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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.

The Return of the Beckoning Call

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What is this strange and familiar calling i’m feeling again? Is this call growing in dynamic strength every day the trumpet of renunciation and holiness? I hear it sounding loudly from the depths of my being, and some days (more often, nights) it even deafens me from my ability to discern the unceasing noise and chaos of worldly life. This balancing act between my two natures, my two worlds, is perhaps the most defining characteristic of my being–what in the West we call the “soul”. The essence of who and what i am can be found in the space between full engagement with the world in a proactive, creative, compassionate, and inspired way; and the great silence, sanctity, bliss, effulgence, and imperturbability of the ground of consciousness itself. This is the elusive perfection that i’ve spent my life fighting for. Indeed, it’s the telos of every spiritual seeker and philosophically restless person. The call beckons, and i have truly missed its sonorous melody. Can i listen to its sweet music and taste of its fruit while continuing my everyday obligations and worldly responsibilities? Is it possible to sustain? This balancing act is one hell of a challenge. Where is the Middle Way?

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.

What’s My Real Motivation?

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I feel like i’m a pretty damned good writer, researcher, and thinker, for the most part. All of the impact i hope to make in the world will be through these mediums, other than music and language learning, which i’m pretty good with as well.

So why do i feel so stagnated? I’m traveling the world, i’ve got a decent formal education and a more than decent informal one, i have a pretty solid resume, and philosophically i haven’t felt lost in ages. So right now i should be embracing everything i hope to do in life: Writing essays, music, and studying languages (right now, Arabic) like nobody’s business. Instead, i’m just sitting here, wasting my time. Yes, i’m just getting over a bad illness. And yes, i’m in a rather restrictive country void of vegetation and any readily observable culture beyond the Qur’an (there’s plenty of culture if you go digging in the right places, but it’s harder to find when you’re here than say, China). But these aren’t viable excuses. Where’s my motivation?

Up to this point in my life i have little to show the world of my personal success. If i died, there would be some anecdotal stories of my impacting a few lives, but in terms of creative work, not much. Again, mere anecdotes. But impacting even a single life and having solid proof of it is a beautiful thing, and creating positively and with integrity should be cherished. I should be happy with this? Why am i not content with it?

What do i want? And Why?

I want knowledge and experience so that i can create art, ideas, concepts, books, and so on in order to make a huge difference in the world, because this has always been my obsession. At first it was almost pure ego when i was very young. At the age of 6 as one of our first assignments in 1st grade we had to write what we wanted to do when we grew up. Firefighter? Policeman? Doctor? Scientist? Nope. I wanted to be the ruler of the world. Then as i aged i convinced myself and others that it was about humanity. The desire for world domination became one of benevolence and then faded by the end of middle school. Taking its place was the very modest goal of “rockstar.” Until the age of 15, when i decided i also wanted to be a monk and become enlightened. The desire for monasticism remained in the back of my mind until around 20 or so, and may well come back one day. Obviously enlightenment grew to my chief aim. I realized that conquering the world was nothing compared to conquering the self. Even omnipotence with an untamed mind would be nothing.

But clearly this idea of grandeur and this goal of “greatness” has been ever-present throughout my life. I ask myself: Why? I have convinced myself and others that the motivation is one of compassion for humanity, but i don’t know how much is in fact my ego. A man with an ego that fears death and realizes that true immortality lies only in effective action which is memorable to the world. So the question shouldn’t be “where’s my motivation,” but rather: “what is my motivation?”.

At literally every stage of my life this has been a core motivation along with finding romantic love — which may, no doubt, stem from the very same fear given that procreation is the other assumed route to immortality. I have finally reached a freedom from the desire for love for now — i know i’m not yet the man i want to be for the woman i hope to have. So i think i must approach the world just the same. I’m not ready to create great things or leave indelible marks upon the world. I’m not ready to impact thousands or millions of lives for the better. I’m not yet such a man. So i can only focus on improving myself until such time as i am such a man. Death with integrity is indeed more valuable than an “immortal death” where one’s legacy outlives him.

