Spiritual Bypassing & the Psychology of Awakening

“Spiritual seekers who suffer from a deflated sense of self, take spiritual teachings about selflessness to mean that they should keep a lid on themselves and not let themselves shine.. As typically happens in many spiritual communities, [they] use spiritual practice as a way of trying to deny certain basic human needs..

Since individuation involves clarifying the psychological dynamics that obscure our capacity to shine through, it is not opposed to spiritual realization. Instead, it involves becoming a more transparent vessel—an authentic person who can bring through what is beyond the person in a uniquely personal way.” ~John Welwood, Ph.D.

Psych of Awakening

The following is an excerpt from The Psychology of Awakening by John Welwood, author of Toward a Psychology of Awakening. Welwood is a clinical psychologist, psychotherapist and longterm student of Tibetan Buddhism. 

“When people use spiritual practice to try to compensate for feelings of alienation and low self-esteem, they corrupt the true nature of spiritual practice. Instead of loosening the manipulative ego that tries to control its experience, they strengthen it, and their spiritual practice remains unintegrated with the rest of their life.
Using spirituality to make up for failures of individuation—psychologically separating from parents, cultivating self-respect, or trusting one’s own intelligence as a source of guidance—also leads to many of the so-called “perils of the path”: spiritual materialism (using spirituality to prop up a shaky ego), self-inflation, “us vs. them” mentality, groupthink, blind faith in charismatic teachers, and loss of discrimination.
Spiritual communities can become a kind of surrogate family, where the teacher is regarded as the good parent while the students are striving to be good boys or good girls—trying to please the teacher-as-parent or driving themselves to climb the ladder of spiritual success. In this way, spiritual practice becomes co-opted by unconscious identities and used to reinforce unconscious defenses.
For example, people resorting to isolation and withdrawal because the interpersonal realm feels threatening often use teachings about detachment and renunciation to rationalize their aloofness, impersonality, and disengagement when what they really need is to become more fully embodied, more engaged with themselves, with others, and with life.
People with a dependent personality structure, who try to gain approval and security by pleasing others, often perform unstinting service for the teacher or community in order to feel worthwhile. They confuse a co-dependent kind of self-negation with true selflessness.
And spiritual involvement is particularly tricky for people who hide behind a narcissistic defense, because they use spirituality to make themselves feel special or important while imagining they are working on liberation from self.
Spiritual bypassing often adopts a rationale using absolute truth to deny or disparage relative truth. Absolute truth is what is eternally true, now and forever, beyond any particular viewpoint or time frame.
When we tap into absolute truth, we can recognize the divine beauty or larger perfection operating in the whole of reality. From this larger perspective, the murders on tonight’s news, for instance, do not diminish this divine perfection, for the absolute encompasses the whole panorama of life and death, in which suns, galaxies, and planets are continually being born and dying.
However, from a relative point of view—if you are the wife of a man murdered tonight—you will probably not be moved by the truth of ultimate perfection. Instead you will be feeling human grief.
There are two ways of confusing absolute and relative truth. If you use the murder or your grief to deny or insult the higher law of the universe, you would be committing the relativist error. You would be trying to apply what is true on the horizontal plane of becoming to the vertical dimension of pure being.
The spiritual bypasser makes the reverse category error, the absolutist error: He draws on absolute truth to disparage relative truth. His logic might lead to a conclusion like this: Since everything is ultimately perfect in the larger cosmic play, grieving the loss of someone you love is a sign of spiritual weakness.
Since it is the nature of human beings to live on both the absolute and relative levels, we can never reduce reality to a single dimension.
We are not just this relative body-mind organism; we are also absolute being/awareness/presence, which is much larger than our bodily form or personal history. But we are also not just this larger, formless absolute; we are also incarnate as particular individuals.
If we identify only with form, our life will remain confined to known, familiar structures. But if we try to live only as pure emptiness, or absolute being, we may not engage with our humanity. In absolute terms, the personal self is not ultimately real; at the relative level, it must be respected.
A client of mine who was desperate about her marriage had gone to a spiritual teacher for advice. He advised her not to be so angry with her husband but to be a compassionate friend instead.
This was certainly sound spiritual advice. Compassion is a higher truth than anger; when we rest in the absolute nature of mind, pure open awareness, we discover compassion as the very core of our nature. From that perspective, feeling angry about being hurt only separates us from our true nature.
Yet the teacher who gave this woman this advice did not consider her relative situation—that she was someone who had swallowed her anger all her life.
Her father had been abusive and would slap her and send her to her room whenever she showed any anger about the way he treated her. She learned to suppress her rage and always tried to please others by being “a good girl” instead.
So when the teacher advised her to feel compassion rather than anger, she felt relieved because this fit right in with her defenses. Since anger was threatening to her, she used the teaching on compassion for spiritual bypassing—for refusing to deal with her anger or the message it contained.
As her therapist, I had to take account of her relative situation and help her relate to her anger more fully. As a spiritual practitioner, I was also mindful that anger is ultimately empty, a wave arising in the ocean of consciousness, without any solidity or inherent meaning.
Yet while that understanding may be true in the absolute sense, and generally valuable for helping dissolve attachment to anger, it was not useful for this woman at this time.
Instead, she needed to learn to pay more attention to her anger in order to move beyond a habitual pattern of self-suppression, to connect with her inner strength and power, and to relate to her husband in a more active, assertive way.
How then do we arrive at genuine compassion? Spiritual bypassing involves imposing on oneself higher truths that lie far beyond one’s immediate existential condition. My client’s attempts at compassion were not entirely genuine because they were based on denying her own anger.
Spiritual teachers often exhort us to be loving and compassionate, or to give up selfishness and aggression, but how can we do this if our habitual tendencies arise out of a whole system of psychological dynamics that we have never clearly seen or faced, much less worked with?
People often have to acknowledge and come to terms with their anger before they can arrive at genuine forgiveness or compassion. That is relative truth.
Psychological inquiry starts here, with relative truth, with whatever we are experiencing right now. It involves opening to that experience and exploring its meaning, letting it unfold without judgment.
As a therapist, I find that allowing whatever arises to be there as it is and gently inquiring into it leads naturally in the direction of deeper truth. This is what I call psychological work in the service of spiritual development.
Many people who seek out my services have done spiritual practice for many years. I have often been struck by the huge gap between the sophistication of their spiritual practice and the level of their personal development.
Some of them have spent years doing what were once considered the most advanced, esoteric practices, reserved only for the select few in traditional Asia, without developing the most rudimentary forms of self-love or interpersonal sensitivity.
One woman who had undergone the rigors of a Tibetan-style three-year retreat had little ability to love herself. The rigorous training she had been through only seemed to reinforce an inner discontent that drove her to pursue high spiritual ideals without showing any kindness toward herself or her own limitations.
In addition to spiritual bypassing, another major problem for Western seekers is their susceptibility to the “spiritual superego,” a harsh inner voice that acts as relentless critic and judge telling them that nothing they do is ever quite good enough: “You should meditate more and practice harder. You’re too self-centered. You don’t have enough devotion.”
This critical voice keeps track of every failure to practice or live up to the teachings, so that practice becomes more oriented toward propitiating a judgmental part of themselves than opening to life unconditionally.
They may subtly regard the saints and enlightened ones as father figures who are keeping a critical eye on all the ways they are failing to live up to their commitments.
So they strive to be “Dharmically correct,” attempting to be more detached, compassionate, or devoted than they really are, while secretly hating themselves for failing to do so, thus rendering their spirituality cold and solemn.
Their self-hatred was not created by the spiritual teaching; it already existed. But by pursuing spirituality in a way that widens the gap between how they are and how they think they should be, they wind up turning exquisite spiritual teachings on compassion and awakening into fuel for self-hatred and inner bondage.
This raises the question of how much we can benefit from a spiritual teaching as a set of ideals, no matter how noble those ideals are. Often the striving after a spiritual ideal only serves to reinforce the critical superego—that inner voice that tells us we are never good enough, never honest enough, never loving enough.

