Monday, November 19, 2018

Solutions to Spiritual Problems

It is very common for people to have spiritual problems that they can't seem to find satisfying answers to. For example, someone who is afraid of death may want to know what the evidence for the afterlife is. Other common problems are, "What is the purpose of life?" and "Why is there so much suffering in the world?" There are very good answers to these questions but this article is about a different aspect to these problems.

These questions are often verbal expressions that are caused by feelings. When a person has a feeling and tries to put it into words, it can seem like something that needs to be solved through reason and information. However, when the question is really an expression of a feeling, reason and information may not influence the feeling and so the person is perpetually unsatisfied with whatever answer he may encounter.

This is because feelings are sometimes caused by the levels of various chemicals in the brain. Information may not alter the levels of these chemicals and so information may not change the feeling and therefore no answer is ever found satisfactory.

However, it may be possible to eliminate the feeling by changing the chemistry in the brain through some combination of diet, meditation, and exercise. When that happens the question disappears and in that way the problem is solved. I have written another post about methods that may be used to change brain chemistry in my article: A System for Spiritual Development: Hacking Your Brain Chemistry Without Drugs.

Altering your brain chemistry can help you understand many spiritual truths that you might have read about. This is because many spiritual truths are feelings put into words. They have to be felt to be understood.

Copyright © 2018 by ncu9nc All rights reserved. Texts quoted from other sources are Copyright © by their owners.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Relaxation and Enlightenment


How I Practice Buddhism
Further Reading
Try it Yourself


On an internet forum I participate in, someone asked "Can Enlightenment be taught?". My thoughts on this subject are influenced by my understanding of Buddhism and my own experiences meditating. In Buddhism, the term in the language of the sutras is better translated as "awakening" than enlightenment. There are stages of awakening and the final goal of spiritual practice is to end suffering for the practitioner. (In Buddhism, pain is considered different from suffering. Pain is a physical sensation, suffering is mental anguish. When I write about suffering here I am referring to mental anguish, ie unpleasant emotions.)

My own meditation practice has evolved over time and it has become something very different from what is typically taught by Buddhist teachers. So much so that I posted on the Dharma Overground, a forum for Buddhist practitioners, and asked if what I was doing was even Buddhism. I found out that what I was doing is Buddhism but Buddhist practice is not typically explained in the way I did. It seems to me that my approach is easier to learn and to practice than the traditional methods of teaching. It doesn't involve any abstruse philosophical concepts, the practices are easy to do, they don't require intense concentration, and there are a huge variety that you can choose from.

Buddhist practice centers around learning to let go of attachments and aversion because these mental constructs are the source of mental anguish which constitutes suffering. The key question of Buddhist practice is: How does one learn to let go of attachments and aversions? Different schools offer different solutions. They are based on traditional methods and often involve abstruse philosophical concepts.

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How I Practice Buddhism

My answer to the question uses modern knowledge of how the nervous system works. To understand this, consider what it would be like to not experience suffering. Nothing could cause you mental anguish. Anything could happen, and you would be serene and relaxed.

The term for "suffering" in the language of the sutras is "dukkha" and if you google "dukkha = stress", you will find that stress is sometimes used as a translation for dukkha. So one way to understand Buddhism is that the end result of the practice is to end stress. If you look carefully within when you experience any type of unpleasant emotion you will see that it is a form of stress. If you can relax deeply, the emotion, the mental anguish, will dissipate. Maybe you have noticed that sometimes when you wake up from sleep you feel good and it takes a few seconds to remember a big problem you are in the middle of and then you feel unhappy or stressed again? That is because deep relaxation causes unpleasant emotions to dissipate. When you are having a big problem do you ever just want to lie down in bed? That is because when you are deeply relaxed, on the edge of sleep, you don't feel unpleasant emotions as strongly.

So if you could understand how the body switches from "stress" to "relaxation" and learn how to control that switch, you could develop a system where you could cultivate your ability to turn the switch to "relaxation" and keep it there even when you are in normal waking consciousness.

