Positive Thinking, Positive Action.

Positive thinking is great, but positive action is probably even better.
Great book by Richard Wiseman. See As If.

Positive Action might indeed be just what our overloaded brain circuits needs.
For more, see my comments about a Harvard Business Review article about Overloaded Circuits.

For humour and wisdom, see Eckhart Tolle's video about ''Finding Your Life's Purpose''.

Cracking the algorithms of consciousness would probably help make sense of it all...
See Cracking Consciousness.

It is all a matter of sending our thoughts in the right direction.
A difficult thing though, as Thomas Nagel explains in Mind and Cosmos.

As If.

Amazon review (5 stars out of 5)
of Richard Wisemans book ''Rip it up''.

According to Richard Wiseman, you shouldn't think about changing how you think and feel,
you should just act as if you were the person you want to be!
I.e. fake it until you make it! Want to feel happier? Force yourself to smile! Want to be more confident? Stand in a confident pose! etc.
Indeed, it's far easier to change the way we act than changing the way we think.
And, interesting, a change in thinking might follow right after a change in acting.

Richard Wiseman is inspired by american philosopher and psychologist William James.
In one thought experiment, James considered the question, do we run from a bear because we are afraid or are we afraid because we run? And came up with the idea, that the obvious answer, that we run because we are afraid, was wrong, and instead argued that we are afraid because we run.
Our minds perception is the emotion.
Wiseman takes it further: So, to feel in love, all you simply need to do is act ''as if'' you're in love and let your body physiology and sub conscious do the rest...

William James believed that psychological research should be relevant to peoples lives. And, according to Wiseman, James hadn't much respect for his contemporary Wilhelm Wundt, who conducted experiments with students observing falling brass balls, in the hope of discovering the building blocks of consciousness [p. 9]. For James questions like What makes life worth living, free will etc. were far more interesting than dropping brass balls.
And his ''As If'' proposition is certainly deeply relevant to peoples lives.
According to James: ''If you want a quality, act as if you already have it''.
Common sense suggest that ''You feel happy, so you smile'' and ''You feel afraid, so you run away'', the ''As If'' theory suggest the opposite: ''You smile, so you feel happy'' and ''You run away, so you feel afraid''.

In the book, Wiseman gives us many examples that seems to indicate that this is actually true. I especially enjoyed Joshua Ian Davis work with women who had just undergone treatment with Botox injections. Botox might give a more youthful appearance, but it will also allow fewer facial expressions. And sure enough, inhibiting peoples behaviour and facial expressions prevents them from feeling certain emotions...[p. 116].
Memory is also affected. According to experiments by Simone Schnall and James Laird, when people adopted a happy facial expression, they tended to remember more positive moments from their lives, and when they looked sad, they were inclined to remember more negative moments.
Procrastination often stops people from doing well in many aspects of life. According to James: ''Nothing is so fatiguing, as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.''.
The answer is straightforward using the ''as if'' perspective - By working on an activity for ''for just a few minutes'' (that is, as if you are a highly motivated person), changes the way we see ourselves, and make it far more likely that we will complete the task at hand.
According to psychologist Ellen Langer, we can even slow down the effects of ageing by behaving younger: Moving like a younger person, keep mentally active, make an effort (in the way we look), and maintain a sense of control in our lives.

Great stuff, and remember, everything in this book actually builds on well documented research. Following Richard Wisemans advice might actually make us just a little happier, make us procrastinate less, reduce our stress levels etc.

Amazon: [1],[2].

August 15th, 2013.


Simon Laub (Let me Google that for you).

Overloaded Circuits - The Modern Workplace.

Stress is just about everywhere in the modern workplace.
Probably, because the mechanisms behind stress is not properly understood (At the workplaces where it is most needed).
Nevertheless, the information is available if one looks - stressed out people probably don't...
I.e.: Great article in Harvard Business Review by Edward M. Hallowell about overloaded circuits, the brain mechanisms behind stress:

It all has to do with fear.
Fear shifts us into survival mode, and prevents fluid learning and nuanced understanding.
Survival mode is great in case of a tiger attack, rather counterproductive if we are trying to deal with a complex task at work.

It has to with the brains executive functioning. Situated in the frontal lobes, the executive functions, guides decision making and planning. Organization and prioritization of information and ideas. Time management.
Beneath the frontal lobes lie the parts of the brain devoted to survival. Centers that govern basic functions like sleep, hunger, sexual desire, breathing and heart rate.
When you are doing well and operating at peak level, the deep centers send up messages of excitement, satisfaction and joy. They pump up your motivation, help you maintain attention and don't interfere with working memory (the number of datapoints you can track at once).
But when you are confronted with the sixth decision after the fifth interruption in the midst of a search for the ninth missing piece of information...
your brain begins to panic...
The deep regions interpret the messages of overload they receive from the frontal lobes by firing signals of fear, anxiety, impatience, irritability, anger and panic.
And it gets worse:
These signals shanghai the attention of the frontal lobes, forcing them to forfeit much of their power.
Because survival signals are irresistible, the frontal lobes get stuck sending signals back to deep centers saying: ''Message received. Trying to work on it, but without success.''
Causing the deep centers so send out even more powerful distress signals.
Meanwhile, the rest of the body shifts into crisis mode - changing the physiology from peace and quiet to red alert.
Intelligence dims, perspective and shades of gray disappear.
The brain reduces its ability to think clearly.
No sense of humour, no flexibility to deal with the unknown, no sense of the big picture, no sense of personal goals and values.
It is now total ''melt down''-mode, ''blaming others''-mode.
Rather cleverly, the Harvard Business Review article suggest reducing fear promotes brainpower: ''Face-to-face exchanges with a person you like gives your brain what it needs''.
Indeed, it is all about understanding that ''Doing deals doesn't yield the deep rewards that comes from building up people.''


