Sunday, July 5, 2015

Dharma Talk 017 - Awareness and Relaxation

I was recently watching the "Brain Games" television show on the National Geographic channel, I believe it was the one about Scams, and at the end of it Jason Silva said:

But remember being gullible isn't all bad.  If your brain wasn't capable of suspending disbelief you'd never lose yourself in a good book or get sucked into a movie.

I wanted to comment that for me, this "awareness" thing deriving from meditation took off and at a certain point we could say that it more or less took over my life.  One of the first times I noticed this was when I went to a movie and I didn't get sucked in.  Not for a second.  I was aware and present the whole time.  And I recognized that this was unusual, like, hmm, "this is new".

At the time I was participating in some regular video chats with several more advanced yogis.  I mentioned this phenomenon to them and at that moment, the screen of maybe 3 or 4 yogis suddenly lit up with everyone gesturing "thumbs up" into their webcams.  The place lit up with thumbs.  At that point I realized I was on the right track.

I don't want to be too obtuse about this - to some degree I can get a little bit absorbed or lost in something, but for the most part nowadays, I am typically aware.  I would be happy to bet money on whether or not I am present, because I know that is a bet I would win on average.  A friend of mine at the time, one of the senior yogis, remarked that he felt as if he was "stuck in the present".  Yes.

The key, though, is that even if I get a little bit absorbed into something, I am relatively unattached to whatever that is, and there is a flexibility with that, and there is even then at least a little bit of a foothold into the present.  There's a friend of mine that likes to sleep with a foot out from underneath the covers.  However covered up she may be, there's still that one little piece that is exposed to the ambient temperature.  So it's a little like that, a little bit of awareness that is always grounded in the here and now.

I'm reminded a bit of Les Fehmi's training that he refers to as Open Focus.  Same kind of thing.  A vipassana type awareness of space and volume is used to train awareness and to have an attentional flexibility between a narrow and wide or open focus, and to always have a little bit of that broader open awareness of the here and now.

The key that I referred to is this relative lack of attachment, and there is a certain kind of relaxation or tranquility that comes with that.  We can try to relax, but it appears that for the most part we must be aware in order to relax.  So awareness comes first.  If we are aware, we can be truly relaxed.  If you are lost in some kind of daydream, you might come out of it and notice that some part of your body was tensed up in response to your thoughts.  Once you come out of the fantasy, you see that your body is tensed up and it is often very easy and obvious to relax that tension.

When I watch movies, I sense when there are scenes that are interpreted as tense, and I kind of feel a little bit of that, but I don't really get sucked in.  I am aware, though, that people around me are in fact tensing up, and after a scene like that you will often hear a lot of deep sighs.  As people come out of that tense scene and gain some degree of awareness of the tension that they were holding, they naturally let go of that tension in the diaphragm, and relax.

There is this obvious level of physical tension that can be let go of, and maybe even more importantly I would say that there are levels where we could say that emotional tension can be let go of, and mental tension as well.  But it requires that we be aware, that we be aware very continuously, and that within that we feel all those little sensations and feelings and thoughts, and our resistance or craving of those feelings and sensations and thoughts, and that we see all this and allow the body to really see this and to maybe relax a bit.  And you just practice that kind of awareness and feeling and releasing for a couple of thousand hours, and there you go :)









Thursday, June 25, 2015

Streaming Psychedelic Computer Visions

Based on the same type of technology referred to in the post Computer Visualization Similar To Psychedelics, here we have Large Scale Deep neural net dreaming, steered by chat. 

Inputs from chat continuously steer the computer based visions as if in a strange fractal dream.


Consciousness is less in Control

Associate Professor of Psychology Ezequiel Morsella's "Passive Frame Theory" suggests that the conscious mind is like an interpreter helping speakers of different languages communicate.

"The interpreter presents the information but is not the one making any arguments or acting upon the knowledge that is shared," Morsella said. "Similarly, the information we perceive in our consciousness is not created by conscious processes, nor is it reacted to by conscious processes. Consciousness is the middle-man, and it doesn't do as much work as you think."
This is very much in line with insights from classic enlightenment that everything is just happening and that our attachment to self identity is illusory.  That consciousness is like some kind of delusional reporter, continually late to the scenes of crimes and yet imagining itself to be involved or even causing the crimes.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Computer Visualization Similar To Psychedelics

In the field of pattern recognition, the current state of the art technology are the so-called deep neural networks, with many layers of neurons that learn to recognize features.  The way that these learn to pick up certain features such as the edges of objects and then build them into an image is similar to the way our own visual processing works.

This page hosts some images, like that shown here, of places in these layers that are processing images, at the stage of the incomplete feature detectors.  I find these have a lot in common with the way that visuals are perceived on psychedelics.

