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Unconditional Surrender

417 1 28 Jul 2019

Unconditional surrender to the form of what-is in the present moment is the beginning of living well.  What?

‘Unconditional surrender’ means complete acceptance; there can be no strings attached. ‘What-is’ is reality. Ultimate reality is Being (Life, God, divinity, Consciousness).  A “form” is whatever can be separated from everything else or singled out for attention; it’s an impermanent appearance.  All forms are temporal; all forms exist in the domain of Becoming (as opposed to the eternal, formless domain of Being). 

Wisdom

To be wise is to live well.  Living well or wisely begins with the transition from time to timelessness (eternity), with the opening of Becoming to Being. 

Total acceptance of whatever form Becoming has in the present moment does not mean acceptance of any story or interpretation or evaluation of whatever form Becoming has in the present moment. 

All stories are temporal.  All interpretations are conceptual judgments.  All evaluations are impermanent.  Total acceptance is beyond time, judgments, and evaluations.

How can we determine for ourselves what living well is like?  How can we experience wisdom directly?  It’s simple:  detach from all stories, judgments, and evaluations, which, like sensations, perceptions, and emotions, are contents of Becoming.  Doing so reveals Being, which is like an infinitely spacious container.

Beyond Becoming

The most powerful symbol of the transition is Jesus on the cross.  [I discuss this also in ARE YOU LIVING WITHOUT PURPOSE?]  It’s not a matter of his will being done; it’s a matter of Thy will being done.  The referent of ‘Thy’ is ultimate reality.  Whole-hearted acceptance of whatever form Becoming has in the present moment is the uncovering of one’s essential or true self (Buddha-nature, Being, Self). 

Unconditional surrender or acceptance, like life, can only occur now; it cannot occur in the past or in the future. 

Since it is Jesus’ death, the termination of his person, why is Good Friday good?  Because it’s Jesus’ opening to ultimate reality (transition from his little self to his big Self).

Merely thinking about complete acceptance should not be identified with actual complete acceptance.  All thought, like all life, is restricted to Becoming, whereas Life is Being, which is beyond all thought (as Self is beyond self).  Since Being is ineffable, the word ‘Being’ is merely a pointer.  The same goes for all similar words and phrases.  To confuse any of them with Being is to mistake a finger pointing towards the moon with the moon or reading a menu with eating the food described on the menu.

The pre-Christian symbol of the cross stands for the intersection of time, the horizontal, with timelessness (eternity), the vertical.  [Please don’t confuse ‘eternal’ with ‘immortal.’] 

a Christian cross

“Spiritual awakening” is experiencing the intersection of time and timelessness.  [Please don’t confuse ‘spiritual’ with ‘religious.’]

Lessons

This is a rejection of the way of the world, which is constantly trying to gain whatever one likes (desires, values) and to avoid or lose whatever one dislikes.  (The only exception, which is unrecognized anyway by those attached to the way of the world, is nonegocentric desire.)

This is a rejection of the someday syndrome, which is believing that “If only I could have X, then I could finally live well.”  ‘X’ denotes something desired.  [Please don’t confuse the object of a desire with its good.  The good with respect to a desire is its annihilation.  For example, food is the object of hunger, but the good with respect to hunger is the end of the hunger.]  At this moment, none of us are actually missing anything required for living well.

This is a rejection of the restricted understanding of myself as ego (resistance, little self, egoic I).  Instead, it points to realization that our essential (true, whole) nature is Being.

Why is this important?  Since Being is formless and forms are required for separation, there is no separation in Being.  Since all dissatisfaction (misery, discontent, suffering, unease) is caused by separation, realization of our essential nature dissolves all dissatisfaction.

The takeaway:  when you are sufficiently sick and tired of being sick and tired, emulate Jesus, The Buddha, and all other sages by opening to Being.  This is the critical difference between “sages” (buddhas, saints) and the rest of us.  This is why they live well and we don’t (yet!).

Good News

The good news is that we are all potential sages.  What is required for our transition is detachment from all forms.  How is that possible?

Ego-death typically requires mastery of some classic spiritual (yogic, meditative) practice or other such as zazen, aliveness awareness, or tai chi. 

zen student practicing

Mastery of anything worth mastering is never easy.  It requires the right kind of sustained practice.

Wisdom, mastering life, requires total detachment from ego.  There’s no such thing as a selfish sage.

Since wisdom is not a matter of luck or happenstance, we are all capable of wisdom.  We all have what it takes to live well.   It’s false that the shift from ego to egolessness is commonplace, but, perhaps, it may become so.

That’s humankind’s only hope.

Daily Physical Exercises

478 3 10 Jun 2019

What’s the right dose?

Too little physical exercise isn’t good for us. Too much physical exercise isn’t good for us. What’s the right dose?

I have in other recent writings offered my exercise recommendations [see chapter 6 in Introduction to Living Well.] They are for 1 brief, intense strength training session each week [see my Weight Lifting] and for 2 brief, intense fitness exercise sessions weekly [see Sears’s P.A.C.E.].

What about the 6 days when there’s no strength training?

I recommend 4 daily physical exercises and a short relaxing exercise. If you want more, walk briskly for 1 to 4 miles one to three times weekly.

One-minute standing trot

First, a one-minute standing trot at an easy pace.  This is not high-intensity exercise.  It’s more like a physical wake up to get your blood flowing.  If you become hot, it’s not a trot.  Gentle and easy does it.

The other three should be done with perfect form:

One-minute of classic crunches

Second, one-minute of classic crunches done slowly.  Lie on your back with your knees bent (to take the stress off your lower back) and arms straight next to your body.  Use your abdominal muscles to pull your head and shoulders up; pull your abs towards the floor while you peel your backbone off the floor slowly vertebra by vertebra.  Feel your abs working.  There’s no need to lift all the way up.  Lower and repeat.  Stop after a minute.

One-minute of a classic plank

Simply hold the top of a push-up position. See the photo above.  It’s important to keep your back and arms straight with your hands directly under your shoulders. (Alternatively, you may have your elbows on the floor directly under your shoulders.)  Pull your abs in. It’s alright for your butt to be slightly high.  When this becomes easy for you, go ahead and do classic push-ups without momentum for that minute.  Stop after a minute.    

