Tuesday, April 22, 2014


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Today I slept until 9 AM. I hurried to work, no morning coffee, no social media, just plain get up and go. Why is that well...

Yesterday, I practiced the half primary practice in the morning and after work I left to the yoga studio for hot vinyasa class. At the end of the day I was exhausted. That was the fifth yoga practice in four days. I am getting stronger.

Today I will go for another hot vinyasa yoga class and on Wednesday I will be on full primary ashtanga yoga class. I am so exited about that. That was my goal for this year, to complete full primary and now I'm still preparing myself for that. 

After evening yoga I went to Monk's Cattle, the bar at Royal York, and I had a wonderful time. The Monday's "beer nigh" is a really great opportunity to meet with my friends  and to talk about weekend  and to make plans where will we go out. After the bar, we left and had Apache burger. It is really awesome burger.


My dear readers, I am so optimistic these days. Life goes as it goes, I don't have too much superficial thoughts or worries. I don't think about my past, you know... divorce and such things. I have routine now and the routine is to do as much yoga as possible. I clearly noticed my mental chatter simply stop when I am tired, and I mean tired physically.

I left the comment to Paulo Coelho blog. I like reading his books as well as the blog. I like his simplicity with the words. So I asked him a question how to get out of this merry-go-around life. Will see if he is going to reply or not. 

Stamp of Approval by Siddharameshwar Maharaj


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Who is this 'I'? 

Once upon a time, there lived a man named 'Gomaji Ganesh' who lived in a town called Andheri. At one point in time, this man established custom in the Courts of Law that no order or document could be accepted as legal unless it bore a stamp with his name on it, along with the words 'The Brass Door'. 

From that point on, all of the officials of that town only accepted a document as being legal if it bore the stamp of 'Gomaji Ganesh, The Brass Door'. This procedure for making documents legal continued for a long time until eventually the stamp officially became part of the legal system of the city of Andheri, and no-one ever enquired as to just whom this 'Gomaji Ganesh' was. 

As time passed, it happened that one day an important document that did not bear the official stamp of 'Gomaji Ganesh, The Brass Door' was cited as evidence in a case filed in the Court of Law. Except for the fact that this document did not have the official stamp, it was otherwise completely legal according to all other points of law and ordinary procedure. At one point in the case, an objection was raised that the document should not be accepted as evidence because it did not bear the official stamp of 'Gomaji Ganesh, The Brass Door'. 

At that point, a courageous man who was a party to the lawsuit argued before the judge that the document was perfectly valid because it bore all of the relevant signatures of the current government officials. 

He argued, 'Why should the document not be admissible if it is otherwise perfectly legal except that it does not bear the stamp of Mister Gomaji Ganesh? 

Thus, he questioned the legality of the stamp itself. 

Consequently, the legality of the stamp was made an issue of contention. Until that day, no-one had ventured to bring this issue before a Court of Law. Since it had now arisen for the first time, it was decided that a decision should be made regarding the legality of this stamp. 

Out of curiosity about how the procedure of the stamp 'The Brass Door' came to be put in place, the judge himself took the matter in hand for inquiry. When his inquiry was completed, he discovered many years in the past, a man of no particular status, a Mister Gomaji Ganesh, had taken advantage of the badly administered government, and had put his own name on a stamp that was to be used for all official documents. 

From that time onward, all government officials simply continued to follow the tradition blindly. In fact, the judge discovered that Mister Gomaji Ganesh was a man of no importance whatsoever, who had no authority of any kind. When the judge made his discovery, a decision was made by the Court that the stamp was looked upon with ridicule. 

In the same way, we can inquire about the sense of 'I', and how it dominates everything with the stamp of 'I' or 'mine', just like the stamp of Mister Gomaji Ganesh described in the above story.

The point of the ride is the ride


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My dear readers, Happy Easter!!! 

I believe in Tooth Fairy and of course in Santa Claus but let me tell you Eastern Bunny is a stretch. :-)

Anyway, I hope you are enjoying the long weekend. Here in Toronto we have a nice weather. It is around 10 degree C. It is sunny with mild wind. Finally spring has come. We deserve it, such a long winter.

