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Mind-Transformation Self-Experiment: Week 1

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Sunday marked the last day of the first week of this experiment in intend to do throughout the summer, which I outline in an earlier post from a few weeks ago. So first an overview of some of the things I did:
– Rigorous Spanish study
– Speed-reading practice
– General reading for the sake of knowledge
– Exercise almost daily
– The Everyman sleep cycle
– Playing the RTS (Real-time strategy) game Starcraft II

With the exception of reading non-fiction material for the sake of knowledge, all these things are new to me, so many of the effects very well may have been the result of the novelty, more than the actual things themselves.

The Week in Review:

-Day 1: Tried to get the Everyman nap patterns straight, practiced speed reading, some exercise, and studied a lot of Spanish.

-Day 2: My Everyman already got interrupted by oversleeping a few hours in the core nap, and skipping a nap during the day. Nonetheless, I continued to study Spanish quite rigorously. I also finished reading the theoretical physics book The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow.

-Day 3: Everyman went fine again until my 3rd nap which went straight through til the end of my core. Wrote some music on guitar, and played Starcraft for the first time. Continued with Spanish. Continued speed reading.

-Day 4: Woke up late yet again, but overall a good day. Continued to exercise, and noticed myself having more strength and stamina with it. Continued speed-reading practices. Also the desired effects of playing Starcraft could already be seen. After playing I would spend the next few hours thinking lightning fast and being able to manage many different things simultaneously. Already I can see possibilities for games being used in the future with the designed intent of benefiting people’s minds.

My Spanish comprehension by this point surpassed both my Arabic and my French, which is remarkable, to say the least. I’ve spent weeks in Saudi Arabia with my Arabic speaking family, and studied for years using what materials I could find, and French I studied in school between 1st grade and 11th grade. For me to say the 4 days of Spanish could surpass either of those is enough indicative of the fact that the system by which most people learn languages is completely wrong, but I’ll explain more in another post in the near future, specifically about this language-learning sub-project.

-Day 5: Woke up on time and kept my nap straight. When I do it right, I feel great. Progressed in Starcraft. Read some of a book on emotional intelligence. It pointed out that emotional intelligence can be learned. I think the same can very much be said about IQ as well, which I hope to prove by this endeavor. Continued with Spanish.

(Today I had the thought that there is a 6-step process to true learning:
1) The desire to think.
2) Learning how to think.
3) Applying it by thinking regularly.
4) The desire to learn.
5) Learning how to learn.
6) Applying it by actively seeking out knowledge and understanding.)

-Day 6: Woke up only an hour late. Did a little more speed reading, in particular reading two lines at once. Spent most of the day with family and then friends but then got to practice my Spanish with my Colombian friend Pablo. It showed that my speaking needs much work, but that my comprehension isn’t bad, especially for what were effectively 5 days of study.

(Today I also had the thought that all cognitive activity appears to be of the very same nature. There are small units of information which you arrange into slightly larger structures that convey basic concepts. Everything is then arranged according to a structure, given rules of operation, and utilizes varying degrees of complexity.)

-Day 7: The 7th day was devoted entirely to Starcraft. It’s challenging my mind in so many ways, rationally in terms of strategizing and remembering all the small pieces of information like build orders, hotkeys, and unit strengths, but also emotionally because I have to try very hard to keep my adrenaline, anger, and fear as low as possible. Normally these are things I never feel at all, so to feel them is very interesting to me. It allows me to re-assess and explore them when I’ve almost removed them from my day-to-day life.