Because of this, I would say that yes, enlightenment can be taught, because people can learn to control the neurological switch between stress and relaxation. In modern society people experience a lot of stress. The nervous system becomes better at what it does more often, so people become unbalanced, they become stressed very easily and find it hard to relax. This process can be reversed. By practicing meditation and other relaxation techniques, a person can learn to relax very easily and over time become more and more resistant to stress.

However, I don't really think the terms "enlightenment" or "awakening" are useful or helpful. I use these words here because other people use them and if I want to communicate I have to use the terms they do. But in Buddhism, the end goal is the end of suffering (nirvana), awakening is a description of some of the states that precede it. My opinion is that recognizing enlightenment in a system of development is counterproductive because people become distracted by and it interferes with the practice. So I don't use the term in my own system of practice. Each person can tell if they are stressed or suffering and they understand their own ability to relax and stay relaxed.

The advantage of looking at Buddhist practice from the perspective of relaxation is that it is easy to understand. There are no complicated philosophical concepts like non-self, dependent origination, non-symbolic consciousness, or Buddha nature. And it is easy to measure your progress, you know at anytime if you are feeling stress. You can tell if a practice is helping you immediately. You don't have to hope that something mystical will happen years in the future. And you can use many different relaxation techniques developed by other traditions or modern doctors and scientists. You can use the techniques that work best for you.

(It is also important to understand that sometimes emotions are produced by biological processes. For example, in some cases depression or anxiety is caused by abnormal brain chemistry and a purely mental technique will not cure it. However, any secondary emotional reactions like anger at being depressed, can be helped by relaxation.)

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Further Reading

I have several articles on my blog and web site that describe the practices I have found to be helpful:

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Try it Yourself

If you want to try this type of practice, start meditating or doing relaxation exercises. The articles above offer many techniques to choose from. Find the ones that work best for you. Some may work best when you are highly stressed, other may be best when you are only slightly stressed.

The key to this practice is to experience how relaxing makes you feel better. Notice your emotional state after you do the relaxation exercises. Once you see that relaxing reduces unpleasant emotions and makes you feel better, you will naturally turn to relaxation when you are suffering. It doesn't take will power any more than taking aspirin for a headache does. You do it because you know from experience that it offers relief.

Develop the habit of meditating or doing some type of relaxation exercise every day. It doesn't have to be the same technique every time. Just lean how to relax, get to know what it feels like to be relaxed, see if you can stay relaxed. Noticing what causes you to stop being relaxed will help you learn how to stay relaxed. In time your ability to relax and stay relaxed will improve. You will experience fewer unpleasant emotions, less mental anguish, and less suffering.

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Copyright © 2018 by ncu9nc All rights reserved. Texts quoted from other sources are Copyright © by their owners.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Focusing the Mind Can Help You Relax

There is an article at which describes a method they claim will allow you to fall asleep in 2 minutes or less. I can't verify that it works in 2 minutes or less, but it is very similar to a technique I use to help myself get to sleep. What is interesting about this technique is that it can also be used to help you reach deeper states of relaxation during meditation. By practicing the technique as you are going to sleep, you can learn to recognize how it helps you reach deep states of relaxation and experiencing how that works can help you do something similar during meditation.

Here is an excerpt from the article which explains the technique:

The course also aimed to teach “combat aviators to be able to go to sleep in two minutes any time, day or night, under any and all conditions”; instruction in this skill was included to ensure that pilots got adequate sleep, and could sneak in extra shuteye whenever possible.

To accomplish the first goal, Winter taught the men how to physically relax. To accomplish the second, he taught them how to mentally relax. In fact, he essentially defined sleep as the state of being both physically and mentally relaxed.


The key to falling asleep quick is thus to stop the train of thoughts that is usually rumbling through your head. You have to stop ruminating on the regrets, worries, and problems of the day.


