Let’s face it, life sucks for a lot of us. Society offers up many solutions to our problems, but they do not work as advertised. The fact is that celebrities, politicians, religious authorities, scientists, gurus, and life coaches don’t know how to bring about happiness any better than we do.
Sit With It: A New Paradigm for Living explains that we have all inherited a harmful thought paradigm that warps our relationships with the people, things, and situations in our lives. Many of us are trapped in an addictive cycle of distress, compulsion, and pleasure seeking. Asking one simple, yet unexpected question disrupts the Status Quo:
This eBook provides a new paradigm for subjective human experience. You will learn about The Trinity of Mind, The Life Wave, The Thought-Storm, and The Sunshine. More importantly, you will be asked to put it to the test. Is it possible to gain freedom from the Status Quo? Is it possible to Slow Your Wave and live in The Sunshine?
Find out for yourself.
Sit With It: A New Paradigm for Living
Self-Published: First Edition.
© 2017 Xavier Alexander Vazquez.
All rights reserved.
Dedicated to Vannessa.
For inquiries contact:
SWI Logo by Slavisa Dujkovic –
This book presents a new paradigm for relating to the people, objects, and situations in our lives. It describes a way of living different from what most of us are accustomed to. This text diagnoses the cause of the dire predicament that humanity finds itself in at the beginning of the 21st century. But more importantly, it speaks to our lives on the individual level. For me personally, the paradigm has been immensely helpful in daily life.
Funny enough, the inspiration for this text came from an unexpected encounter outside of a Starbucks in May 2015. A homeless lady selling white chocolate bars approached me in the parking lot. She told me that she was fundraising for her son, but the chocolate did not seem like your typical school fundraising candy. It looked like a box of retail candy, and I considered the possibility that it had been stolen. Nevertheless, I bought a bar and made my way towards the entrance of the café. The woman then surprised me by exclaiming, “I hope it rains today!” This struck me as odd considering that she was on foot. Why would she want to get rained on? I yelled back, “why?” She answered, “It makes my grass greener!”
A sudden understanding struck me at that moment. This statement by a vagabond shattered my long held beliefs about the value of unpleasant things in life. I felt as if I had caught a glimpse of a deep truth that I had never understood before. That night, and the following morning, a flow of images poured into my awareness. I felt the urge to draw them. This was pure unencumbered inspiration the likes I had never experienced before. The drawings looked like the doodling of a madman, but it all made sense to me. More sense, in fact, than anything I’d ever been told or read about the human condition.
Over the next few weeks I attempted and failed to write a manuscript describing the contents of this new found understanding. It was too much to process all at once. After a year and a half of contemplation and consternation, I have completed the text and the diagrams for anyone who might be interested.
This book is for those of us who feel that there must be more to life than the drudgery we face day-to-day. It seems that we are never quite satisfied with our circumstances. This message is for anyone who is curious to explore what may lie just beneath the surface of our everyday lives. It is for those who are beginning to doubt the conventional interpretation of what life is all about.
There is incredible power within each of us. Our imaginative creativity combined with our physical and technical prowess allows us to influence the world in ways other species cannot. Each of us has the opportunity to harness our abilities, harmonize with nature, and with each other. We can create a vastly different world than we currently inhabit, but our power is being squandered. We unfairly turn the people, objects, and situations in our lives into sources of pleasure, and cede our personal power to compulsive behavior. But I don’t want you to believe me. What follows is an attempt to assist you in finding out for yourself.
There is one caveat to mention right up front. When reading this text, I ask you to put aside what is conventionally called objective empirical knowledge and instead place your focus on your own personal subjective experience of being alive.
Most of us are well schooled in objective empirical knowledge; this is a treasured aspect of our intellectual inheritance. We learn in school that there is an external and verifiable world of facts, figures, and events. Objective empirical knowledge is undoubtedly important. An empirical mind-set is crucial for survival and socio-economic success. By no means am I advocating for fanciful fact-free thinking.
That said, there seems to be no place left in society for the exploration of firsthand subjective experience. Many of us experience difficulty shifting from what I’ll call a 3rd Person Perspective (objectivity, worldly knowledge) to a 1st Person Perspective (subjectivity, firsthand experience). With this in mind, I anticipate that a reader may relate to this material in different ways:
Imagine you are standing outside of a store window watching two people inside the store playing a video game console. They are facing a large screen television which is turned away from you. Each player is holding a game controller. It is difficult to understand what these players are experiencing and what the game is about. Your perspective is too limited to relate to the players.
In the 3rd Person, it is unlikely you will resonate with this text. I suggest taking this message with a grain of salt and perhaps, in a show of good will, attempt to find something contained within it that you can relate to. If there is nothing you can relate to in this book, consider it frivolous, and forget you ever read it.
You are watching two people play the video game from inside the store. You are standing right next to the players and can see the television screen. You are drawn in by the game play, but you cannot influence the game since you are not actively engaged in playing. You somewhat empathize with the players, and can almost feel what it’s like to play.
In the 2nd Person, some of the content in this book will resonate with you, some will not. You may not fully integrate the information into your daily life, but perhaps your interest will be peaked enough for you to accept some of its recommendations.
You are one of the two players. The controller is in your hand and you are actively engaged playing alongside the other player. You feel the rush, the excitement, and the highs/lows of what is happening in real time, firsthand.
In the 1st Person, the message will resonate with you in a satisfying way. You will see the truth of your own life reflected back at you as I did. You may already have applied a similar paradigm to your life, or realize that you are totally ready to dive into the approach advocated within.
Let’s get started.
There is a lot of suffering in the world. That’s pretty evident to most of us. We know the deal: poverty, violence, war, starvation, etc. Even if our life situation is relatively comfortable, each one of us has our own personal challenges. There are many theories as to why life is so difficult, plenty of scapegoats, and a whole lot of finger pointing.
If one explores with an open mind, it is possible to observe that everyone – including the poor, the rich, the left, the right, the sick, and the healthy – experiences suffering. We often blame existence itself with phrases like “that’s life.” We learn from a young age that life can be brutal, callous, and uncaring. It is common to view life as a struggle or a battle that must be fought.
Yet things are not necessarily as they seem. Everything we know has passed through others before it was taught to us. Information is like a baton that is handed off from person to person. The cultural content of our society, including its basic assumptions, has been crafted over thousands of years of civilization. Our perspectives and opinions on life are learned during infancy, inherited from those who raised us. They are reinforced as we grow into adulthood by our own observations and experiences. There is confirmation bias at play here. We live with deeply ingrained assumptions about how life operates. Our senses gather information about the world, and we then organize this information according to whatever thought paradigm we have inherited from our elders.
While each of us may feel we are special, and it is empirically accurate that each one of us is unique in many respects, my view is that most, if not all, of our thoughts are not unique to us. There are actually billions of people on this planet who have extremely similar thoughts and thought patterns to our own. As information passes along from generation to generation, some basic thoughts and assumptions about the world become so widespread that we mistakably understand to be indisputable truth. Common sense is not all that it is cracked up to be.
Our inherited worldview relegates life to a struggle. This perspective results in some seemingly important questions.
We ask The Big Questions from a young age. Their validity seems obvious considering life is full of unpleasant, difficult, and harsh events. Humanity has been searching for answers to these questions for countless generations. This has been a futile exercise. Much of what we have been taught about existence has been based on inaccurate inherited assumptions. One such assumption is the following:
Over millennia, human society has offered up many, many solutions to The Big Questions. These solutions come from a wide array of sources: family tradition, religion, academia, industry, politics, science, psychology, the arts, and recent phenomenon like the self-help movement. Answers to The Big Questions are taught to us during our upbringing in formal settings, such as schools and religious institutions, but also in informal settings, like home and social gatherings.
Over the past century, the West has embraced ideas from Eastern belief systems. There has also been renewed interest in metaphysical thinking, the occult, and esoteric non-traditional movements within Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Many of these ideas have been combined with modern-day scientific theory to create a popular alternative view of life called the New Age movement. Have you ever received any of the following advice?
• Be in the moment.
• Let go.
• Listen to your heart.
• Be grateful.
• Be the change you want to see in the world.
• Change your diet.
• Stay productive.
• Think quantum.
• Read this book.
• Find religion.
• Align your chakras.
• Take this pill.
• Spend time with good people.
• Work harder.
• Study harder.
• Meet this teacher.
I have. While these sentiments are usually said, and often posted on social media, with good intentions, let’s admit that they ring empty in the face of our daily struggles. How could it be that our human society is still rife with turmoil when we have so many solutions and answers to The Big Questions at our disposal? I mean, the answer has got to be out there somewhere. Right?
On that day in May 2015, while standing in a Starbuck’s parking lot, of all places, it struck me that there is actually a better question that we could be asking. Instead of asking how one can attain happiness and peace, or inquiring about the purpose of life, one can ask a clear and simple question that challenges our inherited paradigms.
This question cuts through all of the nonsense. We can fully accept the seemingly amazing solutions to The Big Questions provided by the world around us, yet once this question is asked, we get at a hidden truth hiding right in front of our noses.
Many people may not have an answer to this question because, in all honesty, when was the last time anyone just sat quietly without any distractions – on purpose? Taking a moment to sit quietly with no distraction or activity whatsoever is an uncommon act for those of us raised in the modern world. We live our entire lives consumed by activity and stimulation. Non-activity is boring and it is frowned upon by most cultures. Sometimes it is described as laziness. One can’t help but think, “What’s the point? Who in their right mind sits quietly doing nothing on purpose?”
