Saturday, September 23, 2017

The long list of things I tried

Sometimes I'm amused by the sheer number of pseudoscientific and religious woo that I was involved in, or that I at least gave a chance, at some point. Especially seeing that during most of that time, I thought of myself as a somewhat rational person... After I wrote the list below, looking at it, I found it quite impressive and more than a bit shocking, really.
  • Fundamentalist christianity (of the catholic charismatic variety). Nothing to add here, really, we all know it's bullshit.
  • Satanism. I never actually believed it, but I was quite fascinated with Crowley for a while. I still think he's a very charming fraudster.
  • Kabbala. I never believed in it, but I read a lot of the literature and went to a lecture by the Kabbalah Centre once. I even gave a few talks on the history of it.
  • Tarot. I really wanted to believe that one. I even gave a few readings for money, until I learned about cold reading and realized that I had been doing exactly that all along, purely by intuition.
  • Wicca. I attended a wiccan ritual at some point, with high priestess and all. It was all very friendly and polite, but it felt incredibly shallow and noncommital. Coming from fundie religion, it just felt somewhat ridiculous. (Nobody was in the nude, by the way.) Oh and I had a little "temple" at home, consisting of a large cloth on which I had painted some symbols.
  • Buddhism. That one I'm still kind-of into. Over time, I learned to extract the meditative practice and reject all the metaphysical nonsense. I visited a real sangha a few times. I thought it was a valuable experience. I didn't crave any form of religious community at that point, so I never went back. I liked how the "sermon" was really more of a discussion with the whole group in one of those.
  • Tantra. Duh, you knew it had to be coming. By now I know how to distinguish between what's real and what's religious woo, so I can keep on practicing without fear of getting into anythng bad.
  • NLP (and other assorted communication teachings). That was the most expensive, by far. I did my self-hypnosis, which is one of the few things out of that whole mess that I would still recommend. It helped me give up smoking. But apart from that, it's just crap that turns people into monsters.
  • Pickup. Yes, been there done that. I never paid for any bootcamps or anything. I did get a few "lays", but I learned to see how destructive and inhuman it all really is, and I never overcame my "approach anxiety" in the long run.
  • Qi Gong, Tai Chi, Yoga etc. I would still recommend all of these, strictly as a physical workout. I practice some of it still, though I'm utterly incapable of performing any serious Tai Chi.
Just to show that I'm not completely cookoo, I never believed in: Astrology, crystals, pyramids, alien abductions, conspiracy theories, anti-vacc, Ouija boards, tachyons or Desteni.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Shallow truism of the day

"Is this the price for my inner peace?"

My little tarot experiment

At the start of this year, I picked a Tarot card for each week. I made a prediction based on that card. A few times so far, I checked my predictions against the facts.

Unsurprisingly, none of it was true. Some where somewhat close, some where too vague to decide anything. One was surprisingly fitting.

Just look at the card for September: Strength (reversed) I concluded that I would be out of my mind and undisciplined. What really happened, of course, is just the opposite: I am much more disciplined with my diet, I have been chaste for almost two months now, and I practice meditation a lot.

Still, when I pick a daily card, which I sometimes do out of curiosity, I tend to see it fulfilled in hindsight. I can almost feel my mind grasping for fitting patterns. Today it was The Ace of Swords, and yes I am doing a lot of thinking today. But, duh, I do that every workday, because of my job, I often read intellectually challenging books in my spare time, and I code weekend projects on the side. And really, a lot of cards would have been a good fit for today (so far): 3 Pentacles (I'll meet with an old friend) or 2 Cups; The Lovers (I will not talk about this one to be discreet); 4 Pentacles... I guess I can find some kind of match for almost every card.

I think it is proven beyond any doubt that there is no predictive power in Tarot cards.

It's still a fun little hobby of course.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Tantra, nofap, and chastity

I have not ejaculated outside my spouse's vagina in about two months now.

I guess that makes me somewhat special, and a bit of a specialist, hehe.

Recently, I've become very interested in the differences and similarities between tantra, the "nofap movement" (if you can call it that), and the bdsm chastity kink.

One surprising aspect of my current practice is that there is no "unbearable horniness". I don't experience my arousal as uncomfortable, nor am I in need of "release". I feel the "energies" flowing more or less all day, sometimes it makes me incredibly happy and sometimes it just is whatever it is... and sometimes I forget all about it and just go about my business.

In a way, this makes me an impossible candidate for my former chastity kink. I don't know how I would react if a woman does the whole tease-and-deny program on me, and I do get regular sex, so in a way it doesn't even count as chastity... but if we put that aside, I guess I can happily live this way for a very, very long time. Probably forever, though I guess there will be "relapses".

I am fairly certain that this incredible ability is tied to the lack of compulsive sexual fantasies. All the mindfulness meditation has taken care of that, I guess. When I engage in a tantric self-love session, there is practically no sexual fantasy accompanying it, as long as I don't deliberately conjure one up. It's pretty liberating.

Another effect is that I'm way more creative, and I feel most energetic and alive. I get more reading done, I write more, I'm just way more present.

I am doing those sessions daily now, by the way. I set my alarm to go off half an hour earlier to have time for that. I love it!

Of course, it's hard to pin it all down to that one specific activity. Correlation is not necessarily causation. But the correlation is definitely there. Definitely.