One-minute of body-weight squats

Body-weight squat

Start by standing with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart; they should either be parallel or have your toes pointing slightly outwards.  Inhale and draw in your abs.  Slowly bend your knees while keeping your arms out in front of you for balance as you sit back and down with your chest naturally forward and your head up.  Use your butt and quads to return to a standing position as you exhale and drop your arms.  Stop after a minute.

The usual technique guidelines for doing any kind of squats apply.  For example, do not bounce at the bottom.  Go as low as possible given your degree of flexibility.  Do not lock your knees at the top; instead, keep them slightly bent to maintain tension on your muscles.  Keep your knees pointing in the same direction as your feet.

One-minute (or more) of relaxing meditation

[The following can be extended into an “aliveness awareness” session. I’ve elsewhere described how to begin to feel the aliveness in your motionless hands or feet. So it can be done separately as a spiritual and not just as a physical exercise. Working up to and doing 20 minutes twice daily is a great antidote to stress.]

The goal is complete relaxation at least until your breathing returns to normal.  Lie back in a recliner or on the floor with a pillow or cushion under your knees (to take the stress of your lower back) and, if you prefer, with a small pillow under the back of your head.  Breathe deeply.  As you exhale, do a body scan to think about completely relaxing your body; begin with your feet and work up through your legs and back, from your hands up your arms to your shoulders, and then your neck.  When distracting thoughts arise, simply return your attention to focusing on relaxing your body.  You may stop after a minute.  However, there’s no penalty for continuing it for 5 or 10 minutes.

That’s it!  When you are finished, you should feel alert, refreshed, and energized.

If time, weather, and your situation permit, it’s also a very good idea regularly to get outside and get moving.  Walk your dog, shoot some hoops, work in your garden – whatever you enjoy.  Our hunter-gatherer ancestors weren’t sedentary and we shouldn’t be either.

reference: Steven R. Gundry, M.D., The Longevity Paradox

Living in Sin

571 3 25 May 2019

My best friend Humpty, the other members of The Group, and I used to mock the idea of living in sin fifty years ago. 

Back then the phrase meant cohabitating with a lover to whom one wasn’t married.

In fact, we thought, perhaps secretly, that it would be preferable to doing what we were doing, namely, frequently hanging out with the same group of guys.

A few years ago, I did a post here entitled “Sin.”  Its fundamental distinction was the critical one between Being and Becoming.  It’s a distinction worth emphasizing.

Have you read A Course in Miracles?

If so, you realize that it’s not a work that would appeal to everyone.  It’s long, full of Christian terminology that is used in a peculiar way, and lacks parables or stores that are easy to remember.

Despite its shortcomings, however, it’s a work that repays close study. [The direct quotes in this post are all from it.] 

Light over Conesus Lake.

BEING (“reality”) and BECOMING (“unreality”)

It begins with the end in mind, which is “the peace of God,” in other words, the peace of mind (serenity, tranquility) that surpasses all understanding.

Is that something you’d like to experience?

The argument is very simple:

Nothing real can be threatened.

 Nothing unreal exists.

 Herein lies the peace of God.”

The idea of Being is the idea of reality, knowledge, or truth.  Being is what is real.  “Truth is unalterable, eternal and unambiguous.  It can be unrecognized, but it cannot be changed . . . it is beyond time and process. It has no opposite; no beginning and no end. It merely is.”

The idea of Becoming is the idea of unreality, opinion, or dubitibility.  Becoming is what is unreal.  It is alterable, temporal, and ambiguous.  It is the domain of opposites.  Everything in it has a beginning and an end.  It’s merely becoming, perpetual flux.

Being cannot not exist.  Becoming cannot (really) exist.

PERCEPTION

If we assume that perception is the way in which we apprehend reality, we’re in trouble.

Why?

All perceptions are interpretations.  That really means that they are illusions or, worse, delusions.  How could there be any facts in a world of ceaseless change?  There’s no stability.

“The world we see [perceive] merely reflects our own internal frame of reference – the dominant ideas, wishes and emotions in our minds.”

It’s a bit like trying to proofread something you typed.  It’s nearly impossible.  Why?  You’ll read what you intended to type, what’s already in your mind, instead of reading what you actually what you typed, so you’ll miss your typing mistakes.

“Perception is a function of the body,” and, so, limits apprehension.  When we limit our awareness to what we perceive, our awareness is inherently limited.  Bodily vision cannot yield apprehension of Being.

Perception can be in the service of either self or Self.  We have a choice.

self / Self

The ego (the “little I,” the self, the ego/I, the egoic mind) comes from “the little, separated self.”  It has no Being and, so, is perpetually threatened with extinction.  It’s incomplete and unsafe.  It’s perpetually needy.  It’s defensive and combative.  It’s always afraid.

It’s therefore incessantly absorbed in seeking “to enhance itself by external approval, external possessions and external ‘love.’”  Its essential task is to gain more and more.  That seeking is the way of the world.

The ego is a slave to egocentric desires.  It constantly pursues “special relationships” that “are destructive, selfish and childishly egocentric.”

By way of contrast, the Self is divine.  It is Being and, so, lacks nothing.  “It is forever complete, safe, loved and loving.”  It is wholly without separation, which is the cause of dissatisfaction.  It transmutes special relationships “into perfect lessons in forgiveness and in awakening.”    

It’s therefore incessantly absorbed in sharing abundance, in loving.  It’s completely free from egocentric desires.

Two Visions

Therefore, there are two visions, two points of view, open to us:  There is the vision of the self and the vision of the Self.

Those fools (i) who live life pursuing the way of the world are enslaved by the vision of the self.  Those sages (ii) who live with the vision of the Self are free from life condemned to the way of the world.

Avoiding the way of the world is sanity; it leads to an untroubled mind and a life of peace. Following the way of the world is the height of foolishness; it leads only to madness (insanity, dysfunction, mental illness) and a life of fear.

It’s only sages who enjoy love’s presence and the peace that surpasses understanding.  The foolish are condemned to leading fearful lives without love.

The good news is that “love’s presence . . . is your natural inheritance.”  All you have to do to claim that inheritance is to open to it.

Peacefulness

Extinction

686 7 14 May 2019

The current rate of extinction shows how much trouble life on Earth is in.