When I ask this question of people in spiritual or New Age circles, they often respond that they feel peace, love, and tranquility. Perhaps this is the case, but if that is your answer to the question, it’s helpful to also ask some follow-ups:
• Are you being totally honest with yourself?
• Could it be that this is what you expect of yourself?
• When was the last time you really sat quietly with no distractions from the outside world? No activity or soothing ambient sounds like spa music, nature recordings, or mantras.
• If peace, love, and tranquility is achieved easily and immediately when you sit quietly with no distractions, why don’t you do this more often?
Many who practice Eastern inspired meditation exercises, no matter how peaceful they purport to be, are caught up in activity: chanting mantras, concentrating on mandalas, attempting to increase compassionate feelings, or focusing on removing negativity from the world. These are all forms of activity, and thus not what I am referring to. Again the essential question is:
Here’s my answer: I feel pangs of discomfort and unease, usually starting in the chest. I often feel some physical aches and pains in the neck, shoulders, and legs. These uncomfortable sensations are always accompanied by random thoughts that disturb my peace. I often feel compelled to take action on these thoughts immediately and I sometimes fidget quite a bit. I am willing to bet that my experience is not an isolated one.
• Do you feel pangs of discomfort and/or pain?
• Do you feel compelled to take action on thoughts or fidget?
• Do you ever get the sense that you should be doing something?
Our world continues to be full of hatred, sadness, greed, and violence regardless of all of the compelling answers, solutions, and platitudes provided by cultural figures preaching ways of achieving peace. Respected figures in both mainstream society and antiestablishment movements suggest, and sometimes sell, attractive solutions to the problem of enduring happiness, but I implore you to ask:
• Does their life actually reflect the peace and harmony they are pitching?
• What happens when these people sit quietly in a room with no outside distractions?
• Do they feel the same way I do?
I’d wager that most respected cultural figures are intentionally or unintentionally deceptive; their public personas are busy selling solutions to audiences while their internal lives are fraught with distress. This blunt questioning of ourselves and respectable public figures reveals the fact that all of us feel uncomfortable under the simplest of circumstances.
I suggest that if we are to appropriately address the “problem of happiness and purpose in life,” we must understand that there is no way out. External solutions are not the key to solve our dilemma, but there is a way in. We can discover the truth about happiness and purpose by exploring ourselves. To begin, let’s take a look at our mind(s).
Philosophy, religion, and science have provided us with many theories concerning the mind/body system. Some have proven to be incredibly useful for resolving mechanical problems such as illness and injury, and some help us navigate the complicated maze that is civilized human society.
I remind you to focus on your day-to-day subjective experience. This request includes putting aside any notions about the brain, nervous system, and neuro-scientific theories in general. These notions were learned either through communication from others, or interpretation of physical observations using thought paradigms learned from others. Again, this is not to say that scientific knowledge is not immensely useful, but our focus will be on day-to-day subjective experience. You can learn all sorts of fascinating concepts about the mind/body system from others, but 1st Person subjective experience is invaluable. It is important to explore your personal inward experience of life, and not rely solely on external information.
Using subjective experience as a guide, I have observed that what I call my mind has three primary components. They interact with one another to create what I refer to as my conscious human experience. I believe that these three facets of mind operate in the same fashion within all of us. They are The Trinity of Mind.
The Intellect is an oft-used term with different definitions. For the purposes of this text, The Intellect refers to a very specific mechanism. It is a storage and retrieval system for knowledge: the thoughts, ideas, concepts, and assumptions that we have collected throughout our lives. Information enters through the senses and is organized according to a basic thought paradigm that we have inherited from our elders. The Intellect is like a rapidly developing computer database downloading and analyzing data from its environment at an incredible speed. Information is not only provided to it explicitly by instruction; it is also provided implicitly in its surroundings, as it often collects concepts through our observation of people, objects, and situations. There are two useful metaphors for how The Intellect functions:
Rain: You cannot control when a thought will hit you just as you cannot control when a raindrop may fall from the sky and land on your head. Thoughts happen to you. Thoughts are separate from what you consider as yourself. This is why people often say, “The thought occurred to me.”
Consider this example: I was at my living room window looking outside, staring off in a day dream. A thought occurred to me: “you should shower and get dressed now or you will be late for your appointment.” I had been content just standing there. The thought came to me; I did not have to try to think this. This happened on its own accord.
I expect you can relate. If not, see if it is possible for you to notice this happening to you. Moments of relaxation are great opportunities to notice how The Intellect behaves on its own. Bedtime and showers are occasions in which thoughts often barge in uninitiated and uninvited.
A loyal fetching dog: The Intellect is an extremely loyal companion who is here to serve you. It aims to please by helping you solve problems. This loyal doggy fetches you thoughts, ideas, and concepts until a problem is solved. It is constantly fetching thoughts for you, seemingly at all hours, attempting to solve your problem.
Imagine all of your learned thoughts, concepts, observations, and assumptions as a large pile of dog toys. The Intellect runs to this collection, grabs a thought and brings it to you for acceptance. In my appointment example above, The Intellect recognized the problem of being late to an appointment from prior learning experiences, and fetched me a solution to the matter: “get ready now.” I accepted and took immediate action.
The Intellect is particularly good at helping us solve mathematical and logistical problems. Consider the last time you solved a math problem. You were presented with a problem to solve and the answer occurred to you. Perhaps you can recall a situation in which an answer did not occur to you right away, then hours later while doing something un-related, the solution presented itself to you. The Intellect had to dive a little deeper in the pile to fetch you the right solution.
The Intellect is a powerful ally that has helped humanity achieve striking technological progress and continues to help us innovate as a species. Our intellectual capabilities seem to be superior to those of our co-habitants on earth, although it must be said that many other species do seem to exhibit similar, yet less refined, problem solving abilities.
Unfortunately, The Intellect is so loyal and dedicated that it can help us right into an abyss. It has no capability for understanding whether a fetched thought, concept, or idea will actually be helpful to solve the problem at hand. It only knows to fetch the closest approximation to a solution from what has been collected throughout our life experiences, and then present it.
Fetched thoughts can be unhelpful and even harmful. Each of us has a database of inaccurate concepts stored within The Intellect. It is important to understand that not everything that is fetched to us should be believed at face value, no matter how well intentioned The Intellect may be, and regardless of how appropriate a fetched solution may seem. Let’s say that, using the example above, my appointment was actually set for another day. The Intellect had fetched “get ready for an appointment immediately,” and while this was well intentioned, it was not an accurate suggestion.
Scientific advancements over the past century have brought us incredible insight into the mechanisms of the human body. More recent developments have led to consensus that The Body is intimately connected with what we traditionally call “the mind.” Through subjective 1st Person experience one can recognize that The Body has its own powerful intelligence which does not rely on The Intellect. It produces physical sensations; some of the most basic are pleasure, discomfort, and pain. The Body directs automatic processes such as growth, respiration, cardiovascular function, digestion, elimination, sexual activity, and death.
The biological intelligence of The Body can be subjectively experienced as a separate entity from you. It is an intelligence operating of its own accord, yet still intimately inter-connected with the other components of The Trinity of Mind. The Body communicates with you in non-rational and non-conceptual methods. It is possible to open a dialogue with The Body by turning your attention to its sensations.
The Body understands the reality of a situation better than The Intellect does. Let’s use the example of someone who is required to speak in public. This individual may know the lecture subject matter quite well, may prepare remarks in advance, and may even be personally acquainted with each member of the audience. Yet the moment he or she stands in front of the crowd, The Body begins to sweat, shake, and the knees become weak. This reaction is not intentional or deliberate, it occurs to the speaker. The Intellect may fetch inspiring motivational thoughts for the speaker to go through with the dreaded task, it may fetch ideas on how to calm stage fright, or it may even fetch a plan to flee. Regardless of what The Intellect fetches, The Body continues to provide a clear message indicating distress.
The Intellect often offers ideas and concepts to you that run counter to the needs of The Body. Defecation is an example of a bodily function that provides physical relief, hence the phrase “relieving oneself.” Yet in modern society we are taught as children that defecation is an unpleasant act that must be hidden and not often discussed. There is shame and stigma associated with this vital act. Sweating, vomiting, flatulence, sneezing, and crying are other examples of purging activities which are often frowned upon and avoided, but there is no doubt that they bring immediate sensory relief to The Body.
The Body is the instrument of direct human experience. It absorbs sensory data from the world. The Intellect collects and stores it for later re-collection. The Body’s health seems to be required for The Intellect to function effectively, yet most of us learn to place an emphasis on conceptual activity and disregard The Body.
The Body is actually a more reliable measure of our state of being in any given situation. I do not mean to imply that The Body is somehow better, or more valuable than The Intellect, but rather that The Intellect is often corrupted by the notions it collects, and thus we must retain skepticism of the suggestions that are fetched to us.
The following are opportunities to explore The Body’s intelligence using direct 1st Person experience. They can be helpful in distinguishing The Body’s intelligence from The Intellect:
Waking Up From Sleep
• Ask yourself: do I feel discomfort, anxiety, or pain anywhere in The Body?
• What does The Intellect fetch upon waking?
