Flow, Pseudo-flow, and Mind Tweaking during Exercise!

This article is about pushing your mind out of the picture so your body can do what it wants to do – go faster and harder.

This article will answer questions such as:

What is mind tweaking? What is Flow? What is Pseudo-Flow?
What is your E-mind? L-mind? CS-mind?
What is “stopping the mind”?
How can I go to the next level of competition?
What is Vipassana meditation? How can it help you have “flow”?

First I talk about three parts of the mind we all have in our heads:

1. Logical Mind – L-Mind
2. Emotional Mind – E-Mind
3. Common Sense Mind – CS-Mind

Is your mind limiting you while you’re exercising and going for Olympic gold?

Mine does. Or rather, it tries to.

I’m not a competitive runner or cyclist anymore. Now I run five or six times a week and I don’t have my road racing bicycle or membership at the local Olympic swimming pool where I used to spend many hours each week. My days as a triathlete are over (for now) and yet I’m still going through some mental gymnastics on most of the days I run hard. What I mean is, I’m trying to break my mind so I can go harder or faster.

I’m running mostly for fun now, but there was a time when I was running for the money so to speak. I was training for 3 – 9 hours per day over the course of two years. I entered running races, bicycle races (roadie), and biathlons and triathlons. I would work the overnight shift at a seniors care home and then drive two to four hours in my Jeep to make it to the starting line early in the morning. I was dog-tired before some of those races because I wasn’t quite conditioned to the overnight work schedule. Yet I was still able to compete because I refused to accept my mind telling me “The Body” was tired or that it wasn’t such a good idea to be racing after a night of no sleep.

In fact, whenever my emotional mind (E-mind) tells me it’s stupid because it can’t be done or really shouldn’t be done – I go ahead and make myself do it. I want to show this part of my mind, along with the common-sense part of my mind (CS-mind) – which is small sometimes, that little things are of no consequence really. I won’t bow to common sense all the time or to mind-blocks thrown up by the E-mind – ever. I won’t let these parts of the mind’s processes overcome what I’m going to do.

I take it personally!

It’s funny, but I really see it that way.

I refuse to let those two things slow down my plans for exercise.

Now I’ll talk a little about the relationship that I have with “the mind” and it’s parts…

To go deeper about the various parts of the mind, the “E-Mind” is the emotional part of the mind. It’s the one that fears things. It’s the one that wants to slow down any attempts to do something that is out of the ordinary or that will require a great deal of effort, whether physical, emotional, mental, or social. The

“CS-Mind” is the part of the mind that relates to common sense. I’ve been known for a lack of it sometimes, and when others see it and point it out to me, it’s usually very surprising.

I tend to see the big picture clearly, but I don’t see the common-sense details all the time. The CS-mind helps me and yet it also joins the E-mind’s side rather often. So, I need to take control over it by using the L-mind.

The “L-Mind” is the part which is logical. It’s the part that is closest to who I think “I” am. It’s almost “The Me” but it’s more like the part that must analyze everything and make decisions that are based on the evidence collected. It’s the part that basically controls me, tells me what to do, unless the emotional or common sense side is briefly in control. The L-mind is the part that I want to handle things because I don’t trust the other two parts – they are too unpredictable and too prone to bad decisions.

“The Me” is the sum total of who I am. It includes all the parts of the mind, as well as “The Body”.

“The Body” is, of course, everything related to the body and how it feels. The L-mind is always monitoring the body, but so too is the E-mind. Sometimes they have conflicting opinions. CS-mind might also add it’s point of view if it seems important. L-mind usually listens to all of it. However, during certain activities, like running or other intense physical exercise where I’m pushing myself to some limit, L-Mind doesn’t listen much to any of it.

L-mind is well-versed at manipulating the other parts of the mind. It knows some little tricks. These little tricks to overcome something… some obstacle, are what I call “tweaks”. Mind tweaks are those mental gymnastics that the L-mind must do to get around the resistance from the E-mind and CS-mind, and sometimes “The Body.” This results in plans being accomplished in a way that will bring personal satisfaction, joy, bliss, accomplishment and success.

Sometimes mind tweaks are done overtly by the L-Mind, other times they are done covertly. Sometimes ignoring the other parts of the mind makes the most sense and the L-Mind just ignores everyone altogether.

If you’re a serious athlete or any kind of athlete that pushes yourself hard in a race or even a time-trial against yourself, this article may help.

If you’re focused on getting better results all the time and you’re running up against a performance barrier that doesn’t seem to be falling down… this article might help you.

I’ve been running all my life beginning at six years old in soccer as a kid growing up. I haven’t stopped for more than a few months since then, and I’m now forty-eight.

I’m a really logical person in general. There is very little I do that is based on emotion. Logic rules me and I feel good like that. I can be emotional, very emotional – but logic drives me all day. I really get revved up about doing things efficiently and producing something of value. Those are the things that drive me, so I let the L-Mind drive the vehicle nearly all the time.

I also have something that affects the mind in another way. I have attention deficit disorder (ADD). I refuse to take medication for it because I don’t want to stifle any creativity, but with this problem there is always something new to pay attention to that has nothing to do with anything I have planned.

And maybe that’s part of the problem while I’m running.

The L-mind is always active. It’s always monitoring things. When I’m writing – like now – the L-mind is monitoring the spelling of every word. It’s judging whether I’m chugging along fast enough to be able to write a five-thousand word article by the time this internet cafe closes (I’m in Thailand at the moment). It’s also monitoring ten other things going on nearby. There is a boy and girl chatting at the table twenty yards away. A guy is washing dishes behind me. Music from a radio station is playing on the speakers. There is email making a ding when it lands in my inbox. The discomfort of my seat. The birds I heard… etc.

When I’m exercising, the L-Mind is studying every single action that is going on with the body and anything coming in through the senses as a byproduct of ADD. The L-Mind registers each movement and is gathering bio-feedback from “The Body”. Unfortunately the E-mind is getting it too.

I wish there was a way to knock out the E-mind completely for hours at a time. The E-Mind part of the brain is the one that tells me that I’m maybe going too fast and I’m going to pull something. It tells me that there’s no rush, run again tomorrow or later in the day… don’t push it too hard – something bad will happen.

