YOU are the creator of reality

Do you ever find yourself asking “What the hell is going on?”?

I mean in general.

We have all these concepts. Life, reality, me, you, self, other, future, past. We talk about our property, our country, our family. We have names for all of this. But sometimes I feel like the naming and conceptualizing detracts from the actuality of what this is. Maybe I should say THIS, because I simply mean what there is.

What is going on?

What does it mean to be sentient, inhabiting a sack of flesh and bones, in this strange, strange place we call the earth? Does it have to mean anything?

I often find myself forgetting, for long stretches of time, just how weird all this is. Wouldn’t it have been easier to have nothing? To be nothing? Simpler, at least.

It’s so strange that anything can seem trivial. The mere existence of the most minuscule, unimportant thing is a miracle! The simple fact that something is here at all is a reason for wonder.

It’s very easy to overlook this fact.

We may all share this reality, but then again, our perceptions of said reality differ so vastly, that we might as well each be absolutely solipsistic.

And you never know. Are other people actually conscious? Or are they just pretending to be conscious, like characters in a dream. Or maybe they even believe that they’re independently conscious.

When I look around me I see an apartment. My apartment. I see potted plants, furniture of all shapes and sizes, electronics, food, picture frames. Cups, mirrors, lamps…

Most of this stuff is man made. They started off as ideas, or concepts, in somebody’s head. Their powers of creation made it solid. And here I am, enjoying these marvelous things without having any true idea of their origins.

Concepts are a funny thing. We make them up in our minds, or we learn them from somebody else, and then we glue them onto objects we encounter in the universe. Like when you put one of those cut-out cardboard celebrity faces over your own.

Then, having adequately labeled our surroundings, our reality, we promptly forget the true nature of what they are, and go on through life acting as if the concepts are the ultimate reality.

Like I said, it’s weird.

What does it mean though, for us normies? Concepts are incredibly useful, as are labels. They allow us to quickly understand what something is without having to constantly reexamine it. For example, because we have a concept of an apple in our minds after countless encounters, when we see one on the table we go right ahead and take a bite.

We don’t need to check if it’s edible, compare it to the other objects on the table, taste it, etcetera. It’s just an apple.

On the other hand, sometimes our conceptualizing is very limiting. Like when we label ourselves. We say that we’re depressed, we’re shy, we’re anxious, we’re lazy. These labels are probably true, some of the time, but nobody’s lazy all the time. We have moments when we’re shy, and then we have moments where we’re assertive.

Self-conceptualization is a major problem for people everywhere. Not only do we frame ourselves withing concepts, we also allow other people to frame us within concepts. And we do the same to them!

Sometimes this is necessary, like if somebody’s prone to violence, the label of thug is appropriate and may save us from a nasty encounter.

But more often than not, these labels limit us to a certain personality type, to certain actions, to certain behaviors. These behaviors may be destructive, humiliating, depressing. The power of social conceptualizing is such that breaking free from these imposed limitations can be a very daunting task.

In many ways, this is the work of meditation. We meditate in order to see reality as it is, not as we believe it to be.

Sometimes we get moments of clarity, often out of the blue. This is often related to the appearance of some sort of anomaly, like seeing a shooting star, or an explosion, or somebody dancing naked with a street lamp (actually saw this a few years back, it really sticks with you).

Sometimes it’s due to some kind of shock, like illness, an accident, or a betrayal. Something that disillusions you so much that it breaks down your model of reality. It can be traumatizing, and in fact, that’s what trauma is. Trauma is a veritable smashing of your reality tunnel, when you encounter something more unpleasant and unbearable than you previously thought possible.

When somebody you love dearly betrays you, your concept of them is shattered into pieces. You need to reevaluate them, you need to reevaluate your relationship to them, not only in the here and now, but past and future as well.

When you unexpectedly lose your health, you need to reconceptualize your mortality. You realize that you’re not indestructible, that in fact you might die today, or tomorrow.

In this way, concepts that have been helpful up until now may become crushingly incomplete in the future. That’s why we need to learn how to see clearly. To live a life of fulfillment and prosperity, we need to be prepared to change our perceptions of reality when the time comes.