• Are any of these thoughts a distraction from the discomforts of The Body?
• When hot, feel The Body sweating.
• When cold, feel the goosebumps on your skin.
• Notice how The Body’s intelligence does not need The Intellect to carry on these functions; they happen of their own accord.
Fatigue, Drowsiness, Hunger
• If The Body is fatigued or hungry, notice if The Intellect suggests that you continue whatever activity you are doing, putting off rest or nutrition.
• Observe the thoughts that The Intellect fetches. Notice how different they may be from what The Body is actually requesting.
Elimination, Vomiting, Sweating, Crying, Flatulence, Sneezing
• Feel the process of elimination instead of distracting yourself with media.
• Notice the relief that accompanies the purging of waste, gas, or tears.
• Observe what The Intellect fetches; does it parrot your culture’s view on these acts?
• Feel how The Body cleanses itself.
• Notice any uncomfortable sensations in The Body and observe what kind of thoughts The Intellect is fetching as a response.
• Observe any thoughts The Intellect fetches which may reflect your culture’s view on menstruation. Do they run counter or agree with what The Body feels?
• Feel the sensation of food and drink in the mouth and down into the digestive system.
• Can you feel when the stomach is full?
• Notice if and when The Intellect desires to continue eating after The Body reports it is full. Does The Body actually need to ingest as much as The Intellect suggests it does?
• Notice if and when The Intellect desires to stop eating before The Body reports it is full. Does The Body actually need to ingest more than The Intellect suggests it does?
• Are there foods that The Intellect suggests are delicious, but The Body does not process well?
During Sexual Activity
• Can you fully feel the sensations in The Body?
• Is The Intellect fetching ideas about how sex should be or feel like? Where did these ideas actually come from?
• Are The Intellect’s suggestions of sexual activity any different from what The Body actually desires? Could it be suggesting more, less, or different types of sexual activity than The Body desires?
If The Intellect and The Body are not you, it begs the question: “Who are you?” The Observer is the aspect of the mind that what we habitually call ‘I.’ When I say that a thought is “fetched for me” and when I say that “I felt something” in The Body, I am acknowledging that there is a separate Observer who experiences the activities of both The Intellect and The Body.
The Observer is represented by an eye, always watching and observing the sensory data coming in through The Body as well as the solutions being provided by The Intellect. I infer that The Observer is likely observing in every known state of awareness, including dream sleep, considering that many of us experience intellectual activity and physical sensation in dream states just as we do when we are awake.
The Observer is not only the watcher, but also the accepter. As The Observer, you choose to accept or not accept the suggestions fetched by The Intellect. You can either acknowledge or not acknowledge the sensations coming in The Body. The Observer is the only aspect of The Trinity of Mind that exhibits free will. The Intellect fetches on its own accord. The Body responds to stimulus on its own accord. As The Observer, you are able to make a binary Yes or No choice when presented with data from the other two aspects of mind.
There is a popular misconception that human beings make decisions based solely on rationality, that is to say, The Intellect is the decision maker. Even empirical science is coming to terms with the fact that so called “rational decisions” are in fact post-decision rationalizations. We often attempt to explain away our choices by regurgitating inherited ideas fetched by The Intellect.
Eastern traditions, like Buddhism and Hinduism, place a lot of emphasis on The Observer, but for the purposes of this text it is not necessarily more important than The Intellect or The Body. They are all indispensable facets of The Trinity of Mind, and working in unison, they create what we call human experience. To understand The Observer, one does not have to indulge in ancient philosophies, spiritual beliefs, and/or religious creeds. Instead, the way to understand The Observer is to experience firsthand that The Intellect and The Body are autonomously providing data to a seemingly separate entity: you.
We can isolate The Observer through a process of reduction and elimination. If The Body loses a limb, or becomes paralyzed in some fashion, The Observer is still there to maintain a collective sense of I. As an individual with two legs, I consider both legs to be part of me. If one of those legs is severed and lost, I no longer consider it to be me. This thought exercise could be continued until all limbs and non-vital components of The Body are severed. The sense of I continues regardless of the mutilation. In the case of those with Alzheimer’s, amnesia, and other similar conditions, both The Body and The Intellect are damaged. The Intellect of the afflicted person can no longer fetch accurate biographical details, but a sense of I continues regardless. The Observer seems to endure the disruption and corruption of both The Intellect and The Body.
Very broadly speaking, Western thought has placed an emphasis on The Intellect, while Eastern thought has traditionally advocated a shift in attention to The Observer, which is sometimes referred to as the Self, the Atman or Brahman. But The Body’s immense intelligence and power have been disregarded and denigrated throughout much of civilized society. One need only to look at many of the world’s major religions and their treatment of The Body as an animalistic lowly creature whose tendencies must be subdued. As a species we have lost The Body’s proper place in The Trinity of Mind. We have been so busy loading The Intellect with knowledge that The Body’s signals have been ignored and misinterpreted. Could it be possible that this incredible biological intelligence is attempting to communicate a message and we have been too involved with The Intellect to notice?
A particular thought paradigm has been passed on from generation to generation for thousands of years. Whether we are aware of it or not, there is an implicit assumption at work within all of us:
This pleasurable state is a default mode, a baseline state of being. This view is so engrained in us and those around us that it is difficult to see things in any other way.
This diagram demonstrates the Status Quo thought paradigm. We begin at the starting point. We are undisturbed and feeling good. Then something bad happens: negativity enters our life in the form of an event or a thought. We fall into a pit of discomfort, sadness, and/or pain. We must pick ourselves up from this awful state. So we take action and/or change our mindset in order to return up to our happy pleasurable state. But, as you can see in the diagram, no matter how many times we pick ourselves up, there is always another negative event or thought up ahead. This cycle of ups and downs leads to another falsehood which further influences how we view life:
This is a story we have believed to be true since our childhood. We assume this to be true because everyone else around us believes it. It is common sense. This certainly seems to be true for physical injury. If your skin comes into contact with a sharp shard of glass it is likely you will be cut. If you trip, it is likely you will fall. But this causality should not automatically be applied to the realm of emotional well-being.
When something we label as unfortunate happens in our life experience, we perceive it as a fall from our baseline pleasure state, a loss. Unpleasant sensations, commonly labelled as heartbreak, are felt in The Body. A common refrain in statistical work is that correlation does not equal causality. Just because a loss is perceived and heartbreak is felt at the same time does not mean that the distress you experience is actually caused by the event that occurred. Another falsehood is that:
Most of us have accepted the assumption that we should remain in a state of constant happiness, a permanent pleasure state. We believe that reducing unfortunate events and eliminating disturbing thoughts will allow for pleasure, happiness, and comfort to continue unabated. Even those who give lip service to the concept that negativity has its “proper place in life” maintain a subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) desire for permanent happiness. Our entire lives are organized around the effort to reduce distress of any kind. In fact, being in a state of discomfort is often viewed as shameful. How often are children told not to cry? How often are people told to pick themselves up by the bootstraps and walk it off? Repression is a learned behavior.
Our mission to avoid discomfort ultimately causes more harm than good. By avoidance of what we call negative events or thoughts, we live with a subversive paranoia. At any given moment, no matter how pleasant the current situation is, there is an underlying concern that something may go wrong. For some, the paranoia is barely perceptible, but for others it is so pervasive that it dramatically affects their lives.
Repression and paranoia lead to an accumulation of discomfort in The Body throughout our lives. The discomfort that coincided with your first loss is the same exact discomfort experienced at the time of your second loss, and every moment of heartbreak to date. Old unpleasant sensations sink below the surface of daily activity only to reveal themselves again when the opportunity presents itself.
Cause and effect thinking has distorted our understanding of the role that unpleasant sensations play. Unpleasant sensations in The Body are critical for survival. They act as signals. Physical distress indicates that our attention is being requested by The Body. If The Body senses potential danger, if it is ill or uncomfortable, The Body’s signaling system alerts us. Once alerted, we know where to place our attention. We limit our ability to properly address distress whenever we avoid unpleasant sensation. We create a situation in which The Body’s alarm keeps sounding off in a plea for care and attention, but help never arrives.
The Body is like a blaring car alarm going off in a parking lot. It is ignored because it goes off all the time. It becomes a nuisance in the background. We grow to adulthood believing that The Body’s alarm system is something to avoid, ignore, and repress, that is until it becomes so intense that we have no choice but to pay attention. Ignored and repressed discomfort continues to accumulate in The Body day after day, year after year. The alarm becomes louder and louder. It demands to be heard. For some, these sensations are so powerful that they manifest as physical pain, dysfunction, and illness in The Body. Sometimes irreversible damage is done.
Uncomfortable sensations felt while sitting alone quietly are The Body’s alarm systems going off. Any felt agitation, anxiety, discomfort, and/or unease is a message. We can Observe these sensations and begin to decode what The Body is attempting to say.
Most of us are so distracted by the activity of The Intellect that we do not honor and listen to what The Body needs. This is a species wide problem. We all find ourselves disregarding The Body’s intelligence. Instead of understanding that unpleasant sensations are a distress call, we have decided that they are a problem to solve. The problem of how to attain permanent pleasure and avoid distress becomes a pressing concern. As always, The Intellect is there to solve any problem presented to it.
