"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Archive for June, 2018|Monthly archive page

Polyamory: Figuring It Out|Coming Out| Being Out

In Uncategorized on June 14, 2018 at 3:37 am



“Purple love-amour is all u’re headed 4…” From Left to Right: Tiana, Jevon & Jhoselyn. Worshiping at the Altar of Our Beloved Master, Prince Rogers Nelson. R.I.P.


Oldspeak: “So eloquent. So insightful. So courageous. So necessary, the piece below. To have poly people be out, talking about their life experiences, is so very important. Being visible and providing positive, functional examples of polyamorous relationship, so that others who may be suffering in the closet, can see that it’s ok to be themselves & hopefully find a way to get out. To call out the bullshit stereotypes, stigmas, prejudices and assumptions made about poly people. To make it so that, we can start “creating a safe space for people who do not fit into the confines of binary thinking to grow up feeling accepted, first and foremost by ourselves.”

Free. Your. Mind. -Jevon

Full Disclosure – the post was written by my beautiful and ridiculously talented Partner and Love. So grateful to have found her. Shameless plugs to follow : Read Her Books! Go See her Sing!




Written By Tiana Coles @ Brilliant Bitchin

A Long Ass Polyamorous Journey

I’ve been polyamorous my entire life. At this point I am sure of it. And while there is a certain relief in knowing and saying it aloud, and I am lucky to have haphazardly fallen literally ass backwards into the most appropriate relationship(s) of my life, there is still a certain resentment coupled with that certain relief. Resentment because in just a month or so, I will be turning 30, and spent most of my adult life believing there was something wrong with me.

I have never loved one person at a time. Ever. Indeed, most people have not. Most people love their parents, their siblings, their friends. This is not altogether radical. It’s only when it comes to romantic love and sex that people suddenly lose their minds at the suggestion that one is not enough. And while I could point to all sorts of causes like organized religion and the puritanical (hypocritical) roots of the United States, why society is like this is besides the point as far as I’m concerned. My concern is creating a safe space for people who do not fit into the confines of binary thinking to grow up feeling accepted, first and foremost by ourselves.


I grew up not knowing that polyamory existed, let alone what it was. It was not in the media. It was not in school. It was not represented in popular culture and it certainly wasn’t explained to me by my family. For all I knew it didn’t exist. Cheating was morally wrong, and polygamy was illegal, so monogamy was the only way. Not that it was explained to me this way. It wasn’t, the same way that no one ever explained to me that I was straight. (And I’m not, by the way. Holla at me, LGBTQ community!) It was just assumed that I would be. It was the presumed default setting. I can’t tell you how many times a doe eyed adult crooned the words, one day, when you get married, or, one day, when you have kids before I’d even dropped a damn egg!

But my eye tended to do the thing it wasn’t supposed to do – wander. And not just my eye, but my heart. I won’t even get into the fact that sometimes my confused little eye wandered over to the girl in my biology class, which was odd, because I was supposedly straight. That’s an article for another day. Point being, I never had just one crush. One love interest. There were always many at once. Many people with whom I could imagine a path forward. But society was pretty clear on the rules of the game, meaning going forward necessitated that I make a choice.

I can say with absolute consistency that it was making that choice that damned nearly every failed relationship I had from age 18-29.


Monogamy isn’t evil in and of itself. It’s a social construct, as is marriage, and it works for people. I’ve seen it. (::waves at big brother from another mother::) The problem with monogamy is that it has become not only the default relationship style, but the only recognized and accepted relationship style by society at large. For people to whom monogamy comes naturally, the name of the game is finding “the one”, and there are definitely challenges to that. Indeed, some people never do. Some people do much later in life than they’d hoped. But what if the problem isn’t the you can’t find the one? What if you keep finding the one, over and over and over again?

According to society there are a myriad of issues with this. Society claims that you can only really love one person at a time. So if you’ve found yourself claiming to be in love with two, or three, or four – no. That isn’t love. That isn’t real. Further, you may indeed believe that you love multiple people, but what if each of those people only has eyes for you? Now you have to choose, society tells you. Now you have to let someone, or multiple someones, go.

I learned this particular agony for the first time when I was 19 and fell in love with someone over summer break while already in a serious relationship. I kept it chaste for as long as I could but eventually the dam broke and I don’t think I need to go into detail regarding the social fallout – we all know what world we live in. I can’t describe the exquisite pain of mourning the loss of not one love, but two. Or of sitting around with a legal pad and pen, making lists, trying to decide between two people. Society would have us believe it is a choice between who is better for you. But if you’re not wired that way, the question you’re really asking when you draw that ven-diagram or whatever brand of nerdiness you default to, is how much pain from loss can I withstand? Who will it hurt less to live without? And sometimes that question, too, is impossible.

Madonna/Whore Paradox

Oh, hi. Did I mention that I’m a woman? ::waves::

If I were a man, things might have gone a bit differently for me. In high school. In college. In the workplace. When I eventually found my niche (LGBTQ friendly/artsy/East Village) I may have still faced some struggles before discovering polyamory. But I think the story might have read a bit differently. It’s no accident that in my most frustrated moments I have been found belting out If I Were a Boy in various karaoke establishments.

Rather than having been slut shamed, for example, for having been involved with two of the three straight men in my performing arts high school (not simultaneously and over the course of six years!) I may have been a ladies man. I may have been that shy guy who was into theatre and skinny jeans before they were trendy, singing protest songs in the hallway and having loving relationships without hard commitment sort of like the sixties. Instead? I was a pariah. I was labeled slutty and dirty and accused of promiscuously participating in sex acts I couldn’t even define at the time. All because I’d made the mistake of getting romantically involved with more than one person in the same microcosm.

When I cheated on my boyfriend in college – with the one person I’d fallen in love with – rather than vicious rumors spreading that distorted the truth and painted me as the 7/11 of women, I probably would have experienced…well…nothing. Nothing befell the teammates of my then basketball player boyfriend. They cheated on their girlfriends. Deliberately. Habitually. Everyone knew. No one said or did a damn thing. It was “normal”. But when a woman cheats, regardless of circumstances, of honesty, of remorse. The response is ludicrously disproportionate.