As for a bit of theorizing, I admit to some feelings of pity, probably even some fatherly condescension, towards the nofap crowd. They appear to come from a place of scarcity, neediness, and addiction, and they lack the tools that I have built up over many years now. It's all willpower and  If I were to try and preach to them (which I won't), even if they were receptive (which most won't be), I would not be able to pass on any knowledge. This journey can easily take years, it's next to impossible to believe it until you see it for yourself, and if you are steeped in helplessness and self-loathing, that's not a good starting place at all.

I have the impression that there is a deeply post-christian mindset going on there, in which the goal is to fix your own broken self by renunciation and asceticism -- through suffering. As hard as it is for me to say that -- they might have it easier if they did it for religious reasons and imitatio Christi, rather than just to escape their plight.

It is sad to see that porn has such a negative effect on many people. I grew up before the omnipresent, immediate availability of porn, and while I won't go on a moralistic loathing trip, (we didn't have access to a lot of useful information -- our early sexual encounters were not quite shiny examples either!) I see that this brings enormous issues. Of course, porn is not the root of the problem -- we have our neurotic view of sexuality to thank.

I was never one to watch porn, really. I enjoy beautiful non-porn-y pictures of naked women much more. Interestingly, I don't even do that so much these days, without any conscious effort on my part (I don't see anything bad with that, so why would I...)

Something weird and interesting is definitely going on here! Stay tuned!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Just some ideas for fun experiments

When it comes to tantra and kundalini yoga, I want to encourage a spirit of fearless experimentation, because I think there is absolutely nothing to fear, as long as you apply some common sense.

Once you are free from the irresistable urge to ejaculate, here are some fun things you might do. They all feel a bit different, and they all feel very good, and I find it interesting to simply note the differences.

  • Edge a few times
  • Not edge at all
  • Practice in different positions
  • Be loud, or be quiet
  • Engage your thighs: Vibrate or pulse, clench and relax in varying rhythms
  • Visualize different colors up or down your spine
  • Visualize those colors not necessarily just up or down your spine, but drive it anywhere you want
  • Up on the inhale, down on the exhale, or the other way around
  • Draw long breaths, or short ones, or even pant
  • Let go, and just feel
  • Hold your breath, then let go and feel
  • Stroke yourself, or don't stroke yourself
I'm sure there's lots of other stuff.

Also, let me add that, even though I obviously write from a male perspective, I do not at all endorse the view that semen is somehow special, contains the most qi, or anything like that. I just have no clue how tantra for women works, that's all.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Imagine...

Assume that it was possible to be in a state of bliss nearly all of your waking time.

Try to go beyond the nice little fantasy that probably evokes. Imagine it's really, really possible. You have reached that state. You can have that.

Would you want it? I mean, really, truly want it? Would you consider it a good thing? Might there be a downside to it, such as losing your sex drive, your passion for art or for your significant other?

These days, I often have the impression that I could be going there, at least for a while. All that tantric breathing stuff seams to really pay off now. At least, I am very much closer to this goal (which I never really knew I had, to be honest), than a few months ago.

I'm not at all certain if this is such an awfully good idea.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Things I do in a tantric session

Here are some things I always do in a tantric session:

* Relax beforehand in some way
* Be aware as much as I can
* Visualize/"Feel-ize" the energy up the spine
* "Breathe through the anus"
* Work without touching the genitals
* Clench the anal sphincter
* Clench the inner thighs
* Try and breathe in through the nose, out through the mouth

Here are some things I sometimes do:

* Meditate before I start
* Sit in the park before I start
* Soak in a warm bathtub
* Shoo away my loving cats
* Put on some background music
* Massage my cock
* Use an anal toy
* Massage deep into the area between the cock and the anus
* Edge for a while
* Lie down for the exercise
* Make the sphincter vibrate/quiver, so as to vibrate the prostate
* Moan, groan, or even sing
* Have one or three dry orgasms


Here are some things I (almost) never do:

* Ejaculate

On top of all that, I sometimes do some practice sitting in a chair (yes, I do some aroused breathing even at the office sometimes...)

Monday, June 19, 2017

Acceptance, not Passivity!

Every once in a while someone in a thread about buddhism and all that, ahem, stuff, mentions the importance of acceptance. Predictably, someone points out that we cannot simply accept ISIS, Trump, the Republicans, climate change, whatever.

They always get downvoted into oblivion. But... Isn't this the most obvious objection?

It certainly is one of my first thoughts, every time I hear or see a comment like that.

We all have stuff that we simply cannot accept. And that very fact is, in my view at least, the most important thing to accept. Political matters, relationship matters, family matters. Very important stuff. Stuff that needs to be addressed.

To me, currently, it's mostly about family, about the way my mother and sister treat my father after his stroke. The point cannot be to simply "let it go" and do nothing to help my own father. To revel in my own helplessness and dress it up as spiritual enlightenment. No siree, sorry.

The point is not that. That is moronic ideology, pop psychology, newey agey happy deppy thinkie pinkie winkey horsecrap. I wholeheartedly reject that, with no acceptance at all.

BUT.

