Waking up with my personal coach
My Book told me to write this. Well, indirectly. It was my personal coach who directly told to write this. What is “this”? And who is my personal coach?
“This” is this post is about Sam Harris’ Waking Up Course and how my personal coach got me to write this.
Who is my personal coach? My personal coach an imaginary character in a book that my Book is writing. It created the character to help me in real life.
My personal coach is helping me organize my day, an hour at a time. You can read about it here. Or you will be able to as soon as I create “here” and make the link. Should be soon. If it’s not up, and you give a shit, come back.
My coach is helping me organize an hour at a time because I can’t be trusted with more than an hour or two. More time and my plan goes off the rails. It’s a fault borne of an excess of virtue. Almost everything is interesting to me. I consider that a virtue. But in excess, it’s a fault. I’m way, way too open to experience. So I’m willing to abandon any plan, even ones that are somewhat-carefully wrought, much less the usual sloppy ones, to any interesting thing that comes along. And did I say that almost everything is interesting to me?.
I need order to go with the chaos of my mind. The Book created my personal coach to give me a little order.
This hour’s plan (“this hour,” not being this hour but an hour earlier in the day) was to start to write this post. My usual writing process goes like this: I sit down and let ‘er rip. I start typing, or Voice Typing in Google Docs and produce the first draft. Then I edit the draft in Docs. Then I copy/paste it into Blogger. And then I post it. Easy-peasy.
Just kidding! I just about never do that. Would that I could.
Instead, I come up with ideas that I don’t start. Then I start one and get distracted, diverted, or interrupted. Sometimes all three. And I procrastinate every step of the way. I start so many things that even with a low probability of finishing any of them, I get some things done. Like sales, it’s a numbers game.
So I need structure. My Book knows me and it knows I need structure. And it knows I can’t give structure to myself. Trust me. I’ve tried. So my Book has created a personal coach for me. It’s a character designed to keep me on track: it’s the best personal coach that I could imagine.
My coach told me that before I started writing, I needed to get the resources I’d need to write: links to the handful of blog posts I’d written about “waking up,” the transcript of one of Sam Harris’ talks, links to the Waking Up website and the Waking Up Course. And an image for the post.
Turns out I hadn’t written a handful of posts. I’d written over 20. But I got all that stuff together. And that ends the back story.
Now let’s talk about the course.
It may just have been the confluence of events, a peculiarity of my trajectory toward awakeness, (and my judgment might be premature,) but based on the guided meditations I’ve heard so far, many of them several times, the course is awesome. That’s the technical term. Awesome.
Sam Harris has now got 50 guided meditations on the site, and keeps adding more. In the ones that I’ve done so far, he starts with or concludes with a few statements on the value of meditation. This one, from the first meditation, really resonated—as did the ones in his book.
It’s almost impossible to exaggerate how deep and interesting and transformative this simple practice of paying close attention to your experience can become. Now unfortunately there’s no way I can prove that to you, short of getting you to do the practice to the point of real insight.
Consider by analogy the science of astronomy. Now you might live, as many of us do in a city where there’s a lot of light pollution. So when you look up in the sky at night you might not see any stars at all…[but[ you’ve probably been out in the country or in the wilderness at night and seen what the sky looks like without any light pollution. And beyond that you’ve surely seen photographs taken from the Hubble space telescope with brilliant fields of stars and even other galaxies. So even if you almost never experience it directly, there’s no reasonable basis to doubt that the sky is incredibly beautiful that there really much is to discover there.
But with respect to your own mind you may never have had a moment when conditions were right to see anything of interest directly. Meditation is a method for creating those conditions. In fact it’s analogous to building your own telescope. And once it’s built, you don’t lose it. You may have to tune it up from time to time. But really is difficult to exaggerate the difference between having recognized the sky of the mind with properly trained attention and never having looked up at all.
This is what I’ve started getting from the initial exercises. I look into my own mind with my ever-so-slightly trained attention and starting to see something limitless and fascinating. Each meditation builds on the last. First the breath. Then the body. Then sounds. My eyes are closed and the world—which is my consciousness is deepening. Following what Sam Harris says, if you’ve never looked up, or you’ve only looked up to cloudy skies, the glorous universe isn’t there.
So why meditate? In addition to the guided meditations, he’s got 17 lessons ranging from five minutes to half an hour. Here are some excerpts from the first. Harris starts, quoting Plato famously quoting Socrates:
The unexamined life is not worth living
And he continues:
and whether or not that strictly true the unexamined life is certainly needlessly painful both for oneself and for others.
This is the point of meditation. To be able to examine your life as you live it. And to make it less painful for oneself and others. Because most pain comes from our untrained minds. He continues:
We really spend our lives learning how to live….Most of us find a pattern of living that makes approximate sense. And we tinker with it for decades.
I’ve been tinkering with the way I live my life. Now, with my Book and my personal coach, I’m going to make some big changes.
Harris goes on:
If you’re lucky, you’ll discover that you can live more or less the way you want. But even if you’re lucky, you’ll find that it’s possible to want the wrong things, to be lured into squandering your time and attention, to be bewitched, in a way, by things that don’t really matter.
Squander my time and attention? Me? Well, yes.
So why meditate?
Here’s his summation:
The quality of your mind determines the quality of your life, happiness and suffering. No matter how extreme our mental events, the mind depends upon the body, of course, and the body upon the world.
But everything good or bad that happens in your life must appear in consciousness to matter. This fact offers ample opportunity to make the best of bad situations, because changing how you respond to the world is often as good as changing the world.
Everything good or bad must appear in consciousness! You don’t need to change the world, just how you respond to changes in the contents of consciousness.
Changing that is often as good as changing the world. In fact, it’s often better. It’s usually easier change your mind so it’s untroubled than to change the world so it’s no longer troubling. A changed mind is portable: it’s with you everywhere you go and applies to all similar times and places. Any change you’re likely to make to the world is likely to be local. You’ve got to change each part of the world you visit anew.
Happily, there’s another game to play. And not everyone knows about it, rather than trying to change the world. And each moment there is a another move open to you, you can look more closely at what you’re doing with your own mind, and actually cease to respond to life in ways that produce needless suffering for yourself and those around you.
…every thought or feeling you’ve ever had, good or bad, has arisen and then passed away. The anger you felt yesterday or a year ago, isn’t here anymore. And if it arises in the next moment, based on your thinking about the past, it will once again pass away when you are no longer thinking about it. This is a profoundly important truth about the mind. And it can be absolutely liberating to understand it deeply.
That’s what my coach told me to write. In segments with meditation in between to clear my mind.
I told you I’d written a shitload of posts on waking up. Here they are.
My $100 latte
A scale of awakenesstude
In memory or lack of same
The Mr. Mikey Show
Avoiding the core teachings of the Buddha
An experiment, not a resolution
The illusion of reality
When did you catch fire
Debugging and programming automike
I am going to write a post about
The only thing I can be certain of
Debugging and reconditioning myself
Writing plan 2016
Sam Harris thinking in public
Free will and self-improvement
Here there and everywhere
Reading what I write
My seven-day meditation challenge
Autodriver in the house
Free will fables
Family of mind, internal family systems
75 years 5 days posting retrospective
75 years minus 10 days WTF
Simple illusions and multilayered
Intellectual Dark Web fad or fancy