Simon Laub (Let me Google that for you).

Eckhart Tolle - Finding Your Life's Purpose.

There is a lot of humour and wisdom in Eckhart Tolle's video - ''Finding Your Life's Purpose''
(The very ''funny'' Eckhart Tolle video can be found - e.g. - here).

Eckhart Tolle starts outs by telling us that ''All of our personal life stories are problematic. And most have a certain heavyness to them. Why, because they are confused, they are not telling the truth about who we really are''.

Often our thoughts leads us away from the now.
But, in the absence of presence there is only noise. Noise, where we rethink thoughts that have (usually) been thought many times before.

Actually, the future is just a thought. And so is the past.
Sure, everyone wants to get to the future, but the very essence of future is that it kills you - time kills you...

So, lifes primary purpose is to be present in the now.
Which is difficult. As, what you think is conditioned by the past.
And, if eveything you do is related to some future state - and we know that the future is only a thought in the head -
then we are never really there...

Living outside the now gives stress, anxiety, fear - because we are not aligned with the now.
Never being fully where we are because thoughts take us somewhere else.
Living for the next thing is a consequence of being trapped in thoughts.
Everything that you do should be enough in itself. Not means to something else.
If everything is a step towards something else we don't experience anything.
We don't experience the air around us. The freshness of a glass of a water.

If the mind always interferes, if we are not totally in what we are doing, it is painful.
Suffering the Buddha called it...

Presence is eternal. It is the ''I am''. It is when you are conscious, but not thinking...
It is the space between two thoughts.

If I stop telling the ''story of me'' to someone else, and stop getting confirmation that the story of me is real, what then?
If the self-talk that upholds my identity stops, then who am I?
That is why people carry on talking. But, the running commentary people make about everything in the world are just more thoughts. Everything becomes something to use in the ''story about me'', or something which is threatening to the ''story about me'' (Something to get rid of, with more thoughts).

It follows, that the shift from being a ''thought based entity'' to being an ''awareness based entity'' is a huge thing.
When we forget the primary purpose of our life, the now, we fall into the trap of suffering.
But when we come back to the now, then (our) problems disappears.
Still, the thinking part (of us) of course doesn't like that - ''You are not going to fix your problems by sitting there''...
The person or problem might come at you accusing or blaming you. The world is filled with difficult people ...
But in the now you give that situation or person the space of consciousness. An alert presence. Whatever you need to do, you do.

Formlessness and alert stillness.
So, where does all of this lead to?
Well, Eckhart Tolle has an asnwer for that as well:
If you ask the question ''Who am I'' - whatever answer you find with thinking, that is not it. With thinking comes concepts, and our world becomes more and more dead with more labels and thinking. Going the other way and embracing the formlessness, and live from there, the world becomes alive. The more you get in contact with the space, the alert stillness, the more alive ...

You are the universe experiencing itself. First there were the dream of forms. You thought you were the forms, but no. You identified with the shortlived ''story of me'' or a shortlived body. But that is all forms. Love is recognizing ''the one'' in stillness. In a flower, or in another person (if you see this other person without ''forms'', without ''stories''...).
When fear and expectation goes away you can begin to enjoy the world of forms, without thinking that these forms are you.
Life wants consciousness to manifest into this world. In the new testament Jesus says: You are the light of the world. You are the consciousness that illuminates the world. Know yourself as that. That is freedom, that is liberation. That is the end of suffering.

See the video here.

October 15th, 2013.


Simon Laub (Let me Google that for you).

Cracking the algorithms of consciousness.

We live inside our very own consciousness simulation.
Noone really knows how this conscious experience actually comes about, but we might imagine that it is some very elaborate Virtual Reality Simulation. If so, it follows that some very complex algorithms actually brings about what we experience as reality...
Algorithms that makes it possible for us to experience a world.

It follows, that changing these algorithms will change our world (E.g. Schizophrenia might be an example of changes in these algorithms...). Maybe, it will eventually be possible to change even our concepts of time and space - making us inhabitants of worlds very different from our current world (Indeed, Time and Space travel might be just ''small adjustments'' away).

And, enlightenment and a new feeling of non-duality might also be just a few ''small adjustments'' away.
In our current world-setup people might seek enlightenment as a way of getting away from pain (Suffering gets in the way of our plans...).

