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Michael Updated

Published onMar 04, 2018
Michael Updated

A bit scattershot and less than efficient with the arrangement of words.  As I start most notes – apologies.  I once was given a nice notebook to keep thoughts in and I’ve been planning to write something great in it for years.  It’s still empty.  I write everything in loose leaf paper so I don’t have to think about the weight of everything else bound to it. 

In the same sense, I know everyone is grappling with the indifferent clock and time is extraordinarily valuable.  I think about all the options for someone’s extraordinary time (myself included as a someone).  So as a public service announcement, if you’re somewhere extraordinary like in space or on spaceship earth*, there’s certainly better occupations.

Great! I’m going to try that as a Qi Gong shake-it-out and/or the confession and get back to the joy.  Also please note that if we were using Jupiter weeks as our weekly update interval this would have been a few Earth days early.  Perhaps that’s where my meta/observational self lives. I’ve always considered it a meter or so above me but that would explain the sensation that time is moving by too fast.

Sleep –

So sweet.  It’s a good thing that I can’t pause time - I’d use it all up with snooze intervals and be net disappointed with myself for wasting it.  I still am on target for ~6/7 nights.  I know I mentioned this before, but time for the astronauts in the space station is something like ~$1,000/min, and they work 12 hour days and have weekends off*.  I’m trying making effort to live like an astronaut.  And with that I’m recognizing how the short 1/7 night throws off the next 1-3 nights.  Sometimes I can’t get around it, but I make sure it’s an event.

Still few dreams – bummed on that.  I have a note written somewhere to make effort to be a better dreamer.

I’ve had a couple days where I wake up around 6 or 7 sans alarm and fully charged.  Ready to crank and so wonderful.  I don’t know what series of decisions leads up to this and treat it largely as a stroke of good fortune.  I do know that consuming perspective altering substances is not the ticket. For the most part though I’m completely dependent on/in battle with the alarm clock – even at 8 hrs sleep. 

I’ve been noticing recently the transition to my conscious self.  That brief span near immediately after waking up where I upload all of the garbage that I carry through the day – unfinished tasks – things I’ll never get too – things I have to do that are a drag, etc.  There is a lag though, and sometimes I nearly get back to this pre-upload through the meditation practice.

Meditation –

Going back to the confession part – I had a stretch there where I lost track of the ball.  I’m still a terrible breath counter – One, Two, Three, Off to the mental sticks, aw hell, one, two, sticks aw hell.  But sometimes the sticks are terrific.  What happens when you enjoy the neurotic self?  When it’s a joy to erratically run from thought to thought and catch one or two to think about later?

Unfortunately, the joyous erratic self not a permanent state and there’s often the inverse to balance it out.  These are the days when I find the centering to be most useful.

I’ve shifted away from the guided meditation and have been going at it solo.  And I’ve been going 30-40 minutes, depending on the day.  I will make effort to continue this for the rest of my life.

Goleman said somewhere in the book that enlightenment is an irreversible state.  Must be nice.

Also, BTW, re: Goleman, he mentions going off into a cave as well and I’m still interested in the logistics of this operation.  How far back do they go?  Way way back to quiet the sensations of sight, sound, temperature?  How long do they stay there?  If it’s longer than 6 hrs or so, how do they manage biological necessities/inconveniencies of the sort that we humans have?  Riffing on Joi’s comment around liquid management while diving, I noticed a while back that arguably my best alarm for waking up in the morning is the biological function alarm.  Hard to snooze that one.  At some point I plan to map out system flows so I can see if I can use this more regularly.


Reflections/thoughts from Class


One night riding home I briefly aligned perfectly with the wind - speed, direction, temperature - and I felt stillness.

Wishing happiness for others – even the dregs

Reaching way back to Tenzin’s comment in an early class, I’ve been thinking quite a bit on genuinely wishing happiness for others - and finding it much much easier for some than others. 

I can wish for genuine happiness for my grandmother all day, but one of the only reasons that I hope my grandmother is right and there is a hell is so some people will find balance there.  It’s a lot easier for me to resolve tension with “at least there’s a nonzero chance that there is a hell and (if there is) this clown is going to reap their appropriate/proportional comeuppance in it.”

