Episode 21 - Orienting Pop Culture Magic: Mindfulness GPS and the Maps of Indeterminate Destiny

 GUESTS :

 

book of good practices.jpg

Taylor Ellwood is the author of 14 books, including Pop Culture Magick, Space/Time Magic, Magical Identity, and Manifesting Wealth. In addition to the western tradition of Magic, Taylor has also studies and practices eastern traditions of Taoism and Buddhism. When he is not experimenting with magic, writing books, or working with business clients, Taylor can be found gaming, or exploring Oregon with his wife Kat.

Bill Whitcomb is an author, magician, and explorer of consciousness and human potential. He has been fascinated by magic, symbols, and language since childhood, writing books about these subjects (with more to come). He also writes fiction and is an enthusiast of surrealism and fantastic literature. Bill presently resides in Oregon where he works as a technical writer.

SHOW NOTES:

  • More burned out on holidays?
  • Holiday season removed from holiday season
  • People in Present Shock
  • Black Friday
  • Book of Good Practices 
    • Book as a “user’s guide to the human brain”
    • “Behavior practices that have measurable neurological effect on people”
  • Is it possible to speed the process of mindfulness?
    • Fundamental physical practices (martial arts, etc) cannot solely learn from book
    • But in behavioral terms, we can leverage things done in different traditions
    • “It still comes down to doing the work though”
  • Magicians Companion 
  • Dreamachines 
  • Mind Machines 
  • Enthogens 
    • Oh my!
  • Doesn’t think shortcuts are as helpful as people used to think they are
  • “Really comes down to daily practice”
  • “Once you wake up just a little bit, it’s actually hard to stop”
  • Dark Night of the Soul

 

There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, to avoid facing their own soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.

-Carl Gustav Jung

 

One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.
- Friedrich Nietzsche

 

  • Why do we do internal work?
    • A sense of balance with ourselves and world around us
  • Almost everyone we meet are the “walking wounded”
  • Massive ebooks, many paths
  • Mindfulness GPS
  • Google Maps for your Brain
  • Pop Culture Magic
  • Whole Mind by Daniel Pink 
  • -number of people that meditate or other contemplative traditions tripled between 1990s and mid 2000s
  • ODN Organizational Development Network 
  • Mindfulness > Meditation to help ease the transition. Take out the woo-woo. But does this lose some fundamental stuff?
  • Buddhist Geeks - McMindfulness
  • “Life does seem like one big subreddit”
  • People getting more specialized and more generalized?
  • New Republic Netflix article 
  • Self identify in niches
  • Generalized and Specialized
  • Filters don’t necessarily define you anymore -- punks used to be punks, etc. Now can have 10 different niches and 10 different identities within

 WORD OF THE WEEK : 

Entheogen: A term derived from the Greek 'entheos', directly translated to mean having "God (theos) within" or more loosely translated as "inspired" and 'genesthe' meaning "to generate"

 EVENTS : 

  •  SXSW  - March 7-16, 2014 Austin, TX (POSSIBLY SEE KLINT AND CHRIS PRESENT) 
  • Cyborg Camp - MIT Media Lab - August 2014 - Boston, MA
  • Buddhist Geeks Conference - October 16-19 2014; Boulder, CO

 THANK YOU / FIND US :

 PREVIOUS SHOWS :

 TRANSCRIPTION :

Mindful Cyborgs, Contemplative living in the age of quantification, augmentation and acceleration, with your hosts, Chris Dancy and Klint Finley.



CD:    Hey, everyone, this is Chris. Klint, long time no chat. 


KF:    Yeah. It’s been a while. How’s it going?


CD:    Good. It’s been a crazy week, you know, with the holidays and everything. I think I just get busier and busier and then sometimes have these moments where it’s completely devoid of anything and I relax into the moment and then something buzzes or goes off and Alexander Pang has been completely made correct because the distraction addiction comes back online. 


KF:    Hey, speaking of holidays, do you think people are getting more burned out on the holiday season now? I mean, it’s hard for me. You know, you’re a little bit older than me so you have more perspective on this but it just seems like this year, people are really just not feeling the whole Christmas holiday season. Is it maybe just my circle or is this year really anomalous? I don’t know.


CD:    Yeah, I have to be careful because I’m - you know, attribution bias and confirmation bias are my yin and my yang last year, so I’m either looking to prove that I’m right or I’m transferring everything I believe onto someone and wondering why they don’t live up. But in my 45 years, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a holiday season so removed from holiday season. It is like Rushkoff said; it is very obvious people are somehow in a present shock. 


    I don’t talk a lot about my work online during the show but I was recently asked to give a presentation right before the holidays to a group of senior people, to uplift them and kind of bring them back into the idea that this is the holiday season and it’s okay to slow down and be kind to yourself and realize that change is hard and the velocity of information can be difficult to perceive, especially when you’ve got lots of systems of measurement. It’s easy to sit there and say, “Wait a minute. Am I fast enough? Am I slow enough? Or am I?” which is often most dangerous. But I don’t think you’re perceiving something unique to your circle.


KF:    Okay.


CD:    I see it in lots of circles. I just see a lot of people who don’t have words to explain how uncomfortable they feel.


KF:    Right. Well, speaking of present shock and distraction and so forth, we have a couple authors here with us today who have written a book called The Book of Good Practices. The first volume is on mindfulness and there’s two more volumes besides. Bill Whitcomb, Taylor Ellwood, welcome to the Mindful Cyborgs.


BW/TE:    Thank you. Happy to be here.


CD:    So you guys got a good little introduction to our feelings about this holiday season being, for Klint and I, seeming somewhat different, I guess. If we could maybe just before we got right in the book, maybe get you to chime in on are you perceiving anything anomalous in your observation? Your personal experience is obviously different because of your mindfulness practice but in your observation of people?


TE:    When it comes to the holiday season, I think that I call this time of year “Gimme-as” as opposed to Christmas or anything else, because some of the people - I was kind of observing recently that it seems to me that there’s this obligatory sense of gift giving; where people are no longer giving gifts because they genuinely want to but because they feel this obligation. There’s this commercial that I saw recently on Hulu for Walgreens where it showed this one guy coming down the little thing and he has a gift in his hand and he gives it to the other guy. The one guy’s all dressed in the holiday spirit and the other guy doesn’t have a gift for him. The one guy looks at him expectantly; “Where’s my gift?” The woman in the mirror, the woman that’s inside the building looks at him like, “Dude, where’s the dude’s gift?” 


    I’m thinking to myself, “Wow, this totally commodifies the whole idea of gifts, of giving something. Why are we really even giving something? Are we giving it out of obligation or are we giving it because we genuinely want to give it, without any expectation of getting something in return?” So that’s my observation, based on that and something I’m continuing to ponder quite a bit.


CD:    Just so people listening can keep up, you’re Taylor or you’re Bill?


TE:    I’m Taylor.


CD:    Taylor. Alright, thanks, Taylor. People don’t know your voices and we just introduced you guys together. Bill, any observations for us?


BW:    I can’t generalize beyond my personal situation but it does feel like I’m more distracted this year and I think I seem to see that in other people, where the holiday season is more of a distraction to other things going on. Everybody has a lot of little daily life stuff going on, a lot of economic stuff going on and there’s sort of like, “Oh yeah, Christmas is happening too.”


KF:    Yeah.


CD:    Yeah, that’s kind of how it seems -


BW:    Yeah, and I can’t separate that out from my personal situation. But it seems like things are more that way this year than they have been in the past.


CD:    Good.


KF:    It seems like it gets more and more that way every year for me. People are just getting less and less interested in it and I wonder how much that has to do with the whole Black Friday shopping orgy that happens. It just gets uglier and uglier every year and people are just, I don’t know, retreating in disgust from that.


CD:    Where I see it first is traffic behavior. Long before Black Friday - this year, it was almost a month before Black Friday - I saw people more aggressively driving. You know me, I have a sensor in my truck, right? So I can actually see my own driving is a little bit more aggressive; harder brakes, faster start-ups. So it’s interesting how there is a little bit of a swell and then - you know, the Black Friday thing, you sometimes wonder, it’s bad but I don’t go out on that day so I just wonder if the media’s just hyping it but -


KF:    Yeah, me either.


CD:    The amount of people hurt during Black Friday is always kind of like more of the news than the sales numbers. I mean, you just go back five years ago.


KF:    That’s what I mean.


CD:    It was like what you heard about Black Friday was, “This year was 10% bigger than last year.” Now the news about Black Friday is, “This many people were hurt.”


