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]

I wait on myself, self-servingly.
But I don’t tip.
Bringing two black and white walls of duality into a corner
I stand boxed into a pseudo-truth.
Science will invert you inside out
and show you your nothing.
Believe it.
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.
Plenty of contentment in any given “here” if you let go of expectations.

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

Spoon-wood trees
feed emptiness to itself
Veteran lungs look at themselves exhausted.
Did I breathe all these oceans of air without knowing it?
No way!
Nonduality is self-help kitsch!
Buy it
while it’s on sale.
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.


We all (on autopilot) know our interfaces.

But do we know ourselves?

I leave it up to you to answer:

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Love All That Is

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.

Love all that is.

Even stone.

Even stone is awareness.

Living consciousness awareness.

It (stone) is a slow kind of awareness, too slow for the quick, liquid mind that we – modern-day apes – are.

But all (you and all this other nameless stuff of the Universe) autopoietic entities know their metabolic boundaries, right?

Metabolism is where physics becomes chemistry becomes psychology…

Where all is one, where labels of difference fade into sameness,

and where one is All.


But, get this, autopoeitiec/metabolic boundaries aren’t really separateness.

They (the boundaries, the skin) are Connection (to All That Is) itself.

That which keeps us separate also keeps us unified.

Paradox only if you think in duality.

Otherwise, makes perfect sense.


I am just musing

(on the bewildering complexity of all that is)

I hope you are too.

(musing on the bewildering complexity of all that is).


“Love all that is, even stone.” is all I came here to say now.

I said it.

Time to interpret and/or internalize is never now:

Form is always phase-behind Essence.


Live with, not against.

That’s it.

The rest is repetition (of war and peace).


That’s right, just another another long-winded English-speaking Russian-thinking mind…

East and West meet again


now, here.

Who is? Who is?




Mind is a living text.

Edited in progress.



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“Now” & “Here” Are But Two Words for the Same Nameless Oneness

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.

Looking through a telescope (as some of us do some of the time), we might not know the exact outlines of our local cosmos but we can always and any time know the outlines of our Now.

Oneness is all the same anywhere.

Now & Here are but two words for the same nameless oneness – the spacetime of being.

That (probably) holds true at any coordinate of Reality (i.e. Universe).


Oneness is the best diplomacy.


Most of us look at this spacetime through an intra-scope, i.e. through meditation.

The inner is the outer.

Tat tvam asi.

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Just Sitting or… Is There Even Less to It?

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.

shutterstock_207260647Buddhism, as a healing art rather than a religion, in its therapeutic mandate of healing human suffering, takes the path of getting rid, not of the Suffering, but of the Sufferer…

Let me clarify…

Buddhism, in its strategic (long-term) rather than tactical (short-term) mandate, is not a “feel-good” endeavor, it’s a “feel-nothing” endeavor: “According to Buddhism, the pleasure/pain mechanism keeps people locked into a self-perpetuating cycle of conditioned existence <…>. Any teaching, or medical or therapeutic intervention intended simply to improve the lived quality of people’s lives cannot move beyond the pleasure/pain mechanism, because such tools are themselves conditioned responses designed to make people “feel better.” in order to break out of the cycle of avoiding pain and seeking pleasure, and achieve a state of supraliminal equanimity, an entirely different type of medicine is required, a transcendental one. <…> Dharma leads to a state beyond the very possibility of suffering” (Fenner, p. 2).

That is to mean: beyond the possibility of feeling! Not beyond the possibility of sensing, but beyond the possibility of identification with the sensation. Beyond the possibility of the emotional involvement with the sensation (whether it’s of pain or pleasure). In other words, beyond the posibility of feeling the sensation!

Read on…

According to the doctrine of Anatman (the doctrine of No-Self), “a human is composed of five components <which are> physical form, feeling, perception, drives and impulses, and consciousness. Even the most cherished and seemingly distinctive features of our humanity – affection, loyalty, memory, talent, aesthetic discernment – …

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Vedic Psychology 101

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.

Lotus effect picYou are not this body.

That is the Vedic Psychology 101. When you get this, much changes. Almost too much.

Here’s Swami Bhaktipada on this point and then a word or two from yours truly:

“I am this body.” This is the greatest mistake of all, the mistake underlying all other mistakes. We are not these bodies. This perception is the first in self-realization and is the basis of all yoga. [...] It is this false identification that brings about the miseries of birth, old age, disease, and death. “You are not that body,” yogis have taught their students since time immemorial.

In Lotus Effect, a book of Vedic self-discovery through informational detox of false selves, I argued the same: this idea – the idea that “I am not this body” – is a door at the end of what you thought was a dead-end, a beginning of fearlessness.

This body that you take for mani-pedi – you are not it.

This body you take to the gym to work out – you are not it.

Even the eyes you are reading this with – you can live without them too; so you are not these eyes either.

That’s Vedic Psychology 101.


Vedic Psychology 201 begins with the question: “If not this body, then who am I?”

To graduate, skip to 301: leave the “Who am I?” question unanswered.


Related: Lotus Effect: Shedding Suffering & Rediscovering Your Essential Self (Somov, 2010)

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The Monkey Business of Being Human

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.

CollectionImageHiResFor 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. And while I continued to live this truth that, like UG, like you, I am just a well-mannered modern-day ape, 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 through it in search of a UG-like …

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Zoo of Consciousness

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.

I reject zoos. If I didn’t have a child young enough to still see zoos as entertainment rather than incarceration (conservation rationalizations aside), I’d never go to a zoo. But as it stands, I even have a yearly membership.

Wittgenstein wrote:

“Consciousness in the face of another.  Look into someone else’s face and see the consciousness in it, and also a particular shade of consciousness. You see on it, in it, joy, indifference, interest, excitement, dullness, etc.  The light in the face of another.”

Typically in a zoo I see no joy or excitement or interest or light, but plenty of indifference and dullness – in the eyes of the bored sitting gorilla, in the eyes of crowded fish in the tank, in the eyes of a pacing elephant in a cage.

Yes, when I am in a zoo, I do see consciousness in the face of another – that’s what I see the most, not the stripes on a zebra or the big ears on the elephant or the yellowish fur on the polar bear.  I see that with which I see my own self when I look inside – my own original face.  Which is why I, a fellow primate, reject zoos as a social institution.

A zoo is a correctional facility for the innocent – a consciousness trap.

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Calligraphy of Change

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.

Master Calligrapher Shinagawa Tetsuzan

Change, growth is often invisible. Too subtle, too gradual, too incremental to notice. Sometimes too erratic, too spontaneous – each precedent, each pattern-break as messy as a brush stroke. Yet, eventually a healing vector emerges. A pattern of wellbeing begins to evidence itself.

Shinagawa Tetsuzan, a Buddhist calligrapher and a poet, wrote:

“Don’t know when, but  in the garden of our house a young bamboo is out, growing an inch a day.”

Therapy, as I see it, is a mirror that highlights the slow calligraphy of change: clients tend to be surprised when I point out to them how they used to respond and how they respond now. Sometimes they themselves know that something has changed, but they often lack the “outside data.” Pointing out this growth is catalytic: a mere juxtaposition of the old self with the newer self is sometimes all the intervention that is needed.

Once we become aware of our capacity to grow, we grow.


Related: Ordinary Perfection

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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