Thanks for this. I connect with your descriptions of the ache of disconnection, even though my situations are all different. I'm rich in friends, even though most of them are scattered so far, and that is its own kind of different pain. Ibuprofen for social pain makes good sense, though I'd never thought of it before. It seems inflammation is the problem regardless, doesn't matter if the trigger is externally or internally initiated. I've been consuming turmeric paste in my coffee to combat inflammation, rhodiola rosea when I need a sanguine shot of energy, and kava kava when I need to chill. It does well enough most of the time.
I really enjoyed that How To Be Alone video. It's beautiful, and contains lots of helpful stuff in it, threads from some of the best traditions which promote solitude. I'm thinking of that Pascal quote right now, “All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone," though I think he was selling it from the negative, rather than positive side. The Buddhist version sees the solitude as the link to the real source of connection, beyond people. That's present in some Christian mystics' thought as well. Not sure if it's what Pascal was getting at though. Regardless, we need a functional web of social interconnection whenever we leave the cell of solitude, meditation, prayer, what have you. That web's not there on its own though, and I find myself hamfistedly trying to pretend it is, or weave together a few inches of it. Playing music with strangers has been the best catalyst for unexpected connection lately.
Are you an Alaskan currently? I've never been, but I have a friend who moved out to Homer. He tells me it's one of the best places on earth.
If you make your facebook ad, let me know. I'd like to see it. You should cc: the guy who wrote the guardian article too, if you do.
In my experience, guided meditations (whether app or audio file or live) can really go one way or another. Some create that extra layer ooli is talking about, making it even harder to escape the thought-snarl, and some surgically detach you from it. Not sure, but probably that style which functions best for one depends upon one. Sam Harris's deployment is some of the most effective I've experienced, personally.
It makes good sense to me, though, that guided meditation COULD work wonders for the one meditating, whether beginner or experienced. As near as I can science my way through this, when it works, it works by engaging the language centers of the brain. These same language centers might otherwise be spooling out an endless torrent of thought, drama, narrative, analysis, and all the rest of that which obscures the bliss of being in the present moment. The guided meditation, if executed deftly, occupies these centers without arousing criticism or accelerating the thought stream. In this sense, in my opinion, it performs the same primary function of the mantra, which drives other words off the tongue/mind by occupying that space, and thereby prevents more complex thought-forms from building in the mindspace. It's much the same principle by which drishti organizes vision and focus in yoga.
Anyhow, that's how it all shakes out for me. I frequently meditate in silence, but as silence is so hard to come by, and also for their many wonderful properties, I frequently meditate to the accompaniment of the singing bowls -- and if the mantra/guide feels absent, toning works well too. Here's a few tracks I have really benefited from:
This guy does some great composite crystal singing bowl tracks:
Emile de Leon gives you 70 minutes, all 7 chakras!
Don't really know if others share these leaps I've offered, but I owe my extrapolations to a great segment on Radiolab concerning language and bliss, and numerous conversations with my behaviorist colleague. Happy transcending.
Note: I wrote this essay length reply to thenewgreens post on my smallest laptop in the world workaround, currently my window into the cyberverse. My eyes will take their vengeance on me presently. Meanwhile, I see there is much more discussion here, probably much of which refers to that which I refer, and much more. Hopefully, someday, I'll catch up. Realistically, I won't. Cheers to all nonetheless!
Well, thanks for looking out for my interests, my friend, and I hate to do any injury to my theoretically possible future self/career, but at a moment like this, it would be simply perverse not to adduce the following:
The fact that it doesn't serve my personal economic interests would be no worthy excuse not to confess the following: the foundational problem here is that ownership (the basis by which theft can be assessed) is itself nothing more than a contingently necessary mass-hallucination. It has no self-evident qualities, no a priori claim upon being. It might as well have been a dozen other ways, and in fact, it has. Even among societies which have participated in the belief in ownership, modern western notions of ownership remain distinct, the most highly augmented and elaborate. This distinction reveals primarily the importance of ownership, i.e., the regulation of access to stuff as a means of controlling reality, to our society. The most fantastical of these notions, the furthest abstracted from any basis or grounds in material reality, is that of intellectual property. The above video does a brilliant job of illustrating this fact, along with a hilariously nursery rhyme-esque ditty and animation to boot, which is why I love it so much, and am so delighted to share it. The laws that protect intellectual property serve to reward and thereby fuel visionaries (and any of those legally capable of appropriating said-visionaries breakthroughs), and as such, we must regard it as a powerful tool for discovery and progress. This rationale is, however, entirely utilitarian, and therefore contingent. It has no basis in reality, and is in fact contrary to what we see in the natural world, wherein discoveries, developments, evolutions, etc., are distributed, disseminated, inherited, etc., equally, and without any thought for compensation or establishment of paternity.
I ought to say that the difference between taking bread and taking files of music/what have you does demonstrate something significant about different kinds of ownership, as defined. While the taking of bread for the hungry is palpably more urgent, it also deprives the former bread-holder of actual calories. Dude now needs another loaf. On the digital download side of things, we see no urgency of acquisition, but also no deprivation of anything previously held. The mp3 is the digital equivalent of Jesus Christ's loaves and fishes, broken 5,000 times and still remaining entirely whole.
I do believe it is important to support our artists, and I am incredibly grateful to all those who have, and who will, support my own artistic endeavors. However, I would argue that to protect my own wellbeing, and indeed the vitality of our culture, we must take a different tack than that which our production/consumption based society would offer us. Instead of regarding our art as units of production, which are expected to go out into the market and return us ducats from faceless consumers in whereverland, as would a pair of tennis shoes or a smartphone or a spool of floss, we might regard it as a vital medium which connects us all, and in which we all are welcomed to have ownership, not the ownership of exclusive access, but the ownership of active participation, of engagement, and of the enfranchisement which attends active engagement.
Someone once said (and I think it was Billy Corgan, though I can't track it down ... any help?) that the music industry had basically invited the scourge of illegal downloading by pushing its artists for so long to make songs which were ever more disposable. The pop song is meant to hook you on the first listen, infect you on the second, and sicken you on the third. That way you'll be ready to welcome the next one. So what if we instead create work that is meant to outlast us, and welcome a community of listeners to be as actively engaged as were any of Shakespeare's rambunctious penny audiences?
I'd like people not to download music illegally, but not because I think it's theft, or because I think it's wrong. Rather, I'd like them to consider what they are cheating themselves out of by not committing to the works of art they are consuming, and how much more rich will their experience of it become once they show up and participate in the experience, and contribute, not just financially, which is an expression of what we value, but also with their focus, their thoughts, and their vital life energy. We don't have to swallow the modern Western faux-divides of audience/performer, connoiseur/virtuoso. This is something we're meant to do together.