Blessed are the lower middle class


You could for instance get a chess board and have years of fun with that. Or get Sims 2 and have years of fun with that, I guess.

“Lower middle class”? Actually, the founder of Christianity famously says, “Blessed are the poor”, but it’s not like anyone would believe that. I mean, if they don’t believe Jesus, why would they believe me? Actually, I am not sure about it myself in the most literal sense of poverty. Today’s headline, however, I’m pretty sure of. From personal experience, actually, but I hope I can also argue a bit more broadly.

First, affluence is relative. You may be just above the poverty line today, but by the standards of a hundred years ago you would be privileged indeed, and that’s before we factor in all the stuff that did not even exist back then, from antibiotics to the Internet. And even today, the lower middle class in Europe or America is rolling in dough as seen from parts of the developing world. The reason why people are still frustrated is largely that they compare themselves to the rich. This is no surprise, since the rich get a lot of media coverage.

Actually, that was my point number two, and possibly the most important. A lot of suffering comes from envy. Often it is not so much the money we want, but the status. This is an unfortunate side effect of how the primate brain works. It was made to function in small packs or tribes, where your status within the group was essential for at least two reasons. One, if food became scarce, the alphas would get to eat first. If your status was too low when the dry season set in, you could face starvation. In that case you would probably not pass on your genes and become my ancestor. Two, mating rights! For males, this would often manifest in quantity (and still does, just ask football or rock stars), for females in quality. So we inherited both the genes and the culture of those who kept reasonably close to the top of the pack.

Luckily, the food supply is no longer a problem except in the poorest countries. (Actually, too much food is more of a problem.) And even mating rights are not what they once were. People have a lot less kids anyway, and the kids tend to survive even if they are not able to wrestle cave bears at the age of twelve. If you really are obsessed with spreading your genes, you should probably raise your kids as deeply religious in an old-fashioned faith. It is certainly far more effective than having sex with pro wrestlers.

My point is, the motivations for staying on top are no longer valid. In fact, to the outside observer it looks quite a bit like the old farmer who tried to give his tractor hay. What was a perfectly rational behavior in the past can be perfectly crazy in a new and different age.

So what are you supposed to do instead of chasing status? Basically, become happy. There is a young science of happiness, which you may want to read up on. But basically it boils down to this: Don’t stress. Don’t expect any particular event (like a promotion or even a marriage) to create lasting happiness. Forgive people. Spend some time regularly helping others who are less fortunate than you. Do this and you should already be a long way toward lasting happiness.

I will also mention creativity. Whether you believe humans were literally created in the image of a Creator, or that the emergence of creativity marked our transition to true humans from merely smart apes, it should be something to celebrate. Given that we don’t actually need to impress anyone (status, remember?), why not find some way to express your creativity and go for it shamelessly? Drawing, painting, writing fiction or poetry, perhaps even some kind of craft. There are many activities that are not expensive at all, but can give you as much enjoyment as you pour time into them.

Whereas I personally see creativity as a subdomain of spirit, I also recommend taking up a spiritual practice such as meditation and/or prayer or chanting if you are religious. You may already have thought of meditation under the “don’t stress” part, but it is more than that. It is a chance to get hands-on experience with spirit, whatever that is. Your ideas about spirituality and religion may have been formed by more or less random events: By your parents, teachers, high school crush, things you saw on TV. You then pick up support for what you already want to believe from obvious sources, but how much experience do you have personally?

Timelessness takes time, as Robert Godwin so often says. In this at least there is no doubt he is right, as anyone can find out for themselves. You may find a crack in the cosmic egg, but then comes the laborious process of widening it. You may find a wellspring of grace, but then you dig deeper. You may find a stream of consciousness, but then you try to follow it towards its nonlocal source. Contrary to popular belief, life really is short. Eternity is long. Finding a piece of eternity in time is an extreme treasure.

Don’t get me wrong: You should definitely feed and clothe your kids rather than leave them behind while you run off to India to chant “Hare Rama” in an ashram. But there is no need to keep up with the neighbors. The neighbors are probably trapped in the knuckledragging Ice Age mentality anyway; it is no surprise then if they are better at dragging knuckles than you are.

Before you choose a path that promises lots of money but leaves you no time to help others or find your own still center, please give happiness a chance! If you don’t like happiness, you can try more money later.

Holosync, a realistic view


So, will it magically fill you with overflowing happiness as soon as you press the PLAY button?

Centerpointe Research Institute, which created and sells the Holosync solution, uses exaggerated claims and unrealistic expectations to sell their product. This is not necessarily as evil as it sounds. I may post another entry on why. Let us just assume for now that for the intended target group, there may be a strong placebo effect in addition to the actual physiological effect.

I don’t expect that target group to read this blog, although you never know in this age of Google. But I will angle this at the more rational reader, who does not expect miracles. How much CAN we expect from HoloSync, then? And why?

I have used the product in some form or another for over a month now. But in the beginning I had only MP3 copies, which are less effective since MP3 is a “lossy” format, it has less detail than the audio format used on CDs, so some of the very precise sound pulses will get lost. You may still get an idea of how it works, but don’t be smart and save the money by downloading MP3 files instead of buying.

Centerpointe rushed their demo CD to me (they rush almost everything, it seems) and so I started to use that. They admit on the CD that it is not “industrial strength” – in fact, Harris uses that exact phrase – but again it gives an impression. I used this day after day until the actual product arrived on March 9, then switched over. Since then I have used the Dive, which moves gradually through alpha, theta and delta waves over the course of 30 minutes. It is not yet time to use the next track, Immersion, that is designed to keep one in delta (deep sleep like) for another 30 minutes. I have however used the Dive an extra time in the morning the last few days to compensate for lack of sleep.

