Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Morality, Meditation and Anxiety

Morality causes anxiety. When the mind perceives that a moral code has been broken then punishment must be meted out in the form of anxiety. Under normal circumstances the self and the mind are one so that when the mind produces anxiety the self feels it. Meditation (on the other hand) alleviates anxiety by putting distance between the self and the mind whereby the mind cannot so easily infect the self with anxiety. Now, it could be said that an anxious self tends to act immorally. For example, one reaction to anxiety is to take action to get rid of anxiety. The most common tactic is to distract the self in some way and the most effective distractions are typically the most destructive. Alcohol comes to mind here. Another reaction to anxiety is to become irritable and to lash out at other people. So, from this perspective, meditation is a moral act even though its immediate effect is to insulate the self from the punishment it seemingly deserves. In the long run (theoretically) the act of meditating will promote moral behavior by reducing anxiety. So in a round about way, meditation produces moral behavior by avoiding the punishment for imoral behavior. Or something like that. This reminds me of the wheel of suffering or samsara. Perhaps it is a miniature version.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Your Father Who Sees in Secret

But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. (Matt 6:6)

There is a sense in Christianity that thoughts matter and "improper" thoughts (e.g., coveting and lust) are sinful and morally wrong. Now, my understanding of Buddhism (and I make no claim to be an authority on the subject) is that thoughts are random and unavoidable and it is best not to get caught up in them. So, under one system these thoughts are crimes requiring a system of justice to mete out punishment and under the other, the thoughts themselves are in a sense their own punishment. Is there some way to reconcile these two positions?

I've often thought that the external, personal deity of Christianity is a metaphor for the actual thing. On one level this makes sense because God being outside of creation is probably not bound by the rules of creation and any attempt to define Him would probably define Him as an entity less than He actually is. This reminds me of a statement my freshman year roommate made to justify his non belief in an omnipotent god. "Can God make a rock so heavy that he can't lift it?" This question, I think, points out the limited nature of speech to describe the divine more than it offers an insight into the divine. So, what we cannot define with words, we describe with symbols.

The question then becomes, who is this Father that sees in secret? Is it an external entity sitting on a throne? Is it a deeper part of the self? Is it something else entirely? I think the answer to this question might serve to reconcile the Christian and Buddhist concepts of thought. But I really can't be any more specific than that. It's a cop out, I know.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Moral Implications of Meditation

According to my understanding of meditation the self (i.e., that part of consciousness that is able to observe thoughts) observes the mind (i.e., that part of consciousness that produces thoughts) and by doing so the self becomes detached from the mind. In this detached state, the mind becomes something of a seperate entity. This would imply (at least it does to me) that the self, therefore, is not responsible for the actions of the mind. As such, as the mind goes through the normal course of the day coveting, lustful, jealous, spiteful etc. there is a sense that the self can say "well, that's just the mind doing that and I'm not responsible for it." In other words, the self is not morally responsible for the actions of the mind even though it might experience the "pleasures" associated with the mind's bad behavior. It seems to me that meditation can then become a way of obsolving the self from its own "sinful" behavior. This confuses me a little.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Progress With Meditation

I've recently reached a point where I can better observe my mind in action. It is difficult to explain in words but it seems significant. There are points during the day that I become embarrassed for different reasons but I can now sort of observe this happening with the mindset of "oh, there it is again." Previously, I would have become enveloped in the embarrassment and that would have been my state of mind. But now I am to a certain degree insulated from it. Of course this does not encapsulate the subtleties of the experience but it points in the right direction. It is not a pleasant experience necessarily but is certainly more pleasant than experiencing embarrassment. More as it develops...


