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Old 03-10-14, 05:33 PM
davesf davesf is offline
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Re: Can you 'quiet your mind'?

If you read my story, you can see my methods are inspired by Buddhist mindfulness. However, I do not use "dedicated sessions" of meditation or breathing exercises as I found them hard to do in my ADD state. Instead I practice the methods constantly, in every minute of the day.

I also developed a "mental model" of what I believe is happening in the mind, which is a bit different than what I've read out there in science and philosophy. This has greatly helped me understand the effects of my efforts, and improve my self-awareness.

In this post, I'm primarily going to talk about this big picture "mental model", but before I do I want to briefly list the three elements of my methods.
  • Learning to always -Breathe- (my "apnea" didn't stop during the day)
  • Relaxation and opening of "Cognitive Focus" (similar to mindfulness)
  • Emotional provocation and release (to get rid of mental anxiety)

There is no step-1-2-3. There is no beginning and no end. These elements are in an inter-dependent triangle of self-state control. Together, they control a startling "mode shift" of our minds between singular vs parallel thinking; between logic vs intuition; between thought vs being present; between simulating and predicting a path to a future goal -vs- keeping our perception open to see and understand the world as it is now.

When human brains are maximally motivated towards a future goal, we literally *do not see* the world as it is. We filter filter filter, removing anything predictable that is not relevant to the goal. This is a very self-deceptive form of filtering, because if interrupted or challenged we can look and "see" something un-predictable with our eyes. As a result, we don't realize or accept that our mind didn't see it before that moment.

In fact, this shift is so dramatic, I think it's a fair analogy to say that when we are maximally motivated towards a future goal, it's almost as if we are not seeing the world at all, but a "predicted simulation" of the world created in our minds. It's like we're living in The Matrix in our minds, occupied only by static and predictable things. We don't hear "unpredictable" things, because those things are out there in the real-world, not in our mental prediction simulation.

Do you feel startled or anxious when interrupted? Do you trip while walking? Bump into things while moving? Forget things while doing something else? Have trouble following directions? Have trouble doing two things at once? Have trouble listening to people, and understand what they are saying? -- I have had trouble with all of these things, and my startling realization is that the cause is not at all what I thought. These things happened because my Cognitive Focus was clamped down so tight my mind could literally only "see" and predict the singular thing I was doing. Everything else was filtered out -- or not present in my mental simulation -- whichever analogy you prefer.

For example, when I was on the computer, I would not see my wife open the office door. I would not hear her talk to me. Instead I would experience a startling jarring anxiety when she finally got my attention. It was if she had suddenly "appeared" there unexpectedly out of nowhere. I'd shift my focus to her, ask her to repeat herself, and still struggle to understand the meaning of her words. The truth is somehow stranger than fiction, that my focus was clamped down so tight, that she basically had "appeared" there out of nowhere. It was as if I was sleepwalking, and living in a narrowly focused dream. I don't even think my wife's interruption woke me up, I think it just created an anxious discontinuity in the dream "simulation".

During the brief period stimulants cleared my ADD "fog" I realized several remarkable things. First, I could sit on the computer and work while still hearing the world around me. I could also read while also hearing a conversation near me. This was startling, as this was not possible for me and I didn't realize it was possible for anyone. Second, I felt like the world was comparatively moving so much more slowly than it had before -- making many tasks suddenly super easy. Of course the world wasn't moving more slowly -- it was my perception which was moving more quickly. I was no longer 1/4 sleepwalking, I was fully awake. Third, I realized I was often often often holding my breath. All day long I would catch myself holding my breath during a thought. In fact, I like to say I was "micro sufficating" myself, as it reminds me how bad the habit is and how critical it is to stop it.

These observations all happened quickly while on stimulants, and so I felt like they were the second-coming-of-whartever. I thought my life was fixed. Sadly for me, the effects of the medication didn't last. Even after increasing the dose, only a couple weeks later I was back to my ADD state even while on them. They were doing almost nothing.

This is when I got really determined to figure out what was going on in my mind and fix it myself, instead of expecting the world outside to fix it. I formed a model, and started working using that model. So far the model is holding very true. I'm not the first person to use these pieces, but so far I haven't seen them put together in this way.

1) Cognitive Focus is a "lever" shifting between our emotional mind and our rational mind - and we can learn to control it directly. Scientists have shown that the more stressed and driven we are, the more narrow our thinking becomes. This is how we get stuck in spirals of thought where everything seems bad and we can't get out. Where we can't read a book, or listen to someone talking. Because our thinking is literally so narrow we can't think of anything outside that tunnel-thinking. The solution is to use calm, breathing, and expanding our perception to learn to open our cognitive focus and get out of narrow spirals of thought. When we use calm and mindfulness to get an overlapping emotional and rational mind, it's sometimes referred to as "wise mind".

2) Breathing is a primary controller of this stress level. The more we hold our breath, the more narrow and rational our thinking becomes. Which means holding our breath is a primary mechanism of repressing feelings, emotions, and actions. If we need to repress even more, our minds can secrete mucus to fill up the sinus and air canals, and consciously use habits like nose-picking to populate them with bacteria. The flip side of this is that if you want to percieve the world, start by just breathing.

3) Toxic emotional in our brains need to come out and be calmed. At the risk of digging too far into the science, I believe our minds are like a complex system of lakes. In the morning a lake is placid and calm. Throughout the day, it gets stirred up by wind and boats and has chaotic whitecaps. Our only placid morning is conception. After that we're storing our all our memories and experiences as waves in those lakes. If we have pain or trauma, somewhere in our minds there are chaotic and choppy waves. We can "hide" or repress them by increasing our stress-level and focusing elsewhere -- by narrowing our cognitive focus. The trouble is, the more we repress, the narrower our cognitive focus has to be to keep the chaos elsewhere contained. Soon we are a mess of anxiety that is trying to contain so much chaos it can't see anything. We also become volatile and unpredictable as chaotic waves spill over into our emotions and actions. That's where I was.

Do you see the interdependency? The more repressed chaotic emotion we are containing in our minds, the more narrow our cognitive focus becomes. A primary mechanism we use for this is pauses in our breath. The less we breathe, the less we feel, and the spiral towards an attentionless, emotionless, half sleepwalking life begins. Soon we have apnea day and night. We don't sleep properly. Sleep is a process to naturally and slowly calm the waves, but if that isn't happening, the waves are just getting more and more chaotic.

This mental model of mine is more complicated to explain properly than what I've covered above, and I'm trying to keep this as short as possible. I'm happy to elaborate on any questions about my story or my model.

Is this helping? What are folks interested to hear? My intended next step is to post a more practical explanation of the techniques I use on a daily basis, and their results so far.
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