In a culture permeated by guilt and ambition, where people are desperately trying to rise above their shaky earthly foundation, the spiritual superego exerts a pervasive unconscious influence that calls for special attention and work. This requires an understanding of psychological dynamics that traditional spiritual teachings and teachers often lack…

Many spiritual seekers who suffer.. from a deflated sense of self, take spiritual teachings about selflessness to mean that they should keep a lid on themselves and not let themselves shine.. As typically happens in many spiritual communities, [they] use spiritual practice as a way of trying to deny certain basic human needs..
[One’s] psychological conflicts [can] cut off access to deeper capacities such as strength, confidence, and the ability to connect with others in a genuinely open way. These intrinsic human capacities—traditionally described as “the qualities of a Buddha”—can be seen as differentiated expressions of true nature.
If realizing pure, undifferentiated being is the path of liberation, then embodying a full spectrum of these differentiated qualities of being is the path of individuation in its deepest sense: the unfolding of our deepest human resources and imperatives, which exist as seed potentials within us, but which are often blocked by psychological conflicts.
This understanding of individuation goes far beyond the secular, humanistic ideal of developing one’s uniqueness, being an innovator, or living out one’s dreams.
Instead, it involves forging a vessel—our capacity for personal presence, nourished by its rootedness in deeper human qualities—through which we can bring absolute true nature into form—the “form” of our person.
By person I do not mean some fixed structure or entity, but the way in which true nature can manifest and express itself in a uniquely personal way, as the ineffable suchness or “youness” of you.
Since individuation involves clarifying the psychological dynamics that obscure our capacity to shine through, it is not opposed to spiritual realization. Instead, it involves becoming a more transparent vessel—an authentic person who can bring through what is beyond the person in a uniquely personal way.
Working in this way to clear up old emotional conflicts can help us develop a richer quality of personal presence and begin to embody our true nature in an individuated way. Our individuated nature can then become a window opening onto all that is beyond and greater than ourselves.
While spiritual traditions generally explain the cause of suffering in general terms as the result of ignorance, faulty perception, or disconnection from our true nature, Western psychology provides a more specific developmental understanding.
It shows how suffering stems from childhood conditioning; in particular, from static and distorted images of self and other that we carry with us in the baggage of our past. And it reveals these painful, distorting identities as relational—formed in and through our relationships with others.
Spiritual traditions that do not recognize the way in which ego identity forms out of interpersonal relationships are unable to address these interpersonal structures directly.
Instead, they offer practices—prayer, meditation, mantra, service, devotion to God or guru—that shift the attention to the universal ground of being in which the individual psyche moves, like a wave on the ocean.
Thus it becomes possible to enter luminous states of trans-personal awakening, beyond personal conflicts and limitations, without having to address or work through specific psychological issues and conflicts.
This kind of realization can certainly provide access to greater wisdom and compassion, but it often does not touch or alter impaired ego structures which, because they influence our everyday functioning, prevent us from fully integrating this realization into the fabric of our lives.
Thus, as Sri Aurobindo put it, “Realization by itself does not necessarily transform the being as a whole. One may have some light of realization at the spiritual summit of consciousness but the parts below remain what they were.”
We in the West have been exposed to the most profound nondual teachings and practices of the East for only a few short decades.
Now a deeper level of dialogue between East and West is called for in order to develop greater understanding about the relationship between the impersonal absolute and the human, personal dimension.
Indeed, expressing absolute true nature in a thoroughly personal, human form may be one of the most important evolutionary potentials of the cross-fertilization of Eastern contemplative traditions and Western psychological understanding.
Bringing these two approaches into deeper dialogue may help us discover how to transform our personality in a more complete way—developing it into an instrument of higher purposes—thus redeeming the whole personal realm, instead of just seeking liberation from it…”

By John Welwood, Ph.D.