When I finally came to the conclusion that the only sure way to avoid hurting anyone was to embrace my single status and live out my days Clooney style, still the problems found me. Again I found love twice in the same place, and the men involved balked at the idea of not being my only one. Again I was faced with the unwelcome dilemma of choosing one or losing both, except neither was too keen on choosing me back because my involvement with them both at once meant my reputation had been mired. Had I been a man in the same scenario each of them would have felt lucky to have been the “chosen one”. I would have been a catch, not a cautionary tale.

I’m not defending the cheating. That was unethical and regrettable. But besides that, the only mistake I ever made was having been born without a penis in a patriarchy.

Women live in a world that traps us in a double bind. We are plagued by the madonna/whore paradox. We are told that we will only be able to “find a husband” if we are or appear to be virginal, and pure, and good. Men are taught only to value us as more than sex objects if they are the only ones to have “had” us. Women are also taught through misogynistic social conditioning that it doesn’t take much to destroy our reputations and become whores, even though men experience no repercussions for the same behaviors. We are programmed to ignore our own wants – our real wants – and instead to want to be wanted. To embrace our own objectification until the right man (who it is assumed has at this point sowed his wild oats) chooses us to settle down with. We are encouraged to work very, very hard at being worthy of being chosen (by this man who is not being measured against the same asinine standard).

My point is that being a woman in a patriarchy is hard as it is, but being a polyamorous woman in a patriarchy that doesn’t acknowledge polyamory is a special kind of hell. Every choice that would lead to your happiness is condemned. Every choice you are encouraged to make would ultimately condemn you to misery. Virginity and scarcity are the pillars that you are expected to build your life upon, in a body that has an overwhelming capacity to receive love, with a heart that has an overwhelming capacity to give love. So your happiness comes at the price of social isolation and punishment, and social acceptance comes at the price of your happiness. And what’s more, if you are hetero, your potential partners have been conditioned to value your love only if it is coupled with exclusivity, and to devalue not only your love, but your body and even your personhood when it is not. There is a moral value judgement that is attached to a woman’s romantic life that sets her up to fail if she does not fulfill the limited role she has been prescribed, and all the while men have been given carte blanche to shamelessly capitalize on the double standard that seeks, one way or another, to entrap her.



Being alone seemed like the only option available to me if I didn’t want to climb the exclusive relationship ladder in the traditional sense, and if what I did want was never going to happen. At first blush it may seem like being single would have obvious benefits. I could have my cake and eat it too, right? Wrong. Because again, this is a patriarchy, and I am not a man.

Leave aside ugly rumors and reputations for a moment, because while it isn’t ideal, those things can be avoided with secrecy Les Liaisons Dangereuses style. It is deeper and more personal than public opinion. I don’t like being objectified. I don’t like being wanted only for what I look like, or only for what “fun” I can be in bed. I don’t like the idea of casual sex, and I absolutely detest the reality of it. I don’t like being pursued like some kind of trophy because I am not a goal. I am a person. And so given the choice of casual sex vs. no sex at all…

The physical loneliness is shit, but it’s bearable. It’s the emotional loneliness that starts to eat at you. And then you meet someone, and even though you know better, you try again. My relationships were deep dives. I’d go underwater for a while, but eventually I couldn’t breathe and I’d come violently thrashing to the surface before I drowned. As my relationships got shorter and shorter and I decidedly became the breaker rather than the breakee, it seemed apparent that I was just more whole on my own. It seemed like I wanted to be single.

But if that was true then why was I still so sad? And if I did in fact want love, why couldn’t I seem to sit still in it for more than three months at a time?

Social Pressure to Get “Wifed Up”

When I see a diamond ring I think of child labor and genocide. When I see a bride dressed like a cream puff pastry gliding down an aisle, I picture her father also carrying a bag of gold and a goat. I’ve dreaded the eventual appropriation of the last name of every man I’ve ever dated before finally coming to the conclusion that I’m never changing my name because I am me. My idea of marriage involves a beach, a sunset, bare feet, my lover, our lovers, a spiritual bond, and yeah…okay…I suppose some tax breaks. But when I do it, if I do it, it will be a far cry from the patriarchal bullshit I’ve been force fed since my inception.

I started to identify as non-monogamous when I was 27, and learning about polyamory around the same time. And yet I still continued to date monogamous people despite the absolute turmoil it caused for nearly three years after the fact. Not because of the social pressure I felt when I wasn’t in a relationship, but because of the temporary relief from the cruelty I’d grown accustomed to when I was.

When you are the woman who goes to bars alone, and could give a fuck whether anyone is paying attention to you because you’re in your own world, and who more closely identifies with Prince than Adele, people look at you a certain way. Sometimes with respect and admiration, though the assumption that you’re promiscuous never goes away and those people never stop flirting and low key trying to fuck you. But there is also pity, especially from older women, warning you that your youth is fleeting, your looks will fade, and who will want you then? Be smart, they warn you. Strike while the iron is hot. Marry the self obsessed guy even though you cringe when he touches you and listening to him speak is like watching paint dry. And whatever you do get over this “girl” phase because bisexuality is only cute in bars at 2 AM in your twenties. And don’t forget – you’re aging!

However, when you walk in just about anywhere on the arm of a gentleman (even if he’s a pompous ass dressed in a gentleman costume) and he introduces you as his girlfriend. Oh, how stark the contrast is. I imagine the only word more powerful and transformative is wife. Your status elevates so quickly you can feel yourself on the elevator! People assume all sorts of things about you, except that they’re – gasp! – good things! They assume, for example, that you’re a good person. ::snorts:: Like…an actual fucking person. They assume that you’re not a slut! They assume that you have a brain, and then they ask you really flattering questions, like whether they can pick said brain! They forgive otherwise damning wardrobe because, alas, you are already claimed, and to comment on said wardrobe or the assets (no pun intended) it enhances would be an affront to the man that has claimed you, and the same men who are quick to throw their dicks in the ring of a single woman are very cautious not to offend a boyfriend or husband. Regardless of the satisfaction of the relationship itself, in the eyes of society, the title of “girlfriend” or “wife”, the existence of a blood soaked ring on a certain finger, is the highest esteem a woman can achieve, and it is only through this achievement that she graduates from public sex object to human being, albeit a human being who is possessed by the man she is with.

