This publication can be found online at http://awareness.media.mit.edu/pub/adcrosby.
This journal is a work in progress.
Anne’s Journal
Journal for Principles of Awareness.
Anne Crosby

4/9

Wow. Major anxiety meditating today. I usually can sit down and commit to sitting for twenty minutes, but I kept wanting to get up and do something. It was if I had a million important things that had to be done RIGHT NOW. Except that I didn’t. Maybe I can learn to notice when I am “anxious” in general. I must have been stressed and antsy before I sat down and not realized it.

4/8

Knowing and not knowing. When I first started painting, I had not been exposed to visual art. In fact, if I had to be honest I didn’t care much for it–or, and it’s really shameful to have to admit, I didn’t really see much value in it. I guess it didn’t make sense to me. Creativity, however, is interesting to me, and so I took an oil painting class and loved it. For the most part, I tried to develop my own style. I also became fascinated by the concepts of illusion, paradox, and reality as portrayed by the French surrealist, Magritte I heard about this “Rembrandt” tool that produces computer generated “original” (as in not copies of existing works) works that are indistinguishable from Rembrandt’s paintings. I think there is a type of “self-awareness” and “flow” that can develop and is somehow undefinable when producing a creative work. It can be very meditational. Does a computer have flow? I’m not sure about the Turing test type claims being made about the 3-D painting tool.

4/7

What did I notice today? What was it T.S. Eliot said? “There is no time, and there is only time.” (I’m not going to Google the quote, but I will provide the link to Four Quartets. Time affects perspective. The ability to artificially suspend it alters (or distorts) chronicity. I love T.S. Eliot. Sometimes he seems profound, at others he strikes me as a profoundly melancholy. There are so many ways to think about time and space. Today there is time to complete the tasks I must complete, but there is no time to complete others. That was not meant to be profound. I just listened to T.S. Eliot though, so what can you do? Read his work on naming cats?

4/6

Painting has been a part of my life for years now. I started with oil, tried acrylic, and moved to Chinese brush painting. I toted my supplies with me, though most of them have been misplaced over the

4/5

4/4

4/3

4/2

Multiple perspectives: Yesterday, I had an amazing demonstration of multiple perspectives and the opportunity to consider those in relationship to subject-object relationships. In considering my studies for next year, I learned about the intricacies of the graduate programs based on the viewpoints of several of the faculty who run the program. I was able to connect some of the changes that have occurred over time, with the requirements of more “traditional” programs. It seems there is a bit of a minefield for the unwary in deciding where to study, especially for me since I am switching fields. Thank goodness for multiple perspectives and authorities on a subject. Would it be possible to contextualize or situate any type of knowledge without an interaction between two or more people? Especially, if it is important to understand the chronology of the development of a field. I would have no hope of identifying the important components. What did I notice today? Web sites and other “flat” materials could not replace the experience of actually hearing the nuances communicated by the advisors. Streaming sessions were helpful, but the most “real” demonstration of true interaction occurred when I was actually on site.

4/1

Wow, so from yesterday I went from high energy to low energy. I think it has a lot to do with expectations (perception of reality?). I’m in the same location as yesterday, but today it is not amazing. Granted, the weather is dreary, but I don’t think that is the whole #! By contrast, yesterday I was almost feeling euphoric–new place, new people. I guess moods aren’t/can’t be constant. The place hasn’t changed, only my perception of it. Right? Or not? I’m going with the idea that my perception changed and the place remained the same. I’m sure there is a philosophical argument to be had there that would quickly lead to asking “How can we really know anything?”

3/31

I’m back to considering the role of place and space again. I’m in Chicago now, and it happens to be a beautiful day. I’ve met some very interesting people, and it has been nice to have a change of scenery. More than once, I have fallen asleep when meditating. Although I have been told on retreat that this is OK, I have to say it makes me feel like I haven’t done my best to focus. I’m not even sure if the drowsiness is confined to days when I would have benefited from more sleep, or if sometimes it happens randomly. I have, however, been diligent about getting seven hours of sleep a night. What have I noticed today? An observation redundant with a previous day, that a change of place seems to alter my frame of mind. I should be more aware of how I feel during the day depending on place and if some locations, induce feelings of stress more than others.