KF:    Yeah. That’s what I mean by the ugliness of it. People being stampeded or shot or whatever. Maybe that’s being hyped by the media more than it needs to be but I wonder if some of the holiday season apathy that I’m seeing and experiencing is kind of a result of that; just being, “Alright, well, I’m just done with this.” Sorry, I kind of got off on a tangent there. I should actually talk about the book.


CD:    The book could help us with these very issues!


KF:    Yeah, that’s kind of where I was trying to go with that. I kind of see this book as a users’ guide to the human brain. The brain, the missing manual; that sort of thing. What is the book, in your own words? Maybe we’ll start with Taylor then Bill can chime in.


TE:    First of all, I want to acknowledge that Bill is kind of the originator of the book. He had already been working on it for a while and I want to give a little history here, just because I think it speaks to what the book’s about. He came to me about four or five years ago and said, “I’m working on this book. I’m kind of hitting a place where I’m feeling really blocked. Would you be willing to help me co-write it because you’ve done some similar stuff with some of your other writing?” I thought it over and I said, “Yeah, sure.” 


    It’s been a long road to get this book put together. I mean, it’s turned into three e-books and a workbook which speaks to it. So what do we see it as? I think I see it as a catalog of certainly stuff related to the brain but really behaviors and actions that can come out of being more aware of the brain and how it programs a lot of our behavior. That’s my take on it. Bill, what would you say to that?


BW:    Well, I think we’ve tried to produce a taxonomy, a way of categorizing behavioral practices, things that can be described in purely behavioral terms; that actually have a measurable neurological effect on people, physiological effect on people. Things that you can learn to do that could be said to truly impact your skills as far as fundamental human activities; things like concentration, memory, metabolism; things that impact pretty much anything you would want to do in your life. 


    We’ve tried to abstract that as much as possible from any specific tradition because in many ways, the traditions these things come out of have a tendency to separate out people as much as they bring them in. Someone will say, “Well, psychology is too cold or inhuman for me” or “I don’t do Eastern mysticism” or “That’s too fuzzy and spiritual”, any reason to not try the thing themselves, whereas in behavioral terms, these are things that you can learn to do that will change your level of skill as a human being.


CD:    Well, Klint and I have talked extensively, Taylor and Bill, on this show about our own journey with contemplative living. We’ve really gotten into our specific practices. We’ve talked around them from time to time. We do try to give not only - as Mindful Cyborg - give equal time to both sides of it but there is, I guess, the cyber side of it. There are quantifiable, measurable things that you can do and I think Vincent Horn from Buddhist Geeks would say is there a way to expedite the experiences of being more aware through some of the practices of combining technology and a more immersive learning experience so that you don’t have to spend six months on the side, studying with a teacher on a retreat, which there’s - we’re also very careful, or I am at least, never to pathologize or fetishize retreat work versus non-retreat work. We’re certainly not saying that you can hack your way to being more aware but there is a level of is there a way that you could? 


    I heard you use some very specific terms, Bill, about how you wrote the book and the areas that you wanted to explore. Could you comment on just the ideology around if this is a manual for the brain, your own belief systems around speeding the process versus is it even possible to speed the process, would probably be a good place to start.


BW:    Well, I’m a big believer in synthesis; that we have the advantage now of access to many world traditions. It’s only relatively recently that people can put all this stuff side to side and compare it, where they can choose. We’ve focused on behavioral processes; those things that you can describe as physical processes. We focused on things that you can do by yourself; that you can teach yourself. There are a lot of things that don’t work well with this, like a lot of the fundamental parts of yoga, martial arts; physical practices of that sort you’re not going to learn from a book. You’re really going to teach yourself bad habits if you try to solely learn from a book. 


    But there are a lot of things that you can experiment with and work with by yourself and we’ve tried to keep those in purely behavioral terms; in other words, “Breathe like this. Focus your attention here. Move like this” and so on. So I think by putting it in those terms, by trying to move away from the more subjective aspects of it, you can leverage the things that are being done in different traditions, the things that are being done in neurology at the moment with brain studies. 


    It still comes down to doing the work, though. Part of what’s ironic with this book is in some ways in terms of the things that Taylor and I have written in the past, this is one of the least sexy because it deals with a lot of very basic practices such as breathing. A lot of people look at it and they go, “Okay, breathing exercises” but there are very few things you can do that will transform your life as thoroughly.


CD:    You mentioned your previous books and Taylor had mentioned the history of this particular book. I wanted to touch on that because I remember you and I met - it’s been almost eight years now. You were working on this book and you told me that you felt like you were writing your books backwards, so that this was the book that should have come first and your first book, I think that was Magician’s Companion, was the book that probably should have come last. Do you still feel that way or can you maybe elaborate on that a little bit?


BW:    Both written a great deal about ritual practices in symbolism, in different traditions of mysticism, religion and magical practice. Very fundamentally, regardless of what traditions you’re interested in, this third book deals with the neurological skills, the fundamental skills, that you need to practice virtually any of these traditions. The part of the practice that changes consciousness is not the chant or the symbol or the ritual; it’s your ability to change the focus of your attention and consciousness, your neurological skills. So in one sense, this book is very applicable to people that want to practice some type of tradition of ritual or symbolic work.


    At the same time, again I think we believe it’s applicable to pretty much anyone doing anything. I mean, it’s a very cliché thing to say but this book is for everyone. We want to get out of the self-help metaphor that implies that there’s something wrong with you, you need to fix. 


CD:    Exactly.


BW:    It’s more about establishing a tradition of human skills of good living in the way that I think yoga and kung fu originally meant. I mean, we have the idea of these as physical practices, of kung fu as a martial art, but originally, the concept was it was the arts of survival of living so it included diet, healing; really every aspect of human life. We lost that concept in the West.


TE:    Bill, I wanted to actually - this is Taylor - speak to the previous question that’s been asked before; about how the practice and everything. I’ve actually experimented with dream machines, mind machines, [00:14:42] as well as just meditation practices and here’s what I’ve found. You can use mind machines, dream machines and [00:14:50] to establish some kinds of shortcuts but I don’t feel that those shortcuts are as effective as people would like to think that they were, because certainly in the case of [00:15:01], you just don’t have the amount of control because you’re introducing a foreign substance into your body which takes away a lot of control from the experience and that can be both good and bad. It can certainly be useful sometimes. Sometimes we need to be a little bit out of control, we need to just be on the edge, but sometimes what we also really need, especially when we’re doing some of the internal work that we’re doing, is we actually really do need that control because we need to be directed and focused.


    With the mind machine and dream machine, certainly useful for creating an altered state of mind and having some very interesting experiences, but what I find ultimately is that it really comes down to daily practice. I have a couple different daily practices; I have some exercise that I do every day, which I think of as a form of meditation - it certainly helps me cultivate a state of in my mind but I also have some meditation practices that I do. What I’ve found is that what’s made them efficacious is really just doing the work day in and day out. If you want results, you have to be willing to put the work in. If you really want to explore some of the habits and behaviors that you’re doing, it takes time. It’s not something where you can just flick a switch and that behavior or habit is changed. You have to really be willing to go in and explore some of those issues, explore why you’re doing what you’re doing and how it’s come about the way that it has. So that’s my take on it.


BW:    Also, I think it’s important to think of it as a process and lifestyle. I mean, in the sense that there’s a tendency the way we look at these things linguistically and culturally in the West that it’s a goal; “Okay, I’ll do six months, become self-aware and then I’m done.” It’s like there’s something that you can finish, whereas it’s really more of a way to approach life. 


CD:    I’d like to ask you both as teachers and writers about this subject. For me in my own personal journey over the last four years, since I’ve started my own awareness practices, obviously I’ve started thinking it was a journey but I found that once you actually wake up just a little bit, it’s actually kind of hard to stop.


BW:    Don’t tell anyone!


CD:    But when you talk about this journey, I mean, I had someone tell me recently this summer, when I was telling them some of the problems I was dealing with, it’s like in some ways, I wish someone would have warned me because it can be really difficult to come online.


BW:    I mean, I think it’s important that these traditions move into a modern context, because a lot of the things said about that in older traditions, like say most common reference is to the Dark Night of the Soul. That in the way that it’s discussed is not as meaningful to people now as it once would have been.


CD:    It is if you’ve experienced it!


BW:    Oh, yes, but I’m saying in other words, if somebody had used that terminology to warn you beforehand, would it have really told you what you needed to know?


CD:    No, it wouldn’t have.


BW:    So part of this is moving it into modern paradigms, matching our understanding of neurology and brain function. At a certain point - I mean, much of what we’re talking about is things like - in the third book, it’s things like learning to control your breathing, raising or lowering your body temperature, mnemonic techniques, non-verbal and verbal communication techniques; fairly basic stuff. But all of this will lead you towards increased awareness of yourself and others and will, if carried far enough, cause you to really examine the underpinnings of your world view and will inevitably lead to some uncomfortable experiences, if you carry it far enough.