There’s a great quote:

Life isn’t about avoiding the storm. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.

Can’t remember who’s it is.

Isn’t that awesome?

Whoever we are, wherever we are, we are always susceptible to change. That’s the nature of being. Change is the only constant.

When we don’t acknowledge that change is possible, we become susceptible to trauma. Can you believe that a person could meet with a disabling accident, a chronic painful illness, or the death of a loved one with equanimity and peace?

No suppression of grief. No repressing emotions and acting like everything’s okay. We can partake in all these human emotions without letting ourselves be crushed by them.

Dancing in the rain is actually possible. Not pretending to have fun, mind you, but actually accepting the inevitability of crisis and taking it in. There will be storms in life. In fact, that’s what life is. A succession of storms. Some of them we manage to weather out quite nicely, but others will shake our foundations.

In the long run, learning to stay strong in the face of disaster may be the most important skill you ever develop.

My own life, though it hasn’t been perfect (whose is?), was relatively trauma free, up until a few years ago. I guess the most traumatic events in my life before the age of twenty-three were my parent’s divorce at around seven years old, and then successions of moving between cities and countries and new step-dads.

Which in itself has a deep impact on a kid, but being so young I didn’t have the skills or self-knowledge to actually work myself through that trauma until years later.

However, at twenty-three, my life changed forever. I was diagnosed with a chronic skin disease (Red Skin Syndrome) of terrifying proportions. I developed insomnia due to intense itchiness during the night, infections due to endless sores and cuts from scratching my skin raw, and massive psychological trauma.

It’s now been two and a half years since that fateful moment, and I’ve managed to improve my condition by at least 80%. I should clarify, that this disease is most likely temporary (2-5 years average), so a big part of my regained health is due to the passing of time.

However, I also believe that my own efforts for survival and betterment have been invaluable.

I started eating an absolutely clean, whole-foods diet. I cut out all sugars and carbs in general. Stopped smoking weed, stopped using pornography, started exercising as much as possible (although sweating is a real issue with this disease), started a steadfast meditation habit, started journaling a lot, and generally diagnosed everything that was holding me back in life and decided to remedy it as best I could.

Even though I knew there were things I couldn’t control, I decided to do everything I could control as well as humanly possible.

Taking responsibility for my circumstances in life has been the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. It has also made me intensely grateful for the mere fact of my existence.

This life is a perpetual roller coaster. We slowly gain altitude in times of peace, and that’s when we have a chance to prepare ourselves in every way for the inevitable swooping, dizzying descent.

When we manage to prepare ourselves and overcome our fears of the inevitable crises, we can actually have fun, just like even the most terrifying roller coaster becomes exhilarating in the absence of fear.

So this brings us the question we posed in the beginning of this article:

What the hell is going on?

We exist, obviously, but why does it have to be so hard?

Why does life have to be so fraught with misery and suffering? Wouldn’t it be easier to just have the pleasant bits and smooth out the splinters and hang-nails?

Well, here’s a profound insight for you: Good is only possible when it’s balanced with bad. Pleasure is only possible when it’s balanced with pain, in the same way up is only possible with the inevitable down.

We live in a reality of opposing extremes. Everything has an opposite, because without it, nothing would have meaning.

It doesn’t take a lot of pondering to see that this is absolute truth.

What this means is simple. Without the dark times, there would be no happiness. Without suffering, there would be no bliss. Without nothing, there could be no something.

When you truly realize this, and take it to heart, you’ll find that you start appreciating what’s wrong in your life. You may not welcome pain, but you start to see its value.

Another thing to consider, is that as there are categorical opposites, like pleasure and pain, up and down, light and dark, there is also an element of opposites within the effects of each category.

This will take some explaining.

When you get into a boating accident, fall into the middle of the pacific, a shark bites your leg of, and then you’re pulled out by your ship-mates, that seems pretty Sh**ty. And it is.

But no matter how terrifying and negative an event is, there is always something to be learned, some insight to be gained. And the value of said insight will be as positive as the event was negative, and vice versa.

It’s impossible to know in advance what the silver lining will be. In the example above, the most obvious positive insight will be your increased compassion for amputees. Your increased awareness of danger and of your own mortality. Expanded awareness, in other words.

