Leo's Blog: Infinite Insights — Page 7
Do the following quick exercise:
Go look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself, "Who told me that that's me?"
Seriously! Go do it right now.
If you're a very rational, scientifically-minded person, or an atheist, this is the perfect exercise for you.
What evidence do you have that you are that thing in the mirror?
Seriously! I'm not kidding. This is not an armchair philosophy exercise. This is a hardcore science experiment.
How do you know what you're supposed to look like?
Could it be that you've simply assumed that that thing in the mirror was you without actually investigating the matter?
Is there any scientific evidence whatsoever of how you are supposed to look like? How would you even make such a determination?
Can you recall how in your early childhood it wasn't at all obvious that you had a body, knew it's parts, or knew how it looked? Can you recalling having to acquire all those notions?
Now, notice that your mind will come up with all sorts of objections and rationalizations for why you really are that thing in the mirror.
But I hope you're wise enough not to blindly trust that mind of yours. After all, isn't that your biggest gripe with religious fanatics? That they blindly believe in unwarranted things... that they beg the question?
Well, watch out! Maybe you've been committing that very same sin your whole life. Which, by the way way, would explain that grudge you hold towards religion.
Who's begging the question now? Oh, how the tables have turned! Oh, the delicious the irony! Oh, the hypocrisy of rationalism!
If what I say is true, can you begin to fathom the significance of it? Not philosophically, but ACTUALLY!
If you're planning your own solo retreat, you'll need to bring way more supplies than you think if you want things to go smoothly.
Here are my essentials:
(An * asterisk denotes a CRITICAL item)
- Strong LED flashlight*
- Multi-tool/utility knife*
- Small but WORKING umbrella*
- Small first-aid kit*
- 1 gallon of drinking water per day*
- At least 2 fleecy blankets*
- Paper towels*
- Toilet paper*
- Make sure it's soft, so you can use it as Kleenex for if you catch a cold
- Trash bags*
- Small and large ziplock bags*
- Small bags = 1 quart, large bags = 1 gallon
- Plastic food containers
- Hiking water bottle/canteen*
- Lite backpack*
- Cooler for food
- Small & lite folding lawn chair
- Ground blanket or mat for meditating outdoors
- Dishwashing soap & foam scrub pad
- Dish drying rags / small hand towels*
- Pens, paper & clipboard, or spiral-bound notebook
- Tennis shoes & flip-flops*
- Warm indoor slippers*
- Plenty of socks*
- At least 2 hats (one warm, one cool)*
- Warm gloves
- Clothing for warm & cold*
- Light rain jacket*
- Shorts & long pants*
- Comfortable, loose meditation clothing*
- Hiking stick
- Bath towels*
- Cooking gear: spatula, stir spoon, pots & pans, rice sieve, etc.
- Plates, bowls, cups
- At least 1 fork and 1 spoon
- Measuring cup
- Cooking knives
- Aluminum foil / plastic wrap
- 1 baking tray for using oven
- Can opener (if you're using any canned food)
- Cooking oil
- Salt & spices
- Raw honey
- Light herbal tea, or green tea
- At least 2 alarm clocks & at least 2 meditation timers*
- Do NOT use your smartphone as a clock, timer, or alarm!!!
- Spare batteries
- Post-it notes
- Electric heating pad
- Any medication you need*
- Allergy meds
- Especially ones for if you catch a cold
- Nail clippers*
- Chap stick*
- Dry-eye drops*
- Toiletry supplies: toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, shampoo, spare contact lenses, lens cleaner solution, deodorant, shaving gear, etc.
- USB charger
- Car phone charger or battery charger
- Meditation cushion
- Rope / twine
- Jumper cables in your car*
- Large plastic tubs/containers to hold and carry all the above
Of course, depending on your cabin/living quarters, you may have some of these things already provided, like a blender, cookware, plates, etc. But you can't be too sure. Anything you assume they've got, might be broken or totally missing. So double-check all your assumptions or assume it won't be there when you arrive.
And I didn't even mention the food.
Yes, it's a lot of stuff, but remember, the goal here is to set up an environment where your mind can focus 100% on meditation. Handle all the mundane matters ahead of time. It's very distracting when you're missing something essential like toilet paper.
What not to bring:
- Makeup, perfume
- Books, magazines
- Self help products, unless you're specifically doing a self-help product retreat
- iPads/laptops, unless necessary for business emergencies
- Video games, Netflix
- Psychedelics, unless you're specifically doing a psychedelic retreat
- Coffee, tobacco, alcohol
- Junk food: candy, potato chips, beef jerky, Ramen noodles, protein bars, frozen pizzas, TV dinners, wheat products like bread or pasta, dairy products, soda, ranch dressing, mayo, fruit juices, baked goods: cookies, bagels, croissants, etc.
