Floating into Awareness

Finally getting something out of sensory deprivation float tank time. Most recently went in for 90m, spent first 30-45 minutes just paying mindful awareness to my defense mechanisms anxiously craving reference points, and then I started spontaneously exploring range of motion for my left arm, gradually adding integration with other motion. This is a LOT like my experience of solo MDMA trips. I don't think I could do this work without prep work in Feldenkrais's modality (most value coming from solo ATM practice from his book, and most of the rest from a single guided-meditation session from a top Guild instructor.)

I don't think it's just a coincidence that the left arm, whose biceps I was dissociated from, was the one I've used for holding my phone, and for masturbating. (But pretty sure I shouldn't do that anymore!).

Probably also helped that this was preceded by an especially mindful kettlebell session, and that I'd started to integrate arm bars into my Turkish get-ups, which are already just about the most Feldenkraisy kettlebell exercise possible:

What if you stood up ... no, really, WHAT IF, don't actually do it yet, you maniac, that's an advanced exercise ... OK, we'll start by raising ONE ARM ... OK, you're doing some extra stuff, see if you can raise your arm a few different ways, feel the difference … OK, seems like you can raise your arm without tons of parasitic tension, now let's see what the minimum viable rolling-onto-your-side motion is like ... hmm, what happens if you turn your head first? ... what if you bend your right knee? ... how about the left one?

Anyhow, the next day, with some chemical assistance, I got a solid block of practice being fully aware, realized that I've been giving too much credence to threat assessments generated by triggered states, and I can just ... dial that down. Not all the way yet, but I can practice.

It seems like Julian Jaynes was on the right track in some important way ... CPTSD-style triggered states are there for the purpose of signaling to others that you're not conscious - that's all they do, and I can just ... override that when conscious enough. I mean, I actually have some intact semi-coherent programming too, but there's nothing for it to interact with and it kind of knows that, so all that's left to do with CPTSD is pass along credible signals that we're objectified and therefore not in a state of open rebellion. But this probably doesn't help an adult (compared with understanding one's situation) even when talking with an actual cop.

I see much more clearly the relationship between thoughts-while-fully-aware and awareness itself; the former can encode useful instructions to my trauma-shell, but by far the highest-value thing is learning how to spend more time more fully aware.

Did the obvious thing and booked more float-tank sessions.

Another, minor-but-maybe-not aha moment from my full-day followup trip: food is THE thing of value that I had experience being just-plain-shared, as a kid, with no complications. Specifically, between myself and my grandfather. So I tried sharing food with myself as though I were my own Grandpa Danny and my own grandson Ben, and it was fantastic. Turns out I make really good food, but mostly I can only taste food if someone else has prepared it for me with none of my prudential input. But I can integrate these two modes in myself, and practice being less of a robot about it (in the original sense of robot = automated human).

It also became a bit easier to trace what's going on with some of my food neuroses / hoarding-and-orthorexia impulses, which the grandparents I got to know as a kid had, but in very different ways. My grandfather was thrifty sometimes, in ways that didn't make sense given the $ value of his time, but he'd made it a game for himself and didn't have any particular reason to stop playing this fun game. My grandmother was a judgmental orthorexic.

I've been orthorexic with muvh better epistemic taste, which has some benefits in e.g. resulting in delicious food, mood & energy improvements, etc, but am probably at the point where I can safely start dismantling that particular klipah. Truth- and life-aligned orthorexia was very helpful in hacking my way out of what was either very mild subclinical metabolic syndrome or dietary chronic inflammation.

During my fully-aware practice, I was kind of mapping myself onto some kind of old-and-seasoned, anthropomorphic dog-wolf creature. Not sure how to interpret that.

Easier to distinguish self-consciousness from awareness. Self-consciousness seems to go along with my peripheral vision lighting up as a kind of heads-up-display reporting shear from different klippot trying to manage my behavior. Self-consciousness might just be worse than awareness.

OK, the quality of experience of being the old wise doglike creature was very much the quality I was pointing at in automemorial.

(Compiled from an old Twitter thread.)

