Brainy Brain Rain and Meditation

When sadness starts to cover you like a cold and wet towel, naturally you will feel like ripping the feeling right out of your brain. You hate feeling that way.

The trouble is that the harder you try to pull it off the bigger and heavier it gets. “What if that feeling is with me forever?”, you wonder in fear.

The smart move in this case is to feel what you need to feel and then let the feeling be. Let go of your grip on it. Don’t push it away or pull it in closer. I wrote this to capture this valuable concept:

Oh brainy brain. It’s ok to rain. It’s ok to not be happy. The drops of emotion falling on down will eventually all drain away.

This approach is the same approach as described in Bowl Bottom Centered. Let the sadness slip away. Allow harmony, goodness, peace, tranquility, and focus take its place. Keep on keeping on.

Powerfully Productive Happy Meditators

People want to get things done in life. Our To-Do lists haunt us and we sometimes have energy “the size of a dinner mint”. If happiness is offered, you might say “Forget this. I have stuff to do!” The implied question is being asked, “If I am happy, will I get anything useful done?”

It’s OK to be Happy

From “Will Meditation Kill My Edge?” in the 10% Happier app Dan says:

I think a lot of people confuse complacency with happiness.

Often, people think that unhappiness is the only way to motivate action. Although unhappiness can get you moving, it doesn’t provide a direction to move towards. There’s no target. Without a purposeful target, you will mindlessly leap out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Aspire Towards a Target

If you want a target to move towards and the energy to hit that tricky target, glance at Resilience and Optimism where I discuss having a mission and the right positive attitude toward humanity through agape, an unconditional love for humans.

With a mission as your target and the right positive attitude, you’re like a happy and fast moving boat in the sea. Your mission is your north star and your agape (love) keeps you afloat, energized, and connected with others.

Paddle Hard To Move Your Boat?

No. Pushing yourself hard to be the best mindfulness meditator merely creates mental cramps. As George Mumford said in the 10% Happier app, “Dude, you’re making this way too hard.”

If you’re a Star Trek Next Generation fan, I would tell you that you have to make the counter intuitive move of dropping your shields in the face of danger as described in STNG Hero Worship.


The paradox is that the harder you try to be great at meditating, the more likely you are going to struggle. As I share in the Wrong Effort By George Mumford section in Meditation Brain Headbands And Wrong Effort, trying to get immediate results creates its own obstacle.

There’s a great podcast episode [NSFW: cussing] of The Joe Rogan Experience (#1062) titled Dan Harris & Jeff Warren where at the 23 minute 43 second mark, Dan describes what it’s like to have doubt in the progress of your meditation practice. To make progress in your meditation practice, you have to:

Surrender.. Just let the practice do its thing. ..We’ve been doing this for a millennia.. Just do the practice. Stop worrying about it [your progress].

He then goes on in a fun way to describe how it’s like a video game. “You can’t move forward if you want to move forward.”

In boat terms, just raise the sail. Let the wind push you forward. In meditation speak, observe whatever it is that comes up into your awareness like watching a cloud in the sky. Don’t try to push or pull the cloud. You’ll get lost in the cloud of thought and be in the storm of mindlessness again.

Comparing Mind

So, here we have a target, energy, and a tactical plan for how to progress. To completely progress in an effective manner, beware of the comparing mind. This is especially true when in a highly competitive environment.

As George Mumford points out in the 10% Happier app in What’s Success, you can’t control others. He says, “You can only be who you are. So why not be good at that?” Live your best. You can’t directly control what others are doing so focus on your own progress.

Sharon Salzburg in Mindful Magazine’s Be Kind to Yourself—Right Now covers the energy drain that comes from constantly reviewing the past and measuring how you stack up compared to others. My advice is to let those unwholesome thoughts go. Apply the Handy Tip For Focusing on such thoughts. Let the clenched fist in your mind fall open. Turn your attention on to your own progress and sail on towards your target.