I've been mulling a specific example of the embarrassment I have been experiencing lately. I have been reading a book entitled "The Joy of Living" by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche. The book is a basic instruction on Buddhist meditation as well as the philosophy and science related to the practice. I typically read this book on the train going to and from work. The cover of the book has a picture of the author dressed in his Buddhist monk robes. Recently I have become aware that I tend to hide the cover from the other people on the train by holding the book such that the picture is facing the floor or my body. The impulse to do this is strong. Now, when I observe myself doing this, my intellectual response is "there's no need to do that because there's no reason to be embarrassed about it." Yet I do it just the same. Upon further reflection, I think the reason behind my impulse is something along the lines of the other people on the train will see the picture of the monk and me reading the book and have one of several reactions. One reaction could be that they will see me, a Westerner, reading a book about Eastern philosophy and disapprove or think I was some "New Ager". Another reaction might be that they would see me reading the book and question my sincerity or say to themselves what right do I have to reach for enlightenment? Another reaction might be that I am somehow trying to impress others by my eclectic choice of reading material (this is their thought I am describing - actually it is my perception of their thoughts - Yeesh). Of course, on their face, these thoughts are ridiculous. I am perfectly entitled to read what ever I want and there is nothing so terrible about other people being aware of it. Unfortunately, the urge remains regardless of whether I am intellectually aware of it or am observing it in a meditative state. The interesting thought is that I am reading a book on meditation and meditating on my ego associations related to reading it in front of others. (At least I thought that was interesting.) :)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Interview With A Friend on Confidence

I've been thinking about confidence as it relates to the issues I tend to want to discuss on this blog. Yesterday the idea struck me to interview my friend who embodies confidence. I had initially planned on asking one question with several follow ups, however, his answer to my first question was uniquely powerful in and of itself. In my mind it stands on its own and is fodder for further contemplation and exposition. Here is the interview:

LENTMAN : You've always struck me as a confident person who is able to maintain a sense of self worth even in situations that are not familiar to you. Is this an accurate assessment of your state of mind? If not, please explain why not? If yes, please tell me what you attribute this to?

FRIEND : Yes, I would say that is an accurate assessment of my state of mind. It's difficult to point to something as the direct cause of this way of being. I assume my parents had something to do with it- building within me a feeling that everything was okay and that I always had choices about the details, both big picture and day-to-day, of my life. My mother praised me a lot and always celebrated the things I was good at. My dad has a "so what" type of attitude about the world- he does what he wants to do and other people just need to deal with it. I see those things in myself.

I remember laughing a lot as a kid. I remember feeling like I owned the school I went to because during the day I had to follow the teachers' rules and then when the bell rang, they all went home- I continued to play there on the school playground. It was then that I rode the merry-go-round in the middle(!), I climbed the apple trees, ate the apples, climbed onto the roof of the school. This stands out as a formative dynamic- I saw the temporary and context-based nature of authority.

I remember in middle school one of the older kids picked on me all the time. I hated it. My brother suggested I "find him alone and beat the crap out of him." It scared me, but I felt like it was good advice. A few days later I was in a stairway during a class with no one around. I saw the older boy. He gave me a demeaning look and started to say something when I walked straight up to him, ready to do as my brother advised. He got a scared look in his eyes and he bolted out of there. I still feel proud of myself about that.

I think I've done a good job recognizing what I enjoy doing, what I'm good at, about what I want my life to be and working towards that. When I'm down, I can usually remember that I like myself, that I generally have a good time existing as a human on the planet earth, and that I have something to offer the world. These things help to build within me a core of confidence.

It makes me think about recently quitting my job... It was difficult work, made more unpleasant by the challenging social dynamics, and I rarely felt successful. I became unhappy. I didn't exercise, I was gaining weight, I was stressed out in the evenings, all night long, and on the weekends. I kept thinking about how if I just gave it the time I needed to learn it, then I'd be okay. And then enough things came to a head where it seemed like it was just too much. One of the chief things I felt was embarrassment about failing. Then I kept coming around to a feeling of "Fuck that. This sucks. I'm outta here." I remember remembering that I was actually good at some things, that a lot of people like me, and that I've been very successful in some settings.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Therefore I am Bad

There is a tendency in my thinking to observe "things" about myself and then to arrive at the conclusion that I am deficient and therefore should feel bad about myself. I used the word "things" because that word is sufficiently vague to cover the various categories of "things" to which I am referring. For example, a thing could be an embarrassing memory, a bad habit, recent performance, prospects for the future or the various aspects of the state of my present life. The list is endless. But the point of this post is to recognize this dynamic. I observe these things and then I conclude that I am deficient and should therefore should and do feel bad about myself.