So, does it compensate for lack of sleep? Not really, or not completely. Specifically, dream sleep is much more than theta waves, although they may be responsible for some of the effects of REM sleep (theta seems to be the natural rhythm of the hippocampus, the “index” of our long-term memory). I have only the briefest of dream-like flashes when using artificial theta. It is an entirely different experience, despite the theta waves. This should surprise no one. We are basically hacking the brain here. The binaural beat creates a standing wave, and it is synchronized in both hemispheres, but that does not mean it completely fills those hemispheres. It can be suppressed easily by opening my eyes and looking around, or just moving in my chair, or even by thoughts and feelings. During sleep, there is a mechanism that switches out such distractions, giving the REM sleep full reign of the brain. Well, almost. There is always some kind of gatekeeper that will try to rouse us in case of danger, but it takes very little mental space.

I am sure I can become better at accommodating the altered states, with practice. There are also differences among people in how they use their brain. But we are definitely hacking here. We are introducing a particular pattern of brainwaves that merely emulates those that arise naturally. Some differences from the real thing should be expected. Instead it is reasonable to compare it to simply going about life without the brain hacking. And compared to that, there is clearly a difference.

Getting up in the morning is noticeably easier when I know I can slip into my chair and do a Holosync Dive. The Dive goes slowly through the whole range of frequencies from beta to alpha to theta to delta, and seems to clear out the fog that tends to prevail when I normally wake up. (I believe it is alpha, it certainly feels like alpha. When I wake up, I have this relaxed awareness without volition, much like when meditating. I am aware that I have to get up and do the various things needed before going to work, but I don’t really feel that it concerns me. Well, the Dive clears out that.)

Another use is to reduce the pain and excess mucus production from my sinuses after work. These things tend to grow worse over the course of the workday, but half an hour of Dive when I get home makes me feel a lot better. Of course so does a long nap, but it is hard to time a nap well. It is hard to make it long enough to have biological effects and not go into full sleep mode.


Another side of the coin (or is it a die? It seems to have too many sides for a coin) is the actual feeling or experience. Harris frequently talks about how most people find the Holosync sessions pleasurable, a pleasant buzz, feel good, look forward to them etc. I can’t say I’ve noticed any of that. There are points during the Dive when the sound effects make me dizzy for a moment. I guess people may like that. I don’t take pleasure from alcohol either – it has no effects on me until they point where I start to get a headache and queasiness / diarrhea. So this may well say more about me than Holosync. And Harris does mention that some people don’t feel anything special, and a few even feel bad. (In the last case, they should talk to the hotline about it.)

In any case, Harris makes it clear that he sees the experience as the least important part. Whether you enjoy it, hate it or don’t care, the effects on the brain will continue to accumulate in any case. Your stress threshold will rise, you will be able to think with both sides of the brain instead of one at a time, and (especially) your awareness will expand so you not only notice the situation around you but also your own inner reactions, and this is the most important part, because if you can change them, you can change everything in your life eventually.

So if you are addicted to the Holosync experience, you should still not exceed 1 hour a day. (You can use the extra CDs that induce alpha and theta waves, but no excess delta please.) If it has no effect, just keep your eyes closed and think of whatever you want. And if it is unpleasant, just observe it in a detached manner, knowing that it is your own brain that conjures up the unpleasantness to resist change. Try to keep it up, and call or write their helpline if you find it too hard.

This seems like excellent advise. The esoteric traditions of the great world religions agree to not be distracted by great white lights and magical powers, but just keep breathing (or praying).

So yeah, I suppose it could happen that you would find Holosync intensely pleasurable, but I would not bet on it. Nor would I bet on it suddenly changing you into some kind of superhuman. But anyone who takes the time to set aside an hour a day to become a better person is sure to reap some reward from it, and if you can do it while cheating a little on sleep and slightly improving your health, so much the better.

“Welcome to the family”


Your opinion doesn’t really count when people have first decided to be nice.

I came home from work, and checked my physical mailbox. I was mildly surprised to find a package. Less surprised than last time I found a package, which was only yesterday. This one was not priority rush express, so I briefly entertained the notion that it might not be from Centerpointe Research Institute. On the other hand, I can’t think of anyone else who would send me stuff I don’t expect. It was marked as “gift” and “educational material”, which would match my longest reader, who also for a while would send me random books. (This bag was definitely book-sized.) On the other hand, I think I have convinced her to stop with that, after posting photos of my book shelves covered in two layers of books. Plus, I did not recognize the sender town.

Yes, dear reader. It is the amazing Bill Harris, founder and director of Centerpointe Research Institute, who has sent me another book, his own well-received Thresholds of the Mind. I am starting to wonder if he even turns a profit anymore. At least this was ordinary mail, and as such much cheaper than the priority express he normally uses.

The package also contained a letter. It started with “Dear friend” and concluded with “once again, welcome to the Centerpointe family”. Perhaps it was this that made me remember.

Many years ago, in my early days living in the basement apartment that was my original Chaos Node, long before the website or even before the web came to Norway, there was in the neighborhood a girl I liked. There was no romantic relationship between us, not that everyone was absolutely convinced about that, but we were good friends. Her father was also a friend of mine, I was around mid between them in age. One day he suddenly showed up at my apartment with various pieces of furniture. I guess this is a side effect of the golden rule — I can only assume he liked having people show up with furniture without asking whether he needed it. And evidently our dear friend Bill is of the same type. Welcome to the family indeed.