On Friday, after yoga practice, I went with my friend for breakfast in a restaurant on High Park. In that restaurant there is a big artificial tree and it looks amazing. I had to take these photos. 


I have practiced yoga on Friday, Saturday and today. You can see the pictures from yesterday's practice. I need more strength and flexibility. I need energy for my spiritual undertakings. I have started the practice of mindfulness - the full awareness of my thoughts and feelings. Will see what comes from that practice.


I want to discover the meaning of my life. Really I want answer. I feel it, it is something connected with spirituality - with awareness, consciousness. But still for me, the meaning remains under dispute. I do not want to make it the subject of philosophical struggles and metaphysical doubts. There is no end of that; the question is still here, and the answer remains uncertain.

As far as the meaning of our life is concerned, I think I could say that you, my dear reader, are no further advanced than I am. So we have something in common. We are baffled about the real question of our existence, here on this planet and generally in this universe. We do not know. We are completely uncertain. A lot of people simply do not care or, they are too busy to search for answers and some just make up couple phrases and they take care of their own business.

However, since I have to start somewhere, let's start with this thing that we have in common - our confusion. No one knows anything. All philosophy is just hearsay. All knowledge and science is worthless in regards to this question. Meaning of life stays as mystery. 

Oh they say, the point of the ride is the ride. Really? The point of life is the life itself?

Hmm. I don't know. I am confused. It sounds right, YET. Our world, has two aspects, the psychological and the physical. 

So where are we really? 

Yoga practice


2


The laughing heart by Charles Bukowski


3

your life is your life.
don’t let it be clubbed into dank
submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the 
darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you
chances.
know them, take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life,
sometimes.
and the more often you
learn to do it,
the more light there will
be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have
it.
you are marvelous


oh yes, there are worse things than being alone but it often takes decades to realize this and most often when you do it’s too late and there’s nothing worse than too late.

The Great Illusion of the Self


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What are you?
published by New Scientist

As you wake up each morning, hazy and disoriented, you gradually become aware of the rustling of the sheets, sense their texture and squint at the light. One aspect of your self has reassembled: the first-person observer of reality, inhabiting a human body. 

As wakefulness grows, so does your sense of having a past, a personality and motivations. Your self is complete, as both witness of the world and bearer of your consciousness and identity. You. 

This intuitive sense of self is an effortless and fundamental human experience. But it is nothing more than an elaborate illusion. Under scrutiny, many common-sense beliefs about selfhood begin to unravel. Some thinkers even go as far as claiming that there is no such thing as the self.

In these articles, discover why "you" aren't the person you thought you were.


The one and only you
written by Jan Westerhoff, published by New Scientist

There are flaws in our intuitive beliefs about what makes us who we are. Who are we really?

THERE appear to be few things more certain to us than the existence of our selves. We might be skeptical about the existence of the world around us, but how could we be in doubt about the existence of us? Isn't doubt made impossible by the fact that there is somebody who is doubting something? Who, if not us, would this somebody be?

While it seems irrefutable that we must exist in some sense, things get a lot more puzzling once we try to get a better grip of what having a self actually amounts to.  Read more...


You think you live in the present?
written by Jan Westerhoff, published by New Scientist

Our brains create our own version of reality to help us make sense of things. But this means we're living outside time.It seems obvious that we exist in the present. 

The past is gone and the future has not yet happened, so where else could we be? But perhaps we should not be so certain.

Read more...



Why are you like you are?
written by Michael Bond, published by New Scientist

You're so vain, you probably think your self is about you. The truth is slightly more complicated.

THE first time a baby smiles, at around 2 months of age, is an intense and beautiful moment for the parents. It is perhaps the first sure sign of recognition for all their love and devotion. It might be just as momentous for the baby, representing their first step on a long road to identity and self-awareness. 
Read more...



What are we to do?
written by Richard Fisher, published by New Scientist

Our perception of our self might be an illusion, like free will. But that doesn't mean we can't learn from it

"LET yourself go" now has a whole new meaning, but there are fewer things harder to let go of. Our concept of ourselves as individuals in control of our destinies underpins much of our existence, from how we live our lives to the laws of the land. The way we treat others, too, hinges largely on the assumption that they have a sense of self similar to our own.

