I heard a story of a guy who once worked for Apple throughout his 20s. He said, he was young and ambitious with no life and they were working hard to create a device that was seductive as possible. As a result, we created things like the iPhone and iPad.
This guy now has kids and regrets ever working to create something as potentially dangerous as this piece of technology.
Just like a chemical addiction, this one creates its own concoctions of addictive chemical reactions in the body. The like button is intended to release dopamine in the brain. We now use different emojis that induce different emotional states.
This is something that needs close attention. But I feel like there is a line we can walk along. It is a line right in the middle where fighting off the emergence of technology is not part of the agenda, but rather living harmoniously with it in a way that benefits us more than what it does harm.
How does one go about this?
I’ve been experimenting with my own experience. I have a bad habit of running away from disturbing thoughts and emotions.
As a result, I reach for the screen, sometimes even writing posts to attract likes and attention. I can be a junky for dopamine, irrespective of how I have to get it. It was cigarettes for almost a decade, but you get rid of one evil and another 10 arise.
I don’t want to face those difficult thoughts and emotions. I don’t want to face my true self – who does? That’s why we all become addicted to our screens.
I’ve noticed a recent trend with technology. We went from text to images then to videos and now there is an increase in popularity for voice. We have things like Alexa that answers our questions and even podcasts that draw our attention.
From where I see it, the emergence of voice is somewhat healthier. You put a podcast on and you sit and listen, rather than have a your eyes stuck to a screen where it’s easy to drift away by the seductive dangers that digital social acceptance and approval has created.
Either way, we have come so far and there is no way to stop this rapid and sometimes hostile take over of technology. This is still a problem that I am trying to come to grips with, as I feel as though it can sometimes be a problem in my own life.
I tend to believe that I have many addictions, technology definitely being one that isn’t so much out of control at the moment, but has had a ripple effect on to other areas of my life, making me more susceptible to being seduced into tipping too far into the realm of chaos.
Balance means walking along that line between chaos and order. Wherever there is chaos in your life, equal order must be brought in order to restore a healthy sense of balance.
Developing rigorous systems in your life where you schedule in time specifically intended for you to inquire about the mind and body is something that I have had to adopt as part of my everyday life. Things like yoga and meditation are not just for the left field, alternates.
Neuroplasticity is not only a result of training the mind through meditation. Your mind is being moulded and shaped, constantly. This can be dangerous depending on how bad your addiction to technology is.
Training the mind through yoga and meditation is something that has been practiced for many years. These things seem like methods that have been developed only in the East, however that is proving to be incorrect.
Spiritual practitioners from all over the globe have been practising these methods of meditation that train the mind for many years. These methods were lost in Western philosophy, but remain still part of Eastern philosophy, although most Buddhists I have met do not practice mindfulness or any meditation for that matter.
Although technology seems to be using us as a side walk at times, it is also giving us the opportunity to take ancient technologies like meditation, test them in the labs and then spread the word.
It’s a matter of happiness, not your spiritual orientation. This is a matter of health, not how many likes or love hearts your updated relationship status attracts.
Let’s get serious about this.
While almost all aspects of Taoism still remains a mystery to me, I have been able to draw my own interpretations so far.
Dr Jordan Peterson puts it well when he draws the distinction between order and chaos. The white in this symbol is representative of order and the black of chaos.
There is a black dot where the white is filled out and the same goes for the white dot in the black area. This shows how life can be extremely orderly, but there is always that slight chance that things could turn completely upside down and into chaos.
The same goes for chaos. Your life could be completely chaotic and somehow you just find order.
Instead of stumbling through these paradigms of chaos and order blindly, we can choose to walk along the line in the middle. It’s where chaos and order work in a harmony with one another.
You tend to go through certain cycles and you notice these natural cycles just like the brand names we attribute to each of the 4 different seasons. Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter – each signifying the natural cycles of life. Nothing is permanent.
