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Loving Easily, Hurting Easily

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Why is it that i want so badly to say the words “I love you” to a woman? The funny thing is, I’m pretty sure i mean it every time. I love so easily. And why should it be any different with people when i love everything in the world so intensely? I love life. I love living and thinking and experiencing every new possible thing. Why should i not love people? Except that it frightens away these people i love.

Love of a person is unfortunately tantamount to drug addiction in the brain. The brain lights up just the same. It can only be healthily managed the same as how one can manage drug use–by maintaining all of one’s other important social connections and areas of life. Probably the biggest withdrawal comes from social psychology, where our sense of self is something of an amalgam of the people we are closest to. The brain literally processes it’s sense of self as though it extended to include these other people: They are perceived as literal extensions of ourselves, like another limb. So if it’s not already hard enough to break a drug addiction, you also have to go through the experience of losing a limb. Loving easily is truly a fucking curse. It’s no wonder most people are so guarded against love. It’s so painful. At least with drugs the drug can’t willingly choose to stop letting you take it. There is a security in that that we can never really have with other people.

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In my case, i love so easily that i don’t even know when i’m in love. I just assume so when i feel my mind being ripped apart. And you know, it’s funny, because i have an anti-addictive personality with every other facet of life. But oxytocin is one hell of a chemical, and attachment theory is true as day. So for now i am trapped in this curse of loving. Every time is only harder than the last. It becomes more routine, but still more painful. Like breaking the same bone every year or two in the same place. You get used to it happening but the pain is worse each time.

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I just want to feel happy and whole. I want to be productive again, as i was before my addiction started anew. I want control over my mind and life. I cannot experience this kind of pain too much more before it drives me to a dark place.

Love: A Model

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Love Model

Love is a nebulous concept at best. It refers in ordinary speech to such a wide range of human emotions and experiences that from the standpoint of semantic clarity and more effective communication, as well as greater self-knowledge, it’s of inarguable benefit to parse out this confusing word.

So what should first be obvious about this model (and hopefully in any discussion of love in general) is that love refers to a wide range of phenomenal and emotional experience. To the extent that it is an emotion it is surely a complex one, but in reality its nature extends beyond the limits of mere emotional experience. It is a mode of being: a paradigm of connection and relating to other beings and the whole of the external world.

So where I began in the task of understanding the full range of “love”‘s uses and how they relate to one another was in some of the different terms used by other languages and philosophical systems. Many (especially Christians) are familiar with the four Greek words for love: eros, philia, storge (pronounced store-gay), and agape (ah-gah-pay). Buddhists will be familiar with the four immeasurables (from which I derived loving-kindness, compassion, and acceptance) and bodhicitta. These different terms and their differences in meaning formed the basis of piecing together this model.

The initial division to bear in mind of the forms of love is that they are either rooted in desire or in what I’m calling altruism–selfless forms of love. But at their core anything to which the label “love” is applied has one thing in common:

1) Devotion

This is the core, unifying aspect of every form of love that exists, and I define it as a willingness to sacrifice–be it time, energy, preconceptions, values, self, or other things that we care for or love–for the sake of the thing we “love.” As this is the ultimate foundational aspect it’s worth considering the role that sacrifice plays in our lives, both subtle and apparent.

We can sacrifice our lives for another, or we can just sacrifice some of our money and time to watch our favorite movie that we “love.” We can sacrifice our preconceptions about what is “normal” or “right” to accommodate the lifestyle of a person we care about. Or we can sacrifice our energy and time to go to work to support our family, or even to court someone of romantic interest to us. In extreme forms we can sacrifice our own sanity and clarity of mind for something or someone we are neurotically addicted to, or we can sacrifice our very sense of an individual self, our ego, for the transcendent benefit of non-dual connection with others.

Our entire lives are basically a game of resource management, and everything we choose to do or to associate with in life is a choice of what to sacrifice and to what. Thus, love is at its core a question of devotion.

