Psych Central

Just Is

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.

Thich Nhat Hanh says: “Reality, ultimate reality, is free from all adjectives.”

This is an essential point: reality isn’t this or that, reality isn’t good or bad, reality just is.

The rest is mind-work of adjectivizing.

[Adjectivizing (labeling, describing) is the psychology of suffering. As soon as you begin to talk of good, you begin to brace for bad. As soon as you begin to talk of bad, you start to yearn for good. To describe is to suffer and to suffer is to describe. In the meantime, reality just indescribably is.]


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Plenty of Meat, No Need to Think

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.

seeingThe other day, with a few minutes to kill, I pick up a book from a shelf.  It’s a copy of “Thinking” by Gary Kirby and Jeffrey Goodpastor. The book is “designed to challenge your mind and to strengthen your thinking ability.” A good book. I skimmed it before. I flip to the last page and come across the following quote:

“When Robert Peary asked his Eskimo guide what he was thinking, the guide replied: “I do not think.  I have plenty of meat.”

This quote opens up the last chapter of the book on “The Challenge to Go on Thinking.”  The authors themselves continue:

“Thinking does not stop with the end of a book… Let’s think about our future thinking: How wide will we range? How deep will we plunge?”

I ponder this snarky juxtaposition: “Plenty of meat – no need to think” versus “Range wide, dig deep, keep on thinking.”

And I conclude: Eskimo’s right: there is no need to think if you have plenty of meat.  Mind is a leg: it walks us away from What Is.

Vladimir Nabokov would have thought so too, I suspect. In Transparent Things, he writes:

“When we concentrate on a material object <…> the very act of attention may lead to our involuntary sinking into the history of that object. Novices must learn to skim over matter if they want to stay at the exact level of the moment.”

So, there you go: skim over matter if you want to stay in the moment, no …

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Learning What You Need to Unlearn

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.

8We are too focused on learning (something new) and  not focused enough on un-learning (something old that keeps getting in the way).

Much of the time when clients come to see me they want to learn something new.  Much of the time what actually seems to help them is un-learning of something old that kept getting in the way.

Ask yourself: “What do I need to un-learn today?” And learn what you need to un-learn.

Pattern Breaks by Mindstream

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The Monkey Business of Being Human

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.

Human SoulFor years I’ve been thinking of myself as just another modern-day ape.  This line of thought – that we are nothing more and nothing less than monkeys – is powerfully humanizing.  Here’s what Mahesh Bhatt had to say about one of the most dangerous minds of the 20th century, U.G. Krishnamurti, in “Mind is a Myth.”

UG, sitting bewildered and flabbergasted on the little bench, looked down at his body.  But this time he looked without the cultural background that identified him as “male,” “Indian,” “Brahmin,” “seeker,” “world traveler,” “public speaker,” “civilized gentleman,” “virtuous person,” et.c. Seeing instead a warm-blooded mammal, a calm, harmless, fully-clothed monkey.  The slate had been miraculously wiped clean, culture and self had been utterly undone in a twinkling, and what was left was a graceful, simple, well-mannered ape, aware, intelligent, and free of all pretense and self-absorption.

I read this good many years ago and recognized my own modest metamorphosis in this.  And I thought that I better share this little known passage some day in a blog.  And while I continued to live this truth that, like UG, like you, I am just a well-mannered modern-day ape, I haven’t gotten to writing about this until today.

Why today?  No big reason.  Just stumbled upon a colorful issue of “Monkey Business: a new writing from Japan,” a zine of sorts.  Picked it up, not really knowing what it is, for a few quarters at a local Goodwill store.  I flipped …

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Sensitive? Not a problem.

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.

-1Sensitivity – I realized – is wound-ability.

(I know it’s a strange word.  Is that even a word?  It is right now.  After all, language is at our service.)

If you weren’t easily wounded, you wouldn’t be sensitive.  Stones don’t feel which is why they don’t cry.  I am glad you are not a stone.  I am glad you feel.  I am glad you feel intensely.  Why?  Because there is a lot to feel.  And to feel intensely is to live intensely.  I hope you too are glad that you are sensitive.  But I doubt you are.  Many see sensitivity as a bad thing.  Rollo May didn’t when he said: “Anxiety is the shadow of intelligence.”   He might have as well said: “Sensitivity is the shadow intelligence.”  Stones don’t feel.  They are dumb.  I am glad you aren’t.

And yet, you might object, wound-ability is a vulnerability, a liability.  It is, indeed, if you don’t know how to heal.  But if you know how to heal, sensitivity stops being a problem.  It used to take me a long time to heal (from ego wounds).  Then I got better about it.  By the time I figured out the “lotus effect” way of shedding informational suffering, I’d heal just as fast as I’d get wounded.  Wound-ability stopped being a problem but the intelligence that comes with it remained.

This is important: psychological sovereignty isn’t invulnerability, it’s heal-ability (ability to heal fast in a self-sustaining manner), to shed dirt like …

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Emotional Eating: 24×7 Self-Acceptance

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.

Working on yet another book on mindful eating, another one in the Jumpstart series, this time on mindful emotional eating, currently on the chapter devoted to nighttime emotional eating, not on how to eliminate it but on how to make it mindful – a humanistic harm reduction approach.

