What the brayings are...

I love to rant and complain. It's like a hobby. I've been doing it on Facebook for several years. I used the name "Braying Jack Cass." That's because Facebook doesn't allow any usernames with the word "Jackass" in it. The nerve!

But then someone reported me for using a fake name, as if someone could have the actual name "Jack Cass." It's possible. Just like I'm sure there are some people named "Ben Dover" and "Mona Lott" and "Frank Furter" out there. Some parents have a sense of humor. And others are too dumb to make the connection.

Since I can't be on Facebook at work (the nerve!) here's a place I can come to rant during the day.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The magnetic pull of thoughts and the "push/pull" dynamic, notes on meditation

Thousands of thoughts pop up during the day. All day long thoughts are coming and going. Most thoughts pop up, then fade. “That tree is brown,” “the car is blue,” “there’s a squirrel,” thoughts such as these come up and fade. But if a thought is bound to “me” it has a magnetic pull that attracts attention. “Rent is due tomorrow, do I have enough money?” “my job sucks, I want a new one,” “I’m too old,” thoughts such as these, or even more trivial ones that pertain to “me” and “my life” pull the attention. Then what happens next is that either a push or pull happens. This is both a physical and mental process. Attention is focused on the thought, if the thought is unwanted a “pushing away” happens, if the thought is pleasant a “pulling in” happens. Either way, this attention and action serves to amplify the thought. The thought now grows and continues. If it’s a particularly important issue that needs resolution, then it will become a nagging thought, continually popping up, attracting attention, and generating a “push” or a “pull.”

So the difference between a “benign thought” and a “malignant thought” is that the benign thought doesn’t attract significant attention and provoke the “push/pull” movement which amplifies and empowers the thought. This action of “push/pull” also engenders other thoughts such as “I shouldn’t be thinking this way,” “I wish these thoughts would stop,” which themselves engage the “push/pull” dynamic. This attention focus and “push/pull” dynamic is insidious. It happens all day long. And even if you become aware of it, it doesn’t stop. Attention is still drawn to certain thoughts which engages the “push/pull” dynamic. What can be seen though, is that if a provocative thought pops up and IS NOT engaged (i.e. it is allowed to come and go, it isn’t engaged) it simply fades. It needs the attention and the “push/pull” to live. It dies without this. But…considering how this dynamic has been happening our entire lives it is an extremely difficult thing to stop. We are taught that are thoughts are extremely important, we need to mull over our problems and come up with solutions, we need to “think positive,” etc., when in fact the “push/pull” dynamic is not necessary whatsoever. The thoughts will still come. Bad, good, indifferent. Thoughts are informational, or observational. They are phenomena that arise and then fade.

This is what Zen masters have been describing for centuries, what the Buddha himself described. Yet the wording is problematic. The wording of these teachings makes it sound as though thoughts themselves are the problem. That thinking is the issue. That thinking and thoughts need to stop. Thinking and thoughts don’t cause suffering, it’s the “push/pull” dynamic that causes the suffering. It causes a physical/mental process that focuses attention and energy on the thought, causing it to increase. And it’s a vicious cycle, self-perpetuating.

What happens during meditation is that the practicioner is advised to focus on breathing and if thoughts drift, bring them back to the breathe. This leads the practioner to believe that thinking is the issue. Thinking is wrong. Thoughts need to stop. So what happens is that a thought arises, such as “I need to get groceries, I have nothing for dinner,” then immediately another thought, “I shouldn’t be thinking!” and then attention is drawn to these and the “push/pull” dynamic engages.

It is very subtle to see that thoughts can simply arise, and then fade. Even “trigger” thoughts, such as nagging issues of money, work, health, family. It is extremely difficult not only to see this dynamic, but then to disengage the “push/pull” process by being simply a witness to a thought and not engaging it with attention. The “diamond sword” that kills thoughts is apathy, disinterest, neutrality. Although saying that it “kills thoughts” is misleading, the thought isn’t killed per se, it just simply fades of its own accord.

I would say then that meditation is to 1) see how thoughts come and go, 2) see how thoughts appear on our consciousness, are a phenomena that are observed, 3) recognize the dynamic of “trigger” or “malignant” thoughts that pull attention and engage the push/pull dynamic, 4) practice the dispassion which nullifies the thoughts.

There are many pitfalls of course. The very practice of observing the dynamic of “push/pull” and learning how to disengage in fact triggers the “push/pull.” “I shouldn’t be attached to my thoughts!” “Oh no, I’ve engaged with thoughts again, I need to be dispassionate towards them!” thoughts such as these come up, and the mechanism begins again, over and over.

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Friday, February 26, 2016

Facebook sucks

This is my Facebook rant.

I spend way too much time on Facebook. (Okay, that's more of a complaint against me than against Facebook.)

I have to admit, I'm addicted to the "likes" and the comments of approval from people when I post stuff and make comments. In the past you'd have to scribble a comment on a restroom wall, and then keep coming back and checking every week to see if someone commented on your graffiti. Very time consuming, and restrooms stink. Plus all those creepers who hang out in restrooms give you sidelong glances.