I found myself to be putting unnecessary strain on myself by unleashing my creativity through the single outlet of writing. As you can imagine, that can get extremely agitating after a couple of days. On a good day, I can be writing up to 3000 words, sometimes this is not by choice. I get so compelled to it because sometimes its all I have in a place of isolation.
The writing has been great. I write for myself more so these days in my own personal journal. Im still learning how to approach the art. Ive had my ups and downs with it and Ive learned that its all about building a harmonious relationship with it that is the key. Like so with many of my other more esoteric related practices, like meditation, yoga and breathing.
Through my scientific studies, I found another great way to break down what it was that I was learning. When I do my studies, I then write 1000 word pieces on what it is that I have learned. These pieces help me digest what it is that I have learned. I let myself flow, rather than be rigorous about things. The more I get caught up in the unnecessary sugar coating of perfecting a piece of work, I let myself flow and its not the piece of writing that is the thing that turns out to be the biggest reward, its the fact that I have learned about certain concepts on a more experiential level.
What I found myself doing recently was copying diagrams from some of the books I have been reading. It takes me quite a while to read some of these books in neuroscience, as I have no science background at school or University. So, I have gone all the way back to high school science and math to learn the basics. These pieces were so fun to do. I find the reading to be heavy, so I take my time with it. But its so good to use these drawings as a way to give my analytical thinking some rest and do some art which can help me grasp these scientific concepts from new perspectives.
If there is one thing I can say about religion, it’s that I think it can be powerful enough to influence the culture of a community, town or city more than you could possibly imagine.
I appreciate many aspects of religion for things such as it’s aesthetically pleasing qualities and some of its good natured rituals and moral focused stories.
Yesterday, I was explaining to a group of young Cambodians what it meant to be extravagant. I used the Angkor Wat as a classic example for something that you would consider to be an extravagant display of human ingenuity and opulence.
Still today, you look at some of the ways in which religion has influenced culture and society in Cambodia. The way I see it, religion is an expression of many things combined. It isn’t only an expression of ones belief systems, but rather an expression of art, fashion, architecture, science and spirituality.
I’ve found it at times so overwhelmingly difficult to overcome my nicotine addiction.
Since first deciding to embark on the journey towards rehabilitation, I’ve relapsed about 3 or 4 times, the last relapse being about a month ago where I smoked a whole packet in 24 hours – an attempt to mask the stresses that come with living in a foreign town all on your own. Believe me, it’s been one of my biggest challenges yet.
Through my own research, I’ve come to points where I’ve learned about certain facts regarding health and well being and after learning them, I’ve had to slap myself on the forehead because I managed to completely overlook something so profoundly simple.
Now days, I don’t worry about how much I am meditating. I look back on my journals and I see days where I’ve meditated for up to 60 minutes, plus I’ve done up to 60 minutes of yoga and whatever other ridiculous amounts of things that came from this sense of striving and trying to achieve profound experiences. But, I’m coming to realise that the chase can actually be a detriment.
Now days, I try my best to focus on the trinity – sleep, diet and exercise. As long as I get at least 2 of those things right in a 24 hour cycle, then I’ve done two thirds of my 24 hours correctly.
Esoteric and therapeutic practices come in second, along with my intellectual study life.
The trinity – diet, sleep and exercise. Just get them right and you are on your way.
If there is one thing I have noticed since being out here, it’s that time feels different.
What do I mean by that, exactly? When I look back on my life before moving to Cambodia, things were safe and familiar. So, day to day life was lived within these familiar, repetitive cycles of 9-5 work life, family and friends and whatever else you have going on.
You step out of that into the unknown, and that’s when things start to change. Actually, your whole experience of life as you know it changes, dramatically. With culture clash and all of the other challenges that come with living in Cambodia, you are most certainly in a different frame of mind. That is required, because no longer do you feel that sense of familiarity.