And thus conformity seduces even women who balk at traditional values, because just as harshly as society punishes resistance, it rewards compliance handsomely. People will smile, and nod with approval, and flock to you telling you how cute you look with your self obsessed fool. How lucky you are to be with the man who can’t find your clitoris despite the fact that it’s pierced. How adorable your children would look as the father-to-be chugs another beer on his way to black out drunkenness. Calm down, any exes reading this – the hyperbole isn’t about you. It’s about the fact that society rewards people for being in relationships, even if the relationships themselves aren’t good! Even if they lack substance. Even if the people inside are miserable. Because society assumes that everyone will eventually pair off. Society has set that goal for you. So when you’re single, you’re failing. And if you’re in a relationship – congratulations! You did it! You win.


Sexism: Cheating

So remember how I was talking about the double standard? The double standard rewards men at women’s expense. Via the double standard women are damned if they do and damned if they don’t, meanwhile men can have their cake and eat it too in nearly all stages of commitment. The double standard tells men that it is natural for them to cheat, or to want to cheat, while it is unnatural for a woman to behave or want to behave in the same way.

This particular mindset made finding agreeable partners very difficult for me. Some men I tried to date would initially agree when asked about an open relationship, until they fully processed the fact that the relationship would be open for both of us. Then we were back to monogamy. Then there were guys who were fine with an open relationship with one huge caveat – don’t fall in love. Which limited all options outside the relationship to casual sex. Which didn’t interest me. And then, whoops, back to monogamy again. Or, the real princes would tell me all about their deep sense of morality, or how their bodies were temples and they were afraid of contracting STI’s, in order to lure me into reluctant monogamy, only to later learn that they themselves were cheating!

I blame patriarchy for this. I think there are far more men who are truly polyamorous, but because of societal conditioning these men are much more comfortable experiencing the love of multiple, unwitting women who (to their knowledge) are only intimate with them. Society conditions men to see women as possessions and discourages them from “sharing” us. Via cheating, some polyamorous men can hide behind a mask of monogamy and have their romantic needs met, but will do so unethically and ironically behind the backs of women who indeed share the same desire and needs that they do. The only difference is that because women are conditioned to deny and ignore our sexuality while men are conditioned to embrace and explore it, we end up getting the short end of the stick.

Again, no pun intended.


There was one brief time in my early twenties where it seemed like I might actually get to be happy. I met a guy, we hit it off, we started dating exclusively. About a year and a half in I told him that I thought I might be bisexual. He encouraged me to explore that, helped me through it. When I came to the conclusion that I was indeed bisexual he even encouraged me to be with women; said he wouldn’t consider it cheating.

Then, about two years in I confessed, through shaky breaths, tears, and shame, that I loved him and still wanted to be with him, but I desired other people frequently and I wasn’t sure how long I could keep it up. To my surprise, he expressed a similar dilemma, and together we made the choice to open our relationship. However, the agreement we came to was DADT (don’t ask, don’t tell) and DFIL (don’t fall in love). We navigated this pretty cleanly for a while. We even eventually formed a sort of quad relationship with a couple we were close with. For a while things seemed perfect. For a while…

Then it came out that the guy on the other side of the quad was cheating. A lot. The agreement in his relationship, you see, had been “cool, as long as I’m involved”. Except he was involved with several other women behind the back of his primary. When they broke, the quad broke, and it wasn’t quite the same.

Shortly after that, I met someone. And my partner didn’t ask. And I didn’t tell. And everything seemed fine until I realized that I was, in fact, falling in love. I couldn’t help it. I was wired that way. When my partner found out he made it abundantly clear that he was not okay with me essentially having two relationships at once. He was not okay with me being in love with this other person. I had to choose, and so I chose, opting to preserve what I had with my primary.

It wasn’t that bad at first, even though our non-monogamy “agreements” ended up limiting me to monogamy now that the comfort of the quad was gone and I knew I couldn’t enjoy casual sex. But there came a moment, and I’m shaky on the timeline here but it’s not that relevant, when I’d been out with members of his family at a club and, drunk, started openly flirting with a woman. One particular family member was furious and not only accused me of trying to cheat on him but outed my bisexuality on Facebook before I’d come out to my family.

It was hard to be in the relationship past that point. As happy as my partner made me, his family was conventional, and we could only participate in our “alternative” lifestyle behind closed doors. I didn’t want to feel like I had to hide or I wouldn’t be accepted. I didn’t want to live a lie. And if I was honest, I missed my other partner. I didn’t want to choose. I wanted both.

DADT and DFIL work for some non-monogamous people. But I’m not just non-monogamous. I’m polyamorous. I don’t want to pick up a random person in a bar and have a threesome. I don’t want to be some couple’s unicorn every now and then.

I, quite literally, love without limits. Polyamory allows me what I once considered impossible.


Coming Out | Stigma | Hookup Culture

So at this point, especially with the release of this article, I suppose I’m out. Fully, talked to my parents, posted a pic with my lover and metamour on IG – out. And I have to say…

It’s fucking awesome.

There are still challenges. Stigma is a challenge. There are people who behave as though my relationship with my SO is purely sexual, because that’s the only way they can understand it. There are people who assume that because we aren’t exclusive, the relationship isn’t serious. There are people who love me who have held my face in their hands and, with nothing but compassion, told me that we’re not in love. Because our love doesn’t look like what love is supposed to look like, so our love doesn’t count. Happily in 2018 the East Village is one of the most LGBTQ friendly bubbles on Earth and doesn’t scoff at same-sex relationships, but I often imagine that this must be what it was like to be openly gay back several decades ago. To an extent, every moment that I am in public and wearing my poly status proudly, I don’t just get to have my relationships – I have to prove them. Prove that it’s love. Prove that it’s real. Answer invasive questions from well meaning people; questions that monogamous people in even the shittiest of relationships never get asked. Questions like: So do you all fuck each other? (Answer: It depends.)

And then there are the ramifications of hookup culture. The assumption from men who have no intentions beyond “having fun” with me that because I am in an open relationship, I am now an option for them to have sex with. They could never imagine anything serious with me, they tell me, knowing I was in a relationship with someone else. They’d have “no problem” having sex with me though. As though that’s somehow supposed to appeal to me?

“Yes, please, use me!” Is that my line?

The presumption that polyamorous people are just public sexual property to be experienced at our expense to the benefit of whatever random person is interested is absolutely relentless. Polyamory translates to many loves; not many fucks. We aren’t sluts. We just love more.