I do challenge myself to really feel my own resistance. To first find out what this has to do with me, what it does to me, what exactly it is that makes me so angry, and what my intention truly is. I try to get to a point where I don't have to react to my own anger, where I don't have to blindly lash out against them -- against the persons involved, as opposed to the problems we're facing together. I want to reach a point where I can react to the issue itself, in the most effective and helpful way possible. This simply cannot be done if I am a slave to my own rejection.

In an odd way, I am at a good place for that practice. I tried reason, I tried anger, I tried lashing out, I tried interventions with people who I thought might have an influence... all to no avail. So the only place left to change is indeed myself.

To do that, I first have to set up my own limits. That part is extremely important. I cannot get there if I constantly feel like I'm under immediate threat. I have to realize that, right now, I am not there, and there is a chance that I never will be. So there have to be defences. For some situations, that might mean moving out, limiting contact, in some cases legal action. (Possibly even war? I honestly don't know.)

Those defences might come down in the long run, of course, but I have to be compassionate to myself first, if I want to enable myself to be compassionate to others.

And then... well... lots and lots of mindfulness, practice, training, meditation, I guess. Not become a poser in the process. Not try to project that I am sooo enlightened and accepting when deep down I'm the opposite.

This is a huge challenge. To me, to you, to everyone.

Please let's never lose sight of the fact that, for the most part, we are not there yet, and acting as if we were, won't do at all.

Obligatory link to my reddit comment on that matter.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

If contentment is subversive, then meditation is an act of revolution

More freedom, less exploitation.

Less need, more freedom.

More peace, less need.

More mindfulness, more peace.

More practice, more mindfulness.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

"Seeing things for what they really are" in Buddhism

Don't be fooled.

When buddhists talk about seeing things for what they really are (as they are wont to do), they do not mean anything the pesky nonbuddhists might imagine. Such as, seeing the sunrise in all its glory, or seeing the beautiful woman in the street as a real person instead of a sex object (hey, it's summer, guys, I'm just as horny as you!).

The phrase means to see things as impermanent, unsatisfactory, and void of self. These are called the Three Marks of Existence. They are directly connected with the Four Noble Truths and are fundamental axioms of the buddhist philosophy.

You may or may not subscribe to this worldview. Fine if you do. Fine if you don't.

I urge you to remember that this is a religious doctrine. Every valuable spiritual experience in buddhism is supposed to confirm it. If you come out of a meditation session with the revelation that things are permanent and very satisfactory indeed, you'll probably be escorted, very gently, out of the sangha. Or at least seen as a very odd kind of buddhist.

This ties into what I said earlier about Experience and Religion. The truth is, there is no way of directly experiencing all things as afflicted with the Three Marks. You simply don't have the experience of all things.

The Anicca part is the least problematic of the three. We all seem to experience that things start end end. Meditation makes it very apparent that this is the case for our emotions and thoughts, and it does so in a highly productive way. But if you jump from this experience, as universal as it seems to be, to a global assertion about everything in all possible universes, you're committing a fallacy of induction. All you can really say is that it is true, with very high probability, of everything you will ever experience.

Anatta suffers from the same problem, but on top of that, it is rather hard to define what a self really is, and whether this is not just a repetition of Anicca from another perspective.

Dukkha is a different beast. It doesn't fit in with the other two. Anicca and Anatta are ontological axioms, whereas dukkha has an element of psychology to it. Lumping it together with the other two seems inconsistent. It has little to do with "how things really are", and more with "how I relate to things".

In conclusion, I believe that buddhism asks you to take a few key assertions on blind faith, and then reassert them with every "experience" that you have. Buddhists do not experience the Three Marks, but they take them for granted, and then use this framework to interpret their experiences. The experience itself, I maintain, is anonymous. It might be better if we tried not to interpret it at all.


It is a religion. Don't be fooled.

Instead, meditate.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Experience and Religion

Assume you start out with meditation.

Presumably, you first read a book on buddhism, or attend a retreat or a yoga class. Then you sit down and do your thing.

Surprise, surprise! You find out that all thing are empty and void of self, that life is dukkha, and nothing is permanent.

The big question is: Looking inside, focusing on your breath -- what would you have found out, had you not read that book first?

========================================================

This is a real pickle. You can never be sure whether the insights you purportedly gained from your own experience are really yours, or just something you learned from others.

In buddhism, the experiences you have in meditation are always interpreted as evidence that the dharma is true. That is religious bullshit, in all its devastating glory.

Do you REALLY think that everything is impermanent etc.? Does that REALLY follow from your own experience? In almost all cases, I'm fairly confident that the answer to that is a resounding "no". At the very least, it would probably not lead to ideas of karma, reincarnation, and  boddhisattvas in bright robes...

You can derive, from the very same experience, that there is an eternal, albeit anonymous, self that watches everything. You can also derive that you are a brain in a vat.

I think that it is highly important, eventually, to liberate yourself from the teachings, and start to actually look at your own experience.

I wonder what this means for religions other than buddhism, too.

What actual insight stems from meditation?

I woke up this morning with a lot of anger. There was no reason for it, I didn't even have particularly bad dreams, it's just one of those days.

I'm sure there is a secular, physical explanation. Hormones, the male period, whatever.

It makes me wonder.

2500 years of buddhist meditation alone, which supposedly not only calms people down, but gives them insight into "how things truly are", and what really goes on inside. Direct insight into the mechanics of the mind. Direct observation of emotions and thoughts.

