There Are No Mistakes

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.

 

9781572247567I did my best… I did my best!

Dane Cook, comedian

The phrase “to make a mistake” implies purposive, conscious, planned action. That’s utterly inaccurate: there are no intentional mistakes, no one consciously sets out to fail.

When we fail on purpose, when we make a mistake by design, we are actually succeeding with some kind of covert plan. Therefore, even an act of conscious sabotage isn’t a mistake (to you) even if takes the form of a mistake (to others).

Bottom-line: No one makes mistakes because no one ever makes a mistake on purpose (sabotage notwithstanding).

And yet mistakes do take place. Indeed, now and then we all drop the proverbial ball. Not because we intend to but because there are too many balls to juggle with.

Understanding the difference between an intentional mistake and an unintentional occurrence is key to wellbeing and self-acceptance.

A Mistake is a Difference Between What Is and What Should Be

When we think of a mistake, we think of a difference between the real and the ideal, i.e. of a discrepancy between what is and what we expect to be (or is expected to be). But any expectation is fundamentally generic. Whether the standard is set by you, your boss, you parent, your partner, legal system or social norms, it fails to reflect the specifics of any given moment and the specifics of any given mind.

Rules and laws set the ideal expectation of conduct that is aimed at everyone but is based on no one in …


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Happy Birthday, Leonard Cohen, and Mindful Smoking to You!

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.

smokesomovThin mists and light clouds waft imperceptibly;

The friends who have gathered here pass the pipe around.

I know that there is no constancy in what is possible and what is not,

Yet I do not believe that fire and ash are only fragments of time.

—Wang Lu, a Japanese seventeenth-century “gentleman smoker” (quoted in Smoke: A Global History of Smoking)

Marla and I are big fans of Leonard Cohen. A weekend or so ago he turned 80 and decided to resume smoking: “too young to die, too old to worry,” summarized NYT Jason Karlawish.  Cohen himself said the following: “It’s the right age to recommence [smoking].”  Indeed, why not, if it gives you “the pleasure of the present”?

We are not being rhetorical.  In our 2011 book Smoke-Free Smoke Break we have made a harm reduction case for mindful smoking as well as for the idea that we have more than one kind of health – the health of the body and the health of the mind.  A risk-taking behavior (be it rock climbing or smoking) is an existential choice to pursue the wellbeing of the mind while consciously accepting possible costs to the body.  So, with this in mind, we congratulate Leonard Cohen not only on reaching the age of wisdom but also on remaining the rascal sage that he’s been – and teaching us the existential calculus of controlled recklessness. Mindful smoking to you, Leonard!

What follows is an excerpt from our book – its …


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Noosphere: You Are a Part of It

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.

Noosphere – a beautiful concept. You are a part of this human whole. A conscious or an unconscious part?

The noosphere is the sphere of human thought. The word derives from the Greek νοῦς (nous “mind”) and σφαῖρα (sphaira “sphere”), in lexical analogy to “atmosphere” and “biosphere”. It was introduced by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in 1922 in his Cosmogenesis. Another possibility is the first use of the term by Édouard Le Roy (1870-1954), who together with Teilhard was listening to lectures of Russian philosopher Vladimir Vernadsky at the Sorbonne. (source: wiki).

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www.pavelsomov.com


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Impermanence and Permanence

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.

Every life-form that passes in front you also passes in front of itself.

(I’m talking about every and any life-form – a neighbor, your kid, an ant on the sidewalk.)

Namaste to it all: to all that is inside and outside, to all that passes in front of you and in front of itself.

To all that passes, internally and externally, inter-objectively and intra-subjectively – namaste.

360 degrees of Namaste!

And to all that remains the same – in me, in you, in everything – to You too – namaste!

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It’s curious, isn’t it, that not only do we pass (change) in front of each other but that we also pass (change) in front of ourselves.

The you that you were a moment ago has now changed.  And if there had been someone to notice how you changed, the two of you would have been sharing a similar reference point of permanence.

The Buddhist psychology of impermanence of form is half the story.  The Vedic psychology of permanence of essence is the rest of the story.

We are always changing and yet there is always something in us (something ineffable) that remains the same.

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Notice what changes and notice what remains the same.

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www.pavelsomov.com


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Mindful Emotional Eating – a Humanistic Harm Reduction Approach

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.

MeeHere’s a question that’s a lot on my clinical mind: “What do clients want and how do I help them get what they want?” This very question is at the core of humanistic harm reduction (HHR).

When my client presents with concerns about “emotional eating,” I ask myself the same question. When you, as a clinician, get in the habit of asking yourself this question, the answer becomes rather self-evident. What emotional eating clients want is obvious: they want to eat when they feel bad and they don’t want to feel bad about eating. They want to feel in control during this coping, self-soothing episode (both during and after emotional eating). But they have come to believe that eating to cope and feeling in control are somehow mutually exclusive.

Not so! We can help our clients have exactly what they want. Yes, they can eat to cope and, yes, they can feel in control (both during and after the emotional eating episode). How? With the help of mindful emotional eating (MEE).

