Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion

 
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Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion

By Jonathan Roseland  Connect    

You guys may know that I lost my religion. I was once a very religious, evangelical Christian and now I'm not.

One night, a while ago, I found myself in a very placid lucid dream, it wasn't one of those lucid dreams where you are having sex and fighting with lightsabers, I was just in a dark room lounging on some bean bags, talking with a red haired woman. I had conducted the digital text test so I knew I was dreaming and I asked her a difficult question:
I was once very religious with strong faith, now I am not. When I was religious I always believed that none-religious people, while claiming intellectual reasons for their atheism where actually just using it as an excuse for their hedonistic activities. Now I carry on a fairly hedonistic existence and I'm not religious. Am I really intellectually justified or am I just avoiding my maker because my moral standards are a shadow of what they used to be?
Tough question right? And a question that could really be answered by oneself.

The character in my lucid dream responded that I was indeed bullshitting myself; that I was a none believer of convenience not conviction. That I was not intellectually justified.

This book is less anti-religious than you might guess from it's title. It's author is one of the most hated philosophers and current public intellectuals because of his politically incorrect criticisms of religion. Which is interesting to me because he's the most polite politically incorrect person I can think of - really the polar opposite of the kind of rude anti-religious rants you hear from comedians and shock jock podcasters - yet he inspires vitriolic hate across the Internet. You can go look him up on Youtube and watch his videos and he comes across as just the most docile, sober, soft spoken critic of religion.
So this book is not like 250 pages just beating up on religion. It's really about meditation practice which is the solution to spirituality without religion. I suspect many religious people could actually read this book and will be better religious people for it.

On the other side of the spectrum some strictly atheistic people may not even consider reading a book like this with the word spiritual in it's title. However, I'll give them a more precise definition of spiritual to consider:
Seeking to understand our minds, the nature of self and our relation to the world more deeply by way of reaching for extraordinary states of consciousness.
That's a pretty good definition right - I actually came up with it myself - but it's based upon what he says in the first chapter of the book. In the book he says:
Spirituality must be distinguished from religion— because people of every faith, and of none, have had the same sorts of spiritual experiences. (p. 8)
I still considered the world’s religions to be mere intellectual ruins, maintained at enormous economic and social cost, but I now understood that important psychological truths could be found in the rubble.(p. 5)
We can reach for extraordinary states of consciousness while totally avoiding superstition by doing meditation, taking psychedelics, or even using Biohacking tools like Nootropics, brain training or even biofeedback technology (see my other video about the religious experience I had while HRV training)

The Disproven Soul

One of the things that the book effectively deconstructs is the notion of the homunculus; which is the idea that there is a little guy somewhere in your head who pulls the levers which control the machine that is your body. Religion calls this a soul.
The book references split-brain phenomenon, which is when people have the two hemispheres of their brain disconnected surgically and it radically changes the nature of their identity...
it becomes difficult to say that the person whose brain has been split is a single subject, for everything about his behavior suggests that a silent intelligence lurks in his right hemisphere, about which the articulate left hemisphere knows nothing. (p. 66)
What is most startling about the split-brain phenomenon is that we have every reason to believe that the isolated right hemisphere is independently conscious. (p. 67)
The question of whether the right hemisphere is conscious is really a pseudo-mystery used to bar the door to a great one: the uncanny fact that the human mind can be divided with a knife.(p. 68)
This fact poses an insurmountable problem for the notion that each of us has a single, indivisible self— much less an immortal soul. (p. 69)
The book suggests that your consciousness is kind of like Jay and Silent Bob, where one half of the dynamic duo is kind of impulsive and loudmouthed and the other is the mute voice of reason - actually I'm not sure if that's a good metaphor, it's been a while since I saw that movie. I wonder how many expressions there are in the world's languages for being of two minds or having different personalities or different people inside of oneself. I think we can disregard the idea of having a single, static personality as childish and superstitious.
So we can see from medical science that consciousness is not an intangible, irreducible, unknowable thing but that it's pretty clearly attached to the mechanics of our gray matter.
Consciousness may very well be the lawful product of unconscious information processing. (p. 56)

The Illusion of Consciousness

In my reading of neuroscience and philosophy of the mind, I had often heard before that consciousness and the self is an illusion. Which I'll admit is an unsettling idea, quiet possible the most unsettling idea - that I don't exist.
the conventional sense of self is an illusion— and that spirituality largely consists in realizing this, moment to moment.(p. 82)
There is no region of the brain that can be the seat of a soul. (p. 116)
One night after reading I did the Blue Sky Protocol like normal, yet when I reached the final stage where I imagine my mind as an empty sphere floating in space, I thought of what the book had to say about the self as an illusion and I actually began to repeat mentally for several minutes: I don't exist, I don't exist, I don't exist...
Then I returned to focusing on emptying my mind of thoughts, in between thoughts I was struck by how distinctly insubstantial consciousness feels.
Consciousness does not feel like a self. (p. 103)
Which was unsettling, this must have been what Friedrich Nietzsche was talking about when he wrote:
"...if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you."

