Lotus Effect Wear

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The Lotus Effect

Shedding Suffering & Rediscovering Your Essential Self

Friday
Jun152012

The 10th Mirror

In getting to know your essential self (in dis-identifying from what we are not), there are ten mirrors of identity to look into:

  1. The Mirror of Reflection (physical mirror)
  2. The Mirror of Others’ Minds, Approval, & Feedback ( social mirror )
  3. The Mirror of Circumstance, Status, Rank, & Reputation ( situational mirror )
  4. The Mirror of Roles, Membership, & Affiliations ( relational mirror )
  5. The Mirror of Action, Professional Identity, Performance, & Pastime (behavioral mirror)
  6. The Mirror of Possessions &  Ownership ( material mirror )
  7. The Mirror of Body, Age, & Health ( bio-data mirror )
  8. The Mirror of Time, Memory, Imagination ( temporal mirror )
  9. The Mirror of Language, Words, Description (linguistic mirror )
  10. The Mirror of Consciousness (inner mirror )

Once you study yourself in these mirrors you will see that 9 of these mirrors offer you nothing but distortions - you are not how you look, you are not others' thoughts about you, you are not your body, you are not even your own thoughts about you, and so on and so forth.

It's only the 10th mirror (the Mirror of Consciousness) - the mirror of meditation  - the inner mirror - that allows you to catch a true glimpse of your essential self.

The metaphor of the mirror is essential.  Here’s what Antonio T. De Nicholas has to say on this point in his profound Four-Dimensional Man: Mediations Through Rg Veda:

[L]ooking in the mirror is…one of the most important philosophical acts we perform on ourselves daily.  To begin with, the mirror gives us only an image, and this is a triviality.  However, the triviality may turn into a nightmare or a liberation the moment we start looking carefully (philosophically) at the image in the mirror, for the image we see in the mirror is always an image we recognize in relation to a very similar image we saw previously in the mirror; and this, in turn, we recognize in relation to another image we saw in the mirror—and so on.  The fact that we lump all these images under the same personal pronoun “I” is trivial; for this “I” is, again, a linguistic image within a mirror of language that reflects whatever images we decide to conjure up.  However, the decision about which criteria to use in relating to these images is not in the images, in the mirror, but is entirely up to the language-user or mirror-user to decide.  The mirror confronts us with these two possibilities; we may acknowledge the source of the images—namely, us, I, man, woman—as forever unknowable and unidentifiable, or we may reduce ourselves to the image in the mirror.  Unfortunately, this second choice is the one we usually take;…by reducing ourselves to the image in the mirror, we have chosen to live in the mirror.” (1976, 82)

Mirror teaches us about our own essence, about how to reflect without clinging.  By looking at the mirror meditatively we learn how to do the same.

Adapted from Lotus Effect (Pavel Somov, 2010)

Thursday
Jun142012

3 "I-s" of Ego-Self: Identification, Information, Impermanence

The Ego-Self: Identification, Information, Impermanence

Ego is not an anatomical structure.  It’s not something that you will see on an X-ray.  Ego is an informational structure.  That’s what the term ego actually means: it is a Latinized translation of “das Ich,” which is German for “the I.”  “The I” is “the information” that you have about you.

            The ego-based view of the self is as unstable as a table on three legs.  There are three issues with ego we need to examine, and they all start with the letter I.  “The I” (ego) balances on identification with impermanent information.  Let’s take a closer look.

 

Ego is informationEgo is a collection of self-descriptions, just a bunch of words written down on the mirror of your consciousness.   Let’s say I point at the moon with my index finger.  Is my finger the moon that I am pointing at?  Of course not.  Now ponder this: are you the information that you have about you or are you that which this information is about?  Are you a self-description or that which you are describing? 

 

Ego is identification with the external.  Identification is a process of pointing at something external, at something outside of you, and equating yourself with that.  We’ve already touched on that earlier in the chapter.  Identifying yourself with what you are not is absurd.  Identifying yourself with something that you are not is like pointing one finger at yourself and the other finger at something else and then claiming that you are pointing at the same thing.  The idea that you = this or that you = that is like shooting two arrows in two opposite directions and claiming that they are going to hit the same target. 