So, when you’re looking to nod off, you just want to fill your head with the stillest, calmest of contemplations. Winter suggests three good ones to use, though you don’t have to use all three; just pick one, and if it doesn’t work, try another:

“First, we want you to fantasize that it is a warm spring day and you are lying in the bottom of a canoe on a very serene lake. You are looking up at a blue sky with lazy, floating clouds. Do not allow any other thought to creep in. Just concentrate on this picture and keep foreign thoughts out, particularly thoughts with any movement or motion involved. Hold this picture and enjoy it for ten seconds.


In the second sleep-producing fantasy, imagine that you are in a big, black, velvet hammock and everywhere you look is black. You must also hold this picture for ten seconds.


The third trick is to say the words ‘don’t think . . . don’t think . . . don’t think,’ etc. Hold this, blanking out other thoughts for at least ten seconds.”

The article gives more details of the technique and references a book that explains it even more fully. I haven't read the book so I can't verify if the claims of "two minutes or less" and "ten seconds" are true. But when you are going to sleep it can be very instructive if you try meditate by counting the breath and notice that if you focus your mind on thinking the numbers, you will find yourself becoming more and more relaxed, but if your mind wanders onto the problems of the day, you don't. If you can notice that phenomenon as you are falling asleep, try to achieve a similar effect as you meditate to get to a relaxed state in meditation. When you notice that maintaining concentration during meditation helps you relax, you have a system of feedback that will help you to learn to relax more effectively during meditation.

Copyright © 2018 by ncu9nc All rights reserved. Texts quoted from other sources are Copyright © by their owners.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Many Emotions are Like Hallucinations

In a previous post, I wrote, Your logical mind is an illusion. In this post I explain why many emotions are like hallucinations. Taken together, the two posts explain why some people say that the reality created by ordinary consciousness is an illusion.

If you practice meditation, you may become familiar with the difference between ordinary consciousness and mindfulness. (One definition of mindfulness is dwelling in the present moment, in a relaxed state, with your awareness on your sense perceptions, and not thinking about the past or the future or trying to solve a problem. A simpler definition is being aware of what you are doing as you are doing it.) You may notice that many emotions arise from thoughts that distract your attention away from a state of mindfulness. As you learn to dwell in mindfulness, you realize many emotions are like dreams or hallucinations. Maintaining mindfulness does not feel like repressing a thought or feeling, it feels like waking up from a dream.

When you think of a person, you might visualize what they look like, but you know the difference between a mental visualization and really seeing someone. If you really saw someone who wasn't there every time you thought of them, you would be hallucinating. Emotions are like that. If you think of an experience that causes an emotion, you may really feel the emotion just like if you were having the experience. Emotions are a lot like hallucinations.

There is a well known sutra, The Heart Sutra, which says, "When the mind is no hinderance, no fears exist". When you are able to dwell firmly in mindfulness, without being dragged back into ordinary consciousness by distracting thoughts, you are not troubled by emotional hallucinations.

Copyright © 2018 by ncu9nc All rights reserved. Texts quoted from other sources are Copyright © by their owners.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

A System for Spiritual Development: Hacking Your Brain Chemistry Without Drugs

Below are links to, and excerpts from, four related articles on my blog and website which together describe a set of practices that can produce positive feelings and reduce stress. This can help you live according to spiritual values such as love, kindness, forgiveness, and tolerance.

The subjects covered in the articles include:

  1. How to use meditation to set up a feedback loop in the brain that increases production of dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins and reduces levels of cortisol.

    A meditation technique is described that produces a relaxed mental state and a pleasant contented mood. Taken further, it can produce intense positive emotions and spiritual experiences. However, the main purpose of the meditation is to give you the skills you can use in daily life to maintain a pleasant relaxed mental state and contented mood between meditation sessions.

  2. What it is like.

    This is a description of extreme spiritual experiences that can be produced by the meditation technique described in the first article.

  3. How to increase serotonin production in the brain through diet and nutrition.

    This article explains how eating carbohydrates and protein in the right sequence and at the right times can help increase serotonin production in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is involved in how the brain produces pleasant feelings. This can be helpful in producing the experiences described in the first two articles.