I've recently been reading a book on Buddhist meditation. This is not the first time that I have exposed myself to the Buddhist mode of thought. However, like most learning experiences something is not fully appreciated at first glance but rather appreciation deepens with each repeated exposure. So, even though the material in this book is familiar to me, the experience of the material this time around has deepened and specifically has allowed me to witness this dynamic rather that be swallowed up by it.

Now let's return to the thought tendency I described in the first paragraph. By taking a step back from the thought rather than immediately feeling bad upon experiencing a "thing" I now see that there is something akin to a choice which is skipped over. I don't have to feel bad after experiencing the thing because the badness I attach to the thing is exactly that. It is badness that I attached to it. In reality (define as you wish) the things are neither good nor bad but merely things. It is the inability to see this that has kept me imprisoned within this tendency. Hopefully this realization will facilitate my liberation.

Friday, April 17, 2009

How to Transition From a Law Job to Something More Creative

I work for a large law firm in a major east coast city. It's been eight years now and suddenly I've discovered that I am tremendously ill suited for the career that I let happen to me. I'm now in my late 30s and wish to God I made different choices along the way. Rather than wallow in self pity, however, I would like to figure out my options. Unfortunately, I'm not very good at figuring out my options which is how I found myself in this predicament. I like to think of myself as a pretty creative person especially in the field of writing. That is what I enjoy doing the most anyway. This post is my message in a bottle set adrift on the infinite cybersea. Maybe someone will see this, take pity on me and point me in the right direction. Maybe making this post will be the sentinel event which rearranges my neurons allowing me to make proper decisions in life.

If anyone has any suggestions please feel free to comment.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Earning Revenue Through Blog Writing

An interesting thing happened yesterday. This blog earned $.01 through advertising. I'm not sure what formula is used to determine how much I earn and when it is earned. It has something to do with the number of times the web page is viewed and how many times the advertisements are clicked. So far, the advertisements have not been clicked and until now I had not earned any revenue. Yesterday, however, I crossed some threshold. A penny is just a penny but there is a world of difference between nothing and one cent.

It is interesting that this happened on the very day I made a post about trying to attract more viewers to the blog. I am not sure that there is a direct causal connection between the two events. At any rate, the experiment continues and I will post significant updates when they occur. I imagine the title of this post might generate some traffic.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Reintegration Into the Ordinary World

As an exercise in functioning within the Ordinary World I will now embark on a mission to see if I can attract more viewers to the Lentmen blog. I am curious to see how this is accomplished and there is no better education (for most things) than to attempt to do them yourself. One idea I have is to write about topics related to common interest with the expectation that people using search terms related to them will be directed (indirectly?) to this blog.

According to the following is a list of the most popular search terms for the week ending April 10th:

1. MySpace
2. Facebook
3. What does my name mean
4. How much should I weigh
5. How to get pregnant
6. YouTube
7. Craigslist
8. Vin Diesel
9. Dictionary
10. Burnout Alley