There can be zounds of hidden positive aspects to negative events, it all depends on how you decide to react to them. A mountain can be teeming with gold nuggets, but if nobody thinks to look for them, they’re worthless. In the same way, there can be veritable jewels of insight hidden within a break-up, accident, illness, or death, but if you don’t focus on them, they might as well not be there at all.

I know it’s difficult to think this way. Illness is incredibly unpleasant and often painful, and there’s no way around that. But as you take responsibility for that pain and discomfort, you are in a better position to mine the insights and become aware of ways to make up for it. It’s a process, but it can be done.

We are creators of meaning.

Even if we don’t intend to be. We create meaning through the simple virtue of our humanity. It’s what being human entails. And we may not be aware of this, but we get to choose the meaning we apply to anything at all.

It takes self-knowledge, and it takes contemplation of the nature of reality and consciousness. But when we gather together the simple truths and laws of the universe, of human nature, we can effectively change our reality.

And that, my friends, is magic.

 

Walk into bliss – Walking meditation

I’m writing this post from a summer cabin my grandparents own next to the glacial river Jökulsá í Lóni.

The weather is beautiful and birds are chirping all around. What a privilege.

I started my day by drinking a litre of ice cold spring water and then I headed off to the mountains, hiking to a high point above the cabin where I met a few little lambs and a ptarmigan still in winter clothes even though it’s already June. The scenery was and is breathtaking.
I want to write about walking meditation. Its a concept that I had difficulty grasping for a long time, but I feel like I’ve got a better understanding of what it means.
Especially after my 800 km hike across northern Spain on the Camino de Santiago, where I decided I would train myself to be mindful even while on the move.
Sitting meditation is a wonderful thing, but unless you live in a monastery or a cabin in the wilderness like the one I’m in now, you will hit snags in the practice. It may be travel, work, illness or lethargy, but we all hit a point where we can’t seem to find the time or energy to sit for an hour or two every day.
I think this is a fact of life. Nobody’s perfect, nor should we expect ourselves to be. After I consciously accepted my imperfection, I feel a lot better about not being able to stand up to my highest ideals every now and then.
That doesn’t mean that I allow myself to get lazy, far from it.
It means that I free myself from feeling bad when something that I can’t control breaks up my routine. And that freedom from constricting emotions actually helps me to get back on track faster than if I allow myself to wallow in self-pity and despair.
However, there is always a way to practice, wherever you are and whatever’s going on around you. If for whatever reason we feel like we just can’t sit still, or we can’t manage to concentrate, we can go for a walk.
Taking a walk, especially in nature, clears the mind and calms the nerves. This is, I believe, common knowledge, and we’ve all experienced this at one time or another.
This makes walking all the more ideal for meditation, although for the longest time I couldn’t figure out just how to do it.
First off, remove external distractions. Don’t listen to music or podcasts. Unless that’s the reason you wanted to take a walk, in which case listening to something is perfectly fine.

But if you want to meditate, just do that.
Then, do your best to remove internal distractions. Become aware of your thought-stream. Are you agitated? Serene? Neutral? Excited? Become conscious of your emotions.

If you’re out in a natural environment, find a place to sit down before walking further, just to center yourself.

Tune into your senses, hear the birds, feel the wind. Feel the sun on your face. Or the rain. Feel the rock under your butt. Feel what’s going on around you. If it’s not freezing outside, taking off shoes and socks and feeling the earth under bare feet is wonderful.
Tuning into sensations in the body is the easiest way I know for calming mind chatter and expanding consciousness.

Give yourself a few minutes for this grounding process.
Then when you feel ready, start your walk. Try to retain the tranquility of mind you discovered while sitting. Feel the pressure and support of the earth in every step, feel the air entering your nostrils and mouth, filling your lungs with oxygen.
I like to practice concentrating awareness into specific sensations, such as the breath and footsteps, and then expanding it into the entire body, allowing myself to simply experience myself and the world around me. No thinking, no judging. Just being.
The natural world is full of distractions. Birds flitting around, wind in the leaves, insects buzzing. Observe these with an easy mind. Don’t judge anything. Nature is our greatest teacher. If something seems fascinating, allow yourself to be fascinated. Take a look, touch and listen.
Then when you’ve sated your curiosity, go back to awareness of your breath and footfalls.
To be sure, walking meditation is a bit more challenging than sitting in silence, but with a little time and effort it becomes a wonderful way to continue spiritual practice, even when we think we don’t have the time or energy.

