Thursday, October 9, 2008

What Meditation Does to Your Brain

Following up on the previous blog about meditation, I've been digging around for some interesting links on how meditative states correlate with brain waves. Here's a basic rundown on how:

(Graph from crystalinks)

The brain itself emits electromagnetic energy, and this brain activity differs according to its state (sleeping, awake, thinking etc). There is a growing amount of data about these brain states, specifically on how the act of meditation influences them. According to this chart, beta waves coincide with thinking/working/ activities, while on the other side of the spectrum there is delta, which indicates deep and dreaming/dreamless sleep. Meditation is often found with alpha/theta waves. I'd be curious to know where mindfulness meditation fits in this spectrum.

There are various sound waves that induce or help promote a particular brain state. Ever hear of the brainwave generator? It's been around for a few years now (at least). You can download the program, free and try it out. It has a very extensive list of different sounds which allegedly help for a number of tasks, from meditating to headaches. What are your thoughts on it? From giving it a shot, I admit it did induce something. I've tried it to help write papers, but I've found myself having to make an active effort to first clear out all other sounds, sit back and take it in. There does seem to be some kind of effect, for sure. I'm just not sure how extensive it is.

Next up on the list is Holosync. This project is by far a more extensive one. I haven't purchased the program, but there seems to be alot of positive hype about it. What I did manage to get is a demo CD. It did seem to have some effect, but not as strong as the Brainwave generator. This could have been because the Holosync CD had the president speaking for a good majority of the demo, while the sound waves played underneath. I found it to be a bit distracting.

Without making this too patchy, I think I'll end it here, and in the next blog (part 2) I'll dive into a related topic: the science behind meditation. There are a handful of really interesting experiments and debates over meditation and the brain. Stay tuned!

Friday, October 3, 2008

10 Tips for Effective Meditation

1. Daily Practice. Meditation doesn't necessarily mean taking a few hours out of your day. In fact, morning and evening meditation can fit easier into your schedule. Try simple breathing exercises after you lie down to fall asleep. When you wake up, spend a few minutes with the same breathing exercises. A regular mindfulness practice will gradually spill over to your every-day life. You'll notice yourself going back into that "flowing" state during the day.
2. Mindfulness. Whether or not you have more time, mindfulness can be applied throughout the day. Simply notice things, pay attention to your breathing while you walk. Notice simple and subtle bodily aspects-- emotional and physical reactions. Simply notice your thoughts as they arise. Watch the world arise and fall as you move through it. Once again, a daily practice is the most important for effectiveness.
3. Follow the breath. Inhale through your nose, feel the air fill your lungs, feel the air leave. Beginners are encouraged to count 1-10 to help keep the pace. Once you are comfortable, quietly follow the breath. This is tricky to do at first, but it is the foundation of meditation. Gradually it will become more natural for you. When you first start, don't worry about the thoughts that pop up. Just keep following the breath. When you lose count, or get distracted, quietly pause and then begin the count again.
4. Read. Digging into a good book may stimulate your thoughts, but it also may stimulate meditative states. Reading Tao te Ching, Krishnamurti or even Eckhart Tolle can help trigger you into reflective, mindful states. Reading blogs, links and anything on the internet is good for stimulating your mind and encourage self reflection.
5. Exercise. Physical meditation, you could call it. Mindfulness during physical exertion is sometimes one of the most effective ways to meditate. It lets you both be physically healthy and more aware of your body in motion. Meditation is not just about "sitting still" - that is, not just literally. It's also finding the still point while in motion.
6. If you're feeling negative emotions-- good! Or, in other words, when anxiety, anger, fear, etc. pop up during your practice, it means you are peeling off the layers and noticing things that have been brushed aside. When these feelings do arise, don't try to fix them. Just be with them, notice them and observe them. Just like you are doing with your body. This simple acceptance of their presence is sometimes the most important thing you could do for your mental and emotional well being.
7. Don't push yourself! No, really. One of the most difficult things many beginners and long time meditators experience is frustration. How can you "stop" yourself from thinking? Well, the trick is it can't be forced. If you are having trouble focusing, just notice that. If your thoughts wander, do your best to accept that and simply observe them as they stray. Once again, this bare attention is vital to a fruitful meditation practice.
8. Practice Compassion. For those of you who would like to try a more hands-on, creative approach to meditation. This form of meditation is compassion practice. Start by following the breath. After a minute or two, begin to imagine the world. Start with loved ones, and then go out to greater and greater points of view. Imagine any sickness, physical or emotional pain. As you breathe in, inhale that pain. If it helps, conceive of that pain as dark tar or black smoke. When exhaling, imagine letting that pain and sickness go into an infinite, unconditional love. You can imagine that love as an infinite blue sky or white light. Do this for 10-15 minutes a day. The results may be surprising!
9. Eat right. A healthy diet can make all the difference for your mental health. It helps attentiveness, awareness and general mental/physical strength. Not to mention-- sleep right too!
10. Music and environment helps. The right ambient (or any music, mind you) sounds can help stimulate mindfulness. Also, the right environment can help you too. A quiet day with the window open, spring or even winter air can help you induce a state of meditation. Music, it almost goes without saying, is an extremely potent tool. Don't be ashamed to try meditation CD's either!

That's it for now. Stay tuned for a follow up blog on meditation, brain waves, and Holosync.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Thoughts on the Bailout, a Clue from Duck Tales

I'm sure everyone has been following this. This is a post from Reddit: a video of Duck Tales teaching kids the laws of economics-- borrowing too much loses value! It's stunning, and almost prophetic how this video could serve as a reminder and an informer for everyone, especially those responsible for creating the bailout. To me, it really seems like it's just delaying the inevitable. Patchwork on a breaking car. Do we really think that adding more debt to save us from debt works? I swear, I may be young, but how is it that leaders of multi national corporations can't seem to get this right?

This is where it gets cloudy, but it sounds like it's a matter of policy. The philosophy of "trickle down" doesn't work. I think this is partially to do with our nature. People are greedy. They keep the money. Some things are complex only because we dodge the reality of things. Is there a way to change our policy? Can there be a system that takes human nature into better account?

Following up on that, here's a graphical representation of US debt over the past 10 years.

Monday, September 29, 2008

What does integral look like?

(Cross-post from the Integral pod on Gaia)

This is a thought that's been cooking for a while: how will integral naturally emerge, and will it look like the way Wilber has described it?

I might be wrong, but from reading wilber, I get the impression one of the main characteristics of integral is vertical thinking, developmental awareness. deeper levels of understanding. I do think this is an important characteristic, but what people seem to be witnessing is a deeper, complex way of thinking, yet seen as a horizontal complexity. It's still development, but not quite “linear” as it used to be.

Or in other words, the heirarchy, the classical “beaurocratic” levels are breaking down for a networking society.

