Sunday, September 12, 2021





Note: This column was "a bit left field" for the Santa Barbara New-Press so does not appear in the newspaper but only on this blog.

This being California—metaphysical central of the United States (especially along the American Riviera)—folks here possess a deep interest in the art of mindfulness. 

So, because today is Mindfulness Day, we look deeply into what this philosophy of experience is all about by answering 40 questions that usually elicit culturally-conditioned responses:

1.  How are you? 

It’s a mystery how I am, still trying to figure it out, though it’s probably as simple as DNA’s obsession with reproducing itself after the universe saw fit to create consciousness out of recycled stardust.

2. How are you doing?  

As serenely as possible under whatever circumstances.


3. What’s going on?  
Due to forces at play of which we know little or nothing, far more is going on than your five senses are telling you. So, in addition to using these senses, throw yourself into everything around you (especially nature) instead of thinking so hard and so much about yourself, your past and your future. 

4. Whats up?

My mood. It’s about positive psychology (a bright outlook) meshed with the right balance of nutrients (fresh air, sunshine, the purest water, healthy foods), being in motion, enjoying inter-personal relationships and, as much as possible, being in a state of flow, otherwise known as in the zone or on point/purpose. This works especially well if you’re engaged in designing or discovering something new. “The mind,” wrote Andrew Carnegie, “can be moved from the shade into sunshine.” Or put more succinctly:  Lighten up.


5. How are you feeling?

Self-actualized.  “Tell the trees what ails you,” is what Native Americans prescribed as a general remedy if/when you’re feeling less than blessed. (Native Americans strive to lead the third-third of their lives in a forest.)

The Japanese echo this with shinrin-yoku (the “new yoga”), which translates to forest bathing; that is, spending time among the trees for inhaling phytoncides, a natural aromatherapy that heals body and soul. 


6. How is your day going?

Moment by moment.


7. What time is it? 



8. What do you do? 

Breathe deeply, walk briskly and strive for Eudaimonia (happiness) through hierophanie (manifestation of the sacred) and epiphany (mystical knowledge).  Otherwise, I write, read—and loaf.


9. Where have you been?

Stuck in my mind (until I got unstuck).

10. Where are you going?

Following my bliss. Beyond that, same as everyone else. It’s the journey that counts. 


11. What’s new?

Everything. Because, like a flowing river, each new moment is transitory and reveals impermanence.


12. How was your day?

In the past and no longer worth thinking about.


13. What are you doing later?

Beats the heck out of me, haven’t given it a thought.


14. How are things going?

Just the way they were always meant to be.

15. What’s the word?

Native Americans believe that special words manifest when you’re alone in the mountains. Or, as John Muir, the 19th-century naturalist put it: “Mountains speak, wise men listen.”  


16. Who are you?

The product of my ever-changing consciousness since birth. Which boils down to precisely who I am this moment, not before, because our pictures of the past are rife with false memories and stories constructed mostly by our righteous egos.


17. Where is this going?

It doesn’t matter.

18. What do you want?

Cosmic consciousness (what William Blake called “imaginative vision” and Albert Maslow referred to as a “peak-experience,” known in Zen Buddhism as satori—or sudden illumination). This can be accomplished—religiously or secularly—through many different pathways. 

The Contemplative Pathway (choose your religion or none at all): meditation, repetitive prayer/affirmations, yoga, fasting, sensory deprivation, eye-gazing, chanting, singing, dancing and/or drum-beating. 

The Sensate Pathway: a special piece of art that appears unexpectedly or the right bars of music (usually live vibration) at the right moment; others experience this through “adamic ecstasy” (hitting rock bottom) or near-death experience. 

The Naturalist Pathway: a surprise union with nature through transformative triggers such as sunrises and sunsets, starry skies, a crescent moon with earthshine, groves of trees, carpets of flowers and/or sacred sites of natural beauty.


Intellectual Pathway: From epiphany through mystical knowledge. 

If it doesn’t happen naturally, there’s always the various “kykeons” (elixirs that bring on alternate or non-ordinary states of consciousness) to help people along: ayahuasca/yage (DMT), peyote (mescaline), magic mushrooms (psilocybin) and ergot/lysergic acid (LSD), though some including ‘60’s philosopher/guru Alan Watts consider these mind-manifesting (psychedelic) substances an unworthy shortcut to true mystical experience (yet worthwhile, in Watts’s opinion, based on his own indulgence, but only if taken under ceremonial, controlled—not casual—conditions). 

Carl Jung boiled down personality types into two categories: sensing (“just the facts, ma’am”—logical positivism) and intuitive (gut instinct). Needless to add, those in the latter category are more prone to cross the razor’s edge toward cosmic consciousness than the former.  Albert Maslow had his own two categories: Peakers and Non-Peakers. Peak experiences are emotional, arrive with an element of surprise and lead to spiritual re-birth. And though peak-experiences are temporary, one can stay “turned on” through what Maslow called a “High Plateau of Unitive Consciousness”—thereby enjoying serenity and happiness on a permanent basis, otherwise known as enlightenment.


19.  How would I know if this has happened to me?

A feeling of selflessness, timelessness (entirely focused on the present), effortlessness and richness; heightened awareness, elation, serenity; a sense of revelation and connection to people and nature; personal identity replaced by unity. 

20. What do you do after enlightenment?

Chop wood, carry water. In other words, live life as before and don’t talk about it to anyone because a) few will understand what you’re talking about (especially mechanistic materialists, who will believe you have gone insane) and b) everyone must discover it on their own, through their individual pathway.


21. Whattaya know?

Hardly a micro-fraction of anything. But enough to understand that. 

22. May I say something? 

First ask yourself, will your words improve the silence?


