Archive for June, 2011

Does a Whirlpool Have Identity?

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

Two thoughts, two writers (both “me”), a few minutes apart:

(1) “Writing reorganizes the organism that authors it.”

(2) “All mind is second hand info.”

As “I” look at these two thoughts, “I” feel that they were written by different writers.  And they were: when “I” wrote the first thought “I” reorganized myself.  This new “me” wrote its first thought (which happens to be the second thought in this case, if “we” are speaking chronologically).  The second thought reorganized the organism that wrote it as well.  And now, this new (third) “me” sees an ironic contradiction between these two propositions: on one hand “we” reorganize ourselves each time “we” write; on the other hand, “we” are simply re-arranging what already was, cycling and recycling second-hand information (that “we” have picked up elsewhere from someone who had, in turn, had picked up elsewhere).

All this boils down to the following koan: does an eddy (whirlpool) have identity (its own water)?


Hunting Unicorns

Monday, June 20th, 2011

People say: “Perfection is unattainable.”  And yet they chase it.  What a psychologically toxic set-up!  What a self-fulfilling destiny of dissatisfaction!  Chasing theoretical perfection is like hunting unicorns.  Good luck.

Dare to consider: reality is (already) perfect and perfectible.  This “and” is the hardest “and” to swallow for a dualistic mind.  Reality is already the best that it can be at any given point in time and it can still be better.

Notice the ordinary (real-time) perfection of what (already) is.  There is no other reality than the here-and-now reality that right now is: everything that right now can be already is.  The rest is fantasy.  So, take a break from hunting non-existent unicorns and notice the cornucopia of the present moment.


Koans: Uncertainty Training Therapy

Friday, June 17th, 2011

Psychologically speaking, koans are a unique way to inoculate a human mind to the anxiety of uncertainty.  When we encounter uncertainty, we are stumped.  Uncertainty frustrates us with its enigmatic nonsense.  Koans, in their unanswerable quality, effectively simulate such moments of uncertainty.  Author Hee-Jin Kim explains: the koans are “realized, not solved” (1975, 101).

Admittedly, this explanation is a bit of a puzzle itself.  But here’s how I make sense of it.  A koan, once again, is an unanswerable puzzle.  If we take it on, we begin banging our head against the wall of the unknown.  At some point, we realize that there is no solution, and we settle into a don’t-know mind.  This realization, of course, comes up pretty early in the koan work.  And it serves as the true beginning, not the end of the process.

Knowing in advance that you are working with an unanswerable question, you accept your limitations. No longer trying to know the unknowable, you calmly remain with the question in a state of not knowing.  Knowingly, you keep chasing the tail of not knowing in a process that, I believe, very much parallels the day-to-day mystery of life.  Thus, the potential therapeutic value of koan work as a kind of one-question-therapy that can help soothe the perfectionistic thirst for answers.

Here are a few of the koans [from the Present Perfect book] that I developed to challenge perfectionistic thinking for my clients and my readers:


Existentially Rich

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

On the edge of the Grand Existential Canyon we sit, minds dangling over the cliff,

Burning* millions upon millions of our cellular bodies, daily, like endless money,

Feeling grand as ever, as if we were rich (and we are (we just don’t know it yet (but we will (eventually)))).

*metabolism is a slow cellular fire


Perfectionism is a Destiny of Dissatisfaction

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

Imagination is always at least one step ahead of reality.  When we appraise the world, ourselves, or others, we compare what is (the real) with what theoretically could be (the imagined).

Say you got a B on a test.  You look at this grade and you think that you could have done better, that you could have gotten an A.  But that’s theory.  The reality is that you got a B, not an A, and this B represented your practical (not theoretical) best.

With this in mind, let me ask you this: what do you mean by perfection—the theoretical best or the practical best?  When you think about perfection, are you thinking about the imaginary perfection of what could be or about the perfection of what actually is?  Of course, this is something of a rhetorical question.  I know the answer: as a perfectionist, you define perfection as a theoretical best.  That’s exactly why you are never satisfied with reality as it is.


There Is No Evil

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

There is no evil.  Do an inventory of this planet and you will find no living, breathing, menacing evil.  There is just human behavior, in all its self-serving short-sightedness.  Evil is a concept, a reification of an observed pattern.  It is a useful semantic short-cut to flag dangerous (as in “unsafe”) people.  But there is no evil per se.

The topic of evil has been a long-standing interest of mine and this writing is to acknowledge that a major cultural milestone has been reached in the discussion of evil.  Read Simon-Baron Cohen’s “The Science of Evil” or at least a review of it by NY Times.

Much of what I have been blogging and writing about has been focused on compassion and forgiveness.  As I see it, all human behavior breaks down to two elements of psychology: motive and effort.  Motive is universal: we are all pursuing wellbeing, moving from minus to plus, operating – at core – on the pleasure principle.  So, in this sense, we are all motivationally-innocent.  No evil here.   Just living.  Effort-wise, we are all doing the best we can at any given moment in time.  Of course, one’s best is safe and beneficial to others but another’s best is dangerous and even possibly sadistic. Why is that? 


I Love Junk Email

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

I love junk email: its desperation, its naiveté, its brazenness.  I can relate to the humanity (psychology) behind it.  Can you?

For example (from this morning): “LOAN OFFER!  READ THE ATTACHED FILE AND CONTACT MR. CLARK.”

Yes, it was all in caps.  And no, I didn’t contact Mr. Clark…

You just know there’s suffering and ambition behind this.

Suffering + Ambition = Humanity


E-Health is Psychological Health

Monday, June 13th, 2011

Who are we saving all these word-processing files for?

Are we going to read what we wrote?!  All these unfinished poems?  All these unpolished stories of narrative fiction?  All these drafts of actualities?

Of course, not: we are once, we are ever a-changing, we are - in a sense – never…

Even if we save a memory-file, it will be opened by the echoes of our here-and-now Essence (i.e. by what we are yet to be (if we are lucky to still be in some hypothetical – however near – future).

Psychological health – it seems – has evolved to include electronic health [e-health].

Purge the digital dust.  In the overall schema of thing-less things, memory is just ones and zeros anyway (foreground and background).

Good hardware is software: it flexes and bends with twists and turns of life, without clinging to its to Form.

Memory is a waste of information.

Live [breathe, love, think] now:


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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