Continue To Up Your Game With Emotional Agility

Now that you have an effective way to progress in your meditation practice and feel safe that you’ll still get things done, it’s time to end this with a final tip: continue to up your game. Expand your horizons. Continue to deepen your growth in ways you haven’t considered. For example, consider your “emotional agility” as Oren Jay Sofer puts it.

Even though the happiness and balance you acquire from mindfulness meditation are highly useful, there is certainly more to be had by learning “emotional agility.” As Oren Jay Sofer points out with some hesitation in “Calmest Person of the Room” of the 10% Happier app:

Not only can it [emotional agility] make you the calmest person in the room, but it can make you the most powerful person in the room.

Managing your emotions well lets you flexibly respond to life’s challenges. Simply through being grounded, you can see clearly what effective response to an adverse situation will serve best.

Aim True

I sympathize with Oren’s hesitation. Mindfulness and “emotional agility” are powerful and with that comes great responsibility. If you aim yourself towards a wholesome target and apply what is shared above, you will get out of your own way, get things done, have a richer life, and move like the wind.

Resilience and Optimism

Someone that I admire and enjoy being around with at CARFAX where I work shared two words with me, optimism and resilience. This got me thinking about deeper questions such as:

  • How do you keep going when your plans never work out quite the way you want?
  • How can you tap into an ever-flowing fountain of energy and optimism?

Shared in here are the key concepts. Although you may have heard of these concepts before, just know that the concepts are available in the 10% Happier meditation app. The people mentioned here actually teach these concepts in that app. Here’s one concept:

There’s no such thing as failure, just feedback. – George Mumford

Putting yourself down after failing to achieve something doesn’t serve anyone. Let it go. Instead, look at the results of your efforts as just feedback for you, a dynamic and wonderfully adaptable human being.

Aspiration vs Expectation

Aspiration is great. As Joseph Goldstein shares, that’s what motivates us towards action. Expectation is an unhealthy attachment to results. Expectation doesn’t serve. The smart move is to aspire towards achieving goals and then use the results of your efforts as feedback towards the next move you make.

Loving All aka Agape

When it comes to optimism and resilience, a wonderful and powerful way to tap into optimism and resilience is by connecting with your love / agape for your fellow human being. Especially after driving in heavy traffic, it’s possible you don’t feel like you have any agape for your fellow human. As Sharon Salzberg shares, there are ways to train your mind towards acknowledging and experiencing such a connection.

“What’s in it for me?”, you might ask. As George Mumford says, “Humans are wired for altruism.” We are wired to work together as a whole team. What gets in the way are the way we organize ourselves and the way we frame our look on life.

This connection gives us energy, helps you to connect with others, and fosters a more productive environment. In short, you get more done and you will feel good doing it.


Just as powerful as tapping into your agape for humanity is living your life according to a mission. My personal mission statement is to help make paradise on earth. Maximizing human flourishing is the goal. This serves everyone, even me. This tweet sums it up nicely:

Enjoy and Share

There you have it. As I said in Gamification Journey of FinneyCanHelp, we have evolved such that we need each other. Our support of others through teamwork and how we organize is our collective strength. If each of us use our talents to their fullest and support human flourishing, we can truly make paradise on earth.

Now, please share the concepts. Share the source of those concepts such as this article or mention the 10% Happier app. Most importantly, share your success and support others in their success. We’re all in this together. As Sharon Salzberg put it, we’re going to sink or swim together. Together, we win.

Lucid Dreaming Killed The Chronic Nightmares

Do you have nightmares that you’re sick of? Are you an explorer by nature? If so, let’s talk about lucid dreaming.

When it comes to lucid dreaming, some typical questions that I hear are: “What is lucid dreaming?”, “Why did you try it?”, “How did I do it?”, and “Who else is doing it now?”

What is Lucid Dreaming?

From my past teenager’s point of view, lucid dreaming is the sword to conquer nightmares. Seriously, lucid dreaming was part of how I conquered the dark and powerful demon who gave continuous birth to nightmares. Literally shaking my entire dream world through unspeakable terror, there was an evil overlord ruling my night. While everything around me shook, the last thing I would hear was horrible and evil laughter.

