Back in my twenties, I had this idea of living life like an adventure story. So I did. Until I realized the ratio of fun to struggle was moving in the wrong direction. The fun was getting briefer and more desperate; the challenges were getting longer and more all-encompassing.
Posted on December 15, 2020|By Jeff Warren|3 minute read
In this pandemic, my mental health is definitely taking a hit, along with the mental health of pretty much everyone I know. To manage this crisis, I need a model for managing myself. I call it the Warrior and the Caregiver.
To commemorate the 10th anniversary of The Consciousness Explorers Club, my friend Andrea Cohen made this beautiful 2-minute animation. The CEC is dedicated to the playful exploration of meditation, in a way that empowers participants and communities to be their own teachers.
Rhythm absorbs attention. It's an old trick – maybe the oldest. Rhythm of the drum, of moving bodies and moving breath. Of voices raised in unison. Find your rhythm. Build your practice. A survival tip for tough times.
What does the practice of dynamic care look like in real life? From protesting to sewing masks, from making documentary films to listening to records to exploring genealogy, in this article I showcase a range of creative practices, submitted by all of you. The community is the teacher.
I’ve seen a lot of posts vilifying scrolling through social media, bingeing on food or news. The advice is to exercise instead, to eat well, get a good night’s sleep, etc etc. This prescription completely ignores the seismic life shift we're all experiencing. It is denial masking as medical advice.
When you live on a ship at sea, everything gets amplified in the narrow interiors: ruminations, moods, behaviors. Enter COVID-19, and the fact that many of us are stuck inside. Ping ping ping, go the signals. I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to get a clear picture of what I’m comfortable with, and what I’m not.
“If someone says ‘Love in the Time of Corona’ one more time I am literally going to punch them." A post is about knowing when and how to meditatively engage with our anxiety and our discomfort, and knowing when and how to pull back and rest.
Healing and growth, self-regulation and self-understanding — these are too idiosyncratic, too personal, too fundamental to depend on specialists-only. We also need to depend on ourselves and one another. In my mind, nothing will accelerate this more than recasting “teaching” as a creative social activity that any informed person... more
Nothing I’d been saying could convince my wife Sarah to take our baby outside. I was getting impatient. “Let’s take the stroller to the park right now!” It was pitch black and minus ten, with thick snowflakes blowing past the street lamp. She looked at me with great forbearance and said, “I have a better idea."
Recently I did a Do Nothing Project broadcast on the subject of equanimity, the skill of accepting our experience in the moment. I did OK for the intro and the guided meditation, but then things went off the rails. A post about the perils of losing yourself in caring.
Wherever we are on the mind-body roller-coaster, seated and calm, we can suddenly see it. We hadn’t noticed before, in our busyness. We thought life was just like that. But now we realize, actually, life isn’t like that. We’re like that.
If a practice is important to us, if it’s deepening our engagement with the world, if it’s teaching us about who we are, then you can be sure many of these basic skills are present and probably increasing. Understanding the skills is central to being your own life teacher, and to sharing practice with others.
Lately I’ve been thinking about the word “practice”. Both established practices lots of people do – yoga, tennis, active listening – and weird customized practices people invent – visualizing success, pretending to be a tree, or darning moth holes while listening to Amy Winehouse.
Posted on November 28, 2019|By Jeff Warren|2 minute read
I think then: this freedom is better. Freedom from freedom. Freedom from myself, freedom from the dizziness of a million choices. Parenting is very clarifying. I know my job: keep Eden and Sarah alive. There’s only one thing to do and it is not about me.
Far from being passive, I see meditation as a kind of activism, one that, right now, is sweeping the culture. If you’re reading this, you are part of that movement, a movement of sanity and community and genuine caring for others.
Every morning for five days, our little group put on our climbing harnesses, clipped into a long snaking rope, and began our glacier ascent. As we explored the mountain peaks around us, we were also exploring a dimension of human happiness that depended on our body's capacity to get absorbed in experience.
Last year, at a mood disorders clinic in Toronto, I was diagnosed bipolar. Whether or not I accepted the label, it was an accurate description of my symptoms. It had taken me so long to notice because mostly my moods were up. How could that be a problem? Being high is awesome, isn't it?
Imagine a post-Apocalyptic landscape filled with careening hot rods, all kitted out with various high performance stylings, and all of them moving in the same direction. In this metaphor, our armada of vehicles represent the world’s contemplative and personal growth practices. They are beautiful in their freakish diversity.