  4. How to turn off the body's reaction to stress.

    This article tells you how to turn off the body's reaction to stress naturally by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system. This is helpful in learning to breathe in a relaxing way and can help you make more progress faster using the meditation technique described in the first article.

Links and Excerpts

  1. How to use meditation to produce spiritual experiences by setting up a feedback loop in the brain that increases production of dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins and reduces levels of cortisol:
    Simplified Instructions

    Sit comfortably in whatever way you prefer, in a chair or on the floor. No special meditation posture is needed. Close your eyes. Notice how you feel throughout your body. Do you feel anxious or tense? Try to relax your whole body. Take a deep breath and relax your whole body as you exhale. Notice the pleasant feeling of relaxation? Now breathe normally and relax your whole body as you exhale. Notice the same feeling of relaxation. Relax your whole body as you inhale and notice a similar feeling of relaxation. It might help you to relax if you slow down your breathing somewhat. Continue to relax your whole body as you inhale and exhale and notice the pleasant feelings of relaxation. Your whole body may begin feel heavy as you become more and more relaxed. While you meditate this way, also say to yourself, (inwardly not aloud) "in" as you inhale, and "out" as you exhale. Notice the absence of mental chatter as you focus your attention on the words "in" an "out". Meditate this way with the understanding that you are trying to have a pleasant, relaxing, calming meditation session. After a while, observing the pleasant feeling of relaxation as you inhale and exhale might make you want to smile.

    If you feel like it, go ahead and smile, even if it's just a little bit, and notice the pleasant emotions that accompany smiling as you continue to meditate


    Smiling causes the brain to release dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin, which are molecules that will elevate your mood. Smiling also reduces levels of the anxiety causing stress hormone cortisol. These chemical changes will produce a pleasant effect and may make you want to smile even more. This can result in a feedback loop that produces intense feelings of feelings of happiness, loving kindness, and connectedness.

  2. What it is like:
    But this type of serenity meditation creates a feedback loop causing the brain to release endorphins, serotonin and dopamine.

    It really is like a drug trip, maybe not a psychedelic trip but it's not normal meditation. Every breath you take is like a hit from a bong, but there's no bong. And it is hugely spiritual. It doesn't require super intense concentration so I think most people could learn to do it. I had to stop the other day because it was so intense I was getting nervous. How many people do you know who were feeling so happy, and connected to all things and feeling such intense metta that they were worried they might never get back to normal? And I felt the presence of non-physical entities too.

    It also creates a kind of synesthesia where everything I see and hear I also feel in my body as if they are part of me. There is an effect like the brain is a virtual reality machine and what I see is really a movie inside my head projected on the unchanging screen of pure awareness, like my mind contains the whole universe including me walking around inside it. Other times I feel like my self and its boundaries are dissolving and I am expanding to merge into infinite space. It's not scary, it's like coming home.

    This meditation changes the "energy" of your surroundings too. You could go to the filthiest shack in the poorest slum in the most miserable godforsaken corner of nowhere and meditating this way would make it a place of beauty and joy. These effects are not gross like a psychedelic trip they are subtle like a change in understanding. And these experiences are not restricted to sitting meditation, you can have them walking around town or out in nature. When you do this, you see it transforms reality because when you walk around smiling, people smile back. In that way, it doesn't just change you, it changes the people around you. It doesn't just make you happy, it makes the world friendly.

    It also produces a state of mind where nothing can upset you because you find something within you which you can relax, and when you do, any unpleasant emotions flow away as soon as they arise. It's as if relaxing opens a door and unpleasant emotions go out through the door as soon as they appear. They just appear and go. Not just during meditation but during daily life.

    It's not nirvana, I still experience some worries, annoyances, and emotional ups and downs, but this type of meditation showed me that happiness is a choice.

    The best thing about this type of meditation is not the intense experiences, the best thing is that between meditation sessions I'm happier and I worry less.

    And it doesn't cause vomiting or diarrhea like Ayahuasca does. It's 100% free. And as far as I know it's legal everywhere.