- Red meat, smoked meat, bacon, sausage, salami
- Pets, children, friends, spouses, girlfriends/boyfriends
- Unfinished business, lingering work tasks
These are 10 end-of-the-day summations of each day of my solo retreat in the Arizona pine forest.
There was too much footage to upload to Youtube, and it was too detailed for a general audience, hence I'm posting it here.
Note: Keep in mind this is unvarnished, unstructured footage, shot amidst a hardcore retreat which pushed me to my limit. All my attention went into meditation, not presentation.
Have you seen the 2007 film, Into The Wild? If you haven't, it's a great self-actualization-themed movie based on the true story of a young guy who goes off to live and die in the woods after graduating college. You should definitely check it out. An inspiring story.
But if you've seen it, here's a little insight I got about this film while doing my 9 day solo meditation retreat in a cabin in the woods:
If the movie resonated with you, or made you emotional, it's because you seek enlightenment but don't even know it.
It seems likely to me that neither the main character (Chris McCandless), nor his family, nor the writers, nor the director of the film REALLY understood what his journey was about. How can I be sure of this? Well... it's just a guess, I can't be sure. But because what he was searching for is just too damn difficult to stumble into by accident. It's too subtle and too radical. And it cannot be known through any books or teachers.
What was Chris really seeking? Was he just a young guy disillusioned with the rat race and mainstream culture?
No. It goes waaaaay deeper than that.
He was seeking enlightenment.
But he probably didn't know it. And neither did all the people in his life. And neither do you.
How could he? How could they? How could you? Enlightenment is just too far outside of anything one can imagine unless one's experienced it. Even if you've read a lot about it, you still can't fathom how radical it is in actuality.
Chris invested so much energy vagabonding, traveling around, escaping mainstream society that eventually it go him killed.
But the real journey is not external, it's internal.
Harder than vagabonding and living in the woods is simply turning the search inside. Traveling and going rogue is in many ways just another distraction. Sure, it has a feel of adventure and romance, but it's still materialistic. Merely abandoning your city and 9-5 job does NOT solve your problem of materialism. Living out in nature by itself is not enough. Reading romantic philosophy books by Thoreau and Emerson is not enough. Because the mind will still be turned outwards. The only way to solve this is by turning inside yourself, knowing exactly what you're looking for: no-self. Which of course requires no change in your external circumstances.
Another option for Chris would have been to use his savings to rent a cheap motel room on the edge of town for $25/night and spend a solid 90 days self-inquiring from morning to night. In practice, that would have worked much better.
Although being alone in the woods does cut out many distractions, unless you use this window for rigorous self-inquiry, its not going to produce the kind of transformation you're seeking.
So, should you abandon your romantic plans to go live out in the wild and settle for your current humdrum, toxic environment? That's up to you, but whatever fork in the road you end up taking, make sure it includes many many hours of actual self-inquiry.
P.S. None of this is a criticism of Chris. It took a lot of courage for him to do what he did. Seems like he was following his life purpose as best as he knew how.
How do most spiritual practitioners do spirituality? They pick one school and follow it all the way. But "pick" is too generous of a word. It's actually a lot more like they stumble into one school and become that school's loyalists.
Despite how important focus and consistency is for spiritual attainment, the problems with the one-school approach should be obvious to anyone with an ounce of common sense.
When you follow the one-school approach, it's like getting married to the first person you have sex with. It's a choice based off zero breadth of experience, with no strategy behind it.
The fundamental epistemic error with the one-school approach is that you're making an important life decision based on a sample size of one. You're implicitly assuming that you understand a complex and nuanced domain (spirituality) when in fact you have zero experience with it. Such an approach is based on fluke luck. Yes, it's possible that you find your soul mate this way, but the odds are against you. If we take a look at the averages, the first spiritual school you try will NOT be appropriate for you. But if you take the one-school approach, you won't realize that until years later, because you've never experienced anything else.
If you're going to do the one-school approach, here are the problems you should expect to arise:
- You get stuck using techniques which do not fit your personality type, learning style, body type, brain type, energy level, age, or gender. Due to this lack of fit you quit in frustration.
- You become a crusader for your school, holding it as superior to all others. You become closedminded to other teaching styles.
- You become dismissive and improperly critical of other schools and teachings. Your ability to dialogue with other spiritual practitioners is very limited.
- You fall prey to the debating/arguing trap, becoming an ideologue.
- You lack the experience to speak about spirituality in the broader context.
- You are not even aware of what other schools exist and how amazing some of them are.
- You think your school has covered everything essential, but you are wrong.
- You assume the teachings of your school are the most clear and accurate articulations of spirituality, but you are wrong.
- You entirely miss some important facets of enlightenment and spirituality.
- You entirely miss some important facets of personal development.
- You fall prey to some degree of dogma, even if you do end up attaining enlightenment.
