Leo's Blog: Infinite Insights
Miscellaneous bits of wisdom about personal development, philosophy, epistemology, nonduality, life purpose, psychedelics, etc. Published randomly throughout the week.
Insights here are meant to be quick and half-baked. Consider these food for thought.
I've deliberately disabled comments to keep the blog streamlined. If you want to discuss any of the blog posts, you can do so here: Actualized.org Forum
How do most spiritual practitioners do spirituality? They pick one school and follow it all the way. But "pick" is too generous of a word. It's actually a lot more like they stumble into one school and become that school's loyalists.
Despite how important focus and consistency is for spiritual attainment, the problems with the one-school approach should be obvious to anyone with an ounce of common sense.
When you follow the one-school approach, it's like getting married to the first person you have sex with. It's a choice based off zero breadth of experience, with no strategy behind it.
The fundamental epistemic error with the one-school approach is that you're making an important life decision based on a sample size of one. You're implicitly assuming that you understand a complex and nuanced domain (spirituality) when in fact you have zero experience with it. Such an approach is based on fluke luck. Yes, it's possible that you find your soul mate this way, but the odds are against you. If we take a look at the averages, the first spiritual school you try will NOT be appropriate for you. But if you take the one-school approach, you won't realize that until years later, because you've never experienced anything else.
If you're going to do the one-school approach, here are the problems you should expect to arise:
- You get stuck using techniques which do not fit your personality type, learning style, body type, brain type, energy level, age, or gender. Due to this lack of fit you quit in frustration.
- You become a crusader for your school, holding it as superior to all others. You become closedminded to other teaching styles.
- You become dismissive and improperly critical of other schools and teachings. Your ability to dialogue with other spiritual practitioners is very limited.
- You fall prey to the debating/arguing trap, becoming an ideologue.
- You lack the experience to speak about spirituality in the broader context.
- You are not even aware of what other schools exist and how amazing some of them are.
- You think your school has covered everything essential, but you are wrong.
- You assume the teachings of your school are the most clear and accurate articulations of spirituality, but you are wrong.
- You entirely miss some important facets of enlightenment and spirituality.
- You entirely miss some important facets of personal development.
- You fall prey to some degree of dogma, even if you do end up attaining enlightenment.
- You conflate the arbitrary rituals and customs of your school with actual spirituality.
- Your school turns out to be a cult, religion, or some other kind of power-seeking organization which ends up exploiting you financially, sexually, or psychologically.
- You end up quitting in frustration or disillusionment because you're not able to understand what the pointers are pointing to, because you need more variety of pointers than your school is providing.
- Your school ends up being a very indirect, distorted, diluted path to enlightenment. For example, you spend years chasing spiritual states or doing Yoga postures which are really irrelevant to enlightenment.
- You fail to see the rich and beautiful interconnections which exist between all the world's true spiritual traditions. That beauty and variety is lost on you.
- Because you don't study spirituality from multiple angles, you fail to grasp many of the more minor, subtle insights available.
- You miss out on very practical techniques for spiritual purification and personal development which exist only in some schools but not in others. These techniques would have made your life a lot better had you learned about them.
- Your ability to teach spirituality to a broad range of people will be limited because you will be forcing them to conform to only your style.
- You get easily angered, offended, or disturbed by other traditions, cultures, and techniques.
Really, what the one-school approach amounts to is accidental spirituality. In the best case scenario you happen to stumble upon a great school, it just happens to be a valid teaching, it just happens to fit your style, and it just happens to work for you. In the worst case scenario it's a totally invalid teaching, you buy into it hook, liner, and sinker, and you end up becoming a deluded ideologue with no hope of enlightenment, and instead you get exploited.
Remember, that for every one person on the planet who stumbles into a good school, there are at least a thousand who stumble into a terrible school. How do you think religion was born? That's the direct result of the one-school, stumble-your-way-into-the-first-thing-you-see approach.
For example, the famous Swami Yogananda talked about how he found his guru and instantly knew he should devote his life to him and the path of Kriya Yoga. And so he did, and he turned out to become a great enlightened master himself. But this is the exception, not the norm. What if his guru happened to be a radical militant religious fundamentalist? Then that strategy would not have worked so nicely. He would have become ensnared, like millions of radicalized, sectarian devotees found all around the world today.
