https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/AxjFRgNStopAc93jB/taking-hammertime-final-examI am attempting to write about:
- A helpful framework
- An exercise that might generally help in life
- A blindspot
It was hard to choose topics between several areas, I also strongly considered ideas that were helpful for me from NVC point of view, but for now all three are related to meditation:
Part of a framework for low-level mental actions: (Intention is before all)
Any action or thought (a mental action) is preceded by some intention that is generated within the mind in reaction to some input.
In that framework doing things looks like this:
1. there is a need or a desire for something
(based on internal or external information input)
2. an intention to get to this goal is generated
3. actions are planned and executed
4. we get new information input for result of the action
5. if goal is not achieved, but intention is still present -
new actions are planned and executed
And "learning things" means:
- Generating and holding an intention to get to some state
- The mind as a whole will continue planning and executing actions until they are over-trained and automatic
So "trying harder" would help much less than "holding, supporting an intention and making it more visible"
A common pitfall would be to learn to punish self.
I.e generating an intention to hurt self with deprecation or something else on encountering information input for a failure state.
This could lead to mind learning to avoid the input - to not look at the problem, or avoid it.
While learning an intention of "being friendly to self" could very well lead to more sustained intentions,
which interacting with other learning techniques or techniques for applied rationality could lead to trying different ways of achieving the goal
This exercise can be included as a cornerstone of a meditation practice in different schools, but can be helpful on it's own.
Based on the Input -> Intention -> Action framework
Our learned tendency to self-deprecate, or self-punish is a strongly entrenched intention to act this way on encountering specific inputs.
The exercise to unlearn it could look like this:
1. select the base activity
could be your house chores, could be work or studying
easy model activity is watching breath and returning to it when you catch yourself distracted
2. set timer for some small amount of time, so that exercise would seem enjoyable
3. set initial intention
"whenever I'll catch myself blaming myself - I will say with all sincerity I can muster: 'may I be supportive of myself, may I be my friend'"
4. Do the activity:
If you catch yourself successfully living out the intention you've set - congratulate yourself
if you find that you failed to live out the set intention and blame yourself - live out the intention
From anecdotal evidence 5 days of 5 minutes could already yield visible difference.
I've never heard of studies for specifically this practice, but studies cited in the book "Altered Traits" indicate that lasting change in mental processes usually requires a much more rigorous schedule.
Resistance to pain breeds more pain
It looks like default strategy learned by many humans includes generating a lot of resistance and effort to push away the pain.
It is widely documented in meditation circles and there is some research cited in "Altered Traits" that dropping the resistance to pain - either physical or mental helps to alleviate big part of the negative experience.
The conjecture is that there is :
- a more "direct" pain signal - that is being sent either from injured organ, or directly from the mind
- and another one - a resistance and expectation of further pain.
I'd say that until people learn to act fully and successfully to change the root causes of pain without their existing strategy - the strategy is useful and shouldn't be thrown away carelessly.
However in many situations pain is either truly unavoidable (like in hospital after operation after notifying the doctor) or may even be desired - when it is mental pain of loss which we'd want to fully take in.
In that situation it might help to try to generate curiosity about the exact feelings.
And try not to do this "to avoid the pain", but genuinely to research it better.
I think there is a very good chance that it is possible to act fully, skillfully in reaction to pain without attempting to push the pain away, but this distinction is harder to put in words.
P.S I guess I dreamed about a different final exam after the Hammertime, one that would test the finesse with which I can summon and exercise techniques from the sequence.
I'd want to definitely have some kind of follow-up with myself in that regard.