It’s also a bridge between general mindfulness and formal sitting meditation, a way of infusing the mundane with awareness.
Much love.

Are you really self-aware?

The standard narrative has us believe that self-awareness goes hand-in-hand with being human, but how much of the time are we really self-aware?

In the last few weeks, I’ve been working on becoming mindful in every day life. What repeatedly surprises me is how much of my day is completely automatic.

From the way I stumble out of bed in the morning (well, actually I sleep on the floor now, but that’s a story for another day), to the way I get dressed, to the way I brush my teeth in the evening before bed.

All of this has become automated from years of repetition, and that’s well and good, to be honest. It saves me the energy of having to control every muscle in every instant.

But sometimes it becomes harmful. Negative patterns of behavior, like negative thinking, repressing emotions, addiction and compulsion are just as easy to imprint as positive patterns. For example, a mindfulness project of mine these last weeks has been to improve my posture, especially the way I carry my shoulders.

It amazes me how many times in the day I suddenly realize that I’ve tensed up my upper back, pulling my shoulders to my ears or rounding them forward. When I notice, I remind myself that this isn’t a healthy way to sit or stand, and I correct it consciously. Those moments of sudden awareness of my posture are glimpses of true self-awareness. And that implies that the rest of the time, I’m not actually aware, or at least not fully aware.

Mindfulness is the key to correcting any and all harmful behavior and compulsions, but realizing when you’re mindful and when you’re not is the tricky part.

The way I see it, the only time we’re truly self-aware is when we’re completely and utterly here, now. At the mercy of the present.

Thinking is not indicative of self-awareness, unless you’re actually aware of your thoughts as the come and go.

Movement is not indicative of self-awareness, unless you’re actually aware of the sensory input your body is picking up from its surroundings.

Saying ‘My name is Tolli and I live in Iceland’ is a script that I’ve repeated a million times, and thus is not indicative of self-awareness.

Only when I actually am in the process of being Tolli from Iceland, am I truly self-aware. And in those moments of clarity and presence, my name and nationality are meaningless. My past and future is irrelevant.

All I have is now. When I become truly present, I realize that the present moment is all there is.

Memory is fickle. Prediction is unreliable. Now is where it’s at. The past and future are concepts. They aren’t real, and they cannot be experienced.

They feel real when we think of them, but we can only think of them in the present moment. Because that’s where we all are, and that’s where we’ve always been.

So now that we see that here, now is all there is, we can deduce that ‘not being in the now’ actually means thinking of past or future events instead of experiencing what is happening around and within us. B

eing outside of the present moment is literally impossible. Even if by some incredible scientific breakthrough a person manages to travel to a different time period, that will become his or her present moment. But I digress.

My goal in life is to become fully self-aware. I want all my behavior to be fully conscious. Conscious thoughts, words, actions.

Compulsion has no place in the life of a fully conscious human being, nor does addiction or depression. I want to take full responsibility for my entire existence.

Consciously accepting and embracing the good and the bad. Consciously deciding to feel love and gratitude in every moment.

Living a life of kindness and compassion. All this will come with increased self-awareness, as it has for countless others.

Much love to you all, until next time.

Update on my OBE experiment – Week 1

In a previous post I wrote about my plans for learning to astral project/have an out-of-body experience. That was about a week ago, and I’ve been practicing every night when I go to bed, and sometimes I take a nap during the day and practice then as well. The results so far have been really weird, although I’ve yet to actually separate.

If you don’t know what the heck I’m talking about check out William Buhlman’s website.

First though, I want to share this drawing I did in colored pencil, from the six of pentacles in the Rider-Waite tarot deck. The design is based on Pamela Colman-Smith’s original work.

I’ve done quite a few of these tarot drawings now, I look forward to sharing more of them in the future.

This card came up in a reading for myself, as a prediction of future events. The way I understood it is that I’m moving more and more into the direction of sharing, giving.