2) Eros

This is one of the more familiar aspects of love, and one of the most frequently referenced in everyday speech. This is romantic love: the love of the passionate, the intimate, the sexual, and everything pertaining to such connection with another individual or individuals. Except in rare cases of abnormal psychology I would say this is limited to connection with other humans, not animals or inanimate objects. Any experience of such desire for another person, for intimate connection with them, for sexual connection, any experience of lust or the like is an experience of eros.

3) Philia

This is the Greek word pertaining to friendly or brotherly love, or in compounded words like philosophy (love of wisdom) or any word ending in -phile or -philia. For me the semantic range is closer to that of the English word “fondness” or to “like” something. But bear in mind that it necessitates at least some degree of devotion or sacrifice. We experience philia with our friends, with our pets, and with any person who we can say we enjoy the company of. But we can also apply it to games, subjects of interest, hobbies, abstract concepts and so forth. Anything that we like to which we are willing to sacrifice some measure of our time, energy, money, and so on, is something to which we are experiencing philia. If you say you “love this show”, that you “love someone like a brother”, or even that you “love existentialism” you are loving that person or thing in the context of philia.

4) Storge

In the Greek this word had a connotation that more referred to familial love, or affection rooted in familiarity. But for me I have expanded this to what I call love out of duty. From the familiarity, from social or societal obligations we experience devotion towards others. Similarly if one can not even remember why they are devoted to someone or something (like religion) it is a devotion from duty. Furthermore, familial love is alone inadequate because a parent can love their child out of genuine philia, and because duty-based love is not intrinsically altruistic. It is a form of love which is selfish because it is fear of social implications, of punishment by a higher authority, or of guilt from of not exhibiting the devotion which motivates it. We see this in all forms of ritual when they are done non-mindfully or without proper understanding and motivation. Storge is a side of love which is often under-acknowledged due to its lack of “sexiness” (in the exciting or interesting sense, not the erotic), but which is important to be mindful of in one’s own life in seeking growth and more profound and meaningful experiences of connection.

5) Attachment

Desire-based forms of love are not unhealthy or inherently negative in and of themselves in any way. In fact, in many ways they are largely what make human life beautiful and worth experiencing. Attachment is what happens when they begin to get a little out of control and we begin to rely out of fear upon the thing we are connecting to. Because these are fundamentally self-motivated forms of love, attachment is when they are deeply associated with our sense of self. No longer do we just seek them, but we are afraid of NOT having that outlet of connection. When the fear of losing a lover sets in, or of whether a friend reciprocates our philia. When we fear even being away from our pet, lover, child, or whatever. This generally breaks down according to the four attachment styles in attachment theory. So long as the attachment remains a secure form of attachment it can actually be healthy in many kinds of close human relationships, like in close family members or in marriage as a kind of connective tether.

6) Neurosis

When attachment gets completely out of hand it becomes all manner of different mental disorders, addiction, or strong afflictive emotions like anxiety, depression, and the like. This is fairly easy to grasp in all manner of obsession and compulsive behaviors. This is the absolute dark side of love.

7) Loving-Kindness

In Buddhism there are the four immeasurables*, which are kind of like a list of four kinds of altruistic love for others that are of benefit to us spiritually or in terms of personal growth and dis-association with the ego. The first of these is loving-kindness which is the desire to see others experience happiness. It is the urge to make someone happy, like when we feel compelled to give someone a present that they will enjoy.

8) Compassion

This is the second immeasurable, and it is the desire to not see others suffer. When others are in pain we feel their pain empathetically. Not to where we are suffering ourselves, but where we feel a vivid comprehension of the other’s suffering and wish to ameliorate it however we can. When you see someone upset and are compelled to embrace them and offer your presence or your ear, you are experiencing compassion. When a mother will selflessly do anything she can to end her child’s pain she is demonstrating pure compassion.