It, along with the common sense mind (CS-Mind) tells me things like, “there’s moss on that sidewalk – and you can feel you’re slipping a bit, what if you fall and tear a ligament?”

Or, “What if you twist your ankle on all these broken sticks laying all over the path after the summer storm yesterday?”, and, “It’s dark, is that a snake? You know there are many different kinds of poisonous snakes here in Thailand…”

I don’t know if any of you reading are like this – or if you notice it. I think you must have this little monologue running through your heads too as you’re exercising. I’d hate to think I’m a weirdo on this. But, my brain is constantly in this “fear mode” when I’m running or exercising and pushing myself over 85% of my maximum effort.

The E-Mind is paying too much attention to fear.

The L-Mind is watching without emotion or reaction to the variables – but it’s monitoring them, and when something really IS worth paying attention to, it will do so.

Now when I’m running, the logical side is monitoring breathing and it’s counting in and out-breaths in relation to how many times the feet are hitting the concrete or path.

Logically I know that 4 strides for an in-breath and 4 for an out-breath is a nice easy pace about 60% (or less) of maximum effort and I can go at that for quite a while without any trouble. In fact, I could go like that for 2 hours if I wanted. I don’t see any point in long, slow, distance (LSD) training like that for me now – and so I don’t do 4/4 breathing for any length of time, just for ten minutes of warm up and to see how I feel before I go harder.

I know that 3/3 – three strides for an in-breath and three strides during an out-breath is medium effort but still on the low end. I’m at about 70-75% of max when I’m at that breathing rate.

When I hit 2/2 breathing that’s a pretty big range of effort considering it can be 75-100% of maximum.

I do hit 1/1 occasionally, but it doesn’t last long. It is very difficult to keep that up for more than a few minutes.

I usually have to tweak the mind a bit when I get into the 2/2 range – and especially at anything over 85% of maximum effort.

There are some days though that I am “flowing”… it appears as if there is no mind and I am only “The Body”. The Body is flowing without the mind – and there is no thought really, just a unfathomable concentration on what the body is doing. The focus is totally on the present and it’s not a form of zoning out – it’s a form of just zoning IN and being entirely present with what the body is doing – without the mind at all except a feeling of smoothness or fluidity. It’s an incredible state that happens when it wants, there’s no making it happen consistently.

But you know what?

I know some of you know this state. It happens to great athletes quite a bit. They have practiced their movements during whatever it is that they’re doing – so that it becomes second nature… they get into the flow quite a bit and have these incredible peak experiences that most of us dream about. Their peak experiences are the top in the world, but that doesn’t mean as mortal men and women we can’t have some darn good ones too!

Here’s a small secret…

there IS a way to make it happen sometimes.

More about that in a minute.

There are a couple little mind tweaks I might implement over the course of a run. Actually, I sometimes start before the run. Mind tweaks are nothing more than little Jedi Mind Tricks that fool me into something.

Say it’s before the scheduled run. The E-Mind might be whining about something. It doesn’t want to go running. It knows already there is no question about whether running is going to take place today. It IS going to happen. Yet, the whining emotional mind continues with small reminders that it’s not really with the plan. It might bring up some alternatives to running that sound quite attractive. Pizza dinner. Writing more articles for Crank101. Sex!

Crazy things, it can pull out all the stops.

Usually I focus on something else on the agenda that I must do and E-mind sort of disappears quietly into the background. I don’t give any more attention to the emotional mind. As long as I don’t pay it any attention, it won’t come back until we’re at the park to run.

So, that’s Mind Tweak #1. Ignore any protests from the E-mind by refocusing on something else. The subject you choose to focus on can be just about anything if the protests are weak.

Or, you might play hard-ball. Once you realize the E-Mind is going to try to trick you into not running, you could start getting your shoes on immediately – upping the ante. Maybe you planned on going at 5:30 p.m. but since the E-mind is whining already you’re going to go an hour earlier because you really don’t want to be dealing with it for a whole hour while you try to get other things done. That’s a good way to shut it up the next time, and I actually found that the mind does very little of this type of mild protest whining before we go running anymore. In fact, usually there is nothing at all.

Many people have doubts about running or exercise before they go, and the E-mind ends up talking them out of the activity! I can’t let that happen! Neither can you, apply Mind Tweak #1 or #2 quickly.

The emotional mind must understand that it’s NEVER in control when it comes to things that matter. Running matters. Running is a logical thing. It’s emotional only when winning a race or doing especially well – and that’s at the end of the race when some emotion pours forth – spontaneously.

And how cool is that?

There’s nothing coming out of the E-Mind that I’m going to listen to before a run unless it deals with The Body complaining that it isn’t 100%.

I do listen to that. After many years of running I have a good idea what an injury feels like before it happens. I usually know when I can take some tylenol or coffee and run though it. I usually know about how much to push myself during a run in which The Body isn’t 100%. I usually know how much time I can exercise without pulling something. I also know the signs of an impending injury, like when the pain increases at a greater rate than it was up until that point.

If you’re a runner or other athlete that regularly pushes your body, you will probably also have a good sense for how “The Body” feels and when it’s a good idea to listen to it. Some people never get a good handle on it – and they continue to push when they shouldn’t. They’re often injured because their logical mind doesn’t listen to “The Body” or the E-Mind – which will kick in too, and loudly once it realizes there WILL be an injury unless the exercise is halted immediately.

So, always listen to various parts of the mind if they’re talking about “The Body” and evaluate. Err on the side of caution and over-protection so you keep yourself from getting injured.

I know, it’s easy to say that right? When you’re motivated to run and accomplish your fitness goals, it can be quite a hard thing to listen to the E-Mind telling you “Um, bro? ‘The Body’ is not 100%”. Because when I hear that, the first thing I responded with in the past was, “You’re NEVER 100%, now let’s pull it together and do this!”.

However, that isn’t the first thing I say anymore because I used to get injured too much.

These days I take a good look at the pain. If I’m exercising, I might stop and see what makes it worse. Does it go away when I stop? Does it feel like a tightening? A knot? A sharp pain? Sharp pains rarely get better if you continue. Dull pains of some sorts just go away as you loosen up. Calf muscles are like this. Sometimes I sit for twelve hours at a computer, and then ten the next day before I go running. My legs have atrophied from doing absolutely nothing but trips to the restroom some days!