Extinction facts

  • 40% of amphibians are threatened [with extinction]
  • 33% of marine mammals are threatened
  • 33% of sharks are threatened
  • More than 90% of ocean fish stocks are being harvested at or above sustainable levels
  • 33% of corals are threatened
  • 10% of insects are threatened
  • 9% of terrestrial animals are threatened
  • 85% of wetlands have disappeared

These figures come from an article in The Economist (11 May 19) that obtained them from the “Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services” published on 6 May 19.  This report is based on 15,000 research papers.

Sadly, there’s nothing surprising about them.  Yes, the figures are estimates, but they are the most reasonable guesses that science is able to provide.  Yes, the figures involve assumptions and extrapolations, but the big picture is clear.

Ignoring bacteria, fungi, and unicellular organisms, Earth has about 8,000,000 species of plants and animals.  (About 200,000 plant species and about 950,000 animal species are scientifically described.)   About 1,000,000 of those species are threatened with extinction.

Our future, too.

Are We to Blame for Extinction?

Human actions have “significantly altered” 75% of Earth’s land environments and 67% of Earth’s marine environments according to the report.

The Industrial Revolution began a little over 2 centuries ago.  Prior to that, land and marine species found Earth’s environments a veritable paradise.

Of course we are to blame!

What Should We about Extinctions?

Obviously, we need to change our ways quickly and decisively.

While the ignorant and selfish continue to resist even admitting the problem, one minor encouraging note is that young, educated people in the U.S. seem to grasp the idea that the future will be a disaster for our species as well as for many other species without quick, decisive action.

Even if that’s the case, though, I’m skeptical.  In general, human beings seem to have little capacity for even apprehending such large problems – much less acting in concert to ameliorate them.

It amazes me that humans are still breeding.  Do those other people not yet grasp what Earth will be like physically even by the end of this century?

The Solution

There is, though, a solution, namely, millions or, better, billions of us will wake up from sleep and free ourselves from the conceptual prisons in which most of us live (cf., e.g., Taylor’s Waking From Sleep).

It could happen. Or not.

Spaciousness

671 3 08 Apr 2019

Spaciousness is the gateway to wisdom.

Surprised?  Really?  What does that even mean?

SPACIOUSNESS TERMINOLOGY

There’s no standard terminology that is able to clarify this.  So, keeping it simple, let’s agree to some.

Let’s use ‘spaciousness’ to refer to experienced space.  Experienced space is perceived as three-dimensional distance.  Since to imagine is to imagine perceiving, experienced space is the same as imagined space.

Therefore, spaciousness is not the same as conceived space, which is the space of plane geometry, solid geometry, trigonometry, and related mathematical disciplines.

Let’s agree to isolate spaciousness.  Why?  It’s important to distinguish it from such related ideas as motion, body, and spacetime.  Since this involves setting aside physics, it means abstracting from all the interesting ideas of great physicists like Aristotle, Descartes, Newton, and Einstein.

THE NATURE OF SPACIOUSNESS

That nature of something is its essence, its “whatness.”  What is spaciousness?  What’s it like?

It’s vast.  In fact, its unimaginably vast.  It’s boundless.

It’s perfect.  There are, for example, no gaps in it.

It’s empty.  It has nothing in it.  There are, for example, no bumps or imperfections.

SPACIOUSNESS CONNECTS WITH WISDOM

The word ‘wisdom’ can be used to refer either to theoretical wisdom, which is great understanding, or to practical wisdom, which is living well.  Let’s agree that wisdom is not merely thought but practiced or lived.

Sages claims that spaciousness connects with wisdom.  For example, in the oldest extant Chan [Chinese Zen] document, there’s an explicit analogy between the perfection of following the great Way of Buddha and “vast space.”  What does this mean?

It’s critical here to distinguish the temporal domain of Becoming from the nontemporal (eternal) domain of Being [Beingness].  The former is the domain of motion and noise, whereas the latter is the domain of stillness and silence. 

Typically, Being is defined negatively, in other words, in opposition to Becoming. For example, since it is not noisy, it is silent. Since it lacks motion, it is still. Since it lacks forms, it is formless.

Brentano’s thesis

Brentano’s famous thesis is called “Brentano’s thesis of the intentionality of consciousness.”

The word ‘intentionality’ is the name of Brentano’s thesis is not the ordinary use of ‘intention’ in statements such as “It’s my intention to eat after exercising.” Instead, it means ‘directedness’ or ‘aboutness.’  Brentano’s claim is that every episode of consciousness is directed upon or about some object [form, thing] or other.  For example, in an episode of dream consciousness, there’s something the dream is about.  In an episode of perceptual consciousness, there’s something the perception is about.  In an episode of imagination, there’s something imagined.  And so on.

Brentano’s thesis of the intentionality of consciousness applies in the domain of Becoming but not in the domain of Being.

Go ahead:  challenge Brentano’s thesis.  Don’t accept it just because an important philosopher said it.  Are you able to think of an episode of consciousness that is not about anything?  If not, it’s alright, tentatively, to accept his thesis.

There’s one standard objection to his thesis and that’s meditative consciousness.

BEYOND BRETANO

The point of mastering meditation is to break thought addiction, to experience “no thought.”  Most people think so compulsively when awake that they don’t even realize that they are addicted to incessant thinking (or “thoughting” as Roshi Kapleau used to say).  It’s become so normal that they are wholly unaware of any alternative.

Thought addiction is an important problem.  Why?  Not only are thoughts [judgments, conceptualizations]  “heavy” and burdensome, but also, because all thoughts separate and separation is the cause of dissatisfaction, incessant thinking spawns incessant dissatisfaction.

Thought addiction is the root cause of other addictions.  For example, one way to escape the burden of compulsive thoughting is to have a few alcoholic drinks in an effort to sink below the level of thought in order to feel better.  Doing that, however, can have deleterious consequences such as alcoholism.

The best way to escape all the burdens of Becoming is to rise above thought and it’s here that spaciousness comes in.

What form are you thinking about when you think about spaciousness?

Notice that there’s something odd going on.  Suppose that you are enjoying an episode of visual consciousness and I ask you what you are seeing.  You reply by telling me that you are looking at a tree or a deer or a stone wall or whatever.