Sexism Again – The Playboy/Womanizer

Because I am a woman most of this has been focused on my experience, but I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the challenges to being a polyamorous man as well. Particularly if you are a good looking person of either gender, the potential to be hyper-sexualized and objectified due to your orientation is greater. When I first met my current partner, for example, and subtly (or at least I hope it was subtle) inquired about his availability, I was told with unbridled enthusiasm that he was

absolutely not

a one woman man. He was a ladies man, I was told. The word womanizer was never said explicitly but was certainly implied. Consequently I ignored my attraction and glimmers of shared chemistry for years, but as always, the dam broke. Even


off and on became decidedly on – at this very moment, I suspect – there are still those, I’m sure, that believe that I am being taken advantage of in some way. That he, the ever active playboy, is going to chew me up and spit me out. That he’s only in it for lewd sex acts, a presumption which ultimately objectifies


of us and is incredibly reductive of his character; completely dismissive of his capacity for genuine, human emotion. The depth of any of his relationships is casually trivialized in conversation while his ability to commit is simultaneously denied. I’ve heard his relationships described as

fucking, going at it with, getting on with,

and various other phrases that imply a purely sexual relationship but rarely ever as



::dispels remainder of steam from ears::

Just saying. The knife cuts both ways, and the blood isn’t pretty.


On the one hand, I get it, Facebook is not OKCupid (yet). On the other hand, monogamous people can easily select each other on Facebook and declare their relationships real. According to The Social Network, the relationship status option was the turning point that led to Facebook taking over life (literally) in the first place. Millennials don’t consider relationships legitimate unless they’re Facebook official. And yet currently Facebook only acknowledges monogamous relationships, or monogamish relationships, because even if you declare yourself in an “open relationship” with someone, you can only link one partner on the network, thereby perpetuating the idea that you can only have a real relationship with one person at a time – everything else is just…well…

This sort of brings us full circle. This long, angsty post, the personal anecdotes, have all been to make the point that it shouldn’t have to be this damn hard. No one should have to go through life feeling like there is something inherently wrong with them, and that because of that thing that they have no control over, they will never be happy. People shouldn’t be going to therapy for commitment and attachment issues and rehab for sex addiction when the only thing “wrong” with them is that they aren’t like you (monogamous folk), and they don’t know that any other way of life is possible. Monogamous people have models of healthy relationships to aspire to. Where are ours? Monogamous people have a road map to follow. Representation in the media. Relationship status on Facebook!

I think of all the pain that I’ve endured and inflicted trying desperately to squeeze myself into a box that I was never going to fit into, and I just wish I’d had more information earlier on. I think things would have gone differently if I and potential partners had been educated about other ways of love and life. Maybe then I would have been brave enough to embrace polyamory when I clearly wanted to practice it. Maybe if I’d had a name for it. Maybe if I wasn’t convinced that it was bad, or wrong, or would detract from the value of my womanhood.

I can be a bit of an old fart sometimes and often fantasize about what it would have been like to live, say, in 1920 in Pigalle, before social media and smart phones and…um…penicillin? But if there is any advantage to being alive in 2018, it’s the internet. The ease with which ideas can spread, forums can be joined, Youtube videos can be shared, and allies can be found.

That being said I fully intend to push this article with hashtags up the ass like #polyamory #polyamorypride #polyamorouswoman so that maybe, if there’s someone sad or confused who has taken to Google, they won’t have to stay sad or confused for long.

There is another way to live if monogamy doesn’t work for you. You can find love that fits. Many loves, I hope.





How to Practice Vipassana Insight Meditation

In Uncategorized on June 14, 2018 at 2:34 am


Oldspeak: “No substitute for the direct experience of a Vipassana Course, but until you get to one, is a good place to start practicing for one. Step-by-step instructions on how to do this important practice ­— the foundation of all Buddhist meditations — from the late Vipassana master Sayadaw U Pandita. Give it a go! –Jevon

Written By by Sayadaw U Pandita @ Lions Roar:

What is Vipassana?

Vipassana, or insight meditation, is the practice of continued close attention to sensation, through which one ultimately sees the true nature of existence. It is believed to be the form of meditation practice taught by the Buddha himself, and although the specific form of the practice may vary, it is the basis of all traditions of Buddhist meditation.

Vipassana is the predominant Buddhist meditation practice in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia. At the beginning of the twentieth century, there was an important revival of this early form of meditation practice led by the Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw of Burma. Following Mahasi Sayadaw’s death in 1982, Sayadaw U Pandita was chosen as his principle preceptor. U Pandita was one of the world’s leading teachers of Vipassana meditation and was been an important influence on many Vipassana teachers in the West, including Sharon Salzberg and Joseph Goldstein of the Insight Meditation Society. He was the founder and abbot of Panditarama Meditation Centre in Yangon, Myanmar.

Where & How to Sit

1. Which place is best for meditation?
The Buddha suggested that either a forest place under a tree or any other very quiet place is best for meditation.

2. How should the meditator sit?
He said the meditator should sit quietly and peacefully with legs crossed.

3. How should those with back troubles sit?
If sitting with crossed legs proves to be too difficult, other sitting postures may be used. For those with back trouble, a chair is quite acceptable. In any case, sit with your back erect, at a right angle to the ground, but not too stiff.

4. Why should you sit straight?
The reason for sitting straight is not difficult to see. An arched or crooked back will soon bring pain. Furthermore, the physical effort to remain upright without additional support energizes the meditation practice.

5. Why is it important to choose a position?
To achieve peace of mind, we must make sure our body is at peace. So it’s important to choose a position that will be comfortable for a long period of time.

The Breath During Meditation

6. After sitting down, what should you do?
Close your eyes. Then place your attention at the belly, at the abdomen. Breathe normally—not forcing your breathing—neither slowing it down nor hastening it. Just a natural breath.

7. What will you become aware of as you breathe in and breathe out?
You will become aware of certain sensations as you breathe in and the abdomen rises, and as you breathe out and the abdomen falls.

Developing Attention

8. How should you sharpen your aim?
Sharpen your aim by making sure that the mind is attentive to the entirety of each process. Be aware from the very beginning of all sensations involved in the rising. Maintain a steady attention through the middle and the end of the rising. Then be aware of the sensations of the falling movement of the abdomen from the beginning, through the middle, and to the very end of the falling.

Although we describe the rising and falling as having a beginning, middle and end, this is only in order to show that your awareness should be continuous and thorough. We don’t intend you to break these processes into three segments. You should try to be aware of each of these movements from beginning to end as one complete process, as a whole. Do not peer at the sensations with an over-focused mind, specifically looking to discover how the abdominal movement begins or ends.