So it is a shock to discover that our deeply felt truths are in fact smoke and mirrors of the highest order. What are we – whatever it is we are – to do?

First of all, keep it in perspective. Much of what we take for granted about our inner lives, from visual perception to memories, is little more than an elaborate construct of the mind. The self is just another part of this illusion.

And it seems to serve us well. In that respect, the self is similar to free will, another fundamental feature of the human experience now regarded by many as an illusion. Even as the objective possibility of free will erodes, our subjective experience of it remains unchanged: we continue to feel and act as though we have it.

The same will surely be true about the self. The illusion is so entrenched, and so useful, that it is impossible to shake off. But knowing the truth will help you understand yourself – and those around you – better.

The great illusion of the self - Part 3


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The great illusion of the self - Part 3
Why are you like you are?
written by Michael Bond, published by New Scientist


You're so vain, you probably think your self is about you. The truth is slightly more complicated.
THE first time a baby smiles, at around 2 months of age, is an intense and beautiful moment for the parents. It is perhaps the first sure sign of recognition for all their love and devotion. It might be just as momentous for the baby, representing their first step on a long road to identity and self-awareness.

Identity is often understood to be a product of memory as we try to build a narrative from the many experiences of our lives. Yet there is now a growing recognition that our sense of self may be a consequence of our relationships with others. "We have this deep-seated drive to interact with each other that helps us discover who we are," says developmental psychologist Bruce Hood at the University of Bristol, UK, author of The Self Illusion (Constable, 2012). And that process starts not with the formation of a child's first memories, but from the moment they first learn to mimic their parents' smile and to respond emphatically to others.

The idea that the sense of self drives, and is driven by, our relationships with others makes intuitive sense. "I can't have a relationship without having a self," says Michael Lewis, who studies child development at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, New Jersey. "For me to interact with you, I have to know certain things about you, and the only way I can get at those is by knowing things about me."

There is now evidence that this is the way the brain works. Some clues come from people with autism. Although the disorder is most commonly associated with difficulties in understanding other people's nonverbal social cues, it also seems to create some problems with self-reflection: when growing up, people with autism are later to learn how to recognise themselves in a mirror and tend to form fewer autobiographical memories. Tellingly, the same brain regions – areas of the prefrontal cortex – seem to show reduced activity when autistic people try to perform these kinds of tasks, and when they try to understand another's actions. This supports the idea that the same brain mechanism underlies both types of skills.

Further support for the idea comes from the work of Antonio Damasio at the University of Southern California, who has found that social emotions such as admiration or compassion, which result from a focus on the behaviour of others, tend to activate the posteromedial cortices, another set of brain regions also thought to be important in constructing our sense of self.

The upshot is that my own self is not so much about me; it's as much about those around me and how we relate to one another – a notion that Damasio calls "the social me". This has profound implications. If a primary function of self-identity is to help us build relationships, then it follows that the nature of the self should depend on the social environment in which it develops. Evidence for this comes from cultural psychology. In his book The Geography of Thought (Nicholas Brealey, 2003), Richard Nisbett at the University of Michigan presented lab experiments suggesting that Chinese and other east Asian people tend to focus on the context of a situation, whereas Westerners analyse phenomena in isolation – different outlooks that affect the way we think about ourselves.

Researchers examining autobiographical memory, for example, have found that Chinese people's recollections are more likely to focus on moments of social or historical significance, whereas people in Europe and America focus on personal interest and achievement. Other studies of identity, meanwhile, have found that Japanese people are more inclined to tailor descriptions of themselves depending on the situation at hand, suggesting they have a more fluid, less concrete sense of themselves than Westerners, whose accounts tend not to rely on context in this way.

Such differences may emerge at an early age. Lewis points to anthropological reports suggesting that the "terrible twos" – supposedly the time when a child develops an independent will – are not as dramatic in cultures less focused on individual autonomy, which would seem to show that culture sculpts our sense of self during our earliest experiences.

