over thousands of hours. Additionally, sometimes very big intense stuff can happen, late in the game, because it took that long for there to be system-wide safety for that thing to to come up. (This could be the case, five to twenty times, or more, spaced out several months apart, as well as other possible patterns.) "The system makes it safe to look, and then looks, safe to have happen, then it happens..."

So, in any case, one shouldn't infer progress by what's happening in any particular session--"terrible" sessions may be extremely constructive sessions; sessions that don't feel like sessions at all (however conceived) may be extremely constructive sessions, and stuff like that could go on for months! But, actually, all things being equal, the right things had been happening, the whole time.

One sort of, as best they can, has to take into account the whole global history and context, in terms of global wayfinding, to get better and better at how to relate to and participate in any particular thing that's happening at any particular time, including being ok with being swept away, when that's the right thing to be doing, or anything in between, or nuanced variations of any of this, and so on.

*

It can be really discouraging when progress seems state dependent (“if only I were in that other state!“), but taking correct actions, as best one can, in any state, is the thing that metabolizes, over a long time, whatever state one happens to be in (and part of that is fully accepting being in the state, if/eventually/when it’s safe to do so).

Like, the state IS the very stuff of practice, not a thing in the background that conditions practice.

*

I sometimes say something like, “after hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of micro-experiments, little bets, something, as best you can, eventually you hit a wall, then you travel along the wall until you end up in a corner, and then in the corner there are no degrees of freedom, and then there’s only one way out, so you know what to do, and then you spontaneously do that, and this repeats.”

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on suffering:

I’m not finished with this yet, but, as far as I can tell, so far, suffering is, always, 100% of the time, all of it, a malleable contingency. We have specialized pain circuitry. But pain and suffering are different, etc., etc.. And, as far as I can tell, we have an initial propensity to suffer, but suffering is not hardwired, at all.

That is, at some point, in the very first few moments of conscious, the bodymind system somehow makes the choice to suffer, because that’s the best option available, to keep things going.

We could call the result of each such choice a (reversible) commitment (in general).

And those (reversible) commitments to suffer, thousands, or hundreds of thousands, or millions of little commitments to suffer, get “locked in,” layered in, by millions of not-necessarily-suffering-related commitments, on top of that. This is just all the rest of the karma of life, and/or the technical debt of life, non-meaning-laden, meaning-laden, and so on. Commitments to suffer beget commitments to suffer, and so on. And stuff piles on, on top of that, and mixed with that, holding the previous commitments mostly in place, accumulating mostly like that. Some things do reach something of an equilibrium, of adding and subtracting. And, sometimes these commitments are latent, or sometimes they’re triggered, activated, by internal undoings/rewinds, or internal or external events.

So, in any moment, if there is suffering, that suffering is the result of hundreds of thousands, or even millions of pre-reflective commitments, by the time we’re finally conscious of that suffering. It's like in each moment, every few tens or couple hundred of milliseconds, we live through, compute through, our entire life history, from the first moments, to now, and we're only conscious of the last bit. (And, that computation is malleable, reinterpretable, and so on; that's what meditation is.) So, certainly there might be stopgap, self-care, preemptive or management or mitigation strategies, with respect to that conscious suffering. But, if conscious suffering is happening, then there’s a sense in which it was inevitable, already in motion, tens or hundreds of milliseconds ago. (I say this not to demotivate self-care but to motivate self-compassion.)

Part of meditation is finding one’s way back to those first several million commitments to suffer. And that requires millions upon millions upon millions of undoings or structure-preserving-transformations, to solve, dissolve, to create slack and play, a new settling, and to “move things out of the way,” and, not the least of which, to continue to live one’s life, while finding one’s way back to all that original suffering (among plenty of other things).

And when one gets there, one has the optionality, maturity, reflectiveness to (spontaneously, intuitively) choose something different, perhaps again and again until it's effortlessly, costlessly just right. And it’s not wireheading, or ignoring life, or running away from life, or lobotimizing oneself. (There's a failure mode of blocking, numbing, self-suppression, twisting off, zombification; but, with proper application of things like the meta protoco, this is not that; it's the farthest thing from that.) It's not wireheading, because, the bodymind will only give up a particular commitment to suffer, if the mind has truly found something better to do instead, something as or more safe, as or more a sure thing, as or more effective, as or more vigilant, self-protective, proactive, self-caring, self-motivated, vital, alive, and so on. So when one gives up a little bit of suffering, one can be sure it’s really, truly safe to give up that particular little bit of suffering. And eventually it starts happening a lot. And perhaps it’s possible to find all of it, even accounting for the possibility of extremely dire health events, heart attacks, stabbings, whatever, and personal and intimate misfortune. Perhaps there is just courage, love, compassion, empathy, self-care, other-care, and so on. But no suffering. And if there hasn’t been suffering for awhile, but more is uncovered, there is no suffering in response to that suffering, and soon that suffering is no longer there, either. And so on.

(Importantly, someone might be moved to express anguish, pain, sympathy, something, from the very bottom of their soul. They might cry, they might display and experience(!) strong, contextually appropriate and ego-syntonic emotion, the felt right emotion for self or occasion. Not a zombie. Sensuous, feeling, alive, self-aware. But that’s not the same as suffering. Is anguish without suffering still anguish? Eh, details/words. Probably straightforward to work out when one gets there.)

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naturalization:

[some of these distinctions and some of these terms have some partial basis in conversations with other people]

Not to overly or inapproriately reify beliefs, "models," or "representations," but one could make distinctions between multiple levels of "belief":

At least the first two both have implicit and explicit components, toy-model-wise.

Conversational models are some mixture of what we believe/​know (or believe we believe) and what we say, the language games that allow us to befriend, relate, work, play, etc., the entire social world. These are arguably not really 'beliefs", but importantly, there is overlap with all of this and our "deep-down sense" of what's really going to happen and what we'll "really do" when faced with various circumstances and challenges (cf. "action models"). But our conversational models and "action models" aren't the same thing, at least in the relevant pragmatic sense we're using, here. (And also there's ways in which social reality isn't other than just "physical" reality and reality-reality, to the extent that it's all empty and groundless and nondual, as you'll likely have direct and palpable knowledge of, at some point: "Nothing outside of this!" as sort of distinct from but related to "just this!".)

Thought models are sort of "what we believe we believe," what we tell ourselves, and so on. This is sort of an undermining frame. It's important to recognize that, in some non-trivial and non-facile way, we're doing our best and it's ok to believe what we currently and already believe at any given time. It's ok to just go with that, including our second guessing and anything. Anyway, there a sense in which there can be layers and layers of thought models all interacting though we're sort of only aware of the top level at any given time, but that top level is sort of constituted out of the levels below it. (There can also be different aspects of a person that sort of come to the fore at different times and in different contexts, sometimes subtly and sometimes to the point of being "fragmented" or dissociated or just manifold. Sometimes this is adaptive or it used to be.) Thought models will have some relation to conversational models; there will be overlap, but they aren't the same thing and they are also different from "action models."

Finally, there are action models. These are sort of in some ways only known through "revelation," what we "actually do" in a given situation at a given time. And they can be explored through the use of counterfactuals--what would you really do, given such and such situation. That counterfactual exploration can be yield more and less accurate insights, all things depending. Action models shade into the very being and seeming of the world, so of course there's some sense in which we sort of rest in our action models, as our action models, and/​but/​also they are almost or entirely coextensive with the ways in which we're already in action, already acting, already responding, before we even realize we're in motion. So there's both a sense of "of course we can know ourselves" (at least ever better and better, astonishingly so), in terms of self-legible, coherent, cumulative behavior, and also a sense in which action emerges as profitable surrender to spontaneous, holy mystery. "Acting directly from action models," loosely speaking, isn't always accompanied by effortlessness, to be sure, but when action is effortless and decisive and spontaneous then "these" are from where we're most deeply acting, what we're acting as, at that time, as it were.

It isn't necessarily the case, but because it's utlimately more elegant and efficient (all things being equal, in a vacuum), meditation, over thousands of hours, tends to bring action models, thought models, and conversational models into alignment, to reduce any separation or contradiction or hypocrisy or etc. between them. (And any contradictions within each level tend to become more and more reduced as well, reduced synchronous contention and increased intertemporal-consistency.) Additionally, all things being equal, a person will tend to proactively rearrange life and world to afford and reward the alignment between all these different levels of thought and "belief." That is, we may seek a life that allows us to act with integrity, in part because of it's non-trivial relationship with physical health and the experience of wellbeing.

There's a sense in which discourse and thought models sort of, over time, ultimately, get "reformatted" or "rewritten" in the "language" of action models. We still speak, write, and think, but there's a sense in which all these actions and "mental" actions and behaviors more directly come directly [sic] from a deeper place, more directly out of the seeming and being and (provisional/​empty/​groundless/​inchoate) "just is-ness" of the "action" level.

This reformatting or rewriting could be called "naturalization." There's data in those action and thought models, there learning and enactment is correlated with reality, and it's like that data gets drained out, error-checked, rewritten, and fed into more direct action models. Sometimes one can almost feel it literally moving from the head, down the neck, and down into the spine. (That's not the only route, though, and there's neurophysiological reasons why it can sometimes feel like this. Also, the head is part of the body, too! Rebalancing, evenly redistributing, more than everything traveling downward.)

If someone is having trouble "acting," or is vascillating or stuck in their heads or etc., it may mean some knowledge is stuck in the unnaturalized state, as it were. Just because something is head-y or concept-y doesn't necessarily mean it's not naturalized--concepts can be "aligned all the way down" into action models--but it's a bit more likely that something is not naturalized.

I don't want to reify any of this too much. There's a sense in which these distinctions are artificial and can be misleading, but there's also senses in which there's a there, there, a palpable process, a real thing, as one processes more and more "technical debt."

Early or late in the meditation game one might be experiencing an expanse of phenomenology that's somehow meaning-laden and purports to represent the world, but you might (suddenly) have a visceral sense that "I can't act from that, there's no there, there, it doesn't connect," something. There's many different ways that you might have a sense like that.

There might be a loose dependency ordering:

Each former sort of needs to happen before the latter, and/​but all of them are sort of asymptotic and shade into each other and are artificial distinctions. And also they are all sort of toy models that don't perfectly hew to the territory, as it were, and will in some ways be misleading with respect to doing the thing.

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far reaches of meditation:

A thread that's kind of trying to articulate the long run, far reaches of meditation (and, inseparably, a life interleaved with meditation, and other transformative practice, & just living, hurting, enjoying, life itself), & why anyone might care to explore those far reaches.

Say there's "feeling," "form" & "function."

Feeling is how things are, subjectively/aconceptually/preconceptually, experienced "from the inside."

Form is the (felt) "conceptual structure" of thought & action.

And function is "action/motor output," actual human doing/happening.

Feeling is sort of prior to form and function, sort of the ground of those latter two. Form and function can sort of only be known as feeling, or, their being known is not-other-than feeling. Yet form "structures" in feeling." And function is structurally conditioned on form.

If feeling and form change, function must change. Yet very similar function(s) can have extremely different feeling/form. If feeling changes, form must change, yet very similar form(s) can have extremely different feeling.

So, you can have menches and sociopaths, and everyone in between, with lots of nearly the same "function"--walking, talking, eating, sleeping. They might all hammer in a nail in kind of the same way, but the inner "feeling" is extremely different.

And, of course so is function! Menches and sociopaths, will diverge in behavior in subtle and overt ways, which is why those labels juxtapose. But, the point is sort of that function is heavily constrained by environment/homeostasis/etc.

And feeling and form much, much less so.

(Though, the long-run "mutual perfection" (not to inappropriately reify "perfection") of feeling, form, and function ultimately mutually, positively constrain each other.)

(Saints and Psychopaths is a title of a book, by the way, cf. my riff of menches and sociopaths)

Here is a more concrete example of all this: (next tweet)

Water feels "wet," to a baby, a teenager, a plumber, a physicist, an installation artist.

But, that wetness is different for each of them.

Say, for the physicist, the form of hydrogen bonds, quarks, etc., inhere in the immediate feeling of wetness, its very being & seeming.

And, function inheres especially differently in wetness, for the baby, the plumber, the installation artist. They each have different affordances, different possibilities.

So, wetness, in embodied totally, and even in "raw sensation" feels differently, to each & any of them.

Meditation progress kind of goes (very, very roughly) in the order of:

And, this latter one is the most interesting to me.

Over years and decades, the very X of the world continues to change, where X =

appearing, seeming, being, knowing, feeling...

self, other, world; body, mind, environment...

life, death, goals, history, meaning, morality...

This radical and ongoing "refoundationing" of feeling, form, and function is what continues to interest me about meditation.

Anyway, I'll kind of peter out, here. These quotes seem relevant:

"The real voyage of discovery consists, not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes."
— Proust

“Everything will be okay in the end. If it's not okay, it's not the end.”
— John Lennon

*

See also maybe: https://metarationality.com/bongard-meta-rationality

*

Emptiness very withstanding, it’s very hippocampal--more and more, less fragmentedly, more unfragmentedly, you know who you are (which one; this one; not that one or those ones), what you are (previously mistaken), where/when you are, with respect to the state of the world, the distant past, the far future. Again, this can only wholly happen, in emptiness, under nonduality/luminosity/etc., all of that affords settling, affords seeing (body)mind for what it actually is, and in that, or of that, or under that, all of that can reshape itself so as to “know where you are,” yet still, “not two, not one,” empty, nebulous, provisional, light, and so on.

*

More (and these could be the subjects of entire books (though they don't have to be; it's an implicit, self-dawning understanding, that takes care of itself; it's just "really deep and important" vis-a-vis all of this re sort of "global restructuring of mind" but that's a potentially misleading phrase (see "locality and concreteness" dialogue, elsewhere in document. also concepts in the pedagogical/bridge-building distinction breadth-first vs depth-first discussions, re "depth" and "tangledness"/"diffuseness"). See David Chapman's Meaningness stuff, too, again re the immediately below):

(Note: a sense)

[in no particular order]

at least one sense in which there's no such thing as language, never has been

at least one sense in which there are no abstractions, never have been

at least one sense in which there's no people, never has been

at least one sense in which the boundary or separation between all of "body" and "mind", "inside" and "outside," "self" and "world" are illusory (and other important senses in which they are not illusory)

at least one sense in which there is no ultimate, omni-commensurable ground truth/​ontology/​actuality/​basis/​reality, never has been ("groundlessness")

at least one sense in which sensations can't directly control or interact with other sensations

at least one sense in which [there's] "no escape" / [there's] "just this"

at least one sense in which each moment (~self;~self+world), each momentary [self-]constitution / [self-]re-constitution is “separate” [big air quotes around “separate”]

at least one sense in which "ought"/​"goodness" is prior to, upstream of, "is", "ontology", "truth" (no conflation, here, re correspondance theory, nor any [necessary] commitment to that)

at least one sense in which nothing (no “thing”) is eternal, everything (every “thing”, “everywhere) (cf. “no objects anywhere”), is impermanent, non-eternal

at least one sense in which meaning, goodness, and badness only/exclusively lay *between” (and so while nothing is eternal, cf. above, neither is anything meaningless [cf. nihilism]) [also symbols, also reference ]

at least one sense in which there is no single sense in which [sic] there is “existing/​being”, “causes and effects”, and much more (unity, perfection, completeness, wholeness, nothingness, separateness, truth, reality, god's-eye-views, facts of the matter, beginnings, endings, everything…)

at least one sense in which we only experience representations

at least one sense in which all sensations (and/or objects or perception, appearances, seemingness…) are interpreted and there is no “given” perception whatsoever

at least one sense in which there is "phenomenal isotropy, non-particularity" (not exactly the same thing as Ingram's centerlessness (or agencylessness))

at least one sense in which any “[deliberate] action”--anything besides spontaneous, “pure” self-caringly “listening”--is a “cope,” in the most gentle sense, is not-listening to oneself, is not taking into account “ALL” “parts” of oneself

at least one sense in which love and service are the “ultimate” answer to the “reality” of personal suffering (in no way precluding possible fallibility, ongoing learning in part through unfortunate mistakes, uncertainties, impulsiveness, nonmonotonicity, and potentially causing harm through “ignorance in the guise of competent or wise benevolence,” etc.)

at least one sense in which selfishness and self-servingness "all the way down" is ok and good

at least one sense in which experience, apparentness, seemingness, and more, is “empty,” like this: “what you ‘see’ is all there is; there’s nothing behind it” and “and even that too is empty”

at least one sense in which there are no things, as such; there’s nothing thing-like

at least one sense in which there are no generalities or (let alone) universals [/—nor universals]; there is only radically concrete and situated particulars (and of course at least one sense in which there are also no particulars)

at least one sense in which all there is now, is what’s now

at least one sense in which all this is is “just this.”

at least one sense in which nothing ends, including the sense in which “you will always have happened.” At least on sense in which “endings” (and lots of other things) are “negated without further implication” [See Mipham’s Beacon of Certainty]

at least one sense in which everything ends / at least one sense in which this ends [/ it's ending in each moment]

at least one sense in which everything is determined and couldn’t be otherwise

at least one sense in which everything is interconnected / at least one at least [sic] narrow sense in which there is no separation

at least one sense in which "being good," any of someone "being good" can only be ultimately effortless, costless, and, critically, spontaneous / "it's just happening" / "it just happens" / "that's just the way it is"

at least one sense in which there is no single, one most good and correct way to a express a particular truth

at least one sense in which there's no difference between an enlightened and unenlightened mind; at least once sense in which being enlightened changes nothing (and other senses in which lots of things change); and at least two senses in which there's no such thing as enlightenment (or meditation)

at least one sense in which there's no perfection. at least one sense in which perfect control, understanding, or certainty doesn't exist [adapted from David Chapman, mistakes mine]

[there should be an entry somewhere in here that teases out something about when something in the space of locality does [a lot] and doesn't apply]

at least one sense in which no difference / no boundary, between "inside" and "outside"

at least one sense in which everything is inside you, and/or/rather at least all experience

at least one sense in which the "the future", or one's experience of the future, is ultimately empty, groundless, and "liquid," at least for a time, in the sense in which it phenomenologically and functionally "re-seats" itself, where it lives, how it works..

(see also: David Chapman's meaningness work)

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on meaning, goodness, badness, aboutness, intentionality, secondary properties:

[This is a hasty sketch to index/get down something in this space, because eventually, finally, maybe after a long time, this sort of thing starts to really sort itself out, perhaps partly like the below. In other words, meditation is eventually decisively revelatory about the sorts of things, below.]

Non-meaning-laden experience (which is still accompanied by knowing) is prior and constitutive of meaning-laden-experience. Meaning lives in between self and other/world. Meaning is entanglement between self and other/world. (Goodness and badness live between, as well.)