And yes, Bill, I am using the Awakening Prologue. Twice a day, actually, because I don’t get enough sleep at night, thanks to my sock allergy. Or whatever it is. I wake up with my feet itching like crazy. But at least I get to remember my dreams by waking up in the middle of the night, so it is good for something. This time I dreamed about a tsunami. But only a small one. Nobody died — none of the people I was with, at least. I am not so sure about the people who were wandering out staring at the starfish and stuff on the exposed sea bottom after the water had pulled out and before it came rolling back in.

I don’t think the dreams have anything to do with HoloSync. It is quite normal for me to have scary dreams in the beginning of the night – in fact, the first often starts within minutes of falling asleep – and then they gradually turn more pleasurable toward the morning.

Anyway, I had wanted to write more about HoloSync today, but then something actually happened in real life, and I remembered something I don-t think I have written about. Perhaps another time!

Oh, and the tooth from yesterday? It hurt less after half an hour with syncing, and was fine in the morning (after five hours of sleep). Yay! But I think it might be wise to try to go to bed earlier or something. I just have to find something really boring to do before bedtime. Perhaps the book Bill sent me can help with that?

Dentist day again


Extremely important!  Hmm, then why did I not expect it?

Totally slice of life today. Well, I am glad to have a life to slice. Let’s hope it continues that way.

The big event of the day was going to the dentist again. If not, the big event would have been the visit from our supreme boss – I believe he is the boss of the boss of my boss’ boss, but I am not really a hierarchical person at heart so I may have missed someone. Probably not though. I believe over this guy there is just one more, at most two, before the King. Yes, we have a King here in Norway, although he is mostly for show. Anyway, synchronicity strikes again! The guy was slated to appear in our department at the same time I already had my dentist appointment. Since I had nothing unspoken with Big Boss, I went to the dentist instead.

It was a minor thing, as I saw it. Remember how I lose a tooth each time I buy a laptop? The last time I went to the dentist, he put in a temporary tooth (or “crown”, as the root is still there and (surprisingly) still alive. Still alive…

As for me, I am also still alive as of writing this (not ghost writer!) but my tooth hurts. This was not expected. I mean, all the preparations were done last time. All he did was pull out the temporary tooth, clean out the place where it had stood (it smelled death, it is kind of hard to clean UNDER a tooth after all), try the new on for size, drill off a tiny bit of the corresponding tooth in the upper jaw because it hurt biting, pull out the tooth, rinse again and dry, add some kind of glue, and press the new tooth down in the glue for a few minutes. That’s it. So why does it hurt almost as much six hours later?

Needleprick pain is one of our most precise senses, but inflammation pain is not. I can feel that the broken tooth is in pain, but I cannot say whether it is the gums (which were once again harshly treated) or the root canal (which is perforated by a needle, but hasn’t reacted to it for the last couple weeks). If it is just an inflammation caused by mechanical stress (kind of like your skin turns red if you scratch it hard) I am not worried. Moderate pain does not stop me from living my life as normal (although agony does – I just have a high pain tolerance, I am still human, despite my prior aspirations to the contrary). But an infection is an actual health risk. So much more so since these days, we are almost back to a century ago before penicillin was discovered. A big “NO-thanks” to all who use antibiotics against virus (where it has no effect) or “just to be sure”, allowing a wide range of bacteria to become immune to a wide range of antibiotics. Way to go to send us back to the dark ages guys!

So if this is my last entry ever, I was probably eaten by flesh-eating bacteria. Or perhaps I stumbled in the stairs and broke my neck. There is no way you’ll ever know. But you will know that using antibiotics as candy is bad, and that’s something.


But it would be a small day if it only had room for a dentist appointment and the consequent pain, right? So how about more HoloSync stuff, it being my current fad and all. (I have a meta entry about my fads lying around in case I should end up without a fresh entry one day, but it won’t be today.)

This morning I continued the tradition from the last two mornings to wake up earlier (or rather less late) and spend half an hour listening to the Dive, the basic soundtrack of the HoloSync Awakening Prologue. I had slept around 6 hours this time, in other words almost enough. (Not considering any sleep debt.) According to not only Centerpointe but relatively independent users, an hour of HoloSync in the morning is better than an extra hour of sleep. This is not to say you can completely replace sleep with HoloSync. I am not sure why not, but I haven’t heard of anyone doing it. The same goes for meditation. You can substitute one for another up to a certain point, but gradually the value of one will shrink and the value of the other will grow.

Anyway, this morning was the first time I stayed pretty much awake all the way through, even through the last minutes which are supposed to be delta waves. And I realized that sleeping through HoloSync is the easy part. Staying with it when you’re not sleeping and with the world’s best computer games only inches away from your hand is going to be the hard part.

I had another micro-dream this time. I almost opened my eyes, enough that I sensed brightness, and in the brightness I saw the street where I walk from work to the commute bus. It was an ordinary day and I was walking down the street as usual, but I was aware that I was actually sitting in my chair with my eyes just barely closed and seeing all this. Woo. It did not last long though. Not as much fun as Sims 2 or City of Heroes, but hey, take what you can get.