Assuming that, in all that time, not everyone was a phony posturing jerk such as myself; assuming that a few of those people were close to "enlightenment" (whatever that is), there should be some useful advice gained from all that meditation, right?

Advice which does not boil down to the boring repetition of a religious doctrine. Advice for people who would never ever meditate, who wouldn't assume a lotus position if their life depended on it. Advice that actually helps.

I have a hard time finding that advice.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Meditating the Psalms: Psalm 3 - Victimhood and Toothbashing


1.
מִזְמוֹר לְדָוִד:    בְּבָרְחוֹ, מִפְּנֵי אַבְשָׁלוֹם בְּנוֹ

A psalm that I put into David's mouth, because it fits nicely with one of the many stories we tell about him that are completely made up.

2.
יְהוָה, מָה-רַבּוּ צָרָי;    רַבִּים, קָמִים עָלָ

Oh how oppressed am I! Nobody understands me, while all the other people have no issues at all!

3.
רַבִּים, אֹמְרִים לְנַפְשִׁי:    אֵין יְשׁוּעָתָה לּוֹ בֵאלֹהִים סֶלָ

Many have pointed out that my god didn't seem to do an awful lot for me, but I don't want to listen, selah.

4.
וְאַתָּה יְהוָה, מָגֵן בַּעֲדִי;    כְּבוֹדִי, וּמֵרִים רֹאשִׁ

I rather choose to cling to my beliefs as if they were true.

5.
קוֹלִי, אֶל-יְהוָה אֶקְרָא;    וַיַּעֲנֵנִי מֵהַר קָדְשׁוֹ סֶלָ

Not that I ever heard any voice from that damn mountain of his. But still, it doesn't hurt to pray and wait for an answer, does it?

6.
אֲנִי שָׁכַבְתִּי, וָאִישָׁנָה;    הֱקִיצוֹתִי--כִּי יְהוָה יִסְמְכֵנִ

After all, I *did* wake up this morning, didn't I? Can't have been my body doing that all by itself due to its biology? Must be some celestial intervention that keeps me alive!

7.
לֹא-אִירָא, מֵרִבְבוֹת עָם--    אֲשֶׁר סָבִיב, שָׁתוּ עָלָ

Rather than try and look at my issues as they are, and try to deal with them realistically, it's much better to stick my head in the desert sand and hope for help coming from above.

8.
קוּמָה יְהוָה, הוֹשִׁיעֵנִי אֱלֹהַי--    כִּי-הִכִּיתָ אֶת-כָּל-אֹיְבַי לֶחִי
שִׁנֵּי רְשָׁעִים    שִׁבַּרְתּ

Maybe, if I imagine a real good bloodbath, my imaginary friend will then be more eager to come and give it to those bastards like they deserve. After all, peace is for sissies and people who don't have imaginary friends who might beat up their foes for them.

9.
לַיהוָה הַיְשׁוּעָה;    עַל-עַמְּךָ בִרְכָתֶךָ סֶּלָ

After the war is over, we can then thank the lord for all the bloodletting. Sela.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Meditating the Psalms: Psalm 2 - Delusions of Power from On High

Psalm 2

This is where things get hilarious, in a dark and grim way.

We want to have power, just like the big players all around. We want to imagine our king as protected by divinity, just as they do. We want him to be a son of god, just like them.


But of course, our history clearly shows that all of this is not the case. As much as we would like to paint our past as grandiose, we were always a sidenote in the power balance, a pawn and a tool. As soon as we had an empire, we lost it because of our infighting.


But we still have our imagination! We still have religion! We still have the King of Kings, and even if he never really intervenes, we can act as if he did. If our kings failed, that doesn't have to mean that our god failed, so we can still have hope. We can make pretty songs about him, hymns to him, and who knows, if we just have enough faith, just bring enough sacrifices, just condemn, vilify and humiliate ourselves a little bit more for a little bit longer...

Who knows...

Oh, you kings and empires. Oh, you evil ones! You will all come to see our true greatness.

You will all kneel before us.

When I am all grown up, dad will punish you for hurting me.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Meditating the Psalms - Psalm 1 (The way of the wicked)

Ps 1

The sheer thought of the utter frustration of broken promises, through centuries upon centuries of unanswered prayers and devotion to the dark void way up high, is heartbreaking and sickening. I feel utter sadness for billions of people who desperately tried to apply the idea that god punishes the wicked and rewards the just, while they watched their children die horrible deaths, got dragged into concentration camps or simply never found any lasting happiness in their lives.

A million candles burning for the love that never came.

Of course, those in robes, armed with bibles, ominous latin chants, and scourges, had clever words to cover up the insanity: sin, free will, theodicee. If you can't convince them, confuse them. Like a politician waging a war to cover up his failures, the believer had to be declared the offender, so deity could remain irresponsible, and the money would still flow in.

All of that, just because we were unable to resist the temptation to project everything good into father, fatherhood into monarchy, and monarchy into heaven.

May all sentient beings be free from suffering.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Just a little haiku


I found boundless joy
Hidden in my spirit deep
So I need not be

The difference between hypnosis and meditation

In hypnosis, you try and get the chattering monkeys to talk the way you want. You stand as monkey general before the monkey army and make them shout the order of the day.