So we're seeing the rise of the “network” instead of the “institution.” there are alot of thinkers along these lines, and to me this seems like where civilization is headed. i think this fits perfectly into integral, without needing to structure in levels just yet. it can fit into the maps, for sure, but common understanding of 'vertical' development is something that doesn't need to happen first. instead, we are re-thinking and seeing the relationship and organization in a totally new, complex structure.

We're seeing a breakdown of classical institutions, the information age has created collaborative efforts, open source organizations— and the internet is the best place to see new structures of society emerging.

So, what does integral look like, without the language, without the theory? or in other words, what does it look like without the map?

Networks, organic patterns, collaborations and decentralized organization.

I think Wilber, and many other integral theorists have correctly criticized “flatland,” and postmodernism for simply accepting the break down of heirarchy, centralized ways of thinking as the end-all, be-all. The story doesn't stop there. But instead of immediately creating vertical maps, it seems that it is naturally happening by first seeing organic patterns in the chaos. people are structuring naturally, organizing and networking. this way, underlying themes begin to be seen… and yes, maybe eventually we will have a deeper vertical awareness. for the moment, the depth comes from understanding the space between perspectives, but we're in the midst of creating the map. relationship and flex-flow will become prominent– and this is resonant with spiral dynamics, the 2nd tier “integral” value memes. If Wilber, and many of the integral theorists are correct, we will see maps arise naturally, and the “integral” attitude arising naturally in many creative ways.

If you want to see where it's headed, I think some great thinkers who are not associated with the integral theorists, per say, are clay shirky, who has an excellent ted talk here: Institution vs Collaboration

Another thinker is Manuel Castells– a sociologist who is strongly for moving beyond postmodernism, and wrote a book called “The Rise of the Network Society,” as well as “1000 Years of Non-Linear History.”

Do you know of any others? i'm not sure this is all coherent, but what i'm trying to get at is that we're seeing “integral” pop up organically, and sometimes the language of these theories can get in the way from seeing the seeds grow right under our feet.

Reading List!

Just picked up this book,

Commentaries on Living, First Series.

It's an excellent book, and very memorable for me. I used to read it on bus rides in high school. Good old days! Does that make me seem old? Here are a few other books I've picked up lately. Book reviews to come shortly...

And secondly, this great book. Another classic,

No Boundary: Eastern and Western Approaches to Personal Growth

I've read this one in the past, and it's great-- way before Wilber got a little heavy with the metaphysics. When does meaning become lost in the very language that is supposed to convey it? I think this is an important question, especially for the philosopher, the scientist, and the spiritualist. Sometimes, the simpler way is the most effective. What are your thoughts?

And finally, Eckhart Tolle: A New Earth. This book has been a popular one in the mainstream, and so far it seems to be eloquently simple, yet descriptive enough to reach some deep issues. I know some people are calling Tolle just another fake, someone cashing in on feel-goodness and such. I cannot say the same. His writing is on-par with alot of spiritual and philosophical thinkers, including the afformentioned Krishnamurti. In a sense, he is able to simplify complex meaning to common day language, and disseminate it to the majority of the population. So much so, he's got this show on Oprah's website. I can't say this does more harm than good. If anything, it at least gets people reflecting. That's something these days, no?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Ethics, Society and the New Tomorrow

As we spiral deeper and deeper into the information age, the singularity appears to draw near. We can get vast amounts of information at the push of a button—In fact, if we wanted to, we could download vast libraries of books, media and other forms of both entertainment and education. The internet, above all new advancements in technology, has created a decentralized culture of vibrant networks, oscillating and thriving, constantly shifting and flowing through the minds of its users. We have created a massive brain, in a sense, of knowledge and entertainment, culture and science. That, and literally anything else you could think of. In doing so, the internet as inadvertently shaped the mindset of the next generation (X, Y and so forth)—one that does not necessarily buy into the centralized, bureaucratic system we currently have in place. People are thinking differently. The rise of “open source” and collaboration have not only created breathing online societies, but also active groups in the real world. Networking websites (, for instance) have helped get people to do things and come together. In short, this is what Manuel Delanda has described as, “The Rise of Network Societies.” Its key traits are: decentralized power, network structure and collaboration.

As the old ways of doing things face the new way, we will see, and have seen some major shifts in power. The internet community, for example, has permanently crippled the media industry. The use of file sharing spreads like wildfire, and the hierarchical business structures attempting to combat it continue to lose legal battle after legal battle in the world. Attempts by lobbyists to limit the internet into “packages” like cable, or satellite T.V. have received fierce threats by Google, who, threatened in turn to broadcast the internet free from its orbiting satellites. These are only a few of the examples, and each is giving a powerful example of the network society. If communities and businesses continue to organize in this way, what can we expect? For starters, greater collaboration, integration of technology and activism. There will be institutions, but their purpose will be to simply keep the network growing, thriving. Those who can “hyper link” will be the greatest in standing. The most dynamic, adaptable will begin to win out in competition. Big business, though still existent, will be melted into vast frameworks of smaller business, all needing each other to co-exist, all of them co-dependent. Imagine, if you will, a brain. It is nearly infinitely complex, networked, yet still existing within it are general faculties with specific purposes. If all of this is abstract to you, you’re not alone. We can only imagine and speculate at this point, but speculation can certainly help us see what is happening now. We can ask ourselves—what are the important patterns now? And how are they going to be beneficial?

For starters, a network is by far more adaptable to challenges in its very structure. It has the whole of a community ready and willing to face a problem, and not simply one bureaucratic pyramid. If societies evolve, then this structure is the latest and the greatest in adaptation.
How will this new framework affect us culturally? How will we grasp both our morality and our ethics in such an ever-changing society? Or in Descartes words, where will we place our feet on firm ground? Take to mind the image of a sailboat. It has no “firm” grounding, yet it is a mastery of the wind and the sea—and ever changing, ever flowing ocean of air and water. Our grounding will not be so crystallized, but more liquefied. Our knowledge will rest on the ebb and flow of knowledge, network and flowing powers. If the information age has created a sea of knowledge, we must learn to sail upon it.

In this case, we must learn the nature of water, wind and the mastery of information exchange. We must become both sailors and swimmers, fliers in a world where there is no firm grounding anymore—and perhaps we are better off this way. Our fundamental attitudes on things may change, indeed, our very thinking structures may be affected by such a life at sea. We may find ourselves observing the flow between not only networks, but people and their ideas:The flow of perspectives, and their natural development. There may be a natural shift from seeing things in a classical, orderly way (That of modernity), to a balance of both chaos and harmony. Greater patterns emerge, and they may emerge in thinking, in ways that both the modernist and the postmodernist could not easily imagine. Religion, ethics and society itself may find a greater unity in the dynamic flex and flow of perspective. Surface features may become less important, as deeper currents are discovered. We may witness, as we are now, a reemergence of perennial philosophy, and collaborative religions! Imagine that! Protestants, Catholics and Buddhists working together, discovering underlying beliefs and ways to connect.