Every time I see an enlightened person who proudly telling us how he got enlightened by loyally sticking to one school or teaching, I can't help but thinking how this very person would be a suicide bomber had the circumstances of his birth and upbringing been slightly different. His strategy was crap, but he happened to succeed despite it. That's called gambling. And unskillful gambling at that. He doesn't really appreciate how close he came to completely deluding himself.
What almost no gurus, teachers, teachings, or schools talk about is how to select a valid and good school out of the giant ceasepool of teachings that exist within the larger spiritual marketplace. Have you noticed this? Virtually nobody talks about the pros and cons of various schools honestly. They all try to sell you on their method, while badmouthing and discounting all the others. Even modern teachers and enlightened masters, who are generally secular and openminded, tend to overlook this point. Because from their perspective they already know what they're teaching you is the truth. But from your perspective, you don't know that! This is a very important point. You can't trust anyone in this business if you want to avoid getting screwed. So you have to stick to a valid epistemic strategy.
So, what's the solution? Simple: shop around! Take a strategic, objective, open-minded, cosmopolitan, research-based approach. Spend at least a few years surveying the field and exploring your options before you get married to any one of them. And even then, I recommend never getting married at all in this domain. A professional doesn't marry his tool set.
Quentin Tarantino is an example of someone who intuitively nailed life purpose. Of course many other successful directors and artists have too.
I really admire his passion, creativity, and the fact that he was self-made. He didn't go to any fancy film school, but taught himself great film-making and storytelling just by analyzing great films. His is what a well-lived career looks like.
Ignore the content of his career. It doesn't matter whether you like his movies or not, just study how he made himself and his creative thought process.
Watch this amazing 1994 interview with Tarantino & Charlie Rose.
Pick up the subtle lessons here and apply them to everything we talked about in the life purpose course.
What the hell is an autodidact?
Simply, a person who engages in serious self-education, studying subjects deeply on his/her own time, in his/her own way.
Famous autodidacts include: Leonardo da Vinci, Goethe, Charles Darwin, Thomas Edison, Quentin Tarantino, Alan Watts, etc.
Read more about Autodidacticism on Wikipedia.
There's something really beautiful and powerful about this approach to education. In fact, I find it MUCH more effective than formal education. It just requires a deep sense of life purpose and passion to pull off, because no one is there to prod you along.
This might be rosy retrospection on my part, but if I could live my life over again, I would quit school, never go to college, and invest all that time into self-education. The more I learn, the more I learn how poorly learning is done by our social schooling system. It's really just terrible. It emphasizes all the wrong subjects and mechanizes what should otherwise be a highly conscious activity. The current emphasis on standardized testing is especially flagrant and outrageous. Real education has nothing to do with passing tests or memorization.
If you're a serious, ambitious, self-motivated youngster between the ages of 10-25, I highly encourage you to take your education fully into your own hands. Never has there been a greater time to go full-autodidact than now, in the 21st century. The world is your intellectual oyster. Don't let an antiquated and bureaucratic education system rob you of your most productive growth years. Start studying self-actualization hardcore, now! Start studying all the technical fields you need to execute your life purpose, now! The character this will develop in you will be extraordinary. The levels of mastery and creativity you'll reach will have no comparison.
If you are in college now and considering a master's or doctorate program, consider doing independent study instead. But only if you're the self-starter type, the entrepreneurial type. This path is not for the lazy. This here is like going off-roading.
Learning is one of the most beautiful and rewarding aspects of human existence. Teach yourself how to tap into this beauty, and never let it go.
There are 4 types of honesty: unconscious honesty, unconscious dishonesty, conscious honesty, and conscious dishonesty.
Conscious dishonesty is harder to pull off than unconscious honesty.
But if you're gonna be dishonest, make it the conscious kind, that way at least you are honest with yourself, and leave a crack open for redemption.
You sure you wanna open this Pandora's box?
Okay, here's the magic question:
"Where am I being dishonest with myself?"