Helping others. However, I also saw myself as the beggar, learning to ask for help and accept it when offered. Right, on to my OBE shenanigans.

First off, the exercises for inducing OBEs are incredibly pleasant. One of the main goals is to learn to relax the body completely, while keeping the mind gently alert. Which feels really good, as it turns out.

The routine or practice that I’ve been using has been to basically lie down in a comfortable position somewhere quiet, start with some deep breathing for a few minutes. Then I repeat the affirmation ‘I now travel consciously outside my body‘ maybe 40 times, trying to strengthen my intent with each repetition. Then I focus on my body.

Note that the practice I’m talking about is very meditative. I’ve felt that the more I practice these techniques of relaxation, the more focused I become in my meditation sessions.

In order to completely relax, I confirm my intent to lie completely still and not move a muscle. No scratching, blinking or swallowing. I believe this is a very important step.

Then I focus on the sensations I’m feeling in my body, like my skin touching the floor or bed, temperature, a feeling of heaviness or lightness, and as I start to relax more and more I usually start to feel a pleasant tingly vibration somewhere in my body.

As soon as I notice that, I start focusing on that feeling and sort of encourage it to spread throughout my body.

I think the vibrations that are often mentioned in the context of OBEs usually coincide with absolute relaxation, in my experience at least.

Then when I feel the vibrations all over I start to simultaneously focus on the subtle ringing sound in my ears and the blackness behind the eyelids. If I’m having a hard time feeling the vibrations I skip this step.

  1. Lie down in a comfortable position in a quiet space
  2. Deep breathing for a few minutes to calm down, lying completely still
  3. Repeat the affirmation ‘I now travel consciously outside my body‘ for a few minutes, increasing power of intent with each repetition
  4. Focus on bodily sensations until you start feeling a tingling vibration, then start focusing on that and encouraging it to spread throughout the body
  5. Focus simultaneously on vibrations, ringing in the ears and blackness behind the eyelids.

For the first few times I practiced this I didn’t feel much to be honest, but the last two or three times I’ve managed to stay conscious into a sort of half sleep paralysis, with quite intense feelings of vibration, like an electrical current.

Last night especially, I felt the vibrations very clearly, and the ringing in my ears was magnified, as if it were growing louder.

Then after a while of that I started seeing weird visuals behind closed eyelids, sort of reminded me of the visuals after taking a large dose of psilocybin mushrooms. Really weird but in a very pleasant way.

Then my girlfriend crawled into bed next to me and I fell out of the trance and fell asleep very soon after that. But I’m sure that I came closer to an OBE this time than ever before.

I’ve also noticed that I seem to sleep better and remember my dreams very clearly after I started to practice these techniques.

I’ve been trying to get myself to do it when I wake up during the night as well, as this supposedly improves the chances of going out of body, but I’ve been pretty groggy and haven’t remembered to do it so far.

That’s fine, I’m going to give myself plenty of time and practice, and I’m not expecting any results right away.

I’m starting with 30 days but if I don’t experience it in that time frame I’ll keep going.

There are obviously numerous other benefits to this practice and I’m sure there’s more to come.

I’ll keep you guys updated, I hope you find this subject as fascinating as I do.

Experimenting with OBEs

I keep coming back to awareness. I guess that’s why I decided to call my site Joy of Awareness, HAH. It’s just so multifaceted.

The more I understand awareness, the more I realize how much more there is to understand. If that makes sense. Of course it does. It seems to me that there is an almost limitless potential for awareness expansion. Just looking back and seeing how much more aware I am of everything today than, say, five years ago or ten. I hardly even recognize myself.

I’ve been researching OBEs recently, Out of Body Experiences for those of you hearing about them for the first time. I just finished reading Adventures Beyond the Body by William Buhlman, and MAN that stuff is mind boggling.

It’s so weird, so fascinating, that I decided that I need to check it out for myself, so for the last few days I’ve been doing meditations and repeating affirmations recommended in Buhlman’s book. He says that in his experience, most people who put in the effort get some kind of results within 30 days.

I somehow can’t get myself to believe that such a concept has any foothold in reality, but the author seems so sincere and honest. He has his books available for free on his website, along with loads of further information about OBEs.