More than once, I asked myself: Could this be Satan? No, it wasn’t. Whatever it was, lucid dreaming was one key to conquering this nighttime evil.

Besides lucid dreaming, the second key to conquering my nighttime terrors was imagining a glowing positive energy shining from me in every direction fueled through a Lovingkindness chant.

Instead of just screaming in fear, this chant gave me courage and a positive direction to orient my mind towards. To see the specific Lovingkindness meditation technique I used back then, see the “My Words” section in Meditating and Coming Across Colder Than Ice. In my dreams, the chant and my wholehearted belief in the power of love (Agape) assured me victory.

No Really. What Is Lucid Dreaming?

Lucid dreaming is knowing that you’re dreaming while you’re dreaming. Since knowledge is power, this also leads to a path towards control of your dreams and mental exploration. While you’re doing lucid dreaming, you can do all kinds of things, think about things, and enjoy the most erotic dreams.

What Do Others Say About Lucid Dreaming?

If you like TEDx talks, here’s Lucid dreaming: Tim Post at TEDxTwenteU:

The video goes deep into how lucid dreaming is real and the science that shows that. For me, it’s already a no-kidding moment. Having lucid dreamed many times, I know that lucid dreaming is real. Since the talk is limited to less than 15 minutes, all it had time for was to talk about how lucid dreaming is real and its potential use. It doesn’t answer the question: How does one start to lucid dream?

How To Lucid Dream?

In regards to how to lucid dream, here’s a quote from Star Trek Deep Space Nine’s episode, Waking Moments:

He will do so by remembering a visual cue – such as Earth’s moon – to remind him that he is dreaming.

That’s the right idea. You need a cue. Yet, having something visual was not good enough for me. I needed something more physical.

When my feet left the ground and I swam up into the air, I knew I was dreaming. My cue was being able to swim-fly. To ensure that I could clearly feel the difference between being asleep and being awake, I hopped up and down acting like I’m trying to swim in the air during the day.

To lock in success, I would write too. “Remember”, “Remember”, “Remember” was written down right before I went to sleep. I wanted it in my mind and ready to go before I shifted into dreamland.

Lucid Dreaming Success..?

Initially, success was not letting fear rule every night of my life. As they say in games, achievement unlocked. Success!

Nothing To Fear But Fear Itself

Once I conquered the nightmares, I tried what a typical young man might do. I went for the sexual dreams.

“Ya! Sex dreams!”, I said out loud. “Let’s do this!” I was pretty excited about the potential. However… Like most things, the anticipation was more fun than the experience.

Although some of the erotic dreams were sensual and quite fun, I realized there’s no substitute for the real thing. Although the visual was there, the sense of touch was not as pronounced as one can get in real life.

After that realization, I tinkered around with creating entire dream landscapes and fantasy worlds. I could literally move mountains. I would also conjure up things to explore.

Beautiful landscape with green grass, a circle of water, and a mountain in the background

In my dreams, I could create my own landscapes.

When I woke up, I would write down what I could remember as if the contents of the dream were sacred clues that can unlock the secrets of the universe itself! Having that kind of urgency about it trained the mind to remember more from the dreams.

However, what I wrote down was merely a shadow of what I experienced. In other words, “boring” became the new chant. This all started to get really dull. Whatever utility I got from lucid dreaming, my daily meditation practice gave me so much more.

Is Control Still Useful?

Since everything was now under my control, I wondered if I was missing out on something. Was complete control useful anymore?

After sharing my concerns with another, he suggested: “Why don’t you let go? Let go of controlling everything.” In a playful and friendly way, I should see what happens. It made sense. All the parts of my mind had made peace and I was less likely to terrorize myself.

So, I completely let go of control…conditionally. If things ever got out of hand, I would just say nope and wake myself up. I’m not letting anyone bully me, not even my creative yet mischievous mind.

Want To Play a Game?

One thing I never had but was shared with me recently was a community around lucid dreaming. Dream Views Lucid Dreaming is a well organized forum board community. Specifically, they have fun tasks to try while you are lucid dreaming. If you succeed with the tasks for the month and year, they give out badges. Sounds like fun to me!