You’d think that would be enough HoloSync for one day, but then you would have counted out Bill Harris too early. (Founder and director of Centerpointe Research Institute, but I feel I have said this so often that I should abbreviate it or something.) I may have misjudged the man. He cannot be as greedy as I estimated from his slick salesman verbiage and the exaggerated claims for his product. If he was greedy – or even had a strong economic sense – he would not send me a bunch more CDs with NEXT DAY PRIORITY EXPRESS mail from across the Atlantic Ocean. That set him back $8.65, not counting the content, for stuff I had not ordered and would never have missed if he hadn’t sent it. And the price of the whole thing was pretty squeezed from the start. He really can’t be making much money from me. Although there is a chance that he thinks this will make me more likely to buy other stuff from Centerpointe, perhaps. Or perhaps he is more philanthropic than I thought.

So yeah, I came home from work and there was this thick envelope with CDs and a couple letters from Centerpointe. And an even thicker envelope with socks. I subscribe to socks by mail, and have done so for many, many years. It may end now, however.

Over the last couple weeks, I have had this crazy itch at random times on my feet. It usually starts on the ankle of one foot, and spreads to all of the sock-covered area except the soles of my feet. This happens several times a day, and I have taken to spending my time at home without socks because of it. The skin is now full of red dots and some larger cracks. Rashes? Something like that. I suspect the socks. I mean, it matches almost exactly with where the socks touch my skin. I don’t know if they have added something to the socks recently, or if there is a change in my skin instead. But I think it is time to try another brand of socks. That’s a shame, because they have served me very well for a couple decades now at least.


My gums are not the only thing hurting after going to the dentist. (Actually feeling a bit better now, thank you.) There is also the pain in my wallet. I paid my bills yesterday, and the dentist bill was the size of my new netbook and neural impulse actuator put together! This time was only about half that. Still, it is a remarkable place to live, where medical bills are merely symbolic, but where dental insurance does not exist at all (or perhaps it does for movie stars).

This month’s bill was overall remarkable for being more than my monthly income after tax. That is a rare thing these days, thank the Light. Of course, it is not every month I buy a computer, although it may seem so to the casual reader. Or break a tooth. Actually there was so much money in my account that I had to go back and check that there were no erroneous incoming payments, and that I had remembered paying my rent lately. No, there is not even remotely enough to begin thinking of buying a house; it is more the size of a decent used car. But given my socioeconomic status by Norwegian standards, and my attitude to money in general, that is still baffling.

Oh, and since this is all slice of life anyway, let me tell you about Symantec Norton 360, the antivirus and overall computer security program I use on my main computer. This is the computer that is connected to the Internet through a direct connection to the router (although the router itself uses a firewall that has only a few holes in it for basic services). Every some months there will be worms trying to get in through the ports, and Norton will catch them before they can hurt anything. It is kind of expensive for being useful so rarely, but money is not exactly a big concern in Norway. Also, it is very unobtrusive, unlike Norman, which I could get for free but which constantly whines and nags and boasts and interferes with normal computer use.

My 1 year license expired yesterday. For all of that day and all of today, the Symantec renewal service have tried in vain to connect to their server. Perhaps there is no such renewal, perhaps you have to buy it again, I don’t know. Neither does Symantec, evidently. It is kind of sad to see it strive so earnestly to call home, and nobody answers, for two days now.

It does not really inspire confidence in them, though, at least not enough for me to go out of my way to buy them again. I really only need the direct connection for BitTorrent, where I exchange Japanese TV programs that are not available outside Japan in any other way. I guess I should use Linux for that. I wish I had not lost the power supply for the old, old HP laptop. It is plenty good enough to run a BT client under Linux.

OK, that was slice of life, but not life as you know it. Very nerdy life. I guess this is a good place to stop. I’ve been reading about the causal body too, but I think this is verging on geek overload already. But if you think you could do it better, it takes 5 minutes tops to get an online blog. Come on, I’m all (movable) ears.

HoloSync vs. sleep


There are several reasons for lack of sleep… although in my case, our supergroup’s weekly gaming night isn’t until Wednesday. And even then I’ve usually had to skip it. Perhaps HoloSync can fix that too?

There is still some vegetation in my sinuses, although it mostly only blossoms up over the workday. Perhaps my workplace is cursed, there certainly are plenty of people who have felt the reason to curse us. Or perhaps work just sucks. There was some poll here in Norway a few years ago among the people on disability pension, and the vast majority of them reported good or very good health. This upset some people, who thought these folks were just relaxing with a drinking straw in our tax money, and not even sick at all. But the thing is, they were almost certainly ill, and many of them gravely ill, back when they had to work. Conversely, if we had the year off, we would be practically bursting with vitality. Work sucks. Even the Bible says so. But it has to be done. Even if that means my sinuses run full of stuff you don’t discuss during meals.

So on the night to yesterday, I went to sleep at a decent time, but told myself that if I woke up early, I would just get up and do a Dive (the entry-level HoloSync session) instead of trying to sleep more and get my bronchia full of goo. This also came to pass, although I should probably not have gotten up after only four and a half hours of sleep. In retrospect. Hindsight. 20/20 and all that.

The reason why I got up was actually also that I had just finished a rather dramatic dream, by my standards. It was certainly more exciting to me than I am able to describe it, but every bit as exhausting. I will write it later in the entry if it looks too short.

Anyway, I did the extra sync (I also do one after I come home, sometimes right after and sometimes later in the evening, but well before bedtime so I don’t go to bed too rested). I fell asleep, as usual, but I guess it helped. I did not fall asleep at work, or at least not for long. (I have written repeatedly about the value of naps at work. I don’t have as many of them as I used to, but often a short one, which restores my energy greatly in only a few minutes. Naps are good. People should do those instead of smoking and drinking coffee, and the world would be a better place.)