Preconceptual, luminous/vivid knowing “just is”; there’s a sense in which it’s utterly stark and clear and self-revealing. And/but retrospective apprehensive of this type of knowing is inherently ontologically nebulous, arguably in a slightly different way than the knowing of meaning-laden-experience is inherently nebulous. Ontological nebulosity “lives in” meaning which “lives in” the spaceless space, the relationship, the interaction between self and other/world. [Aboutness/intentionality...]

The ways the world is afforded to us, the way the world shows up to us, our ability to speak about the world, our spontaneous actions and intentions, and our reflective actions and intentions, are all downstream and ultimately constituted/provisioned (out) of our entire sensory/experiential history.

Our sensory/experiential history determines/constrains language, speech acts, the creation of texts, social relations (in some senses), social mechanisms, and so forth.

Meditation begets structural fluidity, and, through meditation, one can refactor the “arrangement” of their causal history, in a generally structure-preserving, (in some sense lossless), way to change the set of prereflective and reflective affordances and possibilities for meaning and action.

*

See also:

“a dialogue between N and Mark, on reasoning and pre-reasoning”

https://meditationbook.page/#157

"part 1: a brief layer/tangle model of mind, "parts," personality, groups, and (global) culture"

(and part 2)

https://meditationbook.page/#32

*

The above is goaded (in a good way) by:

https://twitter.com/JakeOrthwein/status/1412275263740682247

Me: “Man, I should have something like this in my document.” [in language commensurate with the rest of the document, even if usual equivocation, etc.]

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a dialogue on wayfinding, homunculi, parts, goodness, agency, harmony, interdependence:

[Edited and elided and mangled for clarity.]

PK

Hey, Mark and I were talking about the "absolute agency" pattern in his work, and I thought you (DX) might have some things to add

DX

Oh yummy what’s that

PK

i had just written a kind of summary of the convo from my pov, so i'll paste that here:

PK

Okay. Maybe I can try and summarize / re-state the issues here

[4:46 PM] I'm making a few claims

[4:47 PM] (1) There is some kind of "absolute agency" pattern present in the protocol doc

[4:47 PM] (2) This pattern is a distortion, a samskara (I think of those as roughly referentially equivalent, though I'm perceiving more the "distortion" aspect here, i.e. the way this pattern is warping the rest of the fabric)

[4:47 PM] (3) This pattern is part of the "transmission" of the protocol doc (by "transmission", I mean roughly the same kind of transmission as you get face-to-face)

[4:47 PM] It seems like we're at least sort of on the same page on (1)? Like you agree that there's something there?

[4:47 PM] I'm not sure if you agree with me on (2)

[4:47 PM] (3) seems like a big point of disagreement. It seems like there you think that (a) to whatever extent this pattern is there, it's caveated enough (e.g., "all these descriptions are just words, you need to find their true meanings yourself") that the reader can have some choice around it. And (b) even if they pick it up, it's actually fine, bc as a practice it'll eat itself eventually anyway.

[4:48 PM] I kind of agree with (b) but I still think it's problematic to be transmitting not-ultimately-true patterns. And with (a), I do think the caveats help a lot to create the right overall frame and create agency / freedom there; but that they don't really change the transmission of the pattern.

DX

Ya this matches my first impression before reading mark's responses. The thing that feels specifically funny about it to me is assuming some singular locus of "what is good", eg for all the practices that are like "Do X if it feels good". Whereas for me the concept of a singular locus like that doesn't even make sense metaphysically - rather something more like a maybe-scale-free network of interlocking locii of good.

A funny thing is that it seems like there's basically two meditative paths I see professed a lot:

If you're a fan of anime metaphors it feels very much like the difference between life fiber override and life fiber synchronization.

Multicenteredness is about recognizing multiscaledness of agency, existence of inner optimizers and other-optimizers in light of fuzzy boundaries, etc.

Eventually it becomes finer and finer until agency is a fine haze of microcenters all in distributed* alignment (edited)

I'm not sure what this means in terms of practice but there's definitely some implicit effect in assuming "good" has a referent in the traditional sense

traditional = logical denotation rather than dynamic mind-blob ecosystem

so maybe there's this thing where all the parts identify as "me" and it's fine to be inconsistent but then what do you do with the conflict? I've always found that to be a non-starter for p2 meta protocol which has made it hard for me lol (edited)

or like I do it playfully but feel like I'm missing some joke

PK

Like, if we take the wayfinding metaphor literally, the homunculus is like a little hiker looking around all the time and carefully picking his route

PK

and in my experience, sometimes that's just not possible

like sometimes things are just already so much in motion, that it's impossible to stop and get perspective (like a homunculus would like to)

Mark

Yeah and I just don’t disagree! Huge part of practice, cf a whole quarter of p2. And/but/though it feels like the weight of the document implies otherwise? A confusing/misleading tacit “should”, “you should always be able to do this”?

(I’m like, after all, any homunculus, watcher, the practice itself should eventually get, in some sense, eaten by itself with no remainder. But that’s fruit not path/practice. Should only happen if/when/how a person is ready, in/on their terms and concepts, from the inside. And trying to directly do that could get tangly. But over-reifying or over-homunculifying the practice could get tangly too. And to the degree that that’s not called out, to the degree it needs to be, that’s potentially on me.)

PK

hmm okay. yeah, somehow what i picked up from reading it was indeed, "you should always be able to do this". That may be partly just about language, hard for me to tell.

I do see now that p2 as written has a lot on allowing, as opposed to willing. But in my reading, what happens there is that the homunculus gets pushed up a meta level.

PK

Ah, perhaps if there's a homunculus, then it needs a goal or direction or something, and that's the role that "good" plays

DX

could you say more? Is it like: this is a useful strategy if you're already shaped like a mostly single big homunculus and it's fine because eventually it eats itself?

(but then what then?)

Mark

more like any parts that are looking for something to do, the protocol is something to do

and that something to do teaches those parts how to harmoniously interface with everything else, which sort of then teaches everything to harmoniously interface with everything else

PK

more like any parts that are looking for something to do, the protocol is something to do

huh actually i tried it on more, and honestly I can't see how this could work in a way that didn't feel like fabrication

may be a me thing though. like, at the relevant level, i don't think that any of me is "looking for something to do"

Mark

something to do / meditate / know thyself / experiment / try stuff / change / get something / become something / surrender to something / align with something / participate in something

I don’t mean it as anything more than if thirsty, and safe to drink, and harmonious enough to drink, then drink, for literal thirst. Basically same.

Or, also, “one is thirsty and just drinks” without conceptualizing as such, but then it’s still possible to profitably play with that, or nearby that, if there’s something dissatisfying, somewhere.

DX

If I frame it as looking for what's dissatisfying and remembering to allow stuff if I don't find it that feels a lot better. Something about how if something is dissatisfying for one part, it's a dissatisfaction for the whole system, which is not true of "good"

[Ed. but one could incorporate dissatisfaction into one's understanding of "good"!]

Mark

Part of it is that the ways in which one can’t do the things, at particular object-level times, in particular object-level contexts or regimes, is intended to demonstrate the ways in which things like willing (and other things) fail—locally, generally, and sometimes universally. And this gives potentially to certain senses of positive determinism, interdependence, groundlessness, etc., while still retaining (spontaneous) complementary agency which affords those insights.

but that could be explicitly called out better

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a brief dialogue on locality and concreteness:

[Edited and elided and mangled for clarity.]

JD

from a friend (i thought is/was genius)

local is effective. effective is global

[...]

i think for me, there’s a way that concrete action feels separate from “abstract” results

like constantly this question of how i’ll do big things in my life

and it seems like the only action you can take

is kind of, on “atoms”

and is somewhat ordinary

so there’s like a seeming disconnect between the small (the playing feel)

and the big (what i seem to care about?)

i kind of feel this when i’m cleaning a room

desired outcome/vision: clean room

but, you can’t just like

wave a magic wand for that to happen

you have to, like, actually move things around

one by one

and there’s kind of a disconnect there

slow is smooth, smooth is fast

Mark

local is effective. effective is global

ok yeah, kind of a pithy expansion [or even pithier compression] of the global wayfinding ethos? or do you feel like it’s something different than that and cool?

JD

feels relevant to wayfinding too

exactly!

Mark

right yeah

Mark

more tho too?

JD

like, the only playing field you have

is “local”

the only playing field you can act on

and somehow somehow connects to a more global thing

im not sure if more

maybe less??

Mark

the only playing field you can act on

no yes exactly this

Mark

i think people get tripped up trying to take “global” actions but you can’t

sort of

JD

i think people get tripped up trying to take “global” actions but you can’t

rightt, yeah!

this was kind of the original insight for me

like, there’s kind of an abstract goal

happiness

a clean room

~ belonging ~

and so there’s kind of that abstract level

and trying to act in, perhaps like wanting to flip magic switches to get everything in those good abstract states

but all you have are local (time-bound?) moves

you have to have that phone call, move that object from place a to b

and like all the medtation stuff too

Mark

yup

JD

anyway

feels therepuetically equiv to the slow is fast line

it’s like a chill pill

but in a slightly different/space dimension

Mark

a deep/broad/multifaceted insight (but can only be locally/concretedly applied, heh)

JD

righttt, lol

[...]

JD

[...] i don’t think effective is necessarily the best verb

small adds up, adding up is (eventually) big


[Ed. final note: re "ordinary actions", yes! maybe "extraordinary" actions, too, in the sense of sometimes "subtle and/or high dimensional", but they'll still in some sense be local (speaking only about the current, relevant sense of "local"), finite, iterated (very loosely speaking). (And/or/also "concrete" ("no abstractions anywhere," or "abstractions have to be concretely engaged, if engaged as such"..."))

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clockworks metaphor (tweezers, scale, emptiness, locality):

if space is empty, and if time is empty, and "the phenomenological grain of experience" is empty, and complex/composite vs simple is empty, one might still play around with something like locality.

i want to say like “high-dimensional and distributed,” but still local in a sense?

maybe, say the bodymind is the size of planet earth, and made of like clockworks and gears, of many sizes, and sometimes someone is working on a very tiny part of the whole thing, like the gears inside a true-to-sized pocket watch. and sometimes that pocket watch is mostly inside it’s metal housing, which is seamlessly embedded in the planet-sized clockworks, but sometimes that pocket watch is somehow diffusely/thinly spread through the entire planet, though it’s still basically the same sort of pocket watch. in both cases, somehow, it’s still somehow local operations; all that’s available is local operations; you can only do what you can do, right there and then, with that small patch in front of you (which might be coalesced or diffuse; which might just look like surrender, letting go).

also, the pocket watch is precise little gears, pixel perfect precision, tweezers and tiny tools. but at the same time it’s shimmery, flickery, buzzy, nebulous, no such thing as gears, no such thing as pixels (of course).

and sometimes/often it’s coalesced or diffuse pocket watches, and sometimes it’s undulating waves or whooshes through the whole bodymind. (edited)

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sex, gender, etc. stuff:

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working with sex and gender (plus "tantra"):

[See also the section: extremity replay and creativity: panic, trauma, sexual arousal]

[See also the section: "subtle energy" and "energy work" and mental models]

Similar to the discussion on breathing, in section "breath," the muscular/glandular components of sexual arousal, orgasm, ejaculation, etc., have a volitional skeletal muscle component and (indirectly affectable) autogenic components.

A lifetime of action and intent (as well as improper use of breathing, attentional, "energy," and "tantric" practices) can layer and "convolve" volitional components with autogenic responses.

Eventually, as part of meditative practice, some people will want to work directly with sexual arousal. It’s a little bit different than working with breathing. Breathing is always available and somewhat gets deconvolved well mixed in with everything else. Because sexual arousal, tumesence, detumesence, is more of a state that is (fuzzily) entered and exited, there’s maybe a possibility of being a bit more deliberate and planful.

(There will of course always be creative interplay/synergy between volitional [and/or effortless/spontaneous] skeletal muscle and autogenic skeletal and smooth muscle responses, and everything else. Engagement with practices/protocols can sort of unlayer and refactor so that it’s the "right," unlayered, spontaneous, dynamic, sensitive, responsive amount [which of course also whatever it happens to be at any particular time].)

So, for any sexual phenotype, male, female, etc., this can look like slow, patient, intermittent light touch, and sort of letting that reverberate. If you’re experienced with main practice p2, you may sort of quickly get sense of how to approach this. You might, say, observe how any of your diaphragm, chest, core, perineum, glutes, etc., involuntarily contract upon touch, and how, little by little, that can be disentangled, refactored, perhaps reduced or perhaps just changed in good ways. And this will alter one’s experience of intensity and pleasure.

(Of course, "practice" should "eat itself" over time until it’s no longer needed, until there’s "just sex," or anything.)

Just as with one’s breathing, and of course anything and everything, mind and body, because of occlusive/compensatory layering, some things won’t change until lots of other things change, many of those things maybe seemingly "far away from sexuality," or not.

As with meditation proper, it can be good to explore different postures—sitting, kneeling, standing, laying down, because the muscle engagement profile will be so different. You can of course explore things with and without sexual partners. Another thing to vary is exploring with and without orgasm or ejaculation. I think it’s generally fine to never withold orgasm, if abstaining doesn’t feel right.

(This whole section mostly refers equally to men and women. With respect to semen retention practices that involve strong muscle contractions, I’m personally not a big fan, in part because they can cause damage or at least irritate internal, tissue and sphincters, even when timed correctly, and in part because they can potential facilitate layering that can work against global detangling. If you’re interested in such practices, it might be good to wait to explore until you have a good "p2 sense" through lots of detangling and delayering, but also experimenting sooner rather than later can be good in general.)

Finally, working with sexual arousal is especially an opportunity to explore, expand, disentangle, and "find your way back" to gender and sexuality that could be occluded, layered, or tangled, e.g., bottom, top, submissive, dominant, masculine, feminine embodiment/energy/stances/etc. For some people this will incidental, and for some people this will be critical.

For all of this, allow for breathing, movement, vocalization, and so on.

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stuff stuff:

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don’t be here now (to start):

Many people, deep, deep down (or at multiple "levels") are seeking an elsewhere, an elsewhen. They’re trying to step outside the universe, break the universe, step through a portal, step to another side, into books, movies, daydreams, somewhere else, another planet, another dimension, somewhere safe, somewhere beyond death, somewhere with adventure, somewhere with love, just somewhere else.

Sometimes this is from parts of us not quite understanding, for example, as children, what books, tv, and movies actually mean, how the relate to the world around us; that material "gets in" (and that can be fine and is normal). And, sometimes, this comes just as a strategy for being safe or just getting away from the banal, terrifying, mortal, crushingly boring "tyranny of the here and now."

These "portals" and other "places" are sort of instantiated through "inner space phenomenology" and "motor output" phenomenology that can introduce contradiction and contention in problem-solving and muscle/motor planning. And/but, in any case, these portals and places are also sometimes deeply sacred and meaningful.

There’s sort of a "double escape" thing that can happen—we sort of escape "towards" these other portals and worlds and dimensions (say, for safety, freedom, meaning). And/but, then we also sort of force ourselves "towards" some conception of "reality" or the "the real world" (also for safety—food, shelter, money—and sometimes this is where love and friends are, too, and sometimes not). So this introduces a sort of (fractal) "hitches" or "twists" or "switchbacks" in this system, where if we don’t go back and "recover," honor, allow, integrate, receive, surrender to those beautiful, meaningful, "other places" and the ways to get to them, then our attempts to "function" in "the real world," are kind of held back and stymied, to the point of muscle tension and more. This hitches takes modal/problem-solving "slack" out of the system, pull it tight, make things harder or slower or impossible-seeming. Further, beauty and meaning, being locked away in "other places," can prevent us from finding wonder, meaning, love, competency, safety, strength, intimacy, wisdom, gratitude, grace, power, joy, community, adventure in the here and now.

It’s a bit of a roundabout journey: Sometimes the way to "here and now" involves going to the farthest reaches of fantasy. Further, we have confusions about here and now (and death and nothingness and a paperwork and jobs and all sorts of things) that make here and now excruciatingly boring, painful, and scary. So, any instructions that look like "be here now" can be pretty problematic for some people, some of the time. It’s confusing result with journey.

Further, don’t take my word or anyone’s that "here and now" is good, or anything. We have to find our own way, which, again, might look like five years (or forever!) writing (erotic robot vampire) fantasy and science fiction. "Here and now" is empty, nebulous. "Reality" is empty, nebulous. "Just this" is empty, nebulous. In any case, you still have to find your own way, "subjectively through your own self and world." Which can take a long time and sort of be sometimes lonely and intimidating. But, that means you will not, cannot, must not leave behind anything you value, no matter how childish, cringe, weird, disgusting, beautiful, meaningful, sacred.

Structure-preserving transformations, that seek "wrong/erroneous/misdirected efforting," over many thousands of hours, are one way for someone to "eventually make their way all the way down" to the parts of ourselves that, for very good, though sometimes confused, but not to them, reasons, are trying so, so hard to be somewhere else, for beauty, meaning*, safety, and connection.

And then, after that, sometimes things are simple, quiet, easy, rewarding, engaging, exciting in ways you couldn’t have imagined before. (And also sometimes ghastly, tragic, excruciating, and so on! But, in some sense, all of this is yours to navigate on your terms.) Invariants such as love and gratitude may coalesce and shine through more and more.

***

[See also section: normalcy, crackpotty-ness, wisdom, craziness, competency [stub/draft] ]

*"meaning" will be the topic of a future section

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normalcy, crackpotty-ness, wisdom, craziness, competency [stub/draft]:

[See also section: don’t be here now]

Most people have a strong push towards "normalcy," making things be/seem/feel/appear normal.

Most people are heavily built out of "sociality," the deep building blocks of their world are somehow interpersonal.

Sometimes people are permanently or malleably-but-deeply-entrenched different, even if takes them some time to realize it or realize its significance (gender, orientation, thinking-style, class, race, beauty, childhood trauma and confusion).

Usually such people have then further bitten the non-normal bullet in some way, out of reflective or unreflective choice or desperation, because something already wasn’t working.

Sometimes those choices are inside of institutions and societal forms and other times not. And sometimes those choices can seem pretty crazy or at least costly-go-nowhere: writing fanfiction, conlanging, abstract math deep dives, philosophy, epistemics, rationality, biology deep dives, listing protein folds.

Sometimes some of these choices are intuited as "powerful," and sometimes they are, in part, where there’s a powerful component and also a perverse, evil, faustian, or go-nowhere component. Sometimes this is "in the means," and sometimes this is "in the ends," like someone wants to learn something (manipulation of ideas, math, language) because, deep-down, on some fantasy level, they’re hoping to break out of the universe or step into another, better dimension.