TE:    Well, I want to note too that internal work isn’t meant to be easy. 


KF:    No!


TE:    I do a practice which is - okay, we’re going to get a little mystical here. It’s the elemental balancing ritual. It’s a thing I’ve been doing since 2004. It’s picking an element of your life that you recognize that you’re not necessarily balanced and working within. As examples of things that I’ve worked with in the past, it’s been love, emptiness. I’m working with movement right now. These are not easy topics. I can tell you that the year of working with emptiness was a year of hell for me, because the Western culture does not have an easy framework to deal with emptiness; you basically have to go towards Eastern cultures to find a lot of focus on emptiness and even then, it’s not necessarily helpful if you’re coming at it from a Western perspective. 


    So yes, okay, if someone had warned me, would I go ahead and do this stuff? But the thing is I feel that the clarity that I’ve gotten and the level of focus and awareness and quite honestly just how much - how less chaotic and how much happier my life is as a result of doing the work has been worth it, even though at the time it sucked. That’s, I think, and don’t get me wrong; I’m not doing this to “be happy”. I mean, that’s not the end result or the end goal; that’s kind of a by-product. It’s just that when I look at this as, “Well, why do we really do internal work? Why do we do meditation? Why do we do these different practices?” 


    Well, really, what it comes right down to is finding a sense of balance within ourselves and with the world around us. I think that it’s because this world is so out of balance and a lot of that’s because of the kind of structures and cultures and all the other stuff that humanity has built, but a lot of it’s also just our internal condition. We’re not really wired to deal with emptiness in a way that is comfortable so at the same time, we have to negotiate and work with it and figure it out. 


    Then you add in the fact that I think a fair number of people are - I think just about everyone I meet is pretty much the walking wounded. I mean, we’ve all been scarred in one form or another by things that happened in our childhood or whatever and we can say, “Well, that’s just Freudian” or whatever, all this sort of stuff, but you know what? The fact is, people go around acting out these behaviors, acting out these wounds that occurred to them and something like this, it doesn’t automatically solve the problem. 


    It’s not easy to do but what it can bring you, if you’re dedicated to doing the kind of work that’s involved with internal work, is it can bring you a sense of balance, a sense of equilibrium and being able to - instead of feeling like you’re in this tide of chaos, you actually feel like you’ve been able to find some semblance of order and you can negotiate life a bit easier. I know on the days when I don’t do meditation, I feel it and I feel it in the sense that I’m not necessarily as balanced or as focused as I could be. So it is one of those things where you wake up a little bit and all of a sudden, you’re on and that’s it, and you can’t go back.


BW:    At the same time, we’ve tried to keep all of this tied to really specific basic human skills in the sense that doing these things will also increase the skills you use on a daily basis to do anything you do, in terms of visualization, concentration, creativity, energy level and so on. We’ve tried to stay away from terms that need to be understood within a specific tradition or terms where there’s too much definition involved. I mean, if we talk about enlightenment, are any of us talking about the same thing?


CD:    Yeah. I encourage people to go out and take a look at this. I mean, it’s written in such a way when you go into the visual, the auditory or any of the different exercises that you have in here and you examine every facet, I don’t think you’re ever going to see anything this comprehensive. It doesn’t seem mystical, it actually doesn’t even seem Eastern at times, but it’s very easy and approachable. I guess my question to both of you is when we live in a society where some people will pick this up and read it and put it down and maybe put it into practice but some people might just go, “I don’t know if I have time to even get involved in that”, do you both see that by the time someone needs this - how are you pacing this? 


BW:    I’ve always had a tendency to write projects that are too large and this is definitely no different.


CD:    This is massive.


BW:    Why it ended up in three e-book volumes. Collectively, this is more material than anyone can actually practice in a lifetime. No one is going to do all this stuff every day, ourselves included. At the same time, it would be good to at least try everything in these books but since most people really are after something that helps them in some particular way, we have an appendix that discusses paths through the book. Say you are trying to cope with depression or chronic pain or improve your creativity or anything you could think of as a particular thing why someone might, say, be after a self-help book. We’ve listed paths through the book as far as which material and what order you would want to go through in order to approach that particular goal.

CD:    A mindfulness GPS.


BW:    In a way, yeah.


TE:    I like that! A mindfulness GPS.


CD:    I like that. This is good stuff.


KF:    Google Maps for your brain.


CD:    Google Map to your brain, yeah. If there gets to be advertisements in here, I think it’s going to be too much. I mean, it’s just a sweeping piece of work that you guys have written. It’s so exhaustive, I wonder will you create something else? Is this living? Will you add to it? Will you - are there any plans on - I mean, this is huge. There’s so much in here. Keeping it moving forward or will there be another version of it? Because you - I don’t know. To me, I can’t imagine you adding anything else.


BW:    Well, there are endless amounts of practices in the world, even when narrowed to the criteria we used, so I’m sure there are valuable practices we never heard of that didn’t get included and perhaps someday there’ll be a different edition. There will be a print edition in 2014 that will be one single volume.


CD:    Wow.


BW:    You’ve got to stop somewhere. I think I’m ready to move on to bad science fiction for a year or two. I think Taylor and I both have other works in us, I hope.


TE:    Well, definitely. I’m actually working on a couple different projects right now; a book on networking, as in going out and networking with people in business settings and teaching some best practices around that, and then the next Pop Culture Magick book, 2.0, which is kind of an evolution of a book I wrote 10 years ago called Pop Culture Magick.


CD:    I’d love to hear more about Pop Culture Magick. Klint and I were actually discussing the occult when we saw each other in person last time, and magick and all those other types of things. Klint, I mean, this is pretty big. I don’t know how much - I just did a cursory read-through of it when you sent it over to me but any thoughts on this stuff? You’ve got your own journey that you’ve been on.


KF:    No. I mean, we keep talking about it being a big work. I actually - maybe I actually interjected. Try not to intimidate people that it’s - actually, guys, how long is it as a print book? How long would it be? 300 pages, 400 pages?


BW:    I think it’s about 400 in print.


KF:    Okay, and there’s a lot of material there but it’s not like this is some giant, unapproachable tome. You’ve got the appendixes to work through it, you’ve got - but I don’t want to scare people off and make them think this is GSM or something like that, that they’re not going to be able to get through.


BW:    We tried to spend as little time talking about the traditions and about - and exclude as much jargon as we could to just keep it to, “This is how you do this. This is what this will do for you.”


KF:    Yeah. The Table of Contents is really clear so you can look at it and find the parts that you’re interested in.


CD:    Yeah, and if you are going to give someone a handbook to the brain, it probably should be a little comprehensive.


BW:    Yeah. But I hope with all of this that whether we continue it and put out another edition, in the future, someone will take this type of work and that it is something that is evolving in our culture. I very much do believe that; that it is only in the last few decades that all of this material is freely available to us and that it is beginning to interact with the neurological and brain imaging studies. I think we are on our way to a combined knowledge which has never been available to us before.


CD:    Yeah, actually, I’m right in the middle of finishing The Whole Mind by Daniel Pink. That’s a few years old but one of the stats he gave I thought was pretty profound; the number of people who meditate or practice yoga or some other contemplative tradition between the ‘90s and the mid-2000s had tripled. It made me wonder, was it access to the information or access to those types of systems, or was it the requirement of humanity to actually need that in their lives? Are people finding it out of necessity or is it just the access to the information? Do you have any opinions on that, Bill or Taylor?


TE:    I think that a lot of it is there’s just been this explosion both of the New Age and the more occult-oriented culture or subcultures toward meditation and practices like this, but also even in mainstream, you see a lot of it. I mean, I sometimes drive around Portland and I swear I could see a yoga center on every block. It’s probably a bit of an exaggeration but there’s certainly a number of them around. I think part of it is that some people have been very good at de-esotericizing the benefits of yoga and that. I mean, you have a lot of people who are doing it because they want to get involved in some kind of spiritual tradition or something. They want to just do it for the health and wellness that it brings to their body and that’s perfectly good and wonderful and definitely a reason to do it. But I also see this to some degree with other types of mindfulness practices as well. 


    In fact, I went to - I belong to - one organization I belong to is called ODN (Organizational Development Network). We had a presentation a few months ago on mindfulness. The person there mentioned that when she approaches businesses to talk about it, she never uses the word ‘meditation’ because that - she says that’s “too woo-woo”. She uses ‘mindfulness’ because mindfulness is something that businesses can accept and that people that are working there can accept as something that is acceptable and isn’t going to trod on some people’s toes when it comes to their spiritual beliefs. 


