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Gratitude Practice 3

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What is the highest end of the Gratitude practice?”

Taking NOTHING for granted.

This is a practice in itself.

By default, we tend to take everything for granted. To counter this tendency, it takes deliberate directing of the attention, by constantly asking yourself:

What am I taking for granted?

As they come into your Awareness, savor their simple Beauty, and express Loving Gratitude for all these Gifts.”

The Art of Perception 6

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“When you look up what do you see?”

“I see the sky.

What do you see?”

I see the Cosmic Ocean.

Make it a habit to always cast your Mind’s Eye past the observable horizon, my dear, into the vast Universe of Possibility.”

Beautiful Models: High-Density Experiences

Train to live on the other side of pain. (Josh Waitzkin)


Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“I had a beautiful experience watching a mosquito drink my blood. I’d never seen it happen.”

“Wasn’t it painful?”

“An essential aspect of my training is exposing myself to discomfort and pain. That’s what it started as, but ended up as a contemplation on the beautiful miracle that is Life.

This is what I call a high-density [<link; short length] experience. It lasted but a few moments, but it felt like so much happened in that brief time-span. I often get the same feeling during my 5-minute meditation sessions.”

On keeping impulses in check

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“How can I keep this impulse in check?”

“First of all, create space [<link; medium length] for reflection by temporarily distancing yourself from the situation. Ideally, physically change location, or go for a walk.

Secondly, ask the meta-question:

Can I ask a better question?

The question you ask influences the kinds of answers you explore.

Compare:

How can I keep this impulse in check?
How can I make keeping this impulse in check EFFORTLESS?

The two questions take you on very different paths.”

“How can I make it effortless?”

Remember WHY you want to keep it in check. 

If you have a compelling enough reason, you have your answer.

If don’t have a compelling reason, CREATE ONE. This means gaining clarity on who you want to be and what you want from life, and creating a deeply compelling vision for your life, one that will serve as your guide and as backdrop for your every action.”

The Challenge Principle

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“I can’t meditate. My mind is racing / I’m feeling x.”

That’s the BEST time to meditate.

Remember the ultimate goal of the practice.”

Achieving Stillness under ANY conditions.

“Keep that in mind always, and treasure any opportunity to practice it.”

Joy Of Missing Out

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“How can I get rid of the Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO)?”

“Ask yourself:

What 20 percent of things in your life are responsible for 80 percent of your success and happiness?

Focus exclusively on those, and design your life around them.

Time is limited. 
Everything you do has an opportunity cost
Everything you do from the 80 category steals precious time away from the 20 category.

Keep that in mind always as you replace FOMO with JOMO (Joy Of Missing Out).

The Scope of Meditation

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What is the ultimate scope of Meditation?”

“It’s important to realize that Meditation is a means to an end, not the end itself.

When you want to learn a skill, a good strategy is to identify the essential subs-kills, and train each of them individually [Deconstruction, Isolation, 80/20], with the scope of eventually putting them back together [Integration].

Meditation is Attention training.

Attention (along with Meaning) dictates the quality of your experience.”

“If Meditation represents a sub-skill, what is the skill?”

Experiencing life FULLY.

We might call this Experiential-Depth, or Aliveness.”

On Models and Reductionism

Belief formation process:
– We hear something.
– We believe it to be true.
– We MAY think about it and vet it, determining whether it is, in fact, true or false.

(Annie Duke,
Thinking in Bets)


Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“When you hear something about someone, you’re essentially building a simplified mental model of that person. This is an instance of reductionism.”

“Are all models reductionistic?”

“All models are approximations. We can think of models in terms of fidelity. Based on how well they approximate, they can range from high to low fidelity. Low-fidelity models are reductionistic – too much information is lost.

Forming a model of someone based on hearsay is highly reductionistic. The model is nothing more than a caricature. Yet it’s a tendency we all have.”

“To me it’s fascinating how certain we are of our caricature models.”

“I’ve identified two mechanisms at work here: reification and synecdoche.

Reification: mistaking the model for reality.

Synecdoche: identifying the whole with one of its parts.

Whatever you know of the person is just a tiny piece of the whole.”

“How do you counter this tendency?”

“I’m working on building a model specifically to counter this. I call it Wholeness. The model is meant to evoke the whole of something, even though I do not see it. To remind me of the limits of my knowledge, and the limits of our models.”

Deconstructing Meaning

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“There was a period in my life – in college – when I was learning words from the dictionary. I was memorizing words. I didn’t really understand them. I was merely explaining words using other words.”

Remembering things from the past is a beautiful opportunity to celebrate how far you’ve come.

“I know. But I keep forgetting it. Thank you for reminding me. 

I have come a long way since then. Now Understanding is one of the guiding values of my life.”

“When did that come about?”

“The moment I started to understand what it means. 

I told you last time about my love of language and meaning [<link; medium length]. Every aspect of our model of reality has a history.

At some point – late in my life, almost 10 years ago – I asked myself a question that profoundly changed me:

What is understanding?
What does it mean to understand?

I later called the seemingly paradoxical process of understanding understanding meta-understanding

That question has stayed with me since, and will probably remain an open process [<link; medium] forever. Guided by that question, I’ve been continually refining my model of understanding, with some wonderful practical benefits.

In contrast to that episode from the past, now one of my favorite pastimes is deconstructing meaning.

Take the concept of ‘werewolf’ for instance. 

Werewolf is a system of meaning. Visually it looks something like this:

The ‘werewolf’ system of meaning

Implicit to the concept is the model of conditional transformation – which is essentially an algorithm

IF the moon is full THEN transform into a wolf-monster

You can think of the elements of a system of meaning as building-blocks. The ‘universe of meaning’ is a collection of all the building-blocks we collectively have access to for constructing meaning.

What we call ‘imagination’ is the process of combining building-blocks of meaning in novel ways. Imagination is limited by the available building-blocks, and one’s capacity to restructure (that is, break and create) patterns – what Edward de Bono called lateral thinking.

I’ve come to regard lateral thinking as one of the most important skills one can have.”

Lover of Meaning

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“I love Meaning.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’m fascinated by language. 

Language is the tool of tools, the most powerful technology we possess. It makes collective learning and all other technologies possible. 

Language is our interface with reality, which profoundly shapes perception. It’s also a social-interface, which creates a shared-reality.

Language encodes reality. Our model of reality – what I call subjective reality – is to a large extent linguistic.

Language shapes reality, it profoundly influences behavior. In a profound sense, human history was shaped by ideas.

In a sense, language is like water to the fish. And just like water to the fish, for most of my life, it was invisible. I was blind to its magic and beauty. It took me a while to discover it, and when I finally did, it became the central focus of my life.

When we think of language, we normally think of words and symbols. The implicit metaphoric-model is words as containers for meaning. I found that model limiting, so I’ve come to use a different model: words as labels, which point to something beyond themselves. I call that something the Universe of Meaning. Words differ from language to language, but they reference the same universe of meaning, which, on a fundamental level, is modeled after our shared collective experience. 

My interest in language is purely practical. I use language as a tool for exploring and shaping the universe of meaning, with the ultimate end of bettering myself and understanding reality, and for the pure joy of creating.”

“What are your most important tools in this process?”

“Questions and models, principles, and metaphors.