Don't miss the Annual Exploring Psychedelic Conference 2017 in Ashland, Oregon!
May 25th and 26th, 2017
Organized by my friend Martin Ball.
2 full days of psychedelic-related lectures from pioneers in the field. Martin assembles an impressive array of scholars, researchers, doctors, activists, writers, and amateur psychonauts.
I really enjoyed listening to the audio recordings of last year's event.
I wanted to attend this year, but short on time. Hopefully next year.
If you got spare time, definitely check it out. Might be a life-changing event for you. Don't discount the power of networking events, especially ones where all the participants are super into spirituality and personal growth. That's a rare crowd.
The universe is vastly more intelligent than you. Human intelligence, and your personal intelligence, is a tiny filament of universal intelligence. The sooner you can grasp this, the smoother your life will flow. Here's why:
Your life is not random. The universe conspires to give you exactly what you need to grow. Not what you want, but what you need.
Think of yourself like a rough jagged stone. It can roll, but not very well. There's a lot of bumps and friction compared to say, a glass marble. The glass marble represents the ideal frictionless state. A state of full surrender. A state of full consciousness. A state of highest human maturity and development. A state where human intelligence becomes one with universal intelligence.
That is NOT your current state. Your current state is that of a jagged rock. So when you try to roll, it's painful. The pain points you experience every day of your ordinary life are PRECISELY those jagged edges which the universe wants you to smooth out. That's why your suffering keeps recurring and doesn't seem to end. Because you're failing to learn the lessons! The universe wants to turn you into a perfect marble. But you create very inventive ways to avoid the polishing process. You view it as hostile to your self, when really it is loving. You create ways to weasel out of it. Because its painful to get polished. If given the option between getting polished vs having an easy day, you'll probably pick the easy day.
The problem is... life is one loooong downhill slope. It's all about rolling. So when you avoid getting polished, you're just setting yourself up for a rocky ride. You can't be alive and not get rolled. The only question is, will you roll easy, or will you roll hard? Will you learn your lessons? Life is long and hard when you're jagged. The universe's purpose is to polish you. The reason you're alive is to get polished. This is the point of your life. If you don't understand this, you'll keep running away and keep experiencing a rocky journey. But if you understand this, you'll let yourself get polished and you'll have a silky smooth ride towards the end.
Your suffering is not random. In your suffering is great intelligence. Your suffering is literally your unenlightenment — is your specific ignorance. The intelligence of the universe is presenting you with life-scenarios which are designed to smooth you out in the EXACT ways you personally need smoothing. When you get into a fight with your Mom, when you get into a financial difficultly, when you fail at school, when you get into a car accident, when your spouse cheats on you, when you get a health problem, when you feel like quitting your meditation practice, when you distract yourself from self-inquiry — these are all messages of growth, calls to adventure, calls to your highest self. Guess what? The universe is not going to send you an email or text message saying, "Wake up!" It's much more elegant than that. It embeds the message straight into your life. How can you tell you have a message? Your suffering is the universe's "you've got mail".
Don't go looking elsewhere for growth. It's all the stuff you're avoiding. Money is not growth. A new relationship is not growth. A thriving business is not growth. Employee of the month is not growth. Growth is how you are BEing.
This, in essence, is karma. Karma is not some silly law of universal justice. It's the universe trying to optimize itself, the same way it smooths out rocks in the sea, turning them into elegant pebbles. When the rock doesn't understand the bigger picture, it's in for a grind. If the rock resists the process, it's in for a grind.
Happy living requires obeying certain spiritual laws. One of these laws is: let yourself get polished, dummy! Learn to read the messages and enjoy the process, because you've probably got a lot of rough edges on you.
I want you to rethink your notion of what hallucination is.
Various dictionaries define hallucination as:
- "Perception of objects with no reality."
- "A sensory experience in which a person can see, hear, smell, taste, or feel something that is not there."
In our culture, the label "hallucination" has a strong negative connotation because it implies a thing is unreal and hence inferior.