Friends together on a hill, locked arm in arm, and watching the sun.

To Sum Up

Lucid dreaming is real. Through the power of neuroplasticity, you can train your mind to know that you’re dreaming and exert control over your dreams. Coupled with Lovingkindness meditation, I’ve used lucid dreaming to conquer the scariest of chronic nightmares and create my very own dream landscapes.

If you explore lucid dreaming and would like to share your experiences, please feel free to comment below. Multiple people read these posts and would be interested in whatever insights you have to share.

Shout out to Michael Reichenbach from the Octalysis Prime mastermind group for sharing the Dream Views Lucid Dreaming‘s fun tasks to try link and the link to the TEDx talk.

Girl with diary

Stop, Drop, and Meditate

It was the tail end of the Thanksgiving holiday and my mind was on fire. My brain flooded with a million things to do before Christmas. I could see a feeling of anxiousness begin to boil and rise to the surface of my mind. What to do?

Fortunately, I’ve seen mind fires like this before. Just like that old fire safety technique of stop, drop, and roll, I stop, drop, and meditate.


With pen and paper at my side, I stopped everything, dropped down, and meditated. To start, I focused on the sensations in my head. Usually, it’s a sensation of buzzing or heat. Anything that comes up in my mind, I write down. Anything. Grammar doesn’t matter. Spelling errors are allowed.

“Need more bread”, the brain said. So, I wrote it down. “Write about meditation.” So without hesitation, I wrote it down. After the initial flood of thoughts, I set a timer and switched to an open awareness meditation.

A few more lingering thoughts popped up. “Have fun”, the brain said. So, I wrote “fun” down. The timer went off. I took a deep breath and let my shoulders relax.

Girl with diary

Looking at the words on the paper, I circled the important ones. This fed my to-do list of the week.

The practice of Stop Drop and Meditate helps me see things more clearly. I never would have thought of some of the important yet non-urgent thoughts if it had not been for my Stop, Drop, and Meditate practice clearing the flames of fear out of the way. If you see potential value in this, feel free to give it a try. However, I suggest trying it before you need it.

Fire-drills work for more than just fires. If you practice the Stop, Drop, and Meditate now, you will be ready to put out your own mental fires.

This technique helps one see things more clearly, have faith in the order of the universe, and feel a stronger sense of freedom. Enjoy!



Beyond This Storm Lies The Gates of Hell

Something About Nothing

Back in my college years, some thought I had psychic powers. I blame mindfulness meditation. Due to my mindfulness meditation practice, my ability to pick up subtle details was quite acute. I think I even sometimes picked up these details subconsciously!


Since I was still investigating the available evidence on psychic phenomenon, I was open to the possibility of having psychic powers. As a result, I would sometimes get called on by others to use my psychic powers to help them combat evil. To my current embarrassment, sometimes this meant I was running around in the woods with others trying to sense “evil hotspots” and sometimes I would get emergency phone calls.

Woods with Fog


One day, I got an out of town phone call from a distressed group of people. They felt a friend was being attacked psychically by a former member of their group. They requested my help. The importance of this was stressed quite heavily!

“Sure! I’ll help.”, I said. At this stage, I was starting to doubt the validity of psychic powers and interacting with this group. However, I knew nothing but good could come from me doing my meditation practices. What did I have to lose? It turns out, I was about to get quite a fright!

Man reaches out with his hand

Mentally Lending a Hand

So, I laid down on my bed in my college dorm and began to meditate. By this time, I had done many years of meditation. So, I slipped quickly into a meditative state.

I used one of my favorite meditation techniques. It’s a combination of focus and lovingkindness meditation. I focused on my breath and then shifted to focusing on a mental image of a bright loving light shining from the center of my being. Through this, I was wishing good fortune on the person who was suffering.

Since no news is often good news and it seemed like lots of time had passed, I figured the person was okay. Since I was already meditating, I tried something new I had been playing with. I tried what I now call becoming Bowl Bottom Centered.

