Tuesday, March 2, 2010

cultivate/nurture/nourish freedom

when i read thich nhat hahn i feel like my brain re-opens for a second, for an exxciting blinding flash, opens back up to the way it was when i was a kid and felt like freedom was everything---when being a super-sponge, experience-gathering, curious, fascinated explorer is an every day thing.  before stuff starts stifling you--before you start worrying--before you lose your innocence. and worry about what people think.  before you start learning to hate yourself.  before you start fearing things and start trying to control things.  when you are unencumbered by doubt, everything is fun and an expression of yourself, where every thought is let in and not really judged.  then it goes away.  then trying to get there again --well, that's the surefire way to scare it away forever.
everything is mental
the moment is everything
breath is life.  the heartbeat is the present, the moment, the breath, the energy
that infinite moment
life is intinfite
life is Everything in a Moment
life is Everything NOW--too much to even process
we just get billion glimmers/flashes in every moment--- we can see them all, but so blocked and protected and denial-dulled we can only choose to see a few (cuz those channels need to be opened) really
FILTERS:    Guilt; Sliding-Doors Re-creation: Endless Possibility; FEAR (general and/or specific); Body-physical feeling/activity/ Observation; Worry-future; Practicality (Cold/harsh); Regret-past (connecting backward, lingering there; External Over-sensitivity; Flush of Love---uncrushable, indiscriminate, all-forgiving, teflon-proof good-feeling (UNCRUSHABLE), magical, sparkling, sparkly cloud (ego-involvement, consciously oblivious, impermeable to doubts, worries, sadnesses--don't remember what "sad" feels? whats that?-- i love the whole world!  i love EVERYONE and EVERYTHING!  (form of denial, blocking off, ultimately UNcompassionate.  happiness is selfish?
rose-colored glasses
cloud 9
floating in a bubble
over the moon
pie in the sky (?)
love is blind
head over heels
in heaven
can't stop 1. smiling . 2. dancing


  1. You know what I've been obsessed with lately is this idea of the Neuronal axis of the brain. Basically each higher (both physical location and processes) level of the brain is a more recent addition until you get to the prefrontal cortex (PFC) which is the most advanced and an area of the brain that only humans have. The way that you process information works on the same hierarchy so the primitive parts of your brain concerned with basic survival will always trump the PFC in the moment which is why you can sometimes hear that distant voice observing the unfortunate things your panicked body is doing as it reacts to some perceived threat. It also affects your decision making process because the more primitive parts of your brain are most concerned with immediate satisfaction or security but wise decisions that create longer term success but short term pain can be very difficult to make because in essence your PFC has to override the desire of the your instinctual reaction. I got this stuff from 'Buddha's Brain' and one of it's main points is that Buddhism helps you build on your PFC's ability to override the primitive/emotional body response so that you can make better decisions and not be afflicted by an outdated stress response. When you think of how quickly technology has developed vs our brain's architecture it is no wonder we are constantly stressed when we our subtly worrying about being eaten by a lion while browsing the internet.

    I just realized this all wasn't too relevant to your post but thought you might be interested. Those chocolate blueberries you brought over are just delicious thanks again.

  2. you are so awesome. sorry, that was so west coast...but i [like totally] MEAN IT. i used to think about panic a lot (in terms of how to GET RID when i'm on stage or have to speak in discussion section or even when i'm in front of someone intimidating. etc.) i was so sure that my central nervous system was so auto-wired up that i couldn't even trace the process it was so lightning-quick. then i realized it was not solved really IN the brain, like in terms of THINKING your way out of it. you can't beat instinctive protective defenses with thinking at that MOMENT of attack. but being able to recall a feeling (a memory of a feeling of calm---not in terms of description (words) but in terms of really sensation, specific body-awareness (drawing focus AWAY from brain and it's spinning ingrained, pattern of neurosis (i'm speaking of myself here) ---that's what helped. maybe i needed to figure out what a good "trigger" word was, or body part (like, i use "shoulders-down"or some form of centering) so i could more easily "get there" to being in BODY, in the Present, or CREATING a Present that i could work within... that is what was a big revelation for me--and now it's easier to call up as i continue to use it and play around with it. that's why the thich nhat hahn works well---if you expand the present moment into something freeing (physically, mentally) then everything seems to fall into place. when the present is Unbearable, life is a jail of automatic reactions and baggagey thoughts..and physically it's LOCKDOWN. you know when you go sightread mozart for a gig or something and you're like, oh it'll be easy, no biggie--then suddenly something feels uncomfortable and there's that clamp-down? (fingers stiff and TRYING makes things worse, bow feels WRONG, you wanna just run...) it's nice to know that even when things are unexpectedly AWFUL, you can use these creative "fun" tricks to turn things around. the brain science behind it backs it up --you can begin to OVERRIDE and gain some freedom: specifically, facility comes back, extremities no longer freezing-cold; with your imaginative brain (NOT your control center, concerned with as you say, primitive/emotional mechanisms for "self-protection"-gone-into-overdrive) you can create the "better environment" the better Moment---unfortunately, the prep for this must be done in a calm state when your frontal cortex is uninhibited by that stronger, animalistic force; you cannot address it when you're already there, in a cold sweat.