3/30

In Science in Action, Bruno Latour discusses the opening and closing of “black boxes” of knowledge/scientific facts and asserts that these boxes can be stacked to build upon one another. He describes his theory of controversy as it relates to these boxes. Part of what emerges from this book is the concept of what has become known as Actor Network Theory (ANT). I’m just grabbing a few bits and pieces of his argument that I have been thinking about today, so bear with me. ANT seems a rather austere way to view the world–networks, boxes–inhuman in many ways. The least powerful actor is the one most isolated from a strong network. Thus, a lonely scientist with a brilliant idea or paper may wither away for lack of connectivity. I wouldn’t continue this stream of thought further into Latour’s book, but it did provide inspiration for my Thought of The Day (TOTD): It is common parlance to speak in terms of networks and networking socially as well as in business settings. What happens to the lonely node on the network with poor connectivity? Do the other nodes care? Do they notice or are they too involved in the box stacking process? Does achieving greater self-awareness alter our actions? My thought exercise of the day is to be aware of networking metaphors and whether or how I conceptualize my interactions with others in terms of “networks” or relationships.

3/29

I have an increasing awareness of my “internal narrator.” It’s that thought stream that seems to run on in my mind. When I am aware of it, I find it mighty annoying–will you shut up already! It’s like I need a mental off switch. On the other hand, I guess I am learning to be aware of when I am thinking, and what I am thinking about. Also, this makes me more conscious of the difference between unfocused thought and the state of mental clarity that comes through meditation.

3/28

I am reading one of the books for this course: How to Handle Destructive Emotions: A Scientific Dialog with the Dalai Lama. One particular (and particularly long) quote has resonated with me. "In modern society…science has been responsible for great material progress. However, science does not have all of the answers, anymore than religion did in the past. The more we pursue material improvement, ignoring the contentment that comes of inner growth, the faster ethical values will disappear from our communities. Then we will all suffer in the long run. For when there is no place for justice and honesty in people’s hearts, the weak are the first to suffer, and the resentments resulting from such inequity ultimately affect everyone adversely. With the ever-growing impact of science on our everyday lives, religion and spirituality have a greater role to play in reminding us of our humanity. We must balance science and material progress with the sense of responsibility that comes with inner development." I think the question for me becomes the “why.” It is the intention that drives the action. I have tried to pay attention to my intentions today to observe how they affect my interactions with others.

3/27

I am using Headspace less now, but it is still helpful to have access to it. Today I noticed that I am much more conscious of my moods and how I am interacting with others than I was at the beginning of the semester. I am actively trying to listen more. On an unrelated note–This metta chant in Pāli has been on my various devices for some time now. I find myself occasionally listening to it while unwinding from the day.

3/26

It took 10 hours to get back to Boston from California. I noticed how boring waiting in an airport can be. I would rather clean the house, pay bills, and do any number of chores than sit in that environment. I wonder why it is so infuriating. In fact, I was very productively working on assignments instead of putting them off until I got home. I wonder if this is a unique quirk of mine. I don’t mind waiting other places. At the airport, there is a sense of being stuck. On the other hand, being forced to sit there with no distractions wasn’t a negative overall.

3/25

Intersubjectivity, subject-object relationships, self and other–time spent in solitude and meditation creates a sense of peace sometimes. At other times, I notice I feel very anxious or unsettled, and it can be difficult to sit still for 20 minutes. California regrounded me, in a sense. I had the time to reconnect with friends, learn about their daily lives, and remember what it is like to be in an entirely different place. After living there for so long, I developed lasting friendships. I found it took much less energy to relate to them than it would for me to relate to a new acquaintance. It was also less anxiety-producing than an atmosphere where I am constantly meeting new people. I don’t think that sense of inter-relationship can be rushed, though. It takes time and engagement to develop a strong relationship and sense of trust.

3/24

I need to do some transcription about the previous days, but I’ll pick up with today. I’m in California for spring break. This is great. The orange blossoms are out, the flowers are blooming–quite a contrast from Boston, the city, right now. What have I noticed today? A sense of place can deeply affect how I feel. After a couple of days out here I felt more relaxed and less mentally cluttered.