And speaking of death, recently more urgently pressing on me has been the fear for my own well-being in the soon-to-be future. When i return to the States i will have no money, no guaranteed job anywhere, a bunch of uncertain plans for what to do next, a car that’s out of commission, no credit, and thus no particular means to do anything. But with about all of these things there is little i can do right now, and it’s impacting my vacation and my studies.

So first things first: I need to lose all my fear. All of it. Fear for my well-being in any sense. I will be just fine and i have to know it.

Second, i need to work on developing myself in all the areas that i care about: Body, Mind, Soul (or spiritual mind, rather, since like all Buddhists i don’t believe in the existence of a metaphysical soul outside of consciousness), Languages, Music, and Writing.
Body — i need to work out; my body is very weak, as its been complaining all year.
Mind (Task Positive Network) — study of all the subject areas which interest me as well as particular focus on these three areas of life goals:
Languages — Arabic for now, and beginning next month also Tagalog
Music — Writing and recording songs, but only as i feel i need to
Writing — every day if i can, but for my own development only
Spiritual mind (Default Mode Network) — Meditation, reading religious texts, and improvisation on guitar for mere enjoyment

Third, i need to just travel around, talk to people without fear, enjoy myself, and not concern myself too heavily with “failure” as if i could somehow “fail” at traveling. Without fear that i will die as soon as i return home, this will be much easier.

All in all, if i carry these out long enough i should purify my motivation, until it is transformed into pure bodhicitta.

-J. Ibrahim Abuhamada

Illness in the Center of the World

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Okay, with confidence i can say this is the highest temperature i’ve ever had. And no, i’m not talking about the Saudi Arabian climate. My overall shittiness is on par with the thing i had at the beginning of the year where i was projectile vomiting, but at least that didn’t last so long.

A bit over a week before i came to Saudi i had just gotten over strep. Then i stupidly took a week-long live Typhoid vaccine. Then i didn’t sleep on an overnight flight. A flight, by the way, to a place where the weather and bacteria are foreign, harsh, and unforgiving. So i guess i was asking for this. Anyways, it resulted in my first overseas hospital experience. It didn’t seem much like a hospital. Sort of halfway between a doctor’s office and a walk-in clinic. The doctor spoke English but he didn’t want to hear English besides my saying yes or no to his questions. Then i’m given my first ever experience with taking a suppository. And what is it? Paracetamol. Paracetamol is another term for Tylenol. I might as well have just gone to the pharmacy next door and bought myself some more ibuprofen. I’m also given an IV for Paracetamol and a saline drip. And finally, the antibiotic prescription (which was all i’d wanted in the first place). All in all i’d rate the experience at the “medical center” a 3.5 from 1 to 10. At least it was clean and not overflowing with people. And the doctor did speak English… sort of… But not somewhere i’d recommend visiting on a trip through Saudi Arabia.

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“Sure i can give you antibiotics, but first would you kindly please shove this up your ass? kthnx”

So about a day goes by, i take my two daily doses of antibiotics, drink tons of water, and am subjected to a large amount of Arab folk medicine foods and treatments, and i wake up at 7 something after 3 hours of sleep to take my temperature aaaaand… 104. Can’t that give adults brain damage or something? Yes. Yes it can. I will admit this has me a little scared. So i’m given cold rags to put on my forehead and body, i take a dose of antibiotic for the day and 600mg of ibuprofen and… 102.4. Fuck. Well at least my trip should only improve from here…

As the title states i’m right by the center of the world for the 1.2-1.5 billion muslims in the world: Mecca. Which i should be going to visit soon. In addition, i should be going to the other major holy center in Saudi, Medina, where the Mosque of the Prophet Muhammad is, and so is he, so i might as well go say hi (if only the dead could speak… not that my Arabic’s good enough for interesting philosophical conversations yet anyways). I should be going to Ta’if high in the Hijaz mountains, where supposedly there are wild baboons everywhere, and even more rare and interesting here in Saudi: Trees! Live, actual, wild, untamed trees! The joy! But most importantly to me, while i’m in Mecca i will be going to see the Jabal An-Nur — the mountain of light — where Muhammad (SAAWS) first received his revelation from the angel Gabriel. This being the start of my lifelong dream of visiting key spiritual centers around the world.