In meditation, you let the monkeys chatter as much as they like. You just train yourself to not take them too seriously.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Noticing a change in my emotional reactions

Let's start with a somewhat strange story.

I have a history of intermittent meditation. I had a fling with buddhism about 10 years ago, broke away from it all, got into tantra, studied NLP, discovered that it's bullshit...

Several weeks ago, I was in a pub with a very close friend of mine. Late at night, we started challenging each other with NLP bullshit, by way of "I can talk you into a trance. See how you're getting tired and relaxed?"... That kind of stuff. We do that. We both have that background. It's fun to us.

Then I switched gears. "How about some meditation. Right now, right here, in the presence of 18year old boozers and lovely young girls?" Of course, ourselves had had a few Guinnesses and Jamesons and were fairly pissed by that time.

"Sure", he says. He couldn't step down from that challenge of course.

And we both went into a session of vipassana.

It was an odd, but strangely liberating thing. It felt good. It felt like breaking a taboo. Very empowering, that. I never thought that one could meditate on booze!

That whole ordeal sent me into a journey of rediscovering meditation, once more.

And I am seeing some changes.

As I'm *) breaking away from some automatic emotional reactions through mindfulness and some tantric breathing, I have a very weird feeling.

I look at reddit threads and other internet content and go: Huh. This would have had me all up in rage only a week ago. I would have HAD to comment on that. It would have been completely impossible to let that go.

Right now (and, fingers crossed, for a little longer! :-) ), a lot of things just don't get me upset so much. I laugh a bit more. I don't take it all as serious as I used to.

It is just that little bit easier to not get upset.

This is very, very liberating.

Don't get me wrong. I am very, very aware that this is nothing final or permanent at all, and I will have my share in a lot of useless drama still. But right now, this is utterly enjoyable.

I was at a somewhat similar place like this, back during my fling with buddhism. There's a huge difference though (mainly due to being 10 years older, I guess). This time, there is less pretension. Less need for some extraordinary experiences. Less urge to repress my thoughts (in order to appear holier to myself). I don't need all the metaphysical woo-woo just to be able to sit down and practice.

There is simply more joy now.

The main point, though, is that I now have more experience, and so I can trust my own practice better. I know what to expect, and more importantly: what NOT to. No superpowers. No transcendence. No loss of control. No weird becoming-other-than-human. I know that I can go back to normal, just by not practicing for a while.

This is good. This is very good.

I think, for the very first time in my life, I can say without cheese or irony: May all sentient beings find peace of mind!

(Also, don't worry, I still don't claim enlightenment for myself, and in most likelihood, I never will. After all, I do not believe that enlightenment actually EXISTS, remember?)


--------

*) slowly, temporarily, just a little bit... 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Re-Framing Enlightenment

I have been thinking for a while that the concept of enlightenment is a trap. If I may quote from my own reddit comment,
Personally, I think enlightenment is a trap and should be avoided at all costs. It sets an unachievable goal, it creates division between people, and it makes them talk for hours. Oh boy, does it make them talk! On and on about all the silence and calm. Babble babble babble. Monkey mind and monkey talk, from dusk till dawn about nonduality and enlightenment.
On the other hand, I am a lot into tantra and meditation and all that fancy "spiritual" stuff. I even have some vegan yearnings, sometimes, for crying out loud!

So what to do.

I think maybe we should replace the word enlightenment with something simple, "western", that people actually know: How about the word consciousness?

One consequence of that is that things become tremendously easy to explain.

The idea is that you are not truly conscious of your thoughts as long as you identify with them. It's more like they colonize your thoughtspace, rather than you grant them their space, graciously and with joy. A mind under occupation is not a free mind.

You can only be concious of that screen in front of you because you are in some way separate from it. You can observe it.

You can do the same thing with your thoughts.

The only difference is that you can hardly identify with the screen (or so I hope), but you will naturally tend to identify with your own thoughts.

But you don't have to.

If you choose to give your mind something to focus on, to train yourself to focus. You do that by focusing on your breath, simply because it is there, it is cheap, and it has a rhythm. Nothing more to it. It takes time and dedication, but that's really it.

Of course, total consiousness, 24/7/365, is still a complete and utter illusion. You just cannot have it. But you can have a fair share, and it's gonna be legen.... wait for it.... dary!

But it might be easier to not fall for the metaphysical trap, if you use terms that actually have meaning in the real world, rather than religious mumbo-jumbo.

An Example Of The Detrimental Effects Of Religion

There is a lady. Let's call her Carina.

Carina is 75 years old. Raised an atheist by socialist parents, she converted to catholicism at 30.

A few weeks ago, she told her children about how St. Anthony, the saint in charge of lost items, helped her find her lost wedding ring. Not only that, but her minister found the keys to the sacristy, which he had misplaced during some repair work on the building, after he had prayed to St. Anthony for help.

She was absolutely serious about that story. She really thought that the saint had helped her.

Now, Carina is highly intelligent, well educated, and had a pretty straight career going as long as she was still in the work force.

Ten years ago, she might have told the same story, but in a different tone. There would have been some irony, some winking, some tongue-in-cheekness. All that is gone.