  3. How to increase serotonin production in the brain through diet and nutrition:
    It is possible to increase serotonin production in the brain by eating protein 20 to 40 minutes after eating carbohydrates. Eat at least 25-35 grams (about 120 calories) of carbohydrates, wait 20 to 40 minutes, and then eat protein. (The source of carbohydrates should be low in protein and fat.) A simple way to do this is to eat the carbohydrate portion of your meal first then wait 20 minutes before eating the protein portion...

  4. How to turn off the body's reaction to stress:
    The sympathetic nervous system is involved in producing the body's response to stress. The parasympathetic nervous system is involved in turning off the body's response to stress.

    Anything that activates the parasympathetic nervous system suppresses the sympathetic nervous system and helps you to relax.

    There are many undesirable effects of stress on physical and mental health so learning to turn off stress can make your life better in many, many ways.

    Learning to turn off stress is also helpful in spiritual development because when you are stressed, you are more likely to be thinking about yourself and your problems ie. being egocentric. But when you are relaxed, you are less likely to be thinking about yourself and more likely to be in harmony with spiritual values like love, kindness, forgiveness, tolerance etc.


    The best way to activate the parasympathetic nervous system and turn off stress that I know of is to do exercises which involve gently moving or stretching your muscles while exhaling slowly as you count to ten. This technique is extremely effective because it combines four separate methods for activating the parasympathetic nervous system in one technique...

Copyright © 2018 by ncu9nc All rights reserved. Texts quoted from other sources are Copyright © by their owners.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Turning Off Stress: The Parasympathetic Nervous System And Spiritual Development

Turning off Stress
How to do the Exercises
Simplified Instructions
Anaerobic Exercises
Related Articles


Your sympathetic nervous system produces your body's response to stress. Your parasympathetic nervous system turns off your body's response to stress.

The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems work in opposition. Anything that activates the parasympathetic nervous system suppresses the sympathetic nervous system and helps you to relax, to turn off stress. In this article I will describe easy exercises you can do that will activate the parasympathetic nervous system, help you to develop it, and teach you how to turn off stress.

The opposite effects of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are similar to the way the analytical neural network in the brain and the empathic-intuitive network cannot both be in use at the same time (which I have written about on my web site). In our modern civilization, many people become unbalanced with their analytical network being overdeveloped and their empathic network underdeveloped. This can make them callous. Meditation helps to develop the empathic network bringing the analytical and empathic networks into balance. This is one reason meditation can be a helpful practice in spiritual development and psychic development.

Learning to turn off stress is also helpful in spiritual development because when you are stressed, you are more likely to be thinking about yourself and your problems ie. being egocentric. But when you are relaxed, you are less likely to be thinking about yourself and more likely to be in harmony with spiritual values like love, kindness, forgiveness, tolerance etc. And just like with the analytical and empathic networks in the brain, the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems can get out of balance. In our busy modern society people experience a lot of stress and their sympathetic nervous system can become overdeveloped and their parasympathetic nervous system can become underdeveloped. Doing exercises like those described below can help you to develop your parasympathetic nervous system and bring it into balance with your sympathetic nervous system.

There are also many undesirable effects of stress on physical and mental health so developing the parasympathetic nervous system, learning to turn off stress, can make your life better in many ways.

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Turning off Stress

The best way to activate the parasympathetic nervous system and turn off stress that I know of is to do exercises which involve gently moving or stretching your muscles while exhaling slowly as you count to ten. This technique is extremely effective because it combines four separate methods for activating the parasympathetic nervous system in one technique:

  • Deep Breathing
  • Muscle relaxation
  • Body Awareness
  • Meditation

Some other relaxation techniques such as guided meditations, visualizations, hypnotic inductions, etc. work by making you sleepy or putting you in an altered state of consciousness, and when you return to normal consciousness, the stress comes back. This technique works by turning off the body's stress response, and the effect stays with you long after you are done. When practiced over a period of weeks or months it can strengthen your parasympathetic nervous system improving your ability to turn off stress and keep it turned off.

