If you’ve been paying any attention at all, you must’ve noticed by now that your mind can be a pretty messy place.
Unless, of course, you’re braindead.
Or so addicted to your dumbphone and the couch-potato deathstyle that your self-awareness has been reduced to nothing.
Do not despair. There’s a way out – and up.
I will show you how to start rebuilding, and today we break ground on this edifice of High Awareness.
To date, that first semester of university remains the wildest rollercoaster of an experience in my entire life. For much of it, I was a high-functioning alcoholic – and I’m not using that word lightly.
Only in retrospect did I realize that the reason I had been drinking so much was anxiety. At least as much as it was fun.
Because I didn’t know if I was going back to school in the spring. I was taking some of the toughest courses in the curriculum as I wanted to triple-major, but I had to maintain a GPA to keep my scholarship. My parents could barely make the balance of the tuition anyway, and only with loans from friends.
Winter fell heavy and savage, snows piling up to the chest.
Some days I couldn’t afford food, but I could afford vodka and other cheap booze – or partake of friends’ supplies. Getting home after dawn, I would routinely skip morning classes. Most of them were insanely boring anyway.
To make the circus complete, I could barely study because I would get a headache every time I tried. It hadn’t yet occurred to me that I might need reading glasses.
I was blind and drunk blind.
I’ll spare you all the gruesome details. Suffice it to say, emotion was running high: depression, anxiety, mania, enjoyment, relief, embarrassment, sex craze alternated and overlapped by the minute.
By midsemester, I was a solid F in at least two of the five or six courses I was taking.
And it didn’t bother me much.
What troubled me was beyond my control. Would my parents be able to pony up the cash for spring even if I kept my scholarship? There was no way I could make that sort of money by getting a job. Plus, my studying was looking dismal anyway. And layered on top were the usual childish concerns about social validation, a meaningful life and such other nonsense.
Luckily, the gods protect drunks and fools.
I rekt the finals, kept my scholarships and was able to return after the New Year. I had also rekt myself emotionally, mentally. That first semester had been defining. It set in motion my longtime interest in psychology and the Mind.
I had to find a way to get it together because I didn’t want a repeat of the “experience”.
By graduation, I had read the complete works of Sigmund Freud, dabbled with Jung and Adler, and embarked on a long journey of self-analysis and discovery. It took another decade of adventures, mistakes and a fortuitous Cessation to reach a level of equanimity that people often find confusing, if not outright frightening.
You won’t believe how many times I’ve been called “evil”.
All because I have learnt to be indifferent to most of the semantic nonsense the lo-awarenes mass preoccupy themselves with.
And I can tell you this from experience, not from books and theories, although I have read plenty.
Most people, most of the time, have no clue what they feel or why.
Let that sink in.
Because it’s true, and because it’s true of you more frequently than you’d like to admit. It’s often true of me, with all the practice and effort I put into not being like that.
Without Awareness, you spend most of the time in distraction and suffering.
You become inert.
You fail frequently.
You become alienated.
You fear loss and death.
You get lonely and confused.
You’re paralyzed by indecision.
You don’t know what you want.
You never know contentment.
You feel powerless.
You end up missing your own life.
Millions of relatively affluent people live their lives in quiet desperation. This is where lo-awarenes inevitably leads.
And let’s not even get into the suffering of those who aren’t affluent.
With proper practice of Mind, you can level up your mentality and the skillful means to use it. And if you cultivate a taste of it, you’ll never look back.
Which is why we’re here.
This is the first in a series of missives on improving your cognition and life experience. It’s not the most practical one, but you should read it, and more than once, because it gives you the big picture of how we can make the mind work better.
No woo-woo. Everything from experience and our limited knowledge of neurophysiology.
To get the benefits, you don’t have to believe anything. Get the framework, apply the practices, get the results. That’s it.
Take it or leave it.
Up to you.
What Is Mind?
Mind was born out of movement.
Or at least the brain was. Plants don’t move much and don’t have a nervous system like ours. Animals move a lot and have a nervous system which is often better than ours. Birds and mammals have the most complex movements and the biggest brains relative to body size. And both classes of animals have been the apex predators on the planet at one time. If this doesn’t convince you that movement and change are essential Mind, nothing will.
The mind is made OF change FOR change. There’s no fixed point in it. There’s no place in your body or your experience that we can point to and say it’s You, not even your brain.
Get used to this idea if you want to get maximum results from what we do here.
Don’t believe it, just get used to it. Let it sit in your mind until you’re no longer unsettled. There – you just learnt a mindfulness practice.
And if you can’t allow yourself even this modicum of mental flexibility, you should stop reading now and go do something else.
To unfold the Power of Mind, you need to make room for it. This often requires letting go of your assumptions and the pseudoscientific nonsense you’ve been goaded with your entire life.
One of those unfounded assumptions is that Mind is contained entirely in the brain.
Science has barely touched on the role of the gut and other internal organs in your mentality. Because whatever You is, it sure isn’t limited to the brain. I’m not going to cite all the dreadful literature on amputees, amnesiacs and the microbiome to convince you of this. Use your brain for once. And your gut. Trust your instincts.
Instinct is fundamental Mind. And you can see the instinct to move and explore in infants long before they learn to talk or even walk. Because movement has a function that you won’t find in the highbrow credentialed-idiot magazines you read.
Movement is how animals find prey and avoid becoming it. Movement lets us find mates and escape environments turned hostile to our survival. But movement’s most powerful effect is that it amplifies experience. Bigly.