Bowl by Rebecca Siegel

Back then, I imagined myself sinking into the bed and letting myself mentally go. I would drop all and allow myself to freefall mentally. It was like letting myself mentally fall into a bottomless pit.

Surrendering myself to this meditative experience had me experience something that I had never experienced before. Although the description is inadequate and will strike you as strange, I became the bottom of the bottomless pit.

I will describe this experience through imagery and with the help of your imagination. Imagine that you are a star filled night sky. It’s all you’ve ever known. It’s your reality. The stars have always been shining. It has always been night. As far as you’re concerned, the stars will shine forever. There is no other reality. Now, poof! The stars are gone. There is nothing. There’s not even a night. It’s darkness without the concept of light.

“Yikes! What was that?” was my first thought after the experience. Since I grew up on stories which introduced hell as a real thing and read books that described hell as a cold lifeless void of nothing, I was quite concerned. “Had I visited hell itself?”, I asked myself in alarm.

Beyond This Storm Lies The Gates of Hell

The Nothing

In reality, I may have had a taste of the Jhāna stage known as the Dimension of Nothingness. Since at that time I didn’t have anyone to turn to, I had not known that such a meditation stage was possible.

That night I had a nightmare about a shapeless monster of darkness. It was so intense that after I woke up I briefly saw the outline of the thing still in my room before it gently faded away. Apparently, seeing things before or after being fully asleep is considered normal and is known as being in a state of hypnagogia.

Absent a meditation teacher to guide me and assure me that I hadn’t seen hell, I had my imagination producing nightmares about the undead for a long time after. This leads us to a few lessons to share.

A Cemetery

Dreaming About The Undead

The first is that science is your friend. If people are making wild claims without a shred of science to back it up, don’t waste any time on those claims. The burden of proof is on them. Even if something is remotely possible and yet maybe not reliably reproducible, I’ve learned it’s not useful.

The second is applicable if you’re going to do any meditating beyond the equivalent of the morning jog. If you are going to sit for hours meditating and go deep into seeing what meditation has to offer, it is essential to have an experienced and trusted meditation teacher / coach. You would be surprised what wild experiences you can have while meditating. It’s good to have someone to talk to who has already experienced them and can assure you that it’s normal.

All that said, it’s worth deeply exploring your mind. You can discover things you didn’t know about your own mind as well as reap the fruits of meditation. Enjoy the journey!

Sunny Countryside

Explore the Beauty of Your Mind

Meditation, Neopagans, and Sex

People have a natural inclination to make superheroes out of mere humans. In the United States, we throw around the titles of guru, wizard, and other titles all the time. Be wary of people putting you up on a pedestal!

I will never forget when I was teaching a group of people how to do lovingkindness meditation, as described in the My Words section in Meditating and Coming Across Colder Than Ice. During my journey of trying to explore the limits of mental abilities and investigations into psychic claims, I came across a group of practicing neopagans that were true believers in psychic phenomena. They were interested in my meditation practice. So, I taught them my practice of unconditional-love / lovingkindness meditation.

After I led them through a meditation session, one gentleman exclaimed with genuine surprise “My fever broke!” This surprise was shared by me on a few levels. One, I never claimed I could cure the sick. The other is that I hadn’t known I was meditating with someone who was sick!

From what everyone was saying, these people were experiencing positive results. Meditation made quite a strong impression on them! Since it was part of their religious practice to visualize images in their minds and they were open minded, it was particularly easy for this group of people to do well in this particular practice of meditation. This meditation practice included imagining a white loving light within oneself. Conjuring up such an image and focusing on it was quite easy for them.

This group often met at a particular person’s house. Let’s call her Sarah. It’s safe to say that if I had to pick one person who was the leader of this group, it would have been Sarah. However, there was no formal leader. At the same time, there was talk about forming a formal church.

During my visits, I inquired about psychic powers and other related powers that the Neopagans believed in. It turned out that the psychic powers were all things that could easily be explained away. As one of Sarah’s younger kids put it, “I was really hoping to see someone fly.” No flying and no scientifically measurable psychic powers like telekinesis were to be seen.