It’s just that the subject is so far mainstream sensibility that it’s hard to swallow that it might be real. And this is coming from a guy who’s deep into psychedelics, meditation and magic.

I’ve even experienced some incredible clear lucid dreams in the last few years, and you wouldn’t think there would be a big leap of faith between conscious dreaming and out of body experiences… I know things aren’t always as they seem, yet I find myself falling into patterns of conditioning again and again.

The only way to get to the bottom of this is to allow myself to fall into this particular rabbit-hole. So that’s why I’m going to go all in on these exercises for at least a month, preferably longer. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I didn’t.

So what I’m going to do is one 30 minute ‘nap’ every day. I say nap because I’m basically trying to allow my body to fall asleep through relaxation meditation, while remaining consciously aware of myself.

For the first 10 minutes of the nap I’m going to repeat affirmations along the lines of ‘I’m now allowing my awareness to travel beyond the physical body’, and then I simply focus on staying absolutely still, while relaxing further with every breath.

I’ve already experienced the so-called vibrational stage, which in my experience coincides with deep relaxation. It’s when you feel like there’s a current of electricity humming through your body, and a few time I’ve felt this very intensely. I feel like I’m on the right track, at the very least.

I’ll keep you updated on my progress. I’m really excited, although I can’t help but be a bit doubtful at the same time. I look forward to sharing my experiences.

Anyway, I highly recommend Buhlman’s book, and also Robert Monroe’s book Journeys Out of the Body. Both of those books are at the very least thought provoking, if not positively paradigm-shattering.

Much love.

The primacy of direct experience

To quote Terence McKenna, culture and ideology are not your friends.

As I go through this life, living in this society, experiencing what western culture has to offer, I am constantly rediscovering the truth of those words. Culture perpetuates itself for its own sake, not mine. Ideology has no interest in my well-being.

Society is an entity, an organism all its own, and just as the death or mutilation of a single ant in an ant-hill is irrelevant to the continuation of the whole, so too does society keep up its pretenses even when the individual suffers.

It’s harsh, but it’s also true.

Truth

Truth is something that increases in value to me as an individual as I mature and grow wiser.

A truth we have to come to terms with is that society loves you, and is indifferent to you, simultaneously. It gives you clothing, shelter, food, and all the amenities of the western world, but it also oppresses, shuns and punishes those who think outside of the box, or those who dare to defy it.

Jordan Peterson often speaks about the dual aspects of human society, found in the Jungian archetype of the King. The King Father protects, loves, serves his people. The Tyrant is oppressive and punitive. Both aspects are integral to all societies. All existence, in fact, is polar, dual. Pain and pleasure, love and hate, up and down, soft and hard.

A slap in the face

During my midnight of the soul I was suddenly confronted with the idea that western medicine didn’t in fact hold the answers to everything, and that many aspects of its ideology where dogmatic rather than scientific.

I had been using a medicine for more than a decade, a medicine that I had been assured was safe and beneficial. It turned out to be nonsense, and I now view most of the drugs proffered by western doctors to be poisonous rather than medicinal.

What I was experiencing was an ideology gone rogue, where even though many doctors know of the deficiencies of western allopathic medicine, the ideological system itself refuses to change.

This seems to happen in all corners of the world, wherever there are enough of us that come together, cults spring up out of the swarms of human beings, whether we call them institutions, churches or establishments. They may exist harmoniously, ethically, and for the good of the whole to begin with (or they may not), but sooner or later they weaken and become corrupt.

The Catholic Church is the most obvious example that comes to mind, although the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the Roman Republic are a close second.

So that’s all pretty depressing, but where the hell am I going with this? What can we do?

Break on through to the other side

My first reaction to the realization that society didn’t actually care about me as an individual was depression and lethargy. I felt betrayed and deceived. And I think that’s a pretty common first reaction to a shattered paradigm. But as time passed and I had a chance to allow the idea to sink in, my depression gave way to a feeling of freedom.

Just as society doesn’t conform to my every need and want, I don’t need to conform to society’s expectations.

I guess this idea had popped up in my head every now and again, but never in such a profound way. A clear principle was born, a principle that now governs my life : Believe nothing, except direct experience.