This really wakes you up out of your normal patterns. Some things reveal themselves and they aren’t necessarily pretty, but that’s not the point. You quickly realise that not everything in life is pretty – this realisation comes from witnessing the chaos of poverty in Cambodia and the chaos of my own internal mind during times of isolation, addiction recovery and all of the other complexities that come with being a human being.
Being in this different state of mind, you lose track of time as you know it. The thinking mind has its own sense of time, but there are states of mind where perception of time either changes or ceases to exist. Another example of this is what they call, flow states. A surfer, for example becomes “one with the wave”.
The uncertainty of life and the things I have experienced since being out here, it feels like I have been here for many years. You experience so much in such short amounts of time and it makes your time feel a lot longer.
When I frame time like this, it encourages me to want to continue living a life rich with experience. The amount of years you want to live to may be important to you, but it seems to be all about what you are doing with your time right now.
How engaged are you with your life? I feel like, the more engaged you are with the things going on in your life, the more you lose track of time.
That’s when one year starts to feel like three.
It seems as though to me, when I compare the difference between Eastern philosophy and Western Philosophy, they always come to a meeting point, however the way in which they are delivered can be dynamically different.
Take Christianity, to begin with. If you look at the Bible, it is a collection of stories written by numerous people over a long span of years. Out from this text comes stories like David and Goliath, where the underdog discovers the advantages of being an underdog and uses that towards victory. These are just like some of the stories that play out in our sporting culture. There have been many occasions where the underdog has seen victory because at the time, the odds being stacked against them had some sort of psychological effect on the collective audience who were involved in some sort.
What is our mind, then? A collection of memories about the past and visions of the future. They are an accumulation of memories and visions that are compiled to make a story about who you are and what your life is about – your identity.
Through the use of storytelling in which our minds are wired for, the Bible has been able to spread profound messages that have lasted an extraordinary amount of years so far. There must be a psychological explanation for this. These characters depict what we perceive in our every day lives.
The religions from the East tend to differ in many ways. Taoism and Buddhism tend to be a little more scientific and clinical in their approach. Taoism focuses on the world of physics and cosmology.
Where by someone who identifies themselves as a Christian is able to find fulfillment and peace in their lives through the psychological process of belief, Eastern religions tend to not believe in a God. It is in the East where peace and purpose is found through acts of compassion and training the mind through certain esoteric practices like mindfulness, Tai Chi and Yoga.
It would be ignorant of me to not expand myself. Diversity and something I value, not only because it brings about a sense of acceptance among people, but it also brings about a sense of curiosity – another trait that is such a wonderful thing to carry around with you.
I’ve got to say, there is a part of me that secretly hopes for adversity to come at me just so I can make it through with some profound new wisdom and experience.
I also like when I am taught that I am not as good as what I thought I was – this is great check for when my ego gets out of hand. We can all be egotistical and ruthless, at times. If you are a human, then you are capable of many things both good and evil.
During my early 20’s, I realised that I had a knack for forming and managing relationships with all different types of people. I was told my communication skills were great, and so I formed the belief that I had a naturally high level of emotional intelligence.
Recently, I sat a short test designed by a team of behavioral psychologists that was intended to give you a rough measurement of your emotional intelligence quotient.
I received the results back and to my surprise, I did not score as high as what I thought I would. I later learned that this is because there are many more components to emotional intelligence than how self aware you are and how well you can manage relationships.
I later learned that emotional intelligence had to do with self management, also. How well can you manage your emotions in the heat of a situation where you are vulnerable to having your buttons pushed?
I have had trouble managing my emotions in many situations. I’ve done many things that were out of order, due to my lack of self management. A great technique I have learned recently is that when you can become of aware of the fact that you are about to act out on your emotions, focus the mind on counting to 10 with each new breath.
The emotions flow through the limbic system of the brain and when your emotions are running hot, your limbic system starts to overheat. To give it some air and cool it down, counting to ten gets the conscious mind, or the neocortex involved to do some of the work to take strain off the limbic system.
After you have counted to 10 with each breath, you have regulated your emotions i a way where by you get to take more control over how you want to respond in a certain situation.