 

Ego is impermanence of form.  Self-esteem, self-worth, self-view are various ego forms, various forms of information that we have about ourselves.  Ego is information about our form, not about our essence.  Forms change.   “How” you are at any given point isn’t fixed—it’s in constant flux.  When we identify with how we are, we are identifying with the fleeting, with the impermanent, with the transient.       States of mind, states of mood, modes of being are but ever-changing forms of you.  The role you play, what somebody thinks about you, the thought you have about yourself, the number on your bathroom scale—all this is but information about you.  When we identify with how we are, we identify with the transient.  There is no permanence in that.  This kind of identity is writing on the surface of the water.  No matter how factual your self-description is, it dissolves just as it is being written.

 

Adapted from Lotus Effect (Pavel Somov, 2010)

Thursday
Jun072012

Identity Theft & Identity Giveaway

Identity theft is when someone identifies themselves as you and steals your resources.  Identity giveaway is when you identify as someone else and surrender your sense of individuality and uniqueness.

All identification with the external is a giveaway of your essence.

Identity giveaway begins with social comparisons and peaks with social imitation.

The word “identity” comes from the Latin word idem, which means “same.”  Identity is built through identification with the external, with what you are not. We determine our identities by comparing ourselves to “not-ourselves” and thereby try to determine who we are. We tend to think along the lines of “I am like this or that” or “I am like so-and-so or that-and-such.”  Therein lies the problem.

You aren’t like anything or anybody else, even if you are similar.  Similarity isn’t sameness.  No one is the same as you.  Number 1.0000001 is very, very close to one, but it still isn’t a true one.  Only one is one.  And only you are you.  There is no one like you.  You are not an almost-you, or a kinda-you, or a sorta-you.  You are one of a kind, fully and uniquely you!  When we identify (equate) ourselves with the external, with what is not us, we ignore the very uniqueness that makes us different.

Recognize that uniqueness is beyond comparison.  Recognize that you are beyond comparison.  Recognize that as long as you define what you are by what you are not, you are exchanging your uniqueness and oneness for similarity.  And, in so doing, you are giving away your identity and losing sight of your essential, unique self.  Identification with the external is an identity giveaway.

Identity giveaway, just like identity theft, is a loss of self.

Adapted from Lotus Effect (Pavel Somov, 2010)

Thursday
Jun072012

Info Poisoning & Info Detox

In 1951 Dr. George Harding, with the National Capital Parks in Washington, looked in amazement at a lotus sprout.  The lotus seed that had just come to life was a “relic of one of the early crops of lotus cultivated by Buddhists” at an ancient dry lakebed at Pulantien (Laoning Province, China) after the introduction of Buddhism to the region.  This particular lotus seed had been collected by a Japanese scientist named Ichiro Ohga and had been carbon-dated to beapproximately 1300 years old, thus holding the seed-germination longevity record.

Had we been standing next to Dr. Harding, marveling at the showy, dish-like leaves and the beautiful pink of the lotus corolla rising gracefully above the surface of the water, we might have thought: “How is it possible for a living thing to remain itself, unaffected amidst the mud of its circumstance, for such a long, long time?”  It is exactly this question of identity that preoccupied Chandrakirti, the seventh-century Buddhist thinker who happened to die around the very time Dr. Harding’s lotus seed was born.  Indeed, what is identity?  What is essence?  What is purity?  What is self?  Or are these questions just different ways of looking at the same issue?  Perhaps, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

In the 1970s German botanist Wilhelm Barthlott studied Nelumbo nucifera (the Sacred Lotus) through a scanning electron microscope.  The reason for his interest had to do with an amazing property of the lotus leaves: they are self-cleaning!  Indeed, the lotus leaves are extremely water repellent (superhydrophobic, in technical parlance).  Water droplets roll right off the leaves, washing away any dirt particles.  As a result, the lotus, an aquatic flower that starts out at the muddy bottom, manages to rise to the water’s surface unstained and free of the muck of its humble origins. 

The sacred lotus offers an inspiring rags-to-riches, slime-to-sunshine metaphor of growth and enlightenment.  We might consider the lotus to be the ultimate Cinderella story: it cleans all day and never gets dirty.   The self-cleaning lotus exemplifies an empowering narrative of integrity.  It manages to remain itself, pure and unaffected, and to grow to its fullest amidst the impurity of its circumstance.   Unsurprisingly, the lotus flower (padma  in Sanskrit) has a position of great cultural and spiritual significance in Asia.  In Buddhism, the lotus represents purification and disentanglement from the trappings of conditioned existence (samsara), liberation from suffering, and the achievement of enlightenment.  The “lotus pose” (padm’asana) in yoga is a universally recognizable symbol of wisdom and serenity.  As a visual symbol, the lotus flower is inescapable: it is a core element of Asian iconography.  As a sound, the lotus invocation is forever resonated in the om mani padma hum mantra (“jewel in the lotus”) .

