Friday, November 30, 2007

drugs and mental rigidity

In 2002, I started having anxiety attacks. Their most potent trigger was drugs. I had my first one after combining Wellbutrin, Ritalin, codeine, Benadryl, and marijuana. My second one was from yohimbine. Then a caffeine pill. I finally figured out that the drugs were triggering these things after the fourth attack (from smoking pot). After that, I would sometimes have spontaneous attacks without any drugs, but drugs were the best trigger.

Why did the drugs start to have this effect on me? Before 2002, I was convinced that I could take any amount of any mind-altering drug, short of a physically toxic dose, without ill effects. I didn't respect people who "freaked out" on hallucinogens. I had taken insane combinations, like 700mg of dextromethorphan, 500mg of diphenhydramine, and as many balloons of nitrous as I could stay conscious for. At worst, I would have some restless energy toward the end of the trip.

I still have no idea what changed biologically. But subjectively, I realized that one cause of my anxiety was an increase in my mental rigidity. As a drug starts to kick in, it puts pressure on your mind-state on many levels. In the old days, before anxiety, coming up was a great feeling, and I would melt into it. In a lot of ways, I wouldn't even be the same person while tripping. The entire framework of my mind could be pulled fluidly by the drug.

When I was 19, my mind started resisting the pull. I don't know why exactly, but it was related to my social development. I feel like I have a lot more to say about this, but it's not coming to me now.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Monday, September 24, 2007

Saturday, July 28, 2007

benoit vs basal ganglia

I just had an idea that is too amazingly simple.

I was reading more in Supreme Doctrine. One of Benoit's metaphors is "training". He imagines the mind as a horse being ridden by a horseman. The horse is sort of like "subconscious", although not exactly. It's more like what you do. The horseman periodically (every other moment, or with long stretches in between) interrupts the horse and evaluates it, good or bad. This training is motivated by the idea that "heaven is just around the corner" -- if I can just get/change/accomplish whatever image, my fundamental distress will be solved. Benoit points out that the training itself isn't bad; for example, training your horse is what lets you develop the understanding that leads to enlightenment. In fact, if you try to eliminate the training, thinking that it is the root of your distress (which is, in a sense, true), then you're just training yourself not to train, which is at least as bad!

Anyway, my thought was, what if that is the basal ganglia loop?!? The brain is training itself through the dopamine signal (and probably lots of other signals). Maybe the horseman is cortical control or something else, but the key is that idea of the online training loop. That would suggest that this system is close to whatever in the brain actually is the root of distress. I know I'm getting way ahead of myself and this isn't well-formed at all. There's got to be something here, though.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

don't lay a finger on life

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

another thing with the cognitive scaffolding

I just thought of another purpose for cognitive scaffolding. Cognitive is periodically going to ask, "what's up?", and if it doesn't get a satisfactory answer, it will get agitated and start messing around. For cognitive to keep quiet, it needs an explanation of the situation in its own terms.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Monday, July 09, 2007

cognitive scaffolding for non-cognitive development

Here is another idea.

Not all personal development is cognitive. But maybe cognitive processes can facilitate non-cognitive development in some cases. An example would be where cognitive simply knows that it's not the whole picture. Or cognitive can get feedback and learn which of its patterns are leading into good transcognitive states.

Because cognitive is doing this stuff, it either stops itself from fucking up other processes, or actively helps growth, maybe by remembering to "do" a spiritual practice. (I love how cognitive thinks it is "doing" :-) ... not that it's not :-) ...)

This might be related to good kid's stories, which have deep messages whose motivation can't be understood by the kids; yet the pithy statement of the message sticks with the kid and guides them to absorb experiences that help to flesh out the motivation.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

this is normal

i just had a weird thought. i don't know if it will make any sense if i try to explain it. i was staring at my lab computer box and not really thinking anything. i drifted into the mental situation where i "feel my mind" for any drug effects. that part is hard to explain, too, but it's sort of like a particular "location" in my mind that i can probe to check out what my overall state is like. it feels almost tangible. this whole explanation makes the process sound very concrete, but it's really normally pretty subtle, and it's maybe even something i'm doing without thinking about it sometimes. anyway, the weird thought was, "no, i'm not on any drugs; this is normal". this is what normal feels like.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

email to

I was reading through the objections to the Hedonistic Imperative (, and I thought of one that isn't listed.

To preface this, I am really excited about your ideas. I'm so glad that there are people thinking like this and working to make substantive changes in the world. I'd just like to hear your take on the following issue.

What is suffering? Drugs like opiates or MDMA can make me feel great, warm, comfortable, loved. But in the back of my mind there can still be some "existential distress", like the "big problem" of my existence is still unanswered. [You might reply that solving this big problem just requires a more thorough re-engineering of my brain, but please keep reading...]