There are already movements that do see integral perspectives; some are successful, others merely collapse one into another, still others crystallize into frozen maps of the universe. What we cannot expect is a unified theory of everything—What we can expect is the ability to step beyond individual perspective and see the bigger picture, and act accordingly. In short, we are witnessing the birth of a society that no longer requires set boundaries. We are stepping out of our shells, and in doing so are seeing ourselves in a greater, deeper picture than ever before.

Some may turn away from this dramatic shift, and that is to be expected. With the coming of any new age, there are always those who wish to return to the old ways. This is actually quite understandable. Change is terrifying, and uncertain. For the most part, it seems downright dangerous. Yet, this new way of thinking may very well change us for the good—it may help us see that fear is something that must be released and relaxed, in order for growth to occur.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Wisdom of the Ancients

Q:"The ancients had grand knowledge, but our knowledge has evolved quite far since those days."

A: "How so?"

Q: "Well, we have gone through ten thousand years of evolution- the evolution of ideas, attitudes, beliefs and ever expanding knowledge. Consciousness itself has evolved."

A: "This is true- - though I think there is yet to be something learned from them, the ancients."

Q: "Eco-stability, yes, and perhaps tidbits of wisdom- but they are not the noble savage. They had their own forms of hostility, their own issues and their own atrocities. They were just as human as we are."

A: "For sure. Yet, there is some wisdom in their shamans, and in their mystics. There is some value in returning to the pristine energy of the forest, of reconnecting, resettling into our roots. We can't return to being seedlings, if that makes sense as a metaphor, but we can see where our roots lie, and maybe understand ourselves better through that- we can evolve, not regress."

Q: "I agree. But certainly civilization hasn't had its taste of new forms of knowledge, valuable at that. Knowledge that will allow us to transcend both the past and the grim present, into "now-ness" so to speak."

A: "Of course- but that truth is -being-, regardless of who recognizes it and when. Perhaps as a culture we can evolve to harmonize with that timeless understanding- and that is the purpose of evolution and development. The shamans a thousand years ago, or two-thousand, could be insightful for basic human psychology. They were at the beginning of our fears- still within nature itself! And not yet psychologically divided. Their lessons are our lessons, even though we have gone so far."

Q: "True- and what lessons do you think we could take from their own trials and tribulations?"

A: "That to build a society as a means of subsistence is fine, but that they need to see how it is also meets a psychological demand for security."

Q: "We seek safety, and find it in the village, the culture, the city-state,"

A: "-And the shaman, even."

Q: "Yes, even the shaman. Or priest, or rabbi or leader."

A: "And we've been doing this dance- of yearning for safety and unity, but it was there from the start."

Q: "Being is always there, before the words, before the actions themselves. Before our fears, there is presence. All people of all times could recognize this- but the human race seems to evolve collectively, slowly, gradually as time goes on. This is perhaps just because we are living in the dimension of time and space, and so we are evolving through that too- to reach what they often call a 'quantum' or fourth dimension, one beyond time."

A: "But how would that be possible?"

Q: "We'd have to delve deeply into the science of understanding our own mind-- consciousness, physics and existence. Most importantly, we must step outside of our thoughts, or at least see that we already do- and have bare-attention with ourselves. Being, presence and simplicity are so vital, if we are to truly see if it is possible for consciousness to evolve beyond this construct of reality- we must first start with the basics. Just -be-, between the words, behind the thoughts. This is where we can start, and perhaps this has the greatest insight of all."

Saturday, September 6, 2008


The village fires burned into the night, and the Young Boy sat, wide-eyed at the stars. His father, a violent man, with built arms and shoulders, paced left and right.

"You must not falter, son! Tonight is not just a test."

The ancestors breathed in heavily, silently watching from behind the world.

"Should you survive this-you will be a man, and you may join me in the hunt- at dawn."

The boy shook, his legs weak from trembling.

"Do you understand-my son?"

He nodded.

"Not a word then," said the father, lifting a jug and tossing water onto the fire. Steam and smoke bellowed up through the trees. A moment of silence passed, and the father stormed away, as a panther.

His son remained behind. He took one knee, and reached for his spear. Decorated in a head-dress, the ancient beads from the river, and the feathers of the wild-game in the forest, he walked on.

The forest seemed to lift its gaze from him, its heaviness subsiding for a while. He walked quietly as the path began to wind, and then eventually end. He over-stepped brush and fallen trees, wandering further.

His mind raced with what the elder shaman had told him, just an hour before.


"The mischievous spirits of this wood will test you- and you must show us how brave you can be. Your rite of passage is through the night, into dawn. Do not return to the billowed smoke until you have confronted these spirits. Beware, their powers are only trickery!"

Speaking before the village, the elder shaman cackled wittingly, putting on a form of a show for the people. They trembled every time this story was told, and huddled closer to the evening fires. Their world was vastly unseen by the eye, and forever captured by their minds; visions of spirits for good and for evil, and all in between, danced the forest into life.

The shaman beckoned the boy to come closer. He stepped forward, bowing his head.

"Remember, the water on the stream. What does it show you? You must remember this- or you will not return."

Smiling, he placed his hand on the boy, pushing him back to his father.

"Be strong," his father had stated. He was a man of few words.


The trees seemed to grow thicker here. Slowly he began to feel the prying eyes of spirits. Beings that were unseen, but could appear and disappear- they lived outside of time, and behind the layers of this world. They both played games and assisted the tribe in their survival- and destiny. His ancestors were among them, but so too were his enemies. The shaman had never made clear who he would be facing tonight- only that he must go through them in order to return to the safety of the village, and the pleasant taste of a warrior's meal that was awaiting him.

For now, he reached for some shrubbery, pulling some fruit and biting deep into it. He kneeled, resting for a moment while he ate. 

The trees ached, and a presence had entered the forest. Eyes began to watch the boy, as he dropped his fruit and clutched the stick. "Who are you!" He asked. The forest remained quiet, but he knew it was anything but un-attentive. Something was watching him.

A creak from the west, he pointed his spear. "Wicked spirits? Do you challenge me?"

Another creak, the forest seemed to breathe in, and eerie silence followed. The crickets around him silenced themselves, as if bowing down to a stronger force.

Rising from the shrubs, a figure appeared- and lunged towards him.

The boy turned and ran, stumbling on his footing and tripping over thick vines, he leaped back onto his feet and hurled himself away from the area faster than he could think.

His heart pounded, and something inside him forced him to turn around.

Nothing was in sight. The forest returned to its chirping, dancing and breathing. A wind came over the place, and he looked around- a river was brimming over nearby. He moved towards it, towards the east.

