Archive for October, 2012

Not This Body, Not This Mind

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012


dragonfly lotusIn Kafka’s story “The Metamorphosis,” first published in 1915, the protagonist’s body turns into a cockroach.  But that’s not the point.  The point is that nothing else changes.  The protagonist (and his neuroticism) remains the same.

This is the irony of change.  Change happens on the backdrop of the changeless.  As the body ages, to a large extent we still feel the same inside.  As the body ages, the gap between our physical age and how old we feel inside seems to continually widen.

Why not listen to this sense of internal sameness?

Metamorphosis is a change of Form, not a change of Essence.  You aren’t what’s changing, you are that which remains the same.

Conclude:  I am not my physical Form at any given point in time.  I am not this ever changing Body.  I am not my informational Form at any given point in time.  I am not this ever changing Mind. 

Adapted from Lotus Effect (Somov, New Harbinger Publications, 2010)

Creative Commons License photo credit: △kenzie▲


Put Differently

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

“It is the function of art to renew our perception.” (Anais Nin).

Put differently, art alters consciousness.

Put differently, art is a pattern break.

Put differently, art leverages presence.

Put differently, art is mindfulness.

Put differently, art is about “putting it differently.”


Neural Diaspora

Thursday, October 25th, 2012
Harbor Seal

Neural Tribe: chasing its tail of Form, ignoring its Essence

Diaspora is a dispersal, scattering, migration of people away from their ancestral roots, away from their origins.   In modern use, we tend to equate the word “diaspora” with the notion of an ethnic, immigrant community.  For example, a such-and-such diaspora in such-and-such place (say, an Armenian diaspora in US).A diaspora is a new coordinate, a kind of portable homeland, a new address.  And new addresses come with new identities.  We get anchored in the place, we begin to associate ourselves with our current logistical circumstance.  And, inadvertently, we begin to lose sight of where we came from.

Adi Da, in his book Not-Two is Peace, talks about humanity as a diaspora that lost sight of its shared origins and, as a result, fell into tribal antagonisms.  Adi Da is, thus, down on the concept of the tribe.  He sees tribalism as one of the modern-day splits that threaten the human civilization.  I get what he is saying and I am largely on board with his point.  But I’d like to re-own the word “tribe” (as I’ve done so with the “neural tribe” meme).

A neural tribe is a broader kind of diaspora.  A neural tribe is a neural diaspora.  Here’s what I have proposed in my recent writings: wherever you find a neuron, there – as a species – you are.  What this means is that you and I, your cat and my dog, and the flees on them, are all neural colonies of one and the same Neural Tribe that inhabits different animal body-forms.  Put differently, we are the Neural Tribe in a state of extreme dispersal.  We – the Neural Tribe – have set up shop all across the biological real estate.  We – the Neural Tribe – are everywhere.  We are anywhere you find sentience on this Earth.

Adi Da is right: going beyond race and nationality  and culture may solve some global problems.  But what if we tried to go beyond the body-plan, beyond the body-form, beyond …

Wherever you find neurons, there – as a species – you are

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Context: please, if you haven’t yet, read my posts on the Neural Tribe (NT) Perspective –  Neural Tribe (an Introduction to the Meme)  and Neural Tribe Doctrine - to get a better sense of where I am coming from with all of this.  Both of these posts introduce a new narrative about what we are and what we aren’t.

Neural Topology, Neural Stats

Neurons are neurons whether they inhabit a mammalian form or an insect form. Mammalian and insect nervous systems differ in how they are distributed throughout the animal body.

Insect brains – unlike the brains of the vertebrates – are less consolidated and consist of neural ganglia (clusters) that innervate various body-parts. But this is all anatomical topology, different neural schematics, if you wish. But schematics and distribution patterns aside, neurons are essentially neurons, regardless of the species.

Which is why I propose that we unite under the same rubric of the Neural Tribe.

Sure, a typical cockroach has only about 1,000,000 neurons whereas a typical human boasts about 100,000,000,000 neurons. But that’s a difference in neural statistics and not a difference in neurons per se. The number of neurons is a measure of information-processing capacity.   It’s a quantitative difference, not a qualitative difference.  I don’t know about you but I am not sure that the number of neurons makes a difference in terms of one’s sense of being, in its informationally-pure form (e.g. when you are just kind of blank, when you are just being you).   What I am saying is that I am not sure that being a bee feels all that different from being a human being.  My guess is that being feels like being whichever body-form it happens to animate.

Sure, a bee and a human being differ in terms of the information we process, but (if you are familiar with my Lotus Effect thesis) we are not the information we process, we are not the thoughts, feelings, sensations that pass through us.  Subjectively, from within, we are a field of being.  And that just comes with being neural and has nothing …

New Human Narrative (NT Perspective)

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

Context: please, if you haven’t yet, read my posts on the Neural Tribe (NT) Perspective –  Neural Tribe (an Introduction to the Meme)  and Neural Tribe Doctrine - to get a better sense of where I am coming from with all of this.  Both of these posts introduce a new narrative about what we are and what we aren’t.