Suddenly: you exist. You didn’t plan it or ask for it, but existence happened, and now, after a bunch of years bumping into coffee tables and staring at trees, full self-consciousness has flickered on, and you're like: ‘wait a second … where am I? Who am I? And what am I supposed to DO here?'
Posted on December 27, 2017|By Jeff Warren|4 minute read
“Teaching is carrying on your education in public.” I had no idea when I agreed that co-writing Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics would expose a deeper layer of my own peculiar brand of mental struggle: Attention Deficit Disorder (with a generous helping of mood swings).
Almost any domain or activity in life can be approached as an intentional practice, and the people who specialize in these domains have learned important things about being human. How can we draw this wisdom out? Introducing the Consciousness Explorers Club's new pluralistic practice paradigm :)
Posted on November 7, 2016|By Jeff Warren|1 minute read
This zooming out might be particularly useful right now, on the cusp of this anxiety-inducing US election. People - myself included - really are freaked out about the deep divisions in the US. The theory about meditation is it can help us get space around such tough emotions and, in turn, make better – saner – responses.
Twice-born temperaments, on the other hand, are a little more complicated. They can’t wave away the world’s manifestly unfair distribution of hardship, and they’re generally unable to accept so-called “unseen realities” on faith alone. Their journey into spiritual feeling is more hard-won, the result of a lot of agonized... more
Posted on September 5, 2016|By Jeff Warren|4 minute read
A more realistic take on the so-called "evolution" of consciousness: an increase in discernment and sensitivity, largely driven forward by young people. It’s obvious why young people see and experience bias and discrimination at a level of nuance many in older generations cannot: they aren’t habituated yet.
I have a theory, a theory based on experience. And that’s what my theory is about: the feedback loop between our ideas about reality, and our experience of reality. An exploration and critique of spiritual growth and understanding, with a new ending to make everything extra useless and confusing.
Posted on September 1, 2015|By Jeff Warren|2 minute read
Sometimes I’m an idiot of a very particular type. When I see a person in any kind of hurt, I experience a seizure of compulsive helpfulness. I say the words, perform the gestures, provide the resources, and sometimes make the commitments I later realize are beyond my power to make and may not actually be that helpful in the first place.
This deceptively simple practice is so simple most folks write it off without giving it a sincere shot. Like meditation, it can take a while to get the hang of. Its many proponents argue no other practice can change your relationship to hardship and suffering so completely in such a direct way.
When it comes to meditation, the CEC has a split-focus: we explore meditation as a life skill, and we explore meditation as a transformative path. Although each may use the same technique, they involve two very different approaches and intentions.
This primer is about the broad stages of spiritual experience that can happen to committed long-term meditators, with an emphasis on the challenges. Knowing about these - having a context - can help people move through them more quickly.
Posted on February 24, 2015|By Jeff Warren|1 minute read
If at the start it’s our own stress and unhappiness we work to address, at some point – if we’re genuinely opening – the direction of concern reverses. Energy formerly bound up in self-interest starts to get re-directed towards others.
Posted on January 30, 2015|By Jeff Warren|1 minute read
I wonder if our civilization is about to enter a New Age of Exploration. Except this time, since all the physical real estate has been chewed up, the terrain is internal. Not just our individual minds, but the mind of nature – the mother-sea mind, the great oceanic source of awareness that all contemplative traditions speak to in... more
Posted on January 25, 2015|By Jeff Warren|5 minute read
Meditation and other contemplative practices seem to accelerate the aging-gracefully gradient. They are ways of thinning out in the prime of life - a kind of dying in the midst of the everyday. Then when death does come, there’s nothing to fear, for - as Bertrand Russel wrote - "the things we care for will continue."
What is a “breakthrough?” It’s a jump to higher level of insight and perspective. This looks different depending on the person. For some it’s an insight into a dysfunctional pattern or relationship. For others, a renewed sense of vigor and direction. For others still, a glimpse into who they are at what feels like a deeper level.
Posted on November 13, 2014|By Jeff Warren|1 minute read
We can start pretending, in a vaguely schizoid way, that existence / nature / whatever responds to our overtures, indeed, that the whole container is a 360-degree dance partner keeping time with your every move.