3/23

There is a quite a contrast between my Boston life and my California life. My Boston life is fairly solitary, and my focus is on my studies. My California life is full of friends and a little more balanced. Today we took a nice hike and followed it up with a social gathering in the evening. I would say the hike was “contemplative” in nature (unfortunate pun there!) This provided a great change in perspective. How does our physical environment change our perceptions of ourselves and others? Change, even temporary change, is a nice reminder that our perspectives can narrow without our being consciously aware of it.

3/14

The Headspace reminder emails continue to be useful prompts although I am getting better about scheduling a regular time to meditate. Seven hours of sleep is a definite minimum if I want to be functioning optimally. I am trying to be self-aware in keeping track of how I feel the next day based on the amount of sleep the previous night. I have been successful in this–except for last night–four hours of sleep… No amount of coffee can return me to optimal functioning today. My informal cost/benefit analysis with a sample size of one leads my to believe that I make up for “lost time” spent sleeping with higher productivity. Also, I am in a better mood and relate to others more positively.

3/13

I try to attend a silent retreat once a year. Usually a Vipassana-Thervada retreat. I have found that it takes about three days of the week to disconnect from the outside world–not because I am using technology. There are no phones or any other technology allowed. There is always a landline for people from the outside to contact retreatants if there is an emergency. Wouldn’t it be nice to mentally flip a switch and be in that state without needing to spend a few days concentrating on becoming more self-aware? I think it is necessary to establish boundaries between both self and other, and self and technology to do this. I will try to notice how feelings of disconnection and connection, whether with people or technology affect me throughout the day. There could also be positive interactions that enhance self-awareness, so I will pay attention to positive interactions with people and digital connectedness as well.

3/12

I recently showed my nephews, aged five and eight a video of the creation of a sand mandala . They thought it was pretty cool; however, even at that age, they were shocked that the monks would spend days or weeks creating it only to “destroy” it. From what I have experienced, the concept of merit doesn’t tend to figure prominently in western Buddhist practice. If we are taught, from a young age, to hold onto impermanent creation, how does that affect how we live our lives? For today, I will try to notice and “be aware” of times when I cling to something and see it as permanent.

3/11

I wrote a paper on Alexandra David-Néel last semester. I find her writing particularly interesting in light of modern projects to student the possible links or compatibility between Buddhism and science. One such example is THE CENTER FOR COMPASSION AND ALTRUISM RESEARCH AND EDUCATION - CCARE at Stanford’s School of Medicine. I took a course there when I lived in California, which was similar to the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction - MBSR courses started by Jon Kabat-Zinn. One difference seemed to be the introduction and focus on compassion in the meditations (though MBSR does include some). I find in my current practice adding a compassion component to my meditation to be effective in helping me think about how I relate to others. What I have “noticed today” is that including that component affects how I interact with others (at least during the course of the rest of that day).

3/10

I continue to find the Headspace “spam” messages to be helpful prompts/reminders to meditate. I think if I had established a regular routine, I would not need the prompts. As it is, they are useful. I’m not sure I would pay for the in app purchases, however. My material prompt is my meditation cushion that sits on top of the snow lion wool rug in my apartment. I bought the rug at a Tibetan refugee village in Nepal in 2008. I see this prompt every morning and every time I enter my apartment, so why is it less effective than the Headspace prompt? I don’t think it has anything to do with the effectiveness of digital technology…

3/09

Shortcuts: I was thinking about mindfulness as a cumulative practice and way of being. I am finding the Headspace app helpful. I have actually been surprised to find that the emails it sends on occasion are a good reminder to meditate. It is a nice prompt that preempts procrastination.

3/08

I’m reading Buber’s I and Thou–What is the difference between interacting with a person and an object? This seems like a prescient question. How do we relate to our environment and to others, and what do those interactions tell us about ourselves? We talked about attention in class. Do we need to attend to an object in the same way we attend to a person? This is a very metaphysical day for me. How do we know what we know when we know it? How do we know fact from fiction? Philosophers and others have spent lifetimes on these questions. What have I noticed today? Thinking about these questions can be useful and mind-expanding; thinking too much about these questions can be confusing.