But, who are we to say that they’re wrong/misguided! It’s easy to make a dismissive, snap-judgment from the outside. And sometimes we have to, when choosing friends, lovers, community, and business partners. But, for example, it’s sometimes said that "hard science fiction is a spec"—this is sometimes true-ish and sometimes not at all, and/but it can be hard to judge the difference from the outside. Sometimes it’s go-nowhere fantasy and sometimes it’s inspiration for the author or a reader to do something astonishing. Better might be to make room for all of it, as much as is possible. Little personal and societal bets everywhere.

In any case, competence and excellence can come out of video games, modding, photoshopping, fanfiction, obsessive biology deep dives, physics deep dives, and so on. When it doesn’t, something is probably stuck, somewhere—the fantasy piece doesn’t get resolved and keeps pulling on the "real" stuff. But that can be resolved in a way that doesn’t kill meaning, joy, and/or the whole reason the person was interested in the first place. (And they, in many senses, must be the initial and final arbiter of that.)

Sometimes normalcy breeds excellence. But sometimes normal stays normal. Sometimes weirdness breeds go-nowhere (or quiet personal or communal joy) and sometimes weirdness breeds world-facing competence and excellence in institutions, discoveries, invention, constructive humanitarian outrage (or just smart life choices long before the world catches up, or you get the world to catch up). In any case, we need weird and we need "normal," too. We need all of it. And "fantasy" doesn’t automatically preclude competence and excellence. (And sometimes world-facing competence and excellence is built of out "fantasy," e.g. sometimes allegory or satire or hard science fiction changes the whole world.)

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"false ends" (messy first draft):

Very, very, very loosely speaking, you can sort of model a person as a collection of (a) potential actions, (b) means, and (c) ends (goals). The (b) means are sort of intermediate goals and, in the right contexts, (a) potential actions are realized as actual actions that are carried out. And, via actions, we advance through our ends towards our goals. And, the whole thing is sort of contextual, multithreaded, interruptible, and continuously being sculpted as we accomplish things, are surprised, daydream and think, and so on. (It’s important to not inappropriately reify any of this—-means/end chains are nebulous and interpenetrating, do we even have goals at all, are there even things, is thinking a natural kind, and so on. Yes and no. What is the evolving experience of this for you, in relation to what’s written here? and so on.).

Through meditation (and lots of other things), bottom up, felt and found from within, nebulously, the whole means/ends goal system (not separate from just the phenomenological field and the seeming of the world itself) sort of becomes more elegant and strategic, more omni-adaptible-antifragile, more multifinal and equifinal, more internally/intertemporally consistent, and so on. Experientially this is directly tied to increased wellbeing and other things.

In the course of this, what we can realize, over time, is that some means have sort of been mistaken for ends. These means still feel right/good/intrinsic (or desperately or boringly necessary). [This could loosely be considered a type of "layer" using terminology from elsewhere in the document.] But, one could call these means "false ends."

We could maybe call some of them "false" (or frozen in time, or beautiful but no longer needed), but, in any case, we want what we want, and we do what we do, until we don’t. It’s ok to want what you want! There will be reasons, even if those reasons are somewhat confused or frozen in time. And we don’t know if they’re "false" until we do, though we may have inklings. And, even if so, there’s going to be deep wisdom or at least self love and care, that needs to be honored and accounted for, for the system to fully move forward without getting wrapped around itself. So that means we sort of should be careful to not self-undermine, to wholeheartedly, heartfelt-ly allow ourselves to want what we want as long as we do; filamentary or full-bodied parts of many wants will be very stable, and others won’t, in the long run. In some cases, in any case, one has to fully accept a want before it’ll loosen and transform, anyway.

Sometimes these "false ends" are very sensible, in some sense, and whatever value we’ve created from them sort of gets rolled up into new, better plans and preferences. Other times, these "false ends" are more obviously destructive [or it's a combination], but there’s still something we deeply want (and that we are moving towards or trying to move towards, whether real-ish or illusory-ish) and/or fear (and that we are moving away from or trying to move away from, whether real-ish or illusory-ish) in there, at least for a while, or many years.

In any case, it can take a long time, thousands and thousands of hours of meditation, for sort of nebulous means/ends chain refactoring, and large-scale system refactoring, until means and ends behind the "false end" sort of become accessible and "surface" in a way that allows them to be spontaneously or reflectively sculpted, refactored, solved, dissolved, and so on.

If someone is not a meditator, the more usual thing is that a person may painfully resign on getting something (because it seems too hard to get, part of which might be because it has childhood-conceived or fantasy elements that may be very challenging or impossible to realize). Or, a person singlemindedly pursues getting the thing (fantastical pieces or not) and maybe alternates between exhiliration and defeat, if it’s hard but feels maybe possible. At times when it seems like they won’t get the thing, they might be depressed or devastated, and their goals might refactor just enough to have a new line of approach, but a deeper "false end" might still remain that will keep "generating" more proximal "false means/ends."

If a person is curious about discovering personal false ends or is just generally trying to solve/dissolve their problems in pursuit of love, safety, wealth, anything, then progress is usually some combination of solving/dissolving problems, evolution of preferences, acquiring capabilities, deep changes in "beliefs," and the seeming and appearing of the world. And, it’s also sort of failing over and over again, and at times feeling hopeless--in ways that ultimately stimulate discovery of false ends! And this is one of the ways things become more consistent over time, often nonmonotonically.

Meditation sort-of-allows-one-to-sort-of "fail faster" through "problem dissolution" as well as raising ["internal"] contradictions and inconsistencies and contention (loosely speaking), that prompt crises of meaning, desire, and so on. (It’s faster because there’s sort of that relatively efficient "inner" process that’s also happening, in addition to the "external process" of bumping into success, failure, novelties, and challenges in engagement with the world. People who aren’t meditators (and other things like therapy, journaling, etc.) sort of only mostly get the benefit of "external" learning, and meditators also get "internal" learning.)

And so those crises of meaning, desire, and so on make it more likely that a person (or their "system") will "need" (or choose to, or be prompted to), sometimes through deep, internal "settling and resettling and process of elimination" to surface those "false ends" (or just confused, frozen in time, beautiful but no longer needed, and so on).

Sometimes "false end" discovery has to happen safely in its own time in a very bottom-up ordered way. And, other times, it can be helpful to incline towards this, through systematically "letting go" of "efforting" in a way that allows for more "bandwidth" to move towards "false end" discovery (and this is its own many-layered puzzle over time). Perhaps usually, in any case, overall, all of this is a liminal process at the finest grain that happens in its own time, through correct application of global method.

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eternity, suffering, death:

[draft status: in need of editing, as per usual]

There’s ways in which the below is inconsistent, confused, and incomplete--it’s not the final word, I still have a LOT to learn, and nor could it ever be consistent and complete, in a deep, philosophical sense. It’s offered because it might be comforting and useful, for some people, as an interim touchstone, or it might help some good things happen fractionally faster, or it’s just interesting. As a recommendation, if you’d otherwise be inclined, don’t particularly try to "make any of this stick"; one sort of has to find their way to this kind of stuff on their own terms, and then you "don’t need to make it stick," as natural as trusting gravity.

*

So, many people take refuge in eternity and essentiality, and many people fear death, meaninglessness, and suffering. We encountered those sorts of things somehow already within ourselves, and/or we picked them up from culture, or we confused other people’s stuff with our own, in deep or subtle ways.

So let’s unpack all this a bit more and talk about pluses and minuses and antidotes.

*

So, IF there’s eternity (timelessness, outside-of-time-ness) then, this is a bit of an incomplete straw, but it kind of follows that everything that has ever existed does always already forever exist and that everything has a fixed, eternal essence. There’s a nearby and simultanously compatible thing, which is "sempiternity," which means something like "an infinite future" (infinite timefulness, and, maybe necessarily along with that, an infinite past).

Some problematic implications of eternity and sempiternity are that, in some sense, if anything’s wrong with your "essence," then, depending on how that works, there might be some sense in which it can never be fixed. You’ll be stuck with however you are, and if that’s bad, then that’s infinitely bad.

Additionally, everything becomes infinitely important, any choice has massive stakes, infinite stakes, because it could compound forever without relief. Death might not offer any relief. Anything that produces ("intolerable") suffering (badness, loss, failure, rejection, loneliness, judgment, uncertainty) is potentially (infinitely) catastrophic. Sure, you might have infinite time to correct your mistakes, but what if, by some chain of events, you find you permanently cannot?

*

Alongside eternity, as complements or alternatives, there’s also mortality, death, and nothingness.

Problems with these are things like, if death results in nothingness then potentially everything is nihilist and meaningless. And then perhaps there’s no basis for action (or happiness, joy, etc.), perhaps because everything is ephemeral, impermanent--we can’t take it with us, including ourselves, we lose it all, as if it never was, so what’s the point?

*

And then there’s fragility and uncertainty which sort of underpin the risks of eternity, mortality, and suffering, and kind of take the joy and spontaneity and enjoyment out of everything.

*

And finally, all these things sort of get tangled together in potentially inconsistent ways. For example, say death if isn’t, for example, conceived as pure nothingness; perhaps it’s unfortunately conceived as sort of potentially an "in-between" state, of maybe trappedness, loneliness, fear, failure, and suffering, and maybe that’s "eternal."

*

Ok, so what to do? Maybe just avoid thinking about all this as much as possible? What if you can’t not think about it?

All of the below assumes lots and lots of meditation (or luck/fortune/grace/etc.).

*

Some of the things that can happen over time are the following, and these are all sort of somewhat entangled together:

Sempiternity and especially eternity can come to be sort of deeply recognized as phenomenologically/​pragmatically/​epistemically inconsistent. It’s not that one can no longer work/think/model with conceptual and cosmological and mathematical infinity or plan for far futures, but some "literal or functional seating" of these ideas, in the bodymind, can be judged and rejected.

This is partly underpinned by insight into impermanence and/or/rather lack of essence and/or/rather interdependence, as in nebulous, empty, or provisional causes (laws), conditions ("starting" conditions), and spontaneity, through and through. Say it’s all just shimmering stuff or forces and fields or whatever, phenomena or noumena, on the border of differentiation and lack of differentiation. What perhaps follows is sort of a way in which anything like eternity or its implications becomes (literally?) ungraspable. (I might lose some physical or scientific or mathematical realists, here. See below for a tiny bit more on maps and territories and more.)

But isn’t there something like eternity or infinite time or at least vast time? What sort of does the work of that? What kind-of-happens-is-sort-of [sic] an "eternal now" which is sort of immanent, sort of aconceptual. This "eternal now" is very unlike the other "eternity" thing, which perhaps sort of "lived elsewhere." (This also involves a "‘positive’ nowhere to go," "just this"-ness.) It’s sort of a better fit for the whole system.

Sounds pleasant, maybe, but maybe literally false? And then what about meaninglessness and suffering and death?

Meaninglessness sort of gets handled by aconceptuality, fluidity, spontaneity, and provisionality. It becomes safe to rest in meaninglessness and pointlessness because there’s sort of something "beneath" them, so loss of meaning isn’t devastating and in need of scrupulous avoidance. And, further, one gains confidence that meaning is either inessential or is at least just always transient, because of systemic fluidity--one doesn’t get "stuck" that way, so it’s safer to go into, and there’s generally (nonmonotonically) something even better (more/different meaning) on the other side, and especially in the limit. (Spontaneity and provisionality will be further discussed below.)

*

Fragility, uncertainty, suffering, and death sort of get handled in a few ways.

Suffering has sort of both "practical" and "general" mitigations. Here we first talk about the "general" mitigation of sort of "no-self-y-ness." That’s not to say there isn’t often generally coherence and meaning, "self-ing," but if there’s a disruption of the self and/or "intolerable" suffering, there comes to be a deep way in which it’s "just happening" that doesn’t require a self. (This is sort of coextensive with "no things, including no self, never have/has been, never were, never will be." (More accurate might be "no stable, permanent, enduring things or self.") Like, if you are disrupted, then are you still you, there, suffering? Creepy? But, like, in a good/comforting way? And, further, at this point, the "whole system, self and everything" has become extremely good at sort of self-endorsedly "reconstituting" itself, if disrupted. One can kind of rest in an extraordinarily self-aligned and trustworthy spontaneity, because that spontaneity, over time, sort of comes to know just what to do.

With suffering kind of more handled, it can be separated out from death and nothingness. When nothingness is disentangled from various confusions, it becomes much less of a big deal. It’s sort of just like deep sleep (which is still admittedly freaky to think about, for some people); in both cases "you’re not there," and it’s fine while it lasts. It’s not like you’re there and trapped or there and can’t breath, and so on: it’s just nothing. And, so then "nothing" is especially not some sort of "experientially eternal" bad thing. So, again, much less of a big deal.

So then with suffering kind of more handled and nothingness kind of more handled, then death is kind of more handled--it’s the potential suffering leading up to death that can be super scary to think about, the ("intolerable") fear of (imminent) death and the dying, versus being dead (in the case that death is "experiential nothingness.") And, again, the spontaneous-no-self-just-happening-ness kind of helps with this.

Further, the "eternal now" can have a "soothingly deathless" feel. Sort of, as in, "if death is nothingness then you won’t know that you’re dead," so you’ll always only ever be alive, and if "now is eternal" then you’re immortal-ish, etc.

All of this is sort of positively entangled (and deeply related to) the "practical mitigation" of suffering, i.e. "deconditioning." People typically have a great deal of "cue-able" or triggerable suffering that gets worked through in the course of meditation. Prior to working through things, we are sort of uncontrollably, prereflectively, "already" freaked out by things before we become conscious of them. And so that happening less and less, for fewer and fewer things, is sort of part and parcel with the more general antidotes above.

*

But, like, you want things, and lots of people, all things being equal, prefer not to die, a lot, at the very least. If death becomes even remotely less of a concern, won’t people be less good or vigilant about avoiding death? And isn’t that kind of inconsistent and so isn’t that a good reason to fear death and uncertainty?

What kind of happens is a sort of "positive behavioral indifference" in that more and more things get handled and worked out such that "no matter what happens this is the best plan," "you’re fully up to date,’ in ultimately a deep and prereflective way. So, like regardless of whether you’re (uncertainly) going to die in five minutes or fifty years or one thousand years, your "plan" is intertemporally consistent with respect to all those contingencies. Given your context, limitations, uncertainties, knowledge, there’s both "nothing to change" and you’re fluidly "updating your plan" in each moment as more sensory evidence comes in. And so, you’re looking both ways before crossing the street, poking at life extension, somehow eating both healthy and deliciously, anything, in a way that fully accounts for your preferences. And "death" is kind of mostly-/semi-background handled in a way that doesn’t self-defeatingly loom large; it doesn’t suboptimally take up ongoing rumination time at the expense of other things; though, it might be innocuously and consistently threaded through things in a way that naturally comes up. All of this is perhaps one facet of "wisdom."

*

This might all be well and good but what about something like impingement or corruption. Like what about mind control parasites (toxoplasma gondii) or Alzheimer’s or traumatic brain injury or whatever? What if I figure out a bunch of stuff about "eternity" and feel pretty good about that, but then I have a stroke and "lose" a bunch of it?

First of all, the brain is kind of holographic and reconstitutive. Maybe surprisingly, if stuff reaches a "ground state," versus a person trying to make stuff stick, even traumatic brain injury, all things being equal, doesn’t necessarily mean a bunch of stuff is even transiently lost. And, even if "something" (loosely speaking) is lost due to physical or chemical insult, all things being equal, a "deeply settled meditative mind" will spontaneously work/flow towards rederiving/reconstituting what was disrupted (or will find something even better).

But, in any general case, life is messy and death is messy.

To be sure, people do have terrible brain things happen and, outside view, come through with unchanged personalities. But, sometimes a single microstroke will, outside view, radically alter a person’s personality or produce anosognosia, not to mention complexly related fatigue and anxiety (though, all things being equal, a long-term meditator does have a greater chance of "finding their way back," very very loosely and reductively speaking).

Nothing remotely guarantees health, wealth, a "good death," sanity, neurological integrity, a long life, immortality, "thinking real good," hot sex, whatever. And, at the very least, at the time of this writing, meditation doesn’t free you from having a physical brain, subject to decay, demyelination, amoebas, car accidents, or anything.

All that said, a lot of the "antidotes" above generally hold, even in these most challenging of "edge cases" or one’s concern about them. Deconditioning, over time, promotes constructive action and handledness of various contingencies, which obviates and "integrates away" unconstructive worrying. "Best plan"-ness allows for a rich, full life in the light of death, not self-limited by fear or accident (in relative relation to one’s beliefs about risks, tradeoffs, etc.) "No-self-y-ness" and "trustworthy self-aligned robust spontaneous self-reconstitution" helps with acute accident and illness and suffering. Lots of other metaphysical and cosmological and conceptual stuff gets refactored and cleaned up, over time, which mitigates all sorts of unnecessary suffering.

But, yeah, there’s still uncertainty and finitude (modulo dissolving into Brahman, as it were, and eternal nows)--no guarantees about anything.

So here’s yet a couple more globally interrelated things to throw into the mix: determinism and provisionality.

Eventually, through life and meditation, one might get a deep sense of determinism, that, in some sense (pick your cosmology and physics and supervenience and etc.), everything can’t but happen exactly as it has happened, is happening, and is going to happen, via causes and conditions, states and evolution laws (or something kind of like this, in your metaphysics). You are happening just as you’re going to happen, things are happening just as they’re going to happen, including your choices and everything. What’s exactly going to happen is just exactly what’s going to happen. This can be kind of both terrifying and ultimately soothing, by turns, a particular kind of loss of control. But, eventually one can comprehensively sort of align with it, participate in it, deeply, stably, with no remainder. And there’s a deep freedom in that.

Further, in that freedom, there is a certain provisionality. You really don’t know. Was what just happened ultimately good or bad? You really don’t know. What’s going to happen next? You’re "flowing forward," spontaneously, with respect to sort of your best guess as to what’s going to happen next, which itself is going to happen spontaneously; it, you and it and world, just keeps happening. But anything could happen next, maybe not with respect to the world out there (in some sense), but at least with respect to your current state of knowledge (in some sense). You just don't know. Falsely thin probabilistic tails give way to more appropriate, fat probabilistic tails. More and more, you come to be ready for more and more, the full distribution, not just part of it, your stance, your arrangement, appropriately, proportionally ready, costlessly, effortlessly. This is cosmic poise, cosmic opprtunism.

And so, then, amidst the sometimes ghastly, horrible, painful, sorrowful, there is curiosity, engagement, play, delight, participation, readiness: a bright-eyed, let’s see what happens next.