    I can certainly see that but it’s interesting how there is kind of this focus on mainstreaming it to make it more acceptable, whether - and I would certainly argue there’s certain things that are as a result kind of being lost and that which developing may not necessarily be, for example, yoga in the traditional sense of the word. It’s a new form of yoga.


CD:    Yeah. The Buddhist Geeks Conference this summer I went to, every speaker used the term ‘McMindfulness’ at least once. Some of these people were very traditional teachers. There definitely seem to be two camps; those that wanted to objectify the commoditization of mindfulness and those that just wanted to say, like you said, Taylor, it’s just a new form and it doesn’t mean there’s anything that we need to try to understand about it; it is what it is.


BW:    I think it’s more a matter of moving it into a context that is telecistically correct for our culture.


CD:    To me, when I heard them say the term ‘McMindfulness’, I recoiled because I thought to myself - first thing I thought was, “Wow, what was I taught? Am I eating the junk food, McMindfulness, or am I - then I thought, “Okay, I need to race to a mountain and find a yogi. I just need to do something to get this nastiness out of my system.” Then I just realized, “Oh, wow. I’m sitting here and I’m having really these dualistic thoughts about am I doing the right things and not - okay, and then I came back online; “Okay, these are interesting chemical reactions about something I just heard and that’s all they are; interesting.” Sorry, Klint, I didn’t mean to go into my head there.


BW:    No, no. When we come up with something where we don’t see a conflict between this form and the traditions, basically we’re - we don’t see it as a market but simply the American and modern way in which we do these things. Hard to say how much time and cultural stability we would need to evolve something like that but I think we’ve been going through a period where our culture at least in the US is so fragmented that it’s more like a collection of niche cultures than something that is an organic whole.


CD:    Life does seem like one giant sub Reddit. I mean, everybody I meet has their niche and it’s so hyper-personalized because of the connected nature of life. Klint, earlier you said to me, “Chris, you’re a little bit older.” I’d ask you, Klint, as someone who’s a little bit younger; does life seem to be getting more compartmentalized for you? Do you see people falling into tighter little niches?


KF:    I don’t know. I haven’t thought about that. My knee jerk reaction is I actually think people might be getting - becoming more generalized in some - definitely people are getting more specialized in some ways in terms of there’s just so much stuff out there that people can get - people have to specialize a little bit in terms of job skills or interests of whatever. But we’re getting off - getting way out there now. I read - Vanity Fair did a big - maybe it was The New Republic. 


    One of the big magazines did an article on Netflix and this idea of Netflix having all this niche programming, new superhero shows that most people aren’t really going to want to watch, that don’t have mass appeal, but at the same time, and people have talked about this back when there was four [audio glitch 00:13:09] shows but now there’s more and more content that people are going to watch, so people can fit themselves into more subcultures or specialties. 


    But on the other hand, there’s more things that we’re all sharing now. I’m actually having a hard time coming up with a specific example but to go back to the beginning of the show, the Black Friday violence; we all see that happening. Another really ugly thing - I wish I could think of some positive things but when a school shooting happens in Colorado, the whole country or the whole world hears about it and we all mourn for it and are upset by it, whereas maybe 30 years ago, we really wouldn’t have heard about it. There’s negative things about that. I feel that it is - in a lot of ways, that’s exploitation by the media. But my point is that there’s events that happen that we all experience together and this has been happening probably at least since 24-hour news coverage, CNN and that sort of thing. It’s not unique to the Internet.


CD:    It makes sense to me.


KF:    You guys have any thoughts on that?


TE:    I want to interject. I agree in a lot of ways with what Klint’s saying but I also think we’re also experiencing a more filtered perspective based on the different forms of media. I kind of see that - I agree that in some ways, we’re more specialized and in some ways more generalized but I also find it interesting that we’ll hear about a high school shooting in, say, Colorado or something like that but then in some other part of the world where maybe something else like that happened, we will never really hear about it or even if we do hear about it, we won’t care about it in the same way.


CD:    Unless, Taylor, though, it affects one of our subgenres. As an LGBT person, violence in Russia I do hear about because of the channels I listen to, all of the networked channels, and I live in Colorado -


TE:    [00:15:10] though and how that -


CD:    Oh, yeah, I totally get it.


TE:    I mean, there’s my point exactly. That’s the thing. It’s kind of sad, in a way, because it’s like we should be more aware of this stuff and not just how it applies in one area of our lives but moreover in general. If something is happening in Russia that some of us wouldn’t hear about otherwise, that only some of us would hear because of that filter, maybe we need to work on removing those filters and recognizing that they are in place and asking ourselves if that’s really what we want; a mediated existence that doesn’t really allow us to -


CD:    Nice. That’s a really great way to put it.


BW:    We are moving towards greater connectivity all the time and of course the great push in media to fill their space, hence a train ran off the tracks in Uzbekistan but you’ll find that out, at the same time, we can separate ourselves out and self-identify in our niches more than ever before. I mean, I first started to become aware of this with a friend of mine about 20 years ago. I noticed that he collected a lot of The Grateful Dead recordings and videos and in fact all he watched or listened to was Grateful Dead related material. He had absolutely no contact with normal media and realized that he had totally shaped his media environment. 


    I’ve seen that more and more where at one point you had fads that came and went and had mass currency, like, say, the way The Beatles were in ’64. Now, things come and go, the tide rises and then it recedes, never quite gets as large and as mass a phenomena as it once did, but then it recedes to a certain point and sets. Do you still have rainbow people, beats, neo-hippies? Whatever it is, you can still find a bunch of them because for one thing, even though you’re one of a billion, there are enough of you out there for a newsgroup.


TE:    But I think part of what I’m getting at, though, is that a lot of those things don’t define people the way they may have even, like, 15, 20 years ago, where you can be a fan of a genre of music and instead of being - if you listened to punk in the ‘80s, you were a punk. Today, if you listen to dub-step, you’re not a dub-stepper or whatever. You’re not necessarily “a thing” because you have your filters but your filters don’t necessarily define you anymore, because you can have so many of them, because you can say, “I’m going to get 10 different identities. I’m going to be queer and poly and also a runner and a stamp collector” and whatever else. I’m just thinking things up. Because it’s so easy to address all of those different niches through the Web or through whatever else, you can build a whole different special identity that’s just you. I don’t know how that affects mass culture but it does seem like it makes it less that there’s a specific thing that a whole lot of people identify as; like Goths or punks or Teddy Boys or whatever. 


BW:    We’ve never been in quite this situation before. It may be interesting to see how it does evolve in the next few decades.


CD:    This has certainly been - I can’t really say enlightening; everybody defines that differently. It’s certainly been an exciting chat for me. Like all of our guests, I could probably speak to you guys and have you - I want you both to teach me and everything else and I want to have Taylor back to talk about magick, but we don’t want to run over too much. 


    Closing thoughts, I guess, about the book. Obviously, Klint was introducing me to you guys and the work that you created. What is it you hope that in 2014 you see this book do or what do you hope to do in 2014? Are there any things you could leave us with that might mean something to you personally?


BW:    Well, apart from wanting to get it out in a print edition; if nothing else, I want a print copy.


CD:    I do too, actually! That’s funny.


BW:    I would like to see more discussion of these types of processes. I would love to see people adding on to the sort of material available and producing some more works. Would love to get an online discussion going and collect more material and possibly do another edition down the road. But at the moment, just happy to have the e-books out.


CD:    Yes. It’s got to be a massive feeling. We know that our friends Buddhist Geeks, who are also Mindful Cyborg fans, will see if they can get you involved in maybe - they’ve got a nice little community of online folks that could do this. 


    Taylor, what about for you? Is there anything personal you’d like to see in 2014 as far as the book or you are related?


TE:    Yeah, I’d also like to see a print edition, of course. I feel really happy that we finally have it done. There’s kind of this sense of, “Oh my gosh, it’s done!” When you’re working on a project for years, that is different. I’ve written books where in the past, I’ve wrote them in a year. Boom, done. Then this book and one other book that I’ve put out fairly recently, they were both five-year projects. It took a lot of time. I know for Bill it was even longer than that but - for my part in it. 


    So it’s like a sense of would I want to really see a print copy but more than that, I want to see - I just want to see people get engaged in it and try it out and offer their own input and see it grow, because the book is just the start. I mean, what I hope that any book does is that it starts conversations and that those conversations continue past it and it becomes a meta-text at that point, because you have people engaging in it and doing something with it. When that happens, that’s when you know that it’s really become something more than what the author intended. That’s what I’d like to see. I’d like to see it become more than what Bill and I intended and become something - take on a life of its own in full. I think it’s starting to but it’ll be awesome to see it flower in 2014.