It would not be that tragic. In fact, it might be amusing. Except that, due to the family situation, Carina has a certain amount of power over her ex husband. She drags him to church and practically forces that host down his throat. Her ex husband, of course, has left the church a million years ago and never wanted anything to do with that organisation after he left it. He used to be a very strong-willed individual, stubborn even, a successful businessman. Now he's in a wheelchair after a stroke, has trouble communicating and just lacks the willpower to assert himself. His current wife plays along because she won't risk to be the troublemaker.

Would Carina do stuff like that to anyone, if it were not for religious reasons? I highly doubt it. All her life, she was in favour of tolerance, a liberal within her community, an organizer of shared services between christians, jews, hindus and buddhists, all without any attempt to proselytize.

Of course, this development is probably due to old age, at least in part. But I maintain that a lifetime of training yourself to believe in idiotic, inconsistent, counterfactual doctrines comes at a cost. I maintain that religion is the huge destroyer of empathy, the enemy of compassion.

One cannot save another's soul without harming their personality.

Marketing Fluff

I am firmly convinced that religion is pretty bad for the world.

I am radically opposed to ideological extremism.

I think discrimination is an evil that we need to eradicate.

However, all of that is trumped by marketing fluff. Marketing fluff is so poisonous it should not be touched, felt, smelt, heard, looked at by any human being. Not through a looking glass, not with 100 feet poles, not with protective clothing. It slowly seeps into your brain and disintegrates it until it becomes a pus infested mush of nonsense and idiocy.

Marketing fluff is the true motherload of truly, utterly terrible ideas.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Ghost In The Shell (2017) Movie Review

*spoilers ahead*. You have been warned. Overall, I have almost nothing good to say. It's a decent popcorn flick if you possess the ability to shut down your ghost for 90 minutes.

Let's start with the good:

The visuals are stunning, and Scarlett Johansson is, of course, a very beautiful woman.

Now for the rest:

They played it so safe that the result is a stillbirth.

The acting is abysmal. Johansson never was a lot more than a pretty face, in this flick she has one facial expression, and one only. I could live with that if it did make sense in-universe, but Major Kusanagi is most emphatically *not* a robot.

The melancholia of the 1996 anime has been replaced with melodrama in this one, caused by shitty dialog and severe overacting -- most painfully, on part of Juliette Binoche, whom I still remember as a real first-class actress with a lot of bandwidth.

The story is just a stereotypical origin story.

They lost the humanity of it.

Heck, they even lost the humor. As an example, one of the four scenes that are almost straight copies from the anime is the one on the boat, where Kusanagi and Batou bond over some beer, and banter a bit. In the anime, when the Major chnanges out of her swimsuit, Batou sneaks in a peek, then looks away, but peeks once more. It's obvious that he likes what he sees, but his relationship with Kusanagi is a mixture of friendship, comraderie and professionalism, and he's rather protective of her, so he cannot go there. It's humane, it has a touch of humor, it's something to watch again.

In the update, they play all that in complete and utter seriousness. Major: "I can't trust anyone anymore." - Batou: "You do trust me, don't you?" - Major: "Yes I do." Gnarf.

I could probably live with the above -- I'm perfectly happy just watching Scarlett Johannson be pretty.

What I cannot live with is lack of character motivation, nonsensical plot points and actions that are out of place for a character.

Aramaki would not shoot Cutter like that, vendetta style, thus exposing himself to legal action. Why would the Yakuza host a hacker? Why would it be dangerous to just be in the same room with a ghost-hacked human? Why did the trash collector have to stand during the interrogation? How could Kuse get away after being shot by four machine guns on short range? Why did Cutter remote control the spider tank in the boss battle, when it was clearly established in the anime that those machines possess AI? How on earth did Kuse even get away, after they killed 97 predecessors? How was he able to sneak back into the building? Why would Cutter allow Section 9 to go after Kuse, risking exposure for his murders, when he has all his mooks and could easily just kill him with that spider tank all the time? Why would Cutter, when he monitors his disloyal employee, monitor her in a way that would easily allow her to give the Major an antidote instead of a poison? Why would they rely on their victims taking their "medicine", so their memories remain hidden, when those victims have to come in for regular inspections anyway? And, finally, why is the Major so incredibly valuable to Section 9? She might be powerful physically, but she's basically a borderline psychotic, ticking timebomb. She completely ignores a direct order in the first scene, for crying out loud, without any consequences from a boss who is supposed to be super strict.

Duh.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Help me, I'm SANE!

I've been doing some kind of tantric exercises for, I don't know, maybe 10 years or so, on and off.

Never once did I experience anything like "kundalini syndrome". No involuntary twitching, no sleeplessness, no itching, no hallucinations, no headaches, no mood-swings.

Instead, I consistently experience bliss, better confidence, more calmness, and greater sex.

Clearly, I'm doing it wrong.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Intolerant Yogis

I took a taste of attacking yogic ideas in a yoga discussion group.

It is quite interesting to see the very same reactions that christian fundamentalists would show: They interpreted the idea that was under attack in a metaphorical way to save it, they attacked the person to discourage criticism, they engaged in mind-reading and took offense at having their faith attacked.

It makes perfect sense. Every "spiritual path" is really just as dogmatic, closed to change and intellectually fragile as any other. It's not the content that matters; whenever you accept anything for religious reasons, you will tend to jump to defend it against attacks, or silently retreat from the discussion into some weird form of "tolerance". It's fight or flight. You have no way to defend your belief intellectually, therefore you have to react with anger and violence.

