A Stitch of Self

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.

Being stitches its way through Becoming:

Now you see your essential Self and now – eclipsed by Form – you don’t.

In and out, Being threads its way through the fabric of Nonbeing.

Mind’s Eye, Mind’s Nose

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.

shutterstock_224041396Smell helps mind see at night.

So does hearing and touch.

Point is: all sensations reduce to vision.

See what I mean?

In case you don’t, let me “show” you again: each sense gives mind a model of reality and to model a reality is to envision it.

So, whether it is a nose or an ear, it’s all in the service of a mind’s eye.

Eye image available from Shutterstock.

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A Banality

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.

If we know how to, we love our kids (which is a big “if” (since many of us weren’t loved or were not loved “right”)). They take that love and, hopefully, pass it on (a big “hopefully” since they are so many matching and existential variables involved). That’s how the world is righted, a heart at a time.

A banality, I know.



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Pure Experience

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.

leafsomov“I suddenly realize that at last after more than seventy years of looking I see things as they are – what a phrase, “as they are” – and not, as in all past years, wrapped in concepts, e.g. man, woman, flowers, trees.  I see them now as islands of black and white that move, or spots of color making a herbaceous border or a garden of flowers. [...] If the adult gives oneself over to the pure sensation, then he [she] experiences a fusion of pleasure and sensory quality which probably approximates the infantile experience… The emphasis [of my looking] is not on any object but entirely on feeling and sensation.”

Joseph Lyons wrote this in 1974, in his book “Experience: an Introduction to a Personal Psychology.”

We don’t have to wait until we are seventy or older to suddenly discover this capacity in ourselves.  This non-conceptual way of seeing reality “as it is” is available more or less on demand, with a bit of practice.

What’s the formula?  What’s the method?  The process of getting there is not an easy one to describe.  To put it simply (and, thus, to run the risk of great oversimplification), you have to practice flowing with sensation and knowing how to disengage from the interpretive, labeling eddies of your mindstream.

Let me give you an example of how this works.  Last Friday I was waiting on my wife to finish her Pilates training session in the Market Square of Pittsburgh.  I had about an …

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A Common Sense Definition of Common Sense

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.

shutterstock_121574566I’d like to offer you, arguably, an uncommon definition of common sense.  A definition that I myself refer to as “a common sense definition of common sense.”

Common sense is (literally) what can be commonly sensed. Not thought or felt but sensed.  If you and I are both sensing (seeing) a sunrise, that’s something that we are commonly sensing (by way of seeing). As for the rest of what we typically consider “common sense” – it’s really non-sense, i.e. non-sensible abstractions, not actual things we sense (by way of seeing, touching, hearing, or tasting) but the “thing-less things” we think (i.e. mentally envision, imagine, speculate).

“Sense” is the operative word here.

Redefining common sense in terms of the shared sensory experience (as opposed to defining common sense as the shared fund-of-knowledge or shared belief system or shared living wisdom) allows us to downgrade our assumptions about others’ mind-ware (others’ “operating system”) to a minimum.  This kind of un-presumptuous stance can be helpful in minimizing misunderstanding early on in the human encounter.

To sum up, we commonly share the sensory experience (the sensory input) but we don’t always share our interpretations of this sensory input. So, rather judgmentally, we conclude: “So and so doesn’t have a common sense.”  I think that’s unkind: the reality is that so-and-so does probably share the same sensory experience (same sensory input more or less) as we do.  What’s different is what they think about it, how they interpret the shared sensory data-set.  To think differently is …

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Excitement, Compassion, Not-Knowing

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.

3As a parent I asked myself the other day (while falling asleep) – what am I modeling to my kid?

And here’s what crystallized in mind: “Only three virtues I know and stand for: Excitement, Compassion and Not-knowing.”

Sure, as a parent, there all kinds of things I need to teach and impart and model to my kid, but these three strike me as most essential in my own life.  So, let me un-pack these three words to help you see what I mean and why these three matter to me.

Excitement: we live once, and even if lived forever, we’d be still only living once; with this in mind, I want to model a stance of excitement about life, I want my kid to develop a sense of awe about this bewildering reality, I want to spare my kid that existentially-suicidal ennui and boredom that comes with losing interest and taking life for granted.

Compassion: we are all connected, in fact, life/reality/universe is one seamless oneness; a stance of compassion is about staying in touch with all that is, with that ant on the side-walk, with that fallen leaf under your feet (it too had a story of being born and dying!); compassion helps us slice through the illusion of self: all is one and one is all.  And I want my kid to also get it that compassion is self-care: if all is one and one is all, then whenever you are pausing to step over an ant on …

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A Grief Hygiene

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.

shutterstock_175407059“The cup is already broken,” they say in Zen lore. Yes, we know: we get dogs knowing that we will most likely outlive them. We’ve learned to look at our fragile tech gizmos with that acquired acceptance of “it’s built-in obsolescence.” Impermanence is all around us: Heraclitus knew it, Buddha knew it. We all know it but we work hard to ignore it: we make assumptions of continuity and so we grieve post-factum – after the loss occurs.

What if we grieved in advance – the way Buddhists do – by accepting the impermanence as a fundamental condition of living? By recognizing the “ceasing” part of ceasing-and-arising? Living and dying, beginning and ending, arising and ceasing – are dichotomous word-pairs that describe one and the same seamless process.

What am I trying to say? Only this: “Meditation on impermanence is anticipatory grief work, a grief hygiene of sorts.”



Pavel Somov, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice and the author of 7 mindfulness-based self-help books. His books have been translated into Chinese, Dutch & Portuguese. Somov is on the Advisory Board for the London Mindfulness Center (UK). Somov’s book website is www.pavelsomov.com and his practice website is www.drsomov.com

Broken cup image available from Shutterstock.

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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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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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