9. Why is it important in this meditation to have both effort and precise aim?
It is very important to have both effort and precise aim so that the mind meets the sensation directly and powerfully.

10. What is one way to aid precision and accuracy?
One helpful aid to precision and accuracy is to make a soft, mental note of the object of awareness, naming the sensation by saying the word gently and silently in the mind, like “rising, rising . . .,” and “falling, falling. . .”

11. When the mind wanders off, what should you do?
Watch the mind! Be aware that you are thinking.

12. How can you clarify your awareness of thinking?
Note the thought silently with the verbal label “thinking,” and come back to the rising and falling.

13. Is it possible to remain perfectly focused on the rising and falling of the abdomen all the time?
Despite making an effort to do so, no one can remain perfectly focused on the rising and falling of the abdomen forever. Other objects inevitably arise and become predominant. Thus, the sphere of meditation encompasses all of our experiences: sights, sounds, smells, tastes, sensations in the body, and mental objects such as visions in the imagination or emotions. When any of these objects arises you should focus direct awareness on it, and silently use a gentle verbal label.

During Practice

14. If another object impinges on the awareness and draws it away from the rising and falling, what should you do?
During sitting meditation, if another object impinges strongly on the awareness so as to draw it away from the rising and falling of the abdomen, this object must be clearly noted. For example, if a loud sound arises during your meditation, consciously direct your attention toward that sound as soon as it arises. Be aware of the sound as a direct experience, and also identify it succinctly with the soft, internal, verbal label “hearing, hearing.” When the sound fades and is no longer predominant, come back to the rising and falling. This is the basic principle to follow in sitting meditation.

15. What is the best way to make the verbal label?
There is no need for complex language. One simple word is best. For the eye, ear and tongue doors we simply say, “Seeing, seeing…,” or, “hearing, hearing…” or, “tasting, tasting . . . .”

16. What are some ways to note sensations in the body?
For sensations in the body we may choose a slightly more descriptive term like “warmth,” “pressure,” “hardness” or “motion.”

17. How should you note mental objects?
Mental objects seem to present a bewildering diversity, but actually they fall into just a few clear categories, such as “thinking,” “imagining,” “remembering,” “planning” and “visualizing.”

18. What is the purpose of labeling?
In using the labeling technique, your goal is not to gain verbal skills. Labeling helps us to perceive clearly the actual qualities of our experience, without getting immersed in the content. It develops mental power and focus.

19. What kind of awareness do we seek in meditation, and why?
We seek a deep, clear, precise awareness of the mind and body. This direct awareness shows us the truth about our lives, the actual nature of mental and physical processes.

Ending Your Meditation

20. After one hour of sitting, does our meditation come to an end?
Meditation need not come to an end after an hour of sitting. It can be carried out continuously through the day.

21. How should you get up from sitting meditation?
When you get up from sitting, you must note carefully, beginning with the intention to open the eyes: “intending, intending”; opening, opening.” Experience the mental event of intending, and feel the sensations of opening the eyes. Continue to note carefully and precisely, with full observing power, through the whole transition of postures until the moment you have stood up, and when you begin to walk.

22. Besides sitting and walking, what else should you be aware of throughout the day?
Throughout the day you should also be aware of—and mentally note—all other activities, such as stretching, bending your arm, taking a spoon, putting on clothes, brushing your teeth, closing the door, opening the door, closing your eyelids, eating and so forth. All of these activities should be noted with careful awareness and a soft mental label.

23. Is there any time during the day in when you may relax your mindfulness?
Apart from the hours of sound sleep, you should try to maintain continuous mindfulness throughout your waking hours.

24. It seems like a heavy task to maintain continuous mindfulness throughout the day.
This is not a heavy task; it is just sitting and walking and simply observing whatever occurs.

Retreat & Walking Meditation

25. What is the usual schedule during a retreat?
During a retreat it is usual to alternate periods of sitting meditation with periods of formal walking meditation of about the same duration, one after another throughout the day.

26. How long should one walking period be?
One hour is a standard period, but 45 minutes can also be used.

27. How long a pathway do retreatants choose for formal walking?
For formal walking, retreatants choose a lane of about twenty steps, and then walk slowly back and forth along it.

28. Is walking meditation helpful in daily life?
Yes. A short period—say ten minutes of formal walking meditation before sitting—serves to focus the mind. Also, the awareness developed in walking meditation is useful to all of us as we move our bodies from place to place in the course of a normal day.

29. What mental qualities are developed by walking meditation?
Walking meditation develops balance and accuracy of awareness as well as durability of concentration.

30. Can one observe profound aspects of the dhamma [dharma] while walking?
One can observe very profound aspects of the dhamma while walking, and even get enlightened!

31. If you don’t do walking meditation before sitting, is there any disadvantage?
A yogi who does not do walking meditation before sitting is like a car with a rundown battery. He or she will have a difficult time starting the engine of mindfulness when sitting.

Walking Meditation & Mindful Movement

32. During walking meditation, to what process do we give our attention?
Walking meditation consists of paying attention to the walking process.

33. When walking rapidly, what should we note? Where should we place our awareness?
If you are moving fairly rapidly, make a mental note of the movement of the legs, “Left, right, left, right,” and use your awareness to follow the actual sensations throughout the leg area.

34. When moving more slowly, what should we note?
If you are moving more slowly, note the lifting, moving and placing of each foot.

35. Whether walking slowly or rapidly, where should you try to keep your mind?
In each case you must try to keep your mind on just the sensations of walking.

36. When you stop at the end of the walking lane, what should you do?
Notice what processes occur when you stop at the end of the lane, when you stand still, when you turn and begin walking again.

37. Should you watch your feet?
Do not watch your feet unless this becomes necessary due to some obstacle on the ground; it is unhelpful to hold the image of a foot in your mind while you are trying to be aware of sensations. You want to focus on the sensations themselves, and these are not visual.

38. What can people discover when they focus on the sensations of walking?
For many people it is a fascinating discovery when they are able to have a pure, bare perception of physical objects such as lightness, tingling, cold and warmth.

39. How is walking usually noted?
Usually we divide walking into three distinct movements: lifting, moving and placing the foot.