The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems work in opposition. Anything that counters the sympathetic nervous system's stress response activates the parasympathetic nervous system and helps turn off stress. The stress response involves increased muscle tension, mental fixation on the source of the stress, and shallow rapid breathing. By moving slowly and gently and or stretching your muscles, you counter muscle tension. By meditating, ie. focusing your attention on your breathing, body movements, and counting, you counter mental fixation. By breathing slowly and deeply, you counter shallow rapid breathing. Deep breathing and meditation alone can be relaxing but when you combine them and add stretches or gentle slow movements you counter the stress response on multiple levels and together they form a powerful way to turn off stress.

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How to do the Exercises

Here are a few pointers on doing this type of exercise.

  • If you have back trouble or any other type of physical ailment, don't do anything that would be bad for your condition. Consult with a doctor if necessary.
  • You can use any combination of:
    • Yoga postures
    • Stretches recommended for use before a workout
    • Tai Chi movements
    • Qi Gong movements - For example, 8 Brocades or Ba Duan Jin (Baduanjin) can be done sitting or standing. There is a diagram at Tai Chi Village that is useful as a memory aid and Wikipedia has a brief description of each movement.
    • Progressive muscular relaxation - This can be particularly helpful when you are tense or worried and you feel tension throughout your entire body which is hard to relax.
    • Isometric exercises (Allow several seconds between exercises to let your muscles relax).
  • The type of movements and stretches should not be strenuous, they should be relaxing, and you should not stretch beyond what is comfortable, the purpose is to relax.
  • Remember to exhale slowly counting to ten as you do each posture or movement, or for simple movements such as those used in progressive muscular relaxation, exhale slowly counting five to ten repetitions of the movement. You don't have to count exactly to ten while exhaling - do whatever number feels most relaxing. If you find yourself counting too high, count more slowly. Or you can just say to yourself, "in" as you inhale, and "out" as you exhale.
  • Try to relax your whole body as you exhale and try to notice the feeling of relaxation in your whole body as you relax. Do the same as you inhale, try to relax your whole body and notice the feeling of relaxation in your whole body. This will help make turning off stress a conscious process. It can also be helpful to practice sitting in a chair, relaxing your whole body as you inhale, relaxing your whole body as you exhale and noticing the feeling of relaxation in your whole body.
  • Ten to twenty minutes of gentle stretches and/or slow gentle movements is an appropriate length for a session.
  • You can do longer sessions or multiple sessions per day if you want to.
  • If you practice the form of Serenity Meditation I describe on my web site, you can try to notice the pleasant feeling of relaxation as you inhale and exhale, and if that makes you want to smile go ahead and smile and notice the pleasant feelings that are released when you smile.
  • You can do some or all of the session sitting in a chair if you use postures and movements that can be done while sitting.
  • You can also use this technique during daily activities. Breathe slowly, move in a relaxed way, and notice the feeling of relaxation while you do daily activities like washing the dishes, walking, taking a shower, etc. It is commonly believed that people are tense and hurried because they are stressed. But if you put what you learn from these exercises into practice in daily life, you might see that it is also true that people are stressed because they are tense and hurried. When you relax and slow down you feel less stressed. This is because the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems work in opposition. Anything that reduces the effects of one system does it by activating the other system.

These kinds of exercises together with Meditation make up a very powerful system for spiritual development.

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Simplified Instructions

Here is a simplified form of his technique that is very easy to do: Sit comfortably the way you normally do, for example, when watching TV or eating dinner. Try to relax your whole body. Notice if there is any tension in your body such as in your jaw, or shoulders and try to relax it. Then hold your hands in front of your abdomen with your palms facing each other a few inches apart. As you inhale, slowly separate your hands by moving them apart a foot or two while slowly saying to yourself, "in". Then slowly bring the hands back together until they are a few inches apart while slowly saying to yourself, "out". Repeat this for ten to twenty minutes. Feel free to make slight variations in the movements of the hands or arms to produce a more graceful flowing movement.