The virus was hidden in the way you adopted the content, not in the content itself.

Me and My Soapbox

Before you go to your war, learn empathy.

How do you learn empathy? By relaxing.

How do you relax? By being happy.

How do you be happy? By relaxing.

How do you get both? By facing yourself.

How do you face yourself? By breathing.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Peacock Pose

It's a yoga pose. It is said to burn up toxins in the body. It is also said to burn up bad karma.

Now, the first of those claims is just wrong, but at least in theory, you could try and prove it.

The second one however.... now that is just funny. How do people come up with shit like that? Even assuming you're a believer, how would one go about finding out whether this is true?

It also completely contradicts the often-claimed truism that "karma is just cause and effect". If that is the case, then how would a pose change any of that?

Jeez.

Friday, April 7, 2017

How Rationality Came To Nicea

I can just picture it.

================================================




Basilides: So, what we gonna do about dat damn transubstantiation thingie, huh?

Augustine: Uh, man, dunno. Call Holy Ghost Busters, maybe?

Athanasius: Come on, man. Be serious for a bit, will you? We canna bloody well have them believe jus whatever, right?

Basilides: Okay, okay. We gonna solve that sucker right now. Forever. Like, when they go, ey, christianman, tell me how dat bloody oblate thing work, we gonna tell them: Yo man, it's magic, that's what it is.

Augustine: Nah. Canna do that. They's gonna look right through it. Gotta tell them something... you know... something awesome. Some big ass shit. Like, it's da faiths, or sumthin.

Origen: Yeeeeah, that's sounds like it. Faith. Always a good thing, right. Have a little faith in me and all that shit.

Basilides: Yup.

Athanasius: But ain't they gonna say, like, that not real rational an stuff?

Origen: Yeeeah, but I already have sumthin for them says that.

Athanasius: Like what?

Basilides: Yeeah, let's fuckin hear it, man!

Origen: Simple. We gonna tell em, god is what makes them logics be logical. God da powerman of rationality. Cos god made it all, so god made da logic, too, right? No way outta that one.

Basilides: Well, yeah, but then ain't they gonna say that if god made da logics and it's all fuckin rational, why doesn't it be so rational now with the Christ being in da oblate an all? Shouldn'ta be rational then?

Origen: You ain't grokkin it man. It's fuckin brilliant. They gonna say that, alright. But we gonna answer them thusly: God is rationality. No rationality without god. But you gotta have faith in god first. Cos, well, god is rationality. So, no rationality without god.

Basilides: Okay. Now I'm impressed.

Athanasius: Gotta go pee, folks.

Augustine: It's brilliant, man. It really is. It gonna work.

Origen: Don't tell me. Born a genius. Didn't choose it for meself. It's a curse as well as a blessin you know.

Augustine: How so?

Origen: I gotta walk this valley of darkness with all you suckers to the day I die.

Athanasius (yelling from bathroom): You get to spend eternity with us too, remember?

Origen: That's what makes it so frightening.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Real Story of the Chakras

Here is an interesting article by Christopher Wallis about how the modern western concept of "chakras" came to be: http://www.corespirit.com/real-story-chakras/

The core claim is that the currently prevailing view of the chakras, and of yoga in general, has almost nothing to do with any ancient Indian philosophy. Instead, it is an invention of western occultism of the late 19th century.

What seems to have happened is that people like John Woodroffe translated sanskrit works with little knowledge of the language and huge occultist philosophies in the back of their heads. These were then used in turn by Indian writers who believed that they were talking about actual ancient Indian sources.

According to Wallis, the main differences between the modern systems and actual ancient ideas are:

1. There’s Not Just One Chakra System in The Original Tradition, There Are Many

2. The Chakra Systems are Prescriptive, Not Descriptive

3. The Psychological States Associated with the Chakras are Completely Modern and Western

4. The Seven-Chakra System Popular Today Derives Not From a Scripture, But From a Treatise Written in 1577

5. The Purpose of a Chakra System Is to Function as a Templatefor Nyasa

6. The Seed-Mantras that You Think Go with The Chakras Actually Go with The Elements that Happen to Be Installed in those Chakras

I cannot possibly decide whether there is any truth to that or not. It fits nicely with my personal predilections, and I would be interested to learn more. I put it out there for others to either support or refute.

One thing is for sure: It adds a nice little additional twist to all those right-wing christian warnings about yoga being an ancient demonic force that will insta-turn you into a Hindu...

Monday, March 20, 2017

Defining "Practical Tantra"

This is my second attempt to describe what I mean when I say "tantra". (You can read the first one here.)

Of course, every such attempt is just a very provisional effort. There is always more to explore. But this should give you a good place to start.

First, let me narrow down the term:


Tantra actually DOES include all the religious zealotry, the esoteric nonsense, the blatant prostitution, and the commercialisation that you might imagine. After all, there is no such thing as a tantra police, and everybody is free to do whatever they wish and call it tantra. (There is also, I'm fairly certain, every kind of abuse going on in tantric cults, and even in weekend courses. Always be safe! Just saying.)