Most comically, I find myself in the most tension with people in scenarios of “scarcity,” scenarios where I too am traffic*.  Notably:

1)    In the lines for free food before a talk/seminar at the end of the line when a little bit of mental math points out that either people need to throttle down their buffet loading or there’s not going to be enough for everyone.  Here I often work myself up to a state where I’m wishing for a non-fatal calamity to befall everyone in front of me.  However, if I’m early in the line I do not experience this sensation – providence hath provided and I enjoy.

2)    Splashing around in the ocean waiting for a pulse of energy to come so I can slide/wiggle on it (surfing).  Given a first introduction to a complete stranger, I am certainly my least kind self here.  My grandma doesn’t surf, but if she did (and if it was crowded) I’d probably backpaddle or hassle her too in my single-minded selfish pursuit.  So silly.

In both of these scenarios, the killer move is when someone says hello to me and I’m forced to acknowledge their humanity (in jest).  The whole tension completely evaporates and now they’re my friend and I share in their joy.  I’ve been making an effort to say hello to everyone and it’s making my experience much better.  Traffic with friends is a good time.

I realize that I often look forward to events that will be not so great for others. 

The storm during the weekend March 2nd was a good example.  I was looking forward to it all week - solely because the surf was spec’d to be screaming, and only when I got home on Friday evening to see the storm surge crashing over the sea wall and flooding homes did I think of it as a source of suffering for others.  I didn’t think of this too long though and spent all Sat driving all over northern Mass trying to find a break that was holding the size and handling the wind and working with the tide.  I drove around for 9 hrs, hardly present and only thinking about the future – that around this point the winds will be sheltered enough and it’ll clean up and everything is going to be epic.  Drove around for 9 hrs and never found that spot – never got in the water.  When the sun went down I laughed and I thought – “what a clown.”

The next day I went down to RI and it was great.  Like a goldfish, I forgot about the day before.

The good nor’ easters also (occasionally) wash lobsters up on the beach.  I get really excited for this.  I don’t think about what that’s like for the lobsters.  Even now, walking along, seeing dried claws along the beach, my first thought is “dammit, that could have been in my tummy.”  Maybe one day I’ll get to “Aw, poor lobster.”  And the great comedy is that I still have lobster in the freezer.  Saving them for someday special.

On fleeting pure ecstatic joy –

In late March a similar swell to the 2nd came along.  I went up to Maine.  Similar experience – looking forward to it for a week, driving all around, looking for the right pocket, never finding it.  On the second day I checked this nook that I thought would be working and it was no good.  When I came back to the car, there was a healthy rock set on the windshield.  I thought this was because I was less than observant of posted private signs (is it stealing if it was stolen?).  As an aside: How can we get to a place like Sweden with allemansratten?  In the interim, before we get to the perfect world, it’d be nice if private property were priority property, where the primary steward had priority to all the amenities when they’re present, but it was open to respectful others and utilized as a shared resource.  Basically a tree falling in the woods.  Public trust doctrine should extend beyond the mean high tide line.

Anyways, I left to search somewhere else, frustrated with this individual.  Nowhere else was better, so I returned.  The tide had filled in, the winds had shifted, and the swell was now bending beautifully around this jut and folding gloriously over itself into this world class marvel.  For two hours it was pure ecstatic joy.  My thinking self would interrupt it with the realization of how fleeting and rare this was.  The tide kept on its march upwards and eventually, the wave disappeared.  I couldn’t decide whether to laugh or cry.

Also, I met the rock placer and completely understood.  We’re friends now.


I still owe you 11 updates.  I used to think that one of the main reasons I’m not an astronaut is that I’d spend all my time looking out the window.  Recently I realized that I should spend my time floating.



To start, thank you all.  Far too late to the conversation.  Will be editing content, but two questions I’ll likely keep at the top:

When one goes into a cave to meditate, how far back do they go?  

And if a buddha/fully aware being could live longer, would they?  

Below are thoughts from current meditation practice and on discussions from the first three classes:

Meditation -

It is challenging to count 10 uninterrupted breaths.  I’m not sure that I entirely appreciated this prior to a few weeks ago.  Even cheating (non cheating) and giving each in-breath and out-breath a number, it’s rare that I maintain a full break from the internal monologue.  I think this is why I’ve found guided meditation most useful - whenever the narrator checks in with a “whenever you find your mind wandering...” I’m inevitably off in the sticks.  And though I know that in should be odd and out should be even, I often get switched up somewhere in there and find myself counting ins even and outs odd.  Practicing self kindness, it’s possible that the count is true and I’m skipping an in or out breath.

