Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Give yourself a bit of nice

Once you accept that nothing really happens, that there are no winners and losers, that there is no intrinsic fairness in the universe, that you don't really exist in the way you think you do (the evidence for this is fairly overwhelming), then you might find yourself feeling a bit grim. You'll meet a lot of grim people in your life and you probably know a few right now, but you don't need to become one of them just because life is meaningless and you're just an organic spec transforming energy from one form to another through the mechanics of an evolutionary machine. This is to understand things incorrectly.

You have found yourself alive in a body. How you interpret that is up to you, but you've got a life and you're a human being (unless you are a dog that can read). A human being means something - you need people, you feel happy, you feel sad, you want to swim with dolphins, eat pleasant food, not be tortured and killed. This is what we are: and, it turns out, it's ******* hard. And, it's the same for everybody. So, even though you're not going to be a star in heaven, you still deserve a bit of nice and kindness and the sense that you matter within the context of the bubble we live in. Don't be grim, be kind to yourself. Open a door and be pleased to see yourself. Give yourself a break.

Now, realizing that we are all in this together and really knowing that this is true is a big deal.  So, don't get all cynical on me. See it and believe it.

Monday, April 25, 2016

The paradox of existence

So then, we might like to ourselves - "how do I engage with life and feel good at the same time?" No-one can escape the inevitable difficulties we will all encounter, but let's not let that stop us from being jolly young things.

I'm not going to get through the entire philosophy of suffering and freedom in one blog post, other than to say that we live in a paradoxical situation - nothing matters and yet things do matter. Or, nothing really happens but, clearly, things do happen. This paradox is life (as in being a living creature). We are living things that go through life and die at the end of it (at some random point) - this is important to us. We also have needs - friends, family, a sense of purpose, a sense of home. These all matter. At the time, nothing really happens and it's not really important - all of us will be forgotten at some point. Everything will be gone. 

Here's the trick. We have to embrace the paradox. Things matter and do not matter all at the same time. We love things but we are not attached to them. We let go of outcomes but we care about the process. Things will change and disappear - we will grieve for them, but we know that this is the law of everything. We let it go. We live in the middle somewhere, facilitators of the boundless truth that connects us all.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Utilitarianism and well-being

I came across this recently and it gets quite complicated pretty quickly but the main idea is this:

Utilitarianism specifies that the best moral action is one that maximises the overall well-being of those involved

We might like to think about this as we try to make decisions about things like electing presidents of the United States or whether the UK should remain fully engaged with Europe. Do we decide what is best for us as individuals or do we decide what is best for the group (humans in general)?

It's a big dilemma but perhaps we should not worry too much as the general trend in human history is towards maximising the well-being of the group. Things like poverty and education have greatly improved for the planet as a whole, even if there are local dips happening all over the place. We all know what is good for everyone once we become aware of it. 

Perhaps I'll leave it at that because it gets tangled pretty quickly. The world is a better place than it was because we are achieve greater well-being as a group than we do as individuals trying to carve out our own little corners. It's the way it is.

Now, the interesting part comes when we think about evolution ... 

Monday, February 29, 2016

Mindfulness of vedana

I recently went to an interesting day retreat on vedana and it was packed. I've also had some interesting discussions with my meditation group on this topic so there's clearly an appetite for it. So then, the first thing to address is: what is it? As always there are different levels of understanding from the  broad to the intricate but let's start off simple. 

Vedana is the sensation of pleasant and unpleasant, or something in between. 

How do you know when you experiencing vedana? Well, here are a couple of examples: if you stab yourself with a pin you will experience unpleasantness (generally); if you stroke your cheek you will experience pleasantness (for a while). And that's it. Actually knowing vedana in your mind is where it gets tricky because its something you feel and know rather than think about. So relax, stop thinking and tune in to the ambiance of feeling that accompanies you everywhere you go.  

That's probably enough for now. Pay attention to everyday vedana (worldly vedana) as you go about your business - that looks nice, I didn't like the taste of that - and notice the feelings in body and mind. You might notice that there is contact with an object, perception of the object and the arising of vedana in relation to these things – it is important to understand that the vedana is in you and not the object – a chocolate cake is not intrinsically pleasant by itself, it needs you to eat it for the enjoyment to be felt. 

And so begins the journey into vedana. It is very simple but it leads us on a very deep path indeed.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Mindfulness app (minpa)

I'm a big fan of software technology that helps us get through the day. Anyway, I knocked together this new app to help remind me of the 16 stages of mindfulness practice (anapanasati) and it was very helpful. Then I added a couple more techniques to give it a bit of variety and I thought I would release it to the wider world for those souls who like to sit still for long periods and forget what to focus on next.

As usual, I have massively grand plans to make it into a meditation personal assistant but, well, time is short and I don't have a software team anymore.

Anyway, it's on Google play and you can find it here:

A really great mindfulness app

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The comforts of people

Now I'm a bit of a recluse when it comes to socialising although I generally like being with other people (probably why I go to coffee shops and restaurants all the time). Anyway, I recently went to a small gathering of practitioners and its safe to say we shared something that afternoon. I guess you'd call it unconditional kindness. I didn't know these people and they didn't know me but we went through some practices and had a go at projecting kindness at each other and, well, it just worked . There was no judging, no batting of eye lids, no career aspiration ugliness, no expectation of anything, and it was beautiful really. On reflection, we connected with each other in an unconditional way.

 So, find some people and drop all pretense and be amazed at what you might find within each other. You might find dropping all pretense tricky at first, but stick with it.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Dress to unlock your better self

You know the one.

We might think clothes are annoying things that cover our hairy, fat bodies, but they are quite interesting really. I like the book "101 experiments in the philosophy of everyday life" by Roger-Pol Droit and there is a clothes experiment in there that best describes what I am trying to get it = Experiment no.43 is "try on clothes". It's quite interesting. We should all try it.

Get the outfit that unlocks that thing in you...