Kneeling by the lake, he reached for his left shoulder- scratched up badly. It stung as he poured the cool water over it. "Curses," he whispered to himself. His mind wandered over what the entity could be- and what he should do. 

"Coward," he could hear his father say. 

For a moment, he imagined himself at a much younger age, seven or so- helping his father hunt for the game of the wood. A smaller pig had charged him, and he had screamed, running for his father. His father laughed at him, "My son! With a heart like that, your stomach will always be empty!"

The boy gripped a stone from the river and tossed it to the other side.

He stood up and faced the thick again. He marched, hesitantly back towards it. For a moment, the trees retained a pristine nature- quiet, swaying gently, shaking with the life of the night. Something shifted, as he parted the tall grass, stepping into the canopy. As if possessed, a terrible feeling began to enter his heart.

"What is this!" He shouted into the trees, raising his spear.

He marched, knees near buckling.

The forest became a deathly quiet, and the being rose again from the leaves. It did not move, it did not gesture. Like a living shadow, he thought. He raised his spear. It did not respond.

"Who are you!" He shouted at it. With all his might, he took another step forward.

It turned, slowly- at least he thought it did, and began to run silently through the trees, zipping through like a cloud or a wisp of smoke. The boy gritted his teeth and followed.

His eyes had become accustomed to the night, and although his heart pounded with fear, his legs began to carry him forward, briskly leaping over rock and stump- he could run through here blindfolded. 

The entity had disappeared, but left a trail in the boy's mind- west, towards the very rocks where the sun could be last seen through the forest.

Charging forward, he darted through the trees, his sweat making it harder for him to grip his spear.

At last, he reached the opening, and the rocks. It was strangely quiet, the crickets had once again lost their song, and the night laid barren before him.

The stars were numerous and magical- but the moon was absent tonight. The boy kneeled, praying for his ancestors to watch over him.

"Come face me! Where do you run to, spirit!"  He stabbed the blunt of the spear into the ground and stood attentively.

The rocks began to tumble, one by one, from the mount. The being reappeared, hovering over the ground. A tear streaked down the boys face.

It floated over the rocks, before hovering over to him at an unsettling speed. It's face was empty, but the boy was sure he could see a skull within the shadow.

He lifted his spear and pointed it weakly at the being. His stomach did flips, and he could barely hold his weapon pointed. The entity seemed to note this, and with what seemed to be a mere stroke of the wind, the spear was tossed to the ground.

The boy mumbled out the incantations of his ancestors, one by one, asking for protection, casting them against the creature. It moved closer.

He collapsed onto the ground, crawling away, his voice still sputtering out the incantations. The being persisted. 

"Who are you!?" He shouted, demanding of it once again. It quietly approached him- reaching what seemed to be a long, thin arm to grab his leg. He kicked at it and it quickly backed away.

He turned to run once again, this way going south-east. The river would be closer this way.

"Remember the river," He thought- running as fast as he could. This was his last idea, and a very creeping inclination he had was that he would not see the dawn.

"Remember the river!" He shouted, seeing it through the wood.

The entity rose up in front of him. He slammed into its chest, and flew back into the dirt and sand.

It kneeled over him, breathing deeply. It grabbed for his neck.

The boy's instinct kicked in, and he grabbed for his spear, wrestling with the creature as it choked him with an inhuman grip.

Kicking and shouting, he jabbed the spear through it, and watched the entity tumble back into the shadows of the forest. He could see it crawl and slither, in wisps across the floor. It remained tangible, present, moving the vine and the leaves.

He darted for the water, his spear left behind. Throwing a rock into the thick, he shouted at it. "Finish me or I will finish you!" He shouted, his adrenaline pumping now.

The entity appeared to respond, floating out from the brush- this time much taller, appearing to have huge shoulders. It seemed overwhelmingly powerful. The boy raised his fists, awaiting its grip again.

It reached down for him, and he leaped into its grip- his arms swinging. He reached for its neck, and felt cold air, nearly freezing surround him. Wrestling it to the ground, he was tossed on the riverbank's sand. Air was punched out of his lungs, and looking up for a moment, noticed the stars again. His minded flooded with the images of his ancestors, watching over him- but they were not involving themselves. Why did they not help? 

He was alone, at his last breath- and... He had to fight. Pushing up again from the ground his pulled the spirit into the river, but in the instant that it was about to hit the water - he noted its reflection. It wasn't there! Instead, he could distinctly see himself standing, not struggling or grimacing.

He fell into the water, the shadow figure becoming submerged.

Standing back- he realized it was not there. 

He fell back, scrambling to regain his composure- what had just happened?

Looking around, he saw nothing. The water cleared, the ripples subsided, and all that remained was his reflection in the cool flowing river.

"Remember the river," he said, understanding now.

The Boy had traveled into the very depths of his heart, into the west, and the night, to come out at last to see this. He smiled into the reflection, and rested on the riverbank. For years he had tentatively catered for the garden in his mind, its various seeds had carried his imagination from one end of the world to the other, had given birth to both hopes and fears, and at last he could see that. "A master of the dream world sees himself clearly in the water's edge," said the shaman once to boy's father. "Your son must be tested, when the time comes- and we will see if he may take my staff, when the time comes."

The sun soon began to show in the east, and a morning fire burned gently. The feast was being prepared for The Man. Before returning, he quietly buried his garments by the river bank, leaving them behind.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Thinking about Meditation

How important is it that we feel directly the knowledge imparted to us? Vital! How can we know something truly, without experiencing it? All of the philosophy in the world may not help us, if we do not first stop to listen(Bare attention) to our very essence of mind and body. Is that why so many western philosophers seem to have gotten lost inside their own heads? This is just a quick question, and a reflection. Please, share your thoughts.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Philosophy, Dichotomy and Going Beyond Dualism

A vs B and why that model’s time has passed.

I started my classes again today. The first up was “Philosophy of Mind.” The professor seems to be very into this topic, and for starters made it very intimidating. It’s not that the material is un-readable, but his harsh grading system (A/F) is a little disconcerting. Nevertheless. What is the philosophy of mind? From what I heard today, it’s the study of the mind/body “problem.” That is, how does consciousness arise in the body? Does it? Do we have free will, or if everything is physical, then is choice an illusion? There are many other questions that come up with this topic. We are going to be focusing on the “mind-body” split and how many philosophers chose (no pun intended) to answer it. Some go for the determinist view, the physicalist argument (No free will). Others go for the opposite view: All is mind. Then there are others who attemp to create a middle way, or balance between the perspectives. I personally agree with the third way, but the philosophy of integral has definitely had an influence in me in this respect.

While in class, I couldn’t help but remember the name of a chapter in Grace and Grit by Ken Wilber, “Mind-Body Drop!” A buddhist teacher used this as a koan, or a pointing out instruction for his students. The third topic I’d like to see in this class (though it wasn’t in the syllabus), would be- is there anything more? When mind-body drops, what is left? Or, as the Zen masters might say, what is your original face, before your parents were born?