As intriguing as this scientific and cultural lotus trivia might be, this book, of course, isn’t about the bio-mimetic (nature-mimicking) nano-technological applications of the lotus effect; nor is this book about sitting in the lotus asana.  This book is about a psychological kind of lotus effect; namely, about surviving the informational muck that constantly bogs us down.

Case in point: you wake up feeling good. You step up on the bathroom scale and see a number that you don’t like. Suddenly, your mood goes down the drain.  What happened?  Technically, nothing happened: you—in your essence—are still exactly the same as you were before you weighed yourself. The only difference is that now you have a toxic piece of information on your mind: a number.  A moment ago you were feeling fine, but now this informational tidbit is eating at you.

As banal as this case of informational poisoning is, it shows the potent toxicity of information.  This basic scenario is the story of many lives.  Whether you gain a pound or lose your car keys, fail a test or pass gas in public, have a bad hair day or a good administrative lashing, your brain continuously translates life into information, and then this information transforms how you feel about your essence.  Information disrupts our hard-won calmness with the ease of a stone skipping across a sleepy pond.  This number on your bathroom scale is just a tiny pebble, but look at the (emotional) waves it makes!     The goal of the book is to help you thicken your psychological skin and teach you how to shed the informational dirt, lotus-like.  I’m not talking about ignoring information—that wouldn’t be helpful.  What I’d like to explore with you is the very real possibility of healing from the toxic information that wounds our sense of self.  This book is about surviving this stream of information, about not getting drowned in it. Our goal will be to remain in our essence, unaffected, unstained, and free, cultivating a lotus-like capacity for self-cleaning from the informational residue that stands in the way of our growth and well being.   In sum, this book is about cultivating the lotus effect—the skill of informational detoxification—and about rediscovering the lotus of your essential self. 

Adapted from Lotus Effect (P. Somov, 2010)

Sunday
Feb052012

 

Sunday
Oct302011

Incomparably Self-Same

Ludwig Wittgenstein, proposition 5.5303:

"Roughly speaking: to say of two things that they are identical is nonsense, and to say of one thing that it is identical with itself is to say nothing."

Indeed:

unique = different; it is exactly because you are different (i.e. unique) that you are beyond comparison; all comparisons are approximations, rough groupings; you are incomparably self-same.

Sunday
Feb062011

Self-Definition is Self-Limitation

The question of “What am I?” may lead to self-objectification or to self-liberation.  Which path would you take?  How would you answer it?  By saying something along the lines of “I am this” or “I am that” or “I am such and such"?  I hope not.

Understand the self-limiting meaning of the verb “to define:”

to define, according to OED, means: "to specify; to end," from O.Fr. defenir "to end, terminate, determine," and directly from L. definire "to limit, determine, explain," from de- "completely" (see de-) + finire "to bound, limit," from finis "boundary.

Recognize:

Any self-definition is a self-limitation.  To define yourself is to limit your understanding of yourself.  To define yourself is to box yourself into this or that category.  To define yourself is to finish your understanding of yourself.  To define yourself is to end your curiosity about yourself. 

A self-definition is not self-knowledge: it's self-delusion. You are not limited to any “this” or “that," certainly not until you are finished living.  You are un-limited.  Your suchness is beyond description or comparison. 

A self-definition is self-objectification.  But you are not the object of your consciousness, you are not a thought "I am such and such."  You are the Subject that inquires, the one asking the question - not the informational answer that passes through your mind.

Do ask yourself the question “What am I?” (to re-experience your ineffable essence) but ignore the answer.

Reference: Lotus Effect

Wednesday
Feb022011

No “I” in the Outcome

Eugen Herrigel, the author of a 1948 classic, Zen in the Art of Archery, offers a thought of dis-identification from the outcome of one’s performance: “The archer ceases to be conscious of himself as the one who is engaged in hitting the bull’s-eye that confronts him.”  

Recognize:

The Arrow is the Extension of your Arm. 

The Arm is the Extension of your Body. 