BW:    I think Taylor said that much better than I did but that really is it.


CD:    Well, thank you, Bill and Taylor, so much for being on this show and creating this magnificent work. It’s obvious from just looking at how much work you’ve put into it and actually how kind you were to the process and how you really thought about including an appendix that had routes; to use a business term, routes to value or to use my term, a mindfulness GPS. I really do appreciate that.


BW:    Thanks very much for having us.


TE:    Yeah, thank you very much. We really appreciate it.


KF:    Thanks for coming on, guys.


CD:    Klint, any final thoughts on our mindfulness journey here today?


KF:    Nope. Nope.


CD:    Nothing Klint-eresting. Okay, everybody. We will see you next week on Mindful Cyborgs. Thanks so much.


KF:    Take care. Bye.


  • Why do we do internal work?
    • A sense of balance with ourselves and world around us
  • Almost everyone we meet are the “walking wounded”
  • Massive ebooks, many paths
  • Mindfulness GPS
  • Google Maps for your Brain
  • Pop Culture Magic
  • Whole Mind by Daniel Pink 
  • -number of people that meditate or other contemplative traditions tripled between 1990s and mid 2000s
  • ODN Organizational Development Network 
  • Mindfulness > Meditation to help ease the transition. Take out the woo-woo. But does this lose some fundamental stuff?
  • Buddhist Geeks - McMindfulness
  • “Life does seem like one big subreddit”
  • People getting more specialized and more generalized?
  • New Republic Netflix article 
  • Self identify in niches
  • Generalized and Specialized
  • Filters don’t necessarily define you anymore -- punks used to be punks, etc. Now can have 10 different niches and 10 different identities within

 WORD OF THE WEEK : 

Entheogen: A term derived from the Greek 'entheos', directly translated to mean having "God (theos) within" or more loosely translated as "inspired" and 'genesthe' meaning "to generate"

 EVENTS : 

  •  SXSW  - March 7-16, 2014 Austin, TX (POSSIBLY SEE KLINT AND CHRIS PRESENT) 
  • Cyborg Camp - MIT Media Lab - August 2014 - Boston, MA
  • Buddhist Geeks Conference - October 16-19 2014; Boulder, CO

 THANK YOU / FIND US :

 PREVIOUS SHOWS :

 TRANSCRIPTION :

Mindful Cyborgs, Contemplative living in the age of quantification, augmentation and acceleration, with your hosts, Chris Dancy and Klint Finley.



CD:    Hey, everyone, this is Chris. Klint, long time no chat. 


KF:    Yeah. It’s been a while. How’s it going?


CD:    Good. It’s been a crazy week, you know, with the holidays and everything. I think I just get busier and busier and then sometimes have these moments where it’s completely devoid of anything and I relax into the moment and then something buzzes or goes off and Alexander Pang has been completely made correct because the distraction addiction comes back online. 


KF:    Hey, speaking of holidays, do you think people are getting more burned out on the holiday season now? I mean, it’s hard for me. You know, you’re a little bit older than me so you have more perspective on this but it just seems like this year, people are really just not feeling the whole Christmas holiday season. Is it maybe just my circle or is this year really anomalous? I don’t know.


CD:    Yeah, I have to be careful because I’m - you know, attribution bias and confirmation bias are my yin and my yang last year, so I’m either looking to prove that I’m right or I’m transferring everything I believe onto someone and wondering why they don’t live up. But in my 45 years, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a holiday season so removed from holiday season. It is like Rushkoff said; it is very obvious people are somehow in a present shock. 


    I don’t talk a lot about my work online during the show but I was recently asked to give a presentation right before the holidays to a group of senior people, to uplift them and kind of bring them back into the idea that this is the holiday season and it’s okay to slow down and be kind to yourself and realize that change is hard and the velocity of information can be difficult to perceive, especially when you’ve got lots of systems of measurement. It’s easy to sit there and say, “Wait a minute. Am I fast enough? Am I slow enough? Or am I?” which is often most dangerous. But I don’t think you’re perceiving something unique to your circle.


KF:    Okay.


CD:    I see it in lots of circles. I just see a lot of people who don’t have words to explain how uncomfortable they feel.


KF:    Right. Well, speaking of present shock and distraction and so forth, we have a couple authors here with us today who have written a book called The Book of Good Practices. The first volume is on mindfulness and there’s two more volumes besides. Bill Whitcomb, Taylor Ellwood, welcome to the Mindful Cyborgs.


BW/TE:    Thank you. Happy to be here.


CD:    So you guys got a good little introduction to our feelings about this holiday season being, for Klint and I, seeming somewhat different, I guess. If we could maybe just before we got right in the book, maybe get you to chime in on are you perceiving anything anomalous in your observation? Your personal experience is obviously different because of your mindfulness practice but in your observation of people?


TE:    When it comes to the holiday season, I think that I call this time of year “Gimme-as” as opposed to Christmas or anything else, because some of the people - I was kind of observing recently that it seems to me that there’s this obligatory sense of gift giving; where people are no longer giving gifts because they genuinely want to but because they feel this obligation. There’s this commercial that I saw recently on Hulu for Walgreens where it showed this one guy coming down the little thing and he has a gift in his hand and he gives it to the other guy. The one guy’s all dressed in the holiday spirit and the other guy doesn’t have a gift for him. The one guy looks at him expectantly; “Where’s my gift?” The woman in the mirror, the woman that’s inside the building looks at him like, “Dude, where’s the dude’s gift?” 


    I’m thinking to myself, “Wow, this totally commodifies the whole idea of gifts, of giving something. Why are we really even giving something? Are we giving it out of obligation or are we giving it because we genuinely want to give it, without any expectation of getting something in return?” So that’s my observation, based on that and something I’m continuing to ponder quite a bit.


CD:    Just so people listening can keep up, you’re Taylor or you’re Bill?


TE:    I’m Taylor.


CD:    Taylor. Alright, thanks, Taylor. People don’t know your voices and we just introduced you guys together. Bill, any observations for us?


BW:    I can’t generalize beyond my personal situation but it does feel like I’m more distracted this year and I think I seem to see that in other people, where the holiday season is more of a distraction to other things going on. Everybody has a lot of little daily life stuff going on, a lot of economic stuff going on and there’s sort of like, “Oh yeah, Christmas is happening too.”


KF:    Yeah.


CD:    Yeah, that’s kind of how it seems -


BW:    Yeah, and I can’t separate that out from my personal situation. But it seems like things are more that way this year than they have been in the past.


CD:    Good.


KF:    It seems like it gets more and more that way every year for me. People are just getting less and less interested in it and I wonder how much that has to do with the whole Black Friday shopping orgy that happens. It just gets uglier and uglier every year and people are just, I don’t know, retreating in disgust from that.


CD:    Where I see it first is traffic behavior. Long before Black Friday - this year, it was almost a month before Black Friday - I saw people more aggressively driving. You know me, I have a sensor in my truck, right? So I can actually see my own driving is a little bit more aggressive; harder brakes, faster start-ups. So it’s interesting how there is a little bit of a swell and then - you know, the Black Friday thing, you sometimes wonder, it’s bad but I don’t go out on that day so I just wonder if the media’s just hyping it but -


KF:    Yeah, me either.


CD:    The amount of people hurt during Black Friday is always kind of like more of the news than the sales numbers. I mean, you just go back five years ago.


KF:    That’s what I mean.


CD:    It was like what you heard about Black Friday was, “This year was 10% bigger than last year.” Now the news about Black Friday is, “This many people were hurt.”


KF:    Yeah. That’s what I mean by the ugliness of it. People being stampeded or shot or whatever. Maybe that’s being hyped by the media more than it needs to be but I wonder if some of the holiday season apathy that I’m seeing and experiencing is kind of a result of that; just being, “Alright, well, I’m just done with this.” Sorry, I kind of got off on a tangent there. I should actually talk about the book.


CD:    The book could help us with these very issues!


KF:    Yeah, that’s kind of where I was trying to go with that. I kind of see this book as a users’ guide to the human brain. The brain, the missing manual; that sort of thing. What is the book, in your own words? Maybe we’ll start with Taylor then Bill can chime in.


TE:    First of all, I want to acknowledge that Bill is kind of the originator of the book. He had already been working on it for a while and I want to give a little history here, just because I think it speaks to what the book’s about. He came to me about four or five years ago and said, “I’m working on this book. I’m kind of hitting a place where I’m feeling really blocked. Would you be willing to help me co-write it because you’ve done some similar stuff with some of your other writing?” I thought it over and I said, “Yeah, sure.” 