For enlightenment, Eckhart Tolle would probably ask us to focus on the now, and get in contact with space, the alert stillness (See ''Finding Your Life's Purpose''). Which, in terms of consciousness algorithms is probably equivalent to stopping our sense of incompleteness....?
The feeling of incompleteness (separation from a better state of affairs) that immidiately leads to a search for unity. Which is actually kind of futile, as we cannot be separate from life (like a wave cannot be separate from the ocean).
Ultimately, in incompleteness, we seek the absence of the seeker... Which again leads to a need for non-duality. In Eckhart Tolles word, a need to focus on space and the alert stillness, so that we can become ''awareness based entities'', and not just ''thought based entities''.

Quite a crack that (stopping our algorithms sense of incompleteness) is going to be!

October 24th, 2013.


Simon Laub (Let me Google that for you).


''Thought - A very short introduction'' by Tim Bayne is small, but very insightful book about thoughts.

Most contemporary theorist endorse a physicalist account of thought, according to which thinking is a capacity that material creatures can possess.
There are three general motivations for physicalism:
- There are correlations between states of the brain and states of thought.
The simplest explanation for correlations is that thoughts are identical to, or realized by states of the brain.
- Thoughts are both caused by physical events, and in turn function as a cause of physical events. This relation would be less clear if thoughts were realized in a non-physical medium.
- Creatures capable of thought evolved from physical creatues that lacked such a capacity.
It seems simpler to think that the evolution of thinking creatures came from changes in the physical structure, rather than the emergence of some kind of non-physical medium.

Obviously, none of these reasons are individually decisive, but taken together they suggest that we should give the physicalist view some thoughts...

But is thought really just some kind of material symbol manipulation?
To counter it, philosopher John Searle invented the Chinese Room argument.
Searle asks you to suppose that you are located in a room into which chinese messages are sent
(Searle assumes that you do not understand chinese. The messages are meaningless to you).
Although you do not understand the messages, you have access to a giant ''lookup table'', that maps messages to suitable responses.
Searle now claims that although someone would be able to manipulate the symbols in an appropriate way - they would not be thinking, and they would not be understanding. Thought is not just symbol manipulation.

Opponents to Searle on the other hand would say that they are not committed to a ''homunculus'' (little person) inside the room that understands. Instead we should look at the whole room - and apparently the whole room can indeed think.

Still, thinking about thinking is difficult. According to Bertrand Russell: ''Many people would sooner die than think; in fact, they do so''.

Certainly, despite many centuries of thought we still have no explanation for what conscious experience actually is.
There is still an explanatory gap between states of the brain and states of consciousness.


Simon Laub (Let me Google that for you).

Mind and Cosmos.

Thomas Nagel is University Professor in the Department of Philosophy and School of Law at New York University.
His book Mind and Cosmos takes a second look at the current paradigm, where we rely on evolutionary theory to analyze and evaluate everything (from logical and probabilistic cognition to our moral sense etc. etc.).
According to Thomas Nagel there are many problems:
Evolutionary naturalism implies that we shouldn't take any of our convictions too seriously, including the scientific world picture on which evolutionary naturalism itself depends.
Previously, we thought that mind is the ultimate reality, and the physical world in some way reducible to it
(E.g. according to Berkeley, physical things are really ideas in the mind of God).
Then it all changed, and now we have unification in the opposite direction, starting from the physical
(Starting from physical science, over molecular biology to full closure by swallowing up the mind).
(One of) The problem being the assumption that physics is philosophical unproblematic.
According to Nagel: On the contrary, problems are swept under the rug, like when we explain values of physical constants to be ''lucky'', as otherwise we wouldn't be here to speculate about them:
One doesn't show that something doesn't require explanation by pointing out that it is a condition of one's existence.
If I ask for an explanation of the fact that the airpressure in the trancontinental jet is close to that at sea level, it is no answer to point out that if it weren't, I'd be dead.
Indeed, there are limits to most models unless their predictions are very trivial.
When evolution ends up becoming a theory of everything - Explaining everything, from the formation of babyuniverses in black holes (Lee Smolin) all the way back to life on Earth, the usual concerns about theories about everything emerges (in Freeman Dysons words about physical theories):
Goedel's theorem implies that pure mathematics is inexhaustible. No matter how many problems we solve, there will always be other problems that cannot be solved within the existing rules. [...] Because of Goedel's theorem, physics is inexhaustible too. The laws of physics are a finite set of rules, and include the rules for doing mathematics, so that Goedel's theorem applies to them.
Still, we crave solid explanations to what we are seeing, now.
Which is rather hard, especially, if it is true that we are in the middle of a great cognitive shift, where consciousness is about to morph into a world encompassing form...
Consciousness was originally a biological evolutionary process, and in our species it has become a collective cultural process as well.
Each of our lives is part of the lengthy process of the universe gradually waking up and becoming aware of itself.
Indeed, looking out into the cosmos makes it all rather mind boggling.
- Was Earth ''seeded'' in a ''directed panspermia'', as Francis Crick speculated.
- If time is relative, are some observers already seeing consciousness in the ''world encompassing form''?

What explanations will still be relevant a hundred years from now?


Simon Laub (Let me Google that for you).


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