The Body is the Extension of your Mind. 

Your Mind is the Extension of [the arrow of] your Consciousness.

Recognize:

When you release the bowstring of your performance and when the arrow hits or misses the target, you are still standing where you were standing, you are still you, regardless of the outcome.

You were there before any given outcome, and you will be there after a given outcome.  But this outcome came out of you.  It would not have happened without you. 

Remember:

You are not the outcome of the outcome; it’s the outcome that is the outcome of you.  You are not your performance, you are the one who performs. 

Conclude: I am not the outcome of what I do.  I am not the outcome of my performance.

Monday
Jan312011

Good Question Answers Itself

Impossible to open your mouth without stepping on the toes of the paradox! 

Mind’s footprints are everywhere as mind follows its own tracks, leading, following, misleading, rebelling, seeking ever new doors only to linger in the doorway… 

Conclude: you are not your mind; you are not the cognitive-affective-sensory mindprints in the sands of your consciousness; you are not your own footprints; you are That which leads.

But what is That?! 

Good question (answers itself)!

Sunday
Jan302011

You Aren’t What’s Changing, You Are What Remains the Same

In Kafka’s story “The Metamorphosis,” first published in 1915, the protagonist’s body turns into a cockroach.  But that’s not the point.  The point is that nothing else changes.  The protagonist (and his neuroticism) remains the same. 

This is the irony of change.  Change happens on the backdrop of the changeless.  As the body ages, to a large extent we still feel the same inside.  As the body ages, the gap between our physical age and how old we feel inside seems to continually widen.  Why not listen to this sense of internal sameness? 

Metamorphosis is a change of form, not of Essence.  You aren’t what’s changing, you are that which remains the same

Conclude:  I am not my physical Form at any given point in time.

Sunday
Jan232011

"Who am I?": the Question Matters, the Answer Doesn't

“There’s only one way out of prison, which is to set your jailer free.” (B. Grebenschikov)

Mind is its own hostage. Each identity schema, each self-concept, each self-description is both an adaptation and a handicap. The very anchors that helped you feel grounded may now hold you down with all the weight of their historical usefulness.

Yes, mind is its own hostage.  But mind is also its own search-and-rescue.  Take a look at what of what you are is no longer you…

There is still time left. 

Un-mind to un-wind.  Re-cognize* your Self (non-verbally, non-conceptually) to relax. 

Ask yourself: “Who am I?”  and ignore the thought-answers.  After all, you are not your thoughts of self-description.  You are not your favorite description of yourself.  You are the One asking...  The One looking in the mirror of one's own consciousness.

Sounds circular, recursive?  That's the nature of all self-description for you...

References/Notes: 

Boris Grebenschikov: The Time, Radio Silence, 1989 CBS Records

*the verb “to recognize” stems from Old French reconoistre ” which means “to know again” (etymonline.com)

Saturday
Dec182010

What is Lotus Effect (in a "scholarly" sense)?

On a "scholarly" level, Lotus Effect is an attempt to reconcile apophatic existential reasoning with cataphatic reasoning on matters of identity. 

To put it differently, Lotus Effect is an attempt to see the Sunyata side and the Tathatagatagarbha side of the identity coin. 

In other words: Lotus Effect is an attempt at a kind of fusion of Buddhist psychology and Vedic psychology in order to leverage process-style identity by way of informational/identity detox. 

Saturday
Dec182010

Consciousness Is Its Own Broom

Suzuki reports the following curious exchange between Yun-men (a Zen master) and a fellow monk.  When asked “Who is Buddha?” Yun-men said:  “The dried-up dirt cleaner.” 

To my analysis, this a rather profound response, although it doesn’t seem so at first.  After all, Buddha as a dirt cleaner?  What does that mean? 

Let’s take a look.  But first, a word about the meaning of “buddha.”  There’s nothing religious about this word—it simply means “awakened, aware” and originates from the Pali verb budh, meaning “to awaken." Thus, the term “buddha nature” can be taken to mean animated nature, nature that is aware. 

Buddha nature is consciousness.  Here’s the Dalai Lama equating buddha nature with consciousness:  “This consciousness is the innermost subtle mind.  We call it Buddha nature, the real source of all consciousness” (1988, 45).  Indeed, consciousness, since it exists, is part of nature and its defining characteristic is that it is aware.  In fact, the two words “consciousness” and “awareness” are functionally interchangeable. 

