Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Nothing new under the sun

So reading this on technoccult got me thinking.

A 'New' idea is generally going to be a combination of two things, firstly an amalgamation of knowledge already gained (or 'older' ideas) and secondly a novel way of organising or combining this knowledge into something that is greater than the sum of it's parts.

Nothing new is ever created in isolation to previous experience, our knowledge is laid down like sediment then twisted in the heat of our ideas to come out as something seemingly unrecognisable but still formed of it's constituent parts.

What makes an idea new and exciting for the individual is not
necessarily the newness of the idea but rather our own previous experience. I still remember the first time I heard Jimi Hendrix play guitar, even though the man died four years before I was born that experience was new and astounding to me. To my Dad however, who was around when Jimi first appeared, he was just Jimi Hendrix.

I suppose there is a point in everyone's lives where things begin to repeat and you begin to see things that seemed new and fresh in your youth come round in a different guise. I think I'm starting to get to that point because I can't help look at supposedly 'hot' new talent like
Willy Mason without thinking of all the earnest young singer song writers that have come before him, pouring out their collective hearts over steel strings and singing about how we can all change the world.

Is this though a sign of age or a product of our media saturated world, where old intellectual property is being constantly plundered and repackaged in an attempt for a fast buck? Are we just maxing out on supersize information culture where our minds are expanding like the waistline of a fast food addict?

I suppose though the up side of all this is that the increase in information and experience in our lives provides more fertile ground for our ideas to grow, we have more raw materials to combine in exciting ways, we have enough around that we can demand only the best and not have to survive on what we can cobble together and we look at the best examples and try and surpass them.

Friday, March 25, 2005

aches and pains

Went down to Sussex on Sunday to train Tai-Chi with some friends, spent several sweaty hours in my mates garage being pounded to a pulp. Most enjoyable, if you like that sort of thing.

picked up some good training tips to work on though. One particularly good one was working striking with one hand while sticking a training pad/glove under the armpit of the other, that way if you move or drop your guarding hand you drop the pad. Good for me as my guard needs work. Another was stepping through at an angle on a kick so that your kick is going through your target as opposed to simply connecting with it. Man that works, when Glenn showed me he almost took my leg off even through a pad.

It was nice to see Glenn and some of the others, everything always seems more chilled once you get down by the sea. It's interesting as well because he makes his living solely from teaching, something I'd like to be doing in a few years time.

When yogis go bad

This is a great article on the questionable business practices of some yoga gurus, Bikram's always good for a quote:

Because I have balls like atom bombs, two of them, 100 megatons each. Nobody fucks with me

The best thing about the article is that it's structured around the 5 Yama's of Patanjali's teaching (basically his moral code) demonstrating how none of the people featured in the article are following any of them.

This Blog is also worth a read, dedicated to knocking those who seek to place themselves up on pedestals firmly on their arse.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

towards the light

I've had a mind machine for years. I bought one years ago when I was feeling flush with cash thinking it would be a short cut into higher states of consciousness, it wasn't and I found all I really got were flashing lights in the eyes, humming sounds in the ears and bugger all else. So I stopped using it, feeling vaguely disappointed and slightly cheated, vowing never again to fall for the sensationalist guff of new age marketing.

A few months ago though I decided that now, having actually taken the time to practice meditation, I'd give it another go so I dusted off the little black box and plugged myself in. The results? Well this is still a work in progress but there's a definite improvement on the last time. Still no alien visitations or jaw dropping vision quests but I've felt a definite improvement in my meditation (either during a session or directly after) , both in the quickness I enter a relaxed and receptive state and the intensity of the experience.

With this new found enthusiasm for my mind machine I thought I'd do a bit more research into how it works and my experiences of it so far (which yes I probably should have done when I bought it originally but hey better late than never) both for my own personal reference and as an excuse for something to write here. So here it is, Mind Machine's for dummy's.

What are they?

In the 1940's a researcher by the name of Gray Walter discovered that if you flash lights at a certain frequency onto a subjects closed eyelids then their brainwaves appear to synch with the frequency of the flashing lights.