Calves are still an area where I pull something every now and then. Groin too. I tend to have a longer stride when I run fast – perhaps too long, and that pulls something occasionally.

So, moving on. The next mind tweak I’ll describe is put into play as I’m running.

Let’s say I’m at a 3/3 breathing level. Three steps as I breathe in and three as I breathe out. I have slowly ramped up from a 4/4 and now I’ve been at 3/3 for about fifteen minutes or so.

I notice that The Body wants to go faster. I feel strong, the breathing is good.  The Body wants to go into the 2/2 range. This is also the range where the L-Mind and E-Mind start getting revved up because now we’re doing some speed. There’s something to be proud of at this point. This is what control and power is all about when I run. I love to feel that – all systems are go and we just kicked the body into a hardcore workout. This is a great state to be in and the one that I try to keep the body in for as long as possible before dropping back down to a 3/3.

Though the E-Mind is excited and should savor the bliss of the experience, it is more fearful. It will question the logic of increasing speed. “Does the body REALLY feel that good?” It asks. “Is it safe to push that hard right now? How is the heart? Pulse? Breathing? Calves? Toes? Are the shoes snug enough?  Are your socks too wet – will you get a blister? Is it too hot? Could heat stroke happen? Did you sleep enough last night?”

And so it goes through all these questions. Sometimes the L-Mind, in an attempt to appease the E-Mind will just patiently answer all the questions. Once they’re all satisfactorily answered the L-mind gives the order to “The Body” to go full after-burners.

So, that was Mind Tweak #2. Exhaust all questions about whether “we’re” ready to increase speed and go hard. By exhaustively answering the questions, the L-mind gets the greenlight because the E-Mind has nothing left to ask and shuts up. This is a good tweak to use if there really might be a possibility that it isn’t a good idea to crank hard at the present time.

Mind Tweak #3 can be implemented during the same kind of run… going from 3/3 to a 2/2 level. The emotional mind starts to build the list of questions… the logical mind, being so in-tuned to the body, KNOWS that all systems are go – and it’s time to take it to the next level. At this point the L-Mind will just ignore all questions from the E-Mind and instantly increase the effort to max, effectively killing all questions from the E-Mind.

Ignoring all the questions in Mind Tweak #3 tends to put the mind in a state of quiet. As the body goes into the high-speed 2/2 mode the mind is watching all systems like a virus scanner watches the computer. It’s watching to see if there is any serious problem with anything in the system. There is usually not much thought at ALL at this point.

This is the experience of “being” the exercise. It’s like there is no mind present. There aren’t any thoughts of yesterday, tomorrow, or your spouse. You literally ARE the exercise. You ARE running. You are only that. You are focused entirely on the doing and there is nothing else.

When this happens it’s a good thing – needless to say. This is sometimes referred to as being in the flow – but to me there is more to being in the flow than just this. For me this state of being the exercise occurs during nearly every run or intense exercise. The Flow does not. It happens occasionally. For me, true flow happens one or two times per week, and only a big handful of times each month.

I found recently that I can initiate the flow to some degree.

When I do it, I call it “Pseudo-Flow.” I’m not sure how close it is to the original, or how valid it is since it’s kind of a manipulation of mind to get there – but, it is a flow of some sort that I can’t distinguish from regular flow in terms of performance. However, the factors that brought it on are different (forced) and the feelings or lack of them are different during the experience.

I’ll try to explain.

First a little bit about natural flow.

The natural flow happens on it’s own. There is almost no thought if I’m running and in the true flow. Sometimes it even kind of starts before I even start running. During a run where flow is present there is a natural slow buildup to speed and an easy, effortless switch into high gear that is blissful and not painful or negative in any way. It is pure experience and yet it’s experience at a very high level – the body is functioning in a way that feels effortless. There may be a numbness to the body… and yet the eyes are taking in the speeds that are being reached, so though the eyes and logical mind know something incredible is happening, “The Body” and the E-mind are kind of subdued – they are almost numb too. It’s like dopamine numbing the mind and yet one is fully present and aware of all that’s happening.

It’s a state of bliss because there is no thought, only direct experience and amazingly efficient and fast exercise without realizing that it’s taking bodily or mental effort. There are some feelings that go along with true flow though. It’s a feeling of being in a peak experience. It’s a bliss or a feeling of great competence, of being a master of the activity. It’s like I feel as if I’m slippery through the water when I’m swimming, I’m making exactly the right strokes with my arms and my hands feel the water perfectly as I push it to propel me forward. Or, if running, it’s as if I’m so light on my feet and yet I’m flying really fast. I’m breathing fast and regularly but it’s a perfect state of existence during the run – my body is a perfect machine and there is no pain or negative that exists during it.

“Flow” can exist in many things. It exists with activity that requires thought – writing for instance. I might bang out a 10,000 word article straight through in 2 hours. It happens sometimes. I’m not sure what is going on – but there is such an efficiency achieved… a fluidity and an ease of producing great writing that it’s just about unexplainable.

Pianists talk of flow. Basketball players and golfers. Swimmers and football running backs.

Here’s how I initiate the pseudo-flow, as I call it.

Remember I told you about Vipassana meditation at the beginning of this article? Vipassana meditation can slow the mind down over time and one can actually reach a point where the mind can actually STOP. Well, it can stop all the thoughts in the mind. The mind becomes so at peace that thought ceases. It’s an incredible state that could never be explained with words, yet I often try to. If you are interested you can read the free e-book here and if you’re more interested you can try it for yourself. It may take months to reach a point where you’re able to reach a silent mind or a mind that has stopped all thought.

I think if you follow the steps I’ve outlined you CAN though. It happened to me in a short time of meditating. It wasn’t long before I could do it any time I chose. For instance, as I’m writing this I can stop the mind and though I can’t type I am fully aware of everything that is going on around me. I am just living pure experience without relying on memory or the mind chatter that asks me questions, names things, and accesses memory and fear about the future. It’s a great state to live from and it’s said that perhaps those that are enlightened live in this state 24 hours per day and 7 days per week.

I’m not sure about that, but I do know that it’s been an incredible tool to have over the years.