Now suppose that you are wondering about spaciousness and I ask you what you are thinking about?  What would you tell me?  Spatial void or infinite emptiness?  Are you really using words or phrases like that to denote forms that you are singling out for your attention? 

The root of the problem is simple:  spaciousness is formless.  Since all language and thought occur in Becoming, there is no language or thought that can single out what is formless.  The word ‘spaciousness’ is just another word that points beyond itself to a formless referent.  In other words, we are here entering Being, which is beyond Brentano’s thesis.

Is this really so?  According to sages, it is.

For example, Zen master Dogen wrote that, “To experience the world as pure object is to let fall one’s own body and mind and the ‘self-other’ body and mind.”  In other words, direct (nonconceptual) experience of formlessness is beyond all conceptual distinctions.  In Being, there is no distinction between, say, you and me or between mind and matter.

For example, in his famous commentary on MU (which is a name of Being), Zen master Yasutani Roshi asks, “What is the substance of this Buddha- or Dharma-nature?  In Buddhism it is called ku [shunyata].”

Unfortunately, as Ekhart Tolle has pointed out, ‘shunyata’ has traditionally been translated as ‘emptiness.’  This has led to the unfortunate thesis that the Buddha was a nihilist.  Not!

As Yasutani immediately continues, “ku is not mere emptiness.  It is that which is living, dynamic, devoid of mass, unfixed, beyond individuality or personality – the matric of all phenomena.  Here we have the fundamental principle of doctrine or philosophy of Buddhism.”

Following Tolle, I prefer the translation ‘spaciousness.’  (To distinguish it from mere void or emptiness, I have sometimes called it ‘the fecund void,’ which is of course a contradiction.)  The critical point is that spaciousness [ku, Buddha-nature] cannot be thought.

Sages have stressed this repeatedly.  For example, Yasutani:  “Buddha-nature cannot be grapsed by the intellect.”  The only way to grasp it is by dropping all thought, in other words, by the direct realization of no-thought.

This makes sense, doesn’t it?  After all, how can we think formlessness?

SPACIOUSNESS AS CONSCIOUSNESS

In Becoming, consciousness is directed upon some other form.  In Being, consciousness is directed upon itself.  After all, since there are no forms in Being, how could consciousness be directed upon something other than itself?

This explains why some sages identify Being and Consciousness.

How do we experience spaciousness? I like Steve Taylor’s initial description that “you might feel that your consciousness has expanded, that the black space inside your mind which is normally so cramped has opened up. There seem to be new vistas of space around you and you feel a sense of freedom” [Waking From Sleep, p. 24.].

This can be so profound that you actually experience an identity shift, a consciousness earthquake. It can feel as though the energy of consciousness has merged with the energy of the universe. Experiences like these raise an important question:

What is your nature (essence, whatness)?

It’s popular these days to think of your nature simply as a psychophysical form, in other words, your body and your mind, which is the set of thought-forms.  Furthermore, it’s true that you are both body and mind.

Your physical and mental forms, though, are not your essence.  You are not limited in that way – at least according to The Gospel According to Saint Bradford.  In other words, you are not just Becoming; you are also Being.

Can I prove that?  Certainly not.  To give an argument for it would be to provide reasons or evidence for it, in other words, to offer a sequence of thoughts.  Since all thoughts are limited to Becoming and the thesis goes beyond Becoming to Being, there cannot possibly be an argument for it.

Are you Being disguised as merely Becoming?

Good question!  Seek to answer it for yourself.  However, please avoid the important mistake of believing that you will be able to think your way to the answer.

I wish you well.

Stressors

620 1 04 Apr 2019

Too much stress can literally be a killer.  Why?  It weakens the immune system.  That can allow some other disease to kill you. 

Many people are so highly stressed that their lives are actually dysfunctional.  Given the epidemic of low self-esteem in the west, perhaps it’s not surprising that many highly stressed adults actually do little about it.

This explains why the statistics about stress can be misleading.  They often only list the other disease as a cause of death even though it was stress that made death caused by that other disease possible.

The reality is that stress has been implicated in the prevalence of all the major diseases popular here in the west.

Two Important Questions

Here are two questions worth asking yourself.

First, do you seriously value the quality of your life?

Second, if so, are you too stressed?

If both answers happen to be ‘yes,’ what can you actually do?

An obvious first step is to reduce the deleterious effects of common environmental stressors in your life.  These include heat, cold, lack of nutrient intake, lack of nutrient absorption, UV light, insufficient caloric intake, and toxins.

Here’s what’s really interesting:  in small doses, some stressors are actually helpful!

Researchers have a concept for this: “hormesis.”  This refers to the favorable responses of an organism to low doses of stress that would be harmful in higher doses.  (This is evidence that there’s a least one clear sense in which Nietzsche’s famous quote is correct.)

Alcohol

Here are two good examples of hormetic stressors:

Alcohol intake creates bodily stress.

Small doses of alcohol are beneficial, whereas larger doses are harmful.

What’s a small dose?  One drink daily for women and one or two drinks daily for men.  A “drink” here is one shot of spirits, one beer, or one 5 oz. glass of wine.

Of course, if you happen to be an alcoholic, this is not a license to drink.

Fast Food Consumer

Ketosis

Ketosis creates bodily stress.

When digested, all carbohydrates become glucose (sugar).  When we consume lots of carbohydrates, our bodies produce energy by utilizing glucose.  As long as we consume lots of carbohydrates, our bodies will continue to burn sugar. 

When we restrict dietary carbohydrate intake sufficiently to induce ketosis, our bodies shift from burning sugars to burning ketones, which are a fuel derived from fats.  If you have ever deliberately put your body into a state of ketosis, you already understand that it’s difficult and stressful.

However, the mitochondria in your cells actually prefer burning fat and, of course, if you burn fat for a while instead of burning sugar, you’ll reduce your percentage of body fat, which most of us should do.

So, as with other hormetic stressors in appropriately low doses, what is bad or stressful for you is actually good for you.

Furthermore, in this case there’s actually more to the story.  In general as we age, our organs become less efficient.  This is true of our immune systems; as we age, the weaker it becomes.