The original article is Inceptionism:  Going Deeper into Neural Networks.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Self-awareness not unique to mankind

From the article Self-awareness not unique to mankind.

Researchers suggest that any animal capable of simulating an environment (i.e. what we do with our brains) must have some form of self awareness, possibly a sense of self.  Perhaps an illusory sense of self, I might add.

Conducted by University of Warwick researchers, the study found that humans and other animals capable of mentally simulating environments require at least a primitive sense of self. The finding suggests that any animal that can simulate environments must have a form of self-awareness.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2015-06-self-awareness-unique-mankind.html#jCp

Conducted by University of Warwick researchers, the study found that humans and other animals capable of mentally simulating environments require at least a primitive sense of self. The finding suggests that any animal that can simulate environments must have a form of self-awareness.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2015-06-self-awareness-unique-mankind.html#jCp
Conducted by University of Warwick researchers, the study found that humans and other animals capable of mentally simulating environments require at least a primitive sense of self. The finding suggests that any animal that can simulate environments must have a form of self-awareness.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2015-06-self-awareness-unique-mankind.html#jCp
Conducted by University of Warwick researchers, the study found that humans and other animals capable of mentally simulating environments require at least a primitive sense of self. The finding suggests that any animal that can simulate environments must have a form of self-awareness.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2015-06-self-awareness-unique-mankind.html#jCp

Conducted by University of Warwick researchers, the study found that humans and other animals capable of mentally simulating environments require at least a primitive sense of self. The finding suggests that any animal that can simulate environments must have a form of self-awareness.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2015-06-self-awareness-unique-mankind.html#jCp

Dharma Talk 016 - Thinking Out Loud

I think the first time I ever really did something close to this exercise of thinking out loud was while rehearsing for a talk that I had to do at school.  I did the whole in front of the mirror thing.

What I mean by thinking aloud (there's actually an intended pun in there) is actually thinking out loud, i.e. talking to oneself.

Over the years I discovered that my personal internal thinking style might be categorized as somewhat more abstract or intuitive.  While I was a classically good objective thinker, on the inside I was a bit less concrete, going a bit more by feel and intuition.  Occasionally, in the real world, some of my ideas might have initially felt pretty solid, but it was sometimes difficult to translate these into words.  And every now and then I might find that once I got an idea out into the cold hard light of day there were some serious holes in my thinking.

In response to that phenomenon, I began to occasionally flesh out my thinking on certain topics by actually thinking about them out loud.  Talking to myself.  I found this fairly useful, but it was fairly rare that I actually did this.

After getting seriously into meditation, specifically noting practice, at some point I adopted this thinking out loud thing as a kind of informal practice and tried to do it whenever I could, often on a daily basis, or at least when I had something to work on thinking wise.  Having a bit of time alone is helpful for this.  While driving the car, for example.  Maybe in the shower.

The results of doing this fairly regularly for several years is quite striking.  There is something about turning those vague and sometimes sticky thoughts into something immediately physical and objectifiable that has paid great dividends.  I suppose individual results may vary.  Clearly, I have seen people walking down the street talking to themselves that are quite embedded in their thoughts and lost in that way.  I'm not talking about that kind of thing, I'm talking about really being truly and continuously aware of what you are thinking and saying.

When thinking out loud, the thoughts are "out there" in a very dramatic way.  The thoughts are experienced on multiple physical dimensions.  Beyond the thinking itself, the thoughts are heard, and the vibrations of the voice are felt.  Somehow this process, which could be thought of as a slight variation on out loud noting practice, gave me some extra "distance" from the thoughts.  At least for myself, it becomes very difficult to space out and lose myself in thought the way that can happen when I am thinking to myself.  I can think as long as I want and never get stuck.

Given that attachment to thought is generally one of the stickiest things to overcome, a technique like this can be really helpful.

Hallucinogens and God Survey at Johns Hopkins

Straight from the website:

Have you ever taken a hallucinogen and had a personal encounter with God or a Higher Power?

The States of Consciousness Research Team at Johns Hopkins needs your help. We’re conducting an anonymous, web-based research study to characterize experiences of a personal encounter with something that someone might call “God” (e.g., the God of your understanding), “Higher Power,” or “Ultimate Reality.”

If you’ve ever had such an experience, we would greatly appreciate it if you would take our survey. If you know of others who’ve ever had such an experience please send them the link and encourage them to participate. This includes people who had such an experience long ago.

As you may know, our team has conducted survey and laboratory studies characterizing experiences with psilocybin and other hallucinogens. You can see our body of work here: csp.org/psilocybin. This new survey is an important extension of our published and ongoing research about mystical experiences occasioned by psilocybin and other classic hallucinogens.

To participate visit the following website:
www.PsychedelicEncounteringTheDivine.org
Principal Investigator: Roland R. Griffiths, Ph.D. Protocol IRB00054696

Approved February 27, 2015