What Love Means to Me

by on April 1st, 2012

Philosophers and poets have been trying to express what love is for the entirety of human history. It seems as if all felt as if they’re descriptions were meager and pale by comparison to the actual experience. What we’re left with is a lot of people who love a lot of people, but have no idea what love actually means.

I found that to be completely absurd. I couldn’t honestly say that I loved anyone, if I didn’t know what I meant when I said the L word. So what did I do? I sat down and I had conversations with people about love and what it meant to them. I watched a few lectures on the topic to see what the scientists and philosophers had to say. I can now honestly say that I understand love. At the very least, I know what love means to me.

Alright, first things first. I’m talking about general love, not specific flavors of love such as the love of a mother for her child, the platonic love between best friends, or that between lovers. I’m speaking in a purely generalized sense. However, all of these different flavors of love have the same basic theme in common and it is incredibly simple. In fact, it’s so simple that it is not a satisfying description at all.

Firstly, love is a craving. It is much like hunger in this respect. It is a desire to satisfy a certain condition. That condition is increased closeness to a person. This is usually in a social sense but in general it is a craving to draw someone closer to one’s self. I’m not talking in a physical sense either, although we often find ourselves doing so with those we love. Imagine that there is a string attaching you to everyone. Love is your desire to pull that string and in so doing, draw them closer to you.

The reason why this is not a satisfying answer is simple. Love seems more complex than this. But it doesn’t have to be. Remember, I’m speaking in generalities, not specifics. Love can take on many different flavors or colors, but they all share in common the desire to draw someone closer.

So what does it mean to be “in love”? Well, from what I can gather, it seems to simply be an exaggerated form of the general love which I’ve just laid out. It is a desire to draw someone so close that you’re actually bringing them into yourself (once again, I’m not talking physically). It would basically be comparable to infinite hunger. You simply could not possibly draw this person close enough.

Now, what does this mean for me and how I love? Specifically, I give away free platonic love like it’s the sixties. For me, love is the default condition. Every single person I meet, there is a small pull, a desire to know them more. People are interesting and everyone has an interesting story to tell and a lesson to teach. I want to know these things. The tug is tiny at first, but it is there. I actually imagine that I love everyone, I just don’t know them yet.

On the other end of the spectrum would be dislike and hate. If you imagine them as being the polar opposites of loving and being in love with someone then it makes perfect sense. If I dislike someone, I want to push them away. If I hate someone, I could not possibly push them away far enough. Luckily for those around me, I’m giving away free love but hate has to be earned.

This is such a simple and unromantic concept that few seem willing to accept it. The feelings that love conjures within us are so much more profound than “I want you nearer to me” that many will say that I’m full of it. However, love need not be so complicated. It doesn’t have to come with all the conditions that people seem to heap upon it. Love is simple. There’s no good reason to complicate it. Then again, there’s also no good reason to pare down and limit love to just this one desire. If there’s anything I’ve learned in my study on love it is this: let love free.

If you have a different opinion on love, or want to add anything, feel free to let me know about it in the comments below. Every point of data I get increases my understanding of the topic, which is always a plus.

 

Men and Women Can’t be Friends?

by on December 17th, 2011

First, a relevant youtube video which seems to indicate that men and women cannot be just friends.

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

But is the conclusion true? More importantly, what are the implications if it were true?

Firstly, it seems to me as if this may be a cultural issue, not a universal issue. That is, it may not be true of all humans in all cultures but it seems to be the case for the majority in the United States. I’ve had conversations with women from foreign countries where they expressed exasperation with the idea that men and women cannot be just friends. I don’t think this is a uniquely American issue, but at the very least it does not seem to be the case in other countries which could indicate that it is at least partially due to cultural influences.

Now for the most important aspect of all this, the implications. If we agree that men and women cannot ever be just friends then we must admit that the friendship between men and women is aimed at acquiring a mate. Basically, that the friendship between men and women is part of a dating strategy. This implies that the only possible ways for males and females to interact are those that are intended to lead up to sex. So it seems like this mindset suggests that practically any interaction I have with a female MUST be because I want to get into her pants. Put another way, there is only value in interacting with the opposite sex if, and only if, said interaction will lead to sex. Are you starting to see why this is a problematic way of thinking?

Seriously, if I hold the door open for a woman, it must be because I want in her pants. If I wash the dishes after a dinner with my girlfriend, it must be because I want in her pants. If I tell a girl I love her, what I really mean is “I want to have sex with you and these three words seem to make that happen.” Now, while some might actually think this way, I certainly do not and most of the people I know, men and women both, do not think like this. It’s not just that either, this mode of thought would be repulsive to most of the people I know, and one must keep in mind that I know a lot of free-lovin’ hippie types.

But it gets even more complicated when you consider other sexual orientations such as homosexuals and bisexuals. A gay man and a gay woman could obviously be friends because they’re invalid sexual partners. What about a gay man and a straight man? Can they be friends? Is there value in the interaction between valid sexual partners if and only if they lead to sex? What would this be like if a bisexual felt this way?