Fast forward to this morning. I had gone to bed too late, for reasons that fall outside this entry. So I only had 5:30 hours to sleep, while the optimum for me is 6:30 to 7, depending on my energy level. I decided against adding an extra hour to the timer, knowing that this will likely incur a cost when I try to get back. My body does not “go back” when it comes to wake-up time. Add that to the intestinal routines of my morning (again outside the scope of this entry) and I would soon end up at work after lunch. So once again I put my trust in HoloSync.

You may already know that yogis, gurus and Zen monks get by on much less sleep than most people. Because they meditate hours a day, and have done so for decades, something has changed inside them so that some of the meditation time counts as sleep time. Should I explain the biology of that? Normal sleep consists of several phases, which follow each other in a 90-minute cycle. The two supposedly essential phases are delta (deep dreamless sleep) and REM (vivid dream), but there is also time spent in vague, non-vivid dream sleep. People who wake from that “filler” sleep often believe that they have been thinking rather than dreaming, more so the older they are. (This type of sleep becomes more and more lifelike over time, in other words. It also makes up more of the total sleep time.) It is also worth noting that in the beginning of the night, delta sleep makes up more of the 90 minutes, while toward the morning REM takes up more time and delta sleep dwindles.

People who meditate very deeply enter into brain/mind states that are similar to some of the sleep states, but with the difference that they are passively aware during them, conscious instead of unconscious. In extreme cases they are also passively aware (“witnessing”) during actual sleep. I don’t know if there is any benefit to that except that it is cool. But making do with less sleep certainly sounds like a benefit to me!

Now HoloSync (and its competitors in the binaural technology) induce these altered brain waves through technology. The Dive starts with alpha waves, which are common in deep relaxation and just before falling asleep. It then moves on to theta waves, which plays some role during REM and possible also during filler sleep (I need to check that again) and which is slower than alpha. Finally it moves down into delta waves for the last part of the 30 minutes it lasts.

There is a second track on the CD, which you can set to play right after the Dive once you have gotten used to it, and it keeps you in delta for another half hour. That is substantially longer than you normally stay in deep sleep in one go, unless you are badly exhausted. I only use the Dive yet, however.

This time I stayed awake during most of the Dive, and minimally aware even during the last part. Although I lost volition fairly early, so that I could not have looked at my watch even if I wanted to (which I might be tempted to, since I did not have much more than the half hour before I had to go to work). I was surprised at staying aware so much for so long, since during all my earlier listens I have fallen asleep fairly quickly. (It still has some effect as long as your headphones stay on though, so no big loss.) This time I even had a very brief lucid dream scene, nothing interesting really (I was running toward our mailboxes and saw them coming closer and closer) but it was kind of cool to watch this and know that it came from my brain entering theta waves. (I can not normally visualize, the way most humans can, when awake. It just does not work.)

I was a bit tired at work, but I am pretty sure it helped at least somewhat. Normally I would have needed a 7 hour sleep at least since I was already in sleep debt from the previous day.

I think only the last 10 minutes or so of the Dive is actual delta, and perhaps 10 minutes theta, so it hardly makes up for a whole lost sleep cycle. But it does seem to mitigate lack of sleep somewhat. If I ever move on to add the 30 minutes of delta in Immersion, I ought to report any changes in my sleep habits here.

It strikes me that there are two groups of people who could benefit from this side effect. The most obvious is those who suffer from insomnia. If you don’t fall asleep when listening to the HoloSync tracks, that is considered a Good Thing. It is more effective if you are conscious at the time and can listen to it. If you fall asleep after all, well, sleep is what you don’t get enough of, right?

The other group is those who suffer from alpha intrusion in their delta sleep. There is a meme going around in the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome camp that this alpha intrusion is found in most people with the illness, and I have seen some who think it may be a cause of the chronic fatigue itself. Delta sleep is important for regenerating the body. There needs to be more study of whether delta without sleep has all the same benefits, but the few tests that have been done show hormone levels changing as if the test persons got lots of delta sleep. So theoretically binaural beat technology might restore function to ME/CFS patients, although they might need to use it for a couple hours a day for the rest of their lives. Also, they would lose their disability pensions, but if they are anything like me, they would probably rather work than be sick. Even though work sucks, being sick sucks more.

OK, this got pretty long. The dream was about getting off the train by mistake and chasing it. Not very exciting, I’m afraid. Then again it wasn’t a lucid dream at all. Lucid people rarely get off the train hours before their station. Although I am sure it happens and is more interesting to hear about than my dreams.

Change, awareness, colors!


Or, as I call it, experienced reality vs measurable reality.

I am still riding the wave of vaguely New-Age self-improvement stuff. Today I think I’ll just round up some odds and ends. There is no end to the oddities in this world and especially the New Age world.

For instance, I found this blog by a guy who had bought HoloSync and decided to journal his journey of self-improvement. “Changing myself” is its name, and it consists of 7 entries an February and March 2007. Then it suddenly ends, contrary to the stated plans of the author. What happened? Did HoloSync wake the demons in the dark corner of his heart and they made him end his life in a gruesome way? Did he leave everything to join a cult? Did his premonitions about a car crash finally come true? Or did he just get bored of writing a blog, like almost everyone else? In any case, we will never know the truth about HoloSync, or at least not from him.