9) Acceptance

This term encompasses the fourth immeasurable of equanimity, but for me holds a wider meaning. Equanimity is the experience of true neutrality of affect. Contentment in the present moment, without desire for something or aversion to anything. Acceptance begins from equanimity, but stresses it in terms of how we are relating to others. In acceptance we are devoted to a person as they are, without wanting them to be different in any way. Doing this is harder than it might seem, as it requires sacrificing our preconceptions, our world views, our ideas about the person, etc. When a deeply religious parent embraces their child’s difference in ideology or lifestyle that goes against their own, they are realizing true acceptance. When a person accepts their lover as they are completely, without wishing to see them change who they are, they are experiencing acceptance.

10) Bodhicitta

This term comes from Mahayana Buddhism and it represents the desire to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings. The key aspect of it which applies to this model, and which represents the logical “next step” from the three basic altruistic loves is that it involves aspiration. On the basis of selfless love/devotion we seek to realize our best in every way, as that allows us to devote ourselves more effectively and deeply. It is the intent of self-transcendence in love. When in a healthy relationship a person wishes to improve, to grow, to be their best possible self, not for their own benefit, but for their partner’s benefit, it is an experience of bodhicitta. As bodhicitta progresses and expands it can grow to encompass the all-consuming aspiration to realize our highest potential to benefit all living things.

11) Agape

This is the final of the four Greek loves, and for this model represents the highest, most altruistic, ideal form of love–the love of non-duality. It is complete abandonment of the ego, complete conceptual unity with another or with all others, and all actions, words, and thoughts are an expression of altruistic love. Eating at this point is done with love felt towards the beings who provided the food for you and with the mindful, profound hope that the food can help to sustain your body so that you can continue to love others. This is enlightened love. The love felt by Jesus or the Buddha. Because you’ve conquered the self and realized a felt sense of unity with all things you enter a state of pure non-aggression. The realization of agape is the realization of our highest potential as human beings to love.

Final Thoughts

Each of the three basic altruistic loves and the three basic desire-based loves can easily become any of the other basic kinds of desire or altrusim based love, which are here represented by the arrows connecting them to each other. And even the lines between the three basic forms of desire-based love and between the three basic forms of altruistic love are fine and blurry. Compassion is the desire to not see others suffer, but that’s done through seeking their happiness sometimes. When does sexual attraction become philic love of the person or vice versa. It’s no wonder the concept of love is so nebulous!

But it is this quality of these characteristics that allows for one form of love to so easily lead to others. An initial connection in eros can lead to philia and storge as the emotional connection deepens, and even to loving-kindness, compassion, and acceptance.

“Being In Love With Someone”

When all of the six basic desire and altruism-based loves are experienced towards a person we have truly “fallen in love with them.” That experience of “being in love” with a person typically leads to both attachment and bodhicitta as well. When the bodhicitta fades it is no longer a healthy love of growth. When the attachment fades it can lose stability, groundedness, faithfulness, and security in the face of change. This is the ideal, or healthiest** form of “being in love.” Attachment rooted in eros, philia, and storge and bodhicitta rooted in loving-kindness, compassion, and acceptance, experienced as a unified whole towards a single person.

*I combined into loving-kindess the third immeasurable of empathetic joy or mudita which is experiencing happiness when witnessing the joy of others.

**Within this though, the attachment style can vary according to the four attachment styles presented in attachment theory. It is of course ideal that the attachment style experienced be the secure type, though experiencing it as one of the other three doesn’t preclude the real experience of authentically “being in love” with the other person.