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It’s worth noting that for me it’s important that when visiting a new culture i adopt more than just the culture and language, but their very manner of thought, right down to religion. I certainly am beyond the capacity for dogmatism, but to temporarily suspend doubt and see the world through new “psychic eyes”, new thought patterns, is one of the most eye-opening, life-changing of experiences. At heart, my core philosophical conviction will always lie with Buddhism, but as a Buddhist, as a person with the unshakable conviction that compassion is the greatest power in the world for happiness and change, i know of nothing which better builds empathy (wisdom, too) than putting aside one’s own beliefs temporarily in order to understand others. So for this month at least, i am muslim, and will always have it lying dormant within me to draw upon when i need to.

La ilaha illa Allah, Muhammad rasulu Allah.

April 8th, 2014; 11am-ish

2014: Year of Travel, Languages, and Pushing the Limits of Learning

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This year i will be greatly expanding my creative and scholarly works and attempting to push the limits of my mind and being. 2013 proved to be an excellent year for my seeds of productivity to take root. I have grown exponentially into myself, and am ready for that to extend beyond myself and into the world. This year will be a grand experiment of the limits of my will to learn, grow, and create, and it is my intention to document through written word and video alike the developments and progressions as they come.

I will be attempting to every day meditate, exercise, and to once again sleep polyphasically (I’ll be starting with an Everyman cycle with 4.5 hr core nap and two 20-min power naps). In addition to these general lifestyle changes my intended to-do list is pretty extensive.

I hope to:

-Record an album of my own solo-music

-Record an album with my old band Nightwalk

-To finish the final 40+ credits i need for my BA through self-study alone and to take the GRE

-To write an ebook on language learning

-To organize all of my writings over the years in such a way that i can begin to compile books and more developed theses to pursue research of

-To learn how to cook fairly well a wide variety of American and international foods

-To get my Spanish, French, Esperanto, German, and Arabic up to C1-level in the European Framework of Reference for Languages or 4 in the FBI Language Proficiency Scale (in other words, functionally fluent, though not to mastery); To become conversationally capable (B2 in CEFR; 2+ in FBI) in Tibetan, Portuguese, Tagalog, and Ojibwe; And to become at least slightly less so conversational (B1 and 2 respectively) in Quechua, Aymara, Russian, Mandarin Chinese, and Sranantongo.

-Travel to the Middle East (Saudi Arabia and Kuwait) to study the Qur’an, Arabic calligraphy, cooking, music, and culture while visiting with my family;

-Travel to the Philippines to visit an old childhood friend of mine and to learn Tagalog;

-While visiting my family’s cottage in Canada to spend time on the nearby Ojibwe Island reserve and learn about their culture and language extensively;

-To travel with my best friend to his home country of Colombia, and to then travel through the continent of South America through hostels and couchsurfing, paying particular emphasis on spending time with indigenous cultures (especially Quechua and Aymara, with the hope of helping to preserve their culture), and paying our way through busking, internet entrepreneurship, and odds-and-ends jobs for extra cash, food, lodging, and travel.

-To document and record in some detail through video and written word my travels, music, and studies throughout the year, in order to track my progress for myself and to inspire others.

Perhaps a tad ambitious, but i firmly believe in the awesome capacity of the human mind. If i achieve a fraction of these, it will be a most successful year.

If you wish to support these endeavors of mine, please subscribe and check in regularly to learn of my progress. Soon i’ll be posting a trevolta (croud-funding travel site) link for the trip to the Philippines and in May i’ll be posting the trevolta for my South America trip.

Thank you for your support and readership!

-J. Ibrahim Abuhamada

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