You can do this lying down with a slight modification: Instead of moving your hands apart, keep your hands at your sides and gently and slowly open and close your hands as you slowly inhale and exhale. Any simple movement will work because the parasympathetic nervous system acts in opposition to the sympathetic nervous system. Any slow gentle movement in one part of the body activates the parasympathetic nervous system and helps to counteract muscle tension and other effects of stress throughout the mind and body.

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Anaerobic Exercises

Doing a few minutes of vigorous anaerobic exercises such as calisthenics (push-ups, pull-ups, squats, etc.), weight lifting, or sprinting can also be used to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. This is because these kinds of exercises create stress and when you stop this type of activity, the the body's mechanism for recovering from stress, the parasympathetic nervous system, is activated.

A few minutes of Anaerobic exercise may also increase serotonin levels in the brain.

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Related articles from my blog:

  • Spiritual Living: Hacking Your Brain Chemistry Without Drugs

    Back to Contents

    Copyright © 2018 by ncu9nc All rights reserved. Texts quoted from other sources are Copyright © by their owners.

  • Sunday, April 1, 2018

    Your logical mind is an illusion.

    Materialists like to claim they are more rational and logical than other people. However, those claims do not mean what they think they mean. When it comes to matters of spirituality, you will do better to use your intuitive / empathic mind. Many of the mystical concepts you read about: oneness, unconditional love, God is love, egolessness, no-self, not-self, are things you have to feel to understand. The rational / logical mind is not going to help with that. Furthermore, contrary to the materialists claims, you cannot trust the logical / rational mind to help you find the truth.

    Scott Adams, who in addition to being the author of the comic strip Dilbert, is a trained hypnotist. In an interview on FoxNews@Night with Shannon Bream on March 19, 2018, Scott Adams explained that hypnotism teaches us that people don't use logic to make decisions even though we think we do. (2:59:

    We humans ignore facts but we think we don't. The great illusion of life is that we're rational beings making rational decisions most of the time. But when you become a hypnotist, the first thing you learn is that that's backwards and that mostly we're deciding based on our team, our feelings, our emotions, irrational reasons, we make our decision and then we rationalize it no matter how tortured that rationalization is."

    University of Virginia psychologist Jonathan Haidt expressed similar views in his book The righteous Mind. He wrote that people don't use reason to form their beliefs, they use reason to justify their beliefs which they form for emotional reasons. William Saletan described Haidt's views in the Sunday Book Review:

    Why Won’t They Listen? ‘The Righteous Mind,’ by Jonathan Haidt By WILLIAM SALETAN SUNDAY BOOK REVIEW MARCH 23, 2012

    The problem isn’t that people don’t reason. They do reason. But their arguments aim to support their conclusions, not yours. Reason doesn’t work like a judge or teacher, impartially weighing evidence or guiding us to wisdom. It works more like a lawyer or press secretary, justifying our acts and judgments to others.

    People can be persuaded. But we are not persuaded by logical arguments. We are persuaded by psychological tricks of various types that take advantage of various instinctive human behaviors*. These behaviors are probably in some way evolutionarily adaptive but they have little basis in reason.

    Related Links:

    • Persuasion Reading List – Updated 1/18 Scott Adams' reading list on persuasion. You can find information by the authors of some of these books on the internet if you don't want to read the books.*

      You Do Not Think Alone
      A new book argues that thought and knowledge are community efforts
      By Gareth Cook on June 20, 2017


      Steven Sloman and Philip Fernbach, two cognitive scientists, draw on evolutionary theory and psychology. They argue that the mind has evolved to do the bare minimum that improves the fitness of its host. Because humans are a social species and evolved in the context of collaboration, wherever possible, abilities have been outsourced. As a result, people are individually rather limited thinkers and store little information in their own heads. Much knowledge is instead spread through the community—whose members do not often realise that this is the case.

      You're not as smart as you think you are.