The meditation scene is littered with “spiritual bypassers” who shoot for transcendence because they can’t handle the world – and the self – they’ve inherited. This isn’t a judgement; people are in pain, and meditation can help with that pain. But it’s important to remember that some of the issues we uncover in practice... more
Posted on September 2, 2014|By Jeff Warren|1 minute read
Buddhist teacher Shinzen Young refers to Three Fundamental States of Experience: Solid, Liquid and Gas. It’s sort of a metaphor and sort of not. Because it turns out that just as the material world can go through fundamental state changes – can have its particles rearranged to move from, say, ice to water to vapor (and back) – so... more
What does it mean to wake up? A lot of ink has been spilled on this subject, and every teacher in every tradition has a different way of talking about it, including not talking about it at all, which is probably the wisest tactic.
Posted on February 16, 2014|By Jeff Warren|10 minute read
The benefits of mindfulness meditation have very quickly become one of the good-news mental health stories of our time. But meditation also has a shadowy seam. Is there a link between some forms of mental illness and the freedom promised at the heart of meditation? My column on the infamous "Dark Night of the Soul"
Posted on February 16, 2014|By Jeff Warren|8 minute read
Proponents of nonduality tell us that we take a leap of faith and actually live our lives from the truth of direct experience, eventually the age old barrier between inside and out will erode. A report from the 2013 Science and Nonduality conference in Holland.
Communications technology is often accused of dissociating us from the natural world. A little thought-experiment that explores how the next generation of “augmented reality” technologies might close this gap, and help us hear like an elephant and think like a squirrel.
Scientists and philosophers have long erected an insurmountable barrier between humans and animals. This seems to be changing. The human imagination is moving outward. The animals are coming. Hide the nuts!
What kind of mind do we need to address climate change and environmental degradation? A mountain eco-laboratory in northern New Mexico looks at four possible answers: a social mind, a creative mind, a receptive mind and an equanimous mind.
In March of 2012, myself and twenty other “adept” meditators participated in an experiment to try to answer the question: what is the real resting state of the brain? Strange things happened. An exploration of one view of so-called "enlightenment."
“Stream entry,” is a Buddhist term for initial enlightenment — a shift in perspective where the practitioners’ mind flips inside-out, and for a split-second recognizes its own inseparability from the rest of the natural world.
Posted on November 30, 2012|By Jeff Warren|4 minute read
Western psychology is still outgrowing a reactive skepticism towards the subjective anecdote that it inherited from behaviorism. Fortunately, this is changing. These days, there is a growing appreciation among investigators that if you want to understand consciousness – as opposed to just brain activity – you have to start taking... more
Posted on September 24, 2012|By Jeff Warren|5 minute read
The Dream Director is not unlike a set of DJ turntables, only the medium it remixes is the mind – the proto medium. As the DJ, the user can select from an infinite number of effects. The weirder the combination, the stranger the conjured world come remix the dreaming mind.
Posted on September 24, 2012|By Jeff Warren|4 minute read
What might science look like in another reality? In lucid dreaming, an investigator can form a hypothesis in waking, fall asleep, become lucid, and then – in rainbow lab coat and marvellous wind-swept Vidal Sassoon hairdo – test her hypothesis as the dream surges around her.
This piece on whale consciousness and animal personhood won a Gold and a Silver medal at the 2012 Canadian National Magazine Awards. Whales are people too; the science proves it. Are humans ready to see them as equals?
Our century marks a New Age of Exploration, into an even more mysterious frontier, with empirical discoveries that may turn out to be every bit as revolutionary as the ones that undergirded the first Age of Enlightenment. One frontier here is the dreaming mind; and the new explorers are known as lucid dreamers.
Posted on January 9, 2012|By Jeff Warren|10 minute read
What would we learn if we could merge parts of the human brain with those of other species? Might we hear the sounds of the past? Live in naked troops, swapping intimate experiences without words? Or build a new social network? A fun and wide-ranging conversation with two smart friends - Lori Marino and Ben Goertzel - published in the... more
“They have no future without us, the chimps, the elephant, the whales and the rest. None. The question that we, the keepers, are facing is whether we’d mind a future without them ” - "whether we’d be bothered by an Earth with no living vestiges of our own differently shaped selves.” - Charles Siebert
There’s a new mind theory out there The theory is worth paying attention to because, well, it’s about you. Or at least two of you: the careful, analytic you, and your misguided shadow, who spends altogether too much time in the “wrong” section of the bookstore. One of you is a Mechanist. The other is a Mentalist. Though you... more