So this is what we’re focusing on: The mind/body problem. I’d like to think of us as mind-bodies. We are both biological and mental. Being a fan of quantum physics and all related research, I’m somewhat aware that we are learning more about the mind potentially (pun not intended, again) being quantum-related. That is, some aspects of our consciousness can be explained through quantum science. I need to look up the article, but I recently read that protons move roughly around or beyond the speed of light. This would have profound insights into consciousness and how we experience it. 

But, back to the class, “Philosophy of Mind.” I’m going to try not to raise too many questions based on things I’ve read outside of the class. For instance, we know with quantum science that the universe is certainly not deterministic. In fact, it’s all about potential and probability collapsing into our experience. The mind is as much a creator of reality as it is a subject to it. That is, we are biological indeed, and all laws of the universe apply to us, but the brain helps create the experience of reality. It’s our way of interacting with the world, and it has gradually adapted and complicated over the eons. 

I wasn’t aware of this, but the term “science” was hardly used before the scientific revolution. Before then, it was called “natural philosophy.” Philosophy was a part of science, and vice versa. So, I see that as an example of yin-yang relationship that I’d like to see in mind-body theories. 

From what I know, the problem with the ‘physicalists’ or extreme ‘reduction’ is that it cannot yet account for the very basic experience of consciousness. It just can’t explain why on earth we’d have this awareness. 

So, to express my final thoughts on this subject (for now, of course), seeing modern philosophy as a series of “dichotomies” has inherently limited it to dualism, when it has so much more potential. The “problem” of inner mind and outer world can be dispelled, I think, with a third view. Instead of “either/or” let’s look at how “both/and” is possible. Instead of night or day, we have night and day. Life and death are intrinsic, and so why not body-mind? These are all just words, but they point to something more. I think this could be seen as an evolution from traditional philosophy (of dichotomies) to eteology, or the study from beingness. It could be said, the phrase, “I think, I am,” is not digging deep enough. Instead, “I am, I think, I feel, I see,” could help us gain more insight. The space between the words gain importance in an “integral” attitude. The connectivity, the complimenting of once opposing views are deeply valued. Seeing the flex-flow evolution of memes, consciousness and perspective- this is the future of so many things, including philosophy. 

And so, maybe I’ll mention these ideas in class, but either way, I hope to see them in our lives. The tool of stepping back from dualistic thinking does not leave us with idiocy, but the profound silence of transcendent and transrational consciousness.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

TED Talks, the Future, and Collaboration

If you haven't seen this one yet, Clay Shirky talks about the differences between institution and collaboration, and what social interaction is going to look like in the future. If you're a fan of open source, what he has to say may hold very promising. From what I understand, he's saying that the huge influx of our information age enables organizations to sort information and contribute knowledge, not by professionalizing (or institutionalizing), but by opening the gates to everyone. The results are far from anarchy. Instead we see a major increase in participation, innovation and progressiveness. He uses the example of Linux and open source software- the fact that one person can develop a program, never be hired professionally, and better Linux without every looking back, is a new and vital tool for media developers, social networks and so much more. In short, I think, open-source is the future. A flexible way to handle the information age without getting overloaded (at least not too much.) Flickr, Digg, and Reddit come to my mind instantly; can you name a few more? The future doesn't look so bleak after all...  

here's the video:

Sunday, August 17, 2008


"Everyone Will Finally Be Equal," seems like an awesome film! Originally a story by Kurt Vonnegut, it tells the tale of a dystopian future, where everyone is equal- but not in the way we idealized.

The website writes,

Based on the short story Harrison Bergeron by celebrated author Kurt Vonnegut, 2081 depicts a dystopian future in which, thanks to the 212th Amendment to the Constitution and the unceasing vigilance of the United States Handicapper General, everyone is finally equal... The strong wear weights, the beautiful wear masks and the intelligent wear earpieces that fire off loud noises to keep them from taking unfair advantage of their brains. It is a poetic tale of triumph and tragedy about a broken family, a brutal government, and an act of defiance that changes everything.

Vonnegut was certainly big on social commentary in his writings (so it seems), and I look forward to this film. It is definitely taking a swing at the relativism/pluralism/politically correct ideologies of the present day, and warning us of a future they may bring, should we not be careful what we wish for. I'll definitely be checking this one out when I can.

You can watch the trailer here:

Letter to a Post-Modernist

The dissolution of the meta-narrative allows us to see the underlying vast network of "micro-narratives," as if unearthing a simplistic skin to observe a networking root of vines, earth, and complex structures. Like lifting a rock to see the vast life beneath, we see what we have been missing from our understanding. The importance of each leaf, twig, tunnel and worm become vastly more interesting than the concealing rock above, but take note; it is important not to forget how these vast web of life is itself a greater picture. Note the worm that builds the tunnels, that the beetles crawl through, observe the spider, spinning webs around roots, the centipedes and millipedes- all these things are interwoven, no matter what their individual intricacy.

See the wonder of this microcosm, but do not hesitate to sink deeper into the earth, to see the greater flowing networks that bind life and, dare I say, a new grand-narrative, a web of holistic patterns emerges- one that is always flowing and growing, emerging and manifesting in vibrant patterns like life itself. Your awe, wonder and adventure within each microcosm may be valued to greater and greater degrees, but do not forget that all that is, no matter how small, is in relation to other. There are revelations in recognizing the spider web, and not getting caught one one thread or another.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Thich Nhat Hanh

"Enlightenment, for a wave in the ocean, is the moment the wave realises it is water."

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

"The Clash Between Reason and Faith" - Sam Harris

Found an interesting video of Harris discussing the basic points given in his books. Watch it, and let me know what you think of his points.

Monday, August 4, 2008


Beyond our faculty of knowledge, the mind rests in 'being.' Ultimately "Budh," to awaken, know or perceive- Bodhati. 

We look, therefore, to see if it is possible that the mind and consciousness itself have greater functions than cognitive. We ask if we may already have a, "Freedom from the known." We may perceive "gnosticism" - true know, which is not merely apprehending knowledge through memory and reason.

Mysticism only appears to be elusive due to its wordless, transrational nature. Its functioning is post-cognitive. That meaning beyond the reasoning faculties of the mind. It somehow utilizes a higher, more direct faculty which apprehends "what is" on a direct and non-conceptual basis.