      People overestimate how well they understand how things work. Direct evidence for this comes from the psychological laboratory. The great Yale psychologist Frank Keil and his students first demonstrated the illusion of explanatory depth, what we call the knowledge illusion. He asked people how well they understand how everyday objects (zippers, toilets, ballpoint pens) work. On average, people felt they had a reasonable understanding (at the middle of a 7-point scale). Then Keil asked them to explain how they work. People failed miserably. For the most part, people just can’t articulate the mechanisms that drive even the simplest things.


    * Below are some examples of the ways people are persuaded. Notice that they do not rely on logic and reason.

    • Blair Warren wrote: "People will do anything for those who encourage their dreams, justify their failures, allay their fears, confirm their suspicions and help them throw rocks at their enemies." If you are aware of this, you will be more resistant to this method of persuasion. Learn more about this at:
    • It is easier to be fooled by something that seems to agree with your beliefs than by something that contradicts them.
    • Certain words can influence you to think in ways that will cause your own mind to aid in persuading you. For example, if someone says, "Imagine ...", it causes you to visualize what they want to to believe. "Because" is also a "power" word. When you give a reason, even a weak one, people are more likely to do what you ask. "You" is another "power" word.
      More of these "power" words and explanations of why they work can be found at these links:
    • Robert Cialdini is a professor of psychology who is a well known author on the subject of persuasion. He has identified several "principles of influence":
      • Reciprocity - We feel obliged to give back to people who have given to us.
      • Consistency and commitment - When we make a promise, we feel obliged to work hard to fulfil that promise. When we make a decision, we like to feel that this is the right decision for us.
      • Social proof - We copy what others do, especially when we are unsure.
      • Liking - If you can make people like you for example by showing them you are like them and or by praising them, they will be easier to persuade.
      • Authority - We defer to people who seem superior.
      • Scarcity - When things become less available, they become more desirable.
      • Click, Whirr - When certain cues are presented to us, we feel an urge to complete actions that have, in the past, been successfully paired with the cue.
      • Unity - Any sense of shared identity such as family, ethnicity, geography, etc. can aid in persuasion.

      You can take an on-line quiz to test your knowledge of these principles at

    • Subliminal Persuasion, Conversational Hypnosis: The web site explains several techniques of subliminal persuasion or conversational hypnosis.

      If someone tries to influence you directly you might naturally resist them. But there are several techniques that can be used to sneak information past your "resistance filter". The general principle is that instead of making a statement or suggestion directly, it is included in a broader statement so you hear it indirectly while you are focused on something else.

      1. Questions: If someone makes a direct statement, you might doubt it. But if they put the information into a question that assumes what they want you to believe, you may get distracted thinking about the answer to the question rather than whether the premise is true.

      2. "And" and "But": If someone tells you something you don't want to hear you might start to argue with them. But if they give you the bad news first followed by "but" and something good or positive, you are less likely to start arguing. They also might add more positive statements linked by "and".

      3. Because: People are more likely to do what they're asked if given a reason even if the reason is not very compelling. If things seem to make sense people don't look too closely at it and it may slip past their resistance filter.

      4. A means B: This is another way to sneak things through your resistance filter. If you're reading this, it means you are learning important information that will help you avoid being manipulated. That sentance was an example of a means b. Did you notice it?

      5. Awareness patterns: Certain words and phrases cause you to assume what is being said is true rather than question it. For example, "As you know ... ", "Clearly...", "Undoubtedly ...", "I'm sure you realize / notice / see ..."

      6. Agreement Frames: Instead of disagreeing outright someone may say they agree, but then try to convince you of something else. "I agree, and this means ..." or "I agree, and what's more ...". Notice they use the word "and" not "but". They may agree in principle or agree that something about what you said is true without ever directly saying they disagree.

      7. Pacing and Leading: This technique tries to sneak a suggestion past your resistance filter by presenting you with a natural progression of events. You get distracted by the logic of the progression and are more willing to accept the suggestion.

      The article at has links to pages with example that illustrate these methods.

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