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About the Author:  John Welwood Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and psychotherapist in San Francisco who has been a student of Tibetan Buddhism for over thirty years. The excerpt above is from a longer article (here) that was condensed and adapted for Tricycle magazine from his book, Toward A Psychology of Awakening: Buddhism, Psychotherapy, and the Path of Personal and Spiritual Transformation, published by Shambhala Publications.
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The Doors of Perception – Aldous Huxley

“Each one of us is potentially Mind at Large. But in so far as we are animals, our business is at all costs to survive. To make biological survival possible, Mind at Large has to be funneled through the reducing valve of the brain and nervous system. What comes out at the other end is a measly trickle of the kind of consciousness which will help us to stay alive on the surface of this Particular planet.” ~Aldous Huxley
 
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The following are excerpts from Aldous Huxley’s classic The Doors of Perception, where he describes his thoughts and observations during a mescalin experience. Expecting to perhaps have visions or hallucinations Huxley was surprised to find that the most profound aspect of his experience was a deepening of meaning. Everything which had seemed ordinary before suddenly seemed extraordinary, mystical and deeply meaningful. All that had seemed to be separate now appeared to be connected, as unique and magical expressions of the Universe.
 
“By a series of, for me, extremely fortunate circumstances.. it came about that, one bright May morning [in the spring of 1953], I swallowed four-tenths of a gram of mescalin dissolved in half a glass of water and sat down to wait for the results.
 
We live together, we act on, and react to, one another; but always and in all circumstances we are by ourselves. The martyrs go hand in hand into the arena; they are crucified alone. Embraced, the lovers desperately try to fuse their insulated ecstasies into a single self-transcendence; in vain.
 
By its very nature every embodied spirit is doomed to suffer and enjoy in solitude. Sensations, feelings, insights, fancies – all these are private and, except through symbols and at second hand, incommunicable.
 
We can pool information about experiences, but never the experiences themselves. From family to nation, every human group is a society of island universes. Most island universes are sufficiently like one another to permit inferential understanding or even of mutual empathy or “feeling into.”
 
Thus, remembering our own bereavements and humiliations, we can condole with others in analogous circumstances, can put ourselves (always, of course, in a slightly Pickwickian sense) in their places. But in certain cases communication between universes is incomplete or even nonexistent.
 
The mind is its own place, and the places inhabited by the insane and the exceptionally gifted are so different from the places where ordinary men and women live, that there is little or no common ground of memory to serve as a basis for understanding or fellow feeling.
 
Words are uttered, but fail to enlighten. The things and events to which the symbols refer belong to mutually exclusive realms of experience.
 
To see ourselves as others see us is a most salutary gift. Hardly less important is the capacity to see others as they see themselves.
 
But what if these others belong to a different species and inhabit a radically alien universe? For example, how can the sane get to know what it actually feels like to be mad?
 
Or, short of being born again as a visionary, a medium, or a musical genius, how can we ever visit the worlds which, to Blake, to Swedenborg, to Johann Sebastian Bach, were home?
 
Thus, it seems virtually certain that I shall never know what it feels like to be Sir John Falstaff or Joe Louis. On the other hand, it had always seemed to me possible that (through hypnosis, for example, or by means of systematic meditation, or else by taking the appropriate drug) I might so change my ordinary mode of consciousness as to be able to know, from the inside, what the visionary, the medium, even the mystic were talking about.
 
From what I had read of the mescalin experience I was convinced in advance that the drug would admit me, at least for a few hours, into the kind of inner world described by Blake and AE. But what I had expected did not happen…
 
The change which actually took place in that world was in no sense revolutionary. Half an hour after swallowing the drug I became aware of a slow dance of golden lights. A little later there were sumptuous red surfaces swelling and expanding from bright nodes of energy that vibrated with a continuously changing, patterned life.
 
At another time the closing of my eyes revealed a complex of gray structures, within which pale bluish spheres kept emerging into intense solidity and, having emerged, would slide noiselessly upwards, out of sight.
 
But at no time were there faces or forms of men or animals. I saw no landscapes, no enormous spaces, no magical growth and metamorphosis of buildings, nothing remotely like a drama or a parable.
 
The other world to which mescalin admitted me was not the world of visions; it existed out there, in what I could see with my eyes open. The great change was in the realm of objective fact. What had happened to my subjective universe was relatively unimportant.
 
I took my pill at eleven. An hour and a half later, I was sitting in my study, looking intently at a small glass vase. The vase contained only three flowers-a full-blown Belie of Portugal rose; a large magenta and cream-colored carnation; and, pale purple at the end of its broken stalk, the bold heraldic blossom of an iris.
 
Fortuitous and provisional, the little nosegay broke all the rules of traditional good taste. At breakfast that morning I had been struck by the lively dissonance of its colors. But that was no longer the point.
 
I was not looking now at an unusual flower arrangement. I was seeing what Adam had seen on the morning of his creation-the miracle, moment by moment, of naked existence.
 
“Is it agreeable?” somebody asked. (During this Part of the experiment, all conversations were recorded on a dictating machine, and it has been possible for me to refresh my memory of what was said.)
 
“Neither agreeable nor disagreeable,” I answered. “it just is.”
 
Istigkeit – wasn’t that the word Meister Eckhart liked to use? “Is-ness.” The Being of Platonic philosophy – except that Plato seems to have made the enormous, the grotesque mistake of separating Being from becoming and identifying it with the mathematical abstraction of the Idea.
 
He could never, poor fellow, have seen a bunch of flowers shining with their own inner light and all but quivering under the pressure of the significance with which they were charged; could never have perceived that what rose and iris and carnation so intensely signified was nothing more, and nothing less, than what they were – a transience that was yet eternal life..
 
A perpetual perishing that was at the same time pure Being, a bundle of minute, unique particulars in which, by some unspeakable and yet self-evident paradox, was to be seen the divine source of all existence.
 
I continued to look at the flowers, and in their living light I seemed to detect the qualitative equivalent of breathing -but of a breathing without returns to a starting point, with no recurrent ebbs but only a repeated flow from beauty to heightened beauty, from deeper to ever deeper meaning.
 
Words like “grace” and “transfiguration” came to my mind, and this, of course, was what, among other things, they stood for. My eyes traveled from the rose to the carnation, and from that feathery incandescence to the smooth scrolls of sentient amethyst which were the iris.
 
The Beatific Vision, Sat Chit Ananda, Being- Awareness-Bliss-for the first time I understood, not on the verbal level, not by inchoate hints or at a distance, but precisely and completely what those prodigious syllables referred to.
 