Here’s an excerpt, here’s how the chapter begins (mind you it’s a first draft):

I leave Sisyphus at the foot of the mountain. One always finds one’s burden again. But Sisyphus teaches the higher fidelity that negates the gods and raises rocks. He too concludes that all is well. This universe henceforth without a master seems to him neither sterile nor futile. Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night-filled mountain, in itself, forms a world. The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.

Albert Camus

The days of our lives seem to have sisyphian circularity to them.  One frustrating situation after another we push and push the boulder of cumulative stress up the day’s hill only to be run over by it at the end of the day.  It doesn’t help that we keep piling on hard-to-fulfill expectations on ourselves: we promise to find a better way of coping, without eating, and we commit to start anew tomorrow morning.  But tomorrow comes and this sisyphian circle repeats itself:  all day long we are trying to be good, taking care of business, managing frustration until the long-awaited evening comes and all we want to do is just …

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Q & A

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.

Questions matter more than answers.

Questions unwind the mind while the answers wind the mind up.

The quest part of the question is far more important than the destination end-point of the answer: a question is a liberating journey into the unknown, an answer is a dead-end of pseudo-certainty.  A question sets the mind unstuck, breaking the impasse of knowing. Knowing  re-incarcerates the mind in a re-invented sense of certainty.

When you look at the swirling dervish of this composite body that you are (with its endless metamorphosis of matter), you have to eventually ask yourself: “Is there indeed such a thingless thing as mind?  Or is mind just another philosophical unicorn – a word without a referent?”

At the deepest level of analysis the no-mind of mindfulness debunks the illusion of its own permanence.

As you look inside for the one that is looking you find no one and with that everything becomes just enough and so.


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Slavic Samsara

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.

stoneAs I watch my slavic brothers and sisters about to turn onto each other (not without some geopolitical meddling), I am reminded of a few lines from a poem written in Kiev in 1986 by a prominent Russian dissident Irina Ratushinskaya:

Beasts, people, birds

And voices, and specks of light -

We pass through all like ripples,

And each one disappears.

Which of us will recur?

Who will flow into whom?

What do we need in this world

To quench our thirst?

Yes, we all pass through this reality, and we all pass through all – like ripples from a local stone-skip that eventually become the universe-wide gravitational waves of yet another big bang.

And we pass into each other: yesterday’s fascists become today’s freedom-fighters and today’s freedom-fighters become tomorrow’s fascists. Form passes into Essence and Essence passes into Form.

Self and Other are in a constant tug-of-war of inter-determination (paṭiccasamuppāda -  co-dependent origination).  Duality (Skinthink) of Self and Other always falls onto its own sword.

As I ponder this current cycle of Slavic samsara I find my usual, arguably misguided, sense of peace and acceptance in the following three axioms of living:

1. We are all motivationally innocent  (the Pleasure Principle): there is no evil, there is just a pursuit of wellbeing however misguided it might be.

2. We are all doing our moment-specific best (the idea of Ordinary Perfection): all that can be – is.

3. That is enough for Oneness of Cosmos (sideless, Oneness takes …

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Dragons of Anger and Fear

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.

Anger_04The Tale of the Favorite Son:

[Once upon a time there was a land of dragons]. These dragons were very cunning and the people were afraid of them.  But nobody wanted to deal with the dragons, so everybody pretended that they didn’t exist.  But the dragons moved into the hearts of the people… The people tried to ignore them even there.  That left the dragons to merrily munch away at the people.  So everyone lived with their dragons, not knowing that everyone else had a dragon too.  They also didn’t know that the clue to slaying the dragons [of anger] was right before them.  You see, the dragons [of anger] all had one mother – and her name was Fear.  Anger was her favorite son.” (Fear & Anger, L. Hanthorn,1996)

Rethinking anger as fear allows you to rethink anger management as fear management.  And with that comes much personal and clinical clarity.

Anger Management Toolbox: DVD and CD (Somov/PESI, 2014)


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Anger Management: Eastern Equanimity and Courage of Non-Violence

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.

Anger_04I am in CT this week, doing CEU workshops on mindfulness-based anger management.  You can join me through a webcast which will take place tomorrow, Fri, March 14th – here’s how to register for March 14 Webcast of Anger Management Toolbox (via PESI).

When anger becomes the mood of human societies, the quality of fire (or the primitive and destructive intent of the frustrated ego) invades the plane of humanity. That fire is expressed as all of the aggression and competitiveness of humankind, including all of the ego-based politics of confrontation. And that ego-fire is, finally, summarized in the acts of war…. The fiction of separateness—and the denial of the universal characteristic of prior unity—is a mind-based illusion, a lie, a terribly deluding force, and a profoundly and darkly negative act.

—Adi Da, Not-Two Is Peace

The only means for realization of Truth is Ahimsa….I must reduce myself to zero.

—M. K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth

Philosophically, existentially, and spiritually, there used to be an East and a West on this planet—a Western (Occidental) and an Eastern (Oriental) way of living and viewing life. However, the cultural globalization of the past century nearly reversed these psychospiritual polarities. No longer does a person need to go to Tibet for enlightenment: The West has been churning out its own lamas and gurus with the same production intensity as it once did with Model …

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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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