Are the relationships straight men have with one another simply for the sake of scoring? That is, are hetero male friends only useful in their capacity as wing men?

Seriously, this mindset is so messed up that it’s not funny. It suggests that the value of a human being lies between their legs. Some may feel this way but I think we need to rethink the way we look at human interaction. Human beings are more than genitalia

Why People Are Offended

by on November 11th, 2011

More and more it seems like people are getting easier and easier to offend. Course language, nudity, displays of affection, homosexuality, and even just disagreeing with someone seem to illicit an extreme reaction in some people. Often they become angry, belligerent and sometimes even violent. But why? What is it that causes these people to react this way? Well, it’s not really a simple issue, but I will do my best to explain my own findings on the matter.

I figured I would revisit this concept because it’s been a while and I’ve expanded my theory to be both simpler and more comprehensive. The old hypothesis has been absorbed a bit into this one, in that I can now explain it in terms of this new framework.

First things first, let’s look at the mind. Because I cannot have literal things in my mind, I must represent things symbolically (See Solipsism Plus for more details). It’s much like building a miniature version of the world in your mind. This mental world you build is further populated with mental models of all the individual things you could think of. We also build mental models of ourselves. The way we construct this self model can sometimes result in being particularly susceptible to being offended.

Part of the problem is that we often confuse the model for the thing itself. A chair is a thing wholly separate from anyone’s mental model of that chair just as the word “chair” is not a chair itself. Likewise, I am not your mental model of me. I am not even my own mental model of me. There is a big difference between damaging me and damaging my self model. However, many (perhaps most) don’t make this distinction. What happens then is that an attack, threat or challenge to one’s self model is perceived as a direct attack.

Now comes the fun part. If our self model is built such that it is dependent on other concepts then an attack on any of those concepts could be perceived as an attack on our self model. Imagine that your self model was a statue which is propped up by pillars. Any attack or weakening of those pillars could be disastrous to that statue.

Here’s an example. Let’s say that I’m a devout Christian. Let’s also say that I believe I would be nothing without god. That is, my self model is dependent upon my god model. When someone suggests that god does not exist, I see this as an attack on god and by extension, an attack on me. I then react as if I had been physically attacked because I also confuse my self model with my literal self. This can happen with many religions because it can be beneficial for a religion if its members feel strongly attached to it and defend it as they would defend themselves. The unfortunate side effect is that it makes for some rather grumpy fundamentalists. The fact of the matter is that what I believe or don’t believe about your, or any other, god has no bearing on anything, least of which who you are as a person. Furthermore, the strength of one’s faith is never known until it is tested.

Now, imagine a person who, as part of their self model, defines themselves as a MAN. Their definition of what a man is happens to be hyper masculine and does not make any room for anything less manly than the Brawny paper towel guy. When exposed to males which challenge that definition of what it means to be a man, such as effeminate males, then it could be perceived as an attack on their pillar of masculinity and thus an attack on themselves. But is their reaction reasonable? The thing is, there are effeminate men and there are also masculine men. Heck, there are masculine homosexual men. These are still men and it has no bearing on who I am as a person. They’ve got certain traits and we share some of those traits but the way one acts and who one is sexually attracted to are not married to the concept of what it means to be a man.

Pride is also somewhat similar because we often define ourselves by the features we’re most proud of. For example, consider the phrase “I am smart”. If your intelligence is a foundational feature of your self model, such that without it you wouldn’t be yourself, then a challenge to your intelligence may be perceived as an attack against your self model. So what is the real problem here? It’s the pride. If I value my intelligence so much that I feel I could not live in a world where I did not possess it, then something is wrong. Once who I am become contingent upon my intelligence, then it sets me up to be offended quite often because nobody knows everything and we all occasionally act the fool. If I were offended every time I looked stupid, I would never learn anything. In fact, if I were offended every time my intelligence were challenged, then I would be deserving of having my intelligence challenged as this sentiment could only serve to hinder my pursuit of knowledge and wisdom.

Another way this works is through context. The stage we stand on is another one of those symbols I was talking about. If who I am relies on the stage upon which I stand, then suggesting that I’m on a different stage could be perceived as a challenge to my self model. For example, lets say your model of the world includes a prudish level of decency such that nudity should never be shown in public. Who you are depends on this being true as your prudence is a defining part of your character. When you see public nudity, and especially when you see it being accepted, such as the public display of sculptures depicting nudity, then your model of the world has been challenged, and by extension, your self model has been challenged. But is that prudish response necessary? Is it not possible that the world now lives by sensibilities which I do not hold to and vice versa? Being able to see yourself as an actor on many different stages is a sign of versatility of character.