Direct experience

I no longer take anything at face value. I decided never again to trust any source. We’re told we can trust doctors, teachers, clergymen, politicians and police officers. We’re told we can take what they say as a god-given truth and fuck the naysayers. Well, it’s just not that simple.

Everyone makes mistakes some of the time. Everyone lies some of the time. There is no such thing as a “trusted source”.

This doesn’t mean I need to reinvent the wheel or live in a cave. I absorb ideas, tinker with them, experiment with them, and then and only then will I either implement them in my own life or scrap them. But I don’t accept anything as “truth” before I’ve experienced it first hand.

That’s why nowadays I give little credit to most scientific research. Although admirable in many ways, modern science has, to my mind, a fatal flaw: it’s unverifiable by the common person.

A biologist may publish a paper connecting this bacterium to that disease, or name the exact protein that causes an effect somewhere else, but there will be no way for me to verify it!

I’m not a biologist, I don’t have a microscope, and even if I did I wouldn’t be able to make heads or tails of what I saw.

The only way I can approach truth in this manner is to take the ideas of others and test them myself. That’s not to say that I oppose all ideas that I haven’t tested myself, or can’t test for myself. All I’m saying is I don’t accept it as truth just because it comes from a specific source.

Ultimate reality?

Strictly speaking, our experience of reality is the ultimate reality. Our heads are full of concepts about the physical world that we will never be able to fully verify, yet we accept them as truth. Direct experience is the only way to know anything. At least you will know what you are experiencing.

That’s why I’m so interested in psychedelics. They have shown me that my everyday experience of reality is not the only way to experience reality. There are mysteries so profound, so evanescent, so transformative, that my eyes tear up just imagining what’s out there, what’s possible.

That’s also why I’ve built up a firm meditation habit. Meditation is a less intense, though more permanent, way of getting in touch with direct experience. The importance of understanding that you are IT cannot be overstated.

Once you realize your own potential, the incredible places your consciousness can take you, you will laugh at the ideologues and the dogmatists.

You will be living an observed life, to paraphrase Socrates, which is the only life worth living.

 

 

 

Meditation – What I’ve learned

I think most people who discover meditation, myself included, initially vastly underestimate it’s potential for transformation.

I haven’t by any means discovered everything that meditation has to offer, but at this point in my life it’s been about 4 years since I first started dabbling with it and about a year since I started seriously maintaining a habit of meditating daily.

I want to briefly outline my own experience with meditation and mind training, discuss the benefits and hopefully convince someone else to start this great habit.

I got introduced to meditation at age 21 through the lectures of Alan Watts, who’s now one of my favorite philosophers. For those of you who haven’t heard of him, he was an Anglican minister who left the church and in the sixties became a philosophizing hippie and mystic.

He was pivotal in bringing eastern mysticism and philosophy into the western mainstream. I highly recommend his lectures, many of which can be found on Youtube.

Later I got into listening to Ram Dass and thus became even more intrigued about meditation and psychedelics both.

Taking the plunge

Those guys talk about a great many things, all of them immensely interesting, but Ram Dass especially focuses on the importance of learning to calm the mind, tune into one’s senses and be here now.

Even so, it wasn’t until I discovered the Vipassana retreat centers around the world, as taught by S. N. Goenka, that I really decided to try it out. A friend of mine and I duly signed up for the next course to be held in Catalonia, 30 minutes out of Barcelona, and it was tough.

These retreats are unforgiving. The schedule is very strict, wake up at 4:00 AM every morning, meditation starts at 4:30. From then on it’s basically hardcore sitting in silence until 21:30 PM, allowing for breakfast, lunch, and short breaks every hour or so.

That’s every day for ten days. At 19:00 there’s also an hour long lecture from Goenka on tape, which becomes the most interesting respite since the invention of sex, at least after ten days of non-stop meditating.

Aftermath

Unsurprisingly, many people drop out. A few times I approached my own breaking point, but by a blend of intrigue in the potential benefits of hours of meditation and a longing not to be outdone by my friend, I stayed on. And in retrospect I’m incredibly glad I did, because I ended up learning a lot about myself and human nature.