With Facebook it's instant gratification! Feedback without the stench of urine.

But after spending hours in a day on Facebook, I kinda felt like I'd been hanging out in a dingy bar all night with my cronies. Everyone laughing it up and joking with each other. Then at the end of the night you realize that you've spent 5 hours in a bar and could have been doing more productive things like reading, studying, cleaning, exercising...okay, honestly I'd probably be masturbating or napping but you get the drift.

Plus, I spent most of my time on Facebook involved with people interested in spirituality, specifically non-dual spirituality. I have a history and interest in this type of spirituality.

Problem is, that this type of spirituality, if not spirituality in general, tends to attract the types of people also interested in all kinds of superstitious and irrational stuff too like crystals, healing energy, chakras, conspiracy theories, anti-vaccines, etc.

So you finish joking with someone, making fun of a guru of type or spiritual practice and then they throw out something about how Obama is the anti-Christ or that you need to feng-shui you apartment or something.


So I'm taking a break.

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Sunday, December 21, 2014

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Monday, December 15, 2014

This, not That

I went to a non-duality meeting the other day, and instead of talking about non-duality they were talking about pro wrestling.

“Hey!” I said, “this isn’t non-duality, I came here to talk about non-duality!”

“Oh,” one of them replied, “this isn’t non-duality? You want us to talk about that?”

“Yes, not this, that! Talk about that!” I insisted.

“We didn’t realize that this wasn’t that,” another of them asserted.

“Yes, it’s not this, it’s that other thing,” I corrected them, “stop talking about this rather than that.”

But then it dawned on me, if non-duality wasn’t 'this', but was rather 'that', then it wasn’t non-duality at all, instead it was duality.

“Hmmmm,” I wondered, “is it even possible to talk about non-duality? As soon as you open your lips to talk about ‘this’ as opposed to ‘that’ you’ve created duality.”

So now I attend a different non-duality meeting each week. Last week the non-duality meeting was about knitting, this week it’s about coin collecting.

I no longer bother with those silly non-duality non-duality meetings because it’s obvious that they’re talking about ‘that’ and not ‘this!’

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Who's On First?

Jerry Katz and Rick Archer, the non-dual comedy duo, were organizing an upcoming advaita forum. They were discussing the lineup of speakers, and the following discussion ensued:

JERRY: Who’s on first?

RICK: Nobody.

JERRY: No one’s on first?

RICK: No, nobody’s on first. No one’s on second.

JERRY: Wait, you said that nobody’s on first.

RICK: Right.

JERRY: Well, if nobody’s on first then no one will be giving a presention at the beginning?

RICK: No, no one will be giving the second presentation.

JERRY: Nobody is giving the second presentation either?

RICK: No, nobody is giving the first presentation. No one is giving the second presentation.

JERRY: If nobody is giving the first presentation, and no one is giving the second presentation either, then who is the third speaker?

RICK: Who cares.

JERRY: I do! That’s why I’m asking.

RICK: No, who cares is the third speaker.

JERRY: I do! If nobody is giving the first talk, and no one is on second, then somebody better be giving the third presentation!

RICK: No, somebody is at home.

JERRY: Who’s at home?

RICK: No, somebody’s at home. Who’s running the video camera.

JERRY: I don’t know.

RICK: He’s collecting the donations at the door.

JERRY: Who is?

RICK: I don’t know.

JERRY: You don’t know who’s collecting the donations at the door?

RICK: Yes, I do. I don’t know.

JERRY: You don't know or you do know?

RICK: I do know, I don't know.

JERRY: Ok, let me get this straight. Nobody is giving the first presentation.

RICK: Right.

JERRY: And no one is giving the second presentation.

RICK: Exactly.

JERRY: And you don't care who's giving the third presentation.

RICK: No, I do care. The third presentation is who cares.

JERRY: You just said that you did!

RICK: I do. Who cares.

JERRY: Allright, forget that. At least let's figure out who's collecting the donations at the door.

RICK: I already told you, I don't know.

JERRY: Well, let's get somebody on it right away!

RICK: Somebody's at home.

JERRY: Then no one can do it?

RICK: No, no one is giving the second presentation.

JERRY: You're telling me that nobody can collection donations?

RICK: No. Nobody is the first speaker.

JERRY: Who's going to collect donations!!??

RICK: Who's running the video camera.

JERRY: I don't know!

RICK: That's who's collecting donations at the door.

JERRY: Who is?

RICK: I don't know.

JERRY: Oh my God, I quit! I’m going to become a Scientologist. Less craziness!

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

My new 2-man play: Fred Davis Calls The FBI To Report Stalking And Harassment


FBI: Yes, this is the FBI.

FRED DAVIS: I’d like to report stalking and harassment.

FBI: Ok, how are you being stalked and harassed?

FRED DAVIS: Someone is saying that I’m a convicted sex offender on the internet.

FBI: I see. So you aren’t and they’re lying about you then.


FBI: You are?

FRED DAVIS: Yes, I am.

FBI: A convicted sex offender?

FRED DAVIS: Yes, a convicted sex offender.