The Intellect’s problem solving abilities have propelled the human species to heights of accomplishment that our ancestors could never have imagined. Humanity’s technological aptitude has never been as impressive as it is today. Billions of us have an extraordinary problem solving mechanism built right into our minds, yet somehow we have not been able to create a harmonious society. Instead, humanity has created a dystopic world-wide civilization that presents a grave threat to the biological homeostasis of the planet.
We have the technical know-how and the resources to solve the logistical problems that our species encounters, but we spend our individual and collective energy attempting to find a solution to a non-existent problem: our discomfort and distress. Human activity is not fueled by a greater good or a greater evil. It is not driven by innovation or by schemes to benefit or harm others. I suggest that if you look closely, no matter how pious our position is in this world, we are all striving to enter a state of uninterrupted happiness, a state of permanent pleasure. This craving creates a massive global diversion of human resources away from meaningful activity towards the superfluous, and too often, the dangerous.
A popular Status Quo assumption is that general survival, the need for nutrition, shelter, transportation, and sex, is what motivates human activity. This idea is implanted within The Intellect during our upbringing and it is reinforced throughout adulthood by the very culture that implanted it. On its face it seems fairly obvious, but when closely examined, I do not believe it holds up to scrutiny. If survival is the primary motivator of most human activity, one can argue that the human race would have stopped innovating after the “basics of survival” were attained by most of humanity. There is evidence that the human race thrived around the globe for hundreds of thousands of years relying on simple, yet effective hunter gather survival strategies. The “basics of survival” were covered for quite a long time.
When agriculture became central to our interaction with the world, the accumulation of resources led to a level of comfort previously unheard of. Accumulation of pleasure became commonplace, and I believe it occurred to our ancestors that they could take control of the people, objects, and situations in their lives to maximize pleasure and minimize discomfort.
I suggest that we have all learned to demand pleasure permanence from every moment and facet of our lives. This demand is not instinctual; it is not a biological drive. It is an inherited thought paradigm and passed along to every new member of the species for countless generations. Our relationships to people, objects, and situations are severely warped by the demand for pleasure. We refuse to accept distress then use everything and everyone in our lives as a source of gratification.
To explore a visual representation of how this process works, I present The Life Wave:
We begin at the bottom of The Life Wave with our underlying distress represented by a bold and jagged foundation. Above you will find the pleasure state as a solid thin line. This is the opposite scenario from the Status Quo diagram depicted in the previous section. Whenever we avoid our physiological state of distress, we move upwards towards the pleasure state. This is clinging to the people, objects, and situations in our lives in order to maintain comfort. Unfortunately life does not behave in accordance with our demand for consistent permanent pleasure. The very people, objects, and situations that we obtain pleasure from will inevitably disappoint our expectations and literally let us down.
What we have learned to label as psychological fear begins right at the crest of The Life Wave as it begins to turn downwards, away from pleasure and towards distress. The uncertainty of whether or not pleasure will continue creates a sense of danger. The Intellect attempts to avoid a fall into discomfort by suggesting ways that we can remain at peak pleasure, but fetched solutions often cannot compete with The Body’s urgent distress signals. We become stuck at the crest in a unpleasant battle which we call stress. Stress is the stubborn resistance to a letdown.
Whenever we experience a letdown, we are actually falling into our own reservoir of discomfort, unease, sadness, and sorrow that has been left to fester below the surface of our day-to-day lives. Personal difficulties encountered in life are not the cause of our grief, but instead can be understood as an abrupt exposure of the repressed distress hiding underneath the surface. Whenever we hit bottom, we have learned to immediately find a way to bring ourselves back to the pleasure state. This happens without our conscious attention. The process is initiated and sustained by the two false concepts mentioned previously, but are worth repeating:
The longer we allow the ups and downs to continue, and the more we avoid, ignore, and repress the distress underneath the surface of our lives, the more discomfort we accumulate in The Body. It builds and builds, increasing in intensity and causing damage to The Body. The behaviors we resort to in order to reach the pleasure state become more extreme. The sensitivity of The Body is damaged by stress and illness takes hold.
The Intellect begins to do its job whenever we find ourselves falling back into our reservoir of distress. Solutions to our anguish flood our attention. Possible solutions to distress can come from any aspect of our lives. Anything that we value can become a possible solution to our discomfort. In a very real sense we become addicted to the people, objects, and situations in our lives.
Whether we are conscious of it or not, we live in constant hope that our pleasure source will continue. We deny that life involves of never ending change. We demand permanence because it seems to ease our discomfort. This does not mean that the people, objects, and situations in our lives are necessarily bad in themselves. It is the way we relate to our lives that is at issue here. It is a worthwhile exercise to explore whether or not we are placing unfair and unrealistic expectations on the people and objects, and circumstances that matter the most to us.
I have Observed that The Intellect fetches solutions from six broad categories. It is important to keep in mind that the following categories and their contents are not inherently harmful in themselves. Our emphasis should be on the demand for pleasure that we place on these categories. There are no clear lines of separation between each category, they influence and feed into each other. For brevity’s sake, what follows is a surface level review of each category.
The impulse to receive attention from others is extremely powerful. We share close bonds with our family members and those in our community. Our bonds with other sentient animals are also important to us. As primates, it seems that relationships are essential to survival. Utilizing relationships solely for the pleasure we derive from them is a very potent way to distract ourselves from inner distress. The opinion of others is intoxicating whether one realizes it or not. Entire lives are lived in fear of losing positive esteem from others. The attempt to maintain approval from others is often a strong motivating factor when making career, lifestyle, and relationship choices.
There are those who criticize themselves so that others will not; this is the root of perfectionism. Self-criticism and over-achievement are forms of self-protection. They are self-harming behaviors covertly meant to protect pleasure received from the positive attention of others. Procrastination is the need for positive attention to the point of hesitation and inaction. The possibility of losing someone’s respect or praise causes a halt on action.
Attention seeking behaviors are often misunderstood as having a purely biological basis. People dismiss this compulsive behavior as instinctive and a natural part of the human condition. I believe this is incorrect. The addiction to another’s attention is a learned behavior, and a consequence of the Status Quo view of the world. I suggest that jealousy and loneliness are not what we have been told they are. We have labeled pathological symptoms stemming from a lack of attention as a natural extension of the biological need for community. I find it helpful to understand jealousy and loneliness for what they are: addictive withdrawal. In the case of the former, it is laced with anger, in the latter with self-pity.
There are those who receive pleasure from thoughts of notoriety and persecution. These individuals consider any attention as pleasurable. It’s likely most of us have met someone with a bad-boy or bad-girl reputation who thrives on being anti-establishment and going against the grain. This addiction can go as far as resulting in criminal behavior.
The Intellect fetches previously learned measures of comparison so that we may rate ourselves against others. It even offers suggestions of what other people think of us. Pragmatically speaking, a confident personality seems to be a beneficial trait in modern-day societal dealings, but the insatiable need to stand out from the pack can become a major obsession. What we own, what we know, how we look, what we’ve accomplished, where we are from, and the education we have received are only a few common measures of comparison. There is virtually no end to competition as a source of pleasure. One of my personal favorites is the competition for humility amongst those who obtain their pleasure from spiritual and religious status. A cliché down and out gambler and the typical yogi ascetic are suffering from the same compulsion; they strive for the pleasure rush of the win. The obsession with winning is all pervasive. This is called pride.
Conversely, one may receive pleasure from being different, special, or uniquely un-special, blending into society seamlessly. There is also the blame-game, a form of protecting one’s status at the expense of someone else’s. No matter what kind of comparison one falls prey to, the belief that status competition will bring us permanent pleasure inevitably leads to disappointment. Comparison can lead to disastrous consequences such as the myopic focus on achievement, asceticism, extreme body modification, eating disorders, reduction of living standards, and the obsessive accumulation of material wealth.
Many cultures consider food consumption, the use of medicine, and sexual activity both for reproduction and social bonding, as sacred acts. These acts transform one form of matter/energy into another. They ensure the continuation of the species.
The Body can only handle a certain amount of ingestion and sex. Once it is satisfied it will signal to you through sensation. The Intellect often continues to fetch suggestions on what to eat and drink even after the stomach is full. It also continues to suggest ways in which sexual pleasure can be obtained even if The Body is in a satisfied state. The Body’s state of satisfaction is overridden and disregarded. The pleasure provided by food, drink, and sex is so natural to The Body that an addiction can easily be overlooked as “normal overindulgence.”
Humanity’s technical knowledge has led to incredible advances in medicine. We have powerful medicinal tools that treat severe physical injury and illness, while others, such as psychedelics, provide us the opportunity to explore our inner psychic contents in profound ways. Yet avoidance of personal discomfort leads us to seek out the pleasure high that drugs provide. The notion that substance addiction results from behavioral issues, not the inherent addictive properties of a substance, has gained prominence in treatment circles. An addict is understood to be self-medicating inner trauma. It is common for a drug addict to refrain from using harmful substances by replacing their drug of choice with less harmful compulsions such as exercise. Those who quit smoking tobacco cigarettes often employ this technique. The addict label applies to many of us who have never considered ourselves as addicts, but live replacing one pleasure inducing activity with another in a futile search for sustained pleasure.
What we traditionally label as “negative emotional states” are in actuality addictive pleasure seeking activities that occur within The Body itself. Emotions serve to distract you from a perceived loss. In emotional states, hormonal responses in The Body temporarily sooth and/or distract from the discomfort that lies below the surface of your awareness.