Love Model

Flow and Meditation

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Flow is the realization of a non-dual state of being where the action and actor are not two. This is why playing guitar for others can be difficult for me. If i become self-conscious i re-enter dualism and cut off the flow state.
After reading more of Self Liberation Through Seeing With Naked Awareness recently i am more assured in my assumption that all the forms of meditation involve the attainment of flow states in whatever the meditation entails. Whether it is the chanting of a mantra, the Jesus Prayer, the focus upon breath, emptiness, one’s awareness or mental activity, or relaxing into the mind’s intrinsic lucidity. Although varying in activity and passivity, spiritual tradition, and the locus of focus, every one of these types of “meditation” involves a very narrow and specific paradigm of mental activity which prevents the mind from flitting about in all direction and distractions, and which grounds the individual in themselves. Each one when combined with the flow state makes the realization of the type of meditation as described by the masters of that tradition.


I believe that by achieving flow in such a way an individual acquires a clearer view of the nature of reality and themselves and gains a perspective of wisdom as well as a peaceful and compassionate temperament. In this way meditation is the sublime gateway to peace, wisdom, and compassion, and it is grounded in an aspect of psychology which can be applied to all areas of one’s life.

A Glimpse Into My Synesthesia

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I have synesthesia, and more specifically color-grapheme synesthesia. I recommend you read about it if you are unfamiliar. Here’s a video on it i watched recently that does well to address the scope of what it can entail and the need for more reliable studies on it.

In any case, color-grapheme synesthesia is where letters and numbers are perceived as being inherently colored. The perception is purely mental, in that it doesn’t extend into the visual perception of the external environment. I see that all of these words are black, but i can look at them at the more subtle level of my mind’s perception and see vibrant colors. Recently i got the idea of attempting to illustrate this phenomenon in a way that others can understand, whether you have synesthesia or not.

So here is the alphabet, poorly rendered in MSPaint:

Synesthesia Alphabet

 

Note that the letter “l” is usually light gray, but in certain situations can be black. Also, the letters “z” and “i” are light gray and white respectively. The presence of the black border was simply to delineate them more easily. And note that there is no significant difference whether upper or lower case or cursive vs. print.

Here are numerals:

Synesthesia Numerals

I figured i would do a little more to show you what this is like for me. Here is the color-alphabet for me in abstract color form, which is for me, nearly equally as obvious as the actual letters themselves:

Synesthesia Alphabet Colors only

Weird, i know. You just see a seemingly random series of colors, when i see the alphabet. It’s crazy stuff. And there exists a dire need for continued research in the phenomenon for its implications in the nature of cognition itself and the philosophical implications for epistemology. I hope to see more research done in the future, but this article on the APA website does well to detail what we know about synesthesia and what its implications can be.

I thought i would continue to explore the representation of my synesthesia for those who are interested and for other synesthetes to attempt to do the same. So here’s my name. First showing my name with the letters, and then showing just the abstract of the colors:

 

Synesthesia Name

Here’s some simple long division:

Synesthesia Long-Division

And to take it to the farthest level i can conceive of right now, i used OpenOffice (screw MSOffice!) to make this simple coloring-book-like image of some trees and bushes by the sea with the sun shining. Instead of filling it with colors, though, i used letters. For me this isn’t a problem to be “figured out” or compared with the original key, as you’ll have to do. For me, and me alone, this image has color, but it’s at a more subtle level than ordinary visual perception. And i think that’s pretty fucking cool.

Painting with letters

I also of course love to study languages. I’ve been studying Arabic for quite some time and i was wondering if this might happen for the foreign alphabet as well. I will do a new post in the future as my Arabic becomes more fluent and these letters become more deeply ingrained in my subconscious, but for now i am noticing that letters representing the same sounds as in English like the Arabic letter fa (ف) are differing slightly in the shade or the vividness. Vowels (alif (ا), ya (ي), and waw (و)) are the most vivid and differ from their Latin equivalents somewhat. Alif is red like “A” but is darker when making the long “ah” sound as in “father”, and lighter/more fiery when making the sound of the a in “apple.” Ya is a golden yellow-orange (obviously related to E and Y), and waw is seeming indigo-violet (similar to the letter O, but darker and more purple). But Arabic also has letters that don’t exist in English or the Latin alphabet in general. ‘Ayin (ع) is a very deep, blood-orange, while ghayn (غ) is like a dark gray-brown.