Zen Buddhism, D.T. Suzuki (Excerpt)

"I said that Zen is mystical. This is inevitable, seeing that Zen is the keynote of Oriental culture; it is what makes the west frequently fail to fathom the depths of the Oriental mind, for mysticism in its very nature defies the analysis of logic, and logic is the most characteristic feature of Western thought. The East is synthetic in its method of reasoning; it does not care so much for the elaboration of particulars as for a comprehensive grasp of the whole, and this intuitively. Therefore the Eastern mind, if we assume its existence, is necessarily vague and indefinite, and seems not to have an index at which once reveals the contents to an outsider. The thing is there before our eyes, for it refuses to be ignored; but when we endeavour to grasp it in our hands in order to examine it more closely or systematically, it eludes and we lose its track. Zen is provokingly evasive. This is not due of course to any conscious or premeditated artifice with which the Eastern mind schemes to shun the scrutiny of others. The un-fathomableness is in the very constitution, so to speak, of the Eastern mind. Therefore, to understand the East we must understand mysticism; that is, Zen.

It is to be remembered, however, that there are various types of mysticism, rational and irrational, speculative and occult, sensible and fantastic. When I say that the East is mystical, I do not mean that the East is fantastic, irrational and altogether impossible to bring within the sphere of intellectual comprehension. What I mean is simply that in the working of the Eastern mind there is something calm, quiet, silent, un-disturbable, which appears as if always looking into eternity. This quietude and silence, however, does not point to mere idleness or inactivity. The silence is not that of the desert shorn of all vegetation, nor is it that of a corpse forever gone to sleep and decay. It is the silence of an "eternal abyss" in which all contrasts and conditions are buried; it is the silence of God who, deeply absorbed in contemplation of his works past, present, and future, sits calmly on his throne of absolute oneness and allness. It is the "silence of thunder," obtained in the midst of the flash and uproar of opposing electric currents. This sort of silence pervades all things Oriental. Woe unto those who take it for decadence and death, for they will be overwhelmed by an overwhelming outburst of activity out of the eternal silence. It is in this sense that I speak of the mysticism of Oriental culture. And I can affirm that the cultivation of this kind of mysticism is principally due to the influence of Zen."

-Zen Buddhism, D.T. Suzuki

A Call for an Open Spirit

Who are we now,
But boxed candles,
Consuming our last gasp?

What are we but,
Spiraling bubbles,
Tumbling to the surface?

We never left from the start.

Who is there between the water's edge,
And the roaring sky?

Do not fret,
You are already there.
Do you see?

The sun peers over the timeless earth,
The Moon stretches over vibrant night.

There is nothing more or less to be.
What more do we have to see,
to remain in the place which is neither
Dusk nor dawn?

The sun tempts to rise again,
Lose yourself,
at first light.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Answer to Post Modernism

No matter what academic department you'll find yourself in, this is the most they can or want to offer:

Modernism: Belief that reason is humanity's trump card. Rational thinking and high-cognitive faculties are our greatest potential. With them, we can understand and explain away everything. We can even create grand-unified theories.

Post-Modernism: Reason is not humanity's trump card. Things are much more complicated than that. The world is a dynamic, complex environment which simple abstract thoughts over-generalize and often marginalize many points of view. Science, reason and the enlightenment age are not the answer.

But Post-modernism doesn't provide anything but a critique of modernism: break things down, complicate them, see the dynamics, see how everything is ultimately relative- too complex to ever generalize. 

Well, if you look at that for a few minutes, you begin to notice it's not really doing anything but critiquing its predecessor. 

All it can do is tear down a flawed house, and point out every flaw within it.

But it offers no alternatives.

In a metaphor, it is likened to two men lost in a forest. One of them has developed a close-circle logic on how to get back to camp. It failed, not taking into account the dynamic nature of the trees, the hills, etc. It didn't fit nicely in a box.

So his friend yells at him, telling him, "It's way too wild out here, no way to box it in like that! Now we're just lost!"

But there is a third option here neither are getting.

Say they bump into a third man, who, instead of either build up artificial concepts, or breaking them down, just decides to look at the trees.

And he starts to look at the hills.

And starts seeing natural patterns that arise.

"There is a river, we were by the river. Maybe if we follow it..."

And so he ultimately overcomes the sea of complexity by discovering patterns, and tendencies in the intricacy. 

This is in itself a more evolved form of science, because it requires a more developed sense of perspective. Nevertheless I argue that we all have it.

But, the answer to post modernism is simple: Pattern, tendency, Potential and Correlation.

Seeing underlying causes, roots within the intricacy. Ironically, the best of both modernism and post modernism.

To give one final example:

Notice if you will, that a brain up close appears to be a complex, overwhelming network of cells, organic and not clearly fitting into right angles and grids. It's a mess up close, or at least appears to be.

But if we take a step back, and start looking at the patterns, the net, we see different parts, different functions, deeper parts and more root functions.

We see that the brain has evolved from its former state, the reptilian brain. Yet the reptilian brain stem is not "Inferior" or "oppressed." It isn't over-looked or neglected. It is seen as a part of a larger, functioning whole- in which we don't have hierarchy but obvious layers of increasing complexity, and eventually, consciousness.

And imagine if the only thing we did, was to simply say: Too complex, too organic, too dynamic to understand. We would never have gotten this far in the first place. So I leave you with a thought; that critique, de-construction and dispelling of generalizations is a vital tool for understanding (And in a sense is a way of seeing deeper perspectives), but so too is seeing the forest through the trees. Thankyou.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Night Falls

"So simplify the problem of life, distinguish the necessary and the real. Probe the earth to see where your main roots run. I would stand upon facts." - Thoreau

Friday, July 25, 2008


We think! And we feel. Yet are not both thoughts and feelings tangled and woven together? It seems that thoughts arise just as easily as feelings, and often one with the other to accompany. Even the most studious and analytic minds are laced with feeling. So it's better to say that you are neither thoughts nor feelings, but slip in between. Yet, we commonly mistake ourselves with this thought-feeling process, pre-packaged in the illusion of time and space (thoughts, and objects). Sheesh! What's it all mean? Only that, you may witness both thoughts and feelings arise, but you are neither of them ultimately. Smile today, frown tomorrow. These are but ripples and waves, and remember, you are not neither.

So what's it mean? Ignore thoughts? Ignore feelings? To do so would be to utterly miss the point, to trip the sign-post and fall into another game (If you'd prefer that, by all means- and keep reading, too). If we see, non-conceptually the present, our filters fall away for a greater recognition of Self, Absolute and "No-thing." The thoughts and feelings, ripples and tides, people and places do not vanish, but they certainly lose their magical "objectivity." It makes life all-the-more connected, vibrant and sensitive. And by life, this is also meant for "you." So we begin to feel, think and breath- and play! For you, I have no interest in changing, waring, manipulating or pulling at egos. For who is there to attach the strings, and what hand is there to pull them?

On Papers, People and the Like

Leave it to us writers, thinkers to come up with such elaborates tales as "selves." What are such things? Are we not playing pretend when we scribble and theorize, propose and identify? Who is there to pretend? What fascinating masks we weave to ensue a drama of "me," or in academic cases, "us," to play it all out and act as if we are so certain of things, which are indeed nothing but passing in and out of nothing. Beneath our masks, under the stage, we rest in the void- and do not confuse this with nihilism (Yet another game of pretend). Truly, the only place there is anything is nowhere, and the only moment we can find ourselves, true selves (pardon these words, for they are ultimately signposts resting on infinity), is in this moment. What is the past? Do we think? 