- You conflate the arbitrary rituals and customs of your school with actual spirituality.
- Your school turns out to be a cult, religion, or some other kind of power-seeking organization which ends up exploiting you financially, sexually, or psychologically.
- You end up quitting in frustration or disillusionment because you're not able to understand what the pointers are pointing to, because you need more variety of pointers than your school is providing.
- Your school ends up being a very indirect, distorted, diluted path to enlightenment. For example, you spend years chasing spiritual states or doing Yoga postures which are really irrelevant to enlightenment.
- You fail to see the rich and beautiful interconnections which exist between all the world's true spiritual traditions. That beauty and variety is lost on you.
- Because you don't study spirituality from multiple angles, you fail to grasp many of the more minor, subtle insights available.
- You miss out on very practical techniques for spiritual purification and personal development which exist only in some schools but not in others. These techniques would have made your life a lot better had you learned about them.
- Your ability to teach spirituality to a broad range of people will be limited because you will be forcing them to conform to only your style.
- You get easily angered, offended, or disturbed by other traditions, cultures, and techniques.
Really, what the one-school approach amounts to is accidental spirituality. In the best case scenario you happen to stumble upon a great school, it just happens to be a valid teaching, it just happens to fit your style, and it just happens to work for you. In the worst case scenario it's a totally invalid teaching, you buy into it hook, liner, and sinker, and you end up becoming a deluded ideologue with no hope of enlightenment, and instead you get exploited.
Remember, that for every one person on the planet who stumbles into a good school, there are at least a thousand who stumble into a terrible school. How do you think religion was born? That's the direct result of the one-school, stumble-your-way-into-the-first-thing-you-see approach.
For example, the famous Swami Yogananda talked about how he found his guru and instantly knew he should devote his life to him and the path of Kriya Yoga. And so he did, and he turned out to become a great enlightened master himself. But this is the exception, not the norm. What if his guru happened to be a radical militant religious fundamentalist? Then that strategy would not have worked so nicely. He would have become ensnared, like millions of radicalized, sectarian devotees found all around the world today.
Every time I see an enlightened person who proudly telling us how he got enlightened by loyally sticking to one school or teaching, I can't help but thinking how this very person would be a suicide bomber had the circumstances of his birth and upbringing been slightly different. His strategy was crap, but he happened to succeed despite it. That's called gambling. And unskillful gambling at that. He doesn't really appreciate how close he came to completely deluding himself.
What almost no gurus, teachers, teachings, or schools talk about is how to select a valid and good school out of the giant ceasepool of teachings that exist within the larger spiritual marketplace. Have you noticed this? Virtually nobody talks about the pros and cons of various schools honestly. They all try to sell you on their method, while badmouthing and discounting all the others. Even modern teachers and enlightened masters, who are generally secular and openminded, tend to overlook this point. Because from their perspective they already know what they're teaching you is the truth. But from your perspective, you don't know that! This is a very important point. You can't trust anyone in this business if you want to avoid getting screwed. So you have to stick to a valid epistemic strategy.
So, what's the solution? Simple: shop around! Take a strategic, objective, open-minded, cosmopolitan, research-based approach. Spend at least a few years surveying the field and exploring your options before you get married to any one of them. And even then, I recommend never getting married at all in this domain. A cowboy doesn't marry his horse.
Quentin Tarantino is an example of someone who intuitively nailed life purpose. Of course many other successful directors and artists have too.
But I really admire his passion, creativity, and the fact that he was self-made. He didn't go to any fancy film school, but taught himself great film-making and storytelling just by analyzing great films. His is what a well-lived career looks like.
Ignore the content of his career. It doesn't matter whether you like his movies or not, just study how he made himself and his creative thought process.
Watch this amazing 1994 interview with Tarantino & Charlie Rose.
Pick up the subtle lessons here and apply them to everything we talked about in the life purpose course.
What the hell is an autodidact?
Simply, a person who engages in serious self-education, studying subjects deeply on his/her own time, in his/her own way.
Famous autodidacts include: Leonardo da Vinci, Goethe, Charles Darwin, Thomas Edison, Quentin Tarantino, Alan Watts, etc.
Read more about Autodidacticism on Wikipedia.
There's something really beautiful and powerful about this approach to education. In fact, I find it MUCH more effective than formal education. It just requires a deep sense of life purpose and passion to pull off, because no one is there to prod you along.
This might be rosy retrospection on my part, but if I could live my life over again, I would quit school, never go to college, and invest all that time into self-education. The more I learn, the more I learn how poorly learning is done by our social schooling system. It's really just terrible. It emphasizes all the wrong subjects and mechanizes what should otherwise be a highly conscious activity. The current emphasis on standardized testing is especially flagrant and outrageous. Real education has nothing to do with passing tests or memorization.