What if what we normally call suffering is actually part of the development/evolution process, and it's not intrinsically bad, but rather one side of a yin/yang-type dualism in the manifest world? A lot of times when I force myself to closely examine subjective experiences that I thought were "bad", I find out that they aren't actually bad; it was mostly my fear or avoidance that was causing me distress.

Sometimes it's when I feel most "existentially distressed" that I make the most internal progress. The distress forces me to address and open myself to parts of myself/reality that I otherwise wouldn't.

States of happiness or well-being are states of the self. Buddhism claims that suffering is caused by attachment, or wanting. When you feel an emptiness and you try to solve it by seeking the thing you think will cure it, you distract your mind. This process is actually what generates the self. But if you feel the emptiness and let it be what it is, then part of the self dissipates, and what's left is more enlightened. If we anesthetize ourselves against what is "bad" on the relative plane, then our selfs are reinforced.

Some people say "Love has no opposite". I think that means that although there are "good" and "bad" in the manifest world, the superior principle through which the universe is unfolding is neither "good" nor "bad" and has no dualism or opposite. If this is true, then in some sense the abolitionist project is already complete!

Now, to be fair, bad experiences clearly exist nowadays, and I think most people would agree that we should work to reduce suffering in the world. But I wonder about the difference between "working to reduce suffering" and "working to reduce the capacity for suffering". If someone has a broken leg, you set the bone, but if someone lost a family member, you support them and show them compassion as they heal. Through the healing process, you and that person both grow, and you grow closer to each other.

One more thought. "Bad" subjective experiences may actually be a constitutive part of development and growth. Just to throw out a crazy idea, suppose a network of neurons has learned a certain set of inputs pretty well. Now the network is exposed to new inputs and wants to change itself so it can generalize to both the old and the new. There may be an unsettled period between stably representing the old and stably representing both. (Something like an increased temperature parameter for the network.) What if that unsettled period *is* the material correlate of the subjective experience of negativity?

Friday, May 25, 2007

out of addiction (a hopeful hypothesis)

say you're addicted to doing X (X could be an external or internal behavior).

1. you "believe" that X will make you feel better. believe is in quotes because you haven't really looked at it yet; it's more of a reflexive belief.
2. you recognize that X actually doesn't satisfy that deep craving for something that it was supposed to satisfy. in fact, you may recognize that X even makes you feel bad. but you keep doing X because on some level you don't apprehend how it is hurting you.
3. you internalize and integrate the realization that X makes you feel bad and doesn't relieve your emptiness.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

I love the ontology of the universe, including appointment-scheduling people!!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

I'm reaching for your light
my hand is an eclipse

Friday, March 02, 2007

Yesterday's Enterprise

Jean-Luc Picard: How can I ask them to sacrifice themselves based solely on your intuition?
Guinan: I don't know. But I do know that this is a mistake. Every fiber in my being says this is a mistake. I can't explain it to myself, so I can't explain it to you. I only know that I'm right.
Jean-Luc Picard: Who is to say that this history is any less proper than the other?
Guinan: I suppose I am.
Jean-Luc Picard: Not good enough, damn it, not good enough! I will not ask them to die!
Guinan: 40 billion people have already died. This war is not supposed to be happening. You've got to send those people back to correct this.
Jean-Luc Picard: And what is to guarantee that if they go back, they will succeed? Every instinct is telling me this is wrong, it is dangerous, it is futile!
Guinan: We've known each other a long time. You have never known me to impose myself on anyone, or take a stance based on trivial or whimsical perceptions. This timeline must not be allowed to continue. Now, I've told you what you must do. You have only your trust in me to help you decide to do it.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

"Orienters" as part of the green-to-yellow meme transition

Green meme (postmodernism, relativisim) has a hard time figuring anything out, because everything is equal. Any perspective is just a perspective and can be stepped away from symmetrically. This is one of the key issues that Ken Wilber writes about. He calls it "flatland" or "Boomeritis". How can you make justified moral judgments if moral relativism is absolute? In fact, how can you do anything?

Yellow meme starts to answer this. It's true that there is no absolute, but that doesn't mean everything is symmetric. You can't prove anything, but that doesn't mean you can't think.

One thing that breaks the symmetry (from a subjective, epistomological point of view) is what I would call "orienters". For example, it's generally wrong to kill someone. The view that it's wrong to kill someone is "more correct" than the view that it's generally good to kill someone. It's not an absolute, because in some circumstances, killing someone could be the right thing to do. But it is a strong orienter.

Even stronger orienters are in the sensory realm. We can't be absolutely sure we're not hallucinating, but overall, "seeing the table" is a very good factor to use in decision making.