I once asked a racist “how would you feel if you were born black?” to which they responded “I would kill myself.” They didn’t realize that if they were born into a different body and in this different social context that they would not necessarily hold that sentiment. They could not only had their self model propped up by their “whiteness” but also felt as if the world was such that even the black people should know that they should desire death. It didn’t occur to them that it could be any other way. Whether or not this inability to put themselves in the shoes of someone else was a symptom or a cause of their racist beliefs I have no idea, however, it certainly did result in the person being offended quite often and for the stupidest things. The person who can put themselves in the shoes (or the bare feet) of another and is able to divorce their ethnic background, social standing, gender, sexuality, etc… from their self model has a diversity of character which allows for them to more easily gain insight on what it might be like to be someone else.

So what should we do when we’re offended? Most people lash out, but I urge you to lash in. When I am offended, I take it as an opportunity for introspection. Someone has shone a light into an odd part of my self model and I’ve realized that I need to do some reevaluation. I try to find peace with both the offending statement being true and false. For instance, I can live with myself if I were stupid or intelligent, gay or straight, ugly or pretty, and so on. Part of this involves not only recognizing the above concepts but also building one’s self not by propping it up but by having your self model sitting firmly on the ground and behaving more like a basket within which you can place various things. So instead of my intelligence being something which defines me, it is merely something I possess. It’s just another apple in the basket, if the apple gets removed, the basket is still upright and whole. It also allows me to temporarily remove and evaluate a concept from my self image while I do this introspection. This is a powerful tool for self discovery.

Take away points:

  • Do not confuse the self model for the self.
  • You possess traits, do not let them define you.
  • When offended lash in, not out.

I’m still working on this theory of offense. The model fits pretty well with the data that I’ve gathered so far. If you have anything to add or a criticism, I would be glad to hear it. If you were offended by what I had to say, then this message is addressed to you. Get over it. :P

Quantum Physics and Philosophy

by on November 9th, 2011

Quantum mechanics is some freaky stuff and it certainly does have many philosophical implications. However, the implications that most point to are rarely based on any real knowledge of quantum mechanics. Instead it is based on some wacky woo woo pop science garbage that has been passed around by all manner of crack pots. Because it keeps being brought up I felt it might be necessary to clear up a few things. I should mention that I’m not a physicist, I’m an art major. However, I have actually watched many lectures about quantum mechanics and know enough about science in general to be at least somewhat confident that usually when quantum mechanics comes up in most philosophy discussions, that it is going to mangle the science to the point of stupidity. I encourage anyone who is interested in quantum mechanics to actually do some research and watch some lectures on the subject. Don’t rely on garbage like What the Bleep do We Know and their ilk.

All that being said, I’m going to try to clear some of this stuff up as best as I can. If need be, I can just reference this the next time someone starts spouting quantum drivel.

First things first. What the heck is an observer? A classic experiment in quantum physics (henceforth QP) is the two slit experiment. Most people even casually interested in the field know about this. Through this experiment we see that light behaves like both a particle and a wave. But we also see that the wave-like properties of photons rely on it being able to pass through both slits at the same time. If we set up a detector to determine which slit the photon went through, it destroys the wave pattern. In this way, the observation of the path of the photon puts it in a definite place/time instead of it being in a wave of probabilities. What basically happens is that the wave collapses into only one of the two possible outcomes. Fridge magnet philosophers take this to mean that the universe is in an indeterminate state until we observe it. This isn’t just a huge leap of logic, it is a leap into a big steaming pile of absurd garbage.

Now, why is that the case? Firstly, we can blame the scientists a bit for this one. They picked a really bad word to use for this. “Observer” comes with all this semantic baggage that we can’t help but incorporate into the definition. However, when the quantum physicist talks about an observer, he doesn’t mean a conscious mind looking through an eyeball at a quantum event. In the two slit experiment, the observer is the photon detector. Think about it for a bit. We can’t directly observe the QP world, we have to use machines to do this. Let’s follow the logic of the person who believe that it is our consciousness which produces the event. The photon is in a wave-like state, the detector makes a measurement and sends data to a computer, the computer interprets that data and outputs the data on the screen for the researcher to view. If the conscious observation of the researcher is what causes the photon to take a definite path, and until then it inhabits all possible paths, then the data sent by the detector, the data received by the computer and even the computations done in that computer must also operate as if all possible paths were taken and only when the researcher looks at his screen does it collapse into one possibility. Anyone with half a brain in their head can see why this makes no sense. To put it simply, an observation in QP refers to an interaction. This has absolutely nothing to do with anyone’s mind.

QP invalidates determinism? Seriously, that’s not what ANY scientist actually believes, but I keep hearing this come up. The QP world is a strange one. Quantum particles behave in more or less statistical ways which are otherwise random in the way they behave. But if the QP world is random, why isn’t everything else random? The thing is, like in the two slit experiment, interaction between particles forces them to be in one definite place/time. A photon whizzing through empty space can behave like a wave completely. But as soon as it bumps into something else, THAT is where it is. The more interactions you get, the more definite the position of that particle becomes. Just like the photon interacting with the detector and having it’s probable course collapse to one possibility, the same thing happens when two particles interact. This is why things behave less and less like quantum objects the larger they get. Atoms still behave in a quantum manner, molecules less so, and big chunks of stuff hardly have any quantum features at all. In order to get big stuff to act in a quantum manner, you have to chill them down to near absolute zero and even then, the effect is reduced the larger you get. This is why, while all the electrons in all the atoms in all of the DNA molecules in my cells may be acting in a random way, my DNA isn’t being shuffled like a deck of cards by some QP deamon.