40. How can we make our awareness precise?
To support a precise awareness, we separate the movements clearly, making a soft mental label at the beginning of each movement, and making sure that our awareness follows it clearly and powerfully until it ends. One minor but important point is to begin noting the placing movement at the instant that the foot begins to move downward.

41. Is our knowledge of conventional concepts important in meditation?
Let us consider “lifting.” We know its conventional name, but in meditation it is important to penetrate behind that conventional concept and to understand the true nature of the whole process of lifting, beginning with the intention to lift and continuing through the actual process, which involves many sensations.

42. What happens if our effort to be aware of lifting is too strong, or alternatively, too weak?
If our effort to be aware of lifting the foot is too strong it will overshoot the sensation. If our effort is too weak it will fall short of this target.

Developing Insight & Concentration

43. What happens when effort is balanced?
Precise and accurate mental aim helps balance our effort. When our effort is balanced and our aim is precise, mindfulness will firmly establish itself on the object of awareness.

44. What mental factors must be present for concentration to develop?
It is only in the presence of three factors—effort, accuracy and mindfulness—that concentration develops.

45. What is concentration?
Concentration is collectedness of mind: one-pointedness. Its characteristic is to keep consciousness from becoming diffuse or dispersed.

46. What will we see as we get closer and closer to the lifting process?
As we get closer and closer to this lifting process, we will see that it is like a line of ants crawling across the road. From afar the line may appear to be static, but from closer up it begins to shimmer and vibrate.

47. As we get even closer, what will we see?
From even closer the line breaks up into individual ants, and we see that our notion of a line was just an illusion. We now accurately perceive the line of ants as one ant after another ant after another ant.

The Progress of Insight

48. What is “insight”?
“Insight” is a mental factor. When we look accurately, for example, at the lifting process from beginning to end, the mental factor or quality of consciousness called “insight” comes nearer to the object of observation. The nearer insight comes, the clearer the true nature of the lifting process can be seen.

49. What is the progress of insight?
It is an amazing fact about the human mind that when insight arises and deepens through Vipassana, or “insight meditation practice,” particular aspects of the truth about existence tend to be revealed in a definite order. This order is known as the progress of insight.

50. What is the first insight that meditators commonly experience?
Meditators comprehend, not intellectually or by reasoning but quite intuitively, that a process such as lifting is composed of distinct mental and material phenomena occurring together, as a pair. The physical sensations, which are material, are linked with, but different from, the awareness, which is mental.

51. What is the second insight in the classical progress of insight?
We begin to see a whole succession of mental events and physical sensations, and to appreciate the conditionality that relates mind and matter. We see with the greatest freshness and immediacy that mind causes matter, as when our intention to lift the foot initiates the physical sensations of movement, and we see that matter causes mind, as when a physical sensation of strong heat generates a wish to move our walking meditation into a shady spot. The insight into cause and effect can take a great variety of forms. When it arises, though, our life seems far more simple to us than ever before. Our life is no more than a chain of mental and physical causes and effects. This is the second insight in the classical progress of insight.

52. What is the next level of insight?
As we develop concentration, we see even more deeply that these phenomena of the lifting process are impermanent and impersonal, appearing and disappearing one by one at fantastic speed. This is the next level of insight, the next aspect of existence that concentrated awareness becomes capable of seeing directly. There is no one behind what is happening; the phenomena arise and pass away as an empty process, according to the law of cause and effect. This illusion of movement and solidity is like a movie. To ordinary perception it seems full of characters and objects, all the semblances of a world. But if we slow the movie down we will see that it is actually composed of separate, static frames of film.

This interview first appeared on Nibbana.com.

The Radical Derelict: Giving Up The Work Ethic For Peace

In Uncategorized on June 13, 2018 at 4:14 pm



Oldspeak: “Even Epsilons are useful! So am I. And I damned well wish I weren’t!…. No the real problem is how is it, that I can’t, or rather – because I know quite well why I can’t – what would it be like if I were free – not enslaved by my conditioning…. wouldn’t you like to be free to be happy in some other way, Lenina? In your own way, for example, not in everybody else’s way?” –Bernard Marx, “A Brave New World

Ooof. Powerful and thought provoking piece below. Seeing the work ethic as an integral part of this insidious system of inverted totalitarianism we’ve been conditioned to love and revere, without question. I’ve been reading the aforementioned text recently, and it truly is astounding how closely it matches the present reality in the “civilized” world. The “subtle creeds” sub and supraliminally programmed into us from birth (a.k.a. Hypnopaedia) The creeds of “error avoidance” and “competence addiction” being  paramount among them.  The pathological and omnicidal blind belief the unassailable “work ethic” in our culture. How these subtle creeds constrict our innate and self organizing abilities to think, question and explore outside our proscribed, prefabricated roles in life. Encouraging us against our nature, to be fearful and not curious about the unknown, mysteriousness and unpredictability that characterize real, unsanitized, unmediated life. Teaching us that not knowing is a grave offense to be avoided at all costs. Conditioning us to prefer instruction, approval, conformity and compliance with anti-human authorities of the state and other oppressive forms of culture and civilization over a cage-free, non-paying to exist life. We are conditioned to believe that our time and energy can be owned, metered out, and directed by variegated and omnipresent authorities that have no genuine interest in workers health or well-being if they don’t pad the bottom line. Conditioned to see ourselves as “resources”, to market ourselves as valuable commodities, with degrees & skills to be relentlessly and endlessly exploited usually for less than our life energy is worth for the ultimately meaningless “rewards” of status, identity, money and possessions. Seeing relationships as transactional, as ways to increase our value. Conditioned to believe that we are nothing if we are not useful or desireable in some state/ socially accepted way. Our whole lives, spent subject to endless abberant conditioning. To what end? We see the fruits of these anti-human ways of being playing in our lives every day. Is there any wonder that rates of mental and physical illness have exploded in “modern” times? Theses ways of being we’ve been conditioned to prefer are literally driving us to madness, suicide and violence at epidemic levels. And largely responsible for the mass extinction of life on earth.  This is not normal. This current set of living arrangements is diametrically opposed to the ways we have co-evolved symbiotically with our Great Mother and all Life in her.  Deprogram. Decondition. Decolonize. Hone critical thinking skills, question authority, explore ways you can live in healthier, more wholelistic ways. With presence, curiosity, wonder, awe, courage, fearlessness, creativity, self-determination and unconditional love for all that Is. Be free and happy in your own way, not in everyone else’s way. It won’t be easy assuredly, but it is the only truly necessary, meaningful and essential work. More valuable than a lifetime spent in the workaday world.  Let go. Surrender to the real. Enjoy this lovely poem shared with me.” –Jevon

“I surrender.