I’ve played with both morning and evening sessions and been least wandery in the mornings, the very first thing.  I reckon this is because the etch a sketch (my thinking self) is wiped (mostly) clean.  In the evening I find myself looking much more towards the past or future.

The general, actual experience has been something like this:

First thing, when I close my eyes, I try to recreate the last visual field and make sure I’m aligned towards some arbitrary surface.  Parallel or perpendicular to feel balanced.  For some reason I get really distracted if I’m at an angle - I get this twisting sensation.  It’s particularly acute if I have a light source that I can see through my eyelids, so in the evening I try to have my back to the lamp.

I then focus on my posture and straightening as much as possible.  Really stretching and expanding out.  This is probably my best posture for the day - peak posture.  I’m still not sure how I should have my legs crossed to feel balanced and think about it for a bit before forgetting and thinking about something else.

Once I get to the breath it usually turns to something like a free diving/deep breathing exercise.  The first few deliver a wonderful expansion in my rib cage and I realize how I often under utilize capacity.  Eventually I recognize an excessive pause at the top and relax it a bit.  But still, this touches back on the counting - I think the mismatch in timescales is part of my challenge.  The count takes 1/10th of the breath and I now have 9/10ths to forget what number I was on.  I sometimes replace counting with a phrase, Whole, I feel joy joy joy … (repeat joy until lungs filled/emptied), which is flexible and I can’t mess up (or if I do it’s a tree falling in the woods). Been enjoying this approach.

If I’m flying solo, by now I’m certain that it’s been somewhere between 60 minutes and aeons and I have a strong urge to check that the soft 20 minute alarm I set is still set.

In the guided mode, I’ll finally get to the cusp of a non-thinking breath-counting rhythm when the guide interrupts with something to say - usually about opening the eyes whenever I feel ready, which, now that it’s been mentioned, throws me off the track I was on.

All in all it’s going (great).  Not sure if this is an open ocean/desert kind of thing and the horizon keeps shifting, but from my perspective it’s all the same.  There’s a light notion that I’ve been more focused or disciplined, but I think it’s early to be calling things causal.

Class/Group discussion:

Why seek awareness?

My experience of linear time seems to autoscale and as I progress forward each interval seems get shorter and shorter.  All in all it’s going great and I’d really like to stretch out this experience as long as possible.  Could either increase the sampling rate or increase the run time, and increasing sampling - through awareness - seems the most viable path.  (I’m not current with the entire state of the live longer/run time space, but the parabiosis based proposals seem to be less than ethical and have scaling issues).

And more practically, I’m mostly trying to minimize stretches of non-awareness, which is very much like time traveling, in the worst way.  

Stillness - external or internal

For the external, to borrow Joi’ s phrasing - in what coordinate system/frame of reference and at what timescale?  At the smallest end of the spectrum, stillness seems a bit too cold to be desirable.  Anything larger and it still seems to be a futile effort - breath/pulse/movement of life processes, shifting of plates, rotation/orbit of earth, etc., expansion of universe.   Internal stillness seems the most fruitful path.

Silence -

One of my favorite sensations is floating in water - I really enjoy how it transduces breath into whole body movement (this builds on neutral buoyancy thoughts from the diving conversation).  Having the ears submerged also helps to dampen noise and approach external silence.  There’s a sheltered cove in front of my house and I’ve started to intentionally go through my breathing exercises.  Planning to expand into regular practice.

Sleep -

I wish you could average to 7, but I know this isn’t how it works.  I’m making effort - absolutely getting 7 -8 hours on an average of 6/7 days.  The day I cheat is usually due to some combination of chance, fortune, necessary spontaneity, and a lack of discipline.

Again, thanks.

Joichi Ito:

For me, the main thing with legs is that when you start meditating for longer periods, they can fall asleep or your posture can get saggy. For shorter periods, posture seems to be less important than people make it out to be. Unless you’re doing some sort of movement like yoga or qigong - and even then, it’s more about how you feel and less about how it looks. Embrace asymmetry!

Michael Arnold:

Re fatigue: I was thinking about that - I made a couple longer attempts and fatigue came in like distraction’s second feature. I’ve been feeling like I “land” in a better position and require fewer mid-session adjustments as I continue to practice.

Re embrace asymmetry!: excellent point. Many good things seem to agree (thinking heart, brain,). Making effort!

Joichi Ito:

I hate it when that happens. :-)