I use it to analyze anger, frustration, any emotion that pops up… any attachment that leads to disappointment. I use it to relax. It is incredibly relaxing in that state. Some claim to not need sleep if they just lie in bed in that state for a half hour or so every few hours. I believe it, though I’ve not tried it much more than a few days – and yes, I felt great without sleeping. Perfectly fine really. Doing it long-term I’m not sure about – but I think it must be possible.

How I use this to reach the pseudo-flow is like this…

Anytime I’m feeling very good and yet the mind is too active with questions and concerns about running or maybe even concerns that have nothing to do with running. Maybe I’m worried that I’ve screwed something up on my web site code that can’t easily be fixed… maybe I’m worried about a family member… it could be anything.

If I choose, I can stop all thought in the mind. I can shut off the thought.

When the thought shuts off – there is nothing that is distinguishing it from the true flow – except how I came about getting there and there is literally NO feeling about anything – no feeling of mastery or anything about feeling very efficient and competent. But there is no pain or fear either.

Later as one goes faster and faster without adding any more concerted effort, the feeling is one of bliss and yet it’s a little more moderated maybe. It’s a little less “feel good” because the mind is completely absent. There is a good feeling to be running… and there is no pain. There is no mental or physical effort that can be noticed, and yet one can run at maximum speed for a while before the breathing catches up and shuts the body down a bit – forcing a drop down to 90% effort for a few minutes before trying again if one wishes to.

There is less experience of “power” or “control” than with true flow because there aren’t thoughts to reinforce those feelings.

In a way it is nicer than pure flow because one is not happy or sad – just DOING. It is truly just doing, whereas “true flow” has some more recognition of the emotions that are present… Psychological needs are being fulfilled because one feels powerful, exuberant, in control, efficient, strong, balanced…

With pseudo-flow there is none of that going on emotionally. There is balance. There is peace. There is an effortless moving in a very efficient manner. There is a realization that this is “pseudo-flow” though there is no feeling of achievement for having done it – just a real zero-emotion state but one in which the body is operating at the same peak state as pure flow.

I should try some experiments on my own – but I think they’d be too subjective. I’d like to know – is there any difference in performance between the two types of flow. I think too hard to experiment with because the true flow just comes on when it wants and I’d not be able to tick off the distance or times and I probably wouldn’t even care to. Perhaps it would kick me out of the flow experience? Not sure.

I’ve not read of anyone else talking about this stuff and I’m surprised. Well, I am and I’m not. I’ve not met anyone else that can stop the mind at will, but I’m sure there are some. I’m SURE others can do it if they follow the steps in my e-book, though, to be honest, meditation is not such an easy thing to tackle. It’s hard work! It is very difficult to watch the mind time after time, watching thoughts, watching breath… to the point where the thought starts to slow and then stop.

Most people fuse religion with their meditation which heaps on expectations about the experiences one will have – this alters the whole process and actually puts more stumbling blocks in the way of the mind becoming quiet.

I’d like to hear from anyone that has tried this technique to compare thoughts and observations. Though it’s new to me and I think I’m the only one talking about it, on the other hand I realize that SOMEONE else has done this – so maybe they’ve got it online.

I’ll Google it and see what I can find!

As a technique to overcome e-mind and “just do it” so to speak, I don’t think there could be anything better. But, there might be, and I’d love to hear about it if you want to tell it!

As always, send email (AimforAwesome ~ at ~ gmail) or leave comments if you have any questions or comments about this article!

Best of Life!

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Quieting Recurring Subconscious Popcorn Through Dream Interpretation

Human brainAs I was going through my undergrad psychology program I got really interested in finding out about myself. I wanted to know everything I could about me. Why am I like this? Who am I? Why is this group of things important to me but not to other people? Why are some things of great importance to other people not important to me at all? What is my intelligence? What is the ultimate goal of life? Why are we here as human beings?

I began devouring books on western philosophy, Hinduism, Buddhism, the Hare Krishna movement, transcendental meditation, Vipassana meditation, Hatha Yoga, Chakras, hypnotism and many other subjects. I also began meditating at this time which I’ve talked about a little bit in my posts here but that’s covered more in-depth in my bio.

I knew some of the “why” questions about life were unanswerable but I wanted to find the answers I could about me. That was the most important thing I thought – figure myself out. In a short time it became apparent that I had to do whatever was possible to eliminate the negatives I was carrying around as baggage. If I got rid of my baggage I could begin to fully optimize my consciousness. Apparently there was negative material in the conscious and the unconscious (subconscious) and it was apparent that the subconscious was the place to start, it being the more primary level.

In the psych program I was learning a lot about the mind and Freud’s interpretation of how the subconscious (unconscious) affects our lives.

Freud said, “Dreams are the royal road to the unconscious.”

We had some classes about dream interpretation and I realized I really needed to start looking closely at my dreams to find some of the answers I was looking for. In particular, the dysfunctions show up rather overtly in dreams. I knew from my studies that dreams were really important as indicators of what’s going on underneath the conscious mind and that they could help me become a better person. Less stressed. Less dysfunctional.

Dreams happen while parts of our brain are active during sleep. Dreams are both psychological and physiologically based.

Physiologically, states of sleep are measured using an electroencephalograph (EEG) attached to the scalp by small electricity sensing electrodes. Using the EEG tiny amounts of brain activity called “waves” are recorded. There are two distinct types of brain wave activity during sleep: Non-rapid eye movement (NREM) and Rapid eye movement (REM).

NREM sleep consists of four stages the sleeper enters progressively, passing deeper states as larger and slower brain waves prevail. Stage 1 marks the transition between being awake and Stage 1 sleep. In this stage brain wave activity goes from beta waves indicating wakefulness, to alpha waves. Stage 2 is light sleep. The body prepares for deep sleep by moving through theta waves to delta waves. Stages 3 and 4 are deep sleep stages characterized by prominent delta waves with Stage 4 being the most intense.

In REM sleep, brain activity is heightened, similar to the awakened stage 1 state with some differences. The eyes remain closed, but move back and forth from left to right, sometimes rapidly. The muscles of the body are usually paralyzed during REM sleep. This is a good thing because during a bad dream the dreamer is prevented from harming himself or others. Heart rate and respiration increase. Dreams are most easily recalled while woken up in this state of REM sleep.