Seriously, who ever thought that suggesting the universe was random was a good idea? Not only is it obviously and demonstrably false, but all of science pretty much agrees that the universe is built upon causal determinism. There’s not really any disagreement amongst the experts. Yes, the smallest stuff appears to be random. Yes, these random events have an effect on the macro world. However, the macro world operates with very little randomness. To imagine otherwise should produce nothing but wonder that the universe even holds together as it may spontaneously transform to be filled with grape jello, after all, it’s all random.

The Many Worlds Hypothesis. This is an interesting one that people get wrong all the time. The problem lies in the fact that people take the analogy literally without realizing the absurdity. The analogy states that as I go through my life, I will be confronted with a series of choices. I seem to have made only one choice at each of these junctures. However, the many world’s hypothesis suggests that perhaps I took all possible choices. There are an infinite number of such choices at every moment in my life. I imagine that if that were true, that there would be an infinite number of worlds where I choose to smash my face into my keyboard until the stupidity of that idea is erased from my mind… but not in this one. The problem is that this is an analogy, not the reality of the hypothesis. It is talking about the quantum world, not the macro world. It applies to the photon moving through the two slits, but not to what direction I’m going to turn at a given intersection on my way to Denny’s. If that were true, I would be much more likely to never make it to the restaurant and starve to death in traffic… a fate I sometimes feel would be preferable to listening to any more of this quantum drivel.

These are the biggest things I hear people get terribly wrong. There’s a lot of snark in the above comments, but in my opinion these beliefs NEED to be ridiculed. I’m not calling anyone an idiot, I know many of these people are smart and educated. That is why I get so frustrated, I know they’re capable of much more. Heck, even just reading the Wikipedia article on QP would clear a lot up.

Stop Sleep Paralysis With Meditation?

by on November 8th, 2011

Over the past several years I have had a pretty annoying problem. If I take a nap during the day I pretty much always end up with sleep paralysis. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this term, it is essentially like being awake in a nightmare and unable to move. When you’re asleep, your brain releases a paralytic to prevent you from acting out your dreams. In sleep paralysis, you wake up but are still paralyzed. It is often associated with hallucinations about things like demon possession and alien abduction.

The other day, I found myself struggling to break myself free from one of these episodes. It’s quite terrifying really, being a prisoner in your own body, trying to scream out but unable to so much as control your blinking. I struggled with this for at least half an hour, trying to scratch, claw, and scream my way out of it, but to no avail.

I then realized that this was similar to a dream state. If that were the case, I should be able to control it like a dream. The problem was that fighting against it seemed to make it worse so I decided to go a different route. Instead of fighting, I gave in.

I’ve used this technique before to stop nightmares. In one poignant example I was being attacked by zombies and my normal dream abilities were not working. So what did I do? I sat down, closed my eyes and cleared my mind. I could still feel the undead tearing at my flesh, ripping off my limbs and disemboweling me. However, I did not make any value judgment about my sensations, I merely let them be. After a few minutes the pain subsided, as did the howls of the undead. When I opened my eyes, there were no zombies and i was not only completely whole but completely uninjured.

So there is was, paralyzed on the couch. Instead of trying to fight my way out, I closed my eyes and cleared my mind. I saw a few strange lights, like the blobs of green and purple that many see when they close their eyes. The light took on the shape of a branching vine which ended in maple leaves. One by one and with a pop each leaf burst so that now there was only black. I then opened my eyes and found myself fully awake.

I must admit, I have no clue what the hypnagogic vines were about. However, it does seem as if meditation may be useful for getting out of sleep paralysis. I intend to attempt to induce sleep paralysis many times in the coming weeks to test and see if this is a repeatable phenomenon.

If you are a sufferer of sleep paralysis and want to give this a try (it couldn’t hurt), feel free to let us know how it goes in the comments below.

How to Reset Your Sleep Cycle

by on November 5th, 2011

For the vast majority of my life I’ve been a night owl. I would often stay up until 2-4 in the morning and wake up around noon. This had become a pattern for me which was supported by the fact that I worked an afternoon shift and then became more pronounced when I became unemployed. This was such a huge aspect of my sleep schedule that I would actually become ill if I woke up too early in the morning. This wasn’t an issue, however, because I very rarely had to wake up early.

A problem arose, however, when I got an excellent job offer that I simply could not refuse. The only problem was that it was for a morning shift. Having to consistently wake up at 7 in the morning was a bit much for me. So it required that I reset my sleep cycle. Luckily, I’ve read a lot of material on the matter and have done this before.