Synesthesia Arabic

I will write more on some of the other letters as their colors become more obvious to me. It’s especially interesting to me that there are connections between the new letters and the concept they represent, like as if fa is just an “f” in a weird form, meaning that it still maintains the overall orangeness. What this says about my cognitive processes i’m not sure yet, but i’m excited at the mere prospect of uncovering the meaning.

Jacob Ibrahim Abuhamada

5/15/14

An Ode to Mind

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A constant awareness of my own awareness
Shines through in a radiant fashion.
In it lies peace;
With it lies compassion;
Through it lies wisdom.

Undifferentiated purity,
Cognizer of shapes and colors and things,
How fortunate!
I have you and no other.

Beyond temporality or spatiality,
Beyond name and form,
You are the foundational root of consciousness itself.
How could there be anything greater?

I don’t understand the masses.
Somehow they can ignore you and instead,
They seek pleasure or pain extraneous to You.
Mayhaps it is ignorance as the scriptures teach.
What ignorance…

I must apologize for my years.
This teenage body tricks and deceives you in all your ancient wisdom.
You, this consciousness more ancient than even the cosmos themselves.
The body is fog that encompasses you, and hides away your brilliant glory.

In love you are always the victor.
Oh great one, I thank you so much for bringing forth non-dual agape and the bottomless wellspring of bodhicitta.
This teenage body knows only the false loves of grasping, sensory clinging, dualistic attachment, romantic lust, and the love out of duty they call storge.
Thank you for the beautiful truth of love.

Oh, substantial root of reality, when I taste alone, I know happiness like few ever do.
Surrounded by people, your luminosity still pierces the veil of social ritual and noise and mundane talk of matters that do not matter,
But only as the sun shines through on a cloudy day.
Better to remove the clouds.

Beautiful seclusion lets me enjoy the fantastic joy of inner light,
And marvel at a distance the creative power of nature and its most precious child called humankind.
One day the fetters of obscuration will fall and I will drift through the window of alone into the foreign dimensions of perfect interdependence.
What a gift!

Effulgent One, you have lifted me from the chains of gross human suffering and all that now remain are the subtlest of mind’s habitual tendencies.
The ground of suffering plaguing human existence is a vast one;
Never ending, never ceasing–but I must tirelessly work regardless.
I will unleash you to shine your radiant clear light upon everything and shatter the chains that bind all living things.

Spacious Creator of subjective reality,
Designator of the non-existence of objectivity,
One who replaces essence with void,
You fucking rock.

-J. Ibrahim Abuhamada

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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.

Self-Experiment In Breaking Through The Perceived Limitations Of The Mind

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This summer is meaningful for me, for it gives me the free time to attempt an experiment that is as far as i’m aware, unattempted. It’s going to be an all-around transformation of my mind, in almost every capacity that i can think to further develop. I have known a few cases of people attempting one or two of these practices at once, but i’m hoping that this will be a case where all practices are mutually contributory to the goal of transforming my mind. This is obviously going to be statistically invalid to make any broad conclusions, but i’m hoping for it to provide the conceptual framework from which to go about expanding the study to more individuals who are willing to attempt it.

The actual study will be a systematic expansion/development of 9 general (and certainly interrelated) categories of aspects or capacities of the mind. Most of the results will be qualitative rather than quantitative, but i do intend to see if i can increase my IQ over the given period to have some quantitative measure of improvement (I’m starting this experiment with IQ scores from two seemingly accurate facebook applications — 138 and 148 — the second said to be more accurate for those with IQs over 110.).
First, what are the aspects of mind i intend to develop?