The more you move – literally and figuratively – the more exposure to the world you get.
Amplified experience is accelerated learning. Unless you’re extremely lo-awarenes, movement literally helps your mind grow.
Imagine yourself as a tree, roots deep in the ground. You’d be the involuntary recipient of whatever happens in the vicinity of your abode. And that experience will be very similar day after day, year after year, and limited by where you sit and what other trees plants surround you.
But you are not a tree and you are not rooted in a way so limiting. You can choose where to go and whom to spend time with. You can choose what to do and what to study. You can literally choose where to grow and how fast. Without movement, you wouldn’t have this power.
Some people use it to maintain their present condition, to dwell in illusory safety. They choose to keep their minds small and shriveled.
Others use it to move more, change faster, learn quicker. And grow the Power of Mind.
As you move about, so does your mind. Different sensations, feelings, thoughts compete for your attention because attention is domination. Whatever instinct and perception comes out on top is likely to determine your experience and your actions. The stronger the activation, the greater the mental affect, the deeper the imprint in your memory.
The power of affect dictates not only what you do but also how your remember it. It shapes both your physical and mental experience of whatever now is.
When pain comes up, all else quickly loses importance. Pain affects us most deeply because it keeps us alive and going. Pain is the greatest teacher and it often teaches us to move. The more we move and disrupt our patterns of comfort, the more the Mind grows.
This is how you know the mind-body is an antifragile system.
Here’s the part you probably never realized.
The mind isn’t antifragile just with respect to external stimuli. It’s antifragile in its internal life as well.
Every great teaching of Mind urges us to welcome every feeling and every thought, no matter how harrowing. If you suppress the natural volatility of Mind, if you deny your own instincts and sensations, you become mentally ill.
This is how you know society and culture have become mentally ill.
The dead culture preaches pain-avoidance and safety and conformity and political correctness. Everything to suppress your authenticity of Mind. Fakeness and sameness spells mental and physical death, slow and torturous.
Mind is designed to benefit from change and pain and disorder. The more you test the Mind, the stronger it becomes. Like a muscle.
The more difficult the problems you solve, the better your problem-solving abilities. The greater stress you take on, the greater the stress you can handle next time around. The more trials and tribulations you’ve endured throughout your life, the better prepared you are for what comes next.
When you repress your instincts, feelings, thoughts, you prevent yourself from learning how to deal with them. They become muffled and distorted, then pathological. That’s why no-one was ever cured of mental illness by medication. Prescription drugs can help you cope, can suppress the symptoms, but almost never result in recovery. Because they block the natural ability of the mind to learn and heal itself. Instead of making it stronger, they make it more fragile because they suppress its essential volatility and drive towards movement.
Minds that haven’t been tried and tested are fragile and helpless. They need a day off because they can’t take the election results. They react violently because they have no humility and sense of humor. They get offended by every other word. They scream powerlessly while the wise watch on silently.
How do we master Mind?
Mastery of Mind begins with mastery of attention. Attention is both a power of mind in itself and a tool to build other abilities. Directed attention is how you develop higher-order abilities.
- With directed attention, we can reach into the deepest recesses of the unconscious and harness its energy.
- With directed attention, we can learn to quickly identify and let go of undesirable mental dynamics.
- With directed attention, we can accelerate the development of our cognitive functions and be deliberate about when and how we use them.
With intense practice, these skills become second nature. You find yourself able to do much of it without conscious effort, like a skilled artisan doesn’t need to think much when applying one’s craft. This also makes real multitasking possible – up to a point.
I was able to write much of this missive from an unconscious place because of many years of practice. I wrote it without planning, without bullet points, without ever predetermining what I was going to write. I’ve been writing coherently while thinking about something completely different, making calls, etc. Undistracted, in flow.
Such effectiveness is possible not only with writing, although I wouldn’t recommend operating heavy machinery while multitasking.
You think men who work out have more gravitas? You’d never believe what happens when you work out with your mind like you work out with your muscles. And this is just the tip of the mindberg.
Every once in a while, I’m tempted, seriously tempted, although I’ve learnt not to do it. I like to tease a little bit, especially women.
So here’s a little teaser for you.
Things you never thought we’d cover when we talk about the science and practice of Mind:
- how to manipulate spacetime
- how to sleep less than 7 hours a day without loss of cognitive ability
- how to induce mania, creative trance and insight
All of this I’ve tested myself, but believe none of it.
Before any of that, you need the very basic groundwork for managing your mind. Learn the fundamentals, then experiment with the more challenging stuff.
Next up in this series, we set the Foundations of Awareness – the basics you need to know to have fundamental (and accurate!) awareness of what’s actually happening in the mind-body.
It’s very simple and concrete, and essential knowledge. But no-one told you it, and you won’t learn it in school.
You will see your own senses and feelings like you never did before.
If you have questions or comments, hit REPLY and let me know. I read every message you send.
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Always be closing,
Keys to Power:
- Most people, most of the time, have no clue what they feel or why. The ability to pay attention and know where you stand mentally and physically is essential for mind-body health, self-mastery and power. Radical self-honesty is required.
- The mind-body is an Integral antifragile system. Mind is literally made of movement and for movement. It can be trained and should be trained like a muscle. The mind atrophies from comfort just like muscles atrophy from comfort.
- Mastery of attention is essential to mastery of Mind. If you cannot direct your attention deliberately and sustainably, your Awareness will remain feeble.
- Make deliberate choices to move and grow your mind, or they will be forced upon you.