Speaking of HoloSync, their constantly active founder and director Bill Harris is constantly trying to make the world a better place and sell HoloSync at the same time. For instance in “The Blog That Ate Mind Chatter”, he has an entry named “It’s all about awareness…”, a statement that sounds pretty close to what I’ve been talking about lately. Of course it leads to a glowing recommendation of his own product, but then again would he bother selling it if he did not believe in it? Well, perhaps if he was some kind of snake oil salesman. There is anyway a lot in this article that will be of interest even if you don’t hack your brainwaves. His revelation is eerily similar to the one I received around the age of 15 while reading a small tract by the Norwegian mystic Elias Aslaksen. At that time I suddenly realized that what happened to me was less important than my own reaction to it. And that’s the message Harris brings here too, except his is more about feeling good than doing good. There is a “hidden step” between what happens to us and how we feel. That step is our own inner constructs.

Harris also explains by example of small children how awareness grows from almost nothing in the beginning of our life and becomes stronger and stronger, giving us more and more choice. He claims that this process can continue as long as we live. Is this so, or does the increase in awareness simply follow from the maturing nervous system? Seriously, there is a great difference in the brain of a newborn baby and an older child. Not only in size, but in how connected the different parts are. In adults, new connections don’t happen automatically. I am not even sure (as Harris seems to be) that new connections will happen automatically if you listen to binaural beats every day. At some point, I think the connections that take place in “software” become more important than those that happen in “hardware”. You can’t listen yourself to Enlightenment.

The disciples of Ken Wilber agree. (Wilber himself has only overseen the writing of Integral Life Practice, not actually written any of the chapters. Still, I think we can say it is written in his spirit, more or less.) On the topic of “mind machines” and such, ILP only mentions these technological solutions briefly and in the same breath as mind-altering drugs. These are fine to use if you can do so legally and harmlessly, but they must be used in addition to and not instead of a traditional practice such as meditation.

Of course, ILP has its own weirdness. I’ve made my way through the various thoughts about physical training and nutrition, and come to the part where the Subtle Body is described in more detail. Chakras and meridians and auras oh my! I know this may be unfair coming from someone who lets an invisible friend tell him when the pasta is cooked, but I keep translating “subtle body” as “fantasy body”. Chakras and auras are great for ninja anime, but I would not entrust my health to them. That is not to put down the exercises that are supposed to strengthen the Subtle Body, such as yoga or Tai Chi. I am sure both the breathing, the postures and the focused intentions are good for the health. I just think they work by a slightly different mechanism than the ancient traditions believe.

For instance, I recently read of a study showing that patients with headache responded equally well to acupuncture that was genuine but had nothing to do with headache. Now, I am sure there are numerous studies that show the exact opposite. Why? Because unlike drugs, you cannot easily do “double-blind” tests with acupuncture. You have to either use an acupuncturist or a traditional doctor, for the simple reason that stabbing people wildly with needles is dangerous, illegal and unethical. And despite their best intentions, the acupuncturists and the doctors would send unconscious messages to the patients through their posture, their tone of voice, their expression of confidence (or not) and any number of other subtle clues. Subtle bodies indeed! So depending on who did the study, the outcome would confirm what they already knew to be true.

All this underscores the difference between measurable reality and experienced reality. Science is traditionally all about measurable reality, but if you want a truly encompassing system of knowledge (as the Integral movement strives for), you have to make room for experience. We do this in daily life: As I seem to say every few days, we still speak and act as if the sun really rises in the morning, even though we know it is the earth that rotates. To take another example that you may not know so well, the colors “brown” and “orange” are actually the same, except for context. If you get to look at any one of them through a cylinder that shows only the painted area and nothing else, brown looks like orange. Seriously, I have tried (with the roll in the center of household paper towels). And in Japan, green and blue are the same color. People can tell the difference when seeing them side by side, of course, but not from memory. This is not a biological difference but a linguistic one, but it affects memory in most people.

Well, that should be enough for one day! And in any case, the day is over.

Too many bodies!


Aaaaaa!  Dr Manhattan can’t understand why his girlfriend would want one of him but not two. It only gets worse as she finds the rest of him. Unfortunately the movie is not available for my picture taking yet, so the comic shall do.

Much as I tend to sympathize with Dr Manhattan, my problem is somewhat different. It is with the supposedly non-fiction book I’m making my way through these days, Integral Life Practices. I have finally made my way through the Mind module; it was quite long, as could be expected since the book was overseen by Ken Wilber, and the AQAL theory is his gift to the world. Then I came to the Body module. I expected various smart training techniques, but the first thing that happened was that I was told I had 3 bodies.

Oooo-kay. Uhm, I seem to have 3 bodies all of a sudden.

Now, before we consign our new friends to the loony bin, there is a question we need to ask ourselves. Do we ever dream lucid dreams? Not as in dreaming about Lucy, although I suppose that could happen too, but dreams in which we know we are dreaming and yet we keep doing it. I know I have done that, but only a few times and not for long. I have not specifically sought it out, to be honest, because I like to have some time off and my dreams are definitely “off”. I am known to do things in them that I would not dream about doing in waking life.

Some otherwise normal people do some lucid dreaming, however. And people who have greatly expanded their awareness through years of meditation can, from what I understood, not really avoid being conscious even if they happen to dream. Or even, eventually, during deep dreamless sleep. I have only once, by accident, been down there with my awareness. It’s a pretty weird place. Anyway! When you are dreaming, you seem to have a body. Evidently this is the “subtle body” which is your second body. And then there is the even more subtle “causal body” made of stillness, which you have during deep sleep. So that’s the excuse. I guess it makes sense, for sufficiently obscure translations of “body”.

