Look at all those shadows walking by, my conman acquaintance cackled. We were sitting on the patio of a sidewalk cafe in the business district watching people leave their offices to start their trek homeward. Why are they shadows, I asked? Because they only have two dimensions, his eyes sparkled knowing he had me hooked. Knowingly I entered his trap, I replied, but they look three-dimensional to me. No, these shadows only have two dimensions, the past or the future. Look at them scurrying along with the blank expressions on their faces, all they can think about is what they will do when they get home. Or maybe they are reliving what happened at work today. Either way, they are not living in the present, the now. They only live in the past or the future, never the now, if you never live in the now, you are part of the walking dead.

By living in the past or present we avoid reality

In my previous post, The pursuit of happiness myth which causes unhappiness, I stated that humans delude themselves to avoid the pain of facing reality. One of the ways we delude ourselves is by living in either the past or present. But this does not mean we shouldn’t learn from the past or plan for the future. Living in the past can take two forms which are indirectly related to each other. The first form is where we express regrets about mistakes we made. If only I knew what I know now and then took a certain course of action, my life would be different. The second form of living in the past is living in what we might consider better times. We desire stability, the past is stable, since we already know what the outcome is. Knowing the outcome means our expectations have already been met. The past can either be a few hours ago or centuries ago when my conman acquaintance and I were observing business people heading home from work, many of them were saying to themselves if only I had turned down that assignment from my boss if only I had asked for a raise etc.

The living in the future deals with expectation also. Some of the wage slaves are thinking, I only have to put up with this job for another ten years. When I retire, I will tell my boss what I really think of him. Our brain is a simulation machine, we take past experiences and knowledge and use this simulation machine to predict future events. Our simulation machine allows us to experience and feel situations and events which have not even happened when used correctly, it is an extremely useful. Einstein used his simulation machine to imagine what would happen if he could travel on a tramcar at the speed of light and shine a flashlight in different directions. He then imagined all sorts of scenarios, what happens if he shines the flashlight forward, backward, there is another tramcar traveling at the speed of light with a person shining a flashlight. Using these simulations he developed the theory of relativity. When used correctly, our simulation machine is beneficial, incorrectly used, it is harmful.

Like all computers, our simulation machine produces erroneous simulations when we feed it inputs which are not based on reality. When I was a teenager in high school, there was a pretty girl in one of my classes. I had never talked to her, yet I gave her positive attributes which were a figment of my imagination. She was witty, intelligent, understanding, caring etc. Over the following weeks, using my simulation machine, I created a virtual reality or fantasy. In my fantasy we met, we then had amazing conversations. Later we ended up getting married, we had a house with a white picket fence and kids. Looking back, I can see I was living a fantasy and I wasted a great deal of time and effort on this fantasy. A couple months later, I ended up talking to her. Since I was a shy teenager or maybe because she didn’t have any of the attributes which I am imagined, we never had the amazing conversations I imagined. I can not remember exactly what we said, all I remember was being disappointed. I would have saved a lot of time and disappointment if I had been living in the now.

Only by living in the now can you change the future

In the case of my teenage crush, I could have saved a lot of time and disappointment if I had decided a course of action in the present. This doesn’t mean taking action in the present moment but setting a course of action in the present. So I could have said to myself, next time I see this pretty girl, I will go and talk to her. After I have decided a plan of action, I then put my plan of action onto my mental shelf to be acted upon when the appropriate time presented itself. Instead, I fed my simulation machine data which was based on incorrect assumptions. Then I allowed my simulation machine to create a fantasy, the more elaborate my fantasy became, the more I would be inclined to delay taking action. Subconsciously, I realized that my fantasy would be destroyed, wanting to avoid pain prevented me from taking action in the now.

A conman knows that he should provide people with justifications for what they did in the past, historic revision. Or he should cater to their desires or fantasies which will take place in the future. For the majority of people, most of the conman’s work has been done for them, since they are already living in either the past or future, he just needs to fill in the blanks. How do we avoid this trap?

In my post, Get rid of unrealistic social expectations to alleviate loneliness, the method I described works because I am forcing myself to live in the now. In my example, after deciding to take a course of action, in this case getting your ass out of the house, by concentrating on each individual step as I am doing it, forces me to live in the now. As I put one foot in front of the other, I concentrated on that action, not a future action or a previous action. This then eliminates expectation, it means I have become outcome independent. Expectation means I am living in the future.

If you fail to live in the now, you are part of what my conman acquaintance called the walking dead, a zombie, a person who is not self-aware or awake.