Book glowing as if magical

One time Sarah had her twelve year old daughter share a drawing that the daughter had made about me. It was a stick figure with seven colored circles on various parts of the stick figure’s body. There was also a purple ring on the stick figure’s forehead. Sarah said she hadn’t asked her daughter to make the drawing.

“But, look!”, Sarah said. “This chakra there on the picture is associated with the libido and it looks blocked!”, she says with a mischievous grin. “Out of the mouths of babes! I can help you with that.”

Now this is interesting, I thought to myself. A twelve year old did a chakra diagnosis on me and her mom says my libido needs to be unblocked. Awkward! I learned soon later that the mom wanted to have sex with me. I also learned that the purple ring on the forehead signified me as a spiritual leader. Other members also shared that they wanted me to lead them as part of their new church.

I graciously declined the honor of leading their church as well as having sexual intercourse with Sarah. Although I believed their sincerity, I knew that it would not be good to be a leader of something I did not believe in. Also, I’ve heard how cults can go sour quickly.

To be clear, it’s totally possible Sarah and the others believed in what they said. If one believes something strong enough, it is the reality that they are working from. Plus, there is real power in meditation. There are tangible gains to be had by practicing it. All that combined can be a powerful punch to the mind and boom! As a result, you might get requested to be the next spiritual leader.

With such power, comes great responsibility. Sometimes, the responsible thing is to say, “No, thank you.”

Meditating and Coming Across Colder Than Ice

A benefit of mindfulness meditation is that you can respond to your emotions and situations with more grace and with less regrets. As you “mellow out” over time, you might not express strong emotions. Since you don’t react with a knee-jerk response to every situation, some may mistakenly think you are emotionally cold. To them, you’re not showing emotions. That can seem real creepy to others!

In my life, I have been compared to a Star Trek Vulcan. That’s a person who is logical yet doesn’t show emotion. Other times, I’ve been called a robot. I even was described by a former boss as “an ice-man…but in a good way.” In college, a friend would get three inches from my face and ask me,  “Does this bother you?” just to see how I would respond. I would reply with a smile that I couldn’t see her face and thus couldn’t communicate effectively.

To counter this natural concern from others and put people at ease, one thing I learned quickly in life was that it’s important to smile. Whether or not you meditate, smiling is a key to success. As a result of this approach and my love for Batman, I was referred to by some in college as The Joker’s good twin.

Loving Kindness

Even if you smile, people can tell that you’re special in that you don’t thoughtlessly react to things. They won’t know what to make of it. People can get scared of what they don’t understand or trust. Just know that they are trying to understand you and may not have a good way of relating to someone who is so centered and balanced.

To help with this situation, I use a meditation practice that stokes the fires of compassion and well wishing for my fellow human being as well as myself. This practice is called Lovingkindness.

My Words

During my teenage years, I had a religious upbringing. So, my Lovingkindness practice included God. Since I was taught that Jesus loved us unconditionally and humans lived better together with such a neighborly philosophy, unconditional love was the foundation for my practice.

With my palms facing up and my arms out wide, I would recite to myself over and over again the following:

  1. I love myself unconditionally.
  2. I love the divine unconditionally.
  3. Through the love between myself and the divine, I love everyone and everything and allow that love to come back unto me.

Since the rhythm of “the divine” felt better, I used “the divine” for God.

Since I had read that imagining a great silver glowing light would magnetically draw people to me, I imagined that too. As the saying goes, don’t believe everything you read. I will say though that the imagery of light connecting me to heaven and then on out to everything else was truly effective in giving rise to a sense of connection.

Back then, step three of using God (the divine) to be the bridge between myself and connecting myself to everything felt critical. Although I believed in people, I felt it was too hard to connect to people without divine intervention and I needed that bridge. Nowadays, I have a deeper understanding of life, the known and the unknown, and our interconnection with all of it. 

Sharon Salzberg

These days, I use a suggestion that Sharon Salzberg made in the fantastic meditation iPhone app called 10% Happier. As a result, my new phrases are verbatim what she shared:

  1. May I be safe
  2. Be Happy
  3. Be healthy
  4. Live with ease

The “May I be safe” changes to “May you be safe” or “May all be safe” when I want to switch what to focus on. From my own experience and others, I’ve learned that you can use whatever words you want as long as you are consistent.