These disparities in outlook and thinking imply that our very identities – "what it is that I am" – are culturally determined. "I'm a male, I'm an academic, I'm a senior, I'm married, I'm a father and grandfather: all of these things that I define myself as are really cultural artefacts," says Lewis. Clearly there is no single pan-cultural concept of selfhood. Yet Hazel Markus, who studies the interaction of culture and self at Stanford University in California, points out that human personalities do share one powerful trait: the capacity to continually shape and be shaped by whatever social environment we inhabit.

While the evidence for "the social me" continues to mount, not everyone is convinced that it is always helpful for our well-being. To the writer and psychologist Susan Blackmore, the self may be a by-product of relationships. It may simply unfold "in the context of social interaction and learning to relate to others, which may inevitably lead you to this sense that I am in here" while bringing some unfortunate baggage along with it. She points out that the self can compel us to cling neurotically to emotions and thoughts that undermine our overall happiness.

Letting it all go, however, would mean undoing the habit of a lifetime.

The great illusion of the self - Part 2


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The great illusion of the self - Part 2
You think you live in the present?
written by Jan Westerhoff, published by New Scientist


Our brains create our own version of reality to help us make sense of things. But this means we're living outside time.

It seems obvious that we exist in the present. The past is gone and the future has not yet happened, so where else could we be? But perhaps we should not be so certain.

Sensory information reaches us at different speeds, yet appears unified as one moment. Nerve signals need time to be transmitted and time to be processed by the brain. And there are events – such as a light flashing, or someone snapping their fingers – that take less time to occur than our system needs to process them. By the time we become aware of the flash or the finger-snap, it is already history.

Our experience of the world resembles a television broadcast with a time lag; conscious perception is not "live". This on its own might not be too much cause for concern, but in the same way the TV time lag makes last-minute censorship possible, our brain, rather than showing us what happened a moment ago, sometimes constructs a present that has never actually happened.

Evidence for this can be found in the illusion. In one version, a screen displays a rotating disc with an arrow on it, pointing outwards. Next to the disc is a spot of light that is programmed to flash at the exact moment the spinning arrow passes it. Yet this is not what we perceive. Instead, the flash lags behind, apparently occuring after the arrow has passed.

One explanation is that our brain extrapolates into the future. Visual stimuli take time to process, so the brain compensates by predicting where the arrow will be. The static flash – which it can't anticipate – seems to lag behind.

Neat as this explanation is, it cannot be right, as was shown by a variant of the illusion designed by David Eagleman of the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, and Terrence Sejnowski of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California.

If the brain were predicting the spinning arrow's trajectory, people would see the lag even if the arrow stopped at the exact moment it was pointing at the spot. But in this case the lag does not occur. What's more, if the arrow starts stationary and moves in either direction immediately after the flash, the movement is perceived before the flash. How can the brain predict the direction of movement if it doesn't start until after the flash?

The explanation is that rather than extrapolating into the future, our brain is interpolating events in the past, assembling a story of what happened retrospectively. The perception of what is happening at the moment of the flash is determined by what happens to the disc after it. This seems paradoxical, but other tests have confirmed that what is perceived to have occurred at a certain time can be influenced by what happens later.

All of this is slightly worrying if we hold on to the common-sense view that our selves are placed in the present. If the moment in time we are supposed to be inhabiting turns out to be a mere construction, the same is likely to be true of the self existing in that present.

The great illusion of the self - Part 1


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The great illusion of the self - Part 1
The one and only you
written by Jan Westerhoff, published by New Scientist


There are flaws in our intuitive beliefs about what makes us who we are. Who are we really?
THERE appear to be few things more certain to us than the existence of our selves. We might be sceptical about the existence of the world around us, but how could we be in doubt about the existence of us? Isn't doubt made impossible by the fact that there is somebody who is doubting something? Who, if not us, would this somebody be?

While it seems irrefutable that we must exist in some sense, things get a lot more puzzling once we try to get a better grip of what having a self actually amounts to.