Neural Tribe is Information-Processing Tribe

Neurons process information and share it with each other.  Thus, neural tribe is an information-processing tribe.  Any life-form that processes information is part of the neural tribe, is part of us.  But (!) the Neural Tribe is not the information itself: we are not the information that we process, we are the ones that process that information.  We are the neurons and the neural colonies that live inside various life-forms that rely on the information to process for survival.

For example, a neural tribe that you are, you inhabit a so-called human body (that consists of various non-neural cells and organs) and, in exchange, for your information-processing prowess this body supports you with nutrient blood flow.  You give the body the information necessary for its survival and the body feeds you so that you can survive.  Neural Tribes are in a kind of information-nutrition barter arrangements with other non-neural cellular tribes as part of the overall metazoan (multicellular/animal) body-plan.  A nervous system is an information-processing system.

As a Neural Tribe, we make our living by information-processing.  And we work in a variety of animal offices, so to say.  Wherever there is a nervous system, there – as a neural tribe – you are.

Neural Tribe is Sentient Tribe

Sentience is a capacity to process information, i.e. to feel, to experience.  No neurons, no sentience.  Thus, anything neural is sentient.  Anything sentient is us.  We, the Neural Tribe, are the Sentient Tribe.  Wherever you find sentience, there – as a species – you are.  Wherever you find neurons, there – as a species – you are.  Whatever neural shapes you are, if you are a neuron then you are sentient.  Whatever complexity of awareness you are, …

Neural Tribe Doctrine

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Nerve cells II
Context: please, if you haven’t yet, read my post Neural Tribe (an Introduction to the Meme) to get a better sense of where I am coming from with all of this.

Neuron Doctrine

We’ve known that any given organism is composed of individual cells as far back as 1839 when Theodore Schwann proposed so.  It took about 50 years (until 1888) to extend this notion to the nervous system.  Santiago Ramon y Cajal was first to seriously posit that nervous system consists of discrete (stand-alone) individual cells (neurons).

“When he started conducting research, Cajal was, like most scientists of his time, a reticularist, believing that the nervous system was a continuous network of interconnected fibers (Iturbe et al., 2008). The major proponent of the reticular theory was the German anatomist Josef von Gerlach. Based on observations made with his gold chloride method, he argued that the processes of contiguous nerve cells fuse to create a meshed network (Gerlach, 1871). In 1888, Cajal started a systematic histological study of the nervous system, making several descriptions and discoveries that would lead him to challenge the widely accepted reticular theory. These important discoveries took place between 1888 and 1894 and were published in the Revista trimestral de Histología normal y patológica (López-Munoz et al., 2006).” (source: Scholarpedia)

Neural Tribe Doctrine

Cajal’s Neuron Doctrine was that nervous system (i.e. you) is made of stand-alone neurons (of neurons separated by synaptic gaps).

The Neural Tribe Doctrine is that neuron is a species, that each of us is a neural colony, and that all of us – across various body-forms – are part of the same neural tribe.

Once again, Cajal’s Neuron Doctrine is : a nervous system is made of disconnected, stand-alone neurons.

Neural Tribe Doctrine re-connects the disconnected neurons into one Neural Tribe :

1.  neuron + neuron + [….] = One Neural Colony/Local Neural Oneness

2. neural colony + neural colony + […] = One Neural Tribe

Cajal found neural separateness.  I am talking about neural oneness, about a platform for identification and compassion, and about the possibility (some day) of translocal neural …

Neural Tribe (An Introduction of the Meme)

Sunday, October 21st, 2012

Nigel the NeuronIntroduction of the NT Meme

A human – or any animal, for that matter – is a multicellular colossus that consists of various cellular types.  One way of looking at our nervous systems is that they are not really systems but colonies of stand-alone neuron (all neurons – as close as they are to each other – are separated by synaptic gaps and, as such, stand-alone).  A cellular colony is a community of certain cell types.   A human, in a typical sense of the word, is an agglomeration of such various cell types as blood cells, adipose cells, muscle cells and neurons.  Neurons are cells – at least, that’s how we usually think of neurons.  The Neural Tribe perspective is a fundamentally different narrative: it’s an attempt to recognize that any life-form that is inhabited by neurons is part of our Neural Tribe (NT).

NT Perspective

The Neural Tribe (NT) perspective is that we are the neurons, not the specific body-forms we inhabit, not the non-neural cellular bricks of our bodily habitats.  Indeed, you can lose and/or replace (in theory) any type of cells without experiencing a change in your humanity.  This is the promise of the next-paradigm prosthetics.  Before too long we will be entering an era of cyborg, an era of brain-machine interfaces in which we hook into/plug into various types of assisting machinery.  Before we got lost in the cyborg housing of the future, we have to, at least for once, get clear on what we are and what we aren’t.  The NT perspective is that Neural Tribe is a Species that inhabits a variety of life-form habitats (we live in human form, in bird form, in fish form, in insect form but we aren’t the body-forms we inhabit).

What We Are and What We Aren’t

So, the question is: who are we?  We are that which we cannot be without.  We can lose limbs full of muscle cells without a sense of being lost, we can take in an infusion of someone else’s blood cells without …

Planet’s Revenge?