“You hurt my feelings” is a common Status Quo saying. When someone hurts your feelings what they have really done is made you aware that a pleasure permanence you were relying on may no longer be available. You had been relying on the Status Comparison concept that you were “respected” or were relying on the need for positive Attention. When your pleasure source was placed at risk, The Body created a hormonal response. The Intellect then fetched you the suggestion that the other person was to blame for the resulting unpleasant sensation.
An example: when cut off in traffic many of us become angry. We commonly chalk this up to the biological fight or flight instinct, and often attempt to rationalize our reaction by considering the inconveniences an accident could have caused us. Yet, if we Observe closely, the anger is actually serving to mask a pleasure loss: a perceived loss of status. The Intellect immediately fetches the idea that the other driver is to blame and should be considered a threat. The Body produces the particular hormones which create the biological state we learn to label as anger. Blaming our “animal nature” relies on 3rd Person extrapolation of animal behavior. In the 1st Person, the subjective point of view, it is possible to realize that anger is just another way of protecting ourselves from a loss. Whenever we accept that emotional reactions are governed by so-called rational thinking, we misunderstand what is actually happening with The Body. A behavioral manifestation of extreme anger is violence. Its rationalization is all too commonplace in our world.
The Intellect turns inwards for emotional solutions. Anger and disappointment over time lead to unhelpful thought paradigms like pessimism, paranoia, and cynicism. Complaining relieves stress, and like anger, often results in more distress for us and those around us. What we label “self-hatred” is a form of pleasure in which constant self-criticism provides a perverse sense of satisfaction. We attempt to hold ourselves to a high standard, and this is satisfying on some level, no matter how ruthless the self-critique is. Self-pity also involves self-criticism, but it includes an additional layer of melancholy. In these states, we may feel a strong urge to escape and distance ourselves from what we erroneously think is the source of our problems. This fascination with escape can include self-harm and suicidal ideation. This kind of thinking requires a strong skepticism of The Intellect. Immediate outside intervention is often required in order to avoid self-harm.
Grief as Emotional Coping is a tricky subject matter. We have learned to reduce our loved ones to objects. When a loved one passes, the objectified person is lost, never to be regained. The perception of the relationship as a permanent source of comfort is shattered. The deceased is no longer around to shelter the bereaved from underlying distress. The objectification of a lost loved one is actually at odds with reality. What we label as death can be Observed to be a transformative phenomenon of The Body. It is not fully understood by a humanity blinded by pre-conceived notions. I believe that our Status Quo concept of death is a harmful intellectual abstraction. What we know of death is a learned concept stored in The Intellect based on observation of the death process in others. But we have no idea of what death actually means to us in the 1st Person, as the witnessing Observer. Could it be that our inherited ideas about death are incorrect?
It is worth considering whether tears shed at funerals are for the deceased or for the bereaved themselves. I suggest that long-term grief is in actuality an expression of unhealthy clinging that can have devastating effects on The Body, yet is often socially accepted and justified as natural. Any loss, including the heartbreaking loss of a loved one, is an opportunity to understand the unrealistic expectations of permanence that we place on our relationships. Perhaps if we come to this realization for ourselves, it will be possible to honor the passing of a loved one without drowning in long-term grief.
In this day and age we have many opportunities to use daily activity to distract from inner discomfort. It would be impossible to list each here, but I’ll cover some major distractions and diversions that I have encountered. Perhaps you can add your own proclivities to the list:
Shopping: A top American past time. Many of us know the jolt of pleasure we receive from a newly purchased item.
Pathological Altruism: Our survival as a species relies on cooperation, and understandably, we are often encouraged to serve others. Giving provides us with gratification that we are living up to the highest ideals of mankind. We are taught to value those who put others ahead of themselves. We attempt to live up to inherited expectations of what a good person should be and repress our own “selfish urges.” There are those who give to the point of forgetting to care for themselves. Overextending oneself due to altruistic ideals will not solve or reduce the underlying distress in The Body.
Knowledge Collecting: We are curious creatures and enjoy pleasure from learning new things, but it seems to me that we have fallen into the trap of fetishizing intellectual knowledge. There are those who spend their lives focused on academic, intellectual, and scientific pursuits, losing sight of the fact that there is more to life than adding and rearranging content within The Intellect. Collecting new belief systems is also a popular activity. Those in the self-help, spirituality, and new age communities immerse themselves in exotic esoteric belief systems while disregarding their inner reality. Others are absorbed in existing orthodox belief systems inherited from families and communities. Religion and political ideologies are examples of common dogmatic thought systems that serve to disconnect us from our own inner experience.
Experience Collecting: The “bucket list” phenomenon is a good example of experience collecting. Lasting pleasure and satisfaction seems one experience away, yet when a highly anticipated experience comes to an end, it’s only a matter of time until one’s underlying dissatisfaction creeps in again. There is always something else to see and do. Constantly seeking more activity only distracts from what is happening right here and right now inside of you.
Work: Our increasing reliance on productivity has become a pervasive addiction. In Japanese culture, there is a word that literally translates to “death from overwork.” Those who die of Karōshi are lost in harmful cultural ideals collected and fetched by The Intellect. They live and die utterly disconnected from The Body’s need for rest and recovery.
Physical training: There are those who live and breathe the gym life. Their opinion on what is reasonable physical health is often distorted due to inherited ideas. There is plenty of evidence that human beings are generally at their healthiest when physically active on a regular basis, but The Body has limits. Pushing these limits with extreme activity and ingesting substances to increase The Body’s natural abilities is another way to override The Body’s intelligence in favor of fetched ideas from The Intellect. The Body can only take so much manipulation and strain before dysfunction sets in.
Media Consumption: Media is consumed in a multitude of ways. Personal electronic media devices have gained prominence worldwide and are now delivering us content 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The addictive nature of smart-phones is but one example of media’s mesmerizing effect. Electronic devices and their analog ancestors (books) strain The Body with awkward postures and strenuous demand on the eyes and visual cortex. Media creates fantasy worlds that are often more enticing and involving than our daily routines. Enveloping ourselves into media narratives, whether they are fictional, political, or athletic, leads us to de-prioritize people, objects, situations, and the environment around us. We spend hours upon hours ingesting mass media right into The Intellect. This content inevitably shapes our perspective on reality, provides The Intellect with fresh new solutions to our perceived problems, and serves as a massive distraction from what is happening inside of us.
The Intellect is a storage and retrieval mechanism that does not distinguish between the past, the future, and the present. It may present distorted memories or future possibilities as a remedy for our current distress, but no past event or imagined future can bring you sustained happiness. Hope is often touted as being beneficial, a pillar to lean on during challenging times. I stress caution when you find yourself relying on hope. Over dependence on imagined past and future scenarios will only distract you from present moment realities.
The Intellect sometimes fetches unpleasant old scenarios from your memory in an attempt to solve them. It also fetches imaginary future problems and then suggests potential solutions. When working on logistical matters, evaluation of past performance and planning for future activity is beneficial. But let’s be clear, you cannot act on the past or future. You can only act on what is happening right now, in the present.
There is a strong emphasis in self-help, spiritual, and new age circles on “remaining in the present moment.” I agree that the present moment is all we have. Past memories are always recalled in the present, and they are strongly influenced by how one feels when remembering them. So called future events are actually present moment speculations that can be wildly off-base. Yet one must be aware that the “present moment” trope can easily become just another fetched solution, another intellectual thought to cling to. Many people who go on about living in the present moment are in fact fooling themselves. They cling to this pleasurable concept whenever they begin to feel distress.
Life expresses itself in various shades of color, nothing is black and white. Nuance is important. We enjoy pleasure and there is nothing inherently wrong with that. Forced prohibition, repression, and renunciation is just The Intellect fetching moralistic thoughts that serve to increase one’s status in the world. There’s no sense in beating ourselves up if we have compulsions. Exploration of ourselves isn’t about shame or guilt; it is simply an examination of how we relate to the people, objects, and situations in our lives. I believe we are meant to enjoy rich and dynamic lives. In order to fully appreciate the power that each of us carries within, we must understand how we have become lost in The Intellect’s relentless pleasure seeking. Each of us must consider how often we have crashed into despair, discomfort, and pain after losing our grip on someone or something that we thought to be the source of our happiness.
The Intellect fetches solutions in an attempt to soothe repressed distress signals in The Body, but for those of us fully invested in the Status Quo, nothing seems to work. Life is a drag and The Big Questions loom over us, especially this one:
The Intellect runs into our memory banks and fetches knowledge from each of the categories in an attempt to answer. The Intellect is desperate to help us solve the problem of attaining happiness, but there is one simple fact standing in its way:
The distress signals in The Body are not a problem. These unpleasant sensations are simply The Body asking to be heard, but most of us are too busy accepting every thought that The Intellect fetches to listen. It is extremely dedicated and will never stop fetching solution after solution. The Intellect fetches so quickly that we do not even notice what is happening.
It has become second nature for us to accept fetched ideas and act on them. Much of our energy is wasted on a non-existent problem. After years of this, our relationship to life becomes the relationship of an addict to a drug of choice. Life becomes a shallow and fruitless endeavor focused on getting and staying high. Each time a potential solution fails to solve our non-existent problem, we fall into our own reservoir of repressed distress. This is a never-ending cycle. The tension in The Body accumulates as we age and the strain becomes exhausting. The longer pleasure permanence is sought, the more discomfort is accumulated in The Body.