I noticed I remembered my dreams the most clearly on nights when I woke up around 5am for a restroom trip. When I awoke again later after falling asleep again I had a lot of trouble recalling the details of my dreams. It seemed that 5am was about the best time for me to recall them.

I bought a mini-digital voice recorder so I could record my dreams as soon as I woke up, enabling a much better recall and in-depth analysis later that same day.

Your subconscious mind is incessantly throwing dysfunctional thoughts around like a hurricane full of popcorn. Occasionally some of that popcorn blows up out of the subconscious and into the conscious mind where you might think about it or ignore it all within a fraction of a second. If your subconscious is filled with fear about different issues, then the “fear popcorn” flies up into your conscious mind often and is able to influence your thoughts and decisions there. This fear popcorn can then influence your present actions, plans, future actions and your entire life really. It’s nothing to ignore, you need to take strong action to resolve whatever dysfunctional popcorn your brain is continually cooking up.

I’m a strong believer in removing all the major types of popcorn flying around in your subconscious so you can have a conscious life that is almost entirely uninterrupted by negative subconscious influences.

Subconscious material is usually based around fear, anger and sadness. In graduate study my practicum professor, Dr. Barry Naster (Hamid) shared with me his theory about treating people with mental disability. He used the acronym, “FLASH” to designate the 5 basic feelings every person has. Fear. Love. Anger. Sadness. Happiness. Notice there are 3 negative and 2 positive emotions?

Of these, fear, love and sadness tend to really influence our dreams. Our dreams arise from material in the subconscious that hasn’t been dealt with adequately in the conscious mind. The subconscious will cook up popcorn around this material for 72 years until you die if you never deal with it.

“Dreaming permits each and every one of us to be quietly and safely insane every night of our lives,” said William Demen. This view comes from the idea that dreams are formed as a way for us to deal with unresolved issues in our minds. Things that we’d dare not do socially in front of people can be acted out in the safe environment of dreams. Those with a lot of these socially unacceptable desires will have more dreams of this nature.

I think most of my dreams are of the fear, sadness and anger variety. But I can see that some of them had unresolved desire components that couldn’t be acted out socially too. Dreams appear to offer a safe place to let your mind question everything and do everything that it needs to do to resolve the desires and questions it has. If the dream is especially emotional it will push that content to the conscious mind in the form of memory when you wake up or it might even wake you up as you’re dreaming about it.

For many years I had dreams about walking through the woods and seeing bears unexpectedly. In this case, it was actually BEARS that I was afraid of due to some horror stories I was told while camping by my uncles and my mom’s friend. Alligators were a big thing too, though that was based on something else. Then there were the tornado dreams. Of course I had the common falling off a cliff dream occasionally too.

I began interpreting each dream so I could rid myself of the subconscious popcorn and live a more free, balanced life that was uninfluenced by fears, sadness and anger from the past. Here’s how.

If you are currently able to remember your dreams when first waking up then you’re ready to go. Or maybe you are like me and the early morning restroom trip is an almost nightly occurrence and you remember your dreams then. Great. If you don’t remember your dreams when you wake up, no matter because you’re probably having them, you just need to change when you wake up. Try setting your alarm to wake earlier, don’t worry you’ll probably be able to return to sleep after dictating your dreams – if not, no harm done because you’re awake at an early hour when everyone is sleeping! It can be a very productive time of day! What you’re doing is important enough that you must make yourself wake up. Think like that. Act like that. Make it happen.

If you normally wake at 7am, set your alarm for 6am. Do you remember your dreams when you wake up? If not, try 5am. If not, try 4am. If not – and so on. People dream most heavily during the last stages of sleep so you shouldn’t have to wake up much before 4am! I notice If I wake at 5:30am I’m able to remember the most clearly. Usually I’m sleeping by 10:30 – 11pm at night.

Before you sleep set your alarm and put the recorder close to your bed and within a short reach. If you’re using your phone to record, as I did for a while, make sure you find the voice recording program in your list of applications and set it up before you sleep. In the early hours you don’t want to be fumbling around clicking 16 buttons to get started recording. You should be able to roll over, grab the recorder and click once or twice to start recording.

You may notice during recording that you’re making NO sense at all. That’s OK. Sometimes that happens and it will be even more bizarre later when you listen to it awake, believe me. It’s hilarious actually.

After you wake up and you have some time to begin analyzing your dream(s) get a pad of paper and pen and make sure you’ll be free of distractions. Start playing the first bit from your recorder. When one sentence has passed STOP the recorder and write it down. Leave a few spaces and play and stop again after one sentence, writing it down exactly as you said it into the recorder.

Once you’ve copied down the entire dream you shouldn’t go on to the next one which might be influenced by what you just heard and wrote down from the first dream.

Start reading over your first sentence. Look at the words you used. Bear? Dog? Honolulu? I always look at the nouns first and as I say them I might realize the word means something more than what it does at face value. Dreams are made of symbols. The word is a symbol for something else. Dreams are built on these symbols. The mind puts together a story based on symbols and what words really mean – to create the dream. It’s what the word means to you that’s important, not the face value of the word. However, some words might mean exactly what they are – you know? Sometimes certain symbols in your dream mean the same as they do for other people. Sometimes your symbols are unique. Don’t let someone tell you what your symbols mean. Dream interpretation should be phenomenologically based (specific to each person).

So, I do a quick free-association for each noun and see what else comes up as a possible meaning. For ‘bear’ maybe “Professor Sanocki” comes to mind. For ‘dog’ maybe “taking care of” comes to mind. For ‘Honolulu’ – maybe it means “home” to me. And so on. Write down what each noun means to you – really means to you in your mind.

Once you go through the sentence for nouns, check the other words and phrases. See if they might mean something other than what they appear to be. Maybe they won’t. Finish one sentence before going to the next. When the dream interpretation is finished then read over it and try to get the overall feeling about the dream. Was it fear about something? Anger? Sadness?

Then, define more clearly what fear, sadness, anger or combination of these the dream was really about. What is the issue that needs dealt with about these feelings? Can you name it? That’s the goal, name exactly the situation, the memory, the ongoing problem that is going to keep making subconscious popcorn until you address it.