The problem, of course, with these definitions is that they assume a naive realist paradigm. Meaning, they don't take seriously the possibility that nothing may exist outside of mind. How can we ever distinguish a hallucination from a normal perception, given that the only thing we have of reality is perception itself? We can never validate our perceptions by matching them up to some other facts — not even in theory — because all facts must be perceived to be known. Perceptions are the only facts we've got! If hallucination is defined as a perception of something which isn't really there, then that opens the possibility that the entire world is a hallucination, because you can NEVER be sure that there is anything behind your perceptions.
And that's exactly right! The trouble is, people don't take this conclusion seriously. They dismiss it as some philosophical abstraction.
If you're like the typical person, you hold hallucination as a category of experience which is separate from ordinary "real" experience. To you, hallucinations are clearly unreal and inferior to real perceptions. But now I want you to consider the radical possibility that everything is a hallucination! Consider that there are not two categories of experience, one "real" and one "hallucinatory", but only one category: hallucination. You might wonder, "But Leo... Why call this one category hallucination instead of perception?" Because hallucination is closer to the fact. Hallucination is defined as perception without an object. Which is EXACTLY what we've got! Which is why mystics all around the world have referred to reality as "a dream", "an illusion", "Maya", etc.
Perception = hallucination! There is nothing else behind it! There is no physical, external world behind your everyday perceptions. Which literally means that what you think of as solid, tangible, physical, material reality is just a hallucination, albeit a rather persistent one — one which is shared by most of the people in your tribe. That is, until you start to play around with altered states of consciousness or psychedelics. Then you quickly realize how intangible, unreal, and hallucinatory your everyday experience was all along.
This is exactly why psychedelics are so effective. And also exactly why they are so demonized by mainstream culture. The problem with psychedelics from the social point of view is that they reveal the distinction between "real" and "unreal" to be an artificial construction. And that's bad for business.
The problem with people who demonize psychedelics is that they assume that they will ingest this physical chemical substance which will then alter their physical material brain, conjuring up "just" hallucinations. So why bother trying it, right? It's just going to be some wacky fantastical delusion which has no bearing on real physical life.
But this logic makes some overlooked existential assumptions: 1) An assumption is made that the distinction between "real" and "hallucinatory" is somehow inherent to reality rather than artificially constructed by human consensus. 2) An assumption is made that psychedelic experiences are less genuine or truthful than ordinary experiences. 3) An assumption is made that things like "the brain", "the body", "chemicals", "reality" are all REAL physical things, and not themselves hallucinations or conceptual constructions. 4) An assumption is made that a hallucinated chemical cannot interact with a hallucinated brain to reveal the hallucinatory nature of hallucination. But what if everything you've ever experienced or known, including the idea that your experience is "real", is just a hallucination? What if you're begging the question due to paradigm lock?
Think of it this way: if you are lying in bed sound asleep, you can dream up a hallucinated alien chasing your hallucinated body while you fight it off with a hallucinated machine gun which can puncture its hallucinated skin resulting it a hallucinated victory and even a hallucinated feeling of joy. So in a dream — precisely BECAUSE everything is a hallucination — a hallucinated weapon is very useful. Without it, you might get eaten alive!
Now, what if what you call "reality" works just like that?
That would be quite the mindfuck! Which is why so many people who casually try psychedelics get terrified. If we are familiar with the deep lessons of epistemology, that's exactly what we should expect when people make such deep existential assumptions so carelessly. You CANNOT accurately evaluate consciousness from a naive realist paradigm! The paradigm is so deeply flawed that the only way it can be sustained is by staying far away from any possible altered states of consciousness. Your life must be designed to maintain the consistency of your experience, because literally your entire sense of reality depends upon it. So if ever such a person happens to casually ingest a psychedelic substance, they have one of two choices: reject the experience, blaming it on the evil, delusional psychedelic, or swallow their pride, admit they were deeply wrong about the nature of reality, and have their entire paradigm overthrown.
Let me be very clear what I'm saying here: reality is literally a self-interactive hallucination, whether you're on psychedelics or not. There is no such thing as "real". The notion of a "reality" had to be constructed by humans! How else would it exist? It exists from the human's point of view. The reason it SEEMS so real is precisely because there's nothing to easily contrast it with — the hallucination is so all-encompassing you can't see its edges.