    It’s been a long road to get this book put together. I mean, it’s turned into three e-books and a workbook which speaks to it. So what do we see it as? I think I see it as a catalog of certainly stuff related to the brain but really behaviors and actions that can come out of being more aware of the brain and how it programs a lot of our behavior. That’s my take on it. Bill, what would you say to that?


BW:    Well, I think we’ve tried to produce a taxonomy, a way of categorizing behavioral practices, things that can be described in purely behavioral terms; that actually have a measurable neurological effect on people, physiological effect on people. Things that you can learn to do that could be said to truly impact your skills as far as fundamental human activities; things like concentration, memory, metabolism; things that impact pretty much anything you would want to do in your life. 


    We’ve tried to abstract that as much as possible from any specific tradition because in many ways, the traditions these things come out of have a tendency to separate out people as much as they bring them in. Someone will say, “Well, psychology is too cold or inhuman for me” or “I don’t do Eastern mysticism” or “That’s too fuzzy and spiritual”, any reason to not try the thing themselves, whereas in behavioral terms, these are things that you can learn to do that will change your level of skill as a human being.


CD:    Well, Klint and I have talked extensively, Taylor and Bill, on this show about our own journey with contemplative living. We’ve really gotten into our specific practices. We’ve talked around them from time to time. We do try to give not only - as Mindful Cyborg - give equal time to both sides of it but there is, I guess, the cyber side of it. There are quantifiable, measurable things that you can do and I think Vincent Horn from Buddhist Geeks would say is there a way to expedite the experiences of being more aware through some of the practices of combining technology and a more immersive learning experience so that you don’t have to spend six months on the side, studying with a teacher on a retreat, which there’s - we’re also very careful, or I am at least, never to pathologize or fetishize retreat work versus non-retreat work. We’re certainly not saying that you can hack your way to being more aware but there is a level of is there a way that you could? 


    I heard you use some very specific terms, Bill, about how you wrote the book and the areas that you wanted to explore. Could you comment on just the ideology around if this is a manual for the brain, your own belief systems around speeding the process versus is it even possible to speed the process, would probably be a good place to start.


BW:    Well, I’m a big believer in synthesis; that we have the advantage now of access to many world traditions. It’s only relatively recently that people can put all this stuff side to side and compare it, where they can choose. We’ve focused on behavioral processes; those things that you can describe as physical processes. We focused on things that you can do by yourself; that you can teach yourself. There are a lot of things that don’t work well with this, like a lot of the fundamental parts of yoga, martial arts; physical practices of that sort you’re not going to learn from a book. You’re really going to teach yourself bad habits if you try to solely learn from a book. 


    But there are a lot of things that you can experiment with and work with by yourself and we’ve tried to keep those in purely behavioral terms; in other words, “Breathe like this. Focus your attention here. Move like this” and so on. So I think by putting it in those terms, by trying to move away from the more subjective aspects of it, you can leverage the things that are being done in different traditions, the things that are being done in neurology at the moment with brain studies. 


    It still comes down to doing the work, though. Part of what’s ironic with this book is in some ways in terms of the things that Taylor and I have written in the past, this is one of the least sexy because it deals with a lot of very basic practices such as breathing. A lot of people look at it and they go, “Okay, breathing exercises” but there are very few things you can do that will transform your life as thoroughly.


CD:    You mentioned your previous books and Taylor had mentioned the history of this particular book. I wanted to touch on that because I remember you and I met - it’s been almost eight years now. You were working on this book and you told me that you felt like you were writing your books backwards, so that this was the book that should have come first and your first book, I think that was Magician’s Companion, was the book that probably should have come last. Do you still feel that way or can you maybe elaborate on that a little bit?


BW:    Both written a great deal about ritual practices in symbolism, in different traditions of mysticism, religion and magical practice. Very fundamentally, regardless of what traditions you’re interested in, this third book deals with the neurological skills, the fundamental skills, that you need to practice virtually any of these traditions. The part of the practice that changes consciousness is not the chant or the symbol or the ritual; it’s your ability to change the focus of your attention and consciousness, your neurological skills. So in one sense, this book is very applicable to people that want to practice some type of tradition of ritual or symbolic work.


    At the same time, again I think we believe it’s applicable to pretty much anyone doing anything. I mean, it’s a very cliché thing to say but this book is for everyone. We want to get out of the self-help metaphor that implies that there’s something wrong with you, you need to fix. 


CD:    Exactly.


BW:    It’s more about establishing a tradition of human skills of good living in the way that I think yoga and kung fu originally meant. I mean, we have the idea of these as physical practices, of kung fu as a martial art, but originally, the concept was it was the arts of survival of living so it included diet, healing; really every aspect of human life. We lost that concept in the West.


TE:    Bill, I wanted to actually - this is Taylor - speak to the previous question that’s been asked before; about how the practice and everything. I’ve actually experimented with dream machines, mind machines, [00:14:42] as well as just meditation practices and here’s what I’ve found. You can use mind machines, dream machines and [00:14:50] to establish some kinds of shortcuts but I don’t feel that those shortcuts are as effective as people would like to think that they were, because certainly in the case of [00:15:01], you just don’t have the amount of control because you’re introducing a foreign substance into your body which takes away a lot of control from the experience and that can be both good and bad. It can certainly be useful sometimes. Sometimes we need to be a little bit out of control, we need to just be on the edge, but sometimes what we also really need, especially when we’re doing some of the internal work that we’re doing, is we actually really do need that control because we need to be directed and focused.


    With the mind machine and dream machine, certainly useful for creating an altered state of mind and having some very interesting experiences, but what I find ultimately is that it really comes down to daily practice. I have a couple different daily practices; I have some exercise that I do every day, which I think of as a form of meditation - it certainly helps me cultivate a state of in my mind but I also have some meditation practices that I do. What I’ve found is that what’s made them efficacious is really just doing the work day in and day out. If you want results, you have to be willing to put the work in. If you really want to explore some of the habits and behaviors that you’re doing, it takes time. It’s not something where you can just flick a switch and that behavior or habit is changed. You have to really be willing to go in and explore some of those issues, explore why you’re doing what you’re doing and how it’s come about the way that it has. So that’s my take on it.


BW:    Also, I think it’s important to think of it as a process and lifestyle. I mean, in the sense that there’s a tendency the way we look at these things linguistically and culturally in the West that it’s a goal; “Okay, I’ll do six months, become self-aware and then I’m done.” It’s like there’s something that you can finish, whereas it’s really more of a way to approach life. 


CD:    I’d like to ask you both as teachers and writers about this subject. For me in my own personal journey over the last four years, since I’ve started my own awareness practices, obviously I’ve started thinking it was a journey but I found that once you actually wake up just a little bit, it’s actually kind of hard to stop.


BW:    Don’t tell anyone!


CD:    But when you talk about this journey, I mean, I had someone tell me recently this summer, when I was telling them some of the problems I was dealing with, it’s like in some ways, I wish someone would have warned me because it can be really difficult to come online.


BW:    I mean, I think it’s important that these traditions move into a modern context, because a lot of the things said about that in older traditions, like say most common reference is to the Dark Night of the Soul. That in the way that it’s discussed is not as meaningful to people now as it once would have been.


CD:    It is if you’ve experienced it!


BW:    Oh, yes, but I’m saying in other words, if somebody had used that terminology to warn you beforehand, would it have really told you what you needed to know?


CD:    No, it wouldn’t have.


BW:    So part of this is moving it into modern paradigms, matching our understanding of neurology and brain function. At a certain point - I mean, much of what we’re talking about is things like - in the third book, it’s things like learning to control your breathing, raising or lowering your body temperature, mnemonic techniques, non-verbal and verbal communication techniques; fairly basic stuff. But all of this will lead you towards increased awareness of yourself and others and will, if carried far enough, cause you to really examine the underpinnings of your world view and will inevitably lead to some uncomfortable experiences, if you carry it far enough.


TE:    Well, I want to note too that internal work isn’t meant to be easy. 


KF:    No!


TE:    I do a practice which is - okay, we’re going to get a little mystical here. It’s the elemental balancing ritual. It’s a thing I’ve been doing since 2004. It’s picking an element of your life that you recognize that you’re not necessarily balanced and working within. As examples of things that I’ve worked with in the past, it’s been love, emptiness. I’m working with movement right now. These are not easy topics. I can tell you that the year of working with emptiness was a year of hell for me, because the Western culture does not have an easy framework to deal with emptiness; you basically have to go towards Eastern cultures to find a lot of focus on emptiness and even then, it’s not necessarily helpful if you’re coming at it from a Western perspective. 