Regular readers of the Chaos Node may notice that the three bodies seem to map fairly well to my concepts of body, soul (psyche) and spirit. I suppose the concept of them all as bodies may be for the purpose of combining them, as the rest of the chapter does. As can be expected of an integral practice, their recommended exercises combine all three: Infusing physical exercise with the energy and feeling of the psyche and the witnessing presence of the human spirit. More exactly, each exercise starts out with “grounding” in the witnessing presence, then doing energy-raising exercises, then the actual strength training, then a cooldown and finally a repeat focus on the witnessing presence.

More weird English: The typical way of invoking the witnessing presence is to “Notice the such-ness and is-ness of this and every moment.” I assume this is translated from Sanskrit or Pali or some such, it is certainly not English. Although I suppose the German noun “Dasein” may have inspired one of the phrases. (Not to be confused with Dasien, an online comic superheroine who has never suffered from Wilberitis.)

More about this later, probably, if my own body / bodies hold up.

Bringing awareness into everything


Open your mind… and look inside.

I have continued reading Integral Life Practice, which I guess is a small form of integral life practice on its own.

I mean, there is reading and there is reading and there is reading. On one end of the spectrum there is escapism reading, the “trashy novel” and such, which lets the reader enjoy a freedom from the normal restraints, and escape into what I call “lower worlds” where you feel powerful and your surroundings easily conform to your fantasies. On the other extreme is the contemplative reading of Holy Scripture, in which your purpose is to ascend to a “higher world” which is greater than you and commands your awe and obedience. And of course in between these you have the purely informative non-fiction, which sets out to inform us about the “real world” in which our bodies already live.

Integral Life Practice does not qualify as Holy Scripture – Ken Wilber’s AQAL is a philosophical system rather than a religion – but neither is the book purely informative. It seeks to inspire the reader to grow toward his highest potential. As such, it transports the mind to a slightly higher reality which you then have to move your real life into by living a disciplined life to some extent. The discipline in this case is the Integral Life Practice from which the book has taken its name.

I have now come to the Mind module, the second of the four main modules. A central tenet of ILP is that you have to practice something from each of the four modules every day, even if it is just a tiny 1-minute exercise. The Mind module centers on the AQAL system itself. It sees reality as consisting of four quadrants. Things can be either internal (to the mind) or external (physical). They can also be either individual or collective, or should we say singular and plural. But all these things are explained lucidly by Wilber himself for free on the Net. Likewise the concept of lines, in this case lines of development. For instance you can be highly developed along the cognitive line (you’re smart!) but poorly along the moral line (you’re a scoundrel). Likewise you can be spiritually advanced but neglect your body. And so on – there are a number of lines, mostly taken from decades of science done by others.

Now the idea is that you can use the “practices” to shore up the lines that are lagging disastrously, especially if they are main lines. (Your musical skills may or may not have a bearing on your life, although they could certainly enrich it if you have the opportunity. Your interpersonal development is pretty much essential, unless you are a hermit in this life and aiming for Nirvana – extinction – in the next.) Besides getting out of trouble with your weak spots, you can also identify your special talents and develop these for the good of the world. Evidently mediocrity does not command much sympathy in the AQAL camp – there is little mention of the lines where you have just trudged along passably.

The authors make special note of the fact that several spiritual teachers of great repute have had their life and teaching marred by sexual misbehavior. This is not a purely American thing, I remember the elders in the Christian Church pointing out the same trend among the more airy wing of the Pentecostal movement. This is what happens when one thinks spiritual growth can run ahead without Shadow Work. The Church was big on Shadow Work, at least in its early years. The thing is, if you have this kind of weak spots, they can totally ruin all the good you thought you could do.

The purpose of the Mind module is basically to make the reader aware of all the different facets of daily life: The quadrants, the lines, the levels and the types. By bringing awareness into everything, we get new choices. We don’t need to react automatically, as we often do. Merely knowing that things have different sides, and that people are different in so many ways, can be helpful. But awareness is something more than just bookish knowledge. It requires us to be present and witness the things we are aware of. This is where the practices – exercises, if you will – come in. And that is why we should think of AQAL every day.

I think this is a most excellent idea, to shine awareness into every corner of our daily life. Whether this really is the ultimate Theory of Everything, and whether it does a better job than certain other life practices, is open to debate. But given the human tendency to shrink back from awareness and into an automated life, I can only cheer on this attempt to go in the opposite direction.

Shadow work


You don’t need to know what a Kokuchi is – the link to darkness is true for even the most trivial of “possessions”.  Whenever we have to say “I don’t know what possessed me”, the shadow was there.

Let’s continue looking at my latest purchase, the book Integral Life Practice which I wrote about yesterday. The first of the four essential modules is the Shadow Module. I think this is an unfortunate placement, albeit understandable.  The authors have reason to be excited that they have included this module at all.  If you think “shadow work” is an alien phrase in mainstream literature, imagine the New Age movement where people start their day with positive affirmations of the type “I am God. I attract health, wealth and happiness.  I deserve to be happy.  I manifest everything I want by the power of my mind.

Long time readers will be familiar with my studies of automisanthropology, the science of why I, of all people, am up to no good. I have been at this since my youth, and consider it a major reason why I am generally happy in my near-hermit life. Living closely with oneself without having done shadow work is likely to be uncomfortable if not outright dangerous. So yeah, shadow work for the win!