Our bodies produce stem cells, which are undifferentiated types of cells that can turn into almost any other kind of cell.  As we age, stem cells tend to lose their ability to regenerate unless we stimulate them.  Even though ketosis stresses the body, it also signals stem cells to regenerate.  So, like caloric restriction, ketosis in this way really is a hermetic stressor.

WHAT NEXT?

Judging from their behavior, most adults don’t seriously value (physical) health and longevity.  If so and you happen to be an exception, I encourage you to read Gundry’s THE LONGEVITY PARADOX, which is the best book I’ve ever read on those topics.

It has never made any sense not to learn from experts.  This is why it’s foolish not to be a reader.  Making all the mistakes yourself is simply more harmful than learning from the mistakes that others have made as well as shortening your learning curve by emulating their successes. People who don’t read suffer the unnecessary consequences of being intellectually dead. Literacy is useless unless used.

I was a real estate investor for over 30 years.  If someone were to complain to me that they tried being a landlord and found it too difficult, my question would be, “How many books did you read about being a landlord before you began?”  (I myself read two thorough ones and never had a single serious problem with a tenant.  For example, I never had to evict anyone.)

If you care about physical well-being, how many books have you read recently about it?  If your answer is obviously unsatisfactory, why not start with Gundry’s most recent one?

Identity as Sameness

901 4 04 Jan 2019

Identity as Sameness

Identity as sameness has been of paramount importance probably for all of human prehistory and nearly all or our history.

When encountering someone new, we initially want to understand whether this person really is a stranger or another member of our same tribe, clan, sect, ethnicity, religion, culture, or sub-culture. 

One’s identity comes from one’s group.

Identity as Individuality

Merely considering the biological imperative of survival reveals the importance of the concept of identity as sameness.

In Middle French, for example, the word ‘identite’ means ‘the quality or condition of being the same’ [The Economist, 4 Jan 19, p. 57].  We still use ‘identity’ in this way when, for example, we think or talk about identical twins.

In the last two-and-one-half centuries, though, identity as individuality has become more and more important.  Instead of coming from one’s group, one’s identity comes from one’s uniqueness.

One reason for this was the development of the laws of nation states that codified rules and practices about harvests, land, and ownership. 

Surnames [last names] were qualifiers added to names that denoted families.  This was necessary to dispel confusion because, for example, even in the late 1700’s in England, 9 out of 10 males had 1 of just 7 names (namely, ‘Charles,’ ‘Edward,’ ‘Henry,’ ‘James,’ ‘John,’ ‘Richard,’ or ‘William’).  Denoting family names was obviously important with respect to inheriting a title or land or other property.

Prior to the creation of civil status, censuses required only enumeration.  After the creation of civil status, censuses began to require identification to fix the state’s relationship with every citizen.

States began enforcing identity as individuality more stringently in the 1800’s by, for example, issuing identity cards and legally prohibiting citizens from changing their names without permission.

States were also very interested in establishing the identity of criminals by using anatomy such as fingerprints and that process continues today by using other biometrics such as retinal scans.

The Truncated World

Using the method of methodological materialism that deliberately ignores consciousness (awareness, thoughts) in order to foster objectivity, modern science has had a lot of success identifying individuals as bodies.

thinking
thinking

Impressed by scientific advances, some have concluded that the world really is just the truncated world.  Metaphysical materialism has become popular among scientists and apologists for modern science.

Put another way, consciousness remains a scientific embarrassment.  Scientists are thrilled about the possibility of coming to understand more about the infinitely large (the cosmos) and the infinitely small (the subatomic world), but they tend to be attached to the delusion that to be real is to be material.  They typically write it off as the accidental by-product of neural activity.

Uniqueness

What makes you unique?  What else could it be except what Eckhart Tolle calls your “form identity.”  Your form identity is your “bodymind,” in other words, your physical form, your mental forms (i.e., your thoughts), and your emotions (which are both physical and mental). It includes your ego and its structure.

A quality (property, characteristic) is what two or more individuals may share or have in common.  Can two or more bodies have the same set of qualities?  As long as we don’t count spatial and temporal qualities, in theory the answer is ‘yes.’  Two balls, for example, could have the same shape, the same size, the same texture, the same taste, the same chemical composition, and so on.

In the truncated world, there’s nothing that could prevent two bodies from having all their monadic (not relational) qualities in common.  Monadic qualities like redness may be had by one individual, whereas relational qualities like leftness cannot be had by one individual.  An individual can be red but obviously cannot be to the left of itself.

So monadic qualities cannot individuate or be the sole reason why two bodies are not identical.

Perhaps, then, relational qualities individuate?  Or is it that two bodies have different sets of relational qualities because they are already different individuals?

What about the real world (as opposed to the truncated world)?  Could thoughts individuate?  Or could two persons think the same thought?  Similar questions arise with respect to emotions.

Don’t we all have a unique form identity? Don’t we all have our own unique stories?  It certainly seems that we do.

Essence Identity

Our form identities are differences, but our essence identity is what makes us the same. 

The English phrase ‘human being’ works perfectly in this context:  as humans we are different, but as beings we are the same.  Our human bodyminds are all unique, at least spatially and temporally, but our human essence is the same.

What is our essence identity?

It’s been called by many different names in many different languages.  It’s really the non-form identity that we share with all other individuals (whether human or not).

Crucially, it’s beyond both space and time.  It is formless and eternal.  I typically call it ‘Being’ but you may prefer ‘Beingness,’ ‘The Divine,’ ‘God,’ ‘The Eternal,’ ‘The Deathless,’ ‘The Formless,’ ‘Aliveness,’ ‘The Plenum Void,’ ‘Life-energy.’ ‘The Great Spirit,’ ‘the Sacred Ground,’ ‘the Formless Godhead,’ ‘the Fertile Void,’ and many other terms including ‘Consciousness.’

Because it’s formless, it’s impossible to conceptualize.  Could it, though, be apprehended nonconceptually, perhaps even directly?

Conclusion

What I invite you to wonder about is the nature of consciousness

Is it an individual?  Well, no.  Since two or more humans, for example, can both be conscious, it would seem to be more like a quality than an individual.

However, if it’s a quality, it’s certainly a peculiar sui generis one.  What is it exactly?