To avoid this inconvenient truth, mainstream society expends a lot of energy spinning intricate webs of belief, ideologies, and rules to construct and maintain bubbles of delusion which insist that ordinary experience is really "real". What society must tell you is, "No! Reality is really real! It is that way! We didn't construct it. We promise! Trust us. What, are you crazy??? Do you want us to lock you up in the loony bin?" But the truth is, the notion of "reality" is just a social convention. It is a useful convention in order to get a normative grip over the minds of the masses so they can be manipulated towards the propagation of the species.
No wonder the world is so ideologically fucked up. People are eager to kill other people over mere webs of belief because the very nature of reality and the success of the species is at stake (for them). Now that's what you call Maya at its finest!
The irony is that this insight was revealed to me by a psychedelic.
P.S. You might still be left wondering, "But Leo... What about REAL crazy people, like those who hallucinate demons? Aren't they really psycho?"
Well... Maybe they aren't as psycho as they seem. After all, what is the concept "psycho" but a social convention? If you really cared about understanding "psychos", you'd have to find a way to enter their paradigm, their reality. And if you ever did, maybe you'd agree with them ;)
When you're meditating, your face should look as limp as a sleeping baby's.
Relax your entire face!
Especially your jaw and brow.
Stay vigilant against facial tension and relax it away over and over again. It will take months of practice before your face learns to relax. So keep reminding yourself because you will forget.
Remember that body tension is the default position and happens unconsciously. Body relaxation requires conscious letting go (at least for neurotic adults).
Of course don't fall asleep as you do this. Be totally relaxed, but fully alert.
Watch these two videos. They will be important for your understanding of Absolute Infinity — or what Absolute reality is. I'll explain this a lot deeper in the future. The important thing to understand for now is that it's not just a theory. You can become directly conscious of it. If you ever do, you'll instantly recognize it as "God".
And here's a bonus video: Imagining The Omniverse.
First, let's not lose sight of the highest goal: it's far more important to just meditate anytime in the day whenever you can vs not meditating that day at all.
But once you've got that habit locked in, you might want to optimize it further. Best times to meditate are:
- Whenever you're naturally most alert and awake
- Immediately after a nap
- Early morning (as long as you aren't still sleepy)
- After orgasm/sex
Worst times to meditate:
- When you're dead-tired
- When you're sleepy
- At the very end of your day
- When you're motivated to be elsewhere: hungry, horny, busy, etc.
The general rule of thumb is: your meditation session will be most effective when you are most refreshed, most mentally sharp, and least sleepy. Whatever time of day that is for you, that's your ideal time to meditate. For some people that will be early morning. For others, mid-day. For others, right after gym. Etc.
Right now I meditate first-thing when I wake up, but this is not my ideal time, because I'm still sleepy and foggy. I like to have a second meditation session mid-day, when I'm most alert. Of course when I'm most alert I tend to procrastinate meditation the most because I tend to want to put that alertness towards getting work done. It's a counter-intuitive move to interrupt the peak of my workday for an hour of meditation, but this is an investment that will pay back in spades over the long term, so it's worth it — an example of applied strategic thinking.
Note: this rule-of-thumb also applies to self-inquiry. Especially so!
I find my meditation and self-inquiry ability skyrockets immediately after naps, and orgasm. Because in both these cases the mind is relaxed and attentive, but not sleepy.
Also, make a distinction between an established meditator vs a newbie meditator. Once you've spent a few years doing daily meditation, your practice will be strong enough that you can meditate almost anywhere, any time. But during those first few years of starting up your practice, you need to focus on building a quality meditation. This is where it really helps to meditate at the ideal time in the day. If you're a newbie, you need all the help you can get. It won't do you much good to ingrain a habit of meditating while you're dead-tired. Your results from that will be very minor compared to meditating when you're most alert. The key to meditation is to do it consciously, not mechanically.
Always be double-checking with yourself: "Has my meditation become mechanical? Am I just going through the motions of meditating but actually forgetting to be aware?"