Let’s further explore our pleasuring seeking mechanism by flipping The Life Wave diagram vertically.
On the left, you’ll find the bold jagged line representing the repressed distress beneath our current experience of life. As we reach for the pleasure state, we move to the right of the diagram, towards a particular pleasure seeking category. We cling to our compulsion of choice in an effort to find and maintain a permanent state of happiness and pleasure.
Whenever the pleasure inducing activity is threatened or lost, we move backwards towards the left into our reservoir of distress. Blinded by Status Quo thinking, we do not realize that we are actually falling into the very state that we started from.
Here’s a somewhat simplistic scenario describing how this process works. Let’s say you are spending some quality time with a romantic partner at your home. It is now late in the evening and it is time for your partner to leave. It has been quite a lovely and pleasurable experience so far. You have very much enjoyed the intimacy and the Attention that your partner provided to you. Throughout the evening you have felt fully engaged in your time together, but now facing the loss of this enjoyable situation, The Intellect begins to fetch:
The Intellect kicks into high gear and begins to problem solve. The Intellect fetches estimates on how much time there is before your partner leaves, it fetches you potential actions that may make the situation last longer, it suggests things you can say to convince your partner to stay, it provides predictions on the possibility of repeating the situation, and it even suggests whether the situation is pleasurable enough in the first place. The Intellect has fetched you so many possible solutions that you become totally caught up in thinking. You practically cannot feel your beloved’s presence anymore. A rich sensuous experience has now become a cold mechanical problem to solve. Your partner now becomes a second priority. The first priority is to make this pleasurable experience last longer somehow.
No matter how hard you tried to convince your partner to stay, he or she has to leave. The Intellect suggests that your partner’s refusal to stay is the cause for the distress you are beginning to feel in The Body. The Intellect needs to solve this “problem,” so it starts fetching some Emotional Coping, which you accept and verbally express:
Your partner does not like this behavior and proceeds to leave. You are now alone at home feeling discomfort and distress. You act on these emotions by getting angry, becoming pessimistic and perhaps even insulting your lover. In an extreme case, you may even harm yourself. The emotional reaction successfully provided you with a perverse pleasurable distraction. Wait, not so fast. The emotional reaction is fading. The Body cannot sustain a high level of emotional intensity for long. When taking a warm shower, you begin to feel a nagging and subtle distress. You are crashing into your discomfort. The Intellect fetches an idea:
You head out, spend several hours drinking, and then grab some greasy fast food on the way home. All is well, except that a hangover headache and indigestion await you the next morning. You have crashed again. Now you not only have to deal with your old repressed distress, you also have taxed The Body with having to process Intoxicants that can lead to further long-term damage.
The Intellect fetches a few Distractions: watching a movie, reading a book, spending hours online, checking your cell phone repeatedly, and binge watching television. It suggest that you volunteer time at a local charity. It presents the idea of an exotic trip. While listening to an inspirational speaker, it suggests that you purchase a self-help book on healthy relationships. Then, as you lay down to sleep, The Intellect continues to ruminate. It begins to Compare:
None of this is resolving the distress. Perhaps a few nostalgic remembrances or hopeful ideas about the future will cheer you up. You start reviewing your Imaginary Timeline:
This example illustrates the ping-pong like nature of our addictive behaviors. Living like this involves a never ending cycle of clinging and disappointment. It’s important to note that the content of our pleasure addiction is interchangeable. Everyone has different compulsive pleasure seeking tendencies and these compulsions can sometimes gain or lose utility over time. So instead of focusing on the content of the compulsions, we can focus our efforts on noticing our own persistent pursuit of pleasure. Each of us can explore the direction we are moving in. Are we in fact moving toward the right of the diagram? If so, we are in for even more trouble.
Discomfort in The Body is not a problem to solve. Seeking a solution for it is a never-ending trap. This is the case no matter how comfortable your life situation is. One needs only to look at the uber-rich who continue their predilections unabated without satisfaction.
The Intellect is loyal and does not give up. Over time, and after much trial and error, it goes into overdrive and continues to fetch trying to find a solution to a non-existent problem. It keeps fetching day and night. The Intellect interrupts waking life with random thoughts and day dreams. It disturbs sleep with persistent thinking and disrupts speech patterns. The Intellect suggests that you try your preferred pleasure activities with more dedication. The Intellect begins fetching thoughts like:
The Intellect, the mighty problem solver, goes slightly off kilter. It begins to combine the categories in a frantic attempt to find consistent pleasure. As you grow older, The Intellect creates an entangled mishmash of thoughts, ideas, and possible solutions. Individual raindrop-like thoughts become an unrelenting force: The Thought-Storm.
The constant flood of solutions coming at you begins to resemble a Category 5 hurricane. It is a storm of torrential thoughts bombarding you. There are lightning bolts of Emotional Coping: frustration, confusion, anger, and sadness. You feel helpless as your own thoughts batter you like torrential winds.
In The Thought-Storm, we become disoriented by a downpour of thoughts and we lose our footing. Advice and counseling, no matter how interesting, seemingly helpful, or relevant gets tossed into The Thought-Storm and is lost in the wind. Simply adding new knowledge, beliefs, and facts into our Thought-Storm will not bring us peace. In The Thought-Storm, it is impossible to open our eyes to the fact that The Intellect has clouded our view of the world. Our misguided ideas eventually form into counterproductive ideologies that have little or no basis in reality.
For those of us caught in The Thought-Storm: no media content, family member, priest, professor, spiritual guru, or life-hacker can provide a way out. We are trapped. It is a “Chinese finger-trap” scenario. The more you struggle and attempt to pull yourself out of The Thought-Storm, the more stuck you are.
It may seem as if The Intellect is a villain, and there are many who provide misguided advice such as:
• We must “reprogram our thoughts.”
• We must “clear our minds.”
• We must enter into a “thought-less state.”
• We must tame the “monkey-mind.”
These beliefs are harmful delusions. It could seem that one is better off not thinking, but The Intellect is an essential part of The Trinity of Mind. The Intellect may have been compromised by misinformation, but this does not mean it is some terror to be rid of. The concept of re-programming thought patterns is extremely popular, but focusing our efforts on changing The Intellect’s content is a lot like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. The labeling of The Intellect and The Thought-Storm as the “monkey-mind” is an unhelpful mischaracterization. There is nothing to tame. No “taming of mind” will properly address the fact that distress signals in The Body are being unheeded. This automatically causes desperate fetching by The Intellect.
Whenever we believe that we have discovered a solution to all of our problems, regardless of whether it was self-discovered or taught to us, we must ask ourselves one question:
We all live in search for permanent pleasure. So far civilized humanity seems to be moving further and further to the right of the diagram. We have reached a point in which most of us are lost in The Thought-Storm. We can stop and orient ourselves in the other direction. If we move towards and through our distress, we have the opportunity to discover a new way of relating to our lives: The Sunshine. If we stop and listen to that blaring car alarm, we will notice that it is saying:
The distress in The Body that we have learned to avoid is actually a call to adventure. It is the call to get to know The Sunshine. Throughout history there have been individuals that have attempted to teach us a different way of experiencing life. Some were condemned, some praised, and many forgotten. Humanity has been so caught up in The Thought-Storm, and its frantic pleasure seeking, that their message has been misinterpreted. From our state of confusion, we have spread naive misunderstandings including the idea of a transcendental nirvana, endless divine joy, eternal love, everlasting bliss, permanent enlightenment, and the imminent kingdom of heaven. I suggest these notable and influential figures were actually speaking of a change in one’s relationship to daily life that is nuanced, subtle, yet profound.
It is not possible for me to adequately describe what it is like to experience The Sunshine. This way of living is deeply personal and individual. I can say that it is not a goal to be achieved. The Sunshine cannot be attained. There are no skills to be learned, actions to take, or behaviors to model to bring about The Sunshine. You cannot reduce The Sunshine to a logistical problem.
Life on the right side of the diagram involves constant and persistent evaluation. We look for pleasure value in every single aspect of our lives. The closer we move towards The Thought-Storm, the more we criticize and judge our life experience. If we determine that something, someone, or some situation has negative value, we avoid it. Anything that is judged to be a potential pleasure source is sought after. We see life as a problem to solve, and the more solutions we attempt the better – quantity is what matters. Some Eastern traditions call the right side of the diagram Maya. You can also equate it to the famed Ego.
On the left, we can live a qualitative experience. Some call this soul, heart, the Tao, or the poetic life. This is the experience of life as a work of art which includes both pleasure and discomfort in a rich, diverse tapestry of events. The Sunshine represents an alternative to constant evaluation. It is highly subjective, and does not rely on inherited concepts.
So, the trick is to figure out how to live in The Sunshine and you’ll be happy for ever, right? Wrong. If we chase The Sunshine, it becomes a goal and we remain stuck over on the right side of the diagram.
The goal of civilized humanity is permanent pleasure and certainly nothing sounds better than The Sunshine. This is the primary roadblock that halts real transformation in religious, spiritualist, trans-humanist and new age traditions. People in these groups market a state of unity and bliss to the detriment of their followers. Heaven, Enlightenment, Buddha Nature, Christ Consciousness, Pure Being, Virtual Life Extension, and the Authentic/Natural State are just idealized forms of pleasure permanence. This deluded right-sided goal driven thinking is a major pitfall that many of us fall into.