Hacking Empathy

Interestingly, meditation practice is a hack for improving empathy.
"Training in compassion meditation increases empathy, as measured by the ability to accurately judge the emotions of others, as well as positive affect in the presence of suffering. The practice of mindfulness has been shown to have similar pro-social effects." (p. 122)
Conversely, a longitudinal study of compassion meditation, which produced a significant increase in subjects’ empathy over the course of eight weeks, found increased activity in one of the regions believed to contain mirror neurons. (p. 114).
I tracked down the studies mentioned. From the Abstract of “Compassion Meditation Enhances Empathic Accuracy and Related Neural Activity.”
"This study employed a randomized, controlled and longitudinal design to investigate the effect of a secularized analytical compassion meditation program... Twenty-one healthy participants received functional MRI scans while completing an empathic accuracy task, the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test... These findings suggest that CBCT may hold promise as a behavioral intervention for enhancing empathic accuracy and the neurobiology supporting it."
I'm a little disappointed that the study doesn't mention how long the subjects underwent training before increasing their scores.
From a 2012 study of 82 female schoolteachers entitled “Contemplative/ Emotion Training Reduces Negative Emotional Behavior and Promotes Prosocial Responses.”
"Contemplative practices are believed to alleviate psychological problems, cultivate prosocial behavior and promote self-awareness... Findings suggest that increased awareness of mental processes can influence emotional behavior, and they support the benefit of integrating contemplative theories/practices with psychological models and methods of emotion regulation."
You salespeople and pickup artists guys who follow me will want to make special note of this. Fine tuning your empathy will absolutely make you better a salesperson or seducer and you know this because whenever you hear from salespeople who make a lot of money or PUAs that actually get laid a lot - that get the results that you are in the game for - they pretty consistently talk about the importance of empathy in what they do. So if you like getting laid more or getting paid more, you should be concerned with hacking empathy.
Also, many of us spend the majority of our waking lives staring at glowing screens, this is really bad for our social skills and what these studies are saying that meditation is a way of maintaining them.

Eye Contact Meditation

Speaking of things which should interest pickup artists, in the book it describes an intimacy exercise that I enthusiastically recommend you try. Eye Contact Meditation is what it sounds like; you just sit across from someone and stare in each other eyes, it's not a staring contest but you want to maintain persistent eye contact, you want to avoid laughing, talking or smiling to cut the tension. Try doing this for just 10 minutes, set the meditation timer on your phone for ten minutes.

Mind Wandering

Mind wandering study
“a human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind.” (p. 119)
From the abstract of a notable 2010 study on exactly this:
"We developed a smartphone technology to sample people’s ongoing thoughts, feelings, and actions and found (i) that people are thinking about what is not happening almost as often as they are thinking about what is and (ii) found that doing so typically makes them unhappy."
I agree with this, I try to avoid mind wondering. I'm an Entrepreneur and a perpetual traveler, I've never known life without constant struggle and challenge. Personally whenever I let my mind wander it gravitates to something that worries me. Unless you just have a boringly comfortable life, your mind wandering is going to inevitably lead to unproductive worrying. Meditation certainly helps with this but I think Dual N-Back training is actually a whole lot better.

Freeing Yourself of Your Thoughts

He defines spiritual enlightenment; as someone who does not feel that they are identical to their thoughts. Someone who is able to identify their thoughts in the moment as separate from themselves; being free of the tyranny of our thoughts.
Taking oneself to be the thinker of one’s thoughts— that is, not recognizing the present thought to be a transitory appearance in consciousness— is a delusion that produces nearly every species of human conflict and unhappiness. (p. 101)
being distracted by thought is understood to be the very wellspring of human suffering.(p. 101)
Having an ego is what it feels like to be thinking without knowing that you are thinking. (p. 102)
Our primary duty as the owners of the most powerful computers (our minds) in the known universe is to be philosophers; to be rigorous practitioners of metacognition - to think about thinking. We are the only beings, that we are know of, that are able to do this. It's an extraordinary gift that we disregard.
I have a pretty good example of this recently; I was out at a salsa dancing club.
I had spent about 20 interacting with this girl I found pretty attractive, it was going pretty good...
She was laughing at my dumb jokes and my crappy Russian
We were latin dancing so I was putting my hands all over her body.
I can smell her hair and her light perspiration.
I'm feeling her soft skin.
I was on like 500 milligrams of Phenibut so I was just mildly intoxicated.
Then another guy in the club pulled her off me for a dance, which happens at latin clubs. Of course I had a little initial reaction of "This motherfucker! That slut!" yet almost instantaneously, I self audited this angry little thought and extinguished it. Upon reflecting on this little episode it's remarkable that in such a state of arousal my metacognition kicked in so quickly; that's a year of meditation and 3 three years of brain training working.