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

snakeAmazing chains of cause-and-effect happen on this planet. Here’s one such causal beauty…

1. Meat production is reportedly a big contributor to global warming. “In a 2006 report, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) concluded that worldwide livestock farming generates 18% of the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions — by comparison, all the world’s cars, trains, planes and boats account for a combined 13% of greenhouse gas emissions.” (Source: “Meat: Making Global Warming Worse” in

2. Global warming is reportedly a big contributor to the booming of the tick population. “Nurtured by our warming climate, the tick population is booming – and so are tick-borne diseases.” (Source: Sierra, the magazine of the Sierra Club, December 2012, p. 20).

3. A ticks-borne disease is reportedly a big contributor to the spreading of… vegetarianism. “Ticks may […] be spreading a […] benign condition: vegetarianism. […] Researchers at the University of Virginia have found that a nibble from the Lone Star tick can cause people to become allergic to alpha-gal, a substance found in the meat of hooved animals. Sufferers – at least 1500 have been documented thus far, among them author John Grisham – break out in hives after eating meat. One infectious disease specialist terms the allergy ‘the cow’s revenge.’ (Source: Sierra, the magazine of the Sierra Club, December 2012, p. 20).

Vicious cycles of random irony or a homeostatic feedback loop of a snake trying to eat its own tail?  Planet’s revenge or planet’s compassion?   Whatever it is, it is truly amazing…

Mindstream blog

Creative Commons License photo credit: i_gallagher


The Bird of Presence

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

two crows omenAn eating meditation inspired by a verse from Rig Veda (an ancient Indian text of sacred hymns):

Two birds with fair wings, inseparable companions,

have found a refuge in the same sheltering tree.

One incessantly eats from the peepal tree;

the other, not eating, just looks on.


What is this enigmatic passage about? Who is this “other” bird that is not eating and just looking on? We’ll get to that in a second…

My guess is that most of the readers of my posts about mindful eating are more motivated by weight loss or weight management than by the meditational aspects of mindful eating.   And yet, mindful eating is a wonderful platform for daily meditation.

You see, eating is inevitable, but mindfulness isn’t. When we use eating as an opportunity to awaken ourselves from our zombie-living, we stand to glimpse that elusive, essential sense of self – that silent bird of consciousness – that witnesses our day-to-day behavioral frenzy. Mindful eating – to borrow another metaphor from Buddhist philosophy – is an opportunity to glimpse your Original Face, to come in contact with that immutable, changeless, indescribable sense of presence that is the backdrop to everything else we think, feel or do.

What am I proposing?

A simple thing, really! Now and then, as you eat, pull back for a sec, and ask yourself:

  • Who is this who is eating?
  • Who is this who is right now governing this amazing machinery of flesh that is eating right now?
  • Who is this who is silently supervising this marionette, this puppet of the body as it forks, and knives, and spoons, and chews, and swallows?
  • Who is this who is now asking oneself “Who is this?”

As you struggle to answer this arguably confusing and recursive question that folds back onto itself, know that you are looking straight into your “original face,” that you are acknowledging that fundamental, inexpressible, yet very real sense of self-presence!

And this “you,” this bird of mindful presence that is looking on, is always full, complete, lacking nothing whatsoever, in its primordial perfection!

Adapted from “Reinventing the Meal”

Fashionable Minds

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

Perk from the job, review books! Piling up!Cultural Illiteracy

I immigrated to the US in 1991. I speak English well enough for most of my psychotherapy clients to not bother asking me where I am from. I’ve been here for exactly half of my life (I was 21 when I left Russia) and yet I consider myself largely “culturally illiterate” when it comes down to the nuances of the American Way. I know some but there is also a lot I don’t know.  Many of the pop culture references of the past twenty to thirty years are lost on me.

Minds of Significance

Cultural literacy is not civic literacy. Civic literacy is, for example, being familiar with the Constitution of the country you live in or with its government structure or its election process. I am not talking about that kind of literacy. Nor am I talking about political correctness and knowing the contemporary norms and standards of a given culture. I am talking about knowing who culturally matters.

So, who culturally matters? Actors and athletes? In my opinion, not so much. The political puppets of the day?  Maybe. The barons of industry?  Perhaps.

Who else?

How about scientists?  How about dissidents? How about philosophers?

Here are my current favorites in the above three categories: Lynn Margulis (1938-2011), Noam Chomsky, Ken Wilber.

When I say “my favorite,” I don’t mean to say that I am in complete agreement with them. What I mean to say is that I consider these three to be “minds of significance.” I consider them to be culturally awake. I consider them to be paradigm-breakers. I consider them to be “rascal sages” of the cultural moment.

My three don’t have to be your three. Nor do you have to limit yourself to these three categories (scientists, dissidents, philosophers). Nor do you have to limit yourself to just three. There are tons of awake and sober and conscious people to choose from, there are tons of enlightened minds to follow.

But we – culturally – usually don’t.

Instead we …

Select books by Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.:
Mindful Emotional Eating Reinventing the Meal
Present Perfect
Eating the Moment

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