***

If you found anything above to be inconsistent or untenable or unsatisfying or false or unworkable, it’s just my own gestural snapshot of some interrelated things, and a low-dimensional projection into words, at that. Things will continue to unravel, settle, resettle for me over time. "Your thing," on your terms, which will, say, be a living, sensitive dialogue, ultimately not separate from the being and seeming and acting in and of the world, has to be legitimate and credible and consistent and/or constructively nebulous for you.

And it can dialogue with other people’s things/deals, too, in comfort, love, intimacy, support, frustration, outrage, solitude, community, all of it, as part of that. Hell and heaven, eternity set aside, are other people, and all that.

*

* Whoops, also, I didn't mean to imply that anyone has to sort any of this out, whether by meditation or anything. And, also, nothing special has to happen in meditation or etc.. This sort of stuff "just pops out", all things being equal, in the course of correct practice.

Notes for above:

journal entry during one of my retreats, where people are optionally keeping public journals, written months after the above

[This kind of becomes self-aware like somewhere in the middle. Like I knew I was going to post it more publicly.]

Mark L Today at 7:42 PM

It’s been a normal-weird couple months of practice, just kind of carefully, patiently, satisfyingly, and often quite unpleasantly doing the thing. Not much going on except body unpleasantness that keeps winding up and working itself out. And just in the last couple of days, as these things do, things have tipped over into “whoa things”

The past few months have been a lot of slow sort of impermanence/non-eternity kind of slowly infusing more and more of everything.

And then, just this morning, there’s been some FINALLY really extra deep no really extra extra especially deep psychosexual stuff that’s FINALLY come into view. FINALLY, /shakes fist at sky/, lol, etc., ugh

[content warning, death stuff, in thread]

Thread:

Mark L 7 minutes ago

And also last night and this morning sort of more glimpses, alignment with “oblivion,” nothingness, nibanna-esque/cessation-y adjacent type stuff. Why is it so sweet/refreshing/good? What the heck?

ramble I typed earlier:

There’s this whole fucking world and physics and shit and tens of thousands of years of human history and the universe and the stars and life extension.

And like kind of modulo suffering and horror I don’t want to fucking die, man, that seems really bad. So then like what the heck is this positive forgetting, oblivion, nirvana, why is it so good, refreshing, why is it such a relief? Why is it making everything better, making living more fun?????????????

I think it’s sort of like one can intellectually know that “nothing” isn’t scary, it’s just nothing. But we viscerally recoil from death and just, like, want to LIVE, man. I wanna have grand adventures and beautiful relationships and see the stars go out.

There’s also like this weird tension, too, with “acausal, steelmanned reincarnation,” or whatever. Like, life in a meaningfully transpersonal sense life DOES go on, even if you’re not there except you kind of are but aren’t but you are.

But still, quote by problematic person:

“I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work; I want to achieve immortality through not dying. I don’t want to live on in the hearts of my countrymen; I want to live on in my apartment.” —Woody Allen

But then like meditation lets you (sooner or later) systematically systematically engage with nothingness. And, like, in a way that completely honors that visceral recoil, that completely honors wanting to LIVE (the incredible, incredible sorrow, sometimes, often, of life on earth completely withstanding), nothingness just really isn’t that bad, or something? There’s this visceral knowledge of that, too. It maybe can just make so much ok. Everything becomes lighter. (And this isn’t even the only thing that happens, in relation to suffering as such. That’s a whole other thing, even.)

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surface areas and the radically personal (draft):

I'm using "surface areas" here as sort of "exposed sensory surface areas that are the entryway to sensory processing." These "surface areas" are high-dimensional, they sort of have ontologies that they can accept or not accept, like they only accept sensory experiences of particular "very" complex shapes, which are multimodal. Or like they can only see some "objects" in the landscape and not others.

From the first moments of consciousness, we are sculpting our surfaces areas, spontaneously, in accordance with homeostasis and eventually, say, valence and psychological factors. We learn to completely hide surface areas, too, to twist them off, have the recede, bury them. We do this to self-regulate, to avoid pain, to shut away nascent outrage at coercion and injustice and powerlessness, to behave a certain way with respect to the outside world, to stay safe, to get needed things. The reverse of this is sort of just an effortless, costless, non-disregulating, "just this-ness," "ah, this is the outside, and it's safe to experience the outside".

This is, in part, at root, the domain of "attachment," vulnerability, care, self-acceptance, other-acceptance, self-compassion, other-compassion. Downstream of this is fetishes, kink, paraphilias, sexual fantasies, the ways we can and can't make money, the life choices we are and aren't willing to make, our choices around fiction books, tv, videos, movies, our aesthetics, the stories we tell or write, our relationships with parents, siblings, extended family, friends, intimate encounters and partners, ways we socialize (parties versus gatherings versus classes versus structured relating), whether we make friends at work, and so on, the ways we spend our time or are compelled to spend our time, even if inside or outside view it feels self-defeating or not constructive ("if only I didn't mind working at a high-paying job!").

Some of the above is gender-related and hormonal (though with tremendous malleability and possibility for harmony on top of and with respect to that), and even beyond what's in that previous parenthetical, there's even more malleability on top of that. One could say this is the domain of the incidental, accidental, arbitrary, contingent (of upbringing, of early experience, of being parented and socialized, prenatally and postnatally, and beyond).

Of course it's arbitrary in one sense and "couldn't have been otherwise" (and, so, "necessary" or "determined" in another sense--so more contingent/accidental than arbitrary (in the ways that contingency can stll have embedded necessity to sort of glue it all together; like, radical arbitrariness would have have neither contingency nor necessity; and contingency is sort of necessarily mixed with some necessity, sort of). "Many degrees of freedom, many different ways it could have been, in some counterfactual sense," is better than "arbitrary." And it's incidental in one sense and "downstream, massively compoundingly affected the entire course of one's life" in another sense: compounding self-direction and self-regulation and self-fulfilling life prophecies.

There's a delicate thing, here--there's nothing wrong with a bunch of these things (sex stuff, creative expression stuff), in a vacuum! And some hobbies or compulsions turn into careers or scenes, which result in money, friendship, learning, care. And other times, dimensions of these things, distort or warp, or narrow possiblities. They are rigidities.

And so sometimes, for some things, sussing all this out, making sense of it, telling the story, gathering and unraveling contingency, non-arbitarily, structure-preservingly, into something better that honors, and, critically, makes use of the past, is not discontinuous with the past--it can't be--is "long range"--it might take literally eight-thousand hours of meditation to understand why you can't have a normal job, or why you HAVE to write a novel, or you like the weird sex thing that's messing up all your relationships or why you can't not get angry with intimate partners for dumb things. And, in the meantime, the weird sex thing, or whatever, is critical, or writing the novel is necessary, for self-expression, for anything, which itself is a lifeline, soul nourishing, and so on. Incline towards writing the novel; you'll either be doing skillful redo-to-undo, or you'll end up with a novel, or both. Indulging, ongoingly, right up to the bleeding edge of safety and opportunity cost, is as efficient or more efficient than meditation, when combined with a little bit or a lot of meditation.

Perhaps the most important thing is that all of this goes all the way back to deep, deep, deep, deep vulnerability and care. It's like the small child who hides their eyes, and slowly, slowly, slowly, slowly, haltingly, warily, fearfully, finally, they slowly open their eyes and look, and it's ok. And for an adult, they have twenty to five hundred things like that, small child selves like that, and it can sometimes take six-thousand hours before even one "small child within" is able to truly, patiently, non-pushily, safely look (which is the only way it ultimately works).

We seek out stories, media, aesthetics, scenes, creative projects, friendships that (hopefully) allow us to untwist and untangle. We seek out contexts where we can "unlayer" where we can expose parts of ourselves to experience and to be be seen, to experimentally allow ourselves to be touched. This is critical work, sometimes deep-down desperate work, that sometimes looks like it's doing nothing useful in the world.

It's unfortunate that some traumas (and lack of traumas) make us "more effective" in the world, at making money or acquiring power, and some don't. We can't all be Lady Gaga, both compelled and successful, nor would we necessarily want to be. It sometimes comes with tremendous suffering and uncertainty. It's not fair, too, sometimes compoundingly so, when someone can make a lot of money and then go find their inner child.

((((It's not always accidental, either, in that sometimes society will socialize certain traumatic things--it's less about the details than the "normative coordination." If everyone has the right lock-and-key traumas then society can function in a certain way.))))

((((There's an even worse thing that can happen, too--when we can't look at things, can't expose ourself to things, like a child hiding their eyes or the proverbial ostrich with its head in the sand, this eventually leads to "high-level blindspots"--things about people or the world that we just can't see. It starts out as early unfortunate attachment stuff (prenatally) and sensory stuff, leading to unfortunate interpretations and self-strategies.) And blindspots can make people narrowly more effective, until things blow up, because those people aren't paying attention to some considerations, making what they do seemingly more efficient and effective, until that lack of attention to considerations causes things to blow up. Sometimes it can take an entire lifetime, though--life isn't fair. They might never realize they have blindspots. Things might never blow up for them, or they never realize their pattern of ongoing blow ups and damage control for the spreading harm that it is. Blindspots tend to downstream involve inhumanity (lack of compassion) because the person with the blindspot doesn't see suffering or hid that suffering in themselves and so can't see it in others or even fosters it because "that's the way it should be" (because it leads to less net suffering, overall, as far as they can tell). And/or they don't recognize other people's personhood or identity or all sorts of things (not to inappropriately reify those concepts except to the degree that there's a pattern there. It gets worse in that blindspots can lead to actually seeing some things more seemingly "accurately," or at least a persuasive confidence about those things, but these things will also be ultimately shot through with distortion, can never be quite right, quite humane, because of the mediate all-to-all nature of the mind. Distortion somewhere will have distorting effects elswhere. There's a double-down, self-reinforcing, self-righteous nature to all of this--otherwise it would have unraveled itself in the person, long ago, all things being equal. Some bad behavior is damage control and other-gaslighting, but also self-gaslighting, too, or just plain fragmentation.))))

Anyway, much of this document, overall, sort of focuses in generalities and quasi-universals (not to inappropriately reify "universals"), principles, patterns, rules, laws (gesturingly), the existential, the metaphysical, the phenomenological, the autonomic, the muscular, the sensory, the cognitive, the subtle, personhood, "worldhood", the conceptual.

We might then call this section "psychological" and "emotional" and "especially deeply personal."

There's a way in which I feel like this section could be expanded to a length the size of the entire rest of the document. It's sort being written about closer to the end of first draft writing than the beginning because it's so hard to write about in a general way, because the very "true essence" of it is utterly radically personal. But this is a beginning of that.

*

Actually, a better and more accurate way to put this is that, from the beginning, I wanted to direct people towards the psychological and the emotional, I wanted people to know that they could reach those deepest, darkest, most self-intimate and vulnerable places. But, I also had the inkling of the many thousands of hours thing, for some things, for some people, and the patience and (naturally building) skill that would sometimes be needed. And so it's maybe more accurate to say that everything else in the document is meant to guide a person to psychologically and emotional stuff naturally and cleanly falling out of practice. And some people realize this right away, and/or they do so but it's still sort of patchy and incomplete, and maybe other people realize it much later. But in any case, the goal is sort of systematic and universal engagement with "everything in the bodymind," radically intimately and personally, on its own terms, maximally skillfully, i.e. wholesomely, self-compassionately, patiently, brilliantly.

Oh yeah, and I had the worry that focusing on emotional/psychologically stuff too early or directly would recapitulate all the usual problems of meditation, self-suppression and self-forcing in accordance with existing preconceptions, which is maybe almost inevitable, for some people, without the idea of global-wayfinding and thus the risk of behavioral and emotional rigidity and really bad, weird stuff, forestalled and incomplete progress, stuck in some weird, partially better, partially worse place, indefinitely.

And, so, anyway, in a cautious and roundabout way, the psychological and emotional (and many other things, too, for sure), the wholehearted, the heartfelt, the radically vulnerable and self-intimate, the deepest, darkest, most desperate places, yet with the most excitement, the most love, the most care, the most fulfillment, the most humanity, the most self-authorship, in potential; and that was always the point.

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subtle interaction:

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"psychic" and "supernatural" stuff; what/how/how-not [draft]:

This is a section about:

geas, spells, curses, evil eye, demons, objects, entities, ghosts, echoes, spirits, critters, egregores, aliens, servitors, siddhis, powers, ESP, psi, mediumship, shamanism, energy work, energy healing, prana, qi, chi, ruach, qigong, taichi, bodywork, reiki, intuitive healing, intuitive diagnosis, clairvoyance (clairaudience, clairsentience, etc.), angels, higher beings, possession, lower beings, higher selves, magic, magick, occult, voodoo, spirit guides, imprints, possession, riders, compulsion, bewitchment, ensorcellment, psychic rape, brainwashing, mesmerizism, animal magnetism

Most of the above could qualify as "supernatural," and most of the above somehow relates to other people or other "entities." Also, the above list is a mix of traditions and even a mix of perhaps "good" and "bad," though some traditions think almost all of the above are bad, or at least distracting. With respect to "supernatural" phenomena, different traditions may emphasis different distinctions:

Now versus later or never:

Contemporary meditation teachers sometimes mention "the powers", "the siddhis" as illusory or real-but-orthogonal to spiritual practice, either something to be ignored or avoided, or something to come back to, later, maybe: "If you meet the buddha on the road, kill him."

Sentient versus non-sentient:

Various occult and religious traditions distinguish between possession (e.g. by entities, ghosts, demons) and other kinds of not-directly-sentient spiritual and interpersonal effects.

Self versus not-self:

Very loosely speaking, maybe, shamanism (I’m not sure if all of indigenous, pre-contemporary, and contemporary) makes a distinction between "parts of the self" (e.g. "soul fragments"??) versus "curses," "darts," etc.

Contemporary, and relatively secular, Internal Family Systems therapy purportedly distinguishes between "guides" and "critters."

There are broad patterns or rules in all of these traditions for distinguishing between what’s what, what’s self and not-self, as it were, what’s false and true, and what’s good and what’s bad, and when, out of all of these apparent things. And these traditions have procedures and methods for what to do under various conditions.

***

I didn’t say this in the Culture section; but, here, I’ll straightforwardly assert that relatively high fidelity, "things" can apparently be "in your mind" but "not you."

(Is this a "pragmatic" claim or a "literal" claim? Yes, no, maybe, both, neither, etc.)

These sorts of "things," "information," "patterns," "objects," "influences," including those with "agency/will/intelligence" can, not always, but not unusually, be as apparently high fidelity as your own thoughts, feelings, sensations. (Regarding "agency/will/intelligence," this still includes simple, confused, and perseverative things.) And, what’s "you" and "not you" can be easily confused for the other. Just like, sometimes, some "parts" of you might feel like "I" and some "parts" of you might feel like "me" or "past me", etc.,, also, sometimes, you may, too, find what ultimately comes to be understood as "not me." (And, of course, some people do sometimes say things like, "This isn’t me. That’s not me." More on this, below.)

(And, of course, not all of you, or necessarily any of you, feels "part like." It’s not really accurate to say people are "made of parts.")

***

So, here we go. There are a bunch of nuanced points to be made, here, so do please read this section carefully and maybe more than once.

It will be outrageous or disappointing to some people that a claim like "in you but not you" is being made in this document, whether I handwave about "pragmatic" or "literal" claims, or not. It might help a little bit to note that, to some indigenous cultures, say, a light touch of wind or dust sparkling in a shaft of sunlight, can be ascribed agency and be conceived of as a literal spirit, erroneously or not, in some ontology and metaphysics. Suffice it to say, here, mechanism is a bit outside the scope of this section (and document), but phenomenology, usefulness, and reflective and prereflective conceptualizations-as-such, though, are in scope.

So, this section is not about "how could this even be a thing, literally or apparently?" It’s not about neurophysiology, information theory, signal processing, bandwidth, inverse problems, biophysics, sociology, superstition, cognitive biases, nocebo effects, confirmation bias, autosuggestion, confabulation, demand effects, cultural conditioning, religious conditioning, etc.

With that in mind, I want to acknowedge that, if you at least provisionally accept that "there is an existant, relevant phenomenon, here" you may immediately and prereflectively have opinions and reflexive inclinations for what to do about all this, and you might immediately start doing those things, right now or upon encountering what I might be referring to. You might be tempted to go right to treating these phenomena as superstition, culture, or sociology, and you might prefer to preemptively treat such phenomena as, say, biology, neuroscience, or physics, or at least "somehow natural."

("Somehow-natural" seems good; I, personally, more or less, believe that everything is lawful, natural, etc., and sort of can’t be otherwise, almost be definition, or something. And, I’m a fan of contemporary (and especially future...) physics and neuroscience. Say, forces, fields and nothing else, maybe.)

Anyway, the point I want to make is that some of what you do will be local and net error correction, but some things will be local and net error propagation:

It’s very important to do some form of overall process error checking, like with the Meta Protocol or something in the same spirit.

So, my advice then would be to go in without preconceptions, as best you can, in part because meditation is eventually going to "turn everything inside out," anyway. And, if you take my advice, safely letting go of preconceptions, to flexibly engage with these sorts of phenomena, is a process. Yes, say, physics, sociology, everything. But, also, maybe, temporarily, set physics aside to pick it up again, later. In any case, you’re going to believe physics differently on the far side, even though all the equations will be the same. Also, likely, much of you,"doesn’t believe in physics," right now. Childhood parts of you, as it were, will believe in god, monsters under the bed, etc. Additionally, "things" inside of you can believe in gods and monsters and might not believe in you.

To be sure, sometimes, there’s a gray area between, say, "a self-introjected parent" versus, sometimes, alien-ness or foreignness that is much more clear cut. But, you may eventually find that many things are much, much more clear cut than you might initially expect. Most people have at least a little bit of this sort of "not me" phenomena and some people have a lot.

As per the usual pattern, there can be a period of increasing confusion and problematic over-sensitization (which can last a very long time and potentially be very crippling) followed by things getting properly situated, comprehended, interpreted, filtered, and/or understood. This applies to both what’s "already in you," as well as "new stuff that you might pick up in real time." One’s "real time filters" often get worse, before they get better, as per how the bodymind sometimes needs to make changes.

Things get to make sense in the end, but they might not make sense in the middle, and over and over again.

More generally, for all this stuff, It can be good to have the goals of wellbeing (and safety), intellectual internal consistency (phenomenology, science, sociology, compassion, kindness, love), and understanding, while being open to suffering, inconsistency/contradiction, and confusion.

***

One might ask, why engage with this sort of thing at all, on any timeline? The answer is that "not-you" things, whether neutral, malevolent, or benevolent, "real" or "illusory," all things being equal, will typically, eventually, sooner or later, become a bottleneck on meditative progress. There will typically be a way in which they are subtly "against the grain" of one’s (body)mind and will eventually "get in the way." There’s some sense in which they need to be "metabolized" or "integrated."