And then I remembered a passage I had read in one of Suzuki’s essays. “What is the Dharma-Body of the Buddha?” (‘”the Dharma-Body of the Buddha” is another way of saying Mind, Suchness, the Void, the Godhead.)
 
The question is asked in a Zen monastery by an earnest and bewildered novice. And with the prompt irrelevance of one of the Marx Brothers, the Master answers, “The hedge at the bottom of the garden.”
 
“And the man who realizes this truth,” the novice dubiously inquires, ‘”what, may I ask, is he?” Groucho gives him a whack over the shoulders with his staff and answers, “A golden-haired lion.”
 
It had been, when I read it, only a vaguely pregnant piece of nonsense. Now it was all as clear as day, as evident as Euclid. Of course the Dharma-Body of the Buddha was the hedge at the bottom of the garden.
 
At the same time, and no less obviously, it was these flowers, it was anything that I – or rather the blessed Not-I, released for a moment from my throttling embrace – cared to look at.
 
The books, for example, with which my study walls were lined. Like the flowers, they glowed, when I looked at them, with brighter colors, a profounder significance.
 
Red books, like rubies; emerald books; books bound in white jade; books of agate; of aquamarine, of yellow topaz; lapis lazuli books whose color was so intense, so intrinsically meaningful, that they seemed to be on the point of leaving the shelves to thrust themselves more insistently on my attention.
 
In the mescalin experience the implied questions to which the eye responds are of another order. Place and distance cease to be of much interest.
 
The mind does its Perceiving in terms of intensity of existence, profundity of significance, relationships within a pattern. I saw the books, but was not at all concerned with their positions in space.
 
What I noticed, what impressed itself upon my mind was the fact that all of them glowed with living light and that in some the glory was more manifest than in others…
 
When I got up and walked about, I could do so quite normally, without misjudging the whereabouts of objects. Space was still there; but it had lost its predominance. The mind was primarily concerned, not with measures and locations, but with being and meaning.
 
And along with indifference to space there went an even more complete indifference to time. “There seems to be plenty of it,” was all I would answer, when the investigator asked me to say what I felt about time.
 
Plenty of it, but exactly how much was entirely irrelevant. I could, of course, have looked at my watch; but my watch, I knew, was in another universe. My actual experience had been, was still, of an indefinite duration or alternatively of a perpetual present made up of one continually changing apocalypse…
 
From the books the investigator directed my attention to the furniture. A small typing table stood in the center of the room; beyond it, from my point of view, was a wicker chair and beyond that a desk.
 
The three pieces formed an intricate pattern of horizontals, uprights and diagonals – a pattern all the more interesting for not being interpreted in terms of spatial relationships.
 
Table, chair and desk came together in a composition that was like something by Braque or Juan Gris, a still life recognizably related to the objective world, but rendered without depth, without any attempt at photographic realism.
 
I was looking at my furniture, not as the utilitarian who has to sit on chairs, to write at desks and tables, and not as the cameraman or scientific recorder, but as the pure aesthete whose concern is only with forms and their relationships within the field of vision or the picture space.
 
But as I looked, this purely aesthetic, Cubist’s-eye view gave place to what I can only describe as the sacramental vision of reality. I was back where I had been when I was looking at the flowers-back in a world where everything shone with the Inner Light, and was infinite in its significance…
 
Reflecting on my experience, I find myself agreeing with the eminent Cambridge philosopher, Dr. C. D. Broad:
 
“That we should do well to consider much more seriously than we have hitherto been inclined to do the type of theory which Bergson put forward in connection with memory and sense perception. The suggestion is that the function of the brain and nervous system and sense organs is in the main eliminative and not productive.
 
Each person is at each moment capable of remembering all that has ever happened to him and of perceiving everything that is happening everywhere in the universe. The function of the brain and nervous system is to protect us from being overwhelmed and confused by this mass of largely useless and irrelevant knowledge, by shutting out most of what we should otherwise perceive or remember at any moment, and leaving only that very small and special selection which is likely to be practically useful.”
 
According to such a theory, each one of us is potentially Mind at Large. But in so far as we are animals, our business is at all costs to survive. To make biological survival possible, Mind at Large has to be funneled through the reducing valve of the brain and nervous system.
 
What comes out at the other end is a measly trickle of the kind of consciousness which will help us to stay alive on the surface of this Particular planet.
 
To formulate and express the contents of this reduced awareness, man has invented and endlessly elaborated those symbol-systems and implicit philosophies which we call languages.
 
Every individual is at once the beneficiary and the victim of the linguistic tradition into which he has been born – the beneficiary inasmuch as language gives access to the accumulated records of other people’s experience, the victim in so far as it confirms him in the belief that reduced awareness is the only awareness and as it bedevils his sense of reality, so that he is all too apt to take his concepts for data, his words for actual things.
 
That which, in the language of religion, is called “this world” is the universe of reduced awareness, expressed, and, as it were, petrified by language.
 
The various “other worlds,” with which human beings erratically make contact are so many elements in the totality of the awareness belonging to Mind at Large.
 
Most people, most of the time, know only what comes through the reducing valve and is consecrated as genuinely real by the local language.
 
Certain persons, however, seem to be born with a kind of by-pass that circumvents the reducing valve. In others temporary by-passes may be acquired either spontaneously, or as the result of deliberate “spiritual exercises,” or through hypnosis, or by means of drugs.
 
Through these permanent or temporary by-passes there flows, not indeed the perception “of everything that is happening everywhere in the universe” (for the by-pass does not abolish the reducing valve, which still excludes the total content of Mind at Large), but something more than, and above all something different from, the carefully selected utilitarian material which our narrowed, individual minds regard as a complete, or at least sufficient, picture of reality.
 
Visual impressions are greatly intensified and the eye recovers some of the perceptual innocence of childhood, when the sensum was not immediately and automatically subordinated to the concept. Interest in space is diminished and interest in time falls almost to zero.
 