Okay then. Let's first talk about Myspace and Facebook. Well, I tried to look into Myspace once but found it very complicated and soon after gave up on it. Later on I discovered Facebook which was much easier to use. I originally looked into Facebook intending to track down some people I had lost touch with many years ago. Surprisingly, I tracked down the intended people with ease. Coincidentally, I got back in touch with other people around the same time not through Facebook but there must have been some kind of likeminded nexus at work behind the scenes. Anyway, time passed and I gradually got sucked into Facebook far more than I was comfortable with. People keep sending me their updates which then in turn sends me into the following mental exercise. First, I marvel at how more interesting and fulfilling everyone else's life seems in comparison to mine. I then ask the question, "should I be posting my status?" To which the response, "who the hell cares about my status?" is typically offered. But then I think, "Oh come on! You're just being antisocial. All these other people post their statuses seemingly without the same hang up." But then I try to think of a status update and cannot come up with anything suitably witty. I then generally become disgusted with the whole process at that point. The upshot? If you are prone to this type of thinking stay away from Facebook. I wish someone had this talk with me a few months back. So that's Myspace and Facebook. Stay tuned for "What does my name mean?" Actually, I'm not sure how I will write about that one without revealing my name but I'm sure I will come up with something.

Please visit the blog often and be sure to click on the advertisements. So far I've had about 170 page impressions (meaning the webpage was viewed 170 times) but no one has clicked on an add. Following these instructions will make my experiment a success. Tell a friend.


Lent 2009 is now over. The seal has been broken. The stone has been rolled away. I have returned with the elixir from the special world back into the ordinary world. This brings to mind a reoccurring dynamic. I expect things outside of myself to make me feel whole and end up being disappointed when they do not. Lent is just another example of this. I expect to go through the rigors of Lent and come out whole on the other side. I expect that those habits which made me feel un-whole before Lent will somehow make me whole when I return to them after taking some time off. Perhaps the mere recognition of this dynamic is a positive step.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Day Forty Two - End Game

Having passed the forty day mark, I feel like these last days of Lent are gravy (so to speak). This, of course, conflicts with the idea that Holy Week is the most intense part of Lent. However, I will be out of town this weekend and it will probably be a good time to break the Lenten fast at that time. Thoughts of "I am cheating" shall be ascribed to the chattering mind and will recieve a knowning wink in return.

That said, this end stage brings forth a familiar mental dialogue which chatters about carrying forth the Lenten disciplines into the ordinary world once I leave the special world of Lent. From my perspective now, it seems that should be a relatively easy task to perform. However, my experiences from Lents past suggest otherwise. The usual pattern is that I fall back into my usual self destructive patterns once again over time (perhaps not imediately but eventually for sure). That is a problem. On the other hand, this Lent seems markedly different than prior Lents. For one thing, the struggle and temptation was for the most part absent. Second, my mind although troubled by my usual hang ups is also quite stable and peaceful. So I suppose I will adopt a wait and see approach. It might also be useful to adopt some rules to keep me on the right path. I have a history of becoming obsessive with rules of this kind so I must also be on my guard not to fall into that trap either. There are many traps.

In any event, I consider this Lent to have been very, very successful. I am pleased with what I have accomplished (while being cognizant of the ego implications). There is always hope that things can improve. Hell, we went from eight years of George W. Bush to a Barak Obama presidency. We shall see. We shall see.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Natures and Values

In my last post "The Crests and Troughs of Belief" I mentioned E-Value and HP-Value. The following is a description of the "Natures" and "Values" that reality can be subdivided into. These are ideas that came to me many years back. Recently I have refined these ideas a bit (in my head). So, I think they will provide fodder for future posts. Enjoy.



The mind perceives reality by gathering information in three basic ways, (1) interacting externally (i.e., outside the human body) with physical things through the five senses, (2) the feeling of emotions internally (i.e., within the human body) and (3) the thinking of thoughts also internally. The mind then differentiates all that exists within reality into three categories: (I) that which he understands, (II) that which he does not understand but has the capability of understanding, and (III) that which he does not understand and has not the capability of understanding. Within this context, the object of understanding can be described with the two terms (A) Natures and (B) Values described below.


All things within reality can be assigned one of two natures. Each nature in turn subdivides into two sub-natures each. Natures are divided between that which is known called the “Physical Nature” and that which is not known called the “Spiritual Nature”. The Physical Nature consists of things that man knows such as objects and ideas. Objects and sensations belong to the lowest and least abstract sub-nature called the Material Sub-Nature. Ideas which man understands are contained within the second and relatively more abstract Intellectual Sub-Nature. The second, more abstract nature called the Spiritual Nature consists of things that man does not know. The Spiritual Nature consists of two sub-natures called the Mystical Sub-Nature, that which man does not know but can know and the Divine Sub-Nature, that which man does not know and cannot know outside of transcendence or revelation.

