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 as 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|2 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.
There is a long and confusing and ultimately useless debate about which approach is correct. The debate is useless because both approaches are right. It’s a paradox, and there is no getting around paradox in the wooly and contradictory world of spirituality.
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 broadest possible classes of meditation and spiritual experience. It’s a work-in-progress. Every time I come back, I find myself cutting more details, for they seem like technique-specific effects, and not the human universals I once imagined. So it goes. In a couple years there may be nothing here at all.
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