3/07 Duck, Duck, Rabbit

I have heard and read a fair amount of academic literature about “situated knowledge” and “partial perspective.” We can’t see both the rabbit and the duck at the same time, right? There’s also the old/young woman illusion as well as a number of others that demonstrate this point. It’s interesting, we can see two parts differently nearly (but not) simultaneously. What happens to the sum of the parts? Can we see the parts if we concentrate on the image as a whole? Can we see the whole if we focus only on the parts? My realization of the day is that this question and these exercises in illusion that derive from Western sources can be related to mindfulness practice. Rabbit Duck Illusion

3/06 Headspace Day 2

The first couple of lessons are only ten minutes, but I am finding they make a difference. At least, when prompted to consider if I feel different, mentally or physically, at the end of the session than I did at the beginning, my conclusion is that I do. I feel more relaxed and in touch with how my body feels. I feel more aware of my thoughts. Today at least, I felt a continuous urge to “do something important.” I have tasks to complete, and they must be done today. There was no time pressure in that I know I have allocated sufficient time to complete these tasks, so why get itchy, keyboard-craving fingers? It prompts me to wonder if I sometimes approach these tasks with the same level of focus I brought to the meditation today. I was constantly in need of multi-tasking. I am conscious that “multi-tasking,” according to the findings of cognitive neuroscience, is an illusion. We can switch rapidly between thinking about one thing to thinking about another, but the brain is not a dual processor. Trying to multi-task can actually result in decreased overall productivity, not to mention mental stress. So, why not work on cultivating single-minded focus? This could be a good, conscious “thought experiment” for the coming week.

3/05

I just completed my first Headspace session. It had a nice introduction and guided meditation that I found helpful. I felt more in touch with my body and breathe by the end, and the guidance of the voice was helpful. Also, the emailed reminder to try the first session of the app prompted me to go ahead any try it. After all, what else was I doing on a Saturday. I could see how this could help me get over the first barrier I encounter in my practice, which is just sitting down to get started. It turns out there are ten introductory sessions, so I think I will go through the sequence for ten days. Maybe I can supplement the app with “traditional” sitting.

3/04

I downloaded Headspace today. We talked about the app in our Tuesday meeting with the TA, and I have not used it in the past. I am not sure if an app can replace a human guidance when it comes to meditation; however, I am not convinced that the two are incompatible. I think I will try it for a few days or possibly a week and see how it goes. I have spent some time thinking about the differences between secular mindfulness practices in contrast to traditional meditation practices (e.g. Theravadic or Vipassana). Jon Kabat-Zinn’s MBSR program is consistent and fairly well researched in terms of health outcomes of participants, I think.

3/03

Old habits are hard to break. I know that already, but I seem to learn that same lesson over and over again, so that is what I have “learned” (or had reinforced) today. Enough said about that one.

3/02

The thing I learned today: My experience of a “space” of extreme focus and productivity that is achieved through solitude is not unique to me. I am taking another class at MIT where we talked about the value of solitude. Although we were not discussing “mindfulness,” several people commented on the experiences they have had (especially when writing) of producing work that is especially good when they have achieved a certain level of solitude and disconnection from external stimuli. The consensus was that we would all like to be able to attain that state at will. I don’t think we get there through luck or chance… probably it takes discipline and commitment.

3/01 Sleep

I definitely notice the positive impact that a minimum of seven hours a sleep a night has. I’m much more productive and focused. Sitting down and meditating requires a little more effort, at least for me.

2/29 Equanimity

It was a tragedy to lose several hours of work this morning–at least I thought so. I did not face it with equanimity. I faced it with anger and frustration, but what could I do? Nothing–nothing except to start over and meet the deadline anyway. I’m sure there is a lesson in there somewhere; it probably has to do with patience and acceptance or choosing not to suffer. There are far worse things than losing a few hours worth of work. It’s all a matter of perspective. How do we continue unfazed when faced with the unexpected?