Man is perceives direct evidence substantiating the Material Sub-Nature through the five senses. Man is conscious of the Intellectual Sub-Nature by thinking. Man becomes aware of the Mystical Sub-Nature through the process of discovery and invention. Once something which was previously unknown becomes known it is “demystified” and moves from the Mystical Sub-Nature to one of the two Physical Sub-Natures. Man has no evidence of the Divine Sub-Nature and can only appreciate it through faith.


Value is the attribute which increases a thing’s desirability. Value can exist in one of two forms, Entertainment ("E-value") and Higher Purpose ("HP-value"). E-value is value which increases a thing’s desirability because it makes the passage of existence more enjoyable. E-value manifests itself through both the material and intellectual sub-natures and is therefore known. Examples of E-valuable things are amassing wealth for its own sake (material) or a the experience of a pleasurable thought for its own sake (intellectual). HP-value is value which increases a thing’s desirability because it elicits the impression that the experience of existence serves a higher purpose. HP-value manifests itself through all sub-natures and therefore can be known of unknown. Examples of HP-valuable things are amassing wealth so that one is not distracted by the anxiety of being in debt (material), studying philosophy to address the questions of existence (intellectual), meditating as a means of self-exploration or liberation (mystical or divine).

Day Forty One - Crests and Troughs of Belief

I posted a blog entry entitled "Hope" a while back. In it I talked about how I have been purchasing lottery tickets (specifically Powerball tickets) as an exercise in hope. The idea was that I was not so much interested in winning the lottery (although I certainly would not mind that outcome) but rather I derived some comfort in the knowledge that the lottery ticket sat in my wallet. The ownership of the ticket was the ownership of hope. This is actually true. Having the ticket in my wallet does for some reason act as an anxiety release valve and presumably that is because hope existed where it did not exist previously. However, checking the numbers the day after the drawing does produce mildly negative emotions in the form of feeling let down. The question is, does the positive emotion of owning hope outweigh the negative emotion of being let down? The answer is, I'm not sure. So, I have found myself in a belief trough in terms of this lottery ticket / hope experience. This however, is enlightening in itself in that by participating in one exercise I have opened my eyes to a larger pattern. So where does that now leave me? I have no illusions that insights such as these carry me one inch closer to my goal (or even knowing exactly what that goal is). It is E-Value rather than HP-Value. (E-Value being "that which makes the passage of existence more pleasurable" i.e., Entertainment and HP-Value being "that which serves a higher purpose than E-Value" i.e., Higher Purpose Value). These are terms I have carried with me for some time and perhaps will be further elaborated on in another post. So in conclusion, I suppose the lesson learned is that one should not confuse E-Value for HP-Value as I did by rationalizing my purchase of a lottery ticket as serving some lofty philosphical purpose when in actuality I really just wanted to win the money. Then again, perhaps there is no moral to this story and in the words of Homer Simpson "it's just a bunch of stuff that happened" (in my head mostly). But then again, perhaps I a merely in a belief trough and will think differently about this when the wave crests again.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Day Thirty Nine - Thoughts and Reflections on the Eve of the Fortieth Day

