Consciousness as reality itself

In Buddhism the idea that consciousness is reality and reality is conscious is called “mind only” or Yogachara.

David Ray Griffin, a process theologian, has come to similar conclusions—that reality is fundamentally conscious.

As has Donald D. Hoffman, a professor of cognitive science at UC Irvine.

Hoffman came at this subject from a mathematical angle, but arrived at a similar conclusion to Yogachara Buddhism. Hoffman says:

As a conscious realist, I am postulating conscious experiences as ontological primitives, the most basic ingredients of the world. I’m claiming that experiences are the real coin of the realm. (The Case Against Reality)

I tend to reach similar conclusions when I think about everything in terms of signals.

The advantage of thinking in terms of signals is we get a good picture of “reality” without needing to say what is real beyond the signal itself.

This kind of thinking is helpful for metaphysics but it is also extremely practical when it comes to human psychology.

Rather than posit personality types and what goes wrong or right with them, we analyze how people send and receive signals instead.

In thinking along these lines, I have come to the conclusion that most psychology as most people understand it uses “arms-length” language, the language of meso and macro signals rather than the much more precise language of the micro signals that actually comprise our shared “realities.”

The difference can be illustrated in this way: Rather than explain your most recent signal (sent or received) in terms of personality, explain it by accessing the micro-signals of short-term memory to find its true antecedents.

If you do this again and again by using a game such as FIML, you will probably come to conclusions similar to the above—that there is no deeper substance to psychological reality than your consciousness of it.

first posted 08/05/17

The value of introversion, and probably reclusion

Do reclusive and monastic religious practices foster wisdom about the human condition?

A new study indicates that they may.

Insights into social psychological phenomena have been thought of as solely attainable through empirical research. Our findings, however, indicate that some lay individuals can reliably judge established social psychological phenomena without any experience in social psychology. These results raise the striking possibility that certain individuals can predict the accuracy of unexplored social psychological phenomena better than others. (Social Psychological Skill and Its Correlates)

In an article about this study, its authors say that introverted people tend to be better at observing others because they are good at introspection and have fewer motivational biases. Here’s that article: Yale Study: Sad, Lonely Introverts Are Natural Born Social Psychologists.

first posted MARCH 17, 2018

How to observe the semiotics that form the basis of your consciousness

A few days ago, I posted the essay, How semiotics can help us understand ourselves.

Today I want to discuss how you can grasp the semiotics that form the basis of your consciousness.

I am sure you already understand a good deal about yourself, but my guess is your understanding is probably in the form of a group of abstractions, such as—“my personality is thus-and-so”; “since I had this sort of childhood/education/etc., I am now outgoing/fearful/frugal/etc.”; “I believe in personal responsibility/behavior/etc.”; “my mom was a religious nut so I am an atheist, etc.”

In the post cited above, we used the terms signaling system and semiotics more or less interchangeably. A signaling system emphasizes what the message is and how it is sent, while semiotics emphasizes how the message is interpreted.

If we think of our minds as being signaling systems that are constantly referring to whatever semiotics we interpret as “true” or “real,” we can get a very good idea of how they function in the moment by observing what they are referring to in “the moment” (1-10 seconds, or so). By observing our minds closely, we can learn what semiotics cause us to have emotional responses or to interpret things in the ways we do. We can see how our mental/emotional signaling system builds up within us the appearance of a self with a biography, a personality, needs, fears, desires, goals, and so on.

If, for example, at some point in your life you learned and accepted as real a semiotic that you are stupid, you can spend hours, even decades, analyzing your feelings without getting any results. But if you can actually watch your mind as it signals to itself the semiotic “I am stupid,” and if you can see while that is happening that the signal is a mistake, then your mind will tend to stop sending you that signal.

If you can repeat that experience a few times—that is, catch that same mistake a few times—your mind will almost certainly stop wasting its resources thinking you are stupid. It will do this almost effortlessly because the mind is efficient and won’t waste time doing something it knows is a mistake.

So how do you do that, how do you catch the mistakes? You probably have already tried to catch them through introspection, reading, or discussing them with friends with less than satisfying results.

And what’s even harder to do is catch mistakes that you are not even aware of. How do you catch them?

I don’t think you can do it all by yourself. And I don’t think you can make satisfying progress by discussing these matters even with very wise friends. You can’t do it yourself because you can’t see yourself, and you can’t do it through long discussions because the signalling system works too quickly for that.

If you don’t cut in quickly and observe what it is doing, you won’t be able to change it easily.