I let go of decisions, priorities, preferences, do-to lists, plans

I let go of the need to know, to understand, to make sense of it all,

I let go of the need to explain, to rationalize,

I let go of my “things i wanted to do before i die” list. I never wrote that list anyway.

I let go of all the books i wanted to read along with the magazines, blogposts, movies, concerts, shows, exhibitions, places i wanted to visit, people i wanted to meet, people i wanted to have sex with, things i wanted to do, skills i wanted to master, food i wanted to eat

I let go of the need to practice yoga and meditation

I let go of my desire to be enlightened, to evolve, to grow, to attain realization, to experience the present moment,

I let go of my mind and its games and patterns

I let go of societal cultural conditioning patterns beliefs tendencies norms

I let go of my self-inflicted suffering,

I let go of the idea of others and things as the source of my happiness or suffering

I let go of perfectionism, laziness, procrastination,

I let go of my past decisions, plans, commitments, responsibilities, promises, vows and oaths

I let go of labels, definitions, categories, identifications,

I let go of belongings, possessions, financials,

I let go of the idea of money as a source of security, fulfilment, joy, status

I let go of the idea of poverty as a prerequisite to spiritual growth

I let go of the idea of spiritual growth

I let go of the need to belong, to matter, to be seen appreciated acknowledged thanked,

I let go of beliefs, ideas, dogmas, theories, philosophies, traditions

I let go of fear and the fear of fear

I let go of stress, busy-ness, anxiety and worry

I let go of my image in the eyes of others

I let go of judgements perceptions bias generalizations

I let go of the need to be right, to be better, to be smart wise knowledgeable and experienced

I let go of my genetic, cultural, religious, social, ethnic, racial background

I let go of guilt and shame over my actions and the actions of any group I thought I belonged to

I let go of everything that doesn’t really serve me

I let go of control

I let go of control

I let go of control,

I surrender

I allow life to unfold

I call upon inspiration, inner guidance, and intuition to decide for me

I welcome the unknown, un-manifested, indescribable, ethereal, eternal

I surrender.

I surrender.

I surrender.”


Written By Jeffery Shampnois @ Negative Geography:

The same relentless energy driving a toddler in its Terrible Twos still drives that voice in my head. However, when I see a toddler, I know I’m in the presence of a genius, albeit a naïve one. It’s not the size of the intellect, but the velocity of learning that describes its intelligence. I, on the other hand, tend to move in well-worn circles, constrained by prejudice and vested interest. I’ve learned to “circle the wagons”, so to speak, around particular conclusions.

Essentially, I’m what happens when a toddler’s unstoppable urge to learn gets diverted into supporting a predatory status quo. Open-ended learning gets replaced by a narrowing framework of instruction as the driving force; and a dawning sense of some innate order or intelligence in the world gets short-circuited by dependence on authority and by conformity to the culture’s creeds and isms.

I don’t feel like a conformist or very obedient. But the creeds and conformities that constrain my perceptions are difficult to notice from inside the ism itself, such as white or male privilege. But even these patterns are easier to notice than the more subtle ruts that limit my sense of reality itself, and which prevent a more ecstatic realization of my shape-shifting place in this miracle of a living earth.

These subtle creeds constrict the flow of meaning, making me weaker and dumber than I might otherwise be. The main culprit is “the creed of error avoidance”. A toddler is certainly no role model, but there’s a quality in that beginner’s mind that was thrown out with the bathwater: A toddler doesn’t know error as something to avoid, something “bad.” To a toddler, error is a friend. Everything is unknown, and every mistake is a clue to wider and more inclusive worlds.

Some training is necessary, of course. But if training becomes a pathway to approval, a proscribed path forms, which separates an autocratic right from wrong. Then a prejudice against error becomes internalized, turning error into a boogeyman. This cripples an exploratory spirit (a playful, Trickster’s spirit). And the child begins to fear its own errant probing of the world, and no longer trusts its own intelligence. And this develops into an oppositional or warlike relationship to its own now “unruly” thoughts, which leads to that voice in the head, which is constantly working to maintain an impression of correctness.

In other words, as an adult I’ve been taught to resist error by breaking awareness into fragments, and escaping into the delusion of being the better angel, who can look back at its dim-witted past from an improved distance. As if I were superior to my own immediate past. And these internal revolutions occur in quick succession, like a dog chasing its tail.

And this means that when I encounter my own white-privileged thinking, for instance, I don’t learn; I retreat from this fault by way of clever, dissociative feelings of guilt, or by denial and self-condemnation (as if “I” were the victim of these bad thoughts).

In other words, I lose that essential ingredient of learning: The ability to be edified and bemused by my own stupidity.

Questioning the Work Ethic

I’m claiming that this little quarrelsome dynamo of error avoidance is the engine propelling awareness down ever-narrower and more practical paths, which makes a person susceptible to darker indoctrinations.

Cut off from that rapscallion love of error and mystery (cut off from learning), faith is placed in authorities, ideals and dogmatic certitudes, (in training). Attention shifts from a mysterious reality that is constantly erring from expectations, to the smaller fictions of an idealized Self — whether rebellious or conformist — which needs to be constantly preserved from failure and doubt.

And this anxiety-driven Self inevitably seeks refuge in the larger and more confident ego of an organization, whether it’s the nation or the corporation (or some reactionary group crushed by this pyramidal caste system). And it’s this dynamic that lends a vicious spin to the macro-level hurricanes destroying the world. In the upper reaches of this economic pyramid system, among CEOs and presidents, that dynamo is magnified. Their private desperation for status becomes the desperation of empire. But on all levels of the pyramid it trains dutiful soldiers for what Sheldon Wolin calls “inverted totalitarianism”. And the work ethic is one of the main pillars of that totalitarian system.

In other words, most people like to complain about their jobs, but I’m trying to complain about this whole workaday world (this blinkered trek down some career path towards a diabolically mundane vision of the earth as a grab-bag of minerals, and life as a frantic search for status and distraction). It’s hard to complain about something that all-encompassing.

But that’s probably because something this overwhelming begins to look “only natural”. And adults like to pretend they’re serious enough to face reality and not drift off into Utopian fantasies. However, the workaday world is also a fantasy: not a fact of nature, but an artefact of indoctrination. And an inability to question (and bitch at) this dumbed-down way of life is collusion.