To be clear, one still has emotions when meditating. It’s just that you’ll have a superpower of seeing an emotion and choosing your response. Your superpower will scare some people. If you do a Lovingkindness meditation practice, people will be able to tell, they will trust you more, and you will enjoy the benefits that come with it.


Meditating on Suffering From Unawareness

As George Mumford said in the 10% Happier meditation app, “Who’s the enemy? Unawareness.” Unawareness is serious business and is a root cause for so much suffering in the world. For the individual though, isn’t ignorance bliss?

A great series of questions about the phrase “suffering from unawareness” was raised by Yuri in Mistakes and Let Go Learn From. To quote the question:

Does a dog suffer from unawareness? an ant? a tree? a rock?
Is it possible to suffer without awareness?
Perhaps it is those who are aware who suffer most.
You could say awareness is suffering ?

To put the questions into my own words, how can one suffer if they are not aware? Doesn’t it hurt more to be aware? Those are interesting and fair questions. To clarify about “suffering” in the mindfulness meditation context, we’re talking about Dukkha. If one wants to go deep with an exploration of suffering, there’s an interesting podcast episode titled Joseph Goldstein – Insight Hour – Ep. 30 – The Four Noble Truths: Dukkha. Unpacking what suffering is can get deep. Suffice it to say, suffering goes beyond just pain.

To quote Selflessness and Mindfulness Where Y O U are the Target:

In this context, suffering is also sometimes known as the dissatisfying aspects of life. The sensation of being angry, feeling ill, or sadness doesn’t disappear, but it doesn’t have the same kind of impact when one is in a state of selflessness.

Now that we’ve covered suffering and shown our understanding of the spirit of the questions, let’s get back to the dog, ant, tree, and rock questions directly. An exploration of these questions directly might prove enlightening and perhaps even fun.



Sodium Chloride Is Yummy

Rocks are not conscious. If one is as unfeeling as a rock, they won’t suffer nor feel the typical dissatisfactions that come with life. As stated on Minerals vs. Rocks, it’s noteworthy that “Rocks are generally made of two or more minerals.” Among other things, humans are made up of minerals. A human is a constellation of many different things.


Ants are a trickier thing to talk about. Ants are special creatures of earth and are quite different from humans. Humans will take in information through their senses, automatically abstract and filter away extraneous details, and then create a mental map of what was, what is, and what might be. Although there is much about ants we don’t understand, it’s clear that ants have evolved differently to survive in life.

Ants on wood

As stated in We’ve Been Looking at Ant Intelligence the Wrong Way, “ants do not integrate all this information into a unified representation of the world, a so-called cognitive map.” They have adapted for navigation in different ways. There’s still much we don’t know about ants. So doggone it, we don’t know what ants think.


Dogs Are Awesome

In my opinion, dogs are awesome. The more we learn about them, the more awesome they seem. As shared in Which Emotions Do Dogs Actually Experience?, dogs experience “basic emotions: joy, fear, anger, disgust and even love.” Do dogs suffer from dissatisfaction in life? As a former owner of many dogs, yes. Dogs suffer from dissatisfaction in life. In fact, once I observed a dog’s unhealthy attachment to fear which kept it from going to the bathroom until the poor dog just lost it wherever he was. That dog couldn’t be trained / reached since there was no way to explore this unhealthy attachment to its fear.

Although dogs learn, I am not aware of any scientific evidence supporting dogs having the ability to reflect on their thinking. In other words, dogs don’t have the power of metacognition. Metacognition is the ability to think about thinking.

Dogs don’t have the same mental tools available that humans do. Joe Rogan, Sam harris and Dan Harris (cofounder of the 10% Happier meditation app), discuss meditation and metacognition in this video (NSFW due to cussing and references to recreational drug use):

Dan Harris does an excellent job in that video expanding on the concept of metacognition.


