0490 – mindfully avoid muscle memory

The brain is an interesting thing. If complexity were a measure of interestingness, it would be the most interesting thing in the universe. The reason it isn’t immediately, obviously so is that it’s complicated and inaccessible. But I think that’s actually just a marketing problem- the brain can be presented and perceived in simpler ways. The most common and errenous oversimplification is “left brain and right brain”, which introduces an interesting distinction but is, well, horribly inaccurate and imprecise. And then there are all these additional layers- the “old brain” or lizard brain, the amygdala, the prefrontal cortex, parts meant for language processing, spatial awareness, all sorts of interesting things. And they’re all made up of neurons, which fire electrical signals at one another (?) supported by gluons (?), require glucose as fuel… there’s a lot of stuff I’ve forgotten and must be misunderstanding, but I’m going to revisit it over and over until I get it bevause it’s clearly the most fascinating thing there is, and has a higher impact on one’s quality of life than anything else.

Why did I even come around to talking about this? I was thinking about how this is vomit 0490, and in a mere 10,000 words I would have hit the halfway mark. And I was trying to imagine how that would feel. Will I be happy and excited and feel celebratory? Or will I just smile and be content and move on? I think I’ll take a couple of pictures, celebrate with a glass of whiskey. But then the challenge is to keep my eyes trained forward and to continue onwards. Maybe I’ll write a vomit about what I’ve learned, and what the experience has been like. Why not write it now? What’s the difference between 490 and 500? Nothing. It’s all arbitrary milestones, like weeks and months, it feels like a nice number because it fits our base-10 system and 5 fingers very nicely. 10 sets of 50, 5 sets of 100. And so there’s a sense of significance, somehow, that’s entirely imaginary. But isn’t everything, in a sense, imaginary? Not exactly. All meaning is synthesized in the brain, but there are things about reality that don’t go away when you stop imagining them.

I’m thinking back to past events where I felt a lot of feelings. The strongest and most vivid memories are- the last day of my mandatory conscription, and before that, the last day of Junior College. Oh, and my wedding day. And moments before going on stage when I was a musician, and before giving talks or speeches or hosting anything.

The halfway point of these vomits will be nice, but completing it will really be something special. It will be the first time I complete a large undertaking that I completely initiated and followed through and completed all by myself. I’ll experience a huge sense of relief.

I suppose the halfway mark of the vomits will be slightly similar to the halfway mark of school- Primary 4, Secondary 3, JC2. A sense that… you’ve got this, now. You’ve made it past the middle, now you “just” need to hang on. The incentives to give up are now (if they weren’t already) outweighed by the incentives to keep going.

Of course, after saying something like “I can’t wait to be done with this project”, I need to bring up the counterpoint that ultimately the project doesn’t actually even matter- what really matters is the journey, the effort I put in, the discipline. That I learn to appreciate each word that comes from my mind. That I learn to enjoy the beautiful structures that must be forming in my mind in order for me to persist at this. That I see how ultimately this is all life is, in both the most trivial and fullest sense. Life is me sitting in a train on the way to work, bouncing thoughts off of a plane of glass. That’s it, right now! Not tomorrow, not next year, now.

Somehow, saying that always sounds like advocating for short-term hedonism. But that’s not exactly it. And short-term hedonism isn’t always exactly what it sounds like. In fact I have a suspicion that a lot of the time, it’s almost precisely the opposite. That’s a tedious, roundabout way of saying… I think people who compulsively seek escapist things are trying to avoid the Now rather than face it. Uhh… not very happy with how I’m framing this right now. Eckhart Tolle and Alan Watts both do a pretty good job of talking about this sort of thing.

Shall we try again? The moment that we’re in is the moment that counts. But okay, so what do we do now? What is it about the now that needs doing? Sometimes it means lazing around with a book. Sometimes it means going for a run. It means listening closely and deeply to whatever sort of internal…

wait, what are these internal things, anyway? They’re… subconscious thoughts? I still have the sense that I’m sort of grasping at straws here. I’m circling and circling. There’s something about meditation that supposedly makes it easier to change patterns. We’re less stuck in loops. Why do we get stuck in loops? Because when we’re not aware, when we’re not paying attention, we default to… well, the defaults. I’m thinking now about guitar practice. If you want to do something you can’t do yet, you have to do it slowly, mindfully, so that your mind and your hands have the time and space to adjust and learn. If you try to “just wing it”, chances are it won’t work out. You default to muscle memory. I suppose something similar happens to the mind.

I guess ultimately this is another in a long series of reminders to myself to relax, breathe, pay attention, not stress so much, and to allow gravity to work on me. Stop trying to control everything and just let it go, and be mindful and aware and see what happens.

It’s clear that I’m not super confident about this yet. But I want to try it.

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