Heart (Bhakti) Path by Way of Mind (Gnani) Detours

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D. • Less than a min read

We start out (in life) by resonating with all that cosmically is. Why? Because at the outset of life we are barely distinguishable from not-us, i.e. from all that cosmically is. And then we individuate, differentiate. As Ego evolves away from Eco, this baseline resonance is lost. Narcissistic correction is to surround yourself with human and abstract mirrors that resonate (echo back) to you your self-signal of illusionary specialness. But a hall of mirrors is still a closed system – a shared delusion of melody which in reality is nothing but separative, dualistic noise.

What is the other path, the other correction? Bhakti yoga – a yoga of loving reunion with all that cosmically is. For some it is an intuitive, no-brainer short-cut of the heart. For others Bhakti reunion plays out through the thorny and brainy detours of Gnani yoga. Know how to get back to your cosmic non-self.


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Take the 12 Steps and Sit Down

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D. • 13 min read

csThere is a great book that came out recently, Chasing the Scream, by Johann Hari, a powerful voice to add to the ever growing choir that is trying to rehabilitate the rehab industry and shift the paradigm on how we view addiction and treatment of substance use/misuse.  With this in mind, I decided to repost an old “position piece” of mine (see below).  (By the way, the other voices to note are that of Stanton Peele (Diseasing of America) and of Andrew Tatarsky, the leading expert on harm reduction approaches to substance use treatment).

In my previous work as a clinical director of a drug and alcohol treatment program in a county jail and in my current outpatient work with substance use clients I continuously come across a certain iatrogenic (treatment-related) legacy of powerlessness which stems directly from the 1st of the 12 Steps of the AA/NA philosophy (“We admitted we were powerless over our addiction – that our lives had become unmanageable”).

I get it: admitting that you have a problem is a psychologically healthy thing. But admitting that you are powerless to solve it?! What a self-deflating stumble of a step to start a journey of recovery… What were Bill W. and Dr. Bob thinking?!

Perhaps, Bill W. and Dr. Bob were trying to pull off a bit of East-West synthesis? Perhaps, the thinking was that surrender or letting go of one’s attachment to the idea of being in control …

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“How Can This Mountain Be for Me Alone?”

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D. • Less than a min read

ShT“How can the mountain be for me alone?  Still it is, I think, for me alone,” is one of my favorite tankas by Shinagawa Tetsuzan.

The Universe likes to witness itself.  An argument could be made that conscious life itself is Nature’s hunger for mirroring itself.  If taken at face value, this idea comes to existentially mean that each of us is a mirror.

This morning, up at 2am or so, I look out of the window – Pittsburgh (where I live) is covered with beautiful frost and Tetsuzan’s verse comes to my mind, adjusted in a moment-specific way:

“How can this beautiful snow be for me alone?  Still it is, I think, for me alone.”

Whatever is – in a sense – doesn’t exist unless sense-witnessed by a reflecting mirror of awareness.  And if you happen to be the only mirror who is awake at the moment to sense-witness a given manifestation of this Universe, then this mountain, and this snow, and this proverbial rose (that you are choosing to pause to smell) exists for you alone.  It’s the “this”-ness, the “such”-ness of the moment – if sense-witnessed – that is for you and only you alone right now.

related: 10th Mirror of Consciousness/Lotus Effect


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Slow Emotional Eating

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D. • 2 min read

MeeSlow eating is when you try to eat slowly. Slow eating is a form of mindful eating. It is relaxing, it is self-soothing, it is self-indulgent. You take your time. You put the utensils down in between the bites. You look around and sip wine as you go. You enjoy a good view and good company.

Slow Emotional Eating (SEE), to coin a term, is when you make a conscious choice to eat to cope and you incorporate the slow-eating-know-how. Typically, stress eating is rushed. You feel like you can’t wait to relax so you inhale whatever is in front of you and then you are done. But you don’t feel done – you ate too fast. Maybe you feel a little better, but you want more time with this pacifier. And that’s where slow eating naturally comes in. The following is a list of slow emotional eating suggestions to leverage the most coping per calorie:

  • Give yourself the permission to cope by eating.
  • Start with a few humful breaths as the first course.
  • Allow yourself to indulge on quality not quantity: Eat only what you want to eat, no point in compromising a moment of self- indulgence.
  • Take your time: Set an alarm clock for at least ten or twenty minutes and claim this entire eating time as yours.
  • If possible, get some company (but agree to focus on food and not turn this slow emotional eating into a therapy session).
  • If possible, find a place with a view: If necessary, …

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Thumbs Up to Non-Preference

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D. • Less than a min read

thumbOur natural state is that of balance. Any system (including a living one) is homeostatic, self-regulating. Likes and dislikes knock us out of that sweet balance that we are naturally in. This is a simple thought. You can’t go wrong with it. So simple that it is, arguably, self-evident. But, I think, it’s worth repeating and remembering.