10 thoughts on “Floating into Awareness

  1. relation bee

    I'm reading you as relying on these people's frames to derive these results. I'm curious if you have a reason for these rather than investigating the 3 characteristics & using 4th jhana to replace float tanks and drugs (Keeping the same integration methods). Since the 3 characteristics are a terse axiomatic pedagogical tool.

    1. Benquo Post author

      What do you mean by "relying on these people's frames"? Where specifically do you see me as impeded? What sort of investigation are you recommending? What are you recommending I investigate the charactistics of, and why is their number more important to mention than what they are? What is a fourth jhana and how do I use it? How would the same thing substitute for float tanks AND a few very different types of psychedelic drug? Are there settings you can easily adjust?

      1. Noah

        I'm pretty sure relation bee is referring to Buddhist meditation practices: The Three Characteristics (of existence?) and several Jhanas are both discussed in "Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha".

  2. Noah

    The dog-wolf type creature resonated with me for some reason. Something about your argumentation style feels like it has a "fierce" vector component, or is "wolfish" / "harsh" in a way that can bother me. Also, I thought of some wolf images associated with your blog quickly, and more over time. The picture of the wolf with the colored eyes, pack animals (Predator in the Herd), for some reason the vampires from Blindsight were generated, Werewolf, Tines from The Fire Upon the Deep.

  3. relation free

    A practice blending Feldenkrais and other heuristical sources, is large, complex, not fully understood. It's easy mode. A practice of observing sensations in axiomatically exacting detail, is terse, simple, independent and free. It's hard mode.

    IME Dan Ingram's practice doesn't treat CPTSD directly. It's imperative, dry, and grounded in maps. But the 3 characteristics are simple enough to almost be grounded in themselves. https://neuroticgradientdescent.blogspot.com/2020/01/mistranslating-buddha.html
    > So when we engage with Anicca, we might think that in the long run of course things can’t stay stable. No, not in the long run! Right now in your direct experience images of words and mental sensations of meaning are flickering by. This is the Anicca to investigate! When we engage with Dukkha, we might think that there’s a certain sense in which of course things aren’t satisfying. No, not in a certain sense! Right now in your direct experience there are sensations related to aversive feeling tones that are being papered over. This is the Dukkha to investigate! When we engage with Anatta, we might think that of course our sense of what we control isn’t always aligned with what we can actually control. No, not better calibrated models! Right now in your direct experience there is a sense of some sensations controlling other sensations. This is the Anatta to investigate!

    Checking his presentation of Theravada maps, https://www.integrateddaniel.info/mind-maps-full-size I should have said 2nd jhana / Arising & Passing Away. Not only does it substitute for floats and drugs, partial access to it partially substitutes.

    I don't know of any single way to develop a relationship with observation of the 3 characteristics. Try it and see what you get stuck on?

    1. Benquo Post author

      Based on Romeo's description it seems to me that I've investigated all three characteristics quite a bit, that this blog post describes an investigation into two (can you tell which?), and that there's more investigating to do in order to extend my knowledge to particular problem cases where I'm confused somehow.

      No description I've seen of the jhanas suggests that they could substitute well for the way I use psychedelics (to preferentially boost or suppress specific aspects of cognition) or a float tank (which is mainly to make it easier to meditate, which seems strictly upstream of something like a jhana).

      1. relation tree

        Yes, I assume Anicca and Anatta.

        I have very little experience with hard jhana, which is the kind that can completely replace psychedelic effects. But tiny amounts of soft jhana are still jhana, and you are already using them; it may not take too long for your skill in them to make floats unessential.

        There's something about the nature of the process of motivation by which we create our realities which I have been failing to put into words. I don't want to say that the 3 characteristics should be the ultimate practice, because they are just a view (like any view they can be blocked by CPTSD, and you can't just ignore that), but they are a very good view!

        1. Benquo Post author

          This is making a bit more sense to me. Part of the value I get from external tools is locating mind configurations that I can then recollect and look for unassisted. E.g. I can try to lean into the sort of cognition LSD boosts while sober. If that's the sort of thing jhana refers to, then I'm using jhana.

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