I will call my special flavor of it "practical secular tantra" in order to distinguish it from other approaches. That's not a very cool or specific name, (in fact, I just made it up on the spot right now) but for this posting, it will suffice.

My approach is distinctly non-spiritual and rooted in western skepticism, but it does not reduce tantra to a mere sex enhancement technique either.

Now, the tag line version:


This is the very shortest definition I can come up with.

"Practical secular tantra" is a method to deepen your capacity for pleasure, in the most sensual way possible, in order to make you a happier, and thus a better person.

 

Next, there is the executive summary:


This is slightly longer, but, in my opinion, slightly more useful.

"Practical secular tantra" is a tool of personal development. It works by nourishing and harnessing your own sexual energy. That energy will then help you integrate body and mind better. The goal is to achieve more harmony, more inner peace. Ultimately, you might become a better person. Plus, of course, better orgasms and more fun every single day of your life.

Finally, let's break all of that down, sentence by sentence:

 

"Practical secular tantra" is a tool of personal development.


The tantric experience, like any other meditative technique worthy of the name, can help you become a little more relaxed, take things not quite so seriously, and more importantly, stop being such a ginormous egocentric pile of douchebaggery.


It works by nourishing and harnessing your own sexual energy.


Okay, you knew that it was about sex -- I mean, duuuh, right. In tantra, sexual energy is seen as the central life-force. If you connect with that and learn to let it flow through you, that experience can wholly transform you, and can turn your whole life from the head (the way it is now) back on its feet (the way it is meant to be).

This part is where most of the practical exercises have their place: Breathing, clenching muscles, visualisation, all in the service of recognizing, and then directing, your energy.

(This is also where all the mumbo-jumbo comes in: Chakras, mystical energy fields, "subtle bodies", the kundalini and its frights and terrors, dire warnings against going too fast, and so on and so forth.)



One important aspect of that is to let go of the immediate goal of orgasm, and to learn how to stay in the present moment even in the presence of sexual arousal.


There is a strong tendency to reduce sex to a race towards a goal. This not only makes sex way less joyful and free than it can be, but it also strips us of great opportunities to practice mindfulness.

You cannot feel that energy moving in your body, as long as your focus is on cumming. It's as if you were on a trip all around Europe, and you tried to take in the very beautiful scenery of Tuscany, but at the same time, you were already planning what to do the next day in Vienna. And then, Salzburg the day after that. It does not work.

The more you re-learn that presence of mind, the more you can enjoy sex. Plus, you become a better lover.

That energy will then help you integrate body and mind better.


It's a fairly simple thing, once you think about it: If you feel great, and sexy, and strong, and at peace, then you have more energy to really listen to your body. You will probably find more time for what really matters, too. That MIGHT mean, for example, that there simply is no need for that cigarette, or that chocolate bar. Without even trying...

The caveat: This is not a given. You cannot "use tantra to give up that porn addiction". It is only one more tool in your box. It will help you with some goals. It will completely fail at others.

The goal is to achieve more harmony, more inner peace.


Tantra is not primarily about better sex. Better sex is one important aspect, of course, and it comes quite naturally the more you learn to let go of the goal of orgasm. You learn to "ride the wave", and you experience incredible bliss. And then, after that, there is this whole inner universe of pleasure, and what's more: a kind of depth of experience. The universe, outside as well as inside, becomes ever deeper, more open, more intense.

Ultimately, you might become a better person. Plus, of course, better orgasms and more fun every single day of your life.


Here is a piece of my personal ideology: If we want more peace on earth, what we need is happy people.

Happy people don't wage wars. Happy people don't beat their spouses. Happy people don't feel the need to one-up you. Happy people can calmly get the job done without drama.

To become better human beings, we should not focus on perfect adherence to specific morals, on never crossing any lines. We should practice our pleasure: totally experiencing our inner and outer being, becoming one with ourselves. (That is the most esoteric you'll hear from me, I promise.)

That is precisely what tantra does: It deepens your capacity for pleasure, in the most sensual way possible.

(Please stand by for the next posting: Exercises of practical secular tantra.)

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Pleasure of Witnessing a Master Teacher

A few days ago, I had the absolute pleasure of witnessing a chess player teach his art to a young boy.

There was absolutely nothing patronizing about his attitude. He didn't talk down to the boy. He never corrected him. He did not care one bit about winning. In fact, when he saw a good move, he was genuinely thrilled about where that might lead the game.

When the boy made a move that was probably dubious, the man would say "Interesting choice. Now, let's figure out what might happen next. I might do this, and then this, and then this... So, let's figure out together how you could position your pieces even better?"

It was not like they were playing a game against each other, but just having fun together over their game.

It was truly inspiring, and the boy seemed to absolutely love every single bit of it. I would like to see way more things like that!

Trump ignoring a journalist

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cHol4--tC3s

The link is to a video where Trump ignores a CNN reporter because "your organisation is bad".

Here's what I would really like to see:

The next time Trump ignores a journalist like that, the next journalist he turns to should simply repeat the question of the first journalist. And then the next. And the next. Until he answers the question.

That would be so rewarding to watch!

Here's a link to the reddit list of Trump calling media "fake news" or similar:

https://np.reddit.com/r/politics/comments/5opf7m/trump_rips_nbc_news_on_jobs_report_its_fake_news/dcl7rb1/