So, what did Yun-men mean when he described Buddha as a dirt cleaner?   Perhaps that buddha nature (consciousness) is self-cleaning. 

Consider a lava lamp.  Within it there is wax (the substance, the essence) and then there are various forms that it takes (the information).  The mind is made of consciousness, just like any given wax-form is made of wax.  As the wax moves, it self-cleans: through constant movement, it continuously sheds one form after another.  It is the very movement of the underlying wax substance that accounts for the arising and the cessation of any given form.  It works the same way with consciousness: in its continuous, uninterrupted flow, consciousness cleans its own house—each thought, feeling, and sensation that emerges eventually passes. 

Consciousness is its own broom.  It takes out its own mind-garbage.  In its ceaseless flow, consciousness wipes its own slate clean time and again.  Information ripples through consciousness like a wave across the ocean until it eventually fades out.

Here’s what Thich Nhat Hann, a noted Buddhist thinker, says on this point in Opening the Heart of the Cosmos: Insights on the Lotus Sutra:  “The wave does not have to seek to become water—she is water, right here and now. In the same way, you are already a Buddha.” 

If so—if consciousness, like water, is self-cleaning—then why should you bother with an identity (informational) detox if there’s never been a thought that didn’t go away?  The point is to help the process along, to tone down the informational tsunami, to learn to surf the mind-waves without drowning.

Source: 

Excerpt from Lotus Effect: Shedding Suffering and Rediscovering Your Essential Self

Wednesday
Dec082010

Self is a Stereotype: Correct It!

There is a story in Zhuangzi (a Taoist book named after Zhuangzi, a 4th century BCE Chinese philosopher) that goes something like this...

A master carpenter Shi and his apprentice are walking through the woods in search of a good tree. The apprentice sees a great big old oak tree and asks his master why he walked past it paying it no attention. "Oh, enough with that," the Master exclaims, "don't even talk about this one!" The Master Carpenter then explains: "This tree... it's so bad that if you made a boat, it'd sink; and if you made a coffin, it'd rot; and if you made a roof, it'd leak... This tree is good for nothing and it's exactly because it's so useless and worthless that it's been standing here so long..."

Are the Master and the Apprentice looking at the same tree? Not likely.

It'd seem that this parable is about stereotypes. The Master is right: the tree he is describing used to be no good, after all, he has seen it so many times while in these woods, looking for a good tree to work with. With time, the Master has come to ignore the tree -- and, ignored, the tree has been spared to grow into a great big tree that the Apprentice is noticing. The Apprentice -- free from the perceptual stereotype - is seeing the tree for what it is...

But what is the Master actually seeing?

The Master is seeing his own thought: the stereotype of the tree is super-imposed onto the actual tree. The Master has projected a thought of an ugly, good-for-nothing tree onto an actual tree. And, instead of seeing the actual tree, he is staring at his own thought as if he was staring at a tree, unaware of the difference.

Mindfulness (meditation) is when you see a thought as a thought without confusing a thought of a tree with an actual tree.

This parable, as I interpret it, is not about the tree but about the so-called Self. Here, in the West, we are used to thinking that we have a Self. In the East, in Buddhism and Taoism, Self is seen as an illusion.

When we think of a Self, we think of a thought that somehow summarizes and encapsulates our essence. But that is, of course, nothing but a stereotype. Like a tree, we constantly grow and change. And any self-defining, thought-long description of our Being inevitably reduces and over-simplifies our nuanced complexity.

What are we referring to when we are referring to our "Selves?" Are we looking at what is or are we "seeing" our own projections of what once was?

As the Master Carpenter who looks at his own thought thinking that he is looking at a tree, you may look at your Self and judge it as "good for nothing," "useless," "worthless." Yes, these are familiar paths of self-deprecation that we have treaded in the woods of our minds so many times that these paths now tread us...

But, hold it: take a look at this thought about your Self, look past it, look through it: perhaps, beyond this perceptual veneer of a stereotype that you have of you, the actual you have changed...

Let's apprentice.

Saturday
Dec042010

Emerson's Lotus Effect

One of the original American sages, Ralph Waldo Emerson, in an essay called Experience, writes:

“[S]ouls never touch their objects. […] If tomorrow I should be informed of the bankruptcy of my principal debtors, the loss of my property would be a great would be a great inconvenience to me, perhaps, for many years; but it would leave me as it found me – neither better nor worse. 