Three beliefs about the self are absolutely fundamental for our belief of who we are. First, we regard ourselves as unchanging and continuous. This is not to say that we remain forever the same, but that among all this change there is something that remains constant and that makes the "me" today the same person I was five years ago and will be five years in the future.

Second, we see our self as the unifier that brings it all together. The world presents itself to us as a cacophony of sights, sounds, smells, mental images, recollections and so forth. In the self, these are all integrated and an image of a single, unified world emerges.

Finally, the self is an agent. It is the thinker of our thoughts and the doer of our deeds. It is where the representation of the world, unified into one coherent whole, is used so we can act on this world.

All of these beliefs appear to be blindingly obvious and as certain as can be. But as we look at them more closely, they become less and less self-evident.

It would seem obvious that we exist continuously from our first moments in our mother's womb up to our death. Yet during the time that our self exists, it undergoes substantial changes in beliefs, abilities, desires and moods. The happy self of yesterday cannot be exactly the same as the grief-stricken self of today, for example. But we surely still have the same self today that we had yesterday.

There are two different models of the self we can use to explore this issue: a string of pearls and a rope. According to the first model, our self is something constant that has all the changing properties but remains itself unchanged. Like a thread running through every pearl on a string, our self runs through every single moment of our lives, providing a core and a unity for them. The difficulty with this view of the self is that it cannot be most of the things we usually think define us. Being happy or sad, being able to speak Chinese, preferring cherries to strawberries, even being conscious – all these are changeable states, the disappearance of which should not affect the self, as a disappearance of individual pearls should not affect the thread. But it then becomes unclear why such a minimal self should have the central status in our lives that we usually accord to it.

The second model is based on the fact that a rope holds together even though there is no single fibre running through the entire rope, just a sequence of overlapping shorter fibres. Similarly, our self might just be the continuity of overlapping mental events. While this view has a certain plausibility, it has problems of its own. We usually assume that when we think of something or make a decision, it is the whole of us doing it, not just some specific part. Yet, according to the rope view, our self is never completely present at any point, just like a rope's threads do not run its entire length.

It seems then as if we are left with the unattractive choice between a continuous self so far removed from everything constituting us that its absence would scarcely be noticeable, and a self that actually consists of components of our mental life, but contains no constant part we could identify with. The empirical evidence we have so far points towards the rope view, but it is by no means settled.

Even more important, and just as troublesome, is our second core belief about the self: that it is where it all comes together.

It is easy to overlook the significance of this fact, but the brain accomplishes an extremely complex task in bringing about the appearance of a unified world. Consider, for example, that light travels much faster than sound yet visual stimuli take longer to process than noises. Putting together these different speeds means that sights and sounds from an event usually become available to our consciousness at different times (only sights and sounds from events about 10 metres away are available at the same time). That means the apparent simultaneity of hearing a voice and seeing the speaker's lips move, for example, has to be constructed by the brain.

Our intuitive view of the result of this process resembles a theatre. Like a spectator seated in front of a stage, the self perceives a unified world put together from a diverse range of sensory data. It would get confusing if these had not been unified in advance, just as a theatregoer would be confused if they heard an actor's lines before he was on stage. While this view is persuasive, it faces many difficulties.

Consider a simple case, the "beta phenomenon". If a bright spot is flashed onto the corner of a screen and is immediately followed by a similar spot in the opposite corner, it can appear as if there was a dot moving diagonally across the screen. This is easily explained: the brain often fills in elements of a scene using guesswork. But a tweak to this experiment produces a curious effect.

If the spots are different colours – for example a red spot followed by a green spot – observers see a moving spot that changes colour abruptly around the mid-point of the diagonal (see "Spotted trick"). This is very peculiar. If the brain is filling in the missing positions along the diagonal for the benefit of the self in the theatre, how does it know before the green spot has been observed that the colour will switch?

One way of explaining the beta phenomenon is by assuming that our experience is played out in the theatre with a small time delay. The brain doesn't pass on the information about the spots as soon as it can, but holds it back for a little while. Once the green spot has been processed, both spots are put together into a perceptual narrative that involves one moving spot changing colour. This edited version is then screened in the theatre of consciousness.