To claim that it’s just awareness is true but unhelpful.

Here’s an important mistake:  do not identify consciousness with only conceptual consciousness (thoughts, judgments, statements).  Descartes’s famous dictum “I think, therefore I am” is too restricted. 

He’d have been closer to the truth if he’d claimed, “I am conscious, therefore I am,” but that, too, as Nietzsche pointed out, is loaded with the assumption of a substantial self.  Although language doesn’t work well at this depth, we might try, “There is consciousness, hence there is reality.”

To echo the theologian Paul Tillich, could consciousness itself be the root and ground of all being?  Could every individual somehow participate in consciousness?  Could consciousness pervade all of reality? There are respectable philosophers who have come to that conclusion, and, if they are mistaken at all, they certainly have not made some simple mistake.

Could consciousness be your essence identity and everything else (including your spatial and temporal qualities as well as your thoughts, emotions, and ego) be merely your form identity?

If so, would it be possible to live well by realizing yourself as consciousness?  The idea that living well is fulfilling our potential goes back in western philosophy at least as far as Aristotle. 

Might awakening experiences be crucially related to realizing yourself as consciousness?

If this short essay has intrigued you, it’s fulfilled its purpose. Wonder on!

(If you’d like to do more reading on this, I recommend is Steve Taylor’s Waking From Sleep as well as his The Leap: The Psychology of Spiritual Awakening.

wondering
wondering

Loneliness Cure

939 1 10 Dec 2018

Loneliness is rampant.

According to a recent study done and reported by The Economist [Sep 18], 22% of adults in the United States always or often felt lonely. Furthermore, 35% of Americans over the age of 45 always or often felt lonely; obviously, that’s more than 1 of every 3 people. 

These “findings complement academic research which uses standardized questionnaires to measure loneliness.”

What is loneliness?  How is it possible to tell if S[omeone] is lonely?

‘Loneliness’ is an abstract noun that stands for a concept.  It should not be confused with either solitude or social isolation. 

If S chooses to be alone, S is solitary.  Like living a life of frequent interaction with family, friends, or tribe, being solitary has advantages and disadvantages.  According to Nietzsche, genuine philosophers (as opposed to, say, those who are only students or professors of philosophy) usually have a taste for the advantages of solitude.

If S interacts infrequently with other human beings, then S is socially isolated.  Being socially isolated is not necessarily a problem.

The only way to tell if S is lonely is to ask S.  If S perceives himself or herself as lacking the social or interpersonal contacts with others that S desires, then and only then is S lonely.  Loneliness is perceived social isolation.  It’s a kind of dissatisfaction.

Although they are difficult to measure, it seems that both social isolation and loneliness are increasing.

There have been correlations noted between both social isolation and loneliness and various health problems including “heart attacks, strokes, cancers, eating disorders, drug abuse, sleep deprivation, depression, alcoholism and anxiety.”

The correct causal explanation for these correlations is unknown.  It may involve behavior (those who suffer from social isolation or loneliness may slide into poor health habits because they lack loved ones to encourage them), biology (those who suffer may experience more stress that, for example, impedes sleep and, so, undermines health), or psychology (those who suffer may experience more intense depression or anxiety).

Not surprisingly, people who cohabitate or are married experience less loneliness than others.  On the other hand, since creating great relationships is difficult, they may also experience other difficulties that are not experienced by those who do not live with someone else.

Sometimes, loneliness has an obvious, specific cause such as the death of a spouse. 

Sometimes, loneliness can be exacerbated by specific causes such as heavy social media use.

The truth is that modern science has no effective cure for chronic loneliness.  Episodic loneliness diminishes with time.

What can be done about chronic loneliness?

The good news is that there is an effective cure for chronic loneliness.

The key is to notice that loneliness is a feeling, an emotion.  If S feels lonely, then S is lonely.

Loneliness is a negative or unwanted emotion. 

Since the biological imperatives are to survive and reproduce and since living in a group enhances survival, it’s likely that Mother Nature or evolution predisposes us to loneliness when we live apart from others.  In other words, not living apart can have survival value.

All unwanted emotions are curable.

The reason is that all emotions are egocentric, which is a thesis I’ve argued for in, for example, EMOTIONAL FACELIFT.  Since, ultimately, the ego is a delusion, everything spawned by the ego is also a delusion.

The reason is that separation is always the cause of dissatisfaction.  Since that is so, whenever you want to find a cure for something that causes dissatisfaction [suffering, discontent, misery], identify the separation and see if it can be replaced by unity.

In the case of loneliness, since solitude is not the same as loneliness, physical separation cannot be the cause of loneliness (or, otherwise, all people such as hermits who choose to live in solitude would be lonely and they are not).

The cause of loneliness comes from thoughts that separate such as “I am  lonely” or “I am apart from others when I don’t want to be apart from them.”

All such thoughts are about what eastern spiritual [yogic, meditative] traditions call the small or little “self”, the ego/I, the historical or temporal self.  Loneliness presupposes exclusive, implicit identification with the small self.

It’s true that we are our stories, our temporal narratives, our autobiographies.  For example, we were born in a certain place at a certain time, we grew up and went to school somewhere, and so on.

However, and this is the critical point, exclusive identification with the small self separates us from everything else.  In fact, we are not separated from everything else; we are part of everything else.  The rest of the world is also us.

Everything else is the big “Self.”  Each of us is Self as well as self.  Furthermore, the Self is infinitely larger than the self.

Although it’s true that, for example, “I am my self,” it’s also true that “I am Self.”  As self I am separated and dissatisfied, but as Self it’s false that I am separated and, so, dissatisfaction is impossible.  [The Upanishads is a classic introduction to these ideas.] 

That makes sense, doesn’t it?

Is it, though, true? 

If it’s true, how can that truth be apprehended?

The critical point is that Self cannot be thought.  Why not?

The reason is that thoughts are conceptualizations.  Since concepts are principles of classification, to conceptualize [think, judge] is to separate [divide, classify, sort, categorize].

There’s nothing wrong with thinking.  We typically solve important problems by breaking them down into their parts.

From the standpoint of dissatisfaction, however, there’s everything wrong with too much thinking, which creates separation that in turn creates dissatisfaction.