Though the intellect remains unimpaired and though perception is enormously improved, the will suffers a profound change for the worse. The mescalin taker sees no reason for doing anything in particular and finds most of the causes for which, at ordinary times, he was prepared to act and suffer, profoundly uninteresting. He can’t be bothered with them, for the good reason that he has better things to think about…
 
As Mind at Large seeps past the no longer watertight valve, all kinds of biologically useless things start to happen. In some cases there may be extra-sensory perceptions.
 
Other persons discover a world of visionary beauty. To others again is revealed the glory, the infinite value and meaningfulness of naked existence, of the given, unconceptualized event.
 
In the final stage of egolessness there is an “obscure knowledge” that All is in all – that All is actually each. This is as near, I take it, as a finite mind can ever come to “perceiving everything that is happening everywhere in the universe.”
 
~Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception~
 
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Edu-Tech’s Brave New World – How Education Software is Being Designed to Hijack Children’s Brains

“Many parents intuitively understand that ubiquitous glowing screens are having a negative effect on kids. But it’s even worse than we think. Recent brain imaging research is showing that they affect the brain’s frontal cortex — which controls executive functioning, including impulse control — in exactly the same way that cocaine does.

Technology is so hyper-arousing that it raises dopamine levels — the feel-good neurotransmitter most involved in the addiction dynamic — as much as sex. This addictive effect is why Dr. Peter Whybrow, director of neuroscience at UCLA, calls screens “electronic cocaine” and Chinese researchers call them “digital heroin…”

~Nicholas Kardaras, M.D., August 27, 2016

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The Edu-tech Revolution has begun. At this very moment new computer games and education software are being developed to teach children academics one-to-one via computers. Following on the success of the hi-tech gaming industry, the goal is to use technology to transform schooling. See: Inspirational Robots to Begin Replacing Teachers Within 10 Years.

By merging education and entertainment technologies, advocates and investors of these products stress the potential for educating children faster, more effectively and less expensively than schools currently do. Unfortunately, there are a number of potential problems.

First, many of these new programs are being designed to collect data from children so as to maintain individual personal profiles, that investors and corporations can utilize to design future products and monitor individuals as they move from education into the workforce. TIME magazine shared an article on this in 2013. See: The Adaptive Learning Revolution.

Moreover, some investors hope to use this data to construct what they expect will become a trillion dollar education market (such as we had with housing) to bundle and sell school and software investments on Wall Street.

The success of Facebook, Google and Microsoft shows the potential for huge profit there. Google is already leading the way, their chromebooks now make up half of the classroom devices sold. This has raised concerns among many parents and educators, as student personal data is being collected by large corporations, with no safeguards or laws in place protecting their privacy.

Also VERY concerning, is that many Silicon Valley engineers are attempting to make edu-tech software as “pleasurable” as possible, using addictive video “gaming” strategies to design their education products.

apprenticeshipChildren are naturally curious and learning is naturally pleasurable. For tens of thousands of years, young people have enjoyed mastering new skills on their own and side-by-side with adults, mentors and peers in their local tribe or community. See: How Children Naturally Learn

Small releases of dopamine in the brain encourages a child to persevere with the long-term difficult practice needed to build skills naturally over time, such as with sports, arts, and music. See: Understanding How Our Brains Learn

What Silicon Valley is banking on, is to bypass human social interactions and community education experiences by hijacking children’s brains directly with more potent and powerful interactive technologies, where larger doses of dopamine are released, such as happens with drugs, video games and gambling.

Their goal is to make the education software as addictive as possible, and they are quite up-front about that.

Here below, in “Neuroscience Insights from Video Game & Drug Addiction – How the video games MODEL can boost children’s motivated learning” (Psychology Today, Oct 29, 2011) a specialist in neuroscience and brain research breaks bad, describing how knowledge of the addictive “cocaine-like” power of dopamine release in the brain can be used to design educational software.

“The same brain processes and neurochemicals that compel children to skip meals and sleep to play video games can be activated by parents and teachers to increase their brains’ motivation to be attentive class participants, do homework with focus, and even reverse school negativity to reignite the joy of learning…

This is a deep satisfaction, such as quenching a long thirst. This increased release of dopamine is the brain’s reward response to achievement of a challenge – intrinsic reinforcement. After making a prediction, choice, or action, and receiving feedback that it was correct, the reward from the release of dopamine prompts the brain want to repeat that action and receive more dopamine-pleasure.

During the play of computer games with progressing levels of challenge, the progressive achievement feedback, such as getting to a higher level of play, is the feedback to the brain that it succeeded in the challenge and made the correct response.

These bursts of pleasure drive the brain to seek the next burst, so gamers upon reaching the next level want to continue on playing, even through increasing challenge and frequent failure. Actually if the new level of play doesn’t pose new challenge, the gamer loses interest as the dopamine-reward response will not take place if there is no new task or skill to master.”

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In order to keep children’s attention, their brains can be re-wired to seek rewards in ways that mimic the approaches of gambling and video games. The article mentions specifically the relationship between dopamine & gambling, as well as cocaine addiction.

“Compulsive computer game playing, gambling, and risk taking can result from excessive craving of the dopamine pleasure, especially when people are depressed or do not have other sources of pleasurable experiences in their lives.

The addiction of cocaine is the direct result of dopamine increase. Cocaine would have essentially no euphoric effect if it were not for dopamine. Cocaine use is associated with a “high” because it increases the brain’s levels of its own dopamine.

Because cocaine elevates dopamine to very high levels, the euphoria can be intense, but when the dopamine plunges to below normal as the effects of the drug wear off, the response of an addict is to seek relief from that low by using more cocaine.

However, the dopamine takes time to be restored to the storage areas, so repeated use of the cocaine brings less and less of the desired response and to regain that initial high an addict will use the drug at more frequent intervals and/or greater amounts…”

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Aware of the addictive power of dopamine the author ignores the dangers, instead describing how to use this knowledge to design educational software…

“In addition to the challenge required for the dopamine reward pleasure response, the brain must be aware that it correctly solved a problem, such as figuring out a correct response in the video game, correctly answering a challenging question, or achieving the sequence of movements needed to play a song on the piano or swing a baseball bat to hit a home run.

This is why children are especially motivated to keep playing video games because they give frequent feedback about the accuracy of their choices – hitting targets, choosing the correct move in a maze, such as accumulating points and progression to higher game levels.