    So yes, okay, if someone had warned me, would I go ahead and do this stuff? But the thing is I feel that the clarity that I’ve gotten and the level of focus and awareness and quite honestly just how much - how less chaotic and how much happier my life is as a result of doing the work has been worth it, even though at the time it sucked. That’s, I think, and don’t get me wrong; I’m not doing this to “be happy”. I mean, that’s not the end result or the end goal; that’s kind of a by-product. It’s just that when I look at this as, “Well, why do we really do internal work? Why do we do meditation? Why do we do these different practices?” 


    Well, really, what it comes right down to is finding a sense of balance within ourselves and with the world around us. I think that it’s because this world is so out of balance and a lot of that’s because of the kind of structures and cultures and all the other stuff that humanity has built, but a lot of it’s also just our internal condition. We’re not really wired to deal with emptiness in a way that is comfortable so at the same time, we have to negotiate and work with it and figure it out. 


    Then you add in the fact that I think a fair number of people are - I think just about everyone I meet is pretty much the walking wounded. I mean, we’ve all been scarred in one form or another by things that happened in our childhood or whatever and we can say, “Well, that’s just Freudian” or whatever, all this sort of stuff, but you know what? The fact is, people go around acting out these behaviors, acting out these wounds that occurred to them and something like this, it doesn’t automatically solve the problem. 


    It’s not easy to do but what it can bring you, if you’re dedicated to doing the kind of work that’s involved with internal work, is it can bring you a sense of balance, a sense of equilibrium and being able to - instead of feeling like you’re in this tide of chaos, you actually feel like you’ve been able to find some semblance of order and you can negotiate life a bit easier. I know on the days when I don’t do meditation, I feel it and I feel it in the sense that I’m not necessarily as balanced or as focused as I could be. So it is one of those things where you wake up a little bit and all of a sudden, you’re on and that’s it, and you can’t go back.


BW:    At the same time, we’ve tried to keep all of this tied to really specific basic human skills in the sense that doing these things will also increase the skills you use on a daily basis to do anything you do, in terms of visualization, concentration, creativity, energy level and so on. We’ve tried to stay away from terms that need to be understood within a specific tradition or terms where there’s too much definition involved. I mean, if we talk about enlightenment, are any of us talking about the same thing?


CD:    Yeah. I encourage people to go out and take a look at this. I mean, it’s written in such a way when you go into the visual, the auditory or any of the different exercises that you have in here and you examine every facet, I don’t think you’re ever going to see anything this comprehensive. It doesn’t seem mystical, it actually doesn’t even seem Eastern at times, but it’s very easy and approachable. I guess my question to both of you is when we live in a society where some people will pick this up and read it and put it down and maybe put it into practice but some people might just go, “I don’t know if I have time to even get involved in that”, do you both see that by the time someone needs this - how are you pacing this? 


BW:    I’ve always had a tendency to write projects that are too large and this is definitely no different.


CD:    This is massive.


BW:    Why it ended up in three e-book volumes. Collectively, this is more material than anyone can actually practice in a lifetime. No one is going to do all this stuff every day, ourselves included. At the same time, it would be good to at least try everything in these books but since most people really are after something that helps them in some particular way, we have an appendix that discusses paths through the book. Say you are trying to cope with depression or chronic pain or improve your creativity or anything you could think of as a particular thing why someone might, say, be after a self-help book. We’ve listed paths through the book as far as which material and what order you would want to go through in order to approach that particular goal.

CD:    A mindfulness GPS.


BW:    In a way, yeah.


TE:    I like that! A mindfulness GPS.


CD:    I like that. This is good stuff.


KF:    Google Maps for your brain.


CD:    Google Map to your brain, yeah. If there gets to be advertisements in here, I think it’s going to be too much. I mean, it’s just a sweeping piece of work that you guys have written. It’s so exhaustive, I wonder will you create something else? Is this living? Will you add to it? Will you - are there any plans on - I mean, this is huge. There’s so much in here. Keeping it moving forward or will there be another version of it? Because you - I don’t know. To me, I can’t imagine you adding anything else.


BW:    Well, there are endless amounts of practices in the world, even when narrowed to the criteria we used, so I’m sure there are valuable practices we never heard of that didn’t get included and perhaps someday there’ll be a different edition. There will be a print edition in 2014 that will be one single volume.


CD:    Wow.


BW:    You’ve got to stop somewhere. I think I’m ready to move on to bad science fiction for a year or two. I think Taylor and I both have other works in us, I hope.


TE:    Well, definitely. I’m actually working on a couple different projects right now; a book on networking, as in going out and networking with people in business settings and teaching some best practices around that, and then the next Pop Culture Magick book, 2.0, which is kind of an evolution of a book I wrote 10 years ago called Pop Culture Magick.


CD:    I’d love to hear more about Pop Culture Magick. Klint and I were actually discussing the occult when we saw each other in person last time, and magick and all those other types of things. Klint, I mean, this is pretty big. I don’t know how much - I just did a cursory read-through of it when you sent it over to me but any thoughts on this stuff? You’ve got your own journey that you’ve been on.


KF:    No. I mean, we keep talking about it being a big work. I actually - maybe I actually interjected. Try not to intimidate people that it’s - actually, guys, how long is it as a print book? How long would it be? 300 pages, 400 pages?


BW:    I think it’s about 400 in print.


KF:    Okay, and there’s a lot of material there but it’s not like this is some giant, unapproachable tome. You’ve got the appendixes to work through it, you’ve got - but I don’t want to scare people off and make them think this is GSM or something like that, that they’re not going to be able to get through.


BW:    We tried to spend as little time talking about the traditions and about - and exclude as much jargon as we could to just keep it to, “This is how you do this. This is what this will do for you.”


KF:    Yeah. The Table of Contents is really clear so you can look at it and find the parts that you’re interested in.


CD:    Yeah, and if you are going to give someone a handbook to the brain, it probably should be a little comprehensive.


BW:    Yeah. But I hope with all of this that whether we continue it and put out another edition, in the future, someone will take this type of work and that it is something that is evolving in our culture. I very much do believe that; that it is only in the last few decades that all of this material is freely available to us and that it is beginning to interact with the neurological and brain imaging studies. I think we are on our way to a combined knowledge which has never been available to us before.


CD:    Yeah, actually, I’m right in the middle of finishing The Whole Mind by Daniel Pink. That’s a few years old but one of the stats he gave I thought was pretty profound; the number of people who meditate or practice yoga or some other contemplative tradition between the ‘90s and the mid-2000s had tripled. It made me wonder, was it access to the information or access to those types of systems, or was it the requirement of humanity to actually need that in their lives? Are people finding it out of necessity or is it just the access to the information? Do you have any opinions on that, Bill or Taylor?


TE:    I think that a lot of it is there’s just been this explosion both of the New Age and the more occult-oriented culture or subcultures toward meditation and practices like this, but also even in mainstream, you see a lot of it. I mean, I sometimes drive around Portland and I swear I could see a yoga center on every block. It’s probably a bit of an exaggeration but there’s certainly a number of them around. I think part of it is that some people have been very good at de-esotericizing the benefits of yoga and that. I mean, you have a lot of people who are doing it because they want to get involved in some kind of spiritual tradition or something. They want to just do it for the health and wellness that it brings to their body and that’s perfectly good and wonderful and definitely a reason to do it. But I also see this to some degree with other types of mindfulness practices as well. 


    In fact, I went to - I belong to - one organization I belong to is called ODN (Organizational Development Network). We had a presentation a few months ago on mindfulness. The person there mentioned that when she approaches businesses to talk about it, she never uses the word ‘meditation’ because that - she says that’s “too woo-woo”. She uses ‘mindfulness’ because mindfulness is something that businesses can accept and that people that are working there can accept as something that is acceptable and isn’t going to trod on some people’s toes when it comes to their spiritual beliefs. 


    I can certainly see that but it’s interesting how there is kind of this focus on mainstreaming it to make it more acceptable, whether - and I would certainly argue there’s certain things that are as a result kind of being lost and that which developing may not necessarily be, for example, yoga in the traditional sense of the word. It’s a new form of yoga.


CD:    Yeah. The Buddhist Geeks Conference this summer I went to, every speaker used the term ‘McMindfulness’ at least once. Some of these people were very traditional teachers. There definitely seem to be two camps; those that wanted to objectify the commoditization of mindfulness and those that just wanted to say, like you said, Taylor, it’s just a new form and it doesn’t mean there’s anything that we need to try to understand about it; it is what it is.


BW:    I think it’s more a matter of moving it into a context that is telecistically correct for our culture.