Different problems in the subconscious require more or less thought about them before they disappear. If the major feeling in your dream was fear that you’d forget your combination lock at school – then it wouldn’t take much more than writing it down on the side of your rubber soled shoe in order to stop that dream. For me in high school this was one of my fears. I refused to write down the combination and I had many locks. One for my bike, one for my soccer locker, and one for my regular school locker. I had the dream all through high school and even into college about forgetting the combination to my locks. I could have taken care of it back then and it would have vanished if I’d just given it some thought and created a solution.

Freud’s idea was that the meaning of all dreams was about unfulfilled sexual desire and impulses. He might interpret my dream about failing to remember my locker combination as really meaning I was impotent. You might guess that I don’t put much credence in that line of thinking. Freud had some incredible ideas and much of it is still in use today. However, his head seemed to be planted firmly in his crotch as he attributed the meaning of everything to be of a sexual nature.

Your dream might be as simple to resolve as my combination lock dream. Even as simple as it was, it caused me bad dreams and stress for a long time. The feeling of dread as I went up to my soccer locker and tried many number combinations that didn’t work, and the soccer bus was leaving without me because I couldn’t get my uniform was a really sick feeling. Something so simple created so much negative energy over years of time.

So even the small issues are worth fixing quickly. If you have some major issue that you need to resolve you might need to spend a lot of time thinking about it consciously and working out the reality of it. Reality kills the power that fear, anger and sadness have. You might have had a bad experience years ago and you dream about it. Getting over it so it doesn’t have the power to affect your life anymore might take a couple days. It might take a week or month of counseling. It might take refocusing your mind on other areas. It might take talking to the person you had the bad experience with – or role playing talking to the person and getting it out out of your system. It might take hypnosis, aversive therapy, or behavior modification.

Whatever it takes – get it the hell out of your system and stop letting it affect your life. If you don’t, the most ridiculous and the most devastating experiences will have the power to be relived over and over as the subconscious pops the corn day after day and night after night.

Dream interpretation can help you resolve nearly every issue in your life because dreams are like a peek into your own private world of dysfunction – and all of us have one.

Once you can interpret the real meaning to the symbols in the dream and get at the feelings, eventually being able to define the exact problem that’s causing the bad dreams you’re on your way to a much more fulfilling, stress free, happy life!

USE your bad dreams to fix you. It’s not brain surgery and you probably don’t need to see a psychologist. Put the time in to do some dream work and get to know all your dysfunctions and go about systematically resolving them through dream interpretation one by one.

Though I don’t believe in the Scientologists’ game plan for living their lives or that the e-meters they use have any credence at all, I do believe that they’re on the right track with attempting to become free of subconscious and conscious garbage that stays in the mind until we do something about it.

Ideally we need to identify all our conscious and subconscious dysfunctional thoughts, memories, habits, superstitions,  and then work on getting rid of every one of them.

So, you can go about things this way as one method to become self actualized or move to a higher consciousness that is less affected by the subconscious… or there’s another way. I don’t know if I’d call it easier for everyone, but for me it was much easier.

That will be the next article…

Quieting Recurring Subconscious Popcorn Through Meditation

Best of Life!


Thought… What is it? Part 2 (Focus on Pain)

Buddhist art at a temple in Sisaket province, Thailand.In the first “Thought… What is it? Part 1 I looked at the nature of thought from the standpoint of thoughts produced by sounds. Today we’ll look at thoughts produced by pain in the body.

Recently I’ve started meditating again on a rather regular basis and my back has been steadily pounding with pain. I injured my back a long time ago (1983) while playing a soccer game for my highschool. I was a very emotional player and that worked to my disadvantage in this case. When emotional – the muscles are easily pulled in the back for some reason. The chiropractor I went to after the injury – which was god-like in his ability to instantly remove the most serious throbbing pain told me so. I had no reason to disbelieve him – so I guess it’s true. I also noticed over the last 25 years that I tended to re-injure my back during times I was angry or anxious about something. Bizarre how state of mind can affect state of nervous system.

The pain I feel is in the nerve, it doesn’t really go away for a long time once it starts. A long time meaning a month or so.

So, this is a good time to focus on thoughts about pain.

Is pain real, or is pain a thought?

What a question. If it’s not real – it might be able to be controlled. Some people undergoing severe torture report that their mind goes to a different place as they experienced extreme torture. Some people dissociate from their bodies or from themselves they say. Some create multiple personalities – one that deals with everyday life and one that deals with stressful or painful situations. Children sexually and physically abused typically display some form of this, though not always outright separate personalities.

As I sat to meditate I looked at pain. I’ve done this before as my back really hurt the first month or so I started meditating many years back.

What is pain as a thought?

Back pain, is given a location inside the back – not surprisingly. It doesn’t show up on the visual field of view like sounds did from part 1 of this thought series. Back pain is in the nerves in this case, I picture the pain to be not just in one tiny spot, but along a nerve cord. Of course that is thought creating that mental picture because when I really look at it – the pain is just generally in one spot. It’s strong and throbbing until I direct my attention on it.

At times then it grows in intensity… other times, it dwindles. What is going on? I notice when I direct attention at it and really feel the pain – the discomfort – the negative aspect of it, that it creates feelings about it. I get angry that I have this pain. I get upset, wishing that it were otherwise. I get a bit frustrated that I can’t do things I want to do – even sit quietly and meditate without pain because the feeling is so overwhelming it demands attention.

As I pay more attention to the pain I notice – it throbs… Sometimes it throbs many times in a short period of seconds – other times it arises slowly and reaches a peak – throbbing more as I feel it more. It seems that pain is not static- but, changes. No matter what pain I’ve observed as I meditate – in my feet, my muscles, my back, a fly biting me, sweat running into my eyes… I notice that pain is fluctuating. Never staying the same for very long.

If I attempt to focus attention elsewhere the pain escalates to see if it can grab my attention. It’s finicky like that. It’s like a child craving attention. Once attention goes away, the bad behavior of the child escalates. Pain seems to do this.

If I focus attention on the pain for a long time I notice that it isn’t really perceived as pain anymore. Guys training to be Muay Thai fighters here in Thailand at some point start to kick with their shins at boards or trees to toughen their shins and dull their response to pain. It’s really to habituate themselves to the pain. The pain is incredible at first, then lessens the more they do it. Back pain is like this… if we avoid looking at the pain – it seems so strong. So powerful. If we focus on it – and just experience it for long periods, minutes or tens of minutes it loses it’s power to affect us much. And the pain lessens.