How can we rigorously justify any predictions that we make about the world? There are at least four big problems: 1) the world is non-stationary (i.e. any patterns, even dynamical patterns, are constantly evolving in time), 2) we are always only sampling the world (never getting a complete distribution), 3) processes that seem to be random are usually just encoding information that we don't have, and 4) we never know the structure of the system.

For example, if you know that you have 100 people, and 20 of them are smokers, then it makes sense to say "if you choose one person at random, the probability of him being a smoker is 20%". But what if you are given a die, and you ask the probability that it will land on "6" on the next roll. Now the "universe" of possibilities is all the rolls that you could ever make with that die (an infinite set), and the probability is the fraction of those rolls that land on "6".

If you start with the assumption that it's a fair die (and this is what people usually do, not just with dice but also in science), then you can easily answer "the probability is 1/6th", because you are assuming (not measuring) the whole distribution.

If you don't make that assumption, then the best you can do is roll the die many times and count how many times it lands on "6". But while you're doing this, the die is changing. Molecules are rubbing off the surfaces, the molecular lattice of the material is changing, etc. Also, to really answer "what is the probability?", you have to specify which information you're allowed to use. The way the die is thrown has a huge impact on its final position. If you know the way the die is thrown, then the probability is probably close to either 0 or 1.

The final problem, "we never know the structure of the system", is the worst problem. What if the die lands on an edge rather than a side (maybe it's being rolled on carpet)? This does more than adjust the probability distribution over the known possibilities: it pulls us out of the entire space we thought we were in. Regardless of what system you define, there are always other factors unraveling the edges. Probabilities are only meaningful within a fictional formal system.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Dear Reality,

What the fuck.

Friday, February 16, 2007


yo wicked gay but then today i think i'll be hardcore
if i forget to take my medicine then i'll be sick
i'm so hot to trot, i'm stealing all my beats from the blacks
and from all the young girls is where i steal my act

i'm not that cool
i'm just not that great
you suckers found out a little too late
you thought it'd be good
you thought it might rock
but your friends were right
i suck big cock

i've been denied all the best ultra sex
i tried to consume just like a super faggot
i got some dude
how can y'all bring a muthafucka something so good he couldn't say no
you nailed me hard
i love 'em when they don't give a motherfucking shit

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Gödel number for consciousness

whatever you are thinking about can't be the thinker, right? so what is doing the thinking?

Friday, January 26, 2007


Here's something that makes sense to my cognitive self.

I will never be able to solve the deepest problem of my existence, because it is a problem of transcending my self, and my self is what I am. So I can't do it. I can "want to get enlightened", but that is totally tangential to the actual thing.

Someone observed that spiritual teachers will sometimes take the approach of just pointing out things that are part of your awareness, so you recognize them. Recognizing them isn't intemporal realization, but it can help you to "realize" that everything in your awareness is already part of non-dual Everything.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

honey, i'm home

just what i thought, another fragile buddha

Friday, January 19, 2007

mix of Cohen and Wainwright lyrics

There's a blaze of light in every word
It doesn't matter which you heard
The holy or the broken hallelujah

Love is not a victory march
It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah

There was a time you'd let me know
What's real and going on below
But now you never show it to me do you?
Remember when I moved in you?
The holy dark was moving too
And every breath we drew was hallelujah

And even though it all went wrong
I'll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but hallelujah


There are a lot of practices that I've either read about or come to on my own. I never really know what to do at any given time, because there's not one practice to fit all situations. Sometimes the impetus for a particular approach seems to come from outside myself, and that seems to be the best, although sometimes "forcing" a practice seems to help, too.

-Talking to God as an other (usually asking for help with something)
-Talking to God as a way of being honest with myself
-Focusing on mind-states as they come and go
-Focusing on nothing
-Recognizing when I am dishonest with myself
-Recognizing when I am judging people
-Actively accepting things that bother me
-Noticing things that bother me
-Concentrating on body areas
-Relaxing socially
-Focusing on breathing

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Thursday, January 11, 2007

green meme on social/emotional line

It's been another big transition in the last couple days for me. Bree lucidly pointed out that I constantly judge people to be "good" or "bad". This is related to the working theory of social hierarchy that I held so strongly in my senior year at ISU. It was very natural for me to put people into categories based on whether they needed me more than I needed them. Now I'm starting to catch myself doing it. The orange meme process of categorizing and ranking is eventually exhausted (this is something I'd like to read more about -- Wilber says that development happens when the individual exhausts the limits of their current system, but how does that work?), and it gives way to a flat system where everyone is equally valued as a human.

This is one of the developmental areas that lags behind for me.