Only by experiencing the now can you be truly awake

The point is that there’s not a good way to come into meditation or a bad way to come into meditation. It might feel preferable to show up feeling calm and spacious, but really meditation is about being awake and present to whatever is going on. You can’t critique your meditation in terms of good and bad. The only thing you can measure your meditation against is the question: “Was I present or not?” And even then, to say to yourself that you weren’t present is a result of the fact that you’ve been meditating and you recognized that fact. There’s some sense of awareness about what is actually happening. How to Meditate: A Practical Guide to Making Friends with Your Mind

Contrary to popular belief, meditation isn’t a way to enter a trance-like state to escape reality, its purpose is to break out the trance-like state we are normally in, to become closer to reality. We enter trance-like states all the time but we don’t realize it. What did you eat for breakfast this morning? If you traveled to work or school this morning, what did you see? Most likely you can not remember, or there might be blank spots, this means you were at some point in time in a trance-like state. Meditation is a tool which is used to break out of this trance. Concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other is forcing yourself to enter the now.

Usually, when we are in these trances, we are either in the past or future. You might be doing a simple task like sweeping the floor, you find the task boring, you want to escape from doing the task. Your mind then wanders off into the past, maybe to an enjoyable moment you were having at a party. Or possibly, it jumps into the future, instead of concentrating on sweeping the floor, you are thinking about what you will eat for lunch after you sweep the floor. You consciously are no longer in the present, you have entered a trance-like state where you have in the future.

If you are unfamiliar with how the brain operates, you might find the idea of you going into trance-like states while conscious uncomfortable. When learning how to ride a bicycle, initially you consciously have to pedal the bike, as in make your legs go up and down. At the same time, you have to consciously balance yourself on the bike and steer it. After a while, this conscious activity gets moved to your subconscious part of your brain. This means, unless you consciously override your subconscious, you do not need to think about riding the bike. In a sense, you are in a trance, you are in a trance, your legs move up and down without you actually thinking about it.

Possibly you might be saying, I am out to lunch, how can you be in a trance while driving a car, eating breakfast etc.? Most people have seen YouTube video, The Invisible Gorilla. This is the reason we can not see the gorilla.

The problem is that we lack positive evidence for our lack of attention. That is the basis of the illusion of attention. We are aware only of the unexpected objects we do notice, not the ones we have missed. Consequently, all the evidence we have is for good perception of our world. It takes an experience like missing the chest-thumping gorilla, which is hard to explain away (and which we have little incentive to explain away), to show us how much of the world around us we must be missing. The Invisible Gorilla: How Our Intuitions Deceive Us

In the past, we believed human memory a series of still frames of a movie coupled with sound. These frames and sound bites were achieved somewhere in our subconsciousness. The reason why we believed this is because under hypnosis it appeared as if it is possible to retrieve these memories. Early experiments with hypnosis showed that people could remember events from the past with extreme detail which they were unable to do while in a conscious state. Due to our incorrect belief on how the human memory worked, it was assumed that these memories revealed in a hypnotic state where accurate.

Unfortunately, our memory doesn’t work like a video recorder, what actually happens is more complex. When we recall a memory, it is retrieved as an outline or framework, as we require more detail it is filled in. When asked, what did you eat for breakfast? Your brain creates an image of a plate full of food. If asked, what color was the tablecloth? The tablecloth does not exist in our memory till we are prompted. Neither the plate full of food or the tablecloth existed until we where prompted.

What if your table didn’t have a tablecloth that day? If your table normally has a tablecloth, there is the possibility that since you expect a tablecloth, your memory might generate one. This then brings up the question, when did this tablecloth exist? On days when your table had a tablecloth, is the tablecloth you are remembering from that day or another day? This is how false memories can be created.

Our vision works in a similar manner, most of what we see doesn’t per say actually exist. The invisible gorilla experiment clearly shows this. Our brains fill in what we expect to see, which means we are seeing an illusion which we tell ourselves is a reality. This shows that we are living a sequence of trance-like states, in most cases, we are living in either the past or the future. My conman acquaintance when he called most people the walking dead was mocking them, he was stating that they are zombies. The difference between him and others is he is aware that most of the time he is in a zombie state. The question then arises, how do we break out of this zombie state, how do we become awake?

Becoming awake or self-aware

At the time, I didn’t realize it but by breaking things into small steps, I was forcing myself to live in the present. By living in the present, I was inadvertently removing expectations. Expectations are what cause us to get an incorrect version of reality. As the invisible gorilla experiment shows, I wasn’t expecting to see a gorilla, therefore I didn’t see a gorilla.

Disappointment is caused by unfulfilled expectations. When I perform a series of actions, if I do not obtain the result I expect, it means that my perception of reality is incorrect. I, of course, enjoy deluding myself, so I will attempt to find explanations on why my perception of reality isn’t incorrect. While I am performing each individual step, if I thinking about future steps, this means I am not in the present. This can result in either self-sabotage, due to expecting negative results or over confidence.