It is the eve of the Fortieth day of Lent. Tomorrow is Palm Sunday marking the beginning of Holy Week, the third act of Lent. I have lived (almost) through forty days of sobriety and have seven more to go. Looking back on the first and second acts I know that I have moved into a more honest space. Is it a happier space? In some ways yes because it is liberating. In some ways no, because it is easier to be happy when insulated from torment. It is an ignorant bliss, however. I have worked on TT, although not to the extent I had hoped. Still, I came to realize that these goals I set for myself can become tormentors, and that certainly was not the point of the goals in the first place. I am surprised that being sober was not at all difficult. I think my drinking was fear based and now that I have not had alcohol to insulate myself from my fear I can see that my fears were to a large extent unfounded or perhaps exaggerated is a better description. There are problems yes, but they are only problems and not whatever I feared they would be. So, what can be learned from Act One and Act Two? I have left the ordinary world of drinking and crossed the threshold into the special world of sobriety. But Lent is more than just sobriety. It is a state of mind. It is a striping down, a simplification, an approach to the bare essence. Sobriety has its role to play there because it forces me to see things (to a certain extent) as they are. To the extent that sobriety accomplishes that task, that is its importance. I cannot say that I have approached the inmost cave and faced my ordeal. There is a week to go, but perhaps that will happen after Lent. For the story of Lent is a microcosm of the macrocosm. In its third act, Christ enters Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (the approach to the inmost cave), he overturns the money changer's tables and is arrested and convicted (the ordeal). He is then crucified (the road home), he dies and rises from the dead (resurrection), and then returns to tell his loved ones to be not afraid of death (return with the elixir). So even if I do not face my ordeal before the end of Lent, I perhaps will construct a mental or spiritual road map.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Day Thirty Seven - Being Present

Certain spiritual practices and meditation in general emphasize the importance of "being present." The idea as I understand it is most of the time the mind tends to devote some or all of its attention to distractions. These Distractions can be both negative or positive in terms of E-Value whereas keeping the mind present can also be both positive or negative in both E-Value and HP-Value. When the mind is distracted it is not fully present and becomes identified with the distraction. In a sense, the self becomes imprisoned by the distraction. Bringing attention to the present is a way to wake the mind and liberate the self by allowing the self to observe the mind and its distractions as well as the self's direct sensations and the immediate environment. When the self observes the mind at work, it is necessarily un-bounded by the mind and is to that extent free.

I. Distractions and Awareness

A. Distractions

The following is a non exhaustive list of the many distractions which allow the self to be imprisoned by the mind:

1. Focusing on the Past

The mind can focus on the past in both negative (i.e., ways which cause pain) and positive manners (i.e., ways which do not cause pain). Negatively Focusing on the Past (“NFP”) can take one of two forms, "Regret" and "Past Envy". With "Regret," the mind remembers a moment when some action was or was not taken which in turn causes the self to experience pain. With "Past Envy," the mind longingly remembers a time that seems better than the self's present condition and the act of comparison causes pain by reinforcing the relatively negative state of the present. Both forms of NFP are wasteful in that they can accomplish nothing to fix the apparent problem rather than to punish the self for whatever perceived crime was committed in either the distant or near past. In this sense, self punishment is perhaps a way to bring about some kind of justice. However, in most cases the punishment seems to be unduly harsh and in all cases present action would do more to rectify the situation than would focusing on the past in this manner.Positively Focusing on the Past (“PFP”) can also take two forms, “Fond Remembrance” and “Relief”. “Fond Remembrance” is the mind focusing on a pleasant past experience which does not involve the present experience of pain. “Relief” is the mind focusing on negative past events which cause the self to feel a sense of relief because that particular event has passed. Although PFP is seemingly not as wasteful or destructive as NFP, it is a distraction from being present and in this sense creates a kind of prison for the mind.

2. Focusing on the Future

The mind can focus on the future in both negative (i.e., ways which cause pain) and positive (i.e., ways which do not cause pain) manners. Negatively Focusing on the Future (“NFF”) can exist in one of two forms, "Dread" and "Future Envy." With "Dread" the mind focuses on a prediction that the self will suffer some negative event in the future which results in the self experiencing pain. With "Future Envy" the mind focuses on a possible future time in which the self will live in a better situation than the present. The mind experiences pain in making this comparison because the future time emphasizes the negativity of the present. Positively Focusing on the Future (“PFF”) can also exist in one of two forms, “Anticipation” and “Hope”. With Anticipation, the mind focuses on a prediction that the self will experience a positive event in the future without comparison to the present and without causing the self to experience pain. With Hope the mind focuses on the comparison between the negative present and a positive prediction of the future from which the self can draw comfort because the negative present predicament is perceived to be finite.