Here is a way to look at that. Have you ever had a clock or mirror on the wall that was removed; maybe the mirror fell or the clock broke. At some point, the object that you had been used to seeing for years was gone. For some time after that, you probably turned unconsciously more than a few times to look at the now absent mirror or clock. That gives a strange feeling because at moments like that we see how deeply unconscious signs (the clock or mirror) affect our sense of who we are.

After a while we get used to the bare wall, but the lesson in how deeply signs operate within us should be clear. The other lesson of how we can indeed change our reference or expectation from a wall with a clock or mirror to a wall without either should also be clear.

At first, the mind is surprised, but after a while, it accepts that there is no clock on the wall with little fuss.

When two people do FIML (note: this link will lead to recent posts and reposts, including this one, but just scroll down a bit for more) practice, they help each other remove broken clocks and mirrors from the walls of their minds. FIML strongly emphasizes catching the signal and the semiotic it is referring to as quickly as you can. If partners can isolate their signals quickly, they will find that they are dealing with very small and discrete signs that very, very often are not true.

Normal people live in vague worlds where they grope toward each other like ghosts in the fog. How can we understand each other or ourselves if we do not pay attention to the small signals that are, arguably, the most important units of interpersonal communication?

And how can you pay attention to them if you don’t catch them quickly in the moment? If you try to understand yourself through long explanations and stories, you will only be understanding the underlying semiotic library that your moment-by-moment signals are referring to. If you catch those small signals as they happen in the moment, though, you will come to understand how and why that library is being accessed and how that affects you.

When your partner shows you that one of your signals was wrong and that it was referring to a part of the library that had no proper bearing on that moment, and when they show you that again, and again, that particular signal will stop firing. And there is a very good chance your library will change as well. It will change you deeply to see that.

first posted SEPTEMBER 14, 2012

This image is profoundly misleading because it leaves out a major factor

A major cause of anger and all other emotional reactions during interpersonal communications is mistaken interpretations, either wrong or distorted. This can also include positive interpretations.

For Buddhists, the second skandha (sensation) is the proximate cause of how we perceive (third skandha) forms (first skandha). The fourth and fifth skandhas (mental activity and consciousness) are how we consolidate or more often reconsolidate the original mistaken or distorted sensation. For more on this see: The Five Skandhas.

For non-Buddhists, if you watch your mind closely you will notice there is a short delay between receiving an impression and reacting to it, interpreting it.

For everyone, if you can be mindful of the second skandha (sensation) as it occurs and then interrupt the habitual firing of the next three skandhas by doing a FIML query, you will begin to truly observe how your mind (and your partner’s mind) really works. Each interruption of this type improves your mental and emotional functioning because you will observe an objective bit of reality and correct toward it. For more information see: Disruption of neurotic response in FIML practice and How the brain processes new information. ABN

do your best

You have fully experienced seeing through the illusion of self. You made that decision at such a young age it can hardly be considered your decision, but that’s what happened and you are the one who has to live with it now. Having myself experienced a different but extremely serious trauma at almost exactly your age (I was 13), I can fully relate to your sadness. The success that can be derived from experiences like these is the success of seeing beyond the worldly ego. You can’t possibly go back, so accept it. From now on always do your best. Use your deepest mind to understand your conditions as deeply as you can, and then do your best based on that understanding.

If the person who wrote the above sees this, I hope she will understand and feel some comfort even if it seems hard to do. Deep trauma and huge mistakes can and do make us stronger and realer. There is no external consolation prize for trauma and no gain to be had by playing the victim, but there is a profound inner payoff. ABN

Wise compassion

The highest virtue in Buddhism is wisdom, not compassion.

Unwise compassion—that is compassion that brings harm rather than good—is bad.

I think the Pope’s talk as described in the following article is an example of unwise compassion.

Francis reprimands European leaders, forcefully asking continent: ‘What has happened to you?’

The Pope tried to highlight Europe’s “strengths” with his lofty rhetoric, but I think he revealed some of its deepest weaknesses.

Identifying a temptation to “yield to our own selfish interests” by “putting up fences here and there” to stop the flow of migrants into Europe, the pontiff said: “I dream of a Europe where being a migrant is not a crime but a summons to greater commitment on behalf of the dignity of every human being.”

I probably shouldn’t say any of what I have said and what I am going to say next: Each of the major Abrahamic religions suffers from the flaw of holding some word or law or ideal above human wisdom.

first posted MAY 6, 2016

“I cannot see any way that a Buddhist can support any medical professional doing this” ~ ABN

From a Buddhist point of view, “identities” (such that there even is such a thing) are to be understood and seen through as being evanescent, “empty,” not deeply real, fundamentally delusional. The Diamond Sutra says:

All conditioned things

are like dreams, like illusions,

like bubbles, like shadows,

like dew, like lightning

and all of them should be contemplated in this way.

