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San Francisco
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San Francisco
  • Re: What are intoxicants in buddhism?

    I would agree with the assessment that to summarily lump all drugs, as defined as any substance affecting an alteration in brain chemistry, under a single category so broad as "intoxicant." If indeed we were to do such a thing, then we would have to include sugar in our list of intoxicants because consuming sugar alters brain chemistry. As a matter of fact, reading these words right this very moment is altering your brain chemistry. All kinds of things are happening at the molecular level as you parse and understand these words.

    Consider too substances that alter brain chemistry but are not considered classical intoxicants. Antidepressant medications come to mind, especially the most commonly prescribed class, the SSRIs. Do these drugs alter brain chemistry? Oh yes. Profoundly so. Not only do they modify brain chemistry, they modify its very structure.

    But then, so does experience. What we often see in the depressed brain are structural abnormalities where the amygdala, the center for fear response and emotional regulation, shows increased synaptic density and activity, and the hippocampus, the region responsible for learning and memory, shows reduced activity. Antidepressants, along with things like exercise, can reverse this structural difference to varying degrees and increase the rate at which the brain can create new neural pathways.

    So when it comes to drugs, defined as anything that affects the brain's function, there is no clear cut answer. It is up to every person to make up his or her own mind about what is or is not good for them. I think that deep down, people know their own truths.

  • Re: Do you speak Emoji?


    You took that waaaaaayyy too seriously. <3

    It's pretty evident that emojis aren't a symbolic language all on their lonesome; they lack all the requisite features of any self-contained writing system. The comparison to cueiniform is merely for humorous effect.

    Nevertheless, in response to your valid point, I personally find the overuse (i.e., non-skillful use) of emojis obnoxious and disingenuous. A string of emojis doesn't add any value to any conversation that isn't surface-level chitchat. When it comes to substance, I trust a man who smiles too much very little; I trust a man who does nothing but send "haha" and happy faces even less.

    The key difference between nonverbal cues and using emojis is that most people really aren't that great at hiding what they're genuinely feeling, at least if you're attuned to such things. Smiling from the wrist down, however, is easy. Emojis or no, I refuse to have any important conversation about anything unless it's face to face. It's really frustrating trying to find people my age who understand this. It's a whole generation who grew up on the Diet Coke of communication mediums.

  • Re: Do you speak Emoji?

    I got a really weird look at dinner the other day when I pointed out how history inevitably moves in cycles, and here we are introducing cuneiform again...

  • Re: A moving experience

    Thank you all for your kind responses. I am a bit overwhelmed. To be honest, I worried that I was being boring or self-centered. I very much appreciate the feedback, advice, and encouragement.

  • A moving experience

    I thought I would share a recent, impactful personal experience with meditation.

    To begin, I found it very difficult to settle on how I should proceed with practice. The sheer number of perspectives on meditation is daunting; as an ultimately personal and subjective experience, this is to be expected. I did, however, find a strong thread of agreement woven throughout the infinite tapestry of guidance: consistent practice, no matter the form, leads to results. In engineering parlance, this boils down to the principle of JFDI, or in laymen's terms, "just f*ng do it."

    So despite some reservations about its commercial nature, I settled on using the HeadSpace program as an introduction. While the program feels somewhat morally impure to me, it nevertheless provides structure and guidance. So, I diligently worked through the first thirty days which comprise the "foundation pack," focusing on the basics of concentration meditation. During this time, I added sessions of my own, occasionally meditating for up to two hours a day.

    I'm now on the "self esteem" pack, which is an additional thirty sessions divided into ten sessions each that focus on a different technique. The first technique is "noting," which is gently labeling a distraction as a thought or feeling before returning to the breath.

    To provide some context before proceeding, I should say that I recently had a rather emotionally draining week. I broke up with the person I had been dating, and a week before that, I was physically assaulted and left with a black eye while walking home. I do not feel very at home in a big city (the amount of rage, grief, despair, and sheer quantity of emotion and noise and chaos here is like being in a hurricane), and the assault didn't do much to help me feel relaxed and at home here.

    Nevertheless, I am not typically in touch with my emotions. My conscious awareness is rooted in a detached, logical perspective that's constantly analyzing and theorizing. When I feel emotions, I feel them physically, and then I postulate as to their cause. My emotions are extremely powerful. Yet having had many traumatic and overwhelming experiences to date, I have erected walls around them.

    The last time I cried was in 2012, when my grandfather, who was a father to me, passed away. It took a lot of vodka to get to that point, which is also how I managed to write his eulogy -- probably the most moving thing I've ever composed. Alcohol is not a very healthy way for me to access my emotions. Nevertheless, I can't cry under normal conditions no matter what happens, even when I'm alone. I've tried many times.

    To wind down this ever-lengthening post to its point, as I was meditating a few days ago, I found myself distracted from my breath and briefly scanned before labeling the distraction as thought or feeling. It was during this moment that I became aware of a sound in my mind, the sound of someone crying. I paused there for a moment, and I sort of... gave it permission to be. I'm not sure how else to explain it.

    I then spent the next forty minutes sobbing.

    I tried to maintain the meditative state, but it quickly fell apart. During the few minutes that I was able to stay focused, I noticed that my awareness had shifted. My focus was no longer rooted in that analytical, detached perspective; it felt like I stepped out of it for a moment. The detached perspective continued to analyze the experience as it happened, and in fact mentally composed much of this post while the body was crying. That's what it felt like. It didn't feel like I was crying, per se, nor was I doing the thinking. It made me realize how fragmented my mind is and how far I have to go to reach something resembling wholeness.

    Anyway, this was an interesting and somewhat profound experience for me, so I thought I'd write about it. I hope it wasn't too long or boring and provided some sort of value. Best wishes.