Given that claim, this is a good place to explore some concerns and objections:

(1a/3) The concern of buying into a "demon-haunted world"—(1b/3) where, e.g. only one method, one cult can save you.

The above is from the title of a Carl Sagan book: "The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark"

So, should you, in some sense, surely not in the Sagan sense, buy into a demon-haunted world? On what metaphysical, physical, psychological, or even moral grounds? You’ve got just one body and one brain, right? Right??? When and how does it make sense to treat things as "parts," let alone "parts" that are "not you." In what sense??? Via what causal history??? Via what mechanism???

This is maybe where most meditation writers get cagey. I try to almost never, ever, ever do the cagey thing, but I’m going to do it, here, at least in this version. Part of the issue is that one needs to sort of go beneath, underneath "all" metaphysical, physical conceptions, anyway, in some sense, regardless of what’s "really" going on. You’ll need to come to (provisional) conclusions for yourself, via engagement with your own process.

But, but, but, I want to reiterate a few things from the Culture section. There’s the pattern of another person or group somehow causing you to experience something unexpected and then using that to somehow claim intellectual, moral, or "health/safety" authority over you. Some cults out there will wait a bit, wait for you to get sucked in, before telling you something like, "you are not just broken but also filled with bad things, and you have to get them out or disaster or forever non-acceptance!" And whatever they tell people will be correlated just enough with that person’s experience that that person will both believe the cult and also think that the cult is their only option to get "clean" or "pure" or worthy of happiness, safety, intimacy, etc. It often works, at least in the West(?), because mainstream culture mostly doesn’t talk about these sorts of apparent phenomena—so being somehow exposed to these sorts of phenomena is immediately isolating and yet these people seem to know all about it, and they want to help... Yikes.

That being said, this document is intended for people who want to "go all the way," towards something that has to be reconceived during the journey. But, you don’t have to defer happiness, safety, intimacy while you’re doing it. It’s always the best mix and ordering you can figure out, as you go. And, of course, just because you’re reading this doesn’t mean you have to "do the document." As written in a few places, this document is a telephone game, and I hope people will take it apart and use it (or parts of it) on their own terms, on their own timeline. You don’t have to give up your intellectual, moral, etc., autonomy. There are additional external resources below that talk about these sorts of phenomena (some intended as "good" examples and some as "problematic" examples.)

(2/3) The concern of self-repression, self-suppression, self-alienation

So, again, it’s worth calling out, that any conceptualization of "in you but not you" can potentially lead to "self-violence." Recall, "in you but not you" is just words that you are actively interpreting. It might not mean what you think it means. You might come to prefer very, very different language or a very different way of thinking about all this. You might decide that the frame, here, is deeply contingent and generally inappropriate. It’s possible that I’m very wrong about something.

Here, I can only refer one to the meta protocol and main practice p2, to careful discussions with other people, and maybe engagement with additional resources. Be careful, patient, gentle and discerning, generally, as best you can.

A general point is that, even if you’re not sure whether something is "good" or "bad" (or "mixed"), whether or not you’re sure whether it’s "you" or "not you," at any point you can explore what’s good about it. You get to keep anything that’s good, no matter where it came from or how it came to be under consideration.

(3/3) The concern/horror/distate of purportedly "needing to" "integrate"/"metabolize" "everything."

So, we’re pretty far down in this section, and we sort of haven’t talked about the potential "horror" or all this, yet. I didn’t want to coercively suggest that all of this can be very scary. That said, it can be, and sometimes it transiently is, but, immediately or nonmonotonically, it can become very manageable and matter-of-fact.

Again, some people will barely encounter any of this, or won’t for a very long time, and other people will encounter a bunch of it, up front, and/or it will even be pretty central for a while, maybe getting bad or worse, in a bunch of different ways, before it gets better.

In any case, the main point of this subsection is to unpack these ideas of "integrate" or "metabolize" a little bit more.

By "metabolize" or "integrate," this doesn’t mean that you, in some sense have to either "keep" a bad or unwanted thing or, again, that you have to "give up"/"dissolve" a good thing.

It’s more like, perhaps, you get to appreciate the goodness and badness of things, as you come to understand those things better and better—until "influence" becomes mere "information" (as Ken Wilber might put it). I really like his concision, here: "Influence becomes information." (I think he was talking about the personal psychological shadow and not "objects" but it still generally applies.)

So, if something is "metabolized," it might be that all that’s left is a (nonreactive, nontraumatic) memory and/or the knowledge and confidence for how to deal with such things in the future. It could be more than that, too—e.g. some "bad" thing might be "brave," and you might want to keep some aspect of that braveness around or, more likely, even just use the inert memory of it as inspiration for your own braveness on your own terms. Or you might use something "bad" as inspiration for how to be the opposite of that. As discussed above, you can keep anything you want to keep, in the way you want to keep it, or it can just be the knowledge that something happened, likely "truly having made peace with that," on, say, truly your terms.

***

So, by "metabolization" or "integration" hopefully it’s clear that I mean something very methodologically specific (through very flexible, in the concretes) and also very contingently personal.

So how does one do it? As with anything else, it’s "just" engagement with main practice p2, the other main practices, auxilliary practices, as needed for inspiration, the meta protocol, your own interpretation of "how to do all this" that changes and improves, over time. As said in a bunch of places, it sort of all becomes "just doing one thing," simplicity on the far side of complexity, whether you’re working with "me," "not me," or often both mixed together, etc. Hopefully, this further discussion will make things faster and easier, though.

Doing something like "metabolization" or "integration" might be a very different conceptual/experiential/sensory, multi-step puzzle per thing to be metabolized. (If it weren’t at least a little bit of a puzzle, it would have already happened a long time ago, "automatically," probably.)

(By the way, as per "puzzle-like nature," just "willing" "Integrate!" or "Metabolize!" might seem useful or even seemingly effective, in the short-term, but, likely, much will have to be re-done. Again, recall, error correction versus error propagation.)

Do maybe remember that terms like "object," "thing," or even "ghost," "angel," "demon," can be misleading, of course. For you, your (body)mind, you might seemingly find those sorts of things in yourself as such, and/or/also, it might be more like a pattern, a shimmer, sensory patterns, more wavelike than particle-like, or person-like, as it were. But, it might indeed feel person-like. There can also be plenty of "disembodied" feelings, sentiments, urges/iimpulses, reactiveness, "beliefs," etc., that you ultimately come to understand as "not me," before then making decisions about what to do next.

Person-like, feeling-like (etc.), and pattern-like phenomena will likely need different interaction patterns, in the puzzle-solving sense.

Sometimes things that feel like "not me" will turn out to be "was me all along," disowned/repressed/suppressed parts of self, sometimes, e.g., soft and/or loving ("good") and sometimes, e.g., scared and/or violent ("bad").

And so sometimes things that feel like "not me" will be "actually from the outside." And there can be many subtypes of each, all of which might be best treated in very different ways.

(And sometimes things that you thought were "me" turn out to be "not me" or often an ultimately separable mix of both "me" and "not me.")

Each of these cases may take a bit of a different approach, and there might be many types/kinds/cases/mixes/subtypes of each.

Regarding "me" versus "not me" (versus even an initially mixed situation), and regarding the process of determining which is which, and what to do before or after provisionally determining that, here are the briefest of examples/analogies: You probably wouldn’t treat a friend (happy or unhappy), or a seemingly suffering stranger, necessarily, in a same way, though their might be deep guiding principles or values at any particular time. Sometimes with a friend, you’d be very open to letting them guide, or sometimes you might be firm, or sometimes it would be very undifferentiated. Sometimes with a stranger you might be particularly polite. Other times you might be particularly cautious or you’d have firm boundaries for when and how to interact. Sometimes people mislead, misrepresent, outright lie, or are mistaken about their own "true nature." You might or might not, initially or finally, interact on their terms or their frame. Or you might! And, of course, all of this might be quite nonverbal and very experiential (or, again, very "low level" and not with reference to person-like-ness at all, etc.).

It might seem initially complicated, but, ultimately, you’ll sort of transcend any particular mechanistic or stereotyped framework or set of steps!

You don’t need to memorize patterns, rules, etc.! You will bottom-up acquire them, implicitly or explicitly, in any case. It can be helpful to write things down, sometimes, buckets, lists, reminders, messy or organized. It can be helpful to try strategies in this document and to articulate/write your own variations in your own words. In any case, there is a simplicity on the far side of complexity. Eventually, there’s a real sense that you’re "just doing one thing," whether something is person-like, pattern-like, you, not-you, good, bad, safe, unsafe, etc. Eventually you’ll go/experiment/learn/succeed largely by "feel," "beneath" language and even concept or category.

And, you’ll make mistakes! Sometimes you’ll find that something you’ve been treating as "you" or "not you" is actually the other case, or it’s an initially mixed case that’s more complicated than you thought. Many people, most people, will have inevitable error propagation mixed in with error correction. Try not to have this happen, but it will(!!!!), and that’s ok. It’s ok to make mistakes, part of the 5,000-10,000 hours, or whatever, accounts for thousands of hours worth of mistakes and backtracking!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! [sic]

Given the ways in which the mind is "lossless," even "propagated" and "entrenched" errors can be undone, unentrenched. Any "mistake" can be undone, whether from five minutes ago or back from within your prenatal first seconds of consciousness. (Yes; that may need to be a whole other section, in a similar style to this section.) This is (very) long-range wayfinding, and there will be wrong turns, and it’s ok.

***

There are maybe a few fairly general patterns that can pop up pretty often:

As per usual, there’s the general "making it safe to look and then looking."

There maybe is also "making it safe for this to possibly have been me all along and then being able to check."

There is also "making it safe to provisionally accept/allow the seeming felt goodness/attractiveness in this bad/evil/horrifying/distasteful/disgusting thing and then basking in that savoring that, for the purpose of coming to ultimately impartial conclusions." As discussed in the culture section, even if lots of bad stuff came along with it, "knowingly or unknowingly" (to some part of you), there will probably be something tempting, attractive, seemingly good, in there, too, that will need to be evaluated. The bodymind is very conservative and doesn’t want to throw away possibly good things, no matter how problematic the circumstances of encountering those good things! Preferentially, the mind will "detoxify" rather than discard.

***

Nearing the conclusion, anyway, again, some people will barely encounter any of all of this, or won’t for a very long time, and other people will encounter a bunch of it, up front, and/or it will even be pretty central for a while, maybe getting bad or worse, in a bunch of different ways, before it gets better.

But, on the other side, things will be simpler, safer (for self and others), with better boundaries and better filters, but not in a way that interferes with connection, intimacy, closeness.

And, you might find that you want to frame/conceptualize all of this in a very different way than the one I’m using, here. And, my pedagogical or actual frame, position, etc., will change in various ways, too.

***

A final rant, in a bit of a different tone, from some previous scratch notes:

The hardcore meditator, as it were, uses everything, ontologically/metaphysically commits to nothing, and steadily cuts straight to the heart of everything. Open mind—so as not to get stuck; meta protocols—so as to be able to navigate (or to be able to choose when not to navigate) in the midst of anything and everything. One could spend a lifetime researching or practicing occult things, or, in my opinion, spend "only"/only 4000-15,000 hours meditating (which is also an epistemological practice) thereby retrospectively and counterfactually obviating the benefits of any such occult practice and study, in my current opinion. I mean, it’s ok to poke around a bit, of course, as per interest, but it’s kind of bottomless unless one finds a way to credibly get the whole shape of it, likely from the outside (e.g. by meditating, at the very least).

As per the Culture section of the document, most of time, maybe almost all of the time, 99% of the time, it may be good to avoid spending really any time at all with anyone who claims special, deep, or correct knowledge about any of spiritual/occult/etc things, especially if divorced from straightforward, no-frills transformative practice.

(For that 1% of friends, peers, collaborators, teachers, mentors, it might be very useful or helpful to carefully engage, though. Recall, also, the Many Protocol, which is intended to harmonize with, complement and/or replace this entire space. Some percentage of meditators will go on to become nondogmatic healers, bodyworkers, shamans, etc. It might be good to do no more than dabble in those things until one is many thousands of hours into their meditation practice (4000 hours, 5000 hours, 10,000 hours, even). This whole space should maybe boil down into something elegant, simple, and error-checked, for you, and relatively personally and interpersonally safe, first.)

(And don’t become a "dark wizard." This will be tonally abrupt and harsh, using language that’s unlike any other in the document, but one could replace "dark wizard" with "predator" or "mind rapist." That noted, it’s ok to have coercive intimacy, sex, power fantasies! But also be mindful that, sometimes in very literal ways, such fantasies don’t live only in your head, and it’s important to keep that in mind, long-run. There’s, in some sense, nothing wrong with non-fantasy, actual "power," too, decontextualized. It’s neutral, in some sense. But, as far as I can tell, the only power that works in the long-run is power that is systematically contrite/repentant, systematically nonviolent, and that which safely, systematically empowers others, among other things.)

And, do maybe read the Culture section for more thoughts on ascribing blame, intention, intent, etc., if you experience these sorts of things, in or via your immediate or past environments. It’s tricky stuff, and sometimes people are "doing things" well outside of their awareness or reflective intent. And sometimes you’re the only one affected, or you’re the catalyst, or it was "only in your own head all along," or everyone bears some "responsbility"/responsibility, or a particular thing is good for some people and bad for others. And, other times, someone really especially did some sort of especially focused thing (occult, meditative), in the past, reflecitvely or not, which contributed to them doing something predatorial or coercive now (and they might be, at least initially, belligerently defensive, or horrified, or not). And you might find that that (partly) coercive person is actually you, or both of you, or some third party.

***

Further reading:

[Note that some of these I particularly don’t endorse or have very mixed feelings about. And some are provided purely for context.]

[Thank you to everyone who suggested some of these resources to me.]

Katz, Richard. Boiling energy: Community healing among the Kalahari Kung. harvard university Press, 1982.

Stephan, V. Singing to the plants: A guide to mestizo shamanism in the upper Amazon. UNM Press, 2010.

Earley, Jay. Self-Therapy: A Step-By-Step Guide to Creating Inner Wholeness Using Ifs, a New, Cutting-Edge Therapy. Hillcrest Publishing Group, 2009.

Allione, Tsultrim. Feeding your demons: Ancient wisdom for resolving inner conflict. Little, Brown Spark, 2008.

Shamanic Depossession: A Compassionate Healing Practice 1st Edition. Mr. Peter

Fortune, Dion. Psychic self-defense. Weiser Books, 1967.

Mariani, Mike. American Exorcism. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/12/catholic-exorcisms-on-the-rise/573943/ Last accessed: 2020-05-08

Malaea, Marika. Catholic Church Attendance in Decline While Exorcisms and Exorcism Training is on the Rise. https://www.newsweek.com/catholic-church-attendance-decline-while-exorcisms-exorcism-training-rise-1469334 Last accessed: 2020-05-08

https://news.vcu.edu/article/The_centuriesold_practice_of_exorcism_is_on_the_rise_Why_now Last accessed: 2020-05-08

http://betsybergstrom.com/about/depossession.php ; https://www.google.com/search?q=compassionate+depossession ; https://www.google.com/search?q=betsy+bergstrom+compassionate+depossession

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoshamanism

Scott, Derek. https://www.derekscott.co/2012/06/the-integration-of-spiritual-experiences/ Last accessed: 2020-05-08

"Why I No Longer Practice IFS Therapy" https://www.nadinemenezes.com/ifs-therapy Last accessed: 2020-05-08

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distributed_cognition

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self and other; good and bad [draft]:

[please read the section, "psychic" and "supernatural" stuff: what/how/how-not, before this section]

***

[The first draft of this, below, came out extremely "stilted!" The first few sentences and paragraphs are especially bad, particularly rough going, and it gets at least a little bit better, as you continue on.]

***

One could imagine a person having a "deepest" or "bare metal" or "enacted" understanding of things like individuation, individuality, identity, personhood, will, agency, autonomy, etc..

These (a) "deep understandings" of individuation, etc. might or might not well-correspond to, sort of, (b) intellectual concepts of individuation, etc.. So, we might talk about individuation, etc. while not "inappropriately reifying/fixatinging/relying" on any particular intellectual (or lived/felt) understandings of individuation, etc..

Additionally, we might talk about a "confusion gradient," about these sorts of things, from worse to better, again while also not inappropriately reifying/fixatinging/relying on something like that.

Less abstractly, one might imagine that, deep down, maybe in a few different sorts of ways, a person might not be able to tell "who’s who," or "who’s doing what," or even that there are multiple people instead of just a seeming "undifferentiated one thing." One might be able to imagine this or also, now (or eventually, in meditation) find their own "actually instantiated, personally resonant" things like this. Almost everyone has a scattered little bit of things like this, and some people have a lot.

(About all this stuff, one might ask, well, if there’s confused, then what might relatively un-confused look like? And, what about spiritual teachings around perhaps-related things like seamlessness, undifferentiatedness, interconnectedness, no-self, etc.? One might note that "apparently very enlightened" people still have "coherently differentiated" behavior, at least in some sense—that is, they can keep track of who knows what, when a new person enters a multi-person conversation; they can remember and use people’s names; open a checking account; drive a car, whatever. So one might imagine potentially ever-more-appropriate, all things being equal, lived synthesis of interconnectedness and differentiation, perhaps at a profoundly deep level.)

Continuing on, recalling from previous sections, that people can and do, for better and worse, end up with "patternness" of other people "in" them, and, allowing that confusions around identity, individuation, personhood, etc., can be "patterns" in this sense, confusions around individuation and identity tends be more "contagious" than other "kinds" of "patterns," all things being equal. That is, people can catch identity-and-individuation confusions, from each other, sometimes, and this is a bit more likely than catching other sorts of things.

One might see how this might be the case. Almost everyone has a little bit of identity-and-individuation confusion. And to any degree that "the medium is the message," and to any degree that identity-and-individuation confusion in one person might unilaterally or reciprocally exacerbate identity or individuation confusion in another person (even if "a little different," somehow), then one might see how identity-and-individuation confusion, in one or two (or more) people, might unilaterally or reciprocally be contagious or aggregative. (This is not a great or clear argument, but I’m going ot keep going.)

In fact, one might further hypothesize that all (or most, or lots of) cases of "stuff transfer," between people, might depend on or be enabled by, at root, identity-and-individuation confusions of one or both people. (And, as mentioned in other places, all of this can be accidental, deliberate, reflective, unreflective, endorsed, disendorsed, quasi-unilateral, mutual, etc.)