Interviews of Osho

It's recommended you watch a couple of interviews of the spiritual guru Osho. As you'll see, he's undoubtledly quiet charismatic, but I noticed something uncanny about him. He very rarely blinks. Try to count how many times in blinks during this 10 minute interview.

Perhaps this is a lifehack. Here's a presence exercise; next time you are having a conversation with someone try to maintain very strong eye contact with the other person. Try to refrain from blinking until they break eye contact. Blink when they aren't looking.

About this book Waking Up

This is one of those books that makes me skeptical of people who claim to read a book everyday. It's pretty dense in some parts, I had to read certain passages three or four times to grasp them. I really cannot imagine reading this book in a day and getting much value out of it. It's a pretty good meditation 101 type book, it gives plenty of practical advice for getting started meditating, so I recommend this book to people who know they probably should be meditating. Get started with this guided meditation track:


Or perhaps you are a person like me in that you were raised in a religious tradition that you ultimately grew out of because of your rationality and a strictly scientific view of the world yet you know that there is benefit to a spiritual life, this book will provide you with some useful direction.

A year ago, my new year's resolution was to meditate everyday, with the help of the two Apps Coach.me and Headspace, I've accomplished that. If you have not already, see my video about the Blue Sky Protocol, in which I outline 4 short term benefits of meditation.

Next time I find myself in placid lucid dream, I'll ask that question again. Perhaps I'll get a more useful answer.

The book ends with a really profound passage, that I'll leave you with...
Indeed, the human mind is the most complex and subtle expression of reality we have thus far encountered. This should grant profundity to the humble project of noticing what it is like to be you in the present. However numerous your faults, something in you at this moment is pristine— and only you can recognize it. (p. 206)

Notable Passages

How we pay attention to the present moment largely determines the character of our experience and, therefore, the quality of our lives. (p. 3)

 
I still considered the world’s religions to be mere intellectual ruins, maintained at enormous economic and social cost, but I now understood that important psychological truths could be found in the rubble.(p. 5)
 
Different techniques produce long-lasting changes in attention, emotion, cognition, and pain perception, and these correlate with both structural and functional changes in the brain. (p. 8)
 
The feeling that we call “I” is an illusion. (p. 9)
 
Is there a form of happiness beyond the mere repetition of pleasure and avoidance of pain? (p. 12)
 
what contemplatives throughout history have discovered is that there is an alternative to being continuously spellbound by the conversation we are having with ourselves; (p. 14)
 
How many Christians, having once felt their hearts grow as wide as the world, will decide to ditch Christianity and proclaim their atheism?(p. 18). 
 
Both Eckhart and Al-Hallaj gave voice to an experience of self-transcendence that any human being can, in principle, enjoy. However, their views were not consistent with the central teachings of their faiths. (pp. 22-23)
 
If one should happen to discover that the sense of being an individual soul is an illusion, one will be guilty of blasphemy everywhere west of the Indus. (p. 23)
 
The reality of your life is always now. And to realize this, we will see, is liberating. (p. 34)
 
We manage to avoid being happy while struggling to become happy, (p. 34)
 
The four foundations of mindfulness are the body (breathing, changes in posture, activities), feelings (the senses of pleasantness, unpleasantness, and neutrality), the mind (in particular, its moods and attitudes), and the objects of mind (which include the five senses but also other mental states, such as volition, tranquility, rapture, equanimity, and even mindfulness itself). (p. 36)
 
The problem is not thoughts themselves but (p. 37)
 
Happily, the benefits of training in meditation arrive long before mastery does. (p. 39)
 
conventional sources of happiness are unreliable, (pp. 44-45)
 
But it is your mind, rather than circumstances themselves, that determines the quality of your life. Your mind is the basis of everything you experience and of every contribution you make to the lives of others. Given this fact, it makes sense to train it.(p. 47)
 
the realistic goal to be attained through spiritual practice is not some permanent state of enlightenment that admits of no further efforts but a capacity to be free in this moment, in the midst of whatever is happening.(p. 50)
 
we will see that spirituality is not just important for living a good life; it is actually essential for understanding the human mind.(p. 51)
 

Consciousness is the one thing in this universe that cannot be an illusion. (p. 54)

 
Consciousness may very well be the lawful product of unconscious information processing. (p. 56)
 
it becomes difficult to say that the person whose brain has been split is a single subject, for everything about his behavior suggests that a silent intelligence lurks in his right hemisphere, about which the articulate left hemisphere knows nothing. (p. 66)
 