The most extreme, and quick, way to reset your sleep cycle is something that I did to counteract jet lag when I took a trip to the UK. It leaves you very tired for a few days but it gets the job done. What you do is you stay awake through the entire night and do not go to sleep until your new bed time. I found this incredibly difficult and it did make me a little ill due to the fact that I don’t cope well with sleep deprivation. However, I didn’t suffer from jet lag in the least. Another thing worth mentioning is that you probably shouldn’t drive or operate machinery when you’re doing this as you’ll be pretty out of it. I don’t know about everyone else, but I start to dream while awake when I’m sleep deprived… which isn’t very conducive to being a safe presence on the road. Luckily, for this new job, I had a week to adjust my sleep cycle instead of just one day.

Having a week was a pretty big deal. It allowed me to slowly tweak my sleep cycle rather than having to resort to the previously mentioned extreme measures. What I did was every two days, I would set my alarm back one hour. I would also make an effort to go to sleep an hour earlier. That was the most difficult part at first, but when you’re feeling sleep deprived it makes it easier to get to sleep. It sounds simple, but there are actually a few more tricks worth mentioning.

The first little trick to remember is that you should not take a nap under any circumstances during this process. You want to be as tired as possible for your new bed time so that you will fall asleep quickly and sleep soundly. Secondly, make sure you also adjust the times you eat. For me, this meant eating breakfast. This is important because our circadian rhythm is set by two things, light and blood sugar levels. In the absence of light cues, we set our sleep cycle to our food schedule. Many night owls may actually be immune and/or resistant to the effects of light on our circadian rhythms. That ties into the third tip, turn on your lights when you wake up and if the sun is going to be up when you’re supposed to be up, sleep with your blinds open if possible. The absence of light in a dark room can be a major contributing factor to allowing us to sleep in. But that’s not all, the last trick is a fairly important one that practically nobody does. However, it is so important that I absolutely must mention it.

When we sleep, we tend to go in cycles of light and deep sleep which last about 90min. I’m also sure that many of you have experienced premature awakening. This wasn’t always an issue for me, but for various reasons, I had to become a light sleeper and just haven’t been able to shake it. In any case, I tend to wake up throughout the night and with increasing frequency as I get closer and closer to the time when the alarm is supposed to go off. After much testing, what I have found is that if I am woken by the alarm during deep sleep, I feel tired all day. However, if I wake up an hour early all on my own I feel perfectly rested despite the fact that I am technically deprived of one hour of sleep. The trick is, if you wake up with 90min, or an hour and half for those who don’t feel like doing the math, of when you’re supposed to wake up, then go ahead and stay up. About the worst time you could go back to sleep is the halfway mark of 45min. That would have you wake up right in the middle of deep sleep. If you’re right around the 90min mark, you can get away with going back to sleep as you’ll be sleeping pretty lightly when your alarm goes off. The thing is, this sounds so counter intuitive that few would accept this. I mean, why would we be less tired when we got less sleep? Trust me, it works and it is incredibly powerful. You’ll feel so much better for not trying to get that extra 30min of sleep.

Alright, now that all of that is out of the way, what about maintaining your new sleep cycle? This is no small matter either as many people find it hard to stick to the sleep schedule that they’ve been used to for years. Besides the previous tip, you have to remain consistent. Studies have shown pretty conclusively that you CAN NOT make up for lost sleep. What makes people feel better rested isn’t the amount of sleep they get, but the consistency of that sleep. You cannot deprive yourself of sleep during the week thinking that you’ll catch up on sleep when the weekend comes. It simply won’t work. As strange as it sounds, you may be tired during the week BECAUSE you sleep in on the weekend. Even if you get a good 8hrs of sleep during the week and an extra 2hrs of sleep on the weekend, you are not doing yourself a favor. You’ll find that if you maintain the same sleep schedule even on days when you have no good reason to be up that early, you will feel more rested in general as time goes on.

Another thing worth pointing out is that in both of these methods you will feel tired for some time afterwards. It takes a few days at least and a week at most to adjust to your new schedule. Once again, do not give in and resort to naps or sleeping in on your days off. Just keep it consistent and you’ll get there.

Alright, lets review:

  • Hard reset of sleep cycle is done by staying awake through the night and until your new bed time.
  • Soft adjustment of the sleep cycle is done by waking up at the new time little by little.
  • Turn the lights on when you wake up.
  • Adjust the times that you eat by the same amount that you adjusted your sleep schedule.
  • Do not take naps.
  • If you wake up within 90min of when you’re alarm is supposed to go off, go ahead and wake up.
  • Sleep consistently, do not sleep in on days off or otherwise attempt to catch up on lost sleep.

That’s pretty much it. Hopefully, I’ve been at least a little bit of help. If you’ve got any other tips or tricks for those who are trying to change up their sleep cycle, feel free to mention it in the comments below. Otherwise, if you’ve got a story of your own about using methods similar to this, tell us about your experience.

Using Language to Control Dreams

by on October 16th, 2011

I have been lucid dreaming for a while now. I’ve had near complete control over my dreams for several years. This morning, I discovered just how powerful one particular technique could be. I have used language before to create change within my dreams but had never really explored it to the fullest.