Further, one might imagine cascades of worsening identity-and-individuation confusions as well as "more object level" content, "beliefs," "goals," "plans," "cosmology," etc., kind of layered-ly building on each other. And, even if very fractionally, the more "relatively similar" two (or more) people became, the easier it would be for object- and meta-level confusions to ramify, and things could potentially get worse and worse, until some sort of equilibrium, if ever. (And, again, we don’t want to inappropriately reify "things" like beliefs, goals, plans, etc.)

An important principle in the above is that if one person has, some "belief" A, and another person has very similar "belief" A-prime, those "beliefs" are more likely to get mixed together ["A-double-prime"] in one or both people, perhaps in different ways, because it won’t be perfectly symmetric. And this can happen for lots and lots of "beliefs," etc., and, as above, this can facilitate even more mixture, etc.

And, ultimately, in a bad case, a person might end up having aggregated large "swaths" of "pattern" very far from their original beliefs or even very contradictory to lots of their beliefs, sometimes leading to muscle tension, emotional and behavioral disregulation, demotivation, "goal fragmentation," etc. (being careful, here, not to inapproriately reify things like "goal fragmentation," etc.).

That said(!), one might imagine this mixing to sometimes be relatively harmless or even a useful mechanism of group cohesion. (I can imagine it being contingently harmless and useful, sometimes.) But, at least some of the time, as per an earlier section, because this process is sort of "messy," and "confusion-based" (as claimed, here), any mixing will, over time, potentially create tangles and technical debt, as it were, for someone. So, while it might short-run be unnoticeable or positive, over time it can tend to gum up, jam up, limit positive and self-valued individual and group change, causing personal transformative arrest and group transformative arrest. Further, of course, of course, of course, additionally, individuals might prospectively, retrospectively, and god’s-eye-view, as it were, not want this mixing to occur(!!!), for any personal reason at all, including things like tangling or gumming up.

***

This can all be very tricky to talk about, for several reasons. (Note, when I say "talk about," here, I mean "talk about," in general, not about any particular concrete incident or ongoingly extended situation. Though, both sorts of discussions can be good. Importantly, any particular person might not want to talk about this sort of thing with any other particular person, for any reason at all, including the avoidance of any (additional) possible subtle (or not at all subtle) effects between those two people.)

(1) First, all this can be scary and weird. Sometimes people merely marvel at things in this neighborhood, "I became so close to my class/cohort/group, that I would have committed crimes with them or jumped off a bridge with them." And other times, it’s deeply upsetting and disregulating in a way that lingers—a person might feel diminished, disregulated, and violated, at a deep level (to say the least). So, especially when it’s "really obvious," but, also, really "alien," it can be tempting to deny that anything happened or to minimize its impact, and so forth. (It might be very healthy and productive to temporarily deny and minimize, etc., for some people some of the time. People have different coping and healing strategies.)

(2) Second, regarding belief A mixing with belief A-prime to yield belief A-double-prime, as mentioned above: There’s sometimes an effect of something like, "I’ve always believed "A[-double-prime]". (To imagine a concrete example, one person might want to talk about something concrete, in a constructive manner, or a coercive manner, or anything, and the other person might not want to talk, for any reason, well-motivated or poorly-motivated, reflectively or unreflectively, and they might use, the assertion, "I’ve always believed ‘A’" as support. And, they could always be quite right, and the other person could be reflectively or unreflectively gaslighting them, and so on. Hard. Tricky.)

(3) Third, people’s individuation and identity confusions can be "profoundly deep," indeed, they can go back to very early childhood, or earlier, and they can be cemented/reified/entrenched "ideologically."

"Ideological," here, means "beliefs plus plans" (as always, very loosely speaking) about how things should be, how things should go, how things should happen, locally, globally, cosmologically, etc. "And if they don’t or didn’t go that way, well, it’s nearly unthinkable, barely considerable, that it could go otherwise, even obviously impossible that it could go otherwise; it would be disastrous[, evil, universe-rending, something.]"

Ideological components [explicit, unstated, never stated, reflective, or fish-in-water] could be in regard to interpersonal care, intimacy, group dynamics, sexuality, consent, coercion, child care, elder care, autonomy, agency, etc.

People might explicitly defend their "ideological positions" by way of all sorts of things like "civilizational decline," atomization, ennui, conservatism, traditionalism, naturalness, empathy, "the current state or trajectory of the world," science, evolution, the march of progress, morality.

And those are all very good things to think/feel about, to explore, to defend, to act from, and so on. But, there’s a way such positions can "get stuck" and that stickiness can be traced back all the way to deep confusions about self, other, etc.

People can profoundly disagree, in very fine-grain ways, concrete ways, abstract ways, aesthetic ways about what’s good, ok, neutral, bad, etc. For some people, something X might seem downright critically good. For other people, that something X might seem downright demonic, locally or long-run catastrophic.

And, because such things can be so emotionally charged, as it were, people might strongly bristle at the intimation that their deeply held beliefs, cares, concerns, or some very narrow behavior, might have root in some "confusion," let alone a "childhood confusion" that is supposedly "maybe not immediately reflectively accessible[, even after thousands of hours of meditation, or whatever.]"

X is bad, X is good, X doesn’t exist and X-prime does, X isn’t a monolith, it’s actually A, B, C, D... And each those is bad, or good, or...

(And people can wrong, and very wrong, for a very long time. A long-term meditator might have stuff flip from good to bad or bad to good or one way and back again, after thousands and thousands of hours of meditation, and then still yet more thousands of hours of meditation. One might expect greater and greater convergence between people over time [depending on one’s current beliefs about objective truth, starting conditions, nature, nurture, relative truth, bottom up discovery, subjective and objective morality, path dependence, backtracking, reparability, losslessness, "one reality," and so on!]. And/but, this stuff is hard and the path is long! I personally think interpersonal convergence can be self-aligned, bottom-up, inexorable and strong, all things being equal.)

And, so, all this "emotional charge" can make it hard to talk about things like, say, "good-faith meta-cohesion" (or live-and-let-live!), let alone an exploration of ideas like individuation and identity confusion, let alone exploring those confusions over a long period of time, let alone doing so if/while problematic interpersonal effects are still happening, making it hard to interact in e.g. real time at all.

***

In conclusion, one could be thought of as sometimes having a scattering of "deep" understandings, and confusions, around individuation, individuality, identity, personhood, will, agency, and autonomy. These understandings and confusions ramify in ways that can sometimes have strong effects on interpersonal and group interactions, to say the least. And, over time, an individual can resolve more and more of these confusions, using tools like meditation, making it easier and safer to interact choicefully and flexibly and safely with other individuals and groups, or to avoid such interactions. A long-run meditator will have a deep, functional, enacted, integrated understanding of individuality and interconnectedness, all things being equal, though asymptotically and sometimes with abrupt reversals, along various dimensions, late in the game. And/but, over time, one might expect more and more fruitful, safe, constructive convergence around "goodness, safety, beliefs, plans, goals, agency, autonomy" between meditators, holding ideas about all such things, and all this, lightly.

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prenatal experiences:

[please read the section, "psychic" and "supernatural" stuff: what/how/how-not, before this section]

[cw: discusses abortion, miscarriage, and prenatal trauma]

[I’m indebted to a few collaborators for initial salience that a bunch of this was even a thing, and more.]

It’s maybe less controversial that, if one eventually encounters pretty much everything, including very early life stuff, that one will eventually come across things like surgeries under general anesthesia and traumatic medical or ritual events like circumcision (depending on decade born, where in the world, and parental culture.) 

As a side note, it seems like people, the bodymind, actually is/are unconscious while under general anesthesia—there’s not some ultimately recoverable, intensely painful memory, or maybe even any sense of pain. It does seem like there’s maybe the faintest, diffuse shadow of pain and/or some mild "blurring" around the edges of the system, as it were. But this seems to be straightforward to clean up in meditation and doesn’t seem to heavily bottleneck people, as far as I can tell. It might be different for different people. 

Anyway, regarding "everything," one might note that these are things that can happen preverbally and in the seeming "amnesia period" of early life events. So, one point, here, is that people do, in some relatively typically, fairly discretely sense, sometimes, have recoverable early life and preverbal memories. And these, quickly or eventually, are indeed recovered, re-experienced, and re-interpreted, etc., in meditation.

Such "particularly discrete" memories can have a strange, displaced, spatiotemporally odd, perspectivally odd, sensorily odd flavor/sense/character, as one might expect! (And, sometimes, they’re shockingly warm, intimate, etc., e.g. remembering being breastfed as a neonate.) The particularly vivid ones maybe tend to be fragmented and few. Mostly, this content might be subtle, "diffused," barely perceived undulation.

Now, more controversially, these preverbal memories extend back not just to early, postnatal experiences, but all the way back to prenatally, to one’s time in the uterus/womb, and even to the very first moments of consciousness. (It seems, as soon as the brain starts firing, and maybe even before, the memory system is doing its thing, and its fully contiguous out to adult experience. Thinking about how one might "design" learning and memory, maybe this is very elegant or hard-to-vary, evolutionarily speaking, and it’d be difficult to design some kinds of learning agents any other way.)

There’s a particular character to prenatal memories, maybe a few particular sub-feels, depending on how far along the nervous system and sensory system are, in development.

These feels and memories can eventually be raised, felt, experienced as a (relatively non-jarring) "flashback," re-experienced as such in meditation. And, one can realize that, for most people, the "prenatal feel of everything" tends to actually be a distantly felt but pervasive backdrop of one’s adult experience! So, something about the quasi-timeless, quasi-all-pervadingness of prenatal experiences lets such experiences maybe particularly persist and coexist with/in/as adult experience. And, one’s personal "prenatal feel" can contribute signifcantly to one’s "cosmology." (One eventually explores all this in meditation; it eventually just comes up, when it’s safe, a dialogue between different ages, "realities," etc. and there is eventual manifoldly endorsed harmonization, integration, etc.)

During the prenatal period is when we work out our first takes on individuality, self versus other, "personhood" (in some very rudimentary sense), agency, inside/outside/boundary/containment. Usually our first passes on these things will be quite "confused" in various ways, and those confusions can have downstream ramifications for sensemaking through our entire lives. Also, when things happen too intensely, too fast, too painfully, etc., we can paper over our old versions of early conceptualization and start working off of entirely new takes. This can put twists in the system with further, twisty, downstream effects. (All of this is eventually untangled in long-term meditation.)

Now, of course, prenatally, there is the mother—hormones, voice, body movements, heartbeat, and more. It seems many fetuses are aware of the mother and possibly conceptually/experientially undifferentiated with the mother. The mother, being partially separate, contributes both to successful differentiation, individuation, and conceptions of self versus other (and more), while also being a source of confusion about these things (and more).

***

Sort of continuing to take things in order of more and more intense and controversial, recall in a previous section about me/not-me confusions, how "mind stuff" from other people can be "in you," with highly counterintuitive (and controversial, and seemingly even impossible or confabulatory) fidelity, bandwidth, degree, amount, etc. This happens, too, between mother and child. And, surely, much of this is healthy and possibly even essential to development. (Just like postnatal babies need touch and attention, one wonders what counterfactual children of the future would be like, if grown in artificial wombs, meters or miles away from a parent, however humane and liberating that might be along lots of dimensions.)

Sometimes, aspects of the mother/fetus interaction can be problematic, in such example cases as the mother not wanting to be pregnant, not wanting the child to exist, not wanting the child to think or move, mistaking control for love, and so on. Those are sort of "easily imaginable, ‘just so’ story, cliches," easy to back-extrapolate and confabulate, say, in therapy. But, there seem to be consistent reports from meditators and other mind explorers that such effects/influences/memories are real and downstream effectual for the adult mind. There is a huge range of possible effects, beyond what one might guess—the mother’s conceptual confusions about self and other can affect a child, and so on. A child/adult might have a feel/anticipation/belief that they shouldn’t exist or that they’re bad, which can ultimately be traced all the way to the womb.

Assuming everyone is affected prenatally by their mother (and father, siblings, and more, by the way), it’s currently hard to tease out how often "bad" things happen, and to what degree. There might be selection bias (and, sometimes, confirmation bias and demand effects) amongst meditators. That is, someone who had particularly problematic prenatal experiences might be more likely to become a meditator. So, particularly problematic prenatal experiences might not be very common. I myself don’t have enough data, yet, about this.

In any case, it’s worth noting that the interaction between mother and fetus will be complex. A baby might only sort of interpret the most salient themes, but, even if, say, a mother is experiencing fear and disgust, she might well also simultaneously be experiencing love and care. So, even if there’s problematic regard, there could often be lots and lots of good things going on, too.

Further, fetuses, babies, people, everyone makes mistakes! Even if a mother is wholeheartedly loving (which would be superhuman!), a baby could still misinterpret something as too much attention, intensity, control, something. The baby just might be particularly sensitive or might have an unfortunate misinterpretation of something.

So, I’ll just note that this stuff is hard, life is hard, this stuff is subtle and barely talked about, and everyone’s doing their best, lots of good stuff happens, and sometimes bad stuff happens, too. And, all things being equal, all the bad stuff is retroactively correctable, in principle, with meditation and other approaches. To borrow an old saying, it’s never too late [for a meditator] to have a good childhood (and prenatal experience), as it were.

***

Ok, so there’s one more thing to mention, in this section, and that is miscarriages, abortions, and older siblings.

It seems to be the case that prior fetuses leave a "pattern," as it were, "in" the mother, that are conceptually/​spatiotemporally/​experientially localized to the womb. And, this pattern is durable/​stable/​lasting and can "picked up" and (mis)interpreted by subsequent fetuses.

Leading to the above, I (and other collaborators, who first made this phenomenon salient to me) have encountered multiple, first-hand reports of people, while in the womb, [proto-]fearing that they would have the same fate as a miscarried or aborted fetus, or, say, believing, confusedly, that they were an aborted fetus (and so were a sort of living dead zombie person), and so on.

My dataset is currently small, so I don’t know how many people who’ve come across such things, in meditation, have then verified them with their mother or through records. (I’m not saying that is or isn’t a good idea!) It’s partially confounded by how normal and common miscarriages are and how they sometimes go undetected.

(Interestingly, everyone so far in my dataset was firstborn, so I don’t know what it’s like to encounter prior patterns/traces of one’s older siblings as a fetus.)

***

This has been a difficult section to first-pass draft, because it could come off as mom-blame-y as well as sort of fatalistic, regarding far-reaching, possible harms in the distant past that we had no control over. And then there’s how unbelievable some of this stuff is, if one hasn’t experienced some aspect of it, firsthand. And, finally, there’s even the political/ideological and moral elements, regarding prenatal experiences and downstream effects.

(Regarding "proof" of all of this, beyond meditation, some mothers will be like "of course," as well as shamans, bodyworkers, healers, etc.)

Anyway, this section has focused sort of on the "bad/traumatic cases" because that’s what can tend to bottleneck and then saliently come up in meditation.

But, between mother and child (and father and other siblings and family members, both prenatally and postnatally), we also learn about love, compassion, warmth, safety, and much more.

Resources permitting, a mother, as a skilled meditator, might perhaps(???) work through remaining, prior womb patterns before conceiving another child. This could, of course, be outrageously stringent and costly. (And there might even be good reasons for not doing this that aren’t yet well understood. As always: meta protocol, etc.)

And, but, so, in any case, in principle, resources permitting, as I mentioned a bit above, minds are "lossless" in a way that allows for sort of "clean healing", clean reinterpretation, clean re-understanding from any badness, trauma, misinterpretation, etc., all the way back to the first moments of consciousness. So, whatever experiences someone has prenatally, this is sort of all accounted for in the "10,000 hour" estimate of how long-ish it takes for a hardcore meditator to sort of asymptote. All of this section is accounted in that time estimate. All of this comes up naturally and is handleable, if it does. And having skimmed this section, hopefully it’ll all go fractionally more smoothly.

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direct and indirect people and group stuff:

[please read the section, "psychic" and "supernatural" stuff: what/how/how-not, before this section]

In terms of accumulating "patterns," and so on, from other people, it’s sometimes helpful to be on the lookout for things from various places. Sometimes things can be "directly" from another person; sometimes things can be "indirectly" from another person; and sometimes things are more "averaged," across people or timespans.

In the course of meditation, one might seemingly find things from the people and places below. It’s of course possible to imagine, confabulate, and to be wrong, even while one gains more confidence over time about what’s what. It’s good to hold it all provisionally. Sometimes things can be imagined or confabulated by other people, which are misrepresented as being from another person, place, or time than their actual provenance. Sometimes it just doesn’t matter whether it’s "actually" X (or how X got there), and sometimes it does! Sometimes one might want to explore or confirm or cross-correlate ("indirect") things with respect to family and history, and sometimes that won’t be constructive or it won’t be possible. Over time, one gains more facility with both provisionality and constructiveness, with respect to all this kind of stuff.

"Things" that you "find," which could be feelings, patterns, sentiments, impulses... can be abuse-related, trauma-related, violent, sexual, coercive, etc. One may well encounter positive things, too. Positive things tend to be less apparent because they’ve become more integrated, metabolized. Negative things tend to be more "coaleseced," "object-like," "thing-like," which is can make it seem like there’s more negative than positive, generally, even when that’s not the case.

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on vibe(s) and vibing, briefly:

vibe/vibes (select definitions)
[...]
a sense or feeling about a person, place or thing
a distinctive emotional atmosphere; sensed intuitively.
feelings, atmosphere (from vibrations)
to agree with, like, or get along with
[... ] --https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Vibe (see many more)

vibing (select definitions)
"Vibing in this form is a way of expressing energy without being hyper or over exaggerating and the person typically just lets out all the energy in a calm manner"
"Radiating a distinct emotional aura that others can detect."
--https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=vibing (see many more)

Did/does my path have heart?
--Jack Kornfield, maybe

Did/does my path have vibe?
--someone

Did I love well?
--Jack Kornfield, maybe

Did I vibe well?
--someone

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distinctions:

Loosely and vaguely speaking, you’re not "done," (in the, also very loosely speaking, "necessary but not sufficient sense") until you, the system, something, at some level, somehow, explicitly or implicitly, reflectively or unreflectively, can tell the difference between:

and, also, the ways these are all both different/distinct and the ways in which these are all similar or the same, nondual, nonnonnondual, etc.

Importantly, "listening/talking" doesn't have quite the right connotations: So, also, again loosely and vaguely speaking, you’re not "done," (in the, also again very loosely speaking, "necessary but not sufficient sense") until you, the system, something, at some level, somehow, explicitly or implicitly, reflectively or unreflectively, can tell the difference between:

This borrows an analogy from software engineering, where (potentially malicious, externally supplied) data can be confused for safe, native code and then accidentally run as code (worst case without sandboxing or at least further downstream processing). If the data (strings) are escaped properly, nontrivially performed by the receiving software, then generally this can't happen. (Oh, another important distinction then is "sandboxing" versus "processing." Only the latter is really a viable strategy in the limit; it's ultimately more efficient and effective and safe,long-run.) To be clear, "information" is also "influence," in some sense, and that's good, cf. sensitivity/responsivity to self, others, and world! But these chosen terms are still pointing to an important distinction.