CD:    To me, when I heard them say the term ‘McMindfulness’, I recoiled because I thought to myself - first thing I thought was, “Wow, what was I taught? Am I eating the junk food, McMindfulness, or am I - then I thought, “Okay, I need to race to a mountain and find a yogi. I just need to do something to get this nastiness out of my system.” Then I just realized, “Oh, wow. I’m sitting here and I’m having really these dualistic thoughts about am I doing the right things and not - okay, and then I came back online; “Okay, these are interesting chemical reactions about something I just heard and that’s all they are; interesting.” Sorry, Klint, I didn’t mean to go into my head there.


BW:    No, no. When we come up with something where we don’t see a conflict between this form and the traditions, basically we’re - we don’t see it as a market but simply the American and modern way in which we do these things. Hard to say how much time and cultural stability we would need to evolve something like that but I think we’ve been going through a period where our culture at least in the US is so fragmented that it’s more like a collection of niche cultures than something that is an organic whole.


CD:    Life does seem like one giant sub Reddit. I mean, everybody I meet has their niche and it’s so hyper-personalized because of the connected nature of life. Klint, earlier you said to me, “Chris, you’re a little bit older.” I’d ask you, Klint, as someone who’s a little bit younger; does life seem to be getting more compartmentalized for you? Do you see people falling into tighter little niches?


KF:    I don’t know. I haven’t thought about that. My knee jerk reaction is I actually think people might be getting - becoming more generalized in some - definitely people are getting more specialized in some ways in terms of there’s just so much stuff out there that people can get - people have to specialize a little bit in terms of job skills or interests of whatever. But we’re getting off - getting way out there now. I read - Vanity Fair did a big - maybe it was The New Republic. 


    One of the big magazines did an article on Netflix and this idea of Netflix having all this niche programming, new superhero shows that most people aren’t really going to want to watch, that don’t have mass appeal, but at the same time, and people have talked about this back when there was four [audio glitch 00:13:09] shows but now there’s more and more content that people are going to watch, so people can fit themselves into more subcultures or specialties. 


    But on the other hand, there’s more things that we’re all sharing now. I’m actually having a hard time coming up with a specific example but to go back to the beginning of the show, the Black Friday violence; we all see that happening. Another really ugly thing - I wish I could think of some positive things but when a school shooting happens in Colorado, the whole country or the whole world hears about it and we all mourn for it and are upset by it, whereas maybe 30 years ago, we really wouldn’t have heard about it. There’s negative things about that. I feel that it is - in a lot of ways, that’s exploitation by the media. But my point is that there’s events that happen that we all experience together and this has been happening probably at least since 24-hour news coverage, CNN and that sort of thing. It’s not unique to the Internet.


CD:    It makes sense to me.


KF:    You guys have any thoughts on that?


TE:    I want to interject. I agree in a lot of ways with what Klint’s saying but I also think we’re also experiencing a more filtered perspective based on the different forms of media. I kind of see that - I agree that in some ways, we’re more specialized and in some ways more generalized but I also find it interesting that we’ll hear about a high school shooting in, say, Colorado or something like that but then in some other part of the world where maybe something else like that happened, we will never really hear about it or even if we do hear about it, we won’t care about it in the same way.


CD:    Unless, Taylor, though, it affects one of our subgenres. As an LGBT person, violence in Russia I do hear about because of the channels I listen to, all of the networked channels, and I live in Colorado -


TE:    [00:15:10] though and how that -


CD:    Oh, yeah, I totally get it.


TE:    I mean, there’s my point exactly. That’s the thing. It’s kind of sad, in a way, because it’s like we should be more aware of this stuff and not just how it applies in one area of our lives but moreover in general. If something is happening in Russia that some of us wouldn’t hear about otherwise, that only some of us would hear because of that filter, maybe we need to work on removing those filters and recognizing that they are in place and asking ourselves if that’s really what we want; a mediated existence that doesn’t really allow us to -


CD:    Nice. That’s a really great way to put it.


BW:    We are moving towards greater connectivity all the time and of course the great push in media to fill their space, hence a train ran off the tracks in Uzbekistan but you’ll find that out, at the same time, we can separate ourselves out and self-identify in our niches more than ever before. I mean, I first started to become aware of this with a friend of mine about 20 years ago. I noticed that he collected a lot of The Grateful Dead recordings and videos and in fact all he watched or listened to was Grateful Dead related material. He had absolutely no contact with normal media and realized that he had totally shaped his media environment. 


    I’ve seen that more and more where at one point you had fads that came and went and had mass currency, like, say, the way The Beatles were in ’64. Now, things come and go, the tide rises and then it recedes, never quite gets as large and as mass a phenomena as it once did, but then it recedes to a certain point and sets. Do you still have rainbow people, beats, neo-hippies? Whatever it is, you can still find a bunch of them because for one thing, even though you’re one of a billion, there are enough of you out there for a newsgroup.


TE:    But I think part of what I’m getting at, though, is that a lot of those things don’t define people the way they may have even, like, 15, 20 years ago, where you can be a fan of a genre of music and instead of being - if you listened to punk in the ‘80s, you were a punk. Today, if you listen to dub-step, you’re not a dub-stepper or whatever. You’re not necessarily “a thing” because you have your filters but your filters don’t necessarily define you anymore, because you can have so many of them, because you can say, “I’m going to get 10 different identities. I’m going to be queer and poly and also a runner and a stamp collector” and whatever else. I’m just thinking things up. Because it’s so easy to address all of those different niches through the Web or through whatever else, you can build a whole different special identity that’s just you. I don’t know how that affects mass culture but it does seem like it makes it less that there’s a specific thing that a whole lot of people identify as; like Goths or punks or Teddy Boys or whatever. 


BW:    We’ve never been in quite this situation before. It may be interesting to see how it does evolve in the next few decades.


CD:    This has certainly been - I can’t really say enlightening; everybody defines that differently. It’s certainly been an exciting chat for me. Like all of our guests, I could probably speak to you guys and have you - I want you both to teach me and everything else and I want to have Taylor back to talk about magick, but we don’t want to run over too much. 


    Closing thoughts, I guess, about the book. Obviously, Klint was introducing me to you guys and the work that you created. What is it you hope that in 2014 you see this book do or what do you hope to do in 2014? Are there any things you could leave us with that might mean something to you personally?


BW:    Well, apart from wanting to get it out in a print edition; if nothing else, I want a print copy.


CD:    I do too, actually! That’s funny.


BW:    I would like to see more discussion of these types of processes. I would love to see people adding on to the sort of material available and producing some more works. Would love to get an online discussion going and collect more material and possibly do another edition down the road. But at the moment, just happy to have the e-books out.


CD:    Yes. It’s got to be a massive feeling. We know that our friends Buddhist Geeks, who are also Mindful Cyborg fans, will see if they can get you involved in maybe - they’ve got a nice little community of online folks that could do this. 


    Taylor, what about for you? Is there anything personal you’d like to see in 2014 as far as the book or you are related?


TE:    Yeah, I’d also like to see a print edition, of course. I feel really happy that we finally have it done. There’s kind of this sense of, “Oh my gosh, it’s done!” When you’re working on a project for years, that is different. I’ve written books where in the past, I’ve wrote them in a year. Boom, done. Then this book and one other book that I’ve put out fairly recently, they were both five-year projects. It took a lot of time. I know for Bill it was even longer than that but - for my part in it. 


    So it’s like a sense of would I want to really see a print copy but more than that, I want to see - I just want to see people get engaged in it and try it out and offer their own input and see it grow, because the book is just the start. I mean, what I hope that any book does is that it starts conversations and that those conversations continue past it and it becomes a meta-text at that point, because you have people engaging in it and doing something with it. When that happens, that’s when you know that it’s really become something more than what the author intended. That’s what I’d like to see. I’d like to see it become more than what Bill and I intended and become something - take on a life of its own in full. I think it’s starting to but it’ll be awesome to see it flower in 2014.


BW:    I think Taylor said that much better than I did but that really is it.


CD:    Well, thank you, Bill and Taylor, so much for being on this show and creating this magnificent work. It’s obvious from just looking at how much work you’ve put into it and actually how kind you were to the process and how you really thought about including an appendix that had routes; to use a business term, routes to value or to use my term, a mindfulness GPS. I really do appreciate that.


BW:    Thanks very much for having us.


TE:    Yeah, thank you very much. We really appreciate it.


KF:    Thanks for coming on, guys.


CD:    Klint, any final thoughts on our mindfulness journey here today?


KF:    Nope. Nope.


CD:    Nothing Klint-eresting. Okay, everybody. We will see you next week on Mindful Cyborgs. Thanks so much.


KF:    Take care. Bye.