If you're a serious, ambitious, self-motivated youngster between the ages of 10-25, I highly encourage you to take your education fully into your own hands. Never has there been a greater time to go full-autodidact than now, in the 21st century. The world is your intellectual oyster. Don't let an antiquated and bureaucratic education system rob you of your most productive growth years. Start studying self-actualization hardcore, now! Start studying all the technical fields you need to execute your life purpose, now! The character this will develop in you will be extraordinary. The levels of mastery and creativity you'll reach will have no comparison.
If you are in college now and considering a master's or doctorate program, consider doing independent study instead. But only if you're the self-starter type, the entrepreneurial type. This path is not for the lazy. This here is like going off-roading.
Learning is one of the most beautiful and rewarding aspects of human existence. Teach yourself how to tap into this beauty, and never let it go.
There are 4 types of honesty: unconscious honesty, unconscious dishonesty, conscious honesty, and conscious dishonesty.
Conscious dishonesty is harder to pull off than unconscious honesty.
But if you're gonna be dishonest, make it the conscious kind, that way at least you are honest with yourself, and leave a crack open for redemption.
You sure you wanna open this Pandora's box?
Okay, here's the magic question:
"Where am I being dishonest with myself?"
Don't miss the Annual Exploring Psychedelic Conference 2017 in Ashland, Oregon!
May 25th and 26th, 2017
Organized by my friend Martin Ball.
2 full days of psychedelic-related lectures from pioneers in the field. Martin assembles an impressive array of scholars, researchers, doctors, activists, writers, and amateur psychonauts.
I really enjoyed listening to the audio recordings of last year's event.
I wanted to attend this year, but short on time. Hopefully next year.
If you got spare time, definitely check it out. Might be a life-changing event for you. Don't discount the power of networking events, especially ones where all the participants are super into spirituality and personal growth. That's a rare crowd.
The universe is vastly more intelligent than you. Human intelligence, and your personal intelligence, is a tiny filament of universal intelligence. The sooner you can grasp this, the smoother your life will flow. Here's why:
Your life is not random. The universe conspires to give you exactly what you need to grow. Not what you want, but what you need.
Think of yourself like a rough jagged stone. It can roll, but not very well. There's a lot of bumps and friction compared to say, a glass marble. The glass marble represents the ideal frictionless state. A state of full surrender. A state of full consciousness. A state of highest human maturity and development. A state where human intelligence becomes one with universal intelligence.
That is NOT your current state. Your current state is that of a jagged rock. So when you try to roll, it's painful. The pain points you experience every day of your ordinary life are PRECISELY those jagged edges which the universe wants you to smooth out. That's why your suffering keeps recurring and doesn't seem to end. Because you're failing to learn the lessons! The universe wants to turn you into a perfect marble. But you create very inventive ways to avoid the polishing process. You view it as hostile to your self, when really it is loving. You create ways to weasel out of it. Because its painful to get polished. If given the option between getting polished vs having an easy day, you'll probably pick the easy day.
The problem is... life is one loooong downhill slope. It's all about rolling. So when you avoid getting polished, you're just setting yourself up for a rocky ride. You can't be alive and not get rolled. The only question is, will you roll easy, or will you roll hard? Will you learn your lessons? Life is long and hard when you're jagged. The universe's purpose is to polish you. The reason you're alive is to get polished. This is the point of your life. If you don't understand this, you'll keep running away and keep experiencing a rocky journey. But if you understand this, you'll let yourself get polished and you'll have a silky smooth ride towards the end.
Your suffering is not random. In your suffering is great intelligence. Your suffering is literally your unenlightenment — is your specific ignorance. The intelligence of the universe is presenting you with life-scenarios which are designed to smooth you out in the EXACT ways you personally need smoothing. When you get into a fight with your Mom, when you get into a financial difficultly, when you fail at school, when you get into a car accident, when your spouse cheats on you, when you get a health problem, when you feel like quitting your meditation practice, when you distract yourself from self-inquiry — these are all messages of growth, calls to adventure, calls to your highest self. Guess what? The universe is not going to send you an email or text message saying, "Wake up!" It's much more elegant than that. It embeds the message straight into your life. How can you tell you have a message? Your suffering is the universe's "you've got mail".
Don't go looking elsewhere for growth. It's all the stuff you're avoiding. Money is not growth. A new relationship is not growth. A thriving business is not growth. Employee of the month is not growth. Growth is how you are BEing.
This, in essence, is karma. Karma is not some silly law of universal justice. It's the universe trying to optimize itself, the same way it smooths out rocks in the sea, turning them into elegant pebbles. When the rock doesn't understand the bigger picture, it's in for a grind. If the rock resists the process, it's in for a grind.
Happy living requires obeying certain spiritual laws. One of these laws is: let yourself get polished, dummy! Learn to read the messages and enjoy the process, because you've probably got a lot of rough edges on you.