For an adult to allow, let alone encourage, a child or adolescent to take “puberty suppressants” or undergo surgery based on an “identity” that is “like a dream” is extremely harmful to both the adult and the child. The “doctors” who provide these services are profoundly mistaken. They are playing with the beautiful minds of vulnerable young people whose brains are nowhere near fully developed. Interfering with the natural course of their development while encouraging the mental illness of their parents are deeply wrong actions based on pride and ignorance. I cannot see any way that a Buddhist can support any medical professional doing this. ABN

EXCLUSIVE: Leaked files expose how U.S. pediatricians accuse their own professional body of pushing a ‘harmful’ drugs-first approach on trans teens — and of deliberately BLOCKING moves to change the rules

  • obtained leaked files that expose how rank-and-file pediatricians are slamming their academy for pushing puberty-blocking drugs on teens who identify as transgender
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics causes ‘great harm’ with drug cocktails to youngsters, member says 
  • Top youth medical body pushes ‘unsafe and unsustainable’ policies based on ‘scant and shoddy’ evidence, says another
  • New AAP rules blocked a resolution calling for a policy rethink at annual meeting in Chicago
  • AAP says its policies are evidence-based, widely accepted, subject to review, and best bet for vulnerable teens
  • Critics say the academy has bowed to pressure from ‘young activist doctors’  
  • Did you suffer from bad transgender care? Email

Good article, worth reading. Looks like another medical fiasco of control from the top through censorship and intimidation. Top-down control is what corralled one million US doctors into covid obedience. In Buddhism no mundane “identity” is inherently real in itself. All of them are empty, devoid of self or “own being.” Thus medically changing your body to “correct” it to fit an ephemeral notion of “identity” is on its face an egregious mistake, an act of delusion with potentially very serious consequences. To encourage a young person to take harmful medication or to undergo destructive surgery to fulfill a delusive fantasy of this sort is not right. For a doctor to do this, worse for a pediatrician to do this, is a grave act of malpractice especially when the AAP is deliberately avoiding public, transparent, scientific debate on this very serious matter. ABN

Sundance is not only a great analyst, he is also a generous spirit

Several people, some very influential people, have written or made contact asking permission to extract the Four-Part series I wrote, updated and posted yesterday. A few want to put the articles into a published format of some sort.  My response, go for it.

Everything I research, write and share is free for the taking.

Download it into a pdf form, modify the internal citations as footnotes, proofread, add, subtract, modify it, change the language, simplify it, do whatever you want to make it your own in whatever format suits your needs. No attribution or citation is needed.

This is a battle to save our nation from a corrupt enterprise. I put no parameters on any tool or intellectual weapon you may find of benefit. That just isn’t me.  Those who have been around a while know where I stand…. which is right next to anyone who is in the fight.  Getting the message out is the urgent and important part; how it arrives, is of no issue for me.


A true artist! ABN

“I’m trying to make up for my mistakes which is honoring the medical ethics I subscribe to, which is helping the patients first” ~ Dr William Bay

direct link

The sooner the better, but it’s never too late to come clean, admit mistakes, apologize, and make amends for them. This is basic to Buddhist practice and all reasonable ethical systems. I applaud this doctor and hope to see many more like him. We can forgive you but the first step must be yours. ABN

To readers of ABN

ABN has gained many more readers since coverage of covid and other matters became of more pressing importance. They still are more pressing since our very existence as a free society is at stake.

That said, please do your best to understand and practice FIML with your spouse or best friend. FIML is a life-changing practice that will reveal the building blocks of both of your makeups in a most wonderful way.

Positive change through FIML is easy in the sense that each building block is small. Being small, they are easy to analyze and not difficult to accept if we see we are in the wrong. This promotes rapid incremental transformation for the better.

A little change here, a little change there, patterns are recognized and rather easily transformed into something much more adaptive, real, appropriate for your lives. No theory or concept of personality is necessary. No training in psychotherapy is necessary.

The simple dynamic of FIML done honestly and in friendship will help both of you feel much better and be much more authentic to yourselves. FIML is a process, a dynamic method. It has no other content save what you bring to it. ABN

An image that illustrates the value of FIML practice

click on image for larger

FIML practice is like JWST compared to normal interpersonal speech, which is like Hale at best. Like the telescope, FIML is a technical advance that allows for much greater clarity and resolution. In Buddhist terms, FIML is partner-based mindfulness that provides an objective control on understanding in addition to much better clarity. ABN