In a sequential, multilevel video game, feedback of progress is ongoing, such as accumulating points, visual tokens, or celebratory sound effects.

The dopamine-pleasure reward is in response to the player achieving a challenge, solution, sequence, etc. that allows him to progress to the next and more challenging game task.

When the brain receives the feedback that this progress has been made, it reinforces the memory networks that were used to predict the success. Through a feedback system, that neuronal circuit becomes stronger and more durable. In other words, memory of the mental or physical response used to achieve the dopamine reward is reinforced.

It may seem counter-intuitive to think that children would consider harder work a reward for a predicting a correct response on a homework problem, test, or physical maneuver. Yet, that is just what the video game playing brain seeks after experiencing the pleasure of reaching a higher level in the game.

A computer game doesn’t hand out cash, toys, or even hugs. The motivation to persevere and pursue greater challenge at the next level is the brain seeking another surge of dopamine — the fuel of intrinsic reinforcement…”

So, what to make of this, is “the brain seeking another surge of dopamine” really a natural form of intrinsic reinforcement?

No, in my view this is an attempt by programmers to re-wire children’s brains at an early age so they will seek pleasure from artificial technologies and virtual reality situations. It’s dangerous for children to play video games frequently and it is VERY dangerous now to introduce this kind of technology in schools, in my opinion.

Our human brains have evolved over millions of years, we are naturally wired to experience pleasure when we master new skills, learn things and have positive social experiences. But that pleasure is calming, the dopamine when naturally released comes in small doses.

Education technologies that are potentially addictive are dangerous. Like junk food that packs in extra sugar, fat and salt these products are being created with a profit motive in mind, purposefully designed by corporations and their investors to hijack children’s minds and bodies.

Parents and educators need to say no to this, we need to provide our children with healthy learning experiences. We are not the Borg from Star Trek, and resistance is not futile. It’s the only wise choice we have.

~Christopher​ Chase~

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How Mindfulness Quiets the Mind

“Once you stop clinging and let things be, you’ll be free. You’ll transform everything. And you’ll be at peace wherever you are.” ~Bodhidharma

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“In making yourself quiet, you have to be quiet on all fronts — quiet in your deeds, quiet in your words, quiet in your mind. Only then will you be able to contemplate what’s going on inside yourself.
 
If you aren’t quiet, you’ll become involved in external affairs and end up having too much to do and too much to say. This will keep your awareness or mindfulness from holding steady and firm.
 
You have to stop doing, saying, or thinking anything that isn’t necessary. That way your mindfulness will be able to develop continuously. Don’t let yourself get involved in too many outside things.
 
In training your mindfulness to be continuous so that it will enable you to contemplate yourself, you have to be observant: When there’s sensory contact, can the mind stay continuously undisturbed and at normalcy? Or does it still run out into liking and disliking?
 
Being observant in this way will enable you to read yourself, to know yourself. If mindfulness is firmly established, the mind won’t waver. If it’s not yet firm, the mind will waver in the form of liking and disliking.
 
You have to be wary of even the slightest wavering. Don’t let yourself think that the slight waverings are unimportant, or else they’ll become habitual.
 
Being uncomplacent means that you have to watch out for the details, the little things, the tiny flaws that arise in the mind.
 
If you can do this, you’ll be able to keep your mind protected — better than giving all your attention to the worthless affairs of the outside world.
 
So really try to be careful. Don’t get entangled in sensory contact. This is something you have to work at mastering.
 
If you focus yourself exclusively in the area of the mind like this, you’ll be able to contemplate feelings in all their details. You’ll be able to see them clearly, to let them go.
 
So focus your practice right at feelings of pleasure, pain, and neither-pleasure-nor-pain. Contemplate how to leave them alone, simply as feelings, without relishing them — for if you relish feelings, that’s craving.
 
Desires for this and that will seep in and influence the mind so that it gets carried away with inner and outer feelings. This is why you have to be quiet — quiet in a way that doesn’t let the mind become attached to the flavors of feelings, quiet in a way that uproots their influence.
 
The desire for pleasure is like a virus deep in our character. What we’re doing here is to make the mind stop taking pleasant feelings into itself and stop pushing painful feelings away.
 
Our addiction to taking in pleasant feelings is what makes us dislike painful feelings and push them away, so don’t let the mind love pleasure and resist pain. Let it be undisturbed by both. Give it a try.
 
If the mind can let go of feelings so that it’s above pleasure, pain, and neither-pleasure-nor-pain, that means it’s not stuck on feeling.
 
And then try to observe: How can it stay unaffected by feelings? This is something you have to work at mastering in order to release your grasp on feelings once and for all, so that you won’t latch onto physical pain or mental distress as being you or yours.
 
If you don’t release your grasp on feeling, you’ll stay attached to it, both in its physical and in its mental forms. If there’s the pleasure of physical ease, you’ll be attracted to it.
 
As for the purely mental feeling of pleasure, that’s something you’ll really want, you’ll really love. And then you’ll be attracted to the mental perceptions and labels that accompany the pleasure, the thought-formations and even the consciousness that accompany the pleasure. You’ll latch onto all of these things as you or yours.
 
So analyze physical and mental pleasure. Take them apart to contemplate how to let them go. Don’t fool yourself into relishing them.
 
As for pain, don’t push it away. Let pain simply be pain, let pleasure simply be pleasure. Let them simply fall into the category of feelings.
 
Don’t go thinking that you feel pleasure, that you feel pain. If you can let go of feeling in this way, you’ll be able to gain release from suffering and stress because you’ll be above and beyond feeling.
 
This way, when aging, illness, and death come, you won’t latch onto them thinking that you are aging, that you are ill, that you are dying. You’ll be able to release these things from your grasp.
 
If you can contemplate purely in these terms — that the five aggregates are inconstant, stressful, and not-self — you won’t enter into them and latch onto them as “me” or “mine.”
 
If you don’t analyze them in this way, you’ll be trapped in dying. Even your bones, skin, flesh, and so forth will become “mine.”
 