Both NFF and PFF serve to distract the mind from the present. NFF causes pain whereas PFF does not. However, because both serve to distract they are both a prison for the self when the mind identifies with the distraction.

3. Desire

Desire is another form of distraction in which the mind focuses on something (typically material or intellectual) which the self does not currently possess but would like to possess. The second noble truth of the Buddha states that the cause of suffering is desire. (See: To focus on anything but the present is to desire and thus to suffer. When the mind focuses on the past it is desiring either that a previous negative moment could be undone or that a previous positive moment could be relived. When the mind focuses on the future it is desiring to avoid some future pain or to enjoy some future reward. This is desire through comparison. That is, the present moment is being compared to some past or future time. The suffering results when the present does not measure up to the object of fixation or when the object of fixation taints the experience of the present. Desire itself does not necessarily entail focusing on the past or the future. The mind can desire material or intellectual wealth independent of time. Here the mind focuses on the possession of something which is not possessed at the present moment (or perhaps the loss of a burden which is currently being carried). When the mind becomes identified with the object of desire it looses touch with the present in the same way as when the mind focuses on another time. Therefore Desire can cause both pain and imprisonment of the self.

4. Goals

There are E-Value goals and HP-Value goals. Because death is a certainty for everyone and all material possessions including the physical body are ultimately lost from the self, amassing wealth for its own sake is an E-Value goal. It is possible, however, to think of ways to amass wealth as an HP-Value goal. For example, if constant debt is a distraction of the mind, paying off the debt and amassing wealth to avoid debt in the future can be a form of liberation from the distraction except to the extent amassing wealth itself becomes a distraction. The Goal itself will always be a distraction. However, a goal may be a way to ultimately eliminate distraction even if it is a distraction in the short term.

5. Embarrassment and Pride

Embarrassment and Pride are both distractions in present time. Embarrassment is a the mind focusing on its own perceived, negative perceptions from others of the self, which in turn, causes pain. Pride is the mind focusing on its own perceived, positive perceptions from others of the self, which does not cause pain. In some situations the self can be embarrassed or proud without reference to others but this I suspect is a rare proposition. Because the mind identifies with embarrassment and pride, it looses awareness of the present moment and for this reason they are distractions.

B. Awareness

The following is a non exhaustive list of those things which bring the mind into awareness of the present moment:

1. Meditation

Meditation (as I define it) is the conscious action of bringing the mind to focus on the present moment without distraction or limitation. It is effort to the extent that the mind does not focus on the effort. That is, the mind might identify with the effort to remain focused on the present. Once it does this, it is no longer meditating but rather is in a state of distraction. The mind is limited when it focus only on one or a limited set of stimuli to the exclusion of others. Sometimes a meditator might focus on the breath or the repetition of a mantra as a means of focusing the mind. But this is merely an exercise to gain the mental discipline to keep the mind aware and undistracted.

In general, the mind’s natural tendency is to jump from one distraction to the next in a seemingly random fashion. Perhaps the mind does this because it is searching for pleasurable experiences and finding one thought to be unpleasurable skips to the next thought until that becomes unpleasurable. Perhaps the mind fears being bored and the thought of not being occupied with something must be avoided. Perhaps the mind is a machine which manufactures thoughts but has not been calibrated to do so in a disciplined manner. Whatever the reason or combination of reasons, the act of meditating is an exercise to at first train the mind to keep from being distracted and ultimately to free the self from the mind.