I noticed that thought about pain can make the pain much worse. The more I think about what the pain means – like in the case of a cut finger or foot – the worse the pain appears to get. Thought worsens the pain by attributing horrible scenarios of the future resulting from the pain. Suppose a laceration gets infected with staphlococcus? What then? Oh, I can really feel it hurt then.

What if the back pain I’m feeling means that my nerve is permanently malfunctioning and I’ll feel this same level of pain the rest of my life? Or, what if it means that my vertebrae are misaligned and one wrong twist at the hip will cause a vertebrae to cut my spinal cord or cut into it – effectively paralyzing part of my body?

Thought makes the pain worse when it’s thoughts about how the future could be affected by the present pain.

I notice that when I talk about pain – tell whomever I’m with how much it hurts… sometimes on a daily basis… it hurts more. I notice it more. I notice that when I stop talking about it completely – it isn’t noticed as much. If my mouth doesn’t say anything about it – it lessens. Or, it’s perceived as less pain. If my thoughts don’t exaggerate the meaning of the pain – it’s lessened. If I direct my attention and focus of my mind to the pain and really look at it – it hurts for no longer than a minute or two now, then I go back to whatever I was doing and can ignore the feeling for a while before having to consciously re-focus on it.

Is pain real?

It’s real in the sense that it’s there. But, we can manipulate it without medicine if we just apply attention to it. Really look at it and feel it. Eventually the power it has over us lessens. It’s amazing to see.

Pain has a thought component and physical component. The physical component seems to be easily manipulated by the thought component. To what degree would depend on to what degree your mind needed to change it. Some people walk across desserts with blistered feet. Some live with migraines. Women live through horrible menstruation cramps every month. How? Their mind deals with the pain to lessen it.

I think there is a lot more to say about the subject but I want to get on to examining other thoughts in our minds. Next we’ll look at the sense of touch – and how that looks to our minds, what thoughts are created as we experience touch with our hands and other body parts, maybe even a little bit about sex if I dare. Shhhh.

Best of Life!


Oh, almost forgot – the image of the guy with the saw blade embedded in his head comes from a Buddhist temple in Sisaket, Thailand. There is a display of all the different types of suffering that man feels during his life. This one was physical pain. I’ve not posted the series anywhere because there are some that are much crazier than this one! Sorry if this image offends anyone, it’s wire, concrete and paint if that helps you deal with it any better… 😛

Thought… What is it?

As you’re sitting there thinking – do you even know what’s taking place?

Probably you don’t. Me neither. There are so few people that have really looked at thought and tried to learn about it. Yet, our thoughts are flying around in our mind 16 hours everyday in a waking state, and another 8 hours in a sleeping state every single day.

What is thought? I’m going to do my best to analyze my thoughts here and write down what they are. I’m like you, I’ve never really analyzed them in-depth. I’ve meditated before – by focusing on the breath – Vipassana style- and watched thoughts arise… link to other thoughts – and seemingly disappear. But, I’ve not really looked AT thoughts. I’ve not tried to describe them in words verbally or online. So, let’s see what happens.

Initially my idea is that thoughts are me being creative, expressing my intelligence by linking things together to form solutions. I’m proactively directing my thoughts to different questions, areas, and trying to find answers. Isn’t that what thought is? I think so. I think thought is posing questions to myself and then my mind flies through possibilities like a computer on “search”. As an answer becomes available I can list it alongside other possibilities or I can edit it, change it to make it a better answer to the question. Or, I can make a decision – no – it doesn’t fit at all and it goes away as a possibility.

So, that’s my initial idea of what thought is. This kind of thought occurs when I’m actively searching for an answer to some issue, some problem, some question.

Wait a second. I guess this would be just one kind of thought. Are there many?

What other types of thought are there? I guess there are a few kinds. I think dreams involve thought. My lucid dreams definitely involve thought as I’m making decisions what I want to do in the dream. I think I have thought where I can hear my voice in my head. I think I can hear other people’s voices in my head as I remember something they’ve said. I think I have visual thoughts too. Do I?

As I’m investigating this – already I realize – there are many different things going on in my mind. We have a habit of calling it all – thought. But, all thought is not the same apparently. We lump everything into the word, “thought”. It’s obvious to me already that the many things we call thought can’t all be thrown into the same word. There are many types of thought.

As I get started I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. I’ll do some observation periods followed by some writing about what I experienced. I’ll look at my thoughts and see if I can come up with something to describe them in a way that you might be able to identify with if you did the same exercise. Are my thoughts unique? Yes, probably – but, the process – the thinking processes that go on are most likely shared by everyone – yes? Or, maybe not. Not at all sure at this point.

Did Einstein have a different way of thinking? Qualitatively, was it vastly different than our own thoughts – and, if everyone could think in the same way as he did – could we also approach his brilliance? If Einstein’s way of thinking was responsible for his great contributions to the world – is there any way we could copy them if we knew what they were? What about Steven Hawking? Could he describe to us the way he thinks in a way that we could begin to duplicate it? Could we all become 180 IQ Wile. E. Coyote, supergeniuses? Quite possibly I think. But, lets start with this simple observation first

1st Observation. What do I see, hear, feel when I close my eyes and look at thought? (10 seconds)

OK, within 2 seconds I learned something fascinating. I heard the hammer of a guy working on some houses that are being built on the side of our villa. As the noise of the hammer striking something registered in my mind I saw a mind picture of concentric circles around the spot in my field of vision that closed in on where the noise was coming from. I’ll create an image below to describe it.

Field of view looking straight ahead with eyes closed.
Click image to enlarge.

A big circle filled my field of view then was replaced by a smaller one, and a smaller and successively smaller one until it focused in on the area of my field of vision the sound originated from (in this case – right in front of me since I’m facing the side wall – and where the hammer was hit about 40 meters beyond the wall). The other spots on the field of vision image above will be explained shortly.

I can tell already this is going to be an EPIC post of thousands of words. Since I could already talk volumes about what I learned in just a 10 second observation.