For example, you are having an argument with a friend or a co-worker or even a partner. Instead of entering into those same patterns of emotional response, focus on counting to 10 with 10 deep breaths, give the limbic system (emotional) part of your brain some cooling off and then let your conscious mind choose how you would like to respond to the situation, based off your own logic and reasoning.
I have always had this vision for living in a monastery where I can practice a form of meditation on a full time basis.
I am starting to realise, however that I am not conditioned for a life such as that one. I come from Sydney where by my environment has conditioned me to be industrious and conscientious in my pursuit for not only material things, but also to make a positive impact on my society.
I have moved to Battambang in Cambodia, a town with a population of about 200,000 people. It is generally quiet and you tend to see familiar faces almost every time you step out from your home. I have arranged my life in a way where by I can get the best of both worlds.
I have a lot of time on my hands for my esoteric practices. I am not radically involved in my esoteric practices, and although I have thrown some negative judgement towards that truth, I have come to accept the fact that I am accustomed to a life lived among a society of people where I can offer my own personal value.
Therefore, I like to use scripts from both Eastern and Western philosophy in order to guide me through my life. Stoic philosophy which came about during the days of the ancient Greek and Roman rule. These readings were written by emperors who had to deal with things like economics, education, business and politics. Much like our modern day society in the West, these societies were built upon structures, some that form our Western society, today.
On the other hand, you have scripts from the East that tend to be a little more abstract. It is said that a lot of these scripts were written by monks who lived lives of isolation in rural regions, away from civilization. These lives are out of the ordinary, making it difficult for some people to interpret, today.
I feel as though I am living a life, right in between. I have a lot of time in isolation where I ponder and I explore the nature of life. I delve deep into my esoteric practices and most of the time I am scientific about my approach, just like a lot of the Buddhists approach their contemplation and meditation.
On the other hand however, I have had to come to realise that the community I am living within requires a large part of my life, as I have accumulated the skills that come with being conditioned by an environment of industriousness. Therefore, it is up to me to find a balance between these two ways of life.
Stoic philosophy helps me during those times where I am dealing with people in situations at work or even out on the streets. The teachings in Stoicism are based around logic and reason, something that is required if you are to contribute to a society.
On the other hand, I tend to use the abstract teachings from the East during those times of isolation, abstraction and contemplation. These periods do also take up a large part of my life.
Combining the two in a harmonious fashion allows for me to strengthen each area by working and building upon the other. They work together in unison.
Goals and aspirations play as background noise more and more, these days. I’m caring less about attainment and achievement and more focused on a 1% improvement daily regime.
I try and shift my focus away from goal orientation as much as possible, as life has already proven to me just how volatile it can be.
The Taoists use the yin and yang ☯️ symbol as a way to communicate the nature of life. Dr. Jordan Peterson puts it nicely when he says, life can be in complete order, where the white part of the symbol is shaded in. But, there is a small black hole in the white shaded area.
What that says is, life can go from completely orderly to complete chaos at any moment. It can also go from complete chaos to complete order at any moment. That is the nature of life.
So, how does this impact the way I see life?
Well, it tells me that I am in control of a lot less than what I like to think. That’s not an easy truth to face. We all have that tendency to suppress that truth, rather than contemplate on it. I still shy away from it.
The way I deal with this at the moment is by focusing on the daily achievements – measured by how well I can take good care of myself so much so that I can be just a little stronger, smarter and better for the next day that comes.
The benefit in taking this approach is this – because you know life can take a turn at any moment, you prepare yourself for the worst by becoming just a little stronger than the day before. Joy is foundational to growth. With this inside out approach, I have found myself in higher states of joy which help me grow each day.
While I have the opportunity to live a lifestyle like this, I make sure to optimise on these smaller things. The drawing below was done last night. A combination of dim lights, art therapy and a playlist of meditative music designed by a team of musicians and neuroscientists was a way to wind down and prepare for a good nights rest.