So is it with [any] calamity: it does not touch me; something which I fancied was a part of me, which could not be torn away without tearing me nor enlarged without enriching me, falls off from me and leaves no scar.  

[…] I grieve that grief can teach me nothing, nor carry me one step into real nature. 

The Indian who was laid under a curse that the wind should not blow on him, nor water flow to him, nor fire burn him, is a type of us all.  The dearest events are summer-rain, and we are the Para [rain-] coats that shed every drop.”

After I stumbled upon these lines I had four thoughts:

  • Emerson’s “lotus effect” (of shedding and repelling suffering) was strong;
  • his analogy of the soul (psyche/consciousness) to a rain-coat that sheds every drop was the same hydrophobic effect (water-fearing/water-repelling) that informs my own analogy of “lotus effect."
  • I wondered which Indian he had in mind – an Indian of the East or an Indian of the West (native American). 

And then I had this fourth thought, a question, really, that Emerson kind of alluded to:

  • Is this psychological (psychic, spiritual) imperturbability a curse or a blessing? 

For me, the answer’s clear: it is a self-earned blessing bestowed upon one’s own self via rigorous psychological self-help. 

What are your thoughts about this immunity of self-knowing essence that Emerson writes about?  And are your opinions founded on experience or speculation? 

Try out the cloak of Vedic invulnerability to find out for yourself.  Experience that Indian in you. 

Reference:

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Experience (Emerson: The Basic Writings of America’s Sage; edited by E. C. Lindeman, Mentor Books)

Monday
Nov292010

Feels Like a Self But Is It?

Consider:

"What is distinguishable is not necessarily separable."  (1)

Just because you see an eddy in a stream it doesn't mean that an eddy is separate from the stream.

"The imaginary line separating objectivity and subjectivity, reality and illusion, facts and theory, is literally imaginable." (2)

Just because you can imagine a (causal) line between any two points (or any two events) it doesn't necessarily mean that a line (of connection between these two points) actually exists.   First mind creates dots/data-points (that aren't there) and then mind connects these dots/data-point to create a line (of connection).  And the imaginable - suddenly - becomes real. 

Ponder: if an illusion (of self) exists is it still an illusion? (3)

 

Reference:

1, 2 Meditations through Rg Veda (Antonio de Nicolas)

3 - Lotus Effect (Somov)

Sunday
Nov142010

Noosphere of Naiveté

“Both the French paleontologist-priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and the Russian atheist Vladimir Vernadsky agreed that Earth is developing a global mind.   The layer of thought in the shape of a sphere they called the noosphere, from Greek noos, mind.  The aggregate net of throbbing life, from flashing fireflies to human e-mail, is the developing planetary mind.  Perhaps, like the brain of a human babe with many synaptic connections that diminish over time, the noosphere is still in its infancy.  Polymorphous, paranoiac, confused, yet intensely imaginative, the thinking layer of Earth that is largely the unexpected product of animal consciousness, may now be in its most impressionable stage.”  (1)

Yes, the human biomass is, indeed, connecting at an ever increasing pace.  The day is likely coming when we begin to embed our respective individualities into one seamless hive-mind with the help of some kind of implantable “augmented reality” gizmo.  But what would be the psychological savvy of this global meta-mind if we (its constituent mind-parts) still don’t know what/who we are?

“The transition from cell, to cell society, to animal organism is an old story in evolution: individuals group into societies, which themselves become individuals.” (2)

If we are, indeed, heading for some digital Brahman-state, it’s time to look within yourself before Earth reinvents us all again, before the interplay of evolutionary and technological trends starts to recruit our respective selves, like cells, into a planet-wide society of consciousness.  

A noosphere unaware of itself is like Wal-Mart with empty shelves.  What would be the point?

Ask yourself: "Who am I?" and "Am I connecting to others on the basis of difference or similarity?"

Notes:

Noosphere (source: wiki): In the original theory of Vernadsky, the noosphere is the third in a succession of phases of development of the Earth, after the geosphere (inanimate matter) and the biosphere (biological life).