According to the article Scientists Discover Plants Have “Brains” That Determine When They Grow, trees have “a series of cells acting as a command center of sorts.” However, they also don’t have brains which allow metacognition.

That said, trees can be quite inspirational to humans. As shared on Why Trees Are The Ultimate Meditation Teachers:

A meditation teacher once advised me to look to the example trees set as steady, observant beings.

Studying nature can give us insight into ourselves and our relationship to the rest of the universe.

Human Suffering

Through our human cognitive abilities, we can take note of our thoughts and train ourselves to respond to things which happen to us as opposed to take a knee-jerk reaction to everything in life. In a purely knee-jerk kind of world, we get road rage, more regrets, and are painfully lost in our thoughts.

The good news is that starting the Meditation Journey is Simple. That doesn’t mean meditating is easy. However, that’s another topic for another time.

As opposed to unawareness or ignorance being bliss, “Our suffering stems from ignorance.” as S. N. Goenka put it. As you deal with unawareness in its many forms in life, may you be safe, be happy, be healthy, and live with ease.

Mistakes will happen

Mistakes and Let Go Learn From

When you make a mistake, you feel it. There’s an energy to it. It’s an energy that screams from your brain “Pay attention to me now!” So, how do you learn from a mistake, yet still get done with what you’re doing?

Let’s start by acknowledging that this “annoying” and sometimes “angry” energy is reshaping your mind. This energy can even be interpreted as pain. Often people will even say “Ow!”, “Shucks” or other stand-in words for cuss words. However, that growing “pain” is just the brain’s amygdala at work.

Ice-cream fell out of her hand

Oh, Shoot!

Although what the amygdala does is a key part of storing memories, it’s important to not have a knee-jerk response to every single thing the amygdala screams. If it helps, you can take comfort in knowing that there’s some good news about the mistake you made.

As pointed out in Mistakes Grow Your Brain, the good news is that your brain grows when you make a mistake. This even happens whether or not you are fully conscious of the mistake! The bad news is that it’s too common for us to beat ourselves up over a mistake. As George Mumford put it in the 10% Happier meditation app in “The Yips” section, “We dog ourselves.”

Mistakes will happen

Mistakes Will Happen

The right move to make is to recognize the mistake, acknowledge it, and then let it go. “What a minute!”, you might say. “I can’t just let it go! Don’t I need to learn from the mistake?”

Yes! Absolutely. History will repeat itself if we don’t learn from our past mistakes. The key phrase is “past mistakes.” What George Mumford suggests in the “You’re Not the Mistake” section of the 10% Happier meditation app is to do a “Post Play Reflection” or a “Post Performance Reflection” (PPR). However, you do the PPR later when it’s appropriate. In the immediate, you let go of it in a special way. I call this the “Let Go Learn From” method.

Let Go Learn From

Inspired by George Mumford, here’s the letting go part of the Let Go Learn From method:

Where do I record the mistake? Here’s something that I learned from my Dad. Almost always, I keep a pen and notecards near me. If I don’t have those, I have my smartphone and use the notes app. That way I can record my mistakes and ideas throughout the day. This technique is especially critical during conversations. Tweet me on Twitter at @FinneyCanHelp, if you want to know more about this.

Let Go Learn From

Based in part on George’s PPR suggestions, here’s the “learning from” part of the process:

  • What was the mistake?
  • What would you do differently next time?
  • Play it out in your head again, but this time play it out with the mistake corrected.

In other words, replay the event in your mind as you wish it had happened. This lets you face the future with confidence based on a foundation that is structured from your new found wisdom.

Learn, Let Go, and Flow

As I shared in Mindfully Living the Path of Ease:

In self-improvement, winning is achieved by flowing towards a direction.

Sometimes you don’t know you’re flowing in the wrong direction and making mistakes helps you know that. So, take the energy from the mistake made as merely a recognition that you have gotten off track. Use that recognition as feedback into your self-improvement process.

Everybody makes mistakes, but not everyone grows in wisdom from them. As a gift to humanity, grow and share your wisdom. While you’re at it, please also share this post with others. Thank you.