The 9 areas of mind I outlined that I plan to benefit, and how I benefited each one:
1 ) Visuo-spatial abilities: I did nothing to benefit this, besides perhaps some fringe benefit from playing Starcraft.
2 ) Regulation of emotions; concentration; clarity of mind; mindfulness: I think this aspect I’ve actually worsened. It’s imperative that I meditate while doing all these other things so as not to threaten this most-important quality/capacity.
3 ) Willpower: This was strong for most of the week, but the last two days kind of tapered off. I did find that merely doing all these practices proves to be a strong enough test to my willpower on its own.
4 ) Processing Speed/ability to handle multiple things at once/problem-solving ability: Starcraft helped this immensely. The effect is so incredibly noticeable, it’s striking.
5 ) Speed and comprehension in reading: the speed reading practice made a noticeable effect on my general reading.
6 ) Capacity for learning/memorizing:
a ) Language-learning: Spanish improved dramatically
b ) General reading: The Grand Design, book on emotional intelligence, and worked on linguistics.
7 ) Ethos/morality/compassion/empathy: I practiced the recitation of the 4 Immeasurables (which are loving-kindness, compassion, empathetic joy, and equanimity) prayer directed towards everyone I know one person at a time. I did this a few times, one of which was while taking an hour-long walk. The practice really did have me tearing up and thinking compassionately. I began to see how the mind could be trained to have the immediate response when seeing a living thing to be the though of the Immeasurables. Such a person would effectively be a saint. This will surely go into the book i’m writing on how to be a saint.
8 ) Mind-Body connection/Bodily health and fitness: the exercise noticeably improved this as well.
9 ) General understanding of and mastery over the mind: Essentially all these practices contributed to this. Most notably would probably be the Everyman. It gave me insight into the workings of my mind in terms of sleep, which I think will prove invaluable.

All-in-all a productive week. I haven’t really done much, other than Starcraft since Saturday, really. I’ve just been trying to analyze the week, which was in many ways a test run of certain things. Now that I have an idea what I’m doing tomorrow I’ll begin anew. I’ll post a new post each week or so as a recap.

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Link to older post on the summary of the project: https://ignoranceandwisdom.wordpress.com/2011/05/31/self-experiment-in-breaking-through-the-perceived-limitations-of-the-mind/

More info about polyphasic sleep cycles like the Everyman:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyphasic_sleep
http://www.highexistence.com/alternate-sleep-cycles/
http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2005/10/polyphasic-sleep/
http://www.puredoxyk.com/index.php/2007/01/24/six-months-on-everyman/

Consciousness Is Like Gravity

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Consciousness is much like gravity, i think. Gravity is simply the warping of space-time by objects with mass. The more mass, the more space-time warps, and thus the more of an effect the object has on the things around it. With consciousness the determining factor is not mass, but biotic complexity or information-density. The human brain is the most information-dense object in the universe, so it is likewise the most conscious object.

But gravity is simply the warping of space-time, not inherent within matter itself. The same can be said of consciousness. It is the warping of some sort of universal nature of mind–what Buddhists call Buddha-nature. As space-time is the basis of physical reality, this mind-dimension would appear to be the basis of the reality of all awareness, abstraction, and information. Undoubtedly it would share an extremely close relationship with space-time in organizing a working reality as we know it.

This second “dimension” parallel to, but in conjunction with space-time, is certainly non-dual and transcendent of any and all conceptuality if it does indeed exist. So this would account for the many anomalies we witness where physics ends up breaking down, as when dealing with astrophysics and quantum mechanics. The culprit is transcendent, non-conceptual, non-dual mind-reality or “Buddha-nature,” which is likely the source of all of existence, and the driving force behind all complexity and organization: the very thing that counters the thermodynamic law of entropy, allowing something such as life to manifest.

In many ways this new side of reality can be seen as essentially God or the Tao or Brahman, whatever you wish to call it. Existence stems from it. Even the laws of space-time occur through the workings of mathematical properties which are themselves abstract concepts. Furthermore, as quantum physicists have determined (in particular Feynman, i believe) every possible history happens simultaneously, and it is a conscious observer who determines which history was the “right” one. From this perspective too, Buddha-nature (or God, Tao, Brahman, what-have-you) is the source of existence, because it is the deepest, most subtle nature of mind in the same way space-time is the deepest, most subtle nature of physical existence.

So therefore, as an extrapolation from this, i would have to say that i don’t feel physics will be able to go much further until it begins incorporating the notion of consciousness. Causality and abstraction are too deeply rooted in the subtlest of physical laws and properties for consciousness not to be taken into deeper consideration.

The Emptiness of Romantic Love

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Before I begin this essay, a short proem is probably necessary. If you are in love with someone, you probably shouldn’t read this, but you may do so at your own discretion. This was written in light of my recent decision to follow, above all, the yogic path, as I feel it will, when combined with a great deal of research into the sciences, philosophy, languages, and the arts, allow me to benefit the most sentient beings. This path requires me to abandon the prospect of romance for the most part. In rare circumstances it will be permissible, but only if said relationship would be in the best interest of my goal of alleviating the suffering of as many beings as possible. In any case, I had to really think this through, and so this is the result after having done so, written literally thought-by-thought, as a stream-of-consciousness. All else aside, I think it’s pretty awesome to be able to reason your way out of attachment, aversion, or any other afflictive emotion.