Reference:

1, 2: “What is Life?” (Lynn Margulis & Dorian Sagan, 2000)

Thursday
Nov112010

Psychological Autopoiesis (Identity Regulation, Identity Hygiene)

Over the last several years I have been reading Lynn Margulis and Dorian Sagan (the former, Lynn, is the ex of Carl Sagan and the mother of the latter).  This mother-son writing duo – to my estimation – is one of the key think-tanks on this planet at the present time.  Lynn is a fearless iconoclast brilliantly redefining our understanding of life.  But this post isn’t about “life,” in its biochemical or cosmic sense.  This post is about inner life and maintenance thereof. 

As some of the readers of my blog know, I recently published a book called “Lotus Effect” which is a program of the identity detox designed to help you “shed suffering” and “rediscover your (so-called) essential self.”  What I want to show you in this post is the interplay between biology and psychology, namely, the interplay between the two fundamental questions: “What is life?” and “Who am I?”

In their book “What is Life?” Margulis and Sagan write of life as “islands of order in an ocean of chaos.” This isn’t just a poetic stance, this is a kind of thermodynamic proclamation of independence.  You see, according to the second law of thermodynamics entropy (i.e. chaos, disorder) increases “in any moving or energy-using [i.e. living, i.e. existing] system.”  In other words, everything tends to fall apart.  But life – while it exists – resists this tendency for disorder through self-maintenance. 

Here’s Margulis & Son on this point:

“Body concentrates order.  It continuously self-repairs.  Every five days you get a new stomach lining.  You get a new liver every two months.  Your skin replaces itself every six weeks.  Every year, 98 percent of the atoms of your body are replaced.  This non-stop chemical replacement, metabolism, is a sure sign of life.”

This process of self-repair is called “autopoiesis” which is Greek for “self-making.”

Margulis & Son again:

“Without autopoietic behavior, organic beings do not self-maintain – they are not alive.”

So, where am I going with all this?  To the notion of psychological autopoiesis, to what an early 20th century Armenian mystic Gurdjieff used to call “self-remembering,” to what I call “identity detox,” i.e. to the work of psychological self-maintenance.  When I say “psychological self-maintenance,” I am not talking about emotional self-regulation (mood management).  I am talking – literally – about identity-regulation, Self-maintenance. 

When you ask yourself “Who am I?” you are, in a sense, shedding the outdated psychological skin and replacing it with an renewed sense of self.  You see, psychologically speaking, we are mired in informational misrepresentations of who/what we are.  We keep confusing ourselves with what we do, with what we have, with what we feel and think, with the roles with play, with our history.  This informational confusion is the entropy of identity, a continuous loss of self.  We simply disappear behind all these words of self-descriptions and self-definitions. 

The task of psychological self-maintenance is the same as that of biological self-maintenance: it is autopoiesis, it is a job of self-making.  Instead of being made (programmed) into “this” or “that,” we have to continuously de-program.  We have to keep asking ourselves this basic identity-detoxing question “Who am I – who am I at my core, at my foundation, who am I when I shed my roles, when I dis-identify from all that’s fleeting and transient in my life, who am I when go beyond my self-descriptions, – who am I in essence, rather than in form?”

As you see, the “Who am I?” question isn’t just a superficial inquiry.  It is a depth-psychology probe.  It is an invitation to drill down through the informational calluses that weigh us down.  It is an informational detox, a detox of identity, an informational strip-down, a process of remembering that you are not any information about you but that which is in the process of formation. 

I know it sounds heady and confusing.  And it is: you have to use your head and you have to tolerate the initial confusion that comes with this kind of self-work, before you finally begin to know what/who you are by being clear about what/who you are not.

Each day you are actively involved in life-supporting metabolic self-maintenance: you eat, you excrete, you repeat this cycle.  The same goes for psychological self-maintenance, but in reverse: first, you excrete (shed) the ego-dirt, the informational dust that gets in your mind’s eye, the suffering of identification with what you are not; and, then, you “feed” yourself – through meditation and contemplation – with a sense of self, with a sense of “am-ness.”

This kind of daily “identity detox” is no more complicated or time-consuming than brushing your teeth.  It is part of psychological hygiene, not a chore but an enjoyable task of self-remembering.  There are many different experiential ways of accomplishing this.  Just like with biological self-maintenance, you have a choice of any breakfast of consciousness you wish.  It so happens that I, myself, like Dzogchen-style “sky-gazing meditation” for my “am-ness cereal.”  That doesn’t make me a Buddhist.  If you want to go with the Biblical “bagel-and-ham” of “I am that I am” to start and/or finish your day, you don’t have to be a Christian to do so.  Any psychologically-autopoietic identity-detox method would do!