If not already, or if temporarily not, all of this can be more costless, effortless, automatic, mostly background, safe, seamless, not other than just being human, just being a person-in-relation, over time.

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on parts, demons, egregores:

https://twitter.com/meditationstuff/status/1405870618751406081

"If one does IFS and parts work correctly then one be becomes less part-ful over time—parts integrate[, merge], fuzz, and blur, slip through your fingers, less each time you come back. When truly fully heard they are you and you are them and that more integrated self simply feels and acts~"

https://twitter.com/chaosprime/status/1150259062719811584

"a demon (or tulpa) is a semi-autonomous cognitive process running on one compute substrate and a god (or egregore) is a semi-autonomous cognitive process distributed across multiple compute substrates"

Addendum on parts: There's also the issue where "parts work" can be too "heavyweight," too "over-reifying," "karma generating, on net," depending on how it's done. A method, to be fully generally, needs to sort of be able to eat itself, at the finest grain, without remainder. And, arguably, parts work can't do that, depending on how it's defined. But, many people find it an extremely valuable entry point, at the very least, and it's also very powerful in a dyad, with a skilled facilitator. As per above, the details matter, how a part is conceived or experienced, how loosely the idea of a part is held, and how it appears, feels, experiences, and a many other things. Part language is used in the auxiliary/preliminary practices, after all. Things like IFS are very smart, if high-level abstract, about constraint/constraining/structural factors, like very few other things are. Anyway, as mentioned in a previous section, "partness" is on a spectrum from shimmery, pattern-y, liminal to more discrete and agentic (again, loosely held, and a one-dimensional spectrum is very over-simplifying, of course).

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axes of individuation with relation to value judgments (transcript):

[This section is an edited transcript.]

Okay. So I want to talk about sort of two separate axes of something like "individuation versus blending." And I think that these two axes aren't completely separable, but they can be distinguished. And I think that can be very profitable, because there's some stuff that is sort of emotionally charged around these sorts of things.

So the first axis is sort of cultural slash ideological. And there's this idea that, different cultures are sort of, the individuals in those cultures are sort of, more or less, blended or synced. Actually, there might be three dimensions, and I think I can break out all three without messing up the flow of this video too much.

But, first, some concrete examples, at least from ethnomethodological descriptions. I don't know how accurate these are, or how sort of colonialist/imperialist colored they are, but, there's descriptions of, let's say young men, of while they're hunting or something.

I've read descriptions of, how, the group of men, they're almost moving together as a single organism or a single entity without verbal coordination. And, maybe, without even necessarily necessarily looking at each other: one person is quietly pulling back the branches while the other person draws the bow.

And they walk, or are still, at the same time. And then, somehow, imperceptibly, pointing out various aspects of the landscape, to each other. And, there's some palpable sense, apparently, about how there's sort of, almost, romanticizing this a bit, and maybe blending different accounts, but almost a perpetual trance state or something. Where, the boundaries between different individuals are in some sense muted or absent.

From accounts like this, people are quick to point out things like, perhaps, a Western or modern kind of individualism or individuation isn't a foregone conclusion and isn't necessarily the best way for people to be. We, sociologically, talk about atomism or an atomized society, which is arguably facilitated by money and capitalism, etc., speaking loosely.

So, this spectrum between kind of blended versus individuated--people sometimes feel emotionally charged about that, if someone is seemingly advocating for one or the other. And so I sort of want to take this, and bracket it, and kind of set it aside, for a moment. We're modeling a complex thing as a spectrum. And, I don't want to put a value judgment on it, sort of at this time, and then we'll talk about the other dimensions, and then sort of talk about kind of how these dimensions can be related to each other.

And, so another dimension, and this is the new dimension that I'm adding, for clarity, is something like, how do the individuals actually think or feel about this from the inside? We can sort of observe the behaviors and note the synchrony or blendedness, whether homogenous or specialized. (I suppose atomization usually refers to social relations versus work relations. And I suppose there's maybe different ways to slice things when social relations and work relations are less distinct.)

In any case, we can look at what people are doing, behaviorally, and we can note the degree of seamlessness or unity, in some way. But, we could maybe imagine, on the inside people thinking and feeling about what they're doing in many different kinds of ways: "We are working alone, together.", "I'm working as part of a team.", "We are the same entity.", "All people have the same consciousness looking out from behind their eyes.", and so on. Some people might be working on a team, and some people might feel themselves to be sort of absorbed into a group consciousness, or agency, or will. People feel very strongly about these sorts of things, about what's desirable, what's allowed, what's impossible, what's primitive, and so on. It can be very ideological, religious, spiritual, emotionally laden. People care about what other people think and what other people think about what other people think. Some of these things, first-pass, might feel very profound, numinous, ultimate, or people imagine them to be. And some people find some of these horrifying.

And so again, not yet placing value judgements or whatever, at this time, let's put this second kind of spectrum aside.

Okay. And so there's another dimension. This is the final one of the three. And, this is dimension is kind of what the body, mind, brain system is kind of doing at the "bare metal," in terms of the prereflective, low level sensory processing, of self and other, of incoming sensory phenomenona, and that kind of thing.

So, this spectrum here, I will claim is something about, how well, how correctly, how skillfully--I'm sort of bleeding in "value language," here, or at least an objective-ish, scalar, fake measure, here, of how well any individual brain/mind system is identifying the type and origin of where various multimodal signals are coming from.

So, I think it's pretty uncontroversial, in neuroscience. I forget the technical terms and stuff, but it's a very big deal to the brain, whether the person's body initiated the action and attendant/caused sensory phenomena or whether something outside the person impinged on the body, for example whether a sound was because the person themself made the sound or whether the sound was because a tweig snapped, thirty feet away, in the forest.

Or, whether a person is touching themselves--this gets sort of factored out and ignored usually--or it's an ant, or a poisonous insect, or a snake is crawling on the person. So there's a huge, huge difference to the brain, whether the person generated a sensation, or, something, that was not the volitional will of the person, generated the sensation. And this goes all the way to did the twig snap thirty milliseconds before I put my foot down or thirty milliseconds after I put my foot down. Huge difference, survival-wise.

And, this goes into why people sort of can't tickle themselves and just a whole slew of really low level sensory processing stuff.

And, so, I have this kind of a metaphor, kind of not, where the brain is one percent hardware and 99% software. So I'll make the claim that, people not only vary, kind of, in how well they're making sense of incoming stimuli, and whether it's self or other, or self and environment. But, also, through training like meditation or etc., over long periods of time, thousands of hours, people can become massively better at incredibly deep, prereflective sensory processing and origin/cause determination.

(Side note: If people feel like they have a shaky or porous identity, or they have bad boundaries, this really does tend to correlate, with any individual being an exception, with causal/origin sensory processing. If people feel like they have a strong sense of identity and good boundaries, this really does tend to correlate with deep, preflective causal/origin sensory processing. We build our high-level ontologies and experience out of this low-level sensory processing. And meditation ultimately can refactor the entire stack.)

And, again, this is very physical, very fundamental--the system is relying on, the delta in transmission times between different path lengths in neural circuits, at an incredibly low level. But, even so, it's extremely, extremely malleable. Causality, timing, deconvolution, source identification are, deep down, just a really intrinsic part of what brains do.

Okay. So, now, all these three axes are interrelated, they're only weakly separable, and/but they can vary somewhat independently. So, a person can have really good, low level sensory processing, really good boundaries and identity, in the third axis sense. And, at the same time, feel really blended with a group, like they are an appendage of a supermind.

So, yeah, so the point, here, is something like, people sometimes get sort of upset when I talk about how there's this low-level axis of individuation that can be trained, or, better: de-confused. The value judgment comes from not just a sort of nod to "objectivity," which is very useful and powerful frame but also problematically entangled with authoritarianism, sometimes. But, the value judgment is especially because of a sort of "observational trend"--if you meditate, over time, you'll maybe find that your mind "wants" to make this third axis distinction more and more skillfully, that your mind is hungry for it, takes every chance to do it better. Somehow, this third axis is sort of just what a mind automatically, spontaneously does, when it's unimpeded, when nothing's in the way. (You certainly don't have to take my word for it, though!)

In addition, in terms of the "only weakly separable" thing, development along the third axis does affect people's experience and preferences along the first two axes. And development on the third axis improves people agency and choicefulness with respect to the first two axes.

Additionally, development along the third axis increases resilience to coercion, confusion, and exploitation along the first two axes, e.g. in cult (or cult-like) or charismatic environments or situations. Some types of coercive blending or charismatic influence fundamentally rely on self/other confusions of the third axis. (Modeling it more granularly, the third axis is more like a splash pattern, or layers of splash pattern, of relative confusion and relative "clarity," loosely speaking, all things being equal.) Charismatic figures, sometimes (whether they realize it or not) "reach for," exploit, third-axis confusions to create "exogenous" experiences of blending or to manufacture experiential evidence for particular metaphysical positions.

Again, a person who develops on the third axis, all things being equal, long run, will be more resilient and choiceful, and will be relatively less exploitable and coercible, all things being equal.

So I think that's a really important point to make.

So, the pastoral, romanticized, blended experience, caricatured, has both good and bad things to offer. And the western, modern experience, caricatured, has both good and bad things to offer. And, this is all a big simplification, but "third axis" development allows a person to move beyond caricatures and knee-jerk value judgments, about ways of being, and to choicefully engage in nuanced ways of being and to invite others to do so as well. "Third axis" development allows someone to draw their own conclusions about all three axes.

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civilizational stuff:

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buddhas, anti-buddhas, civilization, and the importance of method [draft]:

Hopefully without detracting from the gravity of what I'm writing about, I want to note that I am not a scholar or a historian, so there will be some inadvertent cherry picking and possibly howlers or just highly questionable assertions and inferences, not to mention history-writing winners, and all that. But, here we go.

Also, content warning, this starts out maybe a little dark, or at least gray, and then gets darker further in.

*

There is the "banality of evil"--everyday cruelty, neglect, professional sadomasochism, and "just following orders."[*]

There is also the "banality of good"--so the story goes, it's hard to refuse warmth to a hungry, cold community member, or to a stranger, at the the persistent request of a community member, if the hungry, cold person is standing right there outside your door. [*]

Of course, we have both of these capacities within us, and much more. They aren't points in a space, they're vague swaths in the space. And they're contingent on causes and conditions. Change the society, change the person's causal history, and something different counterfactually occurs.

Is there bias or directionality? Are both equally likely? Evil or good? A flip of the coin?

What is the essence or long-run emergence of the human condition? (For completeness, artificial and alien intelligence may need to be discussed in a separate section.)

I believe humans are long-run positive-sum.

(I could make a case for this, and I may suggest some things, but this sort of, at least partially, has to be found from the inside, anyway.)

"Long-run" suggest something problematic is going on in the "short-run": There is the anthropomorphized idea of "moloch" [1] or, more abstractly, inadequate equilibria [2]

The rough idea is that distributed, discoordinated, local incentives can produce stable, entrenched, bad globalities, and thereby stable, entrenched, bad localities. (I may have added or distorted something, here.)

Reasoning about equilibria also suggests that seeming utopias often have a hidden dark side, zero-sum coercion or exploitation, somewhere. (See perhaps the origin of the term utopia as well as tvtropes.com.)

It takes (a) serendipitious or deliberate advances in abundance or (b) serendipitious or deliberate advances in coordination, to truly, positive-sum break out of bad equilibria.

*

An example of problematic coordination, a combination of good and bad, might be Christianity. See perhaps Girard. Christianity yielded a "universal scapegoat" and an "all-encompassing goodness out there." These may have reduced war, facilitated trade, not to mention they're a source or deep meaning and coherence. One could also argue (as I believe) that these, at least the straw versions, are partially inappropriate reifications, to the degree they've been non-incidental in violence and oppression (arguably crusades, colonialism, imperialism, prejudice, etc.).

Another example of problematic coordination, could be just modernity itself, in the form of (somewhat unnecessarily comingled) reason, so-conceived mind/body dualism, and so on. To the degree that these ideas and situated behaviors are problematic, while producing extraordinary wealth and life improvements, they've arguably also contributed to the dissociation of "the big three," truth, goodness, and beauty, after Ken Wilber, and arguably contributed to atomization, ennui, anomie, and heavily falling birthrates.

*

I'm writing this draft in 2021 (2021-02-20). This will necessarily be written without historical perspective, in some sense, but I think the asymptotic limit of "doing good history" can be very good. I'm certainly not there, yet, in this draft--so this might age quite poorly or is even contemporaneously "cringe." (Again, I don't want to detract from gravity, but I want to lampshade that "cringe," in quotes, is cringe.)

To be tonally abrupt after the immediately above, the holocaust wasn't that many decades ago, and genocides have continued before and after. There's some chance that the United States dollar will continue to devalue, and that could be fine or produce instability. Bitcoin and decentralized finance are currently hot. There is a global pandemic. Vaccine technology has been a big, though arguably delayed success.

Now, what are the good futures?

Fully automated luxury [gay] space communism? [3,4]

Neopastoralism?

How might we get there? What are the challenges?

*

For context (and this could be accurate or incredibly not-even-wrong or overstated, either my paraphrase or the source material [5,6]), in ancient, net-zero-sum wider environments, tribes will:

  1. find abundant resources
  2. reproduce until those resources are under strain or exhausted
  3. have more men than women, through female infanticide (and possibly murder of the elderly, especially women), to make resource acquisition more efficent and to have resources be depleted more slowly
  4. acquire more resources and women (rape) through war, which also kills men, and the male/female ratio improves, as well as the resource/population ratio.
  5. repeat

*

One could say that civilization is the de-escalation of violence [*] through positive-sum coordination. Perhaps, the more positive-sum-ness there is, the more civilization (and adequate equilibria, etc.) and abundance there is. (I am mixing math [metaphors] with synthetic a posteriori descriptions and claims, but, first-pass.)

Since, I believe in humanity being long-run positive-sum, and since there is still resource competition today, I think we'll need to keep improving the causes and conditions that yield creativity and generativity, which yield more abundance and coordination and safety, which yield more creativity and generativity, and so on. (Technological advances, including possibly general artificial intelligence, will cause big improvements and big disruptions, along the way.)

If creativity and generativity are "circularly-causally-downstream" of (body)mind, then one could argue that at least one leverage point is "self-transformative technology," method, e.g. meditation.

But, e.g. meditation, and the sociological context that circularly-causally facilitates it, isn't good enough, yet, neither the "meditation technology" nor the "social technology." There is more to do.

***

Changing topics, slightly, depending on current technology and methods, the available mental/social milieu will sort of stochastically produce net-positive and net-negative "coordinators."

We could have sort of a sophistication axis and a good/bad access.

Low-sophistication and bad is warlords. High-sophistication and good is, say, buddhas and saints. High-sophistication and bad we'll call anti-buddhas.

I'll lampshade that this is extremely reductive. There are no clean examples of any of these, and coordination or governance isn't always "profitably monocausally reducible" to a single individual or a single class of individual.

I don't have enough historical background to comment, but Genghis Khan, the Roman Empire, the Qin dynasty, Alexander the Great, could be case studies of violent unification, for better and worse.

One might think things are a bit better than the above listed examples, in the age of democracy, Westphalian states, and globally interconnected economies, but there are still hot wars, proxy wars, cold wars, "cyber" wars, genocides, propaganda wars, covert and overt assassination programs, nuclear armament and disarmament, a general AI race, and so on. I'm using "war" a little bit too loosely, here, but I think the general point holds. To wit, there is still vicious, violent resource competition, globally, between great powers, perhaps with the possibility of disaster. (And there is also poverty at home and abroad.)

This can be extremely intense to think about. It usually creeps up on a meditator. In a developed country, it was maybe possible to not think about it at all, for the past few decades. But, maybe, history has started again (cf. "the end of history"). If they're not their already, one could slowly titrate "history" and "world" into their "very being and seeming of the world," over thousands of hours.

In any case, so those "coordinators" I mentioned several paragraphs above, in the age of distributed institutions, say there are sometimes people who are "central coordinators," who can remake institutions. (An institution, here, is a pattern of human activity that is somewhat independent of any particular human participating in that pattern of activity.)

Let's distinguish between "relatively rigid" coordinators and "relatively fluid" coordinators.

A relatively more rigid coordinator will have a more dense pattern of phenomenological/epistemic constraints, behavioral rigidities, behavioral/psychological/emotional entrenchment, unreflectiveness, "missing concepts," "'missing' emotions/capacities," and so on, very loosely speaking.

Note that even a "relatively rigid" coordinator, will still be relatively more fluid than a relatively non-central-coordinative person, because it's the fluidity that sort of allows a person to "transcend their distributed niche," in order to have the capacity to remake institutions. Though, that fluidity might sort of be a "forced, effortful, layery" not-really-fluidity, born of trauma, incomplete methods, or other contingency. Some people who are effortfully "fluid" become more and more spontaneously, effortlessly fluid over time.

The degree of rigidity and fluidity of a person (and their "fluidity trajectory") are dependent on personal causal history and self-transformative practice/method or life context.

Practices/methods/contexts can be things like professional training, insight meditation, concentration meditation, personal time and task management, philosophical training, other academic methodologies, and so on.

Arguably, a method that is not "fully-self-reflective-at-the-finest-aconceptual-phenomenological-grain" will eventually produce diminishing returns and eventually net negative returns. A method sort of, perhaps, has to be able to eat itself until there is no method and no other remainder, as it were. Anything less will have lots of benefits but will eventually entrench things like those in the loose, informal list above, repeated here: phenomenological/epistemic constraints, behavioral rigidities, behavioral/psychological/emotional entrenchment, unreflectiveness, "missing concepts," "'missing' emotions/capacities," etc.

(Trauma, misfortune, and intense life history will start a person off with more of the items in the above list and with a greater degree of any particular item, loosely speaking.)

Part of the reason a method sort of needs to be able to eat itself is that "method-ification" and "tool-ification" of "bodymind," making transformative practice "separate," making it into a "thing," is already really distortive and problematic, though sometimes, in a sociohistorical context, a net win, if that problematicity is accounted for.

Note, this is so hard. As far as I'm aware, just by way of an aside, there was plenty of politics, violence, assassinations in native Buddhisms, throughout history. Hindu contemplatives, highly enlightened, were often warriors, for better and worse, as far as I'm aware. And, people, even with good method, with have a few "deeply hidden/entrenched issues [see the list above]" that will need many years to be addressed.