Centuries ago Xu Wugui said something along the same lines:

“If you persist in gratifying all of your impulses and desires, letting your likes and dislikes have free rein, then the foundation of your true nature will suffer.” (Zhuangzi)


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“We Die, and We Don’t Die”

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D. • Less than a min read

ssrShunryu Suzuki said: “We die, and we don’t die.”

Yes: right now you are both coming and going, living and dying. Put differently: right now you are dying and not-dying. It is like that now… and, per my conviction, at any point of time, whether it is right now or at a later now when your conditioning and programming tells you that you are “dying.”

This “ceasing and arising” is a non-stop parameter of reality – regardless of its existential or temporal coordinates.


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Beyond Eating, Beyond Money

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D. • 1 min read

energyDostoyevsky once described money as “coined liberty” (1915, 16). Indeed, money is independence. But what is money?

All money is reducible to one and the same currency: energy. That’s what flows through us, what moves us, and what motivates us. Money energizes because money is energy. The American greenback is a symbolic leaf of life: It starts out as a banknote of photosynthesis and is metabolized time and again through the samsaric mill of metabolic reincarnations until it transmutes into a living leaf of informational and symbolic value that is redeemable for energy. Currency is literally a current — a current of energy trade. As such, money is a fundamentally heterotrophic invention. Money is an exchange of borrowed calories by those who didn’t produce them in the first place. Autotrophs, the energy generators, have no need for money. Plants, unlike animals, are fundamentally and inalienably democratic and energy-independent. Each blade of grass has more sovereignty than any human nation. A blade of grass depends on nothing for its metabolic needs except abundant sun, air, water, and minerals. Each blade of grass is a dominion unto itself. It needs not ask, beg, buy, or trade. It is sovereign.

And so shall Homo solaris be. Reliant on the commons of sun, air, water, and minerals for physiological needs, Homo solaris will be beyond money and thus beyond the corruption of money and therefore fundamentally sovereign and inalienably free.

In his book Life: A Natural History of the First Four Billion Years of Life …

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Sublimating the Binge Eating, Self-Restricting Roller Coaster

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D. • 5 min read

[adapted from Mindful Emotional Eating (Somov, 2014)]


Differentiating a binge from emotional eating or emotional overeating is both hard and simple. Hard if you go a quantitative route, if you count calories. Easy if you go a qualitative route, if you factor in the emotional mandate of these two types of eating. I’ll take the easy path here. The subjective goal of emotional eating is to feel better. The subjective goal of binge eating is not to feel at all (i.e. to numb out, to disassociate somewhat or entirely). What this means is that binge-eating cannot be made mindful. Binge eating is a desire for mindlessness.

Another aspect of binge-eating that might or might not be generally true, but usually is, is that binge eaters are at least partial restrictors. What this means is that they try to compensate for overeating by undereating. In this they begin to approximate the dynamics of bulimia, minus such explicit compensatory behaviors such as purging, over-exercising, or using laxatives. This compensatory tendency of binge-eaters will come in handy when we try to sublimate this eating roller-coaster. You’ll just have to read on to get a better sense of what I mean by “handy.”

Three Approaches to Managing Binge-Eating

As I clinically see it, there are three approaches to managing binge-eating. One is common but impotent – that is an advice of abstinence.

The second one is much less common – it’s an approach …

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Opposable Thumbs, Unopposed Focus

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D. • Less than a min read

Got 6 minutes to kill?  Watch this ordinary miracle. (If this video is legit and not edited) it is the most amazing thing I’ve seen in a long while – not in terms of the visual effects, of course, but in terms of the implications of the highly nuanced consciousness that is running this show and the flawless real-time psycho-somatic coordination that obeys it.

The modern-day apes that we are… we are amazing…

Opposable Thumbs + Pattern-breaking Minds = Ordinary Magic.

What else is there to worship but the ordinary magic of what already so naturally is?! (Not a dig at religion, just a statement of awe…)

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“Life Without Growth Ought to Be Possible”

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D. • 1 min read

A few weeks ago, as I was making room for a Christmas ornament on a book shelf, I spotted a book that I haven’t visited in a while – a book by Christopher Milne, “The Path Through the Trees.”  The last time I took a walk through Milne’s word-trees, so to say, was when I was working on my book Present Perfect.  Back then (as I typically do when I read) I had dog-eared some pages to mark a few favorite hangouts of my mind.  So, as I took the book off the shelf, this forest of words, I knew exactly where I wanted to go… To this place:

“Everything in the man’s world must grow.  Yet nowhere outside his world does this happen.  All living creatures, plants and animals alike, reach eventually the particular size that suits them best and there they stop.  Of course it is our burning ambition for better and still better, our insatiable appetite for more and yet more that has taken us to the top of the ladder.  But now and again it does no harm to look down at the others and see how they manage their affairs.  We may be different from them. But are we so very different?  So it seemed to me then and still seems to me now that life without growth ought to be possible.”

Yes, life without growth ought to be possible.  Maybe you, reader, are already well enough – even if you are not as well as you would ideally like …

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

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