Enough rambling.  Time to load up on “am-ness” calories!  Lotus-eating time!

p.s.:

Read anything written by Margulis & Son!  It’s complex but scientifically and existentially brave.  I particularly recommend “What Is Life?” and “Microcosmos.”

Monday
Oct182010

Lotus Effect, Ontologically

Thought plows the field of Consciousness.

Feelings grow.

Ontologically*, Nothing changes.

 

*Ontology (psychologically, not philosophically (not that there is a great difference between these two applications of consciousness)) is the knowledge of one’s Unchanging Identity.  The rest is informational (phenomenological) metamorphosis.

 

Thursday
Sep092010

Disclosures of the Lotus Mirror

Li Ho, a 9th century Chinese poet observed:

Hsi-shih dreams at dawn, in the cool of silk curtains:

A tress has slipped from the scented knot over the fading rouge,

The pulley creaks at the well, winds up with a jade tinkle

And startles awake the lotus which has just slept its fill.

 

Two birds on the flaps disclose the mirror, an autumn sunlit pool.

 

She loosens the knots and looks down in the mirror […]

Her toilet done, the dressed hair slants and does not sag.

She […] turns away, still without speaking.  What has caught her eye?

She goes down the steps and picks up the cherry flowers.

So, what’s the story here: a girl, named Hsi-shih, is asleep, the sound of the water-well outside awakens her and, it so happens, also startles a couple of birds off the surface of the pond; once awake, the girl fixes her hair that she didn’t mind while she was asleep and notices cherry flowers.  Sounds like your typical privileged morning in the 9th century China.  Why write a poem about it?  I don’t know.  I am not Li Ho.

But here’s why I am writing about this poem.  Here’s what it means to me.  Let’s take it a stanza at a time.

Hsi-shih dreams at dawn, in the cool of silk curtains:

A tress has slipped from the scented knot over the fading rouge,

The pulley creaks at the well, winds up with a jade tinkle

And startles awake the lotus which has just slept its fill.

Notice that the poet gives this girl two names – her given name, His-shih, and then a metaphorical name, “the lotus.”  Lotus in Asia has long been a sacred symbol.  As I see it, divinity aside, lotus represents consciousness.  Indeed, the sound of the well awakens the consciousness.  And a sleeping beauty comes alive.  If we strip this poem down to its basic philosophical meaning, all that happens here is that a mind is awakened.

Metaphorically, a lotus blossoms.  Let’s see what happens next in the poem to see what happens next when a mind awakens:

Two birds on the flaps disclose the mirror, an autumn sunlit pool.

All of a sudden, Li Ho switches focus: the poem is no longer about the girl, it’s about the fact that two birds, also startled by the sound of the well-chain, fly off the surface of the pond “to disclose” a mirror.  What a mysterious detour!  What’s this about?

I have no idea, but here’s how I see it.  Li Ho is telling us about what happens when the mind awakens: it becomes self-reflective.  Indeed, in sleep, the girl was one with reality, not even aware of the hair that had fallen on her face.  But once immediately awake and self-aware she checks the mirror of her consciousness and… fixes herself up.

She loosens the knots and looks down in the mirror […]

Her toilet done, the dressed hair slants and does not sag.

Self-awareness is self-correcting, which is a sleep of yet another kind.  The lotus – having briefly bloomed – is closing again.  The mind, having seen itself in the mirror of its own consciousness, starts correcting itself.  Only to be once again awakened by another input from reality:

She […] turns away, still without speaking.  What has caught her eye?

She goes down the steps and picks up the cherry flowers.

The lotus blooms again: instead of correcting one’s own reflection in the mirror, the mind is once again awakened to its own presence by a little nudge from reality.  First, reality tickled the mind with the sounds of the well, now it has roused the mind with the stimulation of the cherry blossom.

And so it goes, from sleep to wakefulness, from sleep to wakefulness.  The lotus of self seems to be in the best of blooms when engaged with whatever is, rather than trying to polish its reflection in the mirror.

My only hope is that Hsi-shih doesn’t pick the cherry blossoms and doesn’t return back to her mirror to use them as a garland on her dress.  Whatever it is that we are, we certainly are not the reflection disclosed in the mirror.

Of course, there are a million ways to read and interpret Li Ho’s poem or my interpretation of it.  Your time to reflect.