Patterns and Frames - some thoughts on meditation, improv, therapy, and the nature of conciousness
For most of my life my default frame has been “that’s bullshit”.
It made me maximally confrontationally.
And frankly, it hasn’t served me too badly. Most things really are bullshit.
But at the same time I do recognize that this frame is just a protection mechanism.
If you approach anything new as bullshit you will never be dissapointed.
It made me miss out a lot.
My experience of reality and happiness was severely limited.
Each pattern and frame is like a little cloud shielding me from reality.
So I’ve started putting in the work.
It allowed me to understand the “that’s bullshit” frame for what it really is: just a frame.
It’s not an integral part of me.
You know, you can look at reality using different lenses and have a completely different experience.
And these patterns inside your head are not hard coded. You can change, replace, and get rid of them.
This is far from easy, especially when some of them didn’t serve you too badly.
But first and foremost mediation helps to create that necessary separation between my ego, the stochastic parrot blurting “that’s bullshit”, and the quiet part of my mind that’s prompting the stochastic parrot.
However, this is only where the journey begins.
It is easy to take charge of your emotions and thoughts in a totally quiet room, with your eyes closed, when your body feels great.
Observing the ego, stochastic parrot, and quiet mind dance during meditation is fun and helpful.
But only up to a certain point.
To make progress, I had to put in work in the real work, not some isolated safe space.
I had to learn to recognize patterns in real time, in the middle of a hectic day, no matter where I was or what was happening around me.
There are different ways you can approach this.
Level 1 is simply labeling patterns.
“Oh here comes to ‘that’s bullshit’ frame again”
This already helps a lot.
Level 2 is recognizing plus dissolving the pattern whenever it shows up.
“Oh here comes to ‘that’s bullshit’ frame again, let me sit with it for a moment and feel it.”
Nothing makes frames dissolve faster than putting the spotlight on them.
The more often you do this, the less often the frame shows up.
Level 3 is deidentifcation with whatever part of you is driving the pattern.
“Who is this who feels that this is bullshit?”
With practice I learned to zoom out and observe the dance between the ego, stochastic parrot, and quiet mind in real world situations.
Now a lot of people recommend active contemplation when it comes to working with the programs running in your mind.
“Why do I feel the need to label everything as bullshit?”
“Because I feel powerless and this frame puts me in a position of power.”
“Why do you feel powerless.”
“Because in my childhood…”
In my experience this is counterproductive.
This is also my big problem with therapy.
By putting so much energy into your analysis of patterns, you give them more power.
They start to look a lot more real than they really are.
After all, all these things really did happen and hence the pattern is a legitimate part of me, right?
Well yes, but does that really make a difference?
It’s still just a pattern you picked up somewhere, somehow.
The details do not make any difference.
Truly getting to the root of all your patterns is a fulltime job that you won’t be able to finish in a single lifetime.
There is an endless stream of childhood experiences to explore.
And even if you manage to get to the root of a pattern, you still only got a hold of it on an intellectual level - which is just yet another safe space.
It won’t make a big difference for your experience of reality.
And if it does, it’s for the worse since each intellectual exploration uncovers more rabbit roles to distract you from what’s really going on.
Very much related is the observation that individualistic self-development is futile.
You can read a gazillion books without ever making any progress.
Growth never happens in isolated safe spaces.
It always requires direct contact with the real world.
And the only thing that truly makes a difference is practice.
Treat each occurrence of a pattern as a gift.
Every difficult situation is teacher demonstrating exactly where you are still not free and invites you to practice.
You can of course try to shelter yourself by moving to a monastery or playing video games all day.
But don’t expect to make any progress or ever reach your full potential.
For the same reason people avoid situation that trigger certain patterns, most people hate meditation.
It’s a struggle.
But that’s the whole point.
When meditation stops being a struggle, it’s no longer useful.
You’ve learned your lesson and can change to a more difficult practice if needed.
Or you can just keep doing it for the the fun of it, of course.
There a many tools that can help increase your exposure to patterns.
Bring them to the spotlight instead of having them linger in the shadows so to speak.
Competitive team sports work wonderfully for me.
Running my own company, going from solopreneur to working with a team, is another great learning tool.
Another surprisingly useful tool has been improv.
“Yes and” is 100% orthogonal to my “that’s bullshit” frame.
Every single improv training triggers dozens of interesting patterns and brings them to the spotlight.
Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t claim to have all the answers.
I still have a lot to learn.
But when you’re reading this thinking “that’s bullshit”, well, you’re welcome.