23. Is that so?

It cannot be otherwise.


24: Do you love me?

The ultimate (if hidden) law of attraction: The subliminal smell of your pheromones suggests you have genes different from my own and therefore our offspring would be strengthened by two contrasting sets of immune systems providing them a likelier chance of producing even more DNA. Or put more simply:  We vibrate well together.


25: Are you happy?

Ineffably so, the higher end within the context of my natural range.  (The secret to happiness is gratitude. And low expectations.)  


26.  What’s shaking?

Everything. Because, to the chagrin of most scientists and all materialists, quantum physics has proven that when anything and everything is reduced to its most basic molecular level (electrons and neurons) there is no solid matter, only vibration. Even that chair you’re looking at is made of vibrating molecules. Human senses are simply too limiting for the brain to comprehend (short of mystical experience) that the tiniest particle is not a thing but a point of energy; that each particle has a field around it that merges with other fields, all of which are part of a unified field.


27. What’s the matter?

Nothing. (See above.)

28. What would you like to eat?    

My brain is awaiting an order from the bacteria in my gut. “Gut instinct” is real; your intestines are full of neurotransmitters, which elevate your gut to “second brain” status. Ten seconds before your mind tells you what you feel like eating, your gut has already decided, based on what the microbiota residing therein desire to munch on. “Gee, I think I’d like a cheeseburger, fries and shake.” That would be the bacteria in your gut talking.


29. What are you celebrating?

Each day. 


30. How do you sleep at night?

In total darkness and complete silence (aside from whatever sounds the animals of the night are making, most welcome), launched into an alternate reality of oneiranautic adventures produced either by the subconscious or portals to other dimensions (maybe both); a place where the rational mind has no control and, as such, due to physical paralysis that accompanies REM (dream) sleep, safely insane. 


31. What’s your problem? 

I have 83 of them, like everyone else—and when one gets solved it is quickly replaced by another. (The 84th problem—not worth having—is wanting all your problems to disappear.)  Part of life’s journey is problems—and the joy that comes from solving them. Hence, welcome problems as a challenge, never dwell on them. 


32. How do I deal with problem people?

Imagine a shield around you that cannot be penetrated by negative words or thoughts. Almost 2,000 years ago a Greek philosopher named Epictetus pointed out that we all have FREE WILL over how to respond to external circumstances (rather than caving to culturally-conditioned reactions and impulses). Which means this: Just because a ball is thrown at you doesn’t mean you have to catch it. Instead, watch—and smile—as the ball bounces away. And then, before a second ball is thrown, take a deep breath before deciding if it is worth catching. Taoists call this wu wei, which translates to this:  sit quietly, do nothing, let it pass through you. 

33. Penny for your thoughts?

The chattering monkey is behind bars and under observation.  But not ignored because coexistence of soul and self/ego is healthy—so long as you know the difference between the two.


34. How you do live in the present moment when it is so fluid?

Define the present as “from now until bedtime,” during which do not dwell upon your past (linked to depression) or fret about your future (linked to anxiety).  Or as the German philosopher Nietzsche put it, “Recover the seriousness of a child at play.” Live spontaneously and naturally with the whimsy and wonderment of an 8-year-old child. After some practice, graduate to a full-on focus of the eternal moment; silence your mind and be one with everyone and everything around you. Time is as fluid as consciousness itself; they were practically made for each other.


35. What is the purpose of life?

To keep genes alive (though I don’t rule out the possibility that humanity is just an unwitting tool for parenting Artificial Intelligence, which it may one day regret). 


36. Why?

Because, wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson, “To the illuminated mind the whole world burns and sparkles with light.”

37. Why do you write? (Substitute “write” for whatever activity that gives your life purpose, whether it be mountain climbing, scuba diving, skiing, marathons, sculpting, painting, teaching, etc.)

It is about yielding your self-importance to a divine experience much greater than yourself; about surrendering your ego to the cosmos and experiencing timelessness from total focus. More important, physiologically, you subconsciously do this to activate the serotonin system (serotonin, dopamine, endorphins, oxytocin) and, even better, if you’re successful, prod your pineal gland (the body’s third eye and “spirit molecule”) into releasing DMT, which produces something we all crave:  the feeling of ecstasy.


38. How can I activate my serotonin system for a natural high?

Walk in the sun, stretch, breathe deeply, laugh, cry, listen to soothing music, pet dogs, feed the birds, hug people, give presents (and presence), phone friends, have meals with them, tell your loved ones you love them—and don’t check the time.  Beyond that, endeavor to escape from the box in which you reside (Plato’s allegorical cave of wrongful perception and illusion of separation) so that homeostasis may be disrupted and awareness heightened.

39: Do you believe in God?  

How are you defining God (an oft divisive word with different meanings to the world’s religions and cultures)? I’m an Omnist, believing in religious pluralism i.e. there is some truth (and overlap) in all religions, toss in theosophy, an open-minded inquiry into religion, philosophy, science and the arts to understand wisdom of the ages. The traditional religions from the East—Tao, Hinduism and Buddhism—and the West—Christianity, Judaism, Islam (their mystical factions, anyway)—express the same underlying truth: the spirit of “God” is within us all. As Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Don’t look for yourself outside of yourself.”  Walt Whitman, a true mystic, put it another way: “I am divine and make holy whatever I touch.”  In other words, you don’t need a middleman to Infinite Spirit (my Godly term of choice); you already have a direct line, which you may or may not have awakened to; a direct line to the divine within you. Infinite Spirit is energy, encompassing every vibrating molecule in every being; it is not localized or timed; it is always and everywhere. So: Do I believe in Infinite Spirit? I don’t believe, I know.

40:  What’s the answer?

Yes.  Also: Surrender. Also: Adopt a dog.