Mindful emotional eating satisfies two self-regulation fantasies: To eat and to feel in control. Mindful emotional eating allows your client to pursue change without sacrificing what they want. To clarify, I am not talking about emotional eating. I’m talking about mindful emotional eating.

The book that I have coming out later this fall is not about how to stop emotional eating but about how to eat emotionally in moderation, more effectively, and without self-judgment and self-loathing. Here’s the …


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An Evolving Text of Self

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.

Mind is a living, evolving, self-correcting, self-editing, self-serving text of survival.

What you say to yourself matters.  And what you don’t say to yourself matters too.

But, as important as this self-narrative is, we are not it: we are not this mind.

This mind, this narrative is but writing on the ever-changing water of consciousness.

Neti, neti – meaning: not this, not this.

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www.pavelsomov.com


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Mindful Emotional Eating

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.

MeeI have another book coming out later this fall – on mindful emotional eating (not on emotional eating or on mindful eating, but on how to make emotional eating mindful).  Here’s a foreword for this book from Linda Craighead, the author of Appetite Awareness Training who championed the idea of effective emotional eating.  If you are a clinician and are interested in writing a review/blurb for the book, please, contact me through my book site: www.pavelsomov.com

Foreword from Linda Craighead:

Pavel’s book on Mindful Emotional Eating is a gem of a toolkit that will be invaluable both to individuals seeking a mindful eating self-help option and to practitioners looking to infuse more mindfulness into their work with clients distressed by emotional eating. Pavel’s Humanistic Harm Reduction approach is a breath of fresh air on a topic that is particularly difficult to address sanely in the current culture. Obesity has become a “hot “ topic; it threatens the health of the next generation and will bankrupt our health care system if we cannot find a better way to come to terms with the inherent double bind society has created. Food is engineered to appeal directly to our biologically-based preferences for sugar and fat and food is more accessible than ever before. We are subjected to an overload of advertising with the messages “Indulge yourself- you deserve it” and “ More is better”. A “tall” is the smallest option even available at Starbucks. Marketers appear to believe that …


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The Effort of Happiness

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.

Yesterday night, over a dinner with my older brother’s family, a topic of happiness came up.  My wife, Marla, a fellow psychologist, was sharing about Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of “flow.”  Marla explained that according to the research on flow, people are happiest when they are absorbed (engaged) in a task that is just challenging (effortful) enough for them to experience a sense of unfolding mastery and agency.  I am paraphrasing here.

A few moments later my brother, Yuri, offered the following proposition: “The first and only, necessary and sufficient precondition for happiness is to stop associating happiness with pleasure. The two – happiness and pleasure – have nothing to do with each other.”  Yuri’s wife, Natasha, looked at me across the table and asked: “What do you think?”  And I said: “I think this is an intriguing point. Simple yet profound.”

This morning, with my cup of coffee, I rummaged through a stack of books on my bedside table and – at the bottom – found Bertrand Russell’s musings on happiness, a book I started reading but didn’t finish.  In it, I find the following thought:

“The human animal, like others, is adapted to a certain amount of struggle for life, and when [...] his whims [are satisfied] without effort, the mere absence of effort from his life removes an essential ingredient of happiness.”

The conversation (last part of it playing out in my head and in this bit of writing) came full circle: people are happiest when they are in a state of flow (Csikszentmihalyi’s language)… which is the …


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99 Cent Blowout of Nirvanic Kitch

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.

[thoughts of pattern interruption; what's the point of pattern interruption? to arrest the mind, to take you off the autopilot]

1.
I wait on myself, self-servingly.
But I don’t tip.
2.
Bringing two black and white walls of duality into a corner
I stand boxed into a pseudo-truth.
3.
Science will invert you inside out
and show you your nothing.
Clever!
Believe it.
4.
Hardy more than a lowly extremophile plankton,
I – a modern-day ape – waive goodbyes to all these evolutionarily ascending bottom-feeders of enlightenment,
while staying where I am at.
5
Plenty of contentment in any given “here” if you let go of expectations.

6.
Life evaporates with each moment
And condenses not: no sediment of the past in this here-and-now.

7.
Spoon-wood trees
feed emptiness to itself
un-witnessed.
8.
Veteran lungs look at themselves exhausted.
Did I breathe all these oceans of air without knowing it?
No way!
9.
Nonduality is self-help kitsch!
Buy it
while it’s on sale.
10.
No ten.
Here’s your change:


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New Love

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.

Losing someone you love is awful.

Finding someone new to love is awe.

Cure for grief is new love.

Cultivate the capacity to lose and gain.

Life is attachment and detachment and attachment and detachment.

Add infinity to this equation and you get the infinitely regressing point of oneness of living and suffering.

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We all (on autopilot) know our interfaces.

But do we know ourselves?

I leave it up to you to answer:


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Reinventing the Meal
Reinventing the Meal
Present Perfect
Eating the Moment
The Lotus Effect The Smoke-Free Smoke Break
Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D. is the author of The Lotus Effect, Present Perfect, The Smoke-Free Smoke Break, and Eating the Moment: 141 Mindful Practices to Overcome Overeating One Meal at a Time.


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