This is why we’re taught to contemplate death — so that we can make ourselves aware that death doesn’t mean that we die. You have to contemplate until you really know this. Otherwise, you’ll stay trapped right there.
 
You must make yourself sensitive in a way that sees clearly how your bones, flesh, and skin are empty of any self. That way you won’t latch onto them.
 
The fact that you still latch onto them shows that you haven’t really seen into their inconstancy, stress, and not-selfness.”
 
excerpt ‘From Reading the Mind’
 
“Upasika Kee Nanayon (1901 – 1979) was arguably the foremost woman Dhamma teacher in twentieth-century Thailand.” ~Thanissaro Bhikkhu

 
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Posted in mystic view, nondual awareness, zen | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Omotenashi – The Japanese Spirit of Giving

“Translated simply, Omotenashi means the Japanese way of treating a guest. It blends a welcoming spirit with warmth, understanding, and above all respect. From the perspective of a host, this is the rendering of service without expectation of favor or reward.”

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“Of all the memories they take home with them, visitors to Japan cherish and appreciate the ‘Japanese way of hospitality and customer service’ — Omotenashi (おもてなし) in Japanese.
 
Translated simply, Omotenashi means the Japanese way of treating a guest. It blends a welcoming spirit with warmth, understanding, and above all respect. The concept is all encompassing.
 
Etymologically, Omotenashi is a hybrid of “omote” (surface) and “nashi” (less), concepts that translate together into “single-hearted.” From the perspective of a host, this is the rendering of service without expectation of favor or reward.
 
Interestingly, the Japanese language makes no distinction between ‘guest’ and ‘customer.’ In English, the concept of ‘service’ suggests a hierarchy between the ‘server’ and the ‘customer.’
 
The Japanese Omotenashi, however, is based on a non-dominant relationship between equals – between the person offering the service (the host) and the person receiving it (the guest or customer).
 
To practice Omotenashi, the host pays close attention to detail and is committed to anticipating the needs of the guest, smiling sincerely and setting a happy, relaxed mood. When authentic, Japanese hospitality and service exceed the expectations of the guests.

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At its most exquisite, Omotenashi offers a guest a once-in-a-life-time experience. The idea resonates with Ichigo-ichie (一期一会 “one time, one meeting”), the tea master’s belief that every encounter is single and unique.
 
In form, Omotenashi may be governed by precise written rules describing how the host should compose herself or himself in front of the customer. Yet true Omotenashi can never be attained with a manual alone.
 
It is a one-to-one relationship that changes from customer to customer, from moment to moment. Gratitude towards the customer is a key part of Omotenashi, the part that warms the encounter and makes the host smile.”
 
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The Houseboat Summit, 1967 – Alan Watts, Tim Leary, Allen Ginsberg & Gary Snyder

An extended conversation between Tim Leary, Alan Watts, Allen Ginsberg & Gary Snyder on the problem of whether to “drop out or take over” conducted on Alan Watts’ houseboat, the S.S. Vallejo, 50 years ago, in 1967…

 
Alan Watts: This is Alan Watts speaking, and I’m this evening, on my ferry boat, the host to a fascinating party sponsored by the San Francisco Oracle, which is our new underground paper, far-outer than any far-out that has yet been seen. And we have here, Alan Cohen, representing the Oracle.
 
We have Allen Ginsberg, poet, and rabbinic saddhu. We have Timothy Leary (laughs) about whom nothing needs to be said. And Gary Snyder, also poet, Zen monk, and old friend of many years.
 
Ginsberg: Everybody in Berkeley is all bugged because they think, one: drop-out thing really doesn’t mean anything, that what you’re gonna cultivate is a lot of freak-out hippies goofing around and throwing bottles through windows when they flip out on LSD. That’s their stereotype vision. Obviously stereotype.
 
Leary: Sounds like bullshitting…
 
Ginsberg: No, like it’s no different from the newspaper vision, anyway. I mean, they’ve got the newspaper vision.
 
Then, secondly, they’re afraid that there’ll be some sort of fascist putsch. Like, it’s rumored lately that everyone’ gonna be arrested. So that the lack of communicating community among hippies will lead to some concentration camp situation, or lead… as it has been in Los Angeles recently… to a dispersal of what the beginning of the community began.
 
Leary: These are the old, menopausal minds. There was a psychiatrist named Adler in San Francisco whose interpretation of the group Be-In was that this is the basis for a new fascism…when a leader comes along. And I sense in the activist movement the cry for a leader… the cry for organization…
 
Ginsberg: But they’re just as intelligent as you are on this fact. They know about what happened in Russia. That’s the reason they haven’t got a big, active organization.
 
It’s because they, too, are stumped by: How do you have a community, and a community movement, and cooperation within the community to make life more pleasing for everybody–including the end of the Vietnam War? How do you have such a situation organized, or disorganized, just so long as it’s effective–without a fascist leadership? Because they don’t want to be that either.
 
See, they are conscious of the fact that they don;t want to be messiahs– political messiahs. At least, Savio in particular. Yesterday, he was weeping. Saying he wanted to go out and live in nature.
 
Leary: Beautiful.
 
Ginsberg: So, I mean he’s like basically where we are: stoned.
 
Watts: Well, I think that thus far, the genius of this kind of underground that we’re talking about is that it has no leadershipThe Western world has labored for many, many centuries under a monarchical conception of the universe where God is the boss, and political systems and all kinds of law have been based on this model of the universe… that nature is run by a boss.
 
Whereas, if you take the Chinese view of the world, which is organic..They would say, for example, that the human body is an organization in which there is no boss. It is a situation of order resulting from mutual interrelationship of all the parts.
 
And what we need to realize is that there can be, shall we say, a movement… a stirring among people… which can be ORGANICALLY designed instead of POLITICALLY designed. It has no boss. Yet all parts recognize each other in the same way as the cells of the body all cooperate together.
 
Snyder: Yes, it’s a new social structure. It’s a new social structure which follows certain kinds of historically known tribal models.
 
Leary: Exactly, yeah! My historical reading of the situation is that these great, monolithic empires that developed in history: Rome, Turkey and so forth… always break down when enough people, and it’s always the young, the creative, and the minority groups drop out and go back to a tribal form.
 