The earliest example of language having an effect in one of my dreams was when I made mention to someone that all I had to do was think of someone being made of sand, and they would be. Just by saying this, the person I was referring to was made into sand. It wasn’t like they turned into sand either. It was more like they had always been made out of sand. Their form was still human, but their material was now sand, which collapsed unable to hold it’s shape.

Several months later, I decided to revisit that odd little quirk in a fight I was having in a dream. Combat is fairly common in my dreams and I like to use my lucid dreams to try and discover how things work. So I tried to turn my assailant into sand. I said “you will turn into sand” and nothing happened. I said, “you are turning into sand” and nothing happened. I said “you turned into sand” and nothing happened. I said “you are sand” and it was as if he had always been sand. It seemed that framing things in the present tense was necessary for this effect to take place. Also note the simple independent predicate form of the sentences. This seems vital to getting this to work.

Subsequent tests also illustrated that framing things in the negative does not work. So saying “the monster will not find me” is essentially the same as saying “the monster will find me” the subconscious seems to ignore the “not”. In dreams, if you concentrate on what you do not want to happen, it is practically guaranteed to happen. Instead of saying what you do not want to happen, focus on what it is that you want to happen. For example, instead of saying “I can not fall” say “I am like a ninja.” It will make all the difference in the world.

The thing is, I’ve known this for quite some time. But I never explored it in depth until this morning. I actually found out that this isn’t just some random parlor trick, it can be used rapid fire and with reckless abandon to momentous effect. Let me give you an example “the monster is a buffalo. The buffalo is happy. The buffalo allows me to ride him. The buffalo can fly. The buffalo flies to the moon. The buffalo is asleep.” Worth pointing out is that the buffalo farted rainbows such that it was sort of like riding nyan cat to the moon, except that nyan cat was actually a buffalo. In any case, I managed to turn a nightmare into something completely awesome and wrap it up with moon explorati0n. You can also say things like “I’m on a boat” or “I know kung fu” and it will simply be as if it always was the case.

An interesting thing worth pointing out is that there is no transition from one state into another. A person does not turn into sand, the monster does not turn into a buffalo, a boat does not materialize underneath you. It is as if these things where simply always true but you just didn’t really notice. The thing is, it could be a dramatic change. The monster could have been thirty feet tall and looked like it was completely made of teeth and claws. When you say “the monster is a buffalo” it simply IS a buffalo. It doesn’t change shrink or lose it’s teeth and claws. It’s sort of like when you mistake something for something else. “Before I thought that was a dog in the hallways, but now I see that it is really just a floor fan.” It is as if you simply thought it was a thirty foot tall monster made of teeth and claws, but now that you look more closely, it’s really just a buffalo.

For this reason I have decided to coin this technique “redefinition” because that seems to be the best explanation for what is occurring. What is happening is that a dream symbol is being redefined. What you say is incorporated into that definition. This also allows us to bypass belief to produce the desired effect. That is, I do not have to believe that saying something makes it so. What it does is bypass belief altogether and redefines the thing itself. You do not have to believe the thing will change because the thing never changes, it simply is as if it had always been so.

Now, why is this so useful? First, as you’ve noticed, it allows the dreamer to change the nature of other dream characters. This is very important because dream themes rely very heavily upon the roles of the actors. For instance, if you have taken on the role of prey and a monster has taken upon the role of predator, then you’ve got yourself a chase dream. If you can redefine the monster such that they can no longer fulfill the role of predator, then you’ve successfully ended that theme. A pile of sand cannot chase you, and if it does you simply say “the sand is inert.” This is probably the easiest method I’ve found for changing the role of someone else.

There are a few last things worth pointing out. This can be very useful for visualization as well as the controlling of daydreams and hypnagogic hallucinations. So if you find that your meditation is being disturbed by irrelevant and distracting imagery, just use redefinition to take control over what you are seeing. Also, I also suggest that you never use the phrase “x is nothing” because it will produce one of two effects. The first is that “nothing” being unimaginable will produce no effect at all. The second is that it will turn into a void which will behave somewhat like a black hole and attempt to devour you. In the later case, you can still recover from it by saying “the void is x” and thereby turn it into something solid which will not try to devour you.

Structure of Dreams

by on September 7th, 2011

In an effort to understand dreams with a bit more clarity. I’ve been reading over countless dream journal entries, both my own and those of others. I understand that there are common themes that dreams tend to include, however, what I wanted to know was the basic underlying structure. How are these varying elements put together? What do these elements have in common? This has lead me to realize that dreams pretty much all follow the same basic structure.

The basics are as follows: Anticipation/Expectation/Preparation, then Escalation and finally Resolution/Distraction/Transition.