What is most startling about the split-brain phenomenon is that we have every reason to believe that the isolated right hemisphere is independently conscious. (p. 67)
 
The question of whether the right hemisphere is conscious is really a pseudo-mystery used to bar the door to a great one: the uncanny fact that the human mind can be divided with a knife.(p. 68)
 
Interestingly, this obliges us to view one another’s least expressive side of the face (the right) with our most emotionally astute hemisphere (the right), and vice versa. (p. 69)
 
This fact poses an insurmountable problem for the notion that each of us has a single, indivisible self— much less an immortal soul. (p. 69)
 
Two hundred million nerve fibers seem insufficient to integrate the simultaneous activity of 20 billion neurons in the cerebral cortex, each of which makes hundreds or thousands (sometimes tens of thousands) of connections to its neighbors.(p. 72)
 
Consciousness is also what gives our lives a moral dimension. (p. 78)
 
the conventional sense of self is an illusion— and that spirituality largely consists in realizing this, moment to moment.(p. 82)
 
One thing each of us knows for certain is that reality vastly exceeds our awareness of it. (p. 89)
 
we must build our own telescopes to judge the empirical claims of contemplatives. (p. 93)
 
Even if your life depended on it, you could not spend a full minute free of thought. (pp. 100-101)
 
being distracted by thought is understood to be the very wellspring of human suffering.(p. 101)
 
Taking oneself to be the thinker of one’s thoughts— that is, not recognizing the present thought to be a transitory appearance in consciousness— is a delusion that produces nearly every species of human conflict and unhappiness. (p. 101)
 
Having an ego is what it feels like to be thinking without knowing that you are thinking. (p. 102)
 
Consciousness does not feel like a self. (p. 103)
 
Conversely, a longitudinal study of compassion meditation, which produced a significant increase in subjects’ empathy over the course of eight weeks, found increased activity in one of the regions believed to contain mirror neurons.  (p. 114)
 
Why should an “I” and a “me” be keeping each other company? (p. 114)
 
There is no region of the brain that can be the seat of a soul. (p. 116)
 
“a human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind.” (p. 119)
 
Training in compassion meditation increases empathy, as measured by the ability to accurately judge the emotions of others, as well as positive affect in the presence of suffering. The practice of mindfulness has been shown to have similar pro-social effects. (p. 122)
 
We’ve all had the experience of looking through a window and suddenly noticing our own reflection in the glass. At that moment we have a choice: to use the window as a window and see the world beyond, or to use it as a mirror. It is extraordinarily easy to shift back and forth between these two views but impossible to truly focus on both simultaneously. This shift offers a very good analogy both for what it is like to recognize the illusoriness of the self for the first time and for why it can take so long to do it. (pp. 146-147). 
 
most people are simply too distracted by their thoughts to have the selflessness of consciousness pointed out directly. (p. 148)
 

Apart from parenthood, probably no human relationship offers greater scope for benevolence or abuse than that of guru to disciple. (p. 153)

 

boredom is simply a lack of attention. (p. 156)

 
Everything we do is for the purpose of altering consciousness. (p. 186)
 
The problem, however, is that we refer to all these biologically active materials by a single term, drugs, making it nearly impossible to have an intelligent discussion about the psychological, medical, ethical, and legal issues surrounding their use. (p. 187)
 

One thing is certain: The mind is vaster and more fluid than our ordinary, waking consciousness suggests. (p. 193)

 

Most people still believe that religion provides something essential that cannot be had any other way. (pp. 201-202)

 

At its best, religion is a set of stories that recount the ethical and contemplative insights of our wisest ancestors. (p. 203)

 
The exponential increase in the power of technology brings with it a commensurate increase in the consequences of human ignorance. (p. 203)
 

During the normal course of events, your mind will determine the quality of your life. (p. 204)

 

Indeed, the human mind is the most complex and subtle expression of reality we have thus far encountered. This should grant profundity to the humble project of noticing what it is like to be you in the present. However numerous your faults, something in you at this moment is pristine— and only you can recognize it. (p. 206)

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Sam Harris
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"Waking Up" Review: Gaze Into the Abyss - Lifehacking Spiritua...

This book is less anti-religious than you might guess from it's title. It's really about meditation practice which is the solution to spirituality without religion. Order on Amazon http://amzn.to/1YefpcPFull Article http://www.limitlessmindset.com/books/1281-waking-up.htmlListen to the First Chapter https://soundcloud.com/samharrisorg/waking-up-chapter-one

Posted by Limitless Mindset on Monday, March 7, 2016
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Gazing into the abyss...

I got a little taste of what Friedrich Nietzsche was talking about when he wrote:
"...if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you."

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