Perhaps that is the problem; no past exists but our memories, and no future but a speculative gaze, lost in thought. All that rests is presence. This is not obvious, but inherent. If we want to understand ourselves, we can't do it through theorizing (Beating the bush, for certain!) It can only be done directly, now, here. Then we see there is no "we" nor "you," and so you are all things. You are other. You are sunsets, papers, peoples and the like. 

Even so, let us carry on and continue the rabble another day longer. 

Sociology Cocktail Spiked with Tao

Who are you?
You are not any object.
Where are you?
You are no place.
Then what is the meaning of all this?
There is no "You" to ask this question,
So who is asking?

In the Present

Staying in the present with "who we are," but are we really staying? If anything, all we can do is recognize the moment non-conceptually. It's before action, and before thought, so it's non-action, non-thought. 

There's no remaining, only training this little "self" to see, simply. Presence is, existence is. You can rest at the bottom of this ocean like the gently rolling waves, but you are not the currents, nor are you the ripples and bubbles that flow through. You, somehow, slip between the spaces and the concepts, somewhere elusive. Not even the term "somewhere" would signify or help us understand you, for this is no-where. Krishnamurti often said that total-negation is the essence of positive. And what does this mean? That to understand "nothing" as "no-thing," (relativity, objects, ideas, concepts) is our true nature. Far from being a barren wasteland, for such a notion would conjure an idea desert or an empty shell of a soul-which is still conceptualizing! True emptiness is the essence of all being- and actions, light, dark, relative and conceptual and yes, you and me as objects arise from it. Take the metaphor of a blue sky. In Dzogchen Buddhism, a meditative practice is to simply "sky gaze." Note that when watching a clear blue sky, you cannot see where it begins or ends, simply that it is without limit in any direction. You lose yourself in this, and that is nothing more or less than what I am trying to say.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Afraid of Who..

The one argument that is often cited against the spiritual experience: It is a false claim, a projection of the mind, and it is unprovable. It cannot be verified with another person. But what about Buddhism? 

It seems easier to pick on the metaphysics of Christianity, since a belief in God often implies a deity, a person or a conceptualized version of the ultimate. (That is a paradox- how can the infinite be expressed and believed in finitely?) This metaphysical being is not provable either way, and so the cyclical arguments go on.

Yet I can't help but question if they apply to some claims Buddhism makes:

-That there is a cosmic consciousness, super-mind, void, true Self, etc. 
-These claims are based on the teacher's experience.
-These claims can be repeated and verified.
-Test these claims empirically, through meditation.

Mystical Christians make similar claims, and from a philosophical or rational standpoint, these would not fall into the same category as blind faith, mythic beliefs or superstitions, nor a general fear of the unknown.

We may strive for security in a universe we do not totally understand, but it is not so much that we have "failed" to know things "out there," as much as we do not see our own identity clearly. Our fear is not of the unknown, it is our own shadows. We project fear into the unknown, and not necessarily the other way. Self preservation, psychological and physical security- these drive us to form ideologies and revert to seeing the world through them. It is only through self understanding, recognizing our unconscious fears, that we can transform our understanding and our action. We must be authentic in order to authentically see the world in a new light. Yet, self-reflection (not intellectual but directly observing ourselves) proves to be the hardest of trials.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

"Letter to a Christian Nation"

I'm currently reading this book by Sam Harris. Honestly, as great as "The End of Faith," was -this book is short, sweet and to the point. Today I found a short piece of writing by Vonnegut, in which he writes,

Your rule might be this: If a sentence, no matter how excellent, does not illuminate your subject in some new and useful way, scratch it out.
This holds true, especially for touchy, deep and complex issues; an equally complex style of writing can make the points elusive. From what I've watched of the debates between Harris and others, they only prove this point. Often times debaters will make points that were already addressed in Harris' book. At any rate, this writing style is simple and straight-forward for the most part. It contains statistics, opinions and basic reasoning for the attitudes in "The End of Faith." It's also much easier on the eyes. However, I wonder sometimes about the particular point in his thesis. I'll do my best to accurately portray it:

Religion is an enabler for human irrationality, tribalism and violence, more so than anything else. Therefore, faith, or blind faith in mythical deities is something that has been used as an excuse for hatred, bigotry and ignorance throughout history. By changing the dialogue from defending faith to questioning it's place in our society, we are moving to a better, more rational dialogue.

I sympathize with this view, except that I believe it has more to do with the human tendency to identify with particular ideologies that has created religion, and blind faith, in the first place. It is a form of security that has been built slowly over the eons. Our fear of what we think the unknown allows us to build up walls in defense, and to fight those who would dare to, or appear to, question the stability of those walls of security. Religion and faith, like any institution, is a result of human fear and psychological preservation, rather than a cause of it. It is used as an excuse, but who do we think created faith? This "it" out there must first be owned as a creation, and identified as a projection of our own desire for safety. To me, religion is a reaction, not an action in itself. 

Having said this, I do not believe that spirituality and religion are entirely separate entities. We do have spiritual experiences; they exist as a phenomenon that empirical science still grips to understand. Sam Harris seems to agree on this point, receiving much objection from his readers, one of whom believed he was, "Getting soft," on religion.

At any rate, the reading continues! 

Monday, July 14, 2008

Falling under the spell?

Ever notice how easy it is to find a particular view about the world utterly convincing? How we tend to adapt particular attitudes, some of them passionately and thoroughly, and at times find ourselves alienated from our own potential to understand another's viewpoint? Like finding ourselves at the driving end of an ideological spear, we suddenly realize we are defending a view, exploring how it works itself out in the real world. Take race and gender as an example; you notice how it permeates society, so you begin to (if it has been sufficiently imprinted on you by the university, or a particular interest of yours), see how it all plays out. You play the conquistador of equal rights, the bringer of multiculturalism. Seeing a real problem, a part of you sympathizes with the efforts, and wishes to play a part in the on-going war "against" ignorance, injustice and inequality. 

Or, in the case of the new atheists, part of you actively takes on a personal effort to immerse yourself in rationalist thought, watching dialogues between the greater ideological spokespeople, reading books and joining forums. You identify with the cause. Your forum tag becomes Dawkins quotes or Sam Harris, or any particular rationalist for that matter. Your identity, at this point, has immersed and linked itself entirely, or at least strongly with the movement, the effort, and the ideas involved.