  3. part II:
    it's quite amazing how (to me) it's all so ...opposite, or counter-intuitive, or whatever. my asian ways of screaming at myself (very left brain, right? speech center location.?) seems the right thing to do still, but i have enough raw real-life proof that Letting IT All GO and almost DE-focusing, or rather RE-focusing completely on something specific like for example duh: "LEFT SHOULDER" or "HEAVY RIGHT ARM" can get you outta trouble in no time. it's ridiculous almost! who knew there were all these doors you can unlock BY YOURSELF, no longer chained to "OH SHIT--HAPPENING! HAPPENING!! HAPPENING!!" and your heart racing more and more---it's a real relief just to know your brain can actually HELP YOU. phew. (and DUH maybe.??) we need to re-watch WHAT THE BLEEP and then DISCUSS.
    i have GOT to tell you about this steve reich piece i'm doing with all this PHASING----a lot of it is FOCUS, then DON't FOCUS, then RELAX, then FOCUS, then DON'T FOCUS, etc, etc... i met with robertson today and he is the one who really got me there--to that point where i could freely move from FOCUSING on MY OWN PLAYING, then switching to physical auto-pilot and OPENING MY EARS to the rest of the score (i'm playing with/against three tracks of myself --pre-recorded). it was like DRUGS when i did a perfect complete PHASE finally!! i cannot tell you. it was EUPHORIC! i have to have to have to TELL YOU ABOUT THIS LATER! then you can tell me what was going on in my brain! and draw diagrams! i'm still on a high about it. hopefully i can re-create that at the concert with the added uh "CHALLENGE" of the old stage friends, Nerves and Doubt. i think i need to refine how to practice that better---i mean, HOW to practice focusing in on yourself (while defocusing on outer commotion) and then bring it back --the focus--on the Whole, distractions and all, and still being FINE with IT. it's so good when it's good, and SO BAD when it's BAD!!!!!! let's call it "CHALLENGING"....haha. thanks for commenting. sorry i'm long-winded as usual. hopefully makes some sense.

  4. It's so fun to read your writing because it is just chock full of perfect examples of neural maps (quickly becoming a favorite phrase of mine I know) illustrating different parts of the brain I've been studying. Your Mozart sight reading example is exactly the type of situation that I couldn't think of when I wrote my post to describe the idea. Interestingly, one of those highly primitive brain stem reactions to a threat (i.e. fucking up that quickly approaching run and having your friends think you are an awful player) is to FREEZE. Thus the locked muscles quick breaths etc. I'm glad you've found a useful tool in your thich nhat hahn strategy. I've been trying to do similar things in those situations and it's another reason why I love Bikram because it provides me with a relatively safe environment in which I can practice controlling the primitive urges to 'run find somewhere safe.' You also mentioned my other strategy which has been to relabel (yes getting back to cataloging language) those worst moments as 'Opportunities!' (You used challenging which is just as good). Somehow that helps me to make my competitive fight instinct take over instead of the incapacitating fear reaction. My hope is that someday I will be able to harness all that adrenaline to actually play above my usual level. Last thing I have to mention is your drug reference. I just read an absolutely fascinating chapter in Michael Pollan's book 'Botany of desire' about the effects of Marijuana on the brain. One of his main points is that there are many different ways to alter your the biochemistry of your brain. If you take a placebo antidepressant the brain begins to release serotonin in anticipation of what it expects. Similarly meditation, prayer, gambling, sex all forms of making your brain release different neurotransmitters. Playing the Reich is the perfect example of you changing the chemical makeup of your brain. Buddha would probably caution against letting yourself become Euphoric as that attachment will set the stage for future suffering (i.e. drop in Dopamine rewards as you determine that it wasn't quite as good as the last time you played it through). But the main point is that the ultimate point of our brains is to act as a system of regulation for our bodies. If we let the older (evolutionarily speaking) parts of our brain do most of that regulation we are in for a bumpy ride. If we can practice making the 'Executive' (imagine Jack Donagy) prefrontal cortex area make the majority of decisions then we are beginning to take full potential of the uniquely human area of the brain. Or you could think of it as planting a huge garden of 'rewards' rather then wait for one to show up on your doorstep. The former takes a lot more time and effort upfront but certainly beats the latter down the line.

  5. omg amazing. mind blown (pshhffffft). genius use of JACK DONAGHY as executive, PFC. WAIT! does that mean mexican-cheese-puff-with-growth-hormone- and donut-eating heroine LIZ LEMON is my BRAIN STEM??? oy vey.

  6. sad/true that it's so easy and fun (and auto)to relate and identify w/liz lemon. alec baldwin, i mean JACK,after all, is the ronald-reagan-haircut conservative. (ooop. oh nooo. i did NOT just imply that repubs are our brain stem)
    oh i'm just a wacky LIBERAL!

  7. um i meant the other way round---that repubs are our [gasp!] pre-frontal cortex. meaning, i did NOT mean that. ah, what a great example of an english major i am is.