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Showing posts from November, 2012

The unconscious effects of super stimuli

You can read about supernormal stimuli on Wikipedia, but, to cut an interesting story short, a super stimulus is all about how animals respond to sensory stimuli in a kind of compulsive fashion. The common example is mimicking a mother bird returning to the nest and then all the chicks open their mouths.

Now, perhaps we don't walk round with our mouths wide open when we see an attractive member of the opposite sex (well, not all the time anyway), but we are subject to the unconscious mechanisms of being stimulated by things we see, hear, eat and touch. Another interesting neuroscientific phenomenon is the way our conscious minds invent stories to account for our behaviour and, if you combine this with the effects of super stimuli, you have a heady recipe for doing things you didn't think you wanted to do and then rationalising it later. Think about that cake, movie, flirtatious response - there's always a good reason after the event, even though you didn't really want …

Life does not give us what we want just because we want it

This is an interesting thing to reflect on (I think), especially when we don't get what we want. There is this implicit assumption within ourselves that we will get what we want, that the reality we create for ourselves is built around the idea that "we get what we want". This is of course a delusion. Now, when I don't get what I want I suffer internally for a bit, and then, my mind alters my delusion so that "I was better off without it anyway". Now, after a while you can observe this story making and it would be kind of fun except that it dredges all kinds of feelings and what nots with it. Ho hum.

Another interesting thing to note is observing other people when they want stuff and then when they are thwarted. It seems surprising to me the responses of adults as they exhibit tantrums, negative out bursts, manipulation, and then, as the mind shifts, the signs of "not wanting it anyway". You can certainly see the seeds of deeper subtexts being sow…

Three different ways with stir fried vegetables

If you're on a restricted diet, like I have been for several years, then the chances are that you will happen upon the packets of stir fried vegetables in the supermarkets. These provide a nice, tasty lunch or evening meal, and are generally safe in terms of what a restricted person can eat. Here are three different ways I like to eat them:

Method 1 - stir fried with chilli sauce

This is perhaps the one I use the most. Throw them in the wok with a dash of five spice powder, fry for a bit, add some soy sauce (or whatever salty thing you are able to eat), fry for bit longer, add some chilli sauce, fry some more and then serve.

Variations: add some cooked chicken, or some cashew nuts at the end. Top with a thin egg omelette. Add some sherry with the soy sauce.

Method 2 - stir fried with garlic and sesame oil

Heat some oil, add some crushed garlic, then after a few seconds add the vegetables and a dash of five spice powder. Stir fry for a bit, add your soy sauce (salty alternative) and …

An Autumn doodle

I used Sketchbook Pro for this - you get loads of brushes and things.

Breathe in, breathe out, release

Sometimes we can over complicate things. Try to do this just once in a day - it can be surprisingly difficult. What are we holding to all the time? Can you feel your claws digging in? Can you feel the energy of yourself pushing forward all the time? Where does that come from?

Working with Jhana factors

It's probably a good idea to read my other post, Standard view of the Jhana states, before reading this one - just to get an idea of what the Jhana world is are and where we are going.

I work with the five Jhana factors in many different ways. Here are translations I like:

1. Directed thought, aiming attention at something.
2. Sustaining attention, maintaining the awareness of something.
3. Joy, rapture, delight.
4. Happiness, contentment, calmness.
5. Gathered, unified mind.

Jhanas are very deep, absorbed meditative states and we are unlikely to hop into them in our everyday lives - the amount of mental agitation from being in-the-world sort of precludes it. However, this does not stop us having a go and wallowing in Jhana territory - peace, joy, contentment, happiness, spaciousness, a calm, abiding mind. We experience these things in everyday life, just not as fully as a skilled meditation practitioner.

So then, if you meditate then there's a kind of assumption that we are…

Am I OK?

Here's something I noticed (and have heard other people notice). The mind is tuned towards unpleasantness - it kind of has a permanent loop going that is checking "Am  I OK?". Now, normally we are OK and everything ticks along smoothly, but if we have a chronic illness then the answer will always come back "you are not OK".  This then leads immediately into thinking about how to fix the problem - our reactivity. This will further compound our difficulties.

So then, what are we to do if we are lost in our malfunctioning life? Well, we kind of learn to recognise this process:

- Am I OK?
- No
- Then, this is how it is

It's time to care of ourselves, to make some kind of room for the difficulty. If there's no immediate fix then we have to accommodate it somehow, and once we do this we start to move the mind in different circles: compassion, wisdom, awareness.

Flip the mind

Our moods have this annoying ability to change in an instant. One minute we are in our dream world, and the next we are ranting and raving about something inconsequential. These moments can then linger on for many hours or even days.

Luckily, this also works in reverse. Notice those moments when we are going about our business, feeling a bit grumpy or curmudgeonly, then someone says a kind word or smiles at us or gives us a biscuit or cup of tea, and we are suddenly uplifted and in a good mood. These pleasant moments can also linger on for many hours and even affect our decision making.

This has a scientific basis - it's called mental priming. It's why adverts have insanely happy people on them and other such things, but let's leave mass mental priming for another time.

So then, now we know that the mind can flip in an instant, we can perhaps have a go at generating some pleasantness in other people knowing that this pleasantness will be reflected back on us. Perhaps we ar…

Chronic fatigue and the reactive mind

Here's something that is very, very useful to get to grips with and see with our own eyes (well, minds eye). It goes something like this:

Although we experience physical illness and are limited by it, 99% of the suffering associated with the illness is caused by the reactive mind.

This is something that is highlighted by doing a mindfulness based stress reduction course or by spending some time studying Buddhist practises. It may seem a little far fetched until you see it in action:

- we feel exhausted,
- it's not very nice,
- our mind starts up with judgements, anxiety, aversion and a whole set of reactive thinking,
- we feel even worse, to put it mildly
- we go into a downwards spiral of thoughts, unpleasantness, and more thoughts
- we feel helpless, we can't fix it
- we believe the thoughts and the negative situation seems wholly convincing
- and so on

This reactivity seems to be a feature of our minds and it would be ambitious to try and stop it doing this all time, bu…