2. Non Meditative ways of Focusing on the Present

Certain physical experiences can also draw the mind to the present without the force of will. Among these experiences are pain, pleasure, and excitement. When the physical body experiences pain the mind will immediately focus on this experience to the exclusion of other competing thoughts depending on the severity of the pain. Although the mind is drawn to the present, it is confined to the experience of pain itself and perhaps ways that the pain can be alleviated. To this extent, the mind is imprisoned. Once the pain resolves the mind then typically becomes distracted with Relief or perhaps Dred of the pain returning. A similar notion is true with pleasure. Here the mind focuses on the pleasurable sensation and ways to prolong the sensation. When the sensation has passed the mind typically is distracted with Past Envy or Fond Remembrance. Excitement can also draw the mind into the present. For example, the experience of riding on a roller coaster draws the mind into the present by the excitement of the ride. Clearly the intent behind the experience is not to reach the end point (it is not a mode of transportation in that sense). Also, certain narcotics can also draw the mind into the present by allowing the mind to focus on whatever sensation the drug is producing. The point however is to combine being present with freedom.

To the extent any of these experiences restrict the freedom of the mind I suspect the benefits of being present are lessened. On the other hand to the extent any of these experiences can draw the mind to the present with freedom, I suspect will be beneficial.

II. What is the benefit of Being Present?

The question now arises, why is it so important that the mind be undistracted? What is gained by the work involved in attaining this state of mind?

A. Benefits of Being Present

1. Physical Benefits

There are scientific studies which support the notion that meditation does relieve the body of stress in both the short term and the long term. (See: There are certainly less scientific claims which state that meditation can bring about all kinds of immediate benefits from success in the work place to world peace. All of these benefits can be classified as E-Valuable benefits. (See:

2. Spiritual Benefits

Meditation is also the method by which some religious practitioners achieve enlightenment, liberation and / or salvation. These states, because they are spiritual, do not lend themselves to description but must be experienced first hand to really know what they are about. Not having ever experienced this state of being myself, I can only speculate as to what they are like. It would seem logical to presume that meditation detaches the self from the worries of everyday life and in this sense liberates the self from everyday life. The tenants of Christianity strongly imply that it is the everyday world which must be overcome to receive salvation. Consider this familiar saying from the Gospel of Matthew, "...I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. Matthew 19:24" Here Jesus explains that wealth is a detriment to achieving salvation. The implied reason is that the generation and preservation of wealth causes the self to become focused on the material to the detriment of the spiritual. Consider also the seven traditional deadly sins of lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride. All these sins entail the common thread of focusing on the material to the exception of the spiritual. Just what exactly this salvation or kingdom of God entails is open to speculation. It could be an inner peace. It could be a physical location. It could be both or something entirely different.

B. Benefits of Not Being Present

Certainly it is possible to think of instances where it is beneficial to not be present in the manner described above. For example, the act of logically thinking through a problem requires a certain detachment from the present. Furthermore, if one is experiencing pain or unpleasantness (entering a dirty public washroom for example) it might also be beneficial to distract the mind from the immediate sensations. Finally, simple boredom may also be a compelling reason to distract the mind from being present.

1. Distracting the Self from other Distractions

Sometimes the mind seeks to distract the self from other distractions (e.g. repression). There are some thoughts which are too painful for the self to experience and for this reason the mind buries those thoughts and replaces them with others. Perhaps the mind creates cravings (food, alcohol, drugs etc.) to occupy or stupefy the mind in an effort to keep the self from experiencing the painful thoughts. It has also been speculated that the mind can instigate physical pain in an effort to distract the Self from painful thoughts or emotions. (See: Meditation in this instance can be helpful because it places the Self in the observer's seat. Instead of identifying with the mind's fear of these unwelcome thoughts the Self observes the mind's strategy. At this point the Self becomes removed from the pain but also is in a position to approach the source of the pain and address it on its own terms.

C. Conclusion

Being present is a state of mind which is probably not achieved regularly by most people in the modern world. The benefits of being present can be both physical and spiritual. Likewise, the detriments of continually not being present can be both physical and spiritual. Practically speaking it is unreasonable to expect a person to be constantly present because there are many distractions which bombard and accumulate in the mind over a lifetime. Perhaps for this very reason it is important to take some time to be without distraction.