The interesting thing is that this happens on at least two levels, almost as if dreams are fractals. They follow the same structure if you’re looking at a little moment within a dream, or in several dreams across a single night. Our dreams are very cyclic in nature, with every moment we experience feeding back into the next moment. Our expectations are met more often than not. If we suspect that someone may be a vampire, they usually turn out to be one. If we think we can fly, then we usually can. Because dreams are so cyclic, they follow an pattern of escalation where each moment is an escalation of the previous moment. Finally, we have resolution/distraction/transition. This happens when a dream event ends. It either ends through a natural resolution, such as defeating the giant, by distraction, such as randomly being told that your sister was in a car accident, or even by simple transition, such as transitioning from a dream of being chased to a violent dream when cornered. Interestingly, the lull right after a proper resolution opens the door for a distraction. I personally think the reason why distraction is so easy in dreams is because short term memory is king there. That is, it’s very difficult to remember very far back and we have difficulty planning for the future in dreams. Temporally speaking, we live very much in the moment while we dream. In any case, both resolution and distraction are transitions in their own right.

Simplified, we have Preparation, Escalation and Transition. Which gives us a nice and adorable acronym of PET.

Another feature of dreams lies not in this basic structure but in the structure of the themes themselves. Dream themes seem to be based on polar opposite roles such as hunter/prey, familiar/unfamiliar, known/unknown, aggressor/victim, restraint/freedom, and the list goes on. Often, these dualities exist in terms of the internal vs. the external. For instance, are you hunting or are you being hunted? Often I have found that the existence of the opposing figure relies on the existence of it’s opposite. That is, the hunter would not exist if it were not for the prey and vice versa.

This is interesting because it gives us ways to perform a theme shift. We simply use the transition phase to take on a role that we want to play. Otherwise, we may just abandon a certain role and find that our opposition disappears. The perfect example of this was  dream I had as a child. A monster was chasing me and continued to do so even after I flew away. It grew wings and just would not stop chasing me. Eventually I landed, it landed behind me. I turned to face it, I still remember it’s snarling mouth being full of needle-like teeth. I simply asked “why are you chasing me?” it replied “I don’t know” which I followed with “then leave me alone.” It promptly said “alright” and then flew away. By refusing to act like prey, I could no longer be treated as prey, I no longer fulfilled that role. The monster may have still been a hunter, but it could not hunt me because I was no longer prey. This allowed for a resolution and transition to another dream theme. This is why I call this sort of thing a Theme Shift.

Solipsism Plus

by on August 4th, 2011

This is a concept that I’ve been toying around with for a while and have finally begun to solidify it into a formal philosophy of mind. First, it requires a bit of understanding about what solipsism is. Essentially, it is the philosophy that all this is just a dream. It sounds like something a bunch of stoners would cook up. Seriously, what if this was all just a dream, and when I wake up, you will all cease to exist? It sounds crazy, but it does have some merit. Just keeping following me with this one, I promise that I’m not completely off my rocker.

Now that the basics of solipsism are out of the way, lets cover the basics of the way the mind works. It must be noted that the things which occur in my mind are not physical things, but mental things. For instance, when I think of a chair, I do not have a literal chair in my head. Essentially, what I have in my head is a symbolic representation of a chair, a mental model. We can take this a step further into the realm of our experiences. Sight does not happen in my eyes, it happens in my mind. My eyes relate data to my brain, which makes sense of it and eventually results in what I see. The same goes for pain. When I get hurt, my nerves send impulses to my brain which relay the type, severity and location of the injury, but the pain exists in my mind. The pain DOES NOT reside in my stubbed toe, it is all in my head.

So how does this relate to solipsism? Well, the title of this post is Solipsism Plus for a reason. The way I see it, we are all dreaming. However, unlike an unconscious dream, which is informed entirely by internal states, our waking experience can be compared to a dream which is being informed by our senses.

Let me elaborate a bit. Our senses are pouring in sense data to our brains. From there, our brains interpret that data to build up a model of the world. This is what I mean by a dream informed by our senses. Since I cannot experience the world in a literal sense, what I experience is a dream that is cooked up by my brain to explain my sense data. The thing is, I can be fooled and I can even hallucinate. In instances where such things occur, my experience remains real even if what I am experiencing does not relate to the external world. That is, if I experience a hallucination, my experience is not informed by my senses and is an illusion. However, my experience of that hallucination is just as real as anything else I experience. An example would be phantom limb pain. People without a foot might experience pain in a foot they do not have. The pain does not come from the external world, it is not informed by their senses. But that doesn’t stop their non-existent foot from hurting. The experience of pain is still just as real.

The implications of this are pretty big. The first big implication is that the structure of experience may be similar to the structure of dreams. That sounds odd at first, but imagine the parallels between a nightmare and anxiety. The patterns of the expectations of violent escalation is about the same in both instances. This implies that methods for coping with nightmares while dreaming may translate over to methods for coping with anxiety. This is one that I have particular interesting in.

Another implication is that it may be possible to apply lucid dreaming principles to waking experiences. Now, I’m not talking about being able to fly or having any other sort of super power. However, it may be possible to realize that our experiences are a dream, and as such, change the way we experience the world. So while I cannot change what sense data I’m receiving, I can change the way that this data is interpreted. Perhaps I could exert control over my own experiences to consciously choose the way I feel about something.