1.) Visuospatial abilities; capacity for visualization; visual memory and reasoning
2.) Regulation of emotions; (discursive) thought-suppression; concentration; absorption in single-pointedness of mind; mindfulness; clarity of mind
3.) Willpower
4.) Processing speed; ability to handle multiple things at once; problem-solving ability
5.) Speed and comprehension in reading
6.) Capacities for learning, acquiring new knowledge, grasping new concepts, and memorization
7.) Ethos; morality; compassion; loving-kindness
8.) Mind-Body connection
9.) Knowledge of/mastery over the mind in general

Now certainly interdependence of these aspects of mind is clear: Knowledge & mastery over the mind is related to visuospatial abilities, willpower, meditative abilities, ethics, and essentially everything on this list; reading speed and problem-solving speed seem to be related; and there are many others. But i find this somewhat arbitrary division of the qualities and functions of the mind to be helpful to me in categorizing practices to develop the mind as a whole, though some clarification on a few of these points might be helpful to you the reader. First, willpower is a topic i address in an earlier post of mine, where i explain it in a bit more depth: https://ignoranceandwisdom.wordpress.com/2011/04/09/strengthening-the-will/. Number 7 refers essentially to the nature of interacting with others in general. And number 8 refers to the mind’s ability to accurately interpret physical stimuli, and control the sensation and movement of the body.

So now for the practices and sub-experiments that i’ll be doing…

Tibetan Buddhist Practices:
– Mahamudra meditation (which i explain in my post: https://ignoranceandwisdom.wordpress.com/2011/04/02/the-mind-and-consciousness/) to develop mental aspects 2 and 9
-Diety Yoga visualization practice to develop 1 and 9
-Dream Yoga (maintaining awareness and mental control even when sleeping) to develop 1, 3, 8, and 9
-Meditations on compassion, loving-kindness, and each of the six perfections — generosity, ethics, patience, perseverance/diligence, meditative concentration, and wisdom awareness (realization and perception of the nature of reality) — to develop 2, 7, and 9

Other practices:
– Fasting to develop 3 and 9
– Learning speed reading to develop 3, 4, and primarily 5
– Playing the real-time strategy computer game Starcraft II to develop number 4
– Physical practices (such as yoga, tai chi, and 100,000 prostrations) to develop 2, 3, and especially 8
– Internal regulatory practices like pranayama, chi meditation, and body-scanning in conjunction with anatomical data to develop 2 and 8
– Learning endeavors to develop number 6

This last practice, which i call “learning endeavors,” is extremely important in and of itself. Perhaps as important as the rest of all the practices combined. This was my original intent for practice, but it seemed lacking in developing other aspects of mind, so i looked at other ways i could benefit my mind. This practice will entail the immersion in certain topics to attempt to master them in very short periods of time–testing the limits of mind perhaps more than anything else. For instance, i will attempt to master calculus in a very short period of time. More significantly though, will be my experiments in the acquisition of language. I will be attempting to finish mastering French, Spanish, and Arabic, but i will seek to become conversational in about 33 other languages, studying one language each day. This process of learning i will be recording step-by-step to keep people updated, and to give a solid picture of how one can go about learning new languages, or any subject in general.

What do I hope to get out of all this? Clearly this will be an absurd amount of work for me, so what is the point of doing it? First, i will learn a great deal, especially about myself; I will ultimately find myself ending up a better person than i am now as i’m beginning. But secondly, and perhaps more importantly, i hope to pave the way for new experiments like this which demonstrate the mind’s ability to grow substantially, enough that it can effectively transform itself. In essence, i’ll be seeking to add to the research supporting the thesis i pose in my essay on the psychology of the enlightened mind: https://ignoranceandwisdom.wordpress.com/2011/05/25/the-psychology-of-the-enlightened-mind/. Why do i care so much to push myself like this, to grow? Why do i care to do such demanding research? The answer is simply that it’s how i find meaning in my life (see: https://ignoranceandwisdom.wordpress.com/2011/05/23/seed-of-spiritual-revolution/). I sincerely hope that my endeavors prove fruitfully beneficial to you and all other sentient beings.

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