However! In the book, this is the first of the four basic modules. And while the authors sensibly mention that a good therapist is the common way to go about it, they don’t let this stop them for long. After all, you may not be able to or willing to see a mental health practitioner. So they quickly move on to their quick, bare-bones gold star method for assimilating your shadow, the 3-2-1 method.  This name comes from the starting point of thinking of the shadow in the third person, as something remote and external; then talking to it in the second person, as a “you”, and finally assimilating it into the first person, I.

This probably works, with some practice. And the book is all about practice – it’s actually in its name. But perhaps you should wait a little longer before you set off to reclaim the parts of yourself that you have thrown down the stairs to the basement and locked the door after. Because there may just be a reason why one would go to such an extreme step with a part of oneself.

Shadow work is not a hobby, to be undertaken for the excitement of it. At the very least pick your shadows carefully, because you really don’t want them to take over your house and throw you down the stairs to the basement, then lock the door.

The authors have been practicing various self-strengthening techniques for many years. In order for you too to be able to face your own shadow, you should first make sure your body, mind and spirit are not a total wreck. If you worship a god, be sure to enlist its help too. I agree that shadow work should be done concurrently with the other three, but I would like to put it at number 4 rather than number 1. It should be approached with great caution, after careful preparation.  But approached it must be, eventually.

Overall, we aim to gradually increase awareness in our lives.  Awareness is the silver bullet, the panacea, the skeleton key, the cheat code to the game of life. (OK, actually it is more like the “sudo” command in Linux, in that you have to use it over and over, not once and for all. But you get the point.)  As we gradually raise our awareness in all parts of our lives, we cannot avoid becoming aware of our projections and our repressed parts. In which case we have to either take a good hard look at them, or give up this whole awareness thing and shrink back to a more constrained state of mind with fewer choices and more slavery.

As I said on September 16, 2001: If you want to see the rainbow, you have to face your own shadow.  I mean that literally:  This is the way light works in the natural world. But it also has some deeper meaning. The rainbow, in the ancient Hebrew myth of Noah’s Flood, was God’s promise that he would never utterly destroy the world.  But if we want that hope, we have to face our shadow.

More about the book later, Light willing.

Integral Life Practice – first look

di090312 Proof that I have at least unpacked it!

So I have cracked open the book I got in the mail the other day. I have even read the first chapters. Obviously I can’t give anything like a sensible review until I have either read it through or thrown it in the recycling bin. Even then, I shall have to be cautious, for this is a book that could save or damn the world.

The concept of integral life practices looks very much like what I in my near future fiction called “the Innerways”. This is not surprising, since when I made that concept, I already had a cursory knowledge of Ken Wilber’s theories, and had taken an interest in them since they resonated with my own writing about what I call “the Next Big Thing”, the necessary shift in human consciousness to enable our new role as stewards of the planet rather than simply one of its millions of species. The way from our current halfway apelike state to that frightening responsibility goes through the Innerways, the practices that prepare each of us to reach our highest aspiration. The book Integral Life Practice is an attempt at just that, guiding individuals onto the beginning of those paths.

For those who haven’t read or don’t remember my series of essays in 2005 (starting June 18), let me briefly state my own position. This is one of the most important things I have written about. In fact, it is one of the few important things I have ever written. So bear with me for a paragraph.

Our ancestors until around 60 000 years ago did not have culture as we know it. Well, recent findings show outbreaks of it here and there in Africa, but scattered and temporary. Mostly they lived like their ancestors a million years earlier, despite having the same body and brain as us. At some point there was an explosion of creativity, traditionally associated with the invention of abstract language, although we don’t really know that. There has been a lot of upgrades since then, but none nearly as fundamental. There is a gaping abyss between any healthy human today, even the naked Stone Age hunters of the jungle, and our ancestors who knew nothing of inspiration or aspiration. A similar leap, I believe, is about to happen again. The Ice Age mind will give way to something so much greater that it is hard to believe we are the same species. Either that, or we’ll all die terribly along with most of the planet’s higher life.

The Innerways – or integral life practices – are the perfectly natural, non-magical things we can do while we are ordinary humans, but which will at the same time move us toward the next stage. It may be that we who live today will never be part of the next phase – actually, I am pretty sure of this – but we have to move in that direction, so that the next generation can stand on our shoulders and reach for the stars. We may not become more than human, but we have an obligation to become more human than we were.

The genius insight of Integral Life Practice is to serve a “balanced diet” of such practices, which can mutually strengthen each other. This is not a new concept – “a healthy soul in a healthy body” is an ideal that has lasted for millennia. But it is extended to four core areas: Body, mind, spirit and shadow. (Shadow here refers to the subconscious, not to demon worship or some such.) I know many people today think that spirit may be an epiphenomenon, kind of like the sun seems to rise and set while in reality it is the earth that rotates. But even if you don’t believe the sun rises, you would still be a fool to think the night will last forever. In the same way, spirit is an experienced reality, and you ignore it at your own cost. Spirit – in the form of aspiration and inspiration, at the very least – has been with us since we became human.

This was pretty random, as can be expected of a chaotic mind in a sick body after a brief look at the beginning of a new book. I am not going to recommend it just yet, but I sincerely hope to complete it and test its basic ideas – to the extent that I have not accidentally tested them already. The terrain seems strangely familiar.

Oh, and one more thing: The book is a very accessible read for something so groundbreaking.

PS: I found that the book was also recommended by Bill Harris, of HoloSync fame. It is a small world Integral movement after all!