For example, farts become ten times funnier when there’s nothing else to laugh at. Food becomes ten times better when you receive no other stimulation all day, and when there’s nothing distracting you from tasting and enjoying it.

That said, they recommend that after finishing the course you keep a two-hour-daily habit of meditation to keep progressing. I accepted the challenge and kept it up for about two weeks until dropping it down to about 20 minutes daily.

Then for the next few years I kept that up on and off (mostly off to be totally honest). I actually went to a couple of other centers as a worker, where you meditate about a third of the time and the rest is spent in mindful service.

I learned a lot from that as well and it provided a kick to keep up the habit, but I would always lose my motivation in the end.

I’m not sure what exactly changed, whether it was my midnight of the soul or something I read, or even just an accumulation of meditative experience breaking down resistance, but slowly but surely I became motivated to meditate more and more.

I guess actually seeing the benefits of this habit manifest in my own psyche had a lot to say about that, as well as a general building up of momentum.

I gradually went from every two or three days, to every single day, and from 10-15 minute sessions to hour long sittings, at first once daily, and now both morning and evening sessions.

I’ve now meditated at least 20 minutes every single day for more than three hundred days, and I’ve meditated for 2 hours daily for close to a month now. And I want to make this clear, I don’t mean to brag!

This is a highly personal undertaking, so personal that pretty much nobody besides my girlfriend actually knows I meditate at all. And that’s the way I like it.

That’s not to say I’m not proud of my self, in fact it’s improved my self esteem by leaps and bounds, because I’ve shown myself to be capable of self-discipline that I was sure I would never find.

Benefits!

Now, what are the actual benefits I’ve experienced? Good question. Actually, there are some very tangible and obvious benefits, and then there are aspects which are pretty much ineffable, or unspeakable. Obviously I’ll focus on the tangible ones.

Increased focus

I’ve noticed my ability to focus has improved dramatically, especially after I started to focus on concentration meditation as opposed to insight meditation (like the Vipassana tradition).

I can read for hours at a time and I can remain attentive in pretty much any situation. I’m not superhuman though, some days are definitely easier than others, and the general condition of my body (hydration, sleep, nourishment) has a lot to say about it.

Calm

I’m definitely more calm in every day life, or rather, I find it easier to calm myself down in the face of agitation.

The more familiar I become with my attention, the more easily I can direct it.

For example, if I become overly worried about something that I have little control over, I can consciously decide to become present, to attend to my breath or search for bodily tensions, and take myself out of my head.

This is a tremendous benefit to my overall health, as tension and stress are incredibly detrimental to the human body. This effect will also become more pronounced as time goes by.

Deeper Introspection

This is connected to the first benefit, in that when I’m writing in my journal or practicing self-inquiry, I’m able to remain attentive to the process, which allows me to delve deeper, to follow thoughts further, and to contemplate ideas more fully than I could before.

This effect is obviously also cumulative.

Less bodily tension

The Vipassana or insight traditions in buddhism especially have consistently helped me to detect tensions within my body of which I had no clue. Allowing your attention to flow through your body like a flashlight, making every tight muscle and overstretched tendon obvious to you.

Multiple times a day now, I scan my body to see where my tensions tend to build up. In my case it’s mostly my face, shoulders and abdomen, and when I detect tension I consciously let it go.

There’s definitely correlation between bodily tension and personality type, like when you call someone a tight-ass.

I’m a pretty high strung person, how much of it is nature and how much is nurture I’ll never know, but I’ve learned to consciously relax myself to the degree that I feel like I’ve gained a lot of control over my more neurotic tendencies.

Confidence

There’s just a real comfort in the fact that you are here, now. Whenever I really tune into that fact, a powerful feeling of acceptance arises. And accepting what is, is just as important as creating what will be.

I hope I managed to convey some of my enthusiasm for the meditative life. I’m experiencing new aspects of my mind and consciousness every single day, and I believe consciousness expands exponentially as soon as you start cultivating a habit of questioning and investigating direct experience.

Love to you all.

Check out my article on Single-Pointed Meditation and how it can Help your Spiritual Practice, or you could take a look at my post on the Awesome power of Psychedelics!