FBI: Ok, so they’re telling the truth about you?

FRED DAVIS: Yes, they’re telling the truth about me.

FBI: But you’re being stalked and harassed from people telling the truth about you?

FRED DAVIS: Yes, I’d like them prosecuted please.

FBI: Telling the truth about someone isn’t exactly stalking and harassment.

FRED DAVIS: But they’re saying it all over the Facebook and on reviews for my books on Amazon.com!

FBI: They’re going onto you Facebook page and threatening you?

FRED DAVIS: No, I don’t have a Facebook page. I’m not allowed to have Facebook as a convicted sex offender.

FBI: Oh, right, I should have known that. So they’re threatening you on their own Facebook pages?

FRED DAVIS: Well, not really threatening, more like making fun of me.

FBI: Making fun of you?

FRED DAVIS: Yes, making fun of me. Nasty comments, humorous pictures, that kind of thing.

FBI: Ok, but are they telling people to go to your house and attack you, or anything like that?

FRED DAVIS: No, they’re making fun of me.

FBI: Ok, well, that’s not really against the law. If making fun of people on Facebook were a crime we’d have to build a hell of a lot of more prisons!

FRED DAVIS: But they’re stalking me!

FBI: So how are they stalking you? Are they following you around town? Parking in front of you house?

FRED DAVIS: No, internet stalking. They’re posting negative reviews of me on Amazon.com.

FBI: So they’re going into other people’s book reviews and pointing out that you’re a convicted sex offender?

FRED DAVIS: No, they’re going into my book reviews and pointing out that I’m a convicted sex offender.

FBI: What do you write books about?

FRED DAVIS: Spirituality, Enlightenment, Awakening, that kind of thing.

FBI: And you think they’re stalking you by writing negative reviews of your books on Amazon.com.

FRED DAVIS: Yes, exactly, could you arrest them please?

FBI: I’m sorry, sir, but if we arrested everyone who wrote a negative book review on Amazon.com we’d need even more prison cells than if we arrested everyone who made fun of someone on Facebook. For the people who write negative reviews of Stephen King books alone we need about 100 more prisons.

FRED DAVIS: But it’s not fair! They’re not supposed to use the information on the sex offender registry to harass and stalk me!

FBI: They’re posting your address and phone numbers and encouraging people to harass you?

FRED DAVIS: Well, no, not exactly…

FBI: They’re showing up at your house and physically confronting you?

FRED DAVIS: Well, no, not exactly…

FBI: Ok, sir, how about if you call the Facebook police or the Amazon.com secret service, they may be able to help you. Good day.

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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Marketing the Intangible: The Story of Enlightenment and Marshmallows

What exactly is Enlightenment? (or “Awakening” which is a more popular term lately). Is it something objective, tangible, and measurable? Or is it a subjective state that can only be known through one’s direct experience?

Many people claim that they are seeking Enlightenment, and others have claimed that they’ve achieved it. Those who claimed to have achieved it often market their services, for a pretty penny, to share insights and/or techniques which can then spur Enlightenment in others. But if someone claims to be Enlightened (or Awakened) and to be able to provoke this in others, how do we know if these claims are true?

There is no universally agreed to definition of Enlightenment. Some may say that it’s a significant spiritual achievement only attained by the likes of the Buddha and unattainable for other mere mortals, at least in one lifetime. Others may define Enlightenment as something less lofty, e.g. an insight into one’s true nature or seeing through the lies of the mind.

Neither definition though is something that can be measured tangibly. How do we know exactly what the Buddha’s physical or spiritual state was? We can judge the wisdom of his words, and also praise the virtues of his actions, but have no way of knowing what lies beyond our own direct experiences of his words and actions. If a person claims to have had an insight into their true nature, or having seen through the lies of the mind, can this be measured for veracity? They could just be repeating words that they have heard others say, and even if some sort of insight was achieved is there a way to weigh or measure them?

About the only tangible measure we have of something which could be called Enlightenment is the recording of brain waves. In the following article: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn20989-monkeys-meditate-for-marshmallows.html experiments were done with monkeys in which neurofeedback was used to train monkeys to reach what’s described as a “Zen-like meditative” state for the reward of a marshmallow. The monkeys were able to reach a very calm and peaceful state where the brain activity was diminished which was measured as being in a certain frequency range.

Of course this brings the idea of Enlightenment from the sacred to the profane; it’s no longer a spiritual pursuit but a material one. Yet if we are reluctant to relegate the spiritual attainment of Enlightenment to the scientific realm we are condemned to accept on faith someone’s claim of being spiritually advanced. If thoughts can’t be weighed or measured with a ruler, then we certaintly can’t make an objective evalulation of whether or not someone’s thoughts are superior to another’s.

I’m reminded of a video where Ken Wilber straps some electrodes to his head and demonstrates that he can reach a state of stopping or slowing his brain waves which is akin to Enlightenment, i.e. a state of “no mind.” My first reaction to the video was that it was simply a spiritual parlour trick. Of course it’s not clear from the video whether or not Ken was rewarded with a marshmallow.

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