This also has implications for religion. As an example, based on this theory of mind, when I am having a conversation with someone, I am not experiencing that person literally. They are not literally in my mind. What is going on is that I have a mental model of that person in my head, a symbolic representation of them, which is being updated by my senses. Essentially, I am not talking to that person, I am talking to a mental model of that person. It just so happens that this mental model is being updated, in real time, by my sense data. How does this relate to religion? Well, I have mental models of people that I have never met. There are friends of friends, which I’ve heard stories about, perhaps even seen pictures of. I can imagine the situations these people have been in based on those incomplete mental models. Heck, I can even imagine conversations with these people. The only difference between the imagined conversation and an actual conversation is that the former is not updated by sense data. The important thing to note here, however, is that it doesn’t make the experience less real. So, even if gods are just imaginary friends for adults, these gods still map to REAL mental models in our minds and the experience of interaction with those mental models can be just as real as an interaction with someone made of flesh and blood right in front of us. Keep this in mind, whether or not gods exist, whether or not experiences of gods are informed by our senses or are hallucinations, the fact of the matter is that these are real experiences.

Dream Meditation Update

by on February 10th, 2011

This is an update a previous post on meditation within a dream.

In my previous post, I talked about finally being able to maintain a meditative state within a dream without waking up. However, I was only able to do it for a few minutes. I also proposed that I might be able to use my teleportation trick to meditate for longer. The trick to maintaining meditation in a dream is to engage your senses but quiet your mind. In this instance, the sensation of motion did an excellent job of keeping me asleep. In fact, I had no problems with staying asleep during this in-dream meditation which lasted for at least an hour. This is a HUGE improvement over my previous attempt which only lasted a few minutes before transitioning into another dream.

Let me outline the process a bit. To teleport or time travel in a dream the easiest way to do so is close your eyes, fall backwards and think of where/when you want to be. You should fall through the ground and perhaps even tumble a bit. When you feel the ground beneath you, you should be very close to where you wanted to be. This works for several reasons. First, you close your eyes and fall backwards because perception is everything in dreams so you have to cut off your perception of your current location/time and fall into an area that you weren’t perceiving before you did so (behind you). The perception of motion and the mental fixation on the location/time you wish to be tricks your brain into thinking that you’re moving there.

To meditate in this state all you’ve got to do is clear your mind instead of fixating it on a location/time. It helped me to maintain the lotus position once in free fall. Occasionally, I would come into contact with things that felt solid. All I had to do was maintain and I would sink into and through them as if I were doing the teleportation technique again. This is the cool thing. Unlike regular meditation, where I am clearing my mind but am still located at a specific place and time, this is not so with this technique. I just woke up from meditation which lasted a while (felt like at least an hour) that took place in no place in time or space while happening completely inside my own mind. I must say, it was quite the experience.

The reason why I think this worked so well is that the sensation of motion is very strong in dreams. Unlike my previous attempt, where I was engaging my sense of touch, feeling as if I were moving produced a drastically better result. One technique for staying asleep when you begin to realize you’re actually laying in bed is to spin around in a circle until you can’t feel the bed anymore. The disconnect between your in-dream sensation of motion and the reality of your stillness keeps you anchored in the dream world. This technique engages your sensation of motion far before you ever start to wake. As such, it holds you firmly in the dream world despite the fact that none of your other senses are being activated. You see nothing, hear nothing, smell nothing, taste nothing, there is no sensation of temperature difference, there is only the perception of falling and your perception of yourself. It’s like falling through an infinite abyss outside of time and space where only you and your mind resides. I must admit, this is the most epic meditation I’ve ever performed. In fact, I was able to meditate longer in this state than I have ever been able to meditate in the waking world.

When I felt I had meditated enough, I opened my eyes into an extremely vivid dream. The interesting thing was that I had drastically increased ability to control the dream. I played around mostly with telekinesis (my oldest and strongest dream ability) and managed to do things like pull the water out of a shirt without pulling the shirt. I was also able to bake bread in my hands by creating a high heat, but not a flame in my palms. Both instances illustrate a level of fine control which I’ve never before been able to accomplish.  On top of that, when I control my dreams it usually starts to wake me up. This was not the case this time. I had no problem staying asleep despite the increased control I had over the dream. The most interesting thing, however, had nothing to do with lucid dreaming. I witnessed a thunderstorm so vivid and brilliant that I had to just sit and watch it until it subsided. It was like dreaming in high-def. The clouds were heavy, dark and low. The rain poured down heavily on the streets and buildings around us. I could feel each individual drop as it struck my skin, trickling downward, merging with each other to form little rivulets before falling from me in streams to finish their journey to the ground. The lightening crashed above my head in bright flashes of white, blue and pink accompanied by booming thunder that I could feel resonate through my body. To be honest, I’m surprised that being drenched with water and startled by thunder didn’t wake me up. I am, however, glad I was able to stay asleep, the sight was just plain spectacular.