2/28 Distraction

There are so many distractions looming in a connected world–so many potential intrusions into a person’s mind state. And, so many temptations. As with television, cat videos and Netflix can provide a means to, as Harlan Ellison might put it, suck at the “glass teat.” If the goal is to “be awake,” then is the passive consumption of whatever happens to be displayed on a screen the antithesis of that awakening?

2/26 Am I Awake?

I think there is a moment when I wake up in the morning, before my mind engages with the unfocused thoughts of the day, that is a space of transition-Somewhere between sleeping and these thoughts is an opportunity to “be awake.” How easily is that moment lost? If I catch myself in that moment and prevent my mind from launching into its unaware routine, can I carry that awareness throughout the day?

2/25 Formal Meditation - Meditating with Others

I was excited to sit with Against the Stream, Boston last night. There is something about meditating with others that changes the experience. I thought I would “kill two birds with one stone” (i.e. meditate for class and meet with the group). This is a decidedly unacceptable approach though, if that is the only way to look at attending. I accomplished a “quantified” goal–two in fact. But was there quality? Was I aware when I was there? The idea of condensing and optimizing meditation to increase awareness and meet specified goals seems to run counter to the concept of establishing a life of awareness. The requirement to meditate and the feeling of obligation that one “should” can serve as supports or reminders. But, I don’t believe they can serve as end points.
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Joichi Ito 4/6/2016
Permalink|Reply
Private. Collaborators only.
Selection made on Version 27
In Science in Action, Bruno Latour discusses the opening and closing of “black boxes” of knowledge/scientific facts and asserts that these boxes can be stacked to build upon one another. He describes his theory of controversy as it relates to these boxes. Part of what emerges from this book is the concept of what has become known as Actor Network Theory (ANT). I’m just grabbing a few bits and pieces of his argument that I have been thinking about today, so bear with me. ANT seems a rather austere way to view the world–networks, boxes–inhuman in many ways. The least powerful actor is the one most isolated from a strong network. Thus, a lonely scientist with a brilliant idea or paper may wither away for lack of connectivity. I wouldn’t continue this stream of thought further into Latour’s book, but it did provide inspiration for my Thought of The Day (TOTD): It is common parlance to speak in terms of networks and networking socially as well as in business settings. What happens to the lonely node on the network with poor connectivity? Do the other nodes care? Do they notice or are they too involved in the box stacking process? Does achieving greater self-awareness alter our actions? My thought exercise of the day is to be aware of networking metaphors and whether or how I conceptualize my interactions with others in terms of “networks” or relationships.
In Science in Action, Bruno Latour discusses the opening and closing of “black boxes” of knowledge/scientific facts and asserts that these boxes can be stacked to build upon one another.
I love this book. I wrote about it here many years ago: http://joi.ito.com/weblog/2002/08/31/science-in-acti.html
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1
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Joichi Ito 4/6/2016
Permalink|Reply
Private. Collaborators only.
Selection made on Version 27
It took 10 hours to get back to Boston from California. I noticed how boring waiting in an airport can be. I would rather clean the house, pay bills, and do any number of chores than sit in that environment. I wonder why it is so infuriating. In fact, I was very productively working on assignments instead of putting them off until I got home. I wonder if this is a unique quirk of mine. I don’t mind waiting other places. At the airport, there is a sense of being stuck. On the other hand, being forced to sit there with no distractions wasn’t a negative overall.
At the airport, there is a sense of being stuck.
I travel a lot but they come in clusters. I find that when I’m traveling frequently, I get used to the “airport” space and feel productive. I also find meditating on planes sometimes works too. I think it has a lot to do with when it begins to feel “routine” enough to not be stress about possible bad surprises.
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1
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Joichi Ito 4/6/2016
Permalink|Reply
Private. Collaborators only.
Selection made on Version 27
I think there is a moment when I wake up in the morning, before my mind engages with the unfocused thoughts of the day, that is a space of transition-Somewhere between sleeping and these thoughts is an opportunity to “be awake.” How easily is that moment lost? If I catch myself in that moment and prevent my mind from launching into its unaware routine, can I carry that awareness throughout the day?
my mind from launching into its unaware routine, can I carry that awareness throughout the day
This is the goal of my morning Qigong these days. 😃