Martin's Journal

Martin's Journal
Contributors (1)
Mar 12, 2019

I write my journal in my extended brain, I’ve tried to fix up the formatting as I’ve copied journals over, but some structure doesn’t transfer well; I apologize if some parts are harder to parse.

02/21/19 - Actively Clearing My Mind

Some time ago, I realized that I could actively "clear my mind" using visualizations. One of the more common visualizations I use is a sort of "moving away from the old worries"; I'll imagine that I'm moving along some path; the surrounds are generally never filled in, and I more have a sense of movement and maybe of being in some sort of vehicle (although I generally also feel like I'm outside). I'll actively try to think of something that's been occupying my mind (a class, project, problem, etc.), try to wrap it into a "bundle", and then throw it out the back of the vehicle. I see it lying on the ground behind me and vanishing into the distance as I move away from it; or sometimes I'll see it turning into steam and vaporizing.

As I do this, I feel like I have a sort of mental "pressure" being released. Sometimes, if it works exceptionally well / if I was exceptionally mentally "cluttered" beforehand, I claim that I can actually physically feel a difference around my temples; I'm not sure if I should describe it as a pressure or an inverse pressure. I have no idea what's actually going on here or if anything's actually happening at all; maybe I'm just placebo-ing myself.

I'll generally do it at the end of the day while trying to sleep. I think it's useful for the transition that's needed there.

While meditating, I've sometimes felt the urge to manually do this process. I think it would make the meditation easier and more effective, but I try to resist it because I'm trying to be mentally clear and this process requires a lot of active work. I think I'll experiment with letting myself manually do this at the start of the meditation session.

02/19/19 - Meditation Mnemonics

I tried the idea of using a memory palace to "jot down" things that jumped into my brain while meditating that I wanted to think about later. This session, I recorded

1. {Forgot / can't see the first thing}

2. I noticed my heart pumping and could feel my veins in my feet (because my feet were slightly pressing into the ground

3. A reminder to tell a friend something

4. A reminder that I wanted to write about "actively clearning my mind" in these journals

5. A strong desire to crack my back

6. Confusion about if I should be trying to make my mind blank, or make my mind clear

7. A scene from a TV show I saw last night invading my meditation

Each of those points were encoded as an image. I'm reasonably experienced with this method now, so I think it took under a second to take each image, encode it, and move on. I think it also helped me let the ideas slip away after, because I knew they would be dealt with later.

Now, I'll actually think about them.

1. I still can't see what I encoded here. Oh well.

2. It was odd to feel my heart pumping. Overall, I feel more aware of how my body feels when meditating than I normally do when my attention is occupied by other things. Right now my body feels a little beaten up. Taking note of how my body feels during these meditation sessions seems like a useful feedback loop; I now feel a stronger desire to fix my sleep schedule and I just chugged some more water - two healthy actions that I wouldn't otherwise have undertaken.

3. I went and told my friend.

4. I made a note to write about this later.

5. While meditating, I think I'm aware of urges that I wouldn't otherwise have noticed. This session, I suddenly felt a creeping desire to crack my back. (Maybe this was a sign that my posture was poor? I'm unsure.) I've been told that most biological signals have a "hill" shape, where they increase only briefly before hitting a critical point and decreasing (On the timespan of ~5~15 minutes I think? I don't precisely remember.) I tried to let this urge just fade away, and was somewhat successful at first. However, a few minutes later (I think) it suddenly crept back and I succumbed to it. I'll try to look at my posture again next time.

6. I'm still unsure if I should be trying to make my mind "blank" or "organized" here. I think there's a big difference. So far, I've mainly been trying to make it "blank", which I think is what we've been getting at in class - let thoughts fade away, be okay with boredom, don't let yourself be gripped by random distractions. However, I also feel a desire to make it "organized" by intentionally letting myself "release" stresses, old concerns, things I'm thinking about, etc. I do this mental "de-cluttering process" intentionally at other times, and I find I generally feel better after it. However, I'm unsure if I let myself do that then I'll be missing out on the point of meditation practice.

7. When the TV show scene entered my mind, I tried to let it briefly play to the end in high-speed, then let myself be satisfied and have it fade away.

02/15/19 - Choosing a Practice

I've noticed myself procrastinating on the task of choosing a practice. I think this type of procrastination tends to happen when I have a conflict between wanting to make a decision but feeling that I don't yet have sufficient information; the solution is to set aside time to research through the options so I can feel

As an experiment, I tried walking meditation for 15 minutes.

I was unsure exactly what to do, but tried to limit sensory stimuli and to clear my mind; I put on noise cancelling headphones, tried not to focus on my surroundings (other than making sure I stayed on my path), and tried to just be mentally clear.

I should go read about walking meditation suggestions.

If part of the goal is to become more aware of mental habits, then I think I want a way to write down things that invade my mind while meditating so that I can go journal about them after. I wasn't able to write down these reminders on my walk and noticed that I began "looping" on mental reminders of what I wanted to go right about afterwards. I tried to silence these mental loops, but felt conflicted because I knew I would forget some things later on.

Maybe an alternative solution to physical paper would be a mental scratchpad. I'm pretty experienced with the "mind palace" technique, and could probably encode the stack of things that I thought about that way while walking. However, there's plausibly a risk that taking the few seconds to consolidate what I want to remember into an image will fight with the goal of clearing my mind and simply being observant of what passes by.

Maybe I shouldn't worry so much about tracking what I observe myself doing. Or, maybe I should just try to remember a single thing that came to mind and try to drill into it afterwards.

A few times, I noticed myself jumping to problems I've been thinking about. I tried to just let the problems go, but sometimes the problems appeared and then a solution appeared a few seconds later. I now feel some regret that I didn't right the solutions down; I'll see if I can re-find them again now.

I also noticed myself mentally jumping to problems that were pointless to think about then (ex. problems that I need paper to think about, or that I need to focus on in-depth to make any headway). In addition to trying to learn how to let these thoughts drift away (through this daily practice), I think I should make sure I'm actually scheduling time to carefully think through each of the problems.

I also noticed myself noticing things, then mentally looping on those things so that I wouldn't forget to go to the slack and report them!

I'm unsure if this would be a good practice to use or not.

Pros: I generally enjoy walking. I think a practice that also encourages more movement would be good.

Cons: I think it would be harder to be mentally still than with sitting meditation. Most of my walking paths also have encounters with other people.

02/13/19 - Boredom Can Be Useful

In class, we discussed why we get bored and why we let ourselves be pushed between different focuses by boredom. In context, the point seemed to be a suggestion to not let ourselves be controlled by boredom; instead, try to understand why you feel a need to go do something else, and what motives are pushing you there.

However, I wonder if boredom plays a useful role from a thinking-system perspective. If you think of the mind as hierarchies as agents, most agents don't know the details about what other agents are doing. If a higher-level agent notices a lower-level agent in the same state for a long time (or notices an absence of activity), then it seems like a good heuristic to intervene on that agent by either feeding it new input or suppressing it and letting another agent take control.

I've also found boredom to be useful at a higher cognitive level. For example, it's useful to try to solve problems in different states of mind to let you see the problem from different angles. After deciding to stop thinking about a given problem, I'll often observe myself jumping to something else I was thinking about.


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