Every method has limitations. In this case, this method is using reductionism, since it is breaking things into smaller steps. If the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, the technique fails. If I disassemble an airplane into its individual components, I end up with piles of nuts and bolts. It does not increase my understanding on how airplanes fly. The technique which can cause me to ignore other influences, it also is dependent on what I am concentrating on for each step.

For the human brain, attention is essentially a zero-sum game: If we pay more attention to one place, object, or event, we necessarily pay less attention to others. Inattentional blindness is thus a necessary, if unfortunate, by-product of the normal operation of attention and perception. If we are right that inattentional blindness results from inherent limits on the capacity of visual attention, it might be impossible to reduce or eliminate it in general. In essence, trying to eliminate inattentional blindness would be equivalent to asking people to try flying by flapping their arms really rapidly. The structure of the human body doesn’t permit us to fly, just as the structure of the mind doesn’t permit us to consciously perceive everything around us. The Invisible Gorilla: How Our Intuitions Deceive Us

Essentially, true self-awareness or being awake is an impossibility. Awareness or conscious attention is a limited resource. We can only consciously track 5 to 7 variables at once, some neuroscientists believe that this number might be too high. Regardless it means I only have 5 to 7 video or audio sensors. If I focus these sensors on counting how many times the basketball is passed, it means I can not see the gorilla. If I am looking for the unexpected, it means I can not count the number of times the basketball is passed.

Even though being true awareness or awakening is an impossibility, just being aware that we can not be fully aware is an awakening. Knowing this, you can experiment with sensing different things in the present. This can be as simple as sitting in front of a fan and feeling the air blow on you or taking a walk and observing different things in the now. Possibly you might be thinking, you are not doing this right.

The only person you are competing against is yourself

Inherently we are always comparing, as a result, we are always competing. Conscious thought is human language, human language is analogy or metaphor. Every word we use has its roots in metaphor, analogy or comparison. That means our consciousness wants to compare ourselves to others and the question we want to know, are we doing this correctly? Are doing things the right way or the wrong way?

It is possible to judge the external actions of a person but we can only speculate on the internal workings of the person’s brain or conscious thought. Possibly a person’s the internal workings of a person’s consciousness might be deeply flawed but yet it could lead to positive results. In politically incorrect times, a star baseball player was asked what was his secret to successfully hitting the ball. He replied that is was due to him having a few shots of whiskey before the game. The reporters then asked how it improved his game. He explained that being half drunk made the baseball appear twice as big, which much easier to hit. Assuming the star baseball player was telling the truth, drinking would distort his perception of reality but due to the flawed inner workings of his mind, this distorted reality improved his game. This means positive external results doesn’t mean a better state of consciousness. The point I am making is since your consciousness is internal, there is nothing you can compare your consciousness against, except your previous self.

Initially, you might not like what you will find

In my post, [Cynic - a red pill person - someone who understands reality]http://acrackletsthelightin.info/2016/12/31/Cynic-a-redpill-person-accepts-reality/) talked about how the word cynic originally an ancient Greek school of thought which attempted to understand reality better. The term cynical now has negative connotations. It is a reflection on how we attempt to delude ourselves to escape reality. That buried deep within us is an animal nature similar to primates or lower animals like crocodiles scares many people. On some level, they worry they will be taken over by their animalistic tendencies. But when one gains greater awareness, one is able to control these tendencies.

Another factor that people find troubling when they find out their sense of reality is largely an illusion. This ranges from when I misplaced my keys last week to the entire fantasy I built with my teenage puppy love. In the case of the missing keys, they were sitting on the table. I had looked at the table several times, yet the previous times, I didn’t see them. For the teenage puppy love, if I am honest, I can see I created an entire fantasy. This fantasy could have been avoided if I was living in the now. But the more I invested in this fantasy, the more reluctant I was to take action which might destroy the fantasy. The fantasy had become more powerful than reality.

Try and catch yourself when you start living in the past or the future. We have grown so accustomed to doing it, that it has become natural. The act of living in the past or the future isn’t always harmful or bad. It becomes harmful when it is being used as a way to escape the present or now. As one becomes more self aware, we are able to see how we avoid reality. In my case, it was over twenty years ago when my conman acquaintance talked about two dimensional people, it is only now I am starting to become aware of what he meant. Then again, possibly I might be a slow learner.

Start acting in the now, right now send me bitcoin, my bitcoin address is 3NgksauCyuLcVRqLHVLbAnhP2UqmqspJVQ. If you like my posts, follow me on twitter at @sir_wankalote, I also have an account on gab @sir_wankalot_here the free speech alternative.