The Sunshine is always shining. While it is obscured by our desperate search for permanent pleasure, it is always available. In order to transform our relationship with life we must clear the storm clouds by opening the channels of communication with The Body.
Our lives are spent bouncing back and forth between distress and pleasure seeking so quickly that we do not notice it happening. This behavior can be understood as a high-frequency wave pattern, a Fast Wave.
Anyone who wants an instant method to stop this process is looking for a short-cut that does not exist. I strongly caution against following those who sell escape from the ups and downs of life. The Life Wave is not something to escape; instead it is possible for the highs to be appreciated and the lows to be properly understood for what they are: messages from The Body.
As The Observer, it is possible to notice that our current approach to The Intellect and The Body creates a never ending cycle of compulsion. The Life Wave slows gradually through diligent Observation. As you Slow Your Wave, the reservoir of repressed discomfort below the surface of everyday activity is reduced. The less often you ping-pong between your highs and lows, the less distress you will accumulate throughout life.
When you Slow Your Wave, the distance between the pleasure high and the distress low decreases. It takes less effort to experience pleasure and it becomes easier to tolerate distress. Extreme pleasure is no longer required to achieve a sense of satisfaction. The Thought-Storm begins to lift and The Sunshine begins to warm you. Your lows are also less extreme. They become an opportunity to listen to The Body and better understand your unfair expectations on the people, things, and situations in your life.
In order to Slow Your Wave we must all cultivate a transformative habit:
It is hard to fathom that something as simple as sitting can help transform our life experience, but there is a reason that most people do not do this. Sitting quietly and doing absolutely nothing is the antithesis of what our culture is all about. Everyone around us is caught up in action, compulsion, and pleasure seeking. Sitting is so…boring. A daily routine of sitting quietly without distractions provides us the opportunity to:
• Fully feel The Body and its distress.
• Observe and understand the thoughts that The Intellect fetches the most often.
• Feel cravings for compulsive action.
• Train The Intellect to fetch a daily reminder to sit.
Sitting opens the channels of communication with The Body. When we sit, we can begin to see our current predicament more clearly. We can feel that The Body is not as comfortable as The Intellect may have suggested. We can Observe that we have been self-medicating with pleasure seeking activities. Sitting allows us to make friends with the distress that we have repressed for a long time. It creates a space in which bottled up discomfort can be felt without any distractions.
Sitting provides a glimpse into the actual present moment. Sensations in The Body anchor us to what is happening right now, not a conceptual “now” regurgitated by The Intellect, not a compulsive idea of what you’d like to be doing in the future, or what you did in the past, but rather the living, breathing present moment that The Body resides in at all times.
The Body needs to heal. The constant underlying distress and the effects of our compulsive activities are very taxing on this delicate instrument. Its sensory alarms have been blaring non-stop with no outlet for most of our lives. Sitting is our opportunity to turn our attention to The Body. We can let it blare without distraction or repression. This allows The Body to properly express itself and gradually regain homeostasis. This is the actual meaning of relaxation, which is quite different from the false relaxation that we often convince ourselves we are enjoying when partaking in socially encouraged “relaxing” activities.
I am not advocating for a “formal meditation” practice. Meditation is commonly understood as the practice of concentration in an attempt to “clear thoughts” from the mind. Sometimes people chant, focus on supposedly transformative visual stimulus, visualize positive scenarios, and listen to guided instructions. These practices are often taken up by people who only have a superficial understanding of what they are doing, this is particularly the case with ancient Eastern practices. I believe that having a formal meditation practice is an unhealthy and fruitless endeavor that leads to more strain on The Body, and increased fetching from The Intellect. I am also not advocating for the practice of mindfulness as it is currently marketed in Western culture. Straining to remain focused on each minute detail of your life is exhausting and ultimately counter-productive.
I am advocating for a daily practice of plain old quiet sitting. Here are some tips based on my personal experience:
Find a quiet spot with few distractions:
• Sit in whatever position you choose, but remain upright.
• The location does not have to be completely silent as long as there are minimal distractions (it is hard to find a completely silent location).
• Sit in a chair or on the floor, whatever feels more comfortable.
Rest the hands in a comfortable place, on the lap works.
Set a timer:
• The timer app on a smart phone is fine, although I believe it is best to avoid using distracting electronic devices. An egg timer is a good alternative.
• It’s best to not sway around, but avoid being super stiff.
Close the eyes, this provides even less distraction from the environment.
Observe that you are breathing in and out:
• Breathe through the nose or mouth, however you usually do.
• Feel the air moving in and out of The Body.
• Notice the breath happens to you. You do not have to think in order to breathe. The Body’s intelligence breathes on its own.
The Intellect may start fetching thoughts immediately:
• That’s okay, what are the thoughts about?
• Are they distracting?
If there are any external noises or distractions, notice them and re-focus on the breath:
• Do not try to “block out” any sounds or sensations.
You may begin to feel some distress: discomfort, anxiety, restlessness, or pain in The Body.
Feel The Body from the inside:
• Feel its warmth.
• Feel the heartbeat and notice that it happens to you, The Body’s intelligence beats the heart on its own.
Attempt to feel the following:
• Toes, feet, ankles, legs, glutes, genitals, stomach, back muscles, chest, shoulders, arms, hands, fingers, neck, scalp, eyes, tongue, jaw, cheeks, lips, face, top of the head.
• Where is there discomfort?
• Have any of these body parts been ignored or gone unfelt for long periods of time?
The Intellect will continue to fetch thoughts:
• It’s still okay, what are the thoughts about?
• Are they distracting?
Go back to feeling The Body. Go back to the breath. Go back to the heartbeat.
• Coming back to The Body is more important than any fantasy or sense of progress.
It’s important that once the timer goes off, you get up and the session is over.
• Go about your day as normal. You have stuff to do, don’t you?
Daily quiet sitting focuses our awareness on the fact that some of the thoughts that The Intellect fetches do not serve our best interest. Sitting provides us a chance to be more selective when accepting fetched thoughts. But there is a catch. It is futile to say to yourself: “I no longer want to do X activity.” This is pleasure seeking and goal making. Instead we must keep our efforts focused on sitting once a day. This habit subtly fosters harmony between The Intellect, The Body, and The Observer. We anchor ourselves by fully experiencing the sensations of The Body, and over time, avoid easily drifting into The Thought-Storm. Eventually, our ability to discern and discredit pleasure seeking improves.
Here’s an analogy: The Body’s left hand is sitting on a hot stove top. There is pain radiating up your left arm. You feel anxiety in the chest. You have been taught that distress is something to avoid at all costs, in fact it is even shameful to admit suffering. So you decide to avoid the fact that these unpleasant sensations are happening and neglect to follow the pain to its source.
The Intellect suggests that you can solve the discomfort by using the right hand to distract yourself. You play a video game, chat online, read a book, masturbate, ingest food, drink, and drugs, but none of the pleasure seeking resolves the distress. Each time one of these solutions fails to work, the discomfort becomes apparent again. At this point, so much time has passed that the pain in your left hand has reached an intensity that is almost unbearable. The Intellect cannot solve this problem and fetches so many solutions that you wind up in the confusing Thought-Storm.
You blame the video game, the chats, the book, sexuality, food, drink and drugs. Of course these activities were simply distractions. If you were to stop, take a moment, and fully feel The Body, you could acknowledge the pain and examine where it is coming from. As The Observer, you have the ability to see through all of the false solutions for the distress, allowing you to address the actual situation in a fully present manner.
Sitting is a practical thing to do. There is nothing special, mystical, or spiritual about it. If you are tired of all the unhelpful solutions that the world offers, just stop and sit. Commit a few minutes every day to stop and listen to The Body. Consider sitting a part of your daily hygiene routine, like brushing your teeth.
Sitting is not all rainbows and butterflies. The transition from a Fast Wave to a Slow Wave is not necessarily fun or easy. When going inwards we peel back the layers of our cravings for permanent pleasure, and just like peeling the layers of an onion, this process can sting. There will be moments when The Intellect will overwhelm you with possible solutions to your discomfort. Fully feeling The Body may bring you to Observe aches and pains that you’d rather avoid.
Both of these are compulsions that will distract you. This is not about cheering yourself up or wallowing in self-pity. Self-Pity falls into the Emotional Coping category. It is a sneaky method to find pleasure in drama.
When sitting you may begin to fidget a lot more than you thought you would. If anxiety or physical pain is overpowering, cut the session short, and go about your day. There’s no need for masochism. Consider reducing the amount of time you sit until you can complete a full session, and then add time from there.
It is okay if The Intellect fetches you a million thoughts, it is okay if you get caught up in a fantasy about something, it is okay if you cannot feel The Body very well, or even if you don’t notice anything at all. It’s even okay if you fall asleep sometimes, that just means The Body needs rest. When you are sitting in your quiet space, it’s all okay. Just make sure to sit again the next day.
The Intellect may fetch ideas that you did not anticipate, some of which may be unsavory. It is important to be totally honest with yourself about what happens to you when you sit. There is no need for you to accept any blame, guilt, or shame that The Intellect fetches. You do not have to believe or accept everything that is fetched. This self-bashing is simply a perverse attempt to regain Status superiority. You will only move deeper into The Thought-Storm if you buy into this sort of thinking.