The Work Ethic as a Pillar of Inverted Totalitarianism

Joining the workforce requires being subjugated to a regimental authority. Here a bear-sized human potential gets stuffed into the parakeet’s cage of a job. What I get in exchange for this reduction in human potential is money, yes, but also something equally fictitious: status, a cripplingly small façade of identity.

This façade inevitably generates a repressed frustration, which some metabolize as an urge to push the work ethic on everyone else, transforming the ethic into a moralizing judgment against “derelicts” who refuse to sing communal hymns to the harness. And I think this betrays a fear and resentment of the cage-free human being, and a refusal to face my own caged spirit.

Mind you, I’m not criticizing work itself. I work hard if someone needs my help or if there are finite tasks that need doing. But the timeclock represents an obligation to the pyramid itself. It claims that my life belongs to an organization from at least 9 to 5. And if I allow my life to be metered in this way I’m essentially agreeing that my time and energy can be owned and directed at the system’s discretion, which is a form of slavery.

After all, these work contracts aren’t presented in good faith. It’s either sign or starve. And I have more pressing responsibilities to the real economy of earth than the responsibilities imposed on me by a company or nation.

Nevertheless, I know it’s hard to distinguish an honest desire to do well at any given task, or a need to work three jobs to provide for a family, from a true believer’s devotion to duty, which goes beyond those necessities, becoming a duty to the lifeless momentum of work itself.

And I know it’s also difficult to distinguish doing something I love from the passion of a workaholic who loves a particular task with devotional blinders. For instance, scientists working on weaponry obviously enjoy analyzing the problems they encounter. But this “love” emerges from a blinkered vision that can only produce what the system itself can monetize. That is, these creative endeavors emerge from an infantilized mind that goes where it’s directed and enjoys the entitled status of not having to think too widely about the consequences of what it loves to do.

To Hell with Morality

Frankly, I often do feel a “moral duty” to support this economic way of life. It’s the Stockholm Syndrome. It restricts my freedom to think or act outside the interests of the status quo. I become reflexively hostile to the idea that I (or especially Others) could ever be trusted to live unrestrained by economic necessities (as if this mad culture’s coercions and controls do anything more than agitate a human spirit already starved of love and learning).

Sometimes I assume it’s beyond my pay grade to question the shape of a system that runs my life. Stay practical, nose to the grindstone. In this way, the work ethic masks a deeper laziness, or reluctance to face the ambiguity, uncertainty, and “error” of myself; a reluctance to do the “real work” of giving up the façade of identity and status that represents my collusion with this way of life.

What Activates Maturation?

I collude in this destructive pyramid system the moment my unruly energy gets tricked into the circular pursuit of status; or as long as it turns constantly towards distraction and escape. Then I become the system’s battery pack, a dynamo in pursuit of an ever more idealized and fetishized commodity of Self.

This dynamo is the desire to avoid error. It embodies a predatory system’s perfect ideal, which rejects what it means to be human. Life, after all, is inseparable from error, mutation. Without it, the maturation process stalls, and the human becomes a monstrous child. Learning requires the freedom to go wrong and not compound the error with circular systems of control. Intelligence (greater maturity) can only be activated by encountering the uncontrolled and the unknown.

And I feel this directly, because in the absence of that subtle enslavement to an economic authority (after my own internalized slave-drivers of guilt and status-seeking have been laughed off), I rediscover a freedom from circular thinking; and relearn how to drift and stumble into a world that resembles a kaleidoscope of cascading visions of order.

And this exploration of order inevitably leads to a clarity about what really needs to be done (as opposed to what I need to do in order to succeed in this pyramid system). And this real need requires no ethic. The self-organizing intelligence of the world is primarily a widening and deepening realization of responsibility to life itself. And this realization trumps duty and morality.

But this responsibility isn’t heavy with moral seriousness. There’s joy in discovering this responsibility and connection. The whole workaday world was built on a false conflation of adulthood with seriousness and striving for perfection. But a “perfect conclusion” would mean the ending of learning. That is, when playing stops, so does learning. Maturation doesn’t mean outgrowing being playful, errant and mischievous. It simply means learning to play in ever more subtle fields.

And by denigrating profound play, society suffers the consequences of leisure, which is little more than a gaudy parole from the everlasting chain of workdays. But if I’m not trained to oppose my errors, then perception is freed from a Literal or dogmatic tendency to pin the world down, becoming entirely metaphoric. And then the uncertainty I was trained to fear and resist becomes something beautiful and inviting.[i]

A Dereliction of Duty

There’s a spot of dialogue in the movie version of Steinbeck’s Cannery Row that I love. The natural leader of the bums, Mack, is baffled by the earnest efforts of Doc, the proprietor of the Western Biological Laboratory:

Dock: I got a problem, Mack. How am I going to light them?
Mack: Light what?
Dock: The octopi. Octopi are afraid of light. How can I light them without scaring them?
Mack (with bewildered exasperation): Why don’t you just give up?

Mack is no role model. And despite Doc’s genuine love of learning, thwarted ambition burns a sad hole in him too. But Steinbeck wasn’t writing a moral fable about becoming better angels. He was writing a love story about real people, who will always be diamonds in the rough.

Look, if I can’t love the Mack in me (or the Doc), then I’ll keep striving to “overcome” myself, and denigrating the derelict and the failure in me, and never moving into wider fields of play.

This is contrary to every subtle creed I’ve been taught, but I need to trust my own intelligence here: Learning (maturing) isn’t a path to perfection, but a surrender to an ever more daring honesty. This is only possible when I stop throwing out the bum with the bathwater.

And that means giving up the whole destructive dynamo of self-condemnation and self-promotion that has corralled human energy and attention; giving up that morality of the competitive pyramid; and rediscovering the same broad view Steinbeck had, or that most people have in the presence of a toddler. Only then is it possible to see how deeply you and I have been made sick by work and war.

And then it’s possible to recognize diamonds of wisdom in what is childish, and the spirit of rebellion in a derelict. Because for all his faults, Mack knows something: the battle with ourselves, and even for ourselves, for status and admiration, is worth giving up. Mack is on to something here. Something big.

Shampnois has two web sites: Negative Geography and Subtle Mud.

[i] See the essay “What Is Real?”