*

Now, an "anti-buddha" (or whatever), can be very historically problematic. I'm using the rather extreme term anti-buddha because there's a sense in which they really actually "go against" the "metaphysical (non-)truths" that are revealed through correct meditative practice, and they can spread that "perfect antispirituality."

For example, first, in some meditative traditions, enlightenment involves navigating extremes between nihilism and eternalism, including "positive" non-reification, "positive emptiness," nebulosity, no-thing-ness, no-goal-ness, etc.

But, an anti-buddha (or a sophisticated warlord, cult leader, persuasive politician, etc.) will tear down other people's ideas with (a) weaponized nihilism and bullshit (in the technical sense) and will try to entrap people (deliberately or by hillclimbing what works) with "eternal" ideas, or "eternal versions" of ideas--god, nationalism, "the future," "necessity." Often, too, there will be apocalyptic imagery offering partial hope but with exhorted resignation on yet more things, producing a sort of aimable zombie hopelessness. (This sketch made some leaps and could be made more mechanistic.) Often they deeply believe in some of their eternalisms and others are insincere affectations, in some complex, shifty combination.

The way things can start, for a relatively rigid coordinator, is that a person can be missing things from childhood, can feel rejected, alone, confused, etc., so they might become fascinated with ideas or texts. If such a text has a thing to do then they might start doing it. And if it seems to help, they might double-down again and again.

This could be a sort of (unrecognized-as-such, except perhaps in retrospect) Faustian bargain anti-meditation, at least in part. It could a narrowly deployed "philosophical method." or dialectical method, or "figuring out what’s wrong with things," or a type of meditation, and so on.

If the method is very incomplete, then use of it might safely produce positive then diminishing returns without further effects.

If the method is relatively complete, but not complete enough, then this is the potential danger zone.

At some point, before engagement with a method, or during, the invidual may have acquired rigid fetishizations and goals.

A fetish is an ("eternal") stand-in, a "false idol," born out of seeming necessity due to confused nihilism, that sort of narrowly and myopically strips away or abstract details and adjacent features from something, and then the attainment of it seemingly promises safety and fulfillment, in some deeply, cosmically felt way. Note, fetishes are often harmless, sexual or otherwise, and generally the best thing to do with them is to enjoy them, and to meditate, the combination of which will eventually, maybe very long-term, self-alignedly evaporate them.

But "fetishes" are more problematic when they coercively involve people at scale. Problematic ones can be sort of "twisted eternal goodnesses," like creepily wanting to make everyone the same (or needing everyone to be the same), or needing people to be "unified," on some deeply warped and creepy "spiritual/cosmic" way. And externalities are ignored or downplayed or deemed "necessary" costs or collateral.

Anyway, a person will be rigidly pursuing fetishized goals (and also often have additional shadow or possibly coercive reproductive goals, that are somehow entangled with the other more surface fetishized goals).

And so if their method is relatively complete but not complete enough, it will help them get closer and closer to realizing seeming instantiations of the fetish/goal, but the method will also be causing them to "run out of mental 'slack', mentally/behaviorally painting them into a corner, pulling them tight.

Sometimes, the person's effectiveness to influence people and the world will go down, but they might still have enough effectiveness to do local damage at some scale. Additionally, they'll have often acquired even more behavioral rigidity and expanded "nihilistic holes"; they'll be even more fixated on their narrow goals, because of how the method was ekking out more solutions/effectiveness/etc. The plans can become more and more grandiose, involving "'noble' lies," "terrible necessities," and so on.

(Relatively rigid coordinators sometimes supplement an incomplete method with faith healers, "shamans," witches, bad occultism [which makes use of confusions between "reality" and illusion] and more. They can help a rigid coordinator squeeze out more slack in their method, eventually causing further rigidity. Sometimes, such healers, etc., are helping the person be less rigid, too. In any case, attendants/collaborators like this are something to keep an eye out for.)

As the person keeps applying their method, there can be a "sealing off," where critiques, outside corrections, pleas are fodder for smug, triumphalist dismissals and dehumanizations. ("People who are not overtly trying to become strong are weak, second class," etc.)

To the degree a relatively rigid coordinator successfully influences other people, aside from more overt violence, financial ruin, lost years, etc., there is something like, generally, "out-of-ordering" people.

With an incomplete method, a relatively rigid coordinator will encounter "seeming hard truths, too soon." That is, they'll encounter twisted versions of the truth (or they'll be too young to unconfusedly interpret what they're exposed to), so "kind of right truths", but with terrible implications for self and others. And then, they'll sort of force those "terrible, hard truths" on other people. To the degree that people are receptive, they might somewhat tie themselves in knots to sort of reify those "hard truths," and so those people may try to change "out of order," in self-harming ways.

The ideal thing would be to encounter challenging things about the world in graded ways that lead to up-front metabolization, integration, empowerment, etc. But the relatively rigid coordinator can sort of push people onwards, reflectively or unreflectively, intentionally or unintentionally, sometimes in a sort of blood-from-a-stone sort of way, and there can be terrible local costs or even ones that reverberate through history.

Finally, an anti-buddha might even be "anti-bodhisatva" because of expanding and exponentially compounding nth-order effects. I'm going to allude to "psychic"/"siddhi" stuff, discussed elsewhere in the document. But something analogous applies for just bog-standard "norm erosion" and "character erosion," by example. (Also I don't mean to imply that "psychic"/"siddhi" stuff has more than anything general and incidental to do with buddhas and bodhisatvas, materialist/physicalist/steelmanned, and/or idealized, and otherwise.):

Someone applying incomplete methods is more likely to have magnified and problematic "psychic"/"siddhi" stuff going on, which can lead to contagious fantasy/reality confusion as well as increased "psychic contagion" in general. ("Reality" is generally a fluid, personal thing, modulo non-inappropriately-reified "truth," all things being equal, but there can be particularly problematic possible confusion.) Then, if that person or anyone else in the environment, also has violent ideation, which would otherwise be private and known-to-be-non-real, people might pick up on the ideation, on some level feel like it's real, and this can lead to interpersonal escalating paranoia cycles and even physical violence.

*

In some sense, we all sort of want to be left alone to grow and play, to acquire wider ambitions, deeper intimacies, wider vistas, at our own pace.

But, sometimes, just like in the books or movies, a looming darkness or more local problem, can sort of force its way into a pastoral setting, sometimes from very slowly and initially from far off.

There are perhaps large-scale, secular trends, global boom and bust cycles [7,8], that are more likely to produce "buddhas" and "anti-buddhas," as it were.

The antidote to "anti-buddhas" is, well, say, "buddhas," but, rather, just in the sense that the maybe-historical buddha was allegedly the discoverer and purveyor of relatively better methods of self-transformation (all things being equal).

If an otherwise-anti-buddha encountered a compelling text or teacher, that had the quality of being relatively very hard to distort or warp or practice incorrectly, that was "relatively complete," in some sense, then they would be less likely to go "full anti-buddha."

(It may be the case that, if they aren't closed off enough, giving an anti-buddha recognizably better methods might cause them to viciously (in a good way) engage with them to become something that is no longer an anti-buddha. (There might be a transient period where they are temporarily more dangerous, and there could be some tail risk that they'd permanently become much more dangerous, if something contingently remained still "stuck.")

Additionally, anti-buddhas aside, transformative practices can directly help individuals become able to participate in the creation and renewal of institutions, for an ever-more-positive-sum world.

Good methods, directly and indirectly, can be used for deescalation and creation. And a fully complete method is, in some sense, perhaps, a very narrow range of things, indeed. (Though, it will include expansive reverie, long aimless walks, creatively, play, etc.)

*

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sketching alternatives to straw realism (international and group relations) [draft!][2500 words]:

[Originally published: https://meditationstuff.wordpress.com/2020/05/03/sketching-alternatives-to-straw-realism-international-and-group-relations-draft2500-words/ Last accessed: 2021-02-20]

[This is a really compressed draft. Some stuff is introduced or "marked" really abruptly and isn’t given time to breath.]

I’m just pulling a bunch of this stuff off of wikipedia, quick first-pass, and indiscriminately mixing in... other stuff. If you’re a Great Power, don’t take advice from me about international relations. (<– Yes, this is a joke. –>) Just saying.

So let’s consider (my hasty conception of) a straw realist [1]. Jumping right in, you may have to re-read this or click some links, and I’m mixing wikipedia-grade international relations with crackpot psychology, the straw realist seeks to be the stably uncontested leader of a hegemon, because being the leader of a hegemon is the greatest personal/familial/tribal protection against (totalizing? [2]) subjugation or annihilation.

It’s probably a good idea to highlight the distinction between (a) the straw realist and (b) the straw hegemon. A hegemon can change leaders while remaining a hegemon. And, there’s at least two perspectives one could take when abstractly conceiving a straw hegemon. First, one could simplify things by conceiving of a (perfect/ideal/abstract/straw) hegemon as having a unified will/intention. But one could also profitably conceive of a hegemon as "fractal power relations all the way down to the level of straw realists." That is, one could conceive of a hegemon as being composed of straw realists vying for total power. In this latter case, in some sense, this "hegemon" is maybe technically no longer a (perfect/ideal/abstract/straw) hegemon. The left hand might not know what the right hand is doing. The "entity conceived as such" may act against itself at times or just kind of blob out, in a lot of wasted time/money/energy/trust/something, because everybody is sort of fearfully, myopically striving for total power. (Again, this is a straw conception.)

So, now let’s unpack and critique the "straw realist."

Again, the straw realist single mindedly seeks total power because they believe it’s the best plan for being safe. Note that the straw realist is a fearful pessimist and doesn’t believe they’ll ever actually be safe. They are resigned to deep-down, terrified paranoia, forever. But, even given that resignation, seeking total power is still the best plan under a tiniest sliver of hope for safety. The fear of a straw realist is perhaps a fear of psychological, social, and/or bodily annihilation, with no hope of salvation.

But! What if!

Let’s call a person (or group) that has all of both the sender criteria and the receiver criteria a "straw enlightened person" (or group).

So! What if!

What if all people and thus all groups were straw enlightened? Then there would be nonviolent/​peaceful/​collaborative synergy! We could then solve suffering, health, coercion, energy, mortality, and existential risk! (Oops, circularities abound!)

"Ah ha!" says the straw realist! "But there is no button to push to have that! One way or another, we ended up with warlords and tribes, and then we ended up with global competition and great powers! Anarchy yields global competition and great powers! And I, the straw realist, will even admit that no one necessarily wants this! I might even admit that our very actions cause it! [3] But, there is no other way, because people are not naturally altruistic beyond family or tribe. Even ‘self-interested altruism,’ strategic generosity, grace, magnanimousness, isn’t really ‘intrinsic,’ isn’t really ‘sincere,’ and is unstable. And so we have the world today. At the bottom of everything is threat of violence and fear of suffering and death. That is what power is, threat or actualization of violent coercion, and it’s the only thing that matters."

There’s a lot of circularity and confirmation bias in the straw realist position directly above, but it’s good enough, for our purposes. (Heh.)

International relations theory has of course thought about all this stuff (and more thoroughly and completely than I have, that could go without saying). This blog post isn’t even a survey; there’s a gazillion concepts and buzzwords (and shibboleths) that I haven’t mentioned. Somewhat relevantly, here, there’s ideas like "decentralization" and "nonpolarity." These terms can be used very precisely within a particular paradigm, but decentralization might be something like spreading out power inside of group. And nonpolarity [4] might be something like power spread out between groups, to the point that no single group has particularly dominating power, along maybe a single dimension or net across all relevant dimensions. Decentralization and nonpolarity are critiqued in a straw realist paradigm, maybe using straw liberalism [5] as the containing foil.

Anyway, so, as we look at the world, at the time of this writing, we arguably don’t see hot wars (arguably, because proxy battles/wars [6] are a thing, if you know where/how to look). And, arguably, we do see, maybe, cold wars, depending on how the term "cold war" is defined. But... like... maybe things are chilling out, overall? Proxy stuff aside (and that’s a big aside), I think it’s at least (contentiously) argued that democracies don’t go to war with each other? And, roughly speaking, with some dips, poverty is being alleviated to a greater degree with each passing year?

So maybe things are "fine," modulo continued human suffering, and getting reliably "more fine," with each passing year?

The straw realist might say that all the "fine" and "getting more fine" is a veneer or at least very fragile: "At the bottom is fear, threat, and selfishness or tribalism, and everything is held together, barely, by bluff or commitment to credible violence, nuclear weapons, domestic police or peace officers, or otherwise: USA/Russia/China/whoever, these visions of the world are different–goodness and especially safety LOOK DIFFERENT to different powers, and irreconcilably so. Heck, deep-down, some people think the best way to ‘save’ the world is to ‘destroy’ it, first! So trust is naive. Nuclear weapons, space weapons, and unstoppable, undetectable micro-drone assassinations, that look like naturally caused death are all there is. [non-straw-realist/editor’s note: As far as I know, the latter micro-drones don’t currently exist and maybe can’t practically exist or be worthwhile.] And global warming, pandemics, fast global travel, and globe-spanning weaponry are only making things more fragile."

***

If one would like to gaze into the abyss, one can even dive into a deep well of fear and paranoia. One might even think they have only two choices, between (1) a "normal," intimate, safe life. (A powerless life???????? An ignorant life?????????) And then (2) some sort of abyss-gazing thing that, extreme worst case, accidentally gets themselves "disappeared," through maybe some impulse to act in the face of seeming-otherwise meaninglessness or feared-inconsequentiality.

And, so...

How do these questions get answered?

On the one hand, we are products of our environment: tv, influential peers and elders, google filter bubbles, one’s personal propensity to google...

We practically don’t even ever know there’s ever even a there, there, unless, sort of, someone points it out, hopefully in a gentle or uncoercive way.

[Side note: And, it’s good to ask, how does the person who does that pointing-out benefit from doing that pointing out, and from doing the pointing-out in that way, with that framing, in that context? And, it’s also good to go another layer up–who else, besides ostensibly you and the person doing the pointing-out, benefits from that person doing that pointing-out... As in, what led to that person being someone who does that pointing out? Causal history, years, decades, centuries, millenia back, grounded in relatively accurate conceptions of synchronic human nature.]

On the other hand, through the grace of serendipity, imperfect friends and mentors, that crazy google search, the spontaneous, inherent nature of our mind and will, there’s this other sense in which we are not products of our environment; we are something discontinuously more than the products of our environment, ever always striving towards transcendence of contingency and limitation, towards safety and wellbeing, perhaps in some causally consistent sense.

***

The way it can kind of go, is that some people are living an actually, truly, really good (enough) life. The whole world, at the moment, breaks down without machinists, truck drivers, automators, programmers, lawyers, doctors, stockers, politicians, diplomats, soldiers, something. It’s not perfect, but, right here, right now, there are so many roles that are keeping the thing going. Sometimes it’s actually not that fragile, and sometimes it is. But all these roles are, at least in part, positively impacting other people, at least locally and partially. (And sometimes these roles are part of an actually, truly, really good (enough) life, and sometimes these roles are a part of life "led in quiet desperation." When life is hard, it’s hard; And, it often is. It just depends.) And/but, with these roles being enacted, the world keeps going, with a chance of getting to a better thing.

And then, for some other people, lots of people, it’s not an actually, truly, really good (enough) life: something is bad, somewhere. Maybe they determine that badness is in themselves, the world, or both.

And, as a solution to that badness, maybe they seek to escape or alleviate that badness, through, say, or spiritual enlightenment, or worldly power, or all sorts of less extreme things.

And some people find peace or intimacy or security along the way.

And some people might fall into an abyss, trying to figure out how they work, or people work, or the world works: One might get stuck, at least for a time, thinking that the world can’t work or the truth is too terrible. And, they might inadvertently, circularly be confirming to themselves the very seeming badness they wish to solve.

Sometimes, maybe often, people mistake childhood hurt or misinterpretation as the way the entire world works, the way the entire world must work, without remainder or alternative. And this straw trauma survivor is the straw realist.

But, through therapy, journaling, meditation, long walks in nature, friendship, intimacy–bottleneck can become process-in-context. Therapy, meditation, etc.–these are privileges, to be sure. They require just enough health, just enough money, just enough space, just enough time, if not an abundance, of all of these, and these things are unevenly distributed, and hard choices might be needed to determinedly acquire them.

***

Whatever the world is, what ever a life is, safe or unsafe, good or bad, desperate or secure–the heart beats, the lungs breath, gravity and oxygen and warmth and atmosphere persist and nourish, in this moment, and the next, and the next. In some sense, we will only ever know this.

So how do we live, in this world good/bad/safe/unsafe world, that, in any case, carries us in each moment of our lives?

We do so, perhaps, by just living, and, perhaps, also, self-transforming as we have time and as makes sense.

Only we can decide whether dark terribleness, is in us or in the world, and only we can determine how it got there in the first place. The is epistemic agency and also well-being agency. [7]

Is the world good or bad? Now or later? Is your life good or bad? Now or later? And do the answers ultimately depend on self or world?

In SOME nontrivial sense, maybe the only sense that ultimately matters, it’s up to you.

And what of international relations? Or inter-group relations? Escalations and security dilemmas? And impulsive, fear-driven violence that has already happened, tit-for-tat, an eye for an eye, over and over again, personal and generational histories of trauma?

Can we all be straw enlightened people or groups? Is it too late?

There’s maybe a piece left out of the criteria above. I know they’re phrased awkwardly, but I chose the words pretty carefully, single pass, if you’ll look at them again. I’ve copied them again, here, exactly:

Ok, but then, one more time, the straw realist says, "Well, I hate people, and/or I think your culture is disgusting, and/or the world must be burned to the ground to save it. Or, if I don’t think that, someone else will. So what of your ideals or beautiful aspirations? Violent power is what matters; violent power is security. And then the whole thing is just waiting to blow up."

So there’s maybe one more point to make, with the sender/receive criteria. (And, again, this is draft. There could be so many issues.)

The better one embodies the sender/receiver criteria, the safer it is to become recognizably and actually strong. You will be less likely triggered into doing impulsive, destructive things that are hard to take back, even if you have some capability to do so. You’ll be less likely to trigger other people into doing impulsive, destructive things that are hard to take back, even if they have some capability to do so. And actors with the propensity to lead with violence will think twice, because of credible capability or at least a carefully measured, adequate response. And, all the while, the sender/receiver criteria maximize the possibility for diplomacy, communication, synchronous de-escalation, collaboration.

The details matter, to be sure. Getting erroneously triggered doesn’t always feel like getting erroneously triggered. Seeing threat where there is or isn’t threat is deeply contingent and has to be meta managed by personal transformative practice or norms or formality, etc. Signs and signals are deeply contingent. Something that feels nonvio