In both of these cases, we allow ourselves to be strongly shaped by our passionate interest for a subject that we agree on. It seems natural for humans to bind together and identify with groups, be they larger or smaller. Yet it also seems at least a little dangerous in that by giving our minds over to be, in a sense, conditioned by an ideology (fanatic or not) is to limit our ability to understand another. By building the mind for specific tasks, we allow it to be less open to the receptivity of others (Not always, but frequently).

I find in many of the debates online, no matter what particular argument is going on, both sides fail to make the jump to a common ground in which one begins to thoroughly understand the other. Mistakes in interpretation, or simple strong identification with a viewpoint clouds the debaters judgement so that he or she may often miss a critical and interesting point about the "opponent." On the same token, the debater may even make poor arguments based on not thoroughly seeing what the oppositional view is. The fact that we disagree, conceptually, is not something that can be avoided. It goes almost without saying that to disagree is almost natural for us, but the inability to perceive another's attitude, to see through their perspective is something that is so far and few between, yet so important as the information age progresses. Unless we really do wish to see fragmentation, it's important for us to accept that perhaps we cannot entirely understand another's view, but maybe that is not necessarily important. Even agreeing or disagreeing, it may seem, may not be terribly important - save some vital issues and decisions.

In fact, that's the main point trying to be made here: Our agreements or disagreements, our theories and attitudes and ideologies we often follow are more about identification, emotional attachment and willing self-conditioning rather than objective "arguments" or clearly grounded perspectives.

Our ideas are ingrained into our psyche. They are rooted in our conscious and our unconscious, our battlefield, or playground of concepts in which we identify, and this occurs through various environmental and internal factors. The more we understand it's less about "I disagree!" and more about, "I identify strongly with this concept, and since this is who I am, I must defend myself!" We essentially allow our conceptual mind and emotional unconscious to continually shape our identity through time.

Perhaps more often than not debate is little more than ego battling ego, identity versus identity, using the other's defeat to build up your own. In many cases, our interests are sincere. They are not outright selfish, but to observe how we identify with a particular cause, it would greatly help us to not be so blinded by our own belief systems, and so arrogant with others.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

End of Scientific Method?

In Wired, a recent article "The End of Theory" popped up. I decided to check it out, but found myself too distracted to read it until I bumped into it again through a link on Digg. I'm glad I took the time. To summarize, the author describes how the new information age enables us to view exponentially large amounts of data, gathered from clusters of computers, whether they be in our homes or super-computers in laboratories. The new age of technology has seen the beginning of a literal neural network, a complex digital brain that is already a super computer. Because of the seemingly infinite amount of data, and the super-computers that help crunch the numbers, we are able to easily see correlatives. The numbers speak for themselves. Up until recently, information gathering was a slow process, but these days, we can't get enough of it. In fact, some argue there is too much data to swim through. But this vast sea of information affords us the ability to see bigger pictures, tendencies and correlations first, and theories second. For instance,

There is now a better way. Petabytes allow us to say: "Correlation is enough." We can stop looking for models. We can analyze the data without hypotheses about what it might show. We can throw the numbers into the biggest computing clusters the world has ever seen and let statistical algorithms find patterns where science cannot.

The best practical example of this is the shotgun gene sequencing by J. Craig Venter. Enabled by high-speed sequencers and supercomputers that statistically analyze the data they produce, Venter went from sequencing individual organisms to sequencing entire ecosystems. In 2003, he started sequencing much of the ocean, retracing the voyage of Captain Cook. And in 2005 he started sequencing the air. In the process, he discovered thousands of previously unknown species of bacteria and other life-forms.

Afforded this new technology, science may at last be aided by the fruits of its labor. The digital brain, the super computer may assist us in this data overflow, helping direct more appropriate causation. The author seems to go out of his way to insist the old method is now superfluous. I doubt he is correct on this one, for the sole purpose that causation helps us deepen our understanding of correlation. It's nice to see the acknowledgement of correlation though. For instance, if there is some form of psychic phenomenon, the traditional scientific answer would be: There's no way to prove it, it's probably not real. However, if we take correlation into account, we might see the numbers at least prove it is a significant phenomenon, whether it be social or truly parapsychological. 

Learning to use a "computer" of this scale may be challenging. But the opportunity is great: The new availability of huge amounts of data, along with the statistical tools to crunch these numbers, offers a whole new way of understanding the world. Correlation supersedes causation, and science can advance even without coherent models, unified theories, or really any mechanistic explanation at all.
I agree with Wired on this one. Correlation has the backburner too often. It may end up shining the light where science traditionally takes ages to finally illuminate. With this new and rapidly developing tool, the possibilities of science, technology and at last handling the information age will be even more fascinating. It makes me wonder: Does this open us up for a future integral age? We're beginning to see less traditional methods in science, adapting to new technological possibilities. Will data summaries, connections, underlying themes and patterns start to gain significance? I suppose we are going to have to wait and see what the future will bring.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Roots Intwining

This morning I was reading Eckhart Tolle and walking around my background (Big trees surrounding a grass center), and I look up and notice that, our ancestors were lucky to have experienced nature in its expansiveness. While nature is still form, it forces us to come out of our me-ness and look at a world that exists without "me," and probably has given birth to me. It lets me see a perspective somewhat outside of my ego, to see how I am a whole-part of the universe, one blossom. The roots in my feet entangle and expand with other roots, and all at once I am back within nature, not going into it. I am blossoming from it, ego included. Call it nature mysticism, but it's a wonderful start for many of us to recognize who we are on our spiritual path.

Monday, May 26, 2008


I'll make this as short and sweet as I can: 

When browsing the new age sections, whether in forums or in bookstores, I noticed a surprising trend: Me. 

Sure, the ego appears everywhere anyway, but there's a particular emphasis. Self-love, self-empowerment. I definitely agree it's good to have some degree of self-love, but when flipping through all of these books I noticed another tend: Instead of exploring our 'self' through the eyes of spirit, we simply explore our selves to find a cozy spot to settle down in. Bluntly, it's just another escape from true growth. Instead we just find aways to bloat our ego even bigger than it was before. Instead of being self-loathing, we become self-gloating. We're ego-enablers, but not in a healthy way. 

Now many a sage or teacher would tell you that the ego is a tricky creature. In essence, "I" am insubstantial, and this is terrifying. So I search and yearn for meaning and self-importance. Yes, maybe this is a stage of our spiritual journey, but I feel that a new problem today is we've created a spiritual-dead end for the ego to settle down in. Instead of pampering ourselves, why not love unconditionally? Love of all things, including your own ego, another object that arises in this grand universe. Love is. Being is. Ego is a part of that, but it is not the whole.... 

Sometimes silence is all we truly need in order to learn. And it's already there. Instead of running to escapes and building up new ideals, why don't we just listen? Why don't we just 'be' and not 'be for' something? How many new age books tell you that? Instead there is always purpose, mission, becoming. There is nothing to become. For once, just look at the world without labeling it, look at yourself without labeling 'you' anything. Just be aware.

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