When sitting we bring our attention to The Body, a crucial aspect of mind that has been ignored for too long. There is no end goal here; we simply get to know The Body a little bit more every day. You will not become anything. You will not achieve anything. You will not add anything to yourself. In fact you are setting aside time to lose. Whenever you feel unexpected discomfort, anxiety, or pain in The Body or are suddenly bombarded by The Intellect, it is helpful to ask:
This question allows for a momentary halt in the addictive process, and a closer examination of your compulsive behavior. Did you abruptly get angry at someone? Did you get suddenly sense a strong urge to have dessert or a cigarette? Did you just spend hours streaming television, scrolling through social media, eating a whole tub of ice cream, or binging on pornography? Each time we act on a compulsion we are driven by the loss of something that was expected to provide us with permanent pleasure.
Slowing Your Wave is an incremental steady process. It is not about instant gratification. The repeated experience of sitting every day can, over time, reduce your dependence on pleasure seeking. Again, I caution against making a goal out of this. The Intellect may fetch thoughts like: “I will be a better person. I will try harder. I will sit more than anyone else.” What we’ve traditionally called morality is simply forced self-control. It is superficial play acting for social acceptance, and the energy expenditure it takes to forcibly control oneself is exhausting to The Body. Conscious control of behavioral impulses places continuous unhealthy strain on The Body and will power eventually gives out. This often leads to even more extreme compulsive pleasure seeking activity.
Sitting provides The Body an opportunity to release the distress that has accumulated over many years. It is unhelpful to expect a particular result from a sitting session, each will be different. Moments after sitting you may move past initial discomfort and fidgeting to find yourself in a tranquil state. Or, on the flip side, you may feel an extremely strong compulsion to act out on a favorite pleasure seeking category. If this occurs, I suggest you go ahead and follow through with your desire. For example, if The Intellect keeps fetching you the suggestion that a donut will make you feel better, and it doesn’t let up, then go ahead and eat the donut. Observe and savor the taste. After the act, sit and get a sense of how The Body feels.
• Does The Body feel as good as The Intellect suggested it would?
• Is The Intellect now fetching you thoughts of regret and perhaps even guilt?
• Are you actually satisfied?
I must stress that an exception must be made whenever The Intellect is fetching intense anger, verbal or physical violence, abuse of any kind, or any dangerous activity. It is not advisable to act on these behaviors no matter how much you want to, the consequences can be long lasting and devastating. If you find yourself in a situation like this, extreme self-control of your faculties will be required until the compulsion subsides. After the impulse passes, it is important to consider the actual cause of the compulsion. The Intellect fetched a dangerous compulsion as a solution to mask the loss of something that you had previously expected would provide permanent pleasure. What was that loss?
As you Observe The Intellect’s activity and begin to feel The Body more fully, you may feel the need to talk to a friend, family member, and/or professional counselor about newly discovered thought patterns, compulsions, and distress. An honest and open conversation with someone who is there to listen can be helpful. Discuss your struggle and learn ways to replace your unhealthy compulsions with others that are less harmful. During these conversations remember that the real work of transforming your compulsive nature happens within you. Dialogue with others can be a healthy outlet, but always keep in mind that your only true teacher is you. Others can serve as support, encouragement, and teach you methods of self-exploration and self-control, but only you can take responsibility for Slowing Your Wave.
The only way to Slow Your Wave is to sit every day. Some traditions advocate forms of active meditation, such as mindful walking. These will not Slow Your Wave effectively because these techniques require activity. The point of sitting daily is to reduce activity to the point that you can Observe what you were not able to previously due to your constant doing. Laying still is another popular variation of meditation. While this may be a useful practice, particularly in sensory deprivation tanks, sitting upright maintains a particular state of awareness in The Body. Laying down often shifts The Body into a pre-slumber state, and one loses the sense of focus that comes with sitting upright.
As we cultivate a Slower Wave, there are by-products that arise naturally without effort. I run the risk of creating a goal for you by listing these, but the text would be incomplete without describing the by-products of a Slow Wave life.
Eventually, The Observer notices The Intellect’s fetching and The Body’s alarms during daily activity, not just sitting. A keen awareness of The Trinity of Mind arises during routine daily activity.
A Slower Wave life reduces the amount of time we spend searching for purpose and utility in the people, objects, and situations in our lives. Happiness and peace are not objects to be attained so we no longer need to look for purpose. Life is has no purpose, only tools have a purpose. Life is an experience, not a tool to be used for your pleasure.
The Big Questions, which have been an existential dilemma for generations, begin to fade away. They become less and less of a priority as you shift towards a qualitative relationship to life. These questions are only necessary when one has a simmering pool of distress underneath day-to-day existence. They are a form of escapism that is no longer needed.
The Thought-Storm lets up. As you move towards the left of the diagram, The Intellect becomes a Thought-Drizzle. The Intellect ceases its relentless bombardment which results in a more harmonious Trinity of Mind. Thoughts never cease completely, but their quantity is reduced, and their quality improves. The higher quality thoughts that remain are what we’ve traditionally called inspiration. These are thoughts much less concerned with pleasure seeking and more focused on creation. Creation is inspiration in action.
The energy that used to be spent on The Intellect’s fetching and The Body’s constant alarm becomes available to The Body. Having access to more of this innate power, living feels less tense, more like an artistic act of creation.
As The Life Wave slows, you begin to Observe that everyone has a particular frequency.
Returning to the video game metaphor at the beginning of the text, when you become a 1st Person Player, you can look over and see that the player beside you is just as involved in the game as you are. They may behave in disagreeable ways, but you can’t help but notice that they are in the same situation that you are in.
Everyone you meet is experiencing the same thing: The Body is ringing alarms and The Intellect is fetching a frenzy of thoughts. Everyone experiences The Life Wave. They are caught in The Thought-Storm just like you are. Much of our society is based on pleasure craving and compulsive activity. Those who are lost in the desperate cycle of pain, pleasure seeking, and harmful activity provoke empathy. Even if their life situation is different to yours, and even if their compulsions are so severe and harmful that they warrant rehabilitation and incarceration, you share the same fundamental pathology: compulsive pleasure seeking and avoidance of discomfort.
This recognition is True Compassion. It arises organically and provides us a sense of community with everyone, even strangers, no matter how different they seem. What we commonly call compassion is forced pathological altruism. Trying to be compassionate is play acting, no matter how well intentioned it is. As True Compassion grows within each of us, I believe that it inevitably results in a unique form of True Service to others. This True Service is very different from the self-gratifying pleasure seeking activity that we traditionally call charity. No two people are exactly alike, and thus the expression of True Compassion and True Service is highly individual.
As The Body is cleared of repressed distress, a unity amongst all things can be intuitively sensed. This unity is not understood intellectually, and cannot be properly communicated to others through language; instead it is experienced as a state of well-being and a feeling of connection to all of creation. This is True Love.
True Love involves appreciating the people, objects, and situations in our lives without desperately needing them to provide us pleasure. The constant evaluation of whether a person, a thing, or a circumstance serves our interests fades away on its own. Most of us have never been fully immersed in True Love, but it takes no effort at all once The Thought-Storm lets up. In this state, Status Quo love can be seen as the fraud that it is: compulsive neediness learned during upbringing which results in transactional relationships.
These by-products cannot be sought or achieved. You will remain in The Thought-Storm if you make them a goal. Your priority must be to Sit With It every day. Over time, you will Slow Your Wave and, if you’re fortunate, The Thought-Storm will give way to The Sunshine.
Sitting may seem passive, but boy does it take courage to sit while the rest of the world is spinning out of control. While everyone is caught up in a storm of activity, the act of stopping and sitting quietly is radical. It takes bravery and honesty to admit your compulsions. It takes guts to flip conventional knowledge on its head and acknowledge that there is another way of living available to us, one that does not rely on avoidance of discomfort and compulsive pleasure seeking activity.
If you have the courage to Sit With It every day, this new way of living can arise organically. It must be experienced in the 1st Person. There is only way to know if I am full of it:
Find out for yourself.
Higher res version available at
THE STATUS QUO Let’s face it, life sucks for a lot of us. Society offers up many solutions to our problems, but they do not work as advertised. We’re often told to: increase our self-esteem motivate ourselves work harder tame our mind cultivate positive psychology meditate do yoga change our habits practice mindfulness get religion life hack We’re always letdown after embracing the ideologies of the modern world. Celebrities, politicians, religious authorities, scientists, self help gurus, and life coaches don’t know how to bring about happiness any better than we do. The search for the meaning and happiness is never-ending. DISRUPT THE STATUS QUO Sit With It: A New Paradigm for Living explains that we have all inherited a harmful thought paradigm that warps our relationships with the people, things, and situations in our lives. Many of us are trapped in an addictive cycle of distress, compulsion, and pleasure seeking. Asking one simple, yet unexpected question disrupts the Status Quo: What do I feel when I sit quietly without outside distractions? SLOW YOUR WAVE Through the lens of your subjective experience, you will learn about The Trinity of Mind, The Life Wave, The Thought-Storm, and The Sunshine. More importantly, you will be asked to put it to the test. Is it possible to gain freedom from the Status Quo? Is it possible to Slow Your Wave and live a different kind of life? Find out for yourself.