What is a mind picture? I don’t know myself as I haven’t studied them before today. I’ve seen them – but never tried to describe them. They aren’t really visual pictures. In this instance my eyes were closed – but, my eyeballs were facing forward. If I opened my eyelids – my eyes would be open. My eyes had not rolled back into my head as they do when I’m really relaxing or sleeping.

When I say I “saw” concentric circles in the form of a mind picture – I didn’t really see anything with my eyes. The feeling was that there were concentric circles forming – and getting smaller and smaller around the source of the hammer’s noise, but – visually – I don’t think there was anything to “see”. My mind created the circles – as a mind picture. Or, I was experiencing the movement of the mind perhaps. Yes, that could be it – I experienced the mind moving. When the mind moves it is focusing it’s attention on something. As it does this it doesn’t correspond to any of the 5 senses that enable us to perceive it – so, a picture was created (felt) and that’s how I experienced what the mind did.

Not sure, but that makes some sense to me. I could talk for another 30 minutes, but I’m anxious to see what else I can learn about thought.

2nd Observation, 10 seconds

I saw that when the eyes are closed the mind is still aware of a visual field of view. It’s a greyish – reddish field of view. Like a half circle, flat at the bottom. When sounds are heard – whatever they are – they register on a location in that field of view. The bird chirping on my right side at a 45 degree angle to straight in front of me registered about 45 degrees in my field of view. The mind just sort of noted that that’s where the sound was coming from. When I heard another bird, chirping more quietly the mind moved to a place just left of the first bird. So the 2nd bird chirp was coming from about 40 degrees to straight ahead.
Was that correct? Was the 2nd bird to the left of the 1st bird? Not sure, so I’ll check.

Looking out my front door where they’re both still chirping – yes it was true. The mind knew the sound of the 2nd bird was to the left of the first one. Hmm, interesting. Logically I can’t figure it out just sitting here with my eyes open, but with them closed, the mind knew. I’ll try to do more about that later. How accurate is the mind in placing sounds with their origin?

So, I saw that the mind marks each sound in a place in the visual field of view as it occurs.

Interestingly the mind doesn’t make a picture of the bird and put it in the place of where the sound is coming from. Nor when a car goes by the main road behind me does the mind show a picture of a car.

3rd Observation, 30 seconds

I closed my eyes and there started this power saw in the construction area. It is a loud sound – cutting up wood with it’s circular blade. In my mind it’s a vibrating picture… the sound is very pulsy – on-off-on-off – very fast – and the mind marks it with an area of shaking movement in the left side field of vision. It is so loud that the mind focuses on it pretty exclusively – almost ignoring birds, cars, and hammering all going on at the same time.

At first the mind is very attentive to hear every variation in the sound of the saw. From the starting of the cut to the ending… and then, it seems the mind gets accustomed to it and wanders just a bit.

It wandered to memory. There it found a mind image of my father cutting wood with a circular saw as he was renovating some area of a house. When I was younger and my father was around, I remember helping him as he renovated whole rooms and built a game room area in our basement. The sound of that saw reminded me of that. The mind brought it out for me to look at. For what reason? Is that the natural function of the mind, to spit back memories?

The way the mind worked when bringing up this memory was interesting… As I was listening to the sound a mental picture (real picture from memory, like a still clip from a video) formed then animated… of a circular saw cutting wood. Then more details were filled in. My dad was holding that saw. Then I saw his cigarette. Then I saw the room we were in. It’s like one memory linked to the other memories in turn…

That distinctive noise meant circular wood saw.
Circular wood saw meant dad.
Dad meant smoking.
Dad and wood saw and smoking meant a certain room that we were in when that memory was formed.

As the room came into view in my mind I opened my eyes to record what happened, not wanting to forget any detail.

So far, very interesting stuff!

4th Observation, about a minute.

A loud motorbike pulled around the road to my right. As it got louder gradually – and then VERY loud I watched as the mind became a bit disturbed. It was as if anger was going to build if it got louder than it was. Then, after the motorbike passed the saw on the left got very loud – the loudest I’ve heard it. The mind was anxious… tight. When the sound died down the tenseness went away.

Apparently there is some threshold within our minds – our ego – that, when surpassed, leads to a tenseness in the mind… the body. This tenseness then leads to anger. I felt in my chest and arms a certain tightness. Or, at least a greater awareness that chest and arms were ‘there’. It felt as a tenseness, though my muscles didn’t tighten up physically that I could feel.

I was going to make this a very long post – but, no point. I’ve learned a LOT already. Too much to really go over in depth.

I learned that when the eyes are closed and thought is observed:

1. The mind moves toward sensations of sound. Sometimes forming mind pictures or mind images that aren’t really images at all – but a movement of the mind represented by the mind as an image or series of images. Concentric circles gradually focusing down on the hammer noise was one example.
2. The mind assigns each sound a place in my field of vision – even when my eyes are closed. It knows rather precisely where to place the sounds in relation to each other.
3. A loud, vibrating, harsh, pulsy sound is seen as a shaking – a movement of the mind that keeps it moving in the area of field of vision corresponding to where it’s coming from in the environment.
4. A sound, once focused on for a time may lead the mind to search memory and find instances of that sound – or similar sound (my dad using the circular saw when i was a small boy). This may lead to other thoughts as each new memory triggers more memories either about that scene or other, related scenes.
5. Loud sounds start to affect the mind as if there is a threshold for acceptable or tolerable sound. Once that limit is approached a tenseness builds in the mind, chest and arms become more tangible – or tense, but it’s more like the mind is associating it’s own tenseness with a place in the body to feel to make it more tangible. Once it starts to be felt in the body – anger starts to arise at the loud noise. It’s too loud to be comfortable. It’s aggravating. It’s not being socially kind or fair because it’s bothering me. I can’t think how I want to, the nose is overpowering my mind’s ability to ignore it.

Pretty interesting. This will need to be a series, I couldn’t possibly sit here for the time that’s necessary and bang this whole book chapter post out. So far we’ve briefly looked at the mind with the eyes closed and auditory stimuli. There were other sensory stimuli taking place at the same time – but I didn’t write about them. Touch, taste, sound, smell… so much to investigate about how the mind works when it “thinks“.

Best of Life!