I agree with what I’ve heard you say in the past, Gary, that the basic unit is tribal. What I envision is thousands of small groups throughout the United States and Western Europe, and eventually the world, as dropping out. What happened when Rome fell, Jerusalem fell? Little groups went off together…

 
Ginsberg: Precisely what do you mean by drop out, then? You haven’t dropped out, Tim. You dropped out of your job as a psychology teacher in Harvard. Now, what you’ve dropped into is, one: a highly complicated series of arrangements for lecturing and for putting on the festival…
 
Leary: Well, I’m dropped out of that.
 
Ginsberg: But you’re not dropped out of the very highly complicated legal constitutional appeal, which you feel a sentimental regard for, as I do. You haven’t dropped out of being the financial provider for Milbrook, and you haven’t dropped out of planning and conducting community organization and participating in it.
 
And that community organization is related to the national community, too. Either through the Supreme Court, or through the very existence of the dollar that is exchanged for you to pay your lawyers, or to take money to pay your lawyers in the theatre. So you can’t drop out, like DROP OUT, ’cause you haven’t.
 
Leary: Well, let me explain…
 
Ginsberg: So they think you mean like, drop out, like go live on Haight-Ashbury Street and do nothing at all. Even if you can do something like build furniture and sell it, or give it away in barter with somebody else.
 
Leary: You have to drop out in a group. You drop out in a small tribal group.
 
Snyder: Well, you drop out one by one, but… You know, you can join the sub-culture.
 
Ginsberg: Maybe it’s: “Drop out of what?”
 
Watts: Gary, I think you have something to say here. Because you, to me, are one of the most fantastically capable drop-out people I have ever met. I think, at this point, you should say a word or two about your own experience of how live on nothing. How to get by in life economically.
 
This is the nitty-gritty. This is where it really comes down to in many people’s minds. Where’s the bread going to come from if everybody drops out? Now, you know expertly where it’s gonna come from– living a life of integrity and not being involved in a commute-necktie-strangle-noose scene.
 
Snyder: Well, this isn’t news to anybody, but ten or fifteen years ago when we dropped out, there wasn’t a community. There wasn’t anybody who was going to take care of you at all. You were completely on your own.
 
What it meant was, cutting down on your desires and cutting down on your needs to an absolute minimum; and it also meant, don’t be a bit fussy about how you work or what you do for a living.
 
That meant doing any kind of work. Strawberry picking, carpenter, laborer, longshore… Well, longshore is hard to get into. It paid very well. Shipping out… that also pays very well…
 
Conversation transcript continues here.

 
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Posted in Alan Watts, Creative Systems Thinking, cultural creatives | Tagged | Leave a comment

From Fear to Love, War to Peace

“Peace is inevitable to those who offer peace. Peace is an attribute in you. The mind that wants peace must join with other minds, for that is how peace is obtained. The only way to have peace is to teach peace.”
 
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The following are excerpts from A Course in Miracles. 
 
Everything you see is the result of your thoughts. Every thought you have brings either peace or war; love or fear.

From insane wishes comes an insane world. From judgment comes a world condemned. And from forgiving thoughts a gentle world comes forth.

Truth does not struggle against ignorance, and love does not attack fear. Love can have no enemy. Perfect love casts out fear. If fear exists, then there is not perfect love.
 
Would you not go through fear to love? For such the journey seems to be. It is a journey without distance, to a goal that has never changed.
 
You dwell not here, but in eternity. You travel in dreams, while safe at home. There is no journey, but only an awakening. 
 
Faith in the eternal is always justified, for the eternal is forever kind, infinite in its patience and wholly loving. It will accept you wholly and give you peace. Yet it can only unite with what is already at peace in you.
 
The choice to judge rather than to know is the cause of the loss of peace. You have no idea of the tremendous release and deep peace that comes from meeting yourself and your brothers totally without judgment.
 
Love does not seek for power but for relationships. When you meet anyone, remember it is a holy encounter. As you see him (or her) you will see yourself. When you see your brothers as yourself you will be released.
 
Fail not in your function of loving in a loveless place made out of darkness and deceit, for thus are darkness and deceit undone. Love cannot be far behind a grateful heart and thankful mind.
 
When you are afraid of anything, you are acknowledging its power to hurt you. Remember that where your heart is, there is your treasure also.
 
You believe in what you value. If you are afraid, you are valuing wrongly.
 
Eventually everyone begins to recognize, however dimly, that there must be a better way. As this recognition becomes more firmly established, it becomes a turning point.
 
All healing is essentially the release from fear.
 
It is essential to remember that only the mind can create, and that correction begins at the thought level. Spirit is already perfect and therefore does not require correction.
 
Questioning illusions is the first step in undoing them. The body does not exist except as a learning device for the mind.
 
You may believe that you are responsible for what you do, but not for what you think.
 
The truth is that you are responsible for what you think because it is only at this level that you can exercise choice. What you do comes from what you think.
 
Few appreciate the real power of the mind, and no one remains fully aware of it all the time. However, if you hope to spare yourself from fear there are some things you must realize, and realize fully.
 
The mind is very powerful, and never loses its creative force. It never sleeps. Every instant it is creating.
 
Confidence cannot develop fully until mastery has been accomplished. Readiness is only the beginning of confidence.
 
Nothing and everything cannot coexist. To believe in one is to deny the other. Fear is really nothing and love is everything.
 
Whenever light enters darkness, the darkness is abolished.
 
Innocence is not a partial attribute. It is not real until it is total. The partly innocent are apt to be quite foolish at times. It is not until their innocence become a viewpoint with universal application that it becomes wisdom.
 
Healing only strengthens. Magic always tries to weaken. Healing perceives nothing in the healer that everyone else does not share with him.
 
Magic always sees something “special” in the healer which he believes he can offer as a gift to someone who does not have it.
 
If you attack error in another, you will hurt yourself. You cannot know your brother (or sister) when you attack him (or her). Attack is always made upon a stranger.
 
You are making them a stranger by misperceiving them, and so you cannot know them. It is because you have made them stranger that you are afraid of him. There are no strangers in God’s creation.”
 
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