Unfortunately, this explanation does not fit in well with evidence of how perception works. Conscious responses to visual stimuli can occur at a speed very close to the minimum time physically possible. If we add up the time it takes for information to reach the brain and then be processed, there is not enough time left for a delay of sufficient length to explain the beta phenomenon.

Perhaps there is something wrong with the notion of a self perceiving a unified stream of sensory information. Perhaps there are just various neurological processes taking place in the brain and various mental processes taking place in our mind, without some central agency where it all comes together at a particular moment, the perceptual "now". It is much easier to make sense of the beta phenomenon if there is no specific time when perceptual content appears in the theatre of the self – because there is no such theatre.

The perception of a red spot turning green arises in the brain only after the perception of the green spot. Our mistaken perception of the real flow of events is akin to the way we interpret the following sentence: "The man ran out of the house, after he had kissed his wife". The sequence in which the information comes in on the page is "running–kissing", but the sequence of events you construct and understand is "kissing–running". For us to experience events as happening in a specific order, it is not necessary that information about these events enters our brain in that same order.

The final core belief is that the self is the locus of control. Yet cognitive science has shown in numerous cases that our mind can conjure, post hoc, an intention for an action that was not brought about by us.

In one experiment, a volunteer was asked to move a cursor slowly around a screen on which 50 small objects were displayed, and asked to stop the cursor on an object every 30 seconds or so.

Self-delusion

The computer mouse controlling the cursor was shared, ouija-board style, with another volunteer. Via headphones, the first volunteer would hear words, some of which related to the objects on screen. What this volunteer did not know was that their partner was one of the researchers who would occasionally force the cursor towards a picture without the volunteer noticing.

If the cursor was forced to the image of a rose, and the volunteer had heard the word "rose" a few seconds before, they reported feeling that they had intentionally moved the mouse there. The reasons why these cues combined to produce this effect is not what is interesting here: more important is that it reveals one way that the brain does not always display its actual operations to us. Instead, it produces a post-hoc "I did this" narrative despite lacking any factual basis for it (American Psychologist, vol 54, p 480).

So, many of our core beliefs about ourselves do not withstand scrutiny. This presents a tremendous challenge for our everyday view of ourselves, as it suggests that in a very fundamental sense we are not real. Instead, our self is comparable to an illusion – but without anybody there that experiences the illusion.

Yet we may have no choice but to endorse these mistaken beliefs. Our whole way of living relies on the notion that we are unchanging, coherent and autonomous individuals. The self is not only a useful illusion, it may also be a necessary one.

I am the one and only

Think back to your earliest memory. Now project forward to the day of your death. It is impossible to know when this will come, but it will.

What you have just surveyed might be called your "self-span", or the time when this entity you call your self exists. Either side of that, zilch.

Which is very mysterious, and a little unsettling. Modern humans have existed for perhaps 100,000 years, and more than 100 billion have already lived and died. We assume that they all experienced a sense of self similar to yours. None of these selves has made a comeback, and as far as we know, neither will you.

What is it about a mere arrangement of matter and energy that gives rise to a subjective sense of self? It must be a collective property of the neurons in your brain, which have mostly stayed with you throughout life, and which will cease to exist after you die. But why a given bundle of neurons can give rise to a given sense of selfhood, and whether that subjective sense can ever reside in a different bundle of neurons, may forever remain a mystery.

The great illusion of the self - Introduction


0

The great illusion of the self - Introduction  
What are you?
published by New Scientist


As you wake up each morning, hazy and disoriented, you gradually become aware of the rustling of the sheets, sense their texture and squint at the light. One aspect of your self has reassembled: the first-person observer of reality, inhabiting a human body. 

As wakefulness grows, so does your sense of having a past, a personality and motivations. Your self is complete, as both witness of the world and bearer of your consciousness and identity. You. 

This intuitive sense of self is an effortless and fundamental human experience. But it is nothing more than an elaborate illusion. Under scrutiny, many common-sense beliefs about selfhood begin to unravel. Some thinkers even go as far as claiming that there is no such thing as the self. 

In these articles, discover why "you" aren't the person you thought you were.