I’ve been pretty lonely most of my life, and it’s been getting pretty intense recently, but loneliness doesn’t matter: we’re always alone. In lacking physical human contact, what I lack is a mere object. If I had an animatronic robot with human-like skin, I would still be said to be “alone.” But this is merely the physical, human discussion on the other hand, is plentiful through all the electronic devices at my disposal (cell phone, laptop, and so forth). But it’s not conversation I want is it? It’s not even physical contact–these are mere symptoms, side-effects of what I’m really after: the affectionate love of another. But then, what exactly is that? I can never experience the mind of another; therefore the mind-state of “love” is expressed purely through the words (speech) and physical actions or contact (body) of said person who “loves” me. And if I’ve already shown the relative emptiness of the speech and body–the very vehicles of communicating mind–then I’ve also in turn shown the emptiness of the mental side as well.

The whole experience of “love” is one which entails physical and verbal interaction which supposedly show the mind-state. Returning to the animatronic robot, if it were fitted for sex and said constant words of unconditional affection, it would fulfill effectively my body/mind’s internal (perhaps biological) need for “love.” But like all such things, love is an externality, and thus my mind does not depend on it for its clarity or contentment. These qualities exist within the mind itself, where they can be triggered by external factors, but notably need not be.

And further, why would anyone need love? Are we that insecure that we require the validation of acceptance by another? Or is it selfishness, ego, or pride which makes us cling to the notion of someone becoming attached to us? Because that’s what we’re talking about here right? Romantic love consists primarily of variant forms of attachment: eros, philia, etc. leading up to devotion and agape. Agape is found from holy men all over the world (or by a personal deity, if you ascribe to such a belief) if that kind of unconditionality is thusly needed. Devotion though is not so readily found in others; certainly not devotion exceeding self-devotion (which to me is the real definition of “I love you”). But then, why do we so badly need to feel another’s devotion towards us other than our own general insecurity? That’s right: the need for love is a manifestation of the ego’s fear for itself. The ego feeds off any kind of validation. Such desires indicate an ego that is strong, and thus a mind which is heavily insecure in its own identity. The romantic relationship is not necessary for happiness if one takes the path of self-transcendence or self-extinction–the path of the sage or yogi. Clearly, I do not require romantic love while traversing the path I am now taking (but my strong desire for love is evidence of the great insecurity of my own mind, and all the work I have yet to do).

…But of course, as the Arabs say: God knows best. Only time will tell (and probably many friends of mine who end up reading this) whether I am correct or not.

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To clarify the above post, here’s an analogy that i used in explanation for someone in the comments:

We all live in our own enormous skyscraper. The higher we go, the happier we are, but we almost never make it beyond the first floor or two, or really even get higher than the basement. So to experience the “happiness” of height, we leave our skyscraper and climb dangerous hills or piles of garbage even, which first of all never get as high as the skyscraper, and which we also often fall down from and hurt ourselves. Most people don’t even know they have a skyscraper, and of those who do, few go through the effort to climb the stairs. What i’m doing is recognizing the futility of climbing dangerous, rocky hills where i often experience great pain, for the unmatched bliss i can attain through climbing that which i already own, and know to be safe. Given that my goal is to reach the unmatched and blissful height where i can see the true nature of everything below, it’s silly for me to continue chasing dangerous piles of rubble. But for those who aren’t seeking such a difficult goal, any height will usually do for the moment (i often wish i could say this for myself).

Now if that makes any sense, i’ll be very glad. The hills of rubble are romantic love, which albeit can be gateways to higher forms of love like true agape, but these purer forms of love can be found within the skyscraper of the mind as it is. There is no need to look any further. So long as my happiness depends on the external, i will still experience suffering. So long as i experience suffering, i will not possess the wisdom that will allow me to benefit the world. In sum, to see romantic love as empty is necessary for my own peace and contentment for the time being.

The Yogis of Tibet

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This is a remarkable video, with glimpses into the secret practices and lives of the most enlightened individuals in the world. One of them, Nubpa Rinpoche, featured at about 29 minutes in, i’ve actually done a week-long teachings retreat with. This video also has great importance to me because i plan to one day become a yogi.

http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docid=1120080712987405885&hl=en&fs=true