Brion Gysin (one of Aldous Huxley's contemporaries) after reading of this research devised a 'Dream Machine which consisted (in true Blue Peter style) of a cardboard tube, with strategic holes cut in it, placed over a light bulb mounted on a turntable. Modern Mind Machines are simply more sophisticated versions of these cut and paste constructions, they use LED's mounted on the back of goggles or glasses which flash lights of varying frequency directly onto the eyelids. Sound is also used in conjunction with the lights in the form of binaural beats to augment the effects on the brain. Binaural beats are sounds at slightly different frequencies played in each ear, when the brain sorts out the information it 'hears' the difference. For instance if one ear hears 440hz and the other 430hz then the brain hears the difference of 10hz (a frequency normally imperceptible to the human ear).

What does it do?

Well according to the theory, the combination of the sound and lights causes the frequency of the brain waves to synch with those of the input, so if the brain is receiving sound and light at 10hz then the brain wave patterns will mimic that frequency.

OK you're probably thinking what good is that? Well there are 4 recognised states of brain activity distinguished from each other by different frequencies of electrical pulses, these are:

  • Beta or normally waking consciousness characterised by brain activity in the 14 - 30hz range
  • Alpha is seen as a relaxed but alert state, and has a frequency of 8 - 13hz
  • Theta is linked to lucid dreaming states and the borderline of sleep with a frequency of 4 - 7hz
  • Delta is the last and is associated with actually sleep and has a frequency range of 0.5 - 3hz
So in theory by allowing the brain to synch with sounds and lights in these frequencies you can control brain activity and switch between these states at will.

Does it work

Well for me personally, not really at first. I found that I had some feelings of change but I would have to sit for a very long time with lights flashing in my eyes and ufo sounds in my ears before I really noticed anything interesting happening.

However going back again after spending some time learning how to meditate properly I am finding the effects more profound, the reason for this I believe is the quality of my attention.

I have always had what is politely referred to in meditation circles as a 'Monkey mind' a mind that can't sit still on one topic or thought for to long and is generally all over the place trying to think about 5 things at once. The type of meditation I'm practicing the most of at the moment is related to Patanjali Yoga Sutras and consists of the concentration on one object to the exclusion of all others, because of this increase in the ability to concentrate I find the affects of the mind machine become much stronger, especially if I run some chants or drumming through the auxiliary input. I can get into a profound place where I seem to feel the body ceases to exist and there is nothing but the chanting.

Now you could argue that because I'm now meditating regularly the effects I'm getting are from the regular practice and not the machine. I would agree in some respects but I have tried the same meditation on different nights once with the mind machine and once without and there is a difference both in the ease of entering a trance state and the intensity of the experience.

So the moral of this tale? There are no short cuts to experience, if you can afford them then mind machine's are an interesting tool to play with but they're not a quick way to enlightenment and they're no substitute for getting down on your arse and practicing.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

reasons to be blogging 1-2-3

This is I suppose a statement of intent, an explanation, to myself as much as anyone, about why I think it's worth adding my own voice to the thousands and thousands of other textual ranters, shouting on their little digital soapboxes on this worldwide speakers corner.

Because I think I've got something to say. There is an element of narcissism and pretension in all blogs really. I mean why else would anyone want to give strangers a little window into their thoughts? The argument that 'I'm just writing for myself and if anyone else reads it is a bonus' is bollocks really, if you wanted that then what's the point of putting it on the web in the first place?

Because I want to write more. I like writing, I like the space my head goes to when words are just flowing out and I figure that having something like this will make me sit down and write more. If you want to get good at something you've got to do it a lot.

I don't want this to be just an online diary analysing my life in minutia, today I got up and went to the shops and bought some milk etc, I want it as a clearing house for the thoughts that just want to tumble out.

Plus my memory is shit and my organisation nil so it will be good to get things down in a form I can't lose before I forget them.

Because it might make my life more interesting. Not that it isn't already (he says quickly) but the fact of having to find something regular to write about I'm hoping will spur me into finding interesting stuff to do.

Because it's there. Free, easily accessible publishing with a potentially world wide audience. Never in the course of human history have you been able to talk to the whole world about whatever you want (even if it is about what to call your goldfish) you'd be fucking mad not to take advantage of it.

So welcome to my blog, another navel gazer blathering on about his own obsessions. Come back
in a year and find this is still the only post.

Disclaimer: The author is a dyslexic so makes no apologies for any grammatical, spelling or punctuation errors. Just be glad the words are in the right order (most of the time)