So the cure for loneliness (and all unwanted emotions) is to let go of thinking.  Seriously.  It’s to open consciousness or awareness to Being instead of focusing exclusively on impermanent objects [“forms”] in Becoming.

That is realizing one’s wholeness, interconnectedness, or big Self.  It requires nonconceptual apprehension of Being, which is the formless plenum-void or whole. 

Since there can be no loneliness without perceived separation and there is no separation in Being, opening to Being cures loneliness.

troubled

Realization

It’s impossible to think Being.  However, by detaching from incessant thinking, it is possible to apprehend Being.

So how does one detach from incessant thinking?  The traditional way is by mastering some meditative practice or other (such as zazen or aliveness awareness).  Obviously, it’s impossible to think one’s way out of incessant thinking!

Such mastering is not anti-conceptual but non-conceptual.  In other words, wisdom is not just something to be thought about — it’s to be practiced, lived.

Backlink Pyramids

800 2 19 Nov 2018

What are “backlink pyramids”? Why should you understand them?

This post presupposes that you understand backlinks. If you are unsure about them, read this short introductory post by clicking here: backlinks.

Let’s suppose that you have a webpage that is the sales page for some product or service that you want to sell. It’s called your “money site.”

Your goal is to have lots of high-quality backlinks pointing towards it.

Backlink pyramid

One way to do that is to create a backlink pyramid. Imagine your money site as the single site that is at the top of a pyramid.

The next level down, let’s call it ‘tier 1,’ consists of high-quality backlinks that point to your money site. You may create the content with the backlinks yourself by, for example, writing relevant blog posts or creating videos or posting quote graphs that all link to it.

The problem, you quickly discover, is that creating this content requires a lot of time and effort. You may begin creating it every day enthusiastically; however, you find that your enthusiasm wans after a couple of weeks. Might there be a better way?

You could use spun text or videos. There’s software available that you could use. For example, you could create 1 video and spin it into 30 slightly different videos that YouTube recognizes as 30 rather than as 1. So, you could get 30 backlinks from 1 video instead of just 1 backlink from 1 video.

Since this isn’t a white hat procedure but a grey hat one, you don’t want to risk having the links from such spun content pointing directly to your money site. After all, the search engine algorithms could eventually ban this weaker content and punish the ranking of your money site.

So, instead, create a set of tier 2 links that point to your tier 1 sites that in turn point their links to your money site.

Outsourcing would be another way to add link juice to your tier 1 content so that your tier 1 content would add link juice to your money site.

You could set up multiple tier 2 sites that each provide multiple backlinks for your tier 1 sites. This would boost the power of their backlinks; i.e., the link juice that they eventually pass on to your money site would be more powerful.

What else could you do?

In a similar way, you could set up tier 3 sites that each provide multiple backlinks for your tier 2 sites. These might be very low-quality backlinks such as using software that automatically generates comments for blog posts. This is such a black hat method that not many of them may ever even get indexed by the search engine algorithms, but, if you did enough of them, some might ultimately help boost the ranking of your money site.

This explains both the potential benefits and potential risks of backlink pyramids.

What could you do instead to boost the ranking of your money site without using any grey hat or black hat tactics?

A Better Alternative

You don’t want to give up content marketing. Seth Godin: “Content marketing is the only marketing left.”
Instead of interrupting people, why not give them something of value to attract their attention?

Here’s the big idea: set up an autopilot system that generates valuable content that is both effective and sustainable.

Let’s suppose that you have an ordinary WordPress blog for your local business. How many times a week should you post attractive content on it?

Once a month is too infrequent. Once a week is a bare minimum. Once a day would be much better.

How about twice a day? Obviously, that’d be better than once a day.

Is that sustainable?  Possibly, but also possibly not if you create the content yourself.

Question: do visitors to your blog care about who creates the content they find there? Not really. All they want is content that is valuable to them.

Therefore, you could find valuable, popular content elsewhere online and reproduce it on your blog. This is called “curation.”

You could do it manually, buy software that would enable you to do it more quickly and easily, or outsource it.

[We offer a service that posts twice daily to your blog and on up to 10 social media sites for just $199. monthly.  Just contact me if you are interested.  Although they are often more expensive, others offer similar solutions]

An important problem

Presumably, the topic of your business blog is your product or service. For example, an attorney’s blog posts will be about legal matters.

There’s a serious limit to how much busy, ordinary people want to learn about legal matters. The same goes for your field whether it’s carpentry or dentistry.

Remember: the more fresh content that’s posted to your blog every day, the better the search engine algorithms like it.  However, people don’t want to be bothered paying attention to content that is relevant to your product or service multiple times daily.

thinking

So, there’s a serious conflict between what the search engines want and what prospects want. What could you do?

A Great Solution

What if you could post attractive content 160 times daily to your blog? That’s about one post every six minutes.
That would certainly make the search engines happy, wouldn’t it?

If each post had a backlink to your business’s social media sites and they linked to your business’s money site, that would provide it with a minimum of 240,000 high-quality backlinks over the next twelve months – wow!

What, though, about what prospects want? They certainly don’t want so many posts daily related to your product or service. That would be annoying, wouldn’t it?

Well, what would they be interested in? Where’s the requirement that your blog posts must only be about your product or service?

What People Want

Well, we are people. What do we want? We want what we value.

Online, we value content that is useful, entertaining, or both. We also value speed; we don’t usually want to take minutes to absorb something.

Since we are all sometimes inspired by quotations from famous people, especially when they are presented in a visually pleasing way, that’s the best solution to the problem identified in the previous section.

Where are you going to get 60,000+ attractive content graphics that prospects would value?  Unless you are a graphic designer, you couldn’t make them yourself.  It would cost you tens of thousands of dollars to have them made for you.

Even if you had them, how would you get them posted to your business’s blog and social media platforms? In other words, how could you actually use them to generate over 240,000 high-quality backlinks to your money site?

Here’s a recent press release: https://marketersmedia.com/240000-real-traffic-backlinks-service-to-change-local-business-marketing/408131

This is a wholly white hat system.  The content of the quotations is in the public domain.  The graphics are unique and attractive.  The resulting backlinks are like tier 1 backlinks in a backlink pyramid.

