Meditation for sleeplessness

Half Lotus

It is 10:50 am.  I worked last night from 9 pm until approximately 4:30 am.  I then went to hang out with friends and I came home around 7 am.  I attempted to sleep but I was not able to due to the invading rays of the sun shining through my window.  So what did I do you ask?  I meditated.

For some time now I have engaged in meditation on and off; several years of experimenting with different techniques, but mostly sticking to one.  This technique is popularly known as Mindfulness meditation, but I did not know it by that name when I first found out about it around a decade ago.  I understood the technique I practiced by the simple name of thought control.  The following is a brief excerpt from a longer article on the subject:


“Sitting on a cushion, cross your legs comfortably in front of you… Begin by just sitting in this posture for a few minutes in this environment. If your attention wanders away, just gently bring it back to your body and the environment. The key word here is “gently.” Your mind WILL wander; that’s part of what you will notice with your mindfulness: minds wander. When you notice that yours has wandered, come back again to body and environment.”[1]


The main purpose of the technique is to aid the practitioner in understanding the flow of their thoughts while being impartial to them.  One becomes a witness, as it were, to the ebbs and flows of the mind.  One pays attention to one’s breath and uses that breath as an anchor, so to speak, to help the individual bring their mind back to the immediate moment.  Eventually one goes from 5 minutes twice a day, to 6, to 7, to 20 minutes, to half hour and beyond.  The more one practices, the more one’s thoughts decrease in frequency while in these instances of meditation, and one begins to slowly develop a more intimate understanding of the processes of that great instrument, the mind.

Besides the aforementioned being the main goal of that particular practice, a benefit of it is that it allows the mind to rest and in so doing, it tends to help when one has not had sleep.  Of course, this takes practice and I have oftentimes almost fallen asleep while attempting to meditate after a sleepless night.  When the meditation is successful though, I have experienced a feeling of deep rest and my fatigue has temporarily gone away.  Meditation also helps me if I can’t get to sleep due to a busy mind.  It helps to quiet things down internally and it brings one closer to a solid sleep.

I will say though, that meditation alone is no substitute for sleep (at least for me).  A proper eight hour sleep is valuable and should be part of one’s routine.  An interesting point here is that there are different ways of getting a good night’s rest which involve changing one’s sleep patterns in order to get the most out of one’s day.  A brief excerpt from an article on Polyphasic (meaning many phases) sleep:


“Although it’s a common belief that 8 hours of sleep is required for optimal health, a six-year study of more than one million adults ages 30 to 102 has shown that people who get only 6 to 7 hours a night have a lower death rate. Individuals who sleep 8 hours or more, or less than 4 hours a night, were shown to have a significantly increased death rate compared to those who averaged 6 to 7 hours.  Many may like to point out ‘or less than 4 hours a night’, but these individuals also were tested to get far less REM and less SWS than the suggested amount.  Polyphasic sleep depends on the fact that you are getting the same amount of REM and SWS as you do monophasically.  A 4h monophasic sleep will not be the same quality sleep as 4h polyphasically.”[2]


Perhaps one day soon I shall experiment with different sleep cycles in order to get the most out of my day.  I do sleep… but this here is one of my favourite lyrics from one of my favourite lyricists of all time:

“I never sleep, cause sleep is the cousin of death”
-Nas



References

1. How to practice mindfulness meditation.  Retrieved from
https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-courage-be-present/201001/how-practice-mindfulness-meditation

2.Poly sleep quick start guide.  Retrieved from
https://www.polyphasicsociety.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/PolySleep-Quick-Start-Guide.pdf

3.Half-lotus pose picture retrieved from
http://wwzc.org/dharma-text/posture-zazen

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Favourites in classical music

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Martha Argerich, one of the great pianists of our age.

 

Sometimes I get in a classical mood.  That is to say, I feel moved to listen to classical music.  I first discovered classical music about ten or so years ago.  Before this point in my life, I would hear it while scanning the radio and in other places but I didn’t enjoy it, ridiculing it to a degree because I thought it sounded ridiculous.  I simply didn’t understand it and I still completely don’t, but I feel it.  After I took the time to actually listen to classical music though, I was pulled in by an irresistible yearning to hear and explore more of it.  I first fell in love with the compositions of Mozart and afterwards, I delved into Beethoven as well as Chopin, Liszt, Bach, Scarlatti, Handel and others.  Not many grabbed my attention like Mozart and Beethoven.  For me, these two are gods amongst men in the world of music.  Their works far surpass those of many modern musicians by the sheer scