in evolution
writings about the process…

archive for July, 2009

spiritual diary 2oo9.o7.3o


30 minutes
partial technology

i am more convinced every day that real progress is always fundamentally based on mutation; on random events in the environment. that to be truly at peace with the progress made, we must come to terms with the fact that much of the process is out of our hands – we can simply observe changes in the environment, and if we are open to them, we can leverage them.

today i set my interval timer to click once every 30 seconds in order to pace my breathing properly. i have noticed previously that when doing this, i am kept much better on track; at least my breathing is totally slow and regular which seems beneficial to my ability to keep clear during the time. today, about 1o minutes into the meditation, the battery on the camera died, and the clicking stopped; however, it had gone long enough to set my patterns up for the rest of the meditation – not perfectly, but my breathing was generally more regular, and i was no longer attached specifically to hearing a click; it was almost as if a metronome had been started to give me the beat, long enough to internalize it, and then faded away to allow a rubato to come back into play. once again, this was a complete environmental mutation that was leveraged, and may in fact provide a useful general constraint. in fact, my time lapse controller can set a total number of photos – meaning, i can have it automatically turn off halfway through the session.

There is a quote from Shakespeare that has hit me during my meditation this morning:

The poet's eye, in fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;
And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen
Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.

Man takes elements in our world that are beyond any classification, and uses language to bind them to specifics. ‘The forms of things unknown’ are given a name; the left brain is allowed to compartmentalize them and thus to refer to them as concepts and ideas; but the things themselves have no nature as simple as we allude; they are simply ‘airy nothing’ – specificity seems an illusion we use for the sake of efficiency.

spiritual diary, 2oo9.o7.28-29


30 minutes, 30 minutes, assorted times in aspen colorado
no technologies

rarely led away from thinking about the future in meditation but yesterday began thinking about the show, and issues i have providing a certain ‘role’ on the show – one of the rare times my mind goes to the past instead of the future when led astray from stillness.

feedback has got to provide a positive effect on the ability to focus! even the camera shutter has proven extremely valuable in at least keeping my breath control even through the session. it does seem true what the koshas mention in terms of the order of primary events – first, the body must be kept comfortable – every time i feel my back stretch or tire, it immediately pulls me from focus. second, my breath seems to correlate [and cause] the focus. if i notice myself having lost focus, you can bet my breathing has returned to a quickened pace. i’m usually up to the 30 second breathing pace which is not natural, requires focus still.

satchidananda has a book ‘the golden present’ which has a short daily reading to inspire thought. after finishing my session, i turned to today’s reading [yesterday] and it was about ‘show biz’ – how show business is not to show other people things; it is to show ourselves things. it is to show us the superficiality of things. eo wilson, in ‘on human nature’, refers to the current society’s existential crisis created by the fact that everyone fills roles. because we are only equipped to deal with our “earlier, simpler [hunter/gatherer] existence” [which comprise 99% of our history even as homo sapiens], we require simplified roles of others. when you go to a bakery, you don’t expect the person to be a person any more – you expect them to just fill the role of the baker or salesperson. “Daily life is a compromised blend of posturing for the sake of role-playing and of varying degrees of self-revelation. Under these stressful conditions even the ‘true’ self cannot be precisely defined… Little wonder that the identity crisis is a major source of modern neuroticism, and that the urban middle class aches for return to a simpler existence.” It seems obvious to me now, that he is referring to the same thing that Satchidananda refers to often in his teachings.

we’re all having a show. no matter what role we’re playing, maybe we can just enjoy the show? As Satchidananda says, ‘Life is always a game. Don’t try always to win the game.’

spiritual diary 2oo9.o7.2o


15 minutes
laying down in the grass outside

one powerful thing about laying down is that my back pain doesn’t become as noticeable… at least until about 10 minutes in, when an ache starts making itself present. getting through the back and other physical pains seems to be important to moving myself more along the mental level. also, laying down it is easier for me to feel my heartbeat. without using an interval clock, i can count heartbeats in and out – mine is fast, i was counting sometimes 20 beats in and 30 out per breath. but i was using the internal interval clock.

i can notice my eye dominance [i am left eye dominant]. but oddly i seem to notice this even when my eyes are closed. i am literally looking at the blood rushing through my eyelids. i see the purples and the reds. the brightness changes; my mind dilates. but thought brings me right back to cycles. is my eye dominance causing different mental patterns to emerge? is this a hemispherical battle? is the bicameral mind to blame for some of these loops and problems?

jill taylor, the neuroscientist, talks in ‘my stroke of insight’ about her own experience with stroke – and how she oscillated between right-brain dominance, experiencing the direct beauty of all things, and the left-brain dominance, analyzing what she needed to do to keep herself alive, get help, etc, during that criitcal time. (see the amazing TED talk below.)

I keep wondering, is this progress all about gaining true control over the left brain, an extra feedback loop, if you will, so that the right brain can balance itself and experience more things directly? i always notice a visual crispness when i open my eyes after meditation. is this from the dark or from the modifications of thought patterns?

spiritual diary 2oo9.o7.19


15 minutes
no external technologies

focusing on the breath. there seems to be a threshold that is crossed – when i breathe sufficiently slowly, i can no longer feel my muscles exerting the effort to pull or push the breath in or out. in a thirty second breath, 10 inhaling and 20 exhaling, i make sure that i don’t pull hard enough to hear the air go through my nasal passages – this seems to create a stillness that i do not feel otherwise. the muscles are no longer working, and it feels more like there is a balloon in my lungs that someone else is operating, blowing it up and deflating it, and my body is just following that pattern.

sometimes, when i don’t have an interval clock, i try counting the inhale and exhale times. i find that at times when my focus is having difficulty, by giving the mind the counting exercise as a root focus, it becomes easier to keep a clear mind in regards to all the other thoughts that impinge upon us from moment to moment. i still think that a focus on the counting is not the end goal because you are still occupying the brain with a task; but it seems a possibly useful middle ground.

when my thoughts do wander, they often wander to my upcoming experiences. i am moderating some talks at the aspen health forum, and then giving a keynote address at siggraph in new orleans the following week. so, the topics i will discuss and/or moderate keep crossing my mind, which wants to be as prepared as possible. before i bring myself back to stillness, however, i notice that my thoughts are less troubled by the anxiety of such talks, and more filled with excitement about the opportunity to share a love for things with other people; the real challenge becomes not ‘will i look foolish,’ but ‘how can i orient my discussion in a way that will help the most people’?

A great excerpt of an interview [uncut] with Eckhart Tolle, describing not only his personal experiences, but the notion of stillness and why it is important, in very pragmatic everyday terms:

spiritual diary 2oo9.o7.18


20 minutes
noise reduction headphones

i can hear my heart beat. i can hear the way that it changes through my breath. the extra pressure it feels when i am mostly inhaled, the sound it mixes with when i exhale most of my air. i am getting better at bringing myself back to zero when i notice myself trailing off. but after probably 10-15 minutes some sort of fatigue with that seems to set in, and it’s much easier for me to fade. maybe two ten minute sessions would be more effective than one 20 minute session at this point? i hadn’t thought about the time breakdown and its ability to set me forward or backward.

spiritual diary 2oo9.o7.17


17 minutes
no interval clock

trying again with no clock, to consistently contrast the difference between the two approaches. initially, having no auditory feedback did allow me a focus that i wasn’t attaining with the timer on – however, when i lost myself and was sidetracked by thought, i saw myself go away for maybe even 5 minutes at one point without realizing it, and during that time, my breathing patterns did not hold up; they reverted into shortened breaths. only upon regaining awareness of the situation did my breath return to its slower controlled state.

i can really see that one of my main challenges is that i have spent the last 6 years of my life [and arguably a lot longer than that] with the priority of getting things done; getting things accomplished. and given how intangible the gains are with meditation – ie the increased clarity etc is not nearly as clear as having new furniture installed in my apartment, my mind is constantly pulling me from pure focus into states of analysis – trying to see how much progress i’m making and where my pitfalls are. i think when i am able to focus less on that, my progress will actually increase manyfold.

spiritual diary 2oo9.o7.16


16 minutes
30 second interval timer

no matter where my thoughts are and no matter my ability to focus, with the interval timer on I am able to regulate my breath indefinitely. this feels immensely useful!

meditation is an intense focused training session. but what becomes more clear to me on a daily basis, is that the way we have spent the last 31-odd years of our lives is so immensely powerful at shaping us, that it is amazing something like meditation can reshape us at all! the people that i see who have grown up in environments where being in the moment was the default, are years, possibly decades, ahead of others in their spiritual development, if their childhoods were spent full of regret, worry, etc.

the main element that caused humanity to rise above the other primates was our adaptability. nature and nurture strike a constant balance but it seems that nurture, more than any other animals on the planet, can deeply and greatly affect the range of possibilities of human beings. if we are ever to change the spiritual landscape in a wide sense, it’s going to take a generation of parents raising their children in a fundamentally different way than our current society orients itself.

spiritual diary 2oo9.o7.15


10 minutes, 30 second interval timer

Back to the interval timer. Really helpful. At the very least, my breathing is as it should be, spacious and regular, for the entire meditation time. Otherwise I usually find that when my thoughts get sidetracked, so does my breathing. And maybe the breathing has to, in a sense, lead the thinking. Maybe the physical ritual has to evolve to become second nature, and then eventually the thought patterns get modified by those physical ones. I actually, after meditating, in normal life have become more conscious of my breathing patterns.. maybe this is the sign of a shift.

In terms of how I think the intervals should be structured – it should start as something like 15 seconds. First inhale, 10 exhale. The 2:1 ratio should stay roughly consistent [according to what I’ve been told by Jay etc]. This should gradually be brought up to the desired place of roughly 30 seconds. This way, the interval clock is always counting single breaths, and as the breath gets longer, the ritual creates the same feedback loop of keeping our breaths completely regular. Even if our thoughts are somewhere else for the majority of the time, the breath is not allowed to stray – and this feels very important. After the breathing is regular and never missed through this 30 second interval, I believe the next phase is to jump to multiples of breaths. Almost like a rhythmic exercise of Victor Wooten, if the interval clock goes off every 60,90,120 seconds, we will have to keep our breaths aligned for longer time. The possible pitfall is the focus on counting too much, etc. I will have to see if this arises or if there’s a better way. Maybe jumping up by arbitrary amounts ends up more effective.

Also, I thought more about the progression of the interval clock. Just using a camera shutter works surprisingly well. Every click is a breath reset. But this could function for anything; it is by no means limited to the breathing patterns. Could just as easily be for my posture and becoming conscious of it.

I thought back to how powerful our thoughts are. How, as Hariharananda says, “During meditation, until you leave behind all your thoughts and ambitions, you will not get single-minded concentration.” How as long as we are part of the picture, everything we see and contemplate is seen in its relationship with us, and not on its own. We define ourselves through our relationship with other things, and it seems getting beyond that is one of the major steps to being able to truly ‘concentrate.’

It is becoming easier to see how all of our negative emotions stem from our own personal involvement in our thoughts. Worry about the future, jealousy about the present, anxiety about the future. If we rid ourselves of these elements, who remains? This video of Satchidananda explains in the most pragmatic terms I’ve heard, how all our imbalance stems from these personal views of things. It’s not limited to diamonds; for me it’s possession of thoughts. But the diamond metaphor seems to reach arbitrarily deep.

spiritual diary 2oo9.o7.14


15 minutes

it is amazing how important the breath is. i hadn’t realized it until trying the interval clock [via time lapse shutter at 30 second intervals, which timed breaths]. now i tried it without any of that, and i noticed that probably 60% of the time, i was not breathing in the pattern that i should have been, long, deep, even breaths. that was in a sense a rude awakening.

kept getting sidetracked worrying about things. i am very future-centric, and it shows as soon as the din of the sensory inputs settles. i find that even at times when i think i am clear and focused, often in reality there are just so many thoughts competing for my attention that i hear white noise; but it is not the white noise of calm, it is the white noise of a village of speakers.

spiritual diary 2oo9.o7.13


i’m getting into a meta place more now.
the thoughts are quieting down, but still ever-present,
but have gotten into a meta-form.
the camera shutter seems to help recenter me every 30 seconds.
and keeps my breath constant through the entirety.
i think that alone is a big step forward. the patterned breathing.