You’ll actually be purchasing the graphics and we’ll upload them to your blog and set up software so they drip out over the next year.

Therefore, each month for the next year your money site will enjoy the results of more and more high-quality backlinks, which will remain indefinitely.

This is a new marketing program limited to only a strictly limited number of marketers.

We provide this unique solution for a very reasonable one-time fee, namely, $4995.

Furthermore, because we’d love some initial testimonials, we are offering it for a whopping 70% discount to the first 10 clients!  Would you believe $1495?

Furthermore, our Better Business Bureau rating is perfect.

We guarantee at least 240,000 high-quality backlinks to your money site by the end of the 12 months — and there are more likely to be 300,000!  Just imagine how that would boost your bottom line.

If you may be interested and would like more information, just contact me, Dr. Dennis Bradford, at dennis@ironoxworks.com or (716) 408 – 0343.

Dr. Dennis E. Bradford
Dennis E. Bradford, Ph.D.

Backlinks

911 2 19 Nov 2018

What are “backlinks”? Why should you understand them?

The greatest single blessing of the world wide web is that it’s possible to find information much more quickly than it used to be able to find it. Of course, it’s good for other reasons (such as for entertainment) as well, but finding answers to problems we consider important is, for me, its most important benefit.

Online Searching

To find information, we simply type relevant phrases into search engines like Google and Bing. If I’m buying a house and want the assistance of an attorney to help me with all the paperwork, I might search for “real estate attorney” and include my geographical location.  My problem is that I need an attorney and searching online is a fast way to find some solutions.

having a problem

Let’s look at this from the other side. Let’s suppose that you are a real estate attorney and want to market your legal services. You hire someone to put up a website for you that you hope will attract prospects who will contact you and become clients.

You want prospects who would like a real estate attorney in your area to be able to find your website quickly and easily. How can they do that online?

When, for example, someone does a Google search for “real estate attorney Buffalo,” Google employees don’t read that and then send you to relevant webpages. Google uses an algorithm to list the results of that search on a search engine results page [SERP].

The algorithm ranks the listings in order.  The search engines want users to find exactly what they are searching for as quickly and easily as possible.  They want their users to have a good search experience — otherwise, they’d eventually go out of business.

As the owner of your website, you want to be listed on the first page of relevant SERP’s. Prospects only infrequently search beyond page 1.

On the first page there are often not just the free (“organic”) listings, but also ads and “3-packs.” There are often ads right at the top of the page. However, they are always marked as ads and, so, searchers can skip them or develop “ad blindness.” Sometimes there are no 3-packs there at all. So, let’s here just focus on the free listings.

You want the listing for your website to be on page 1. How can you get it listed there?

The SEO Problems

There are three important problems here.

Pondering options.

First, the exact nature of the algorithms that search engines use is unknown outside the search engine companies. They don’t want people gaming their systems.

Second, the algorithms change frequently. Minor changes occur nearly daily and major changes may occur several times a year.

Third, the algorithms are complicated.

The result is that researchers outside the search engine companies have to test for results; they work backward to figure out what website features are valued by the algorithms. They deliberately tweak websites, learn how the SERP’s respond to those tweaks, and then alter the feature of websites to get them to rank as highly as possible.

This never-ending process is search engine optimization [SEO].

It’s been well-established that backlinks are an important consideration when it comes to free SERP rankings.

Backlinks

A “backlink” is just an online link that points to a webpage from another webpage. Think of a backlink as like a vote, a citation, or a recommendation similar to (many kinds of) footnotes or endnotes in a printed article or book.

Both the quantity of the backlinks to your website as well as the quality of those backlinks matter.

The quantity is easily measured. The search engine algorithms simply count them.

The quality is either low (artificial) or high (real).

Suppose that you purchased 100,000 backlinks from some link farm to boost the ranking of your site. That would be cheating, right? Those are low-quality backlinks. There are various kinds of sites such as harvested, automated, or spam sites that attempt to boost rankings artificially. Avoid them! Even if they work temporarily, the search engine companies will eventually find out about them and punish websites for using them.

High-quality backlinks are real citations or recommendations. Suppose that you post an article, video, or graphic on your personal blog that has a link to a relevant page of your business’s website. That would be a high-quality backlink.

The backlinks from some domains are much more valuable from other domains. For example, a link from an educational domain ending in .edu is more valuable than from other kinds of domains.

Backlink Terminology (Related Jargon)

An “internal link” is simply a link that goes from one page in a domain to another page in that same domain.

Link juice” or power is passed to your webpage whenever any “do-follow” link points to it. Link juice boosts the ranking power of a page.

If you are writing a webpage and include a link to another page, by default that link will be a do-follow link that passes link juice to that other page. If, though, you tag that link with a “no-follow” tag, it won’t pass any link juice to that other page.

When the search engines count the number (quantity) of links to your website from another website, they’ll only count one link from any other unique domain. For example, if you referred in your WordPress blog to your business website twenty times, the search engine algorithms would only count that as one link instead of twenty.

Anchor text” is text that is used for hyperlinks. Search engine words or phrases such as “real estate attorney Buffalo” are called “keywords.” Hyperlinks work well for keywords.  There’s an example in the second to last sentence of this post.

The Value of  Backlinks

The chief value of having a lot of high-quality backlinks to your website is that its organic listings will be boosted naturally.

There’s no penalty for having lots of fresh, relevant content on your website and backlinks to that content. In fact, the search engines reward it; that’s what they value.  The more, the better.

A second major benefit of having a lot of high-quality backlinks is the quality of the online traffic your website will attract. The people who visit it will be more targeted prospects who will have a much lower bounce rate than other visitors who are less interested or not interested. The search engine algorithms penalize a high [fast] bounce rate, i.e., the longer a visitor stays on your site, the better in terms of its rankings.

A third benefit of having a lot of high-quality backlinks is faster rankings. The search engines send out “bots” or “spyders” that crawl websites. The more high-quality backlinks your site has, the faster the bots will find it and crawl it. This is especially important for new sites.

If you have enjoyed this post and learned something from it, I hope that you’ll leave a comment to that effect.

If you are serious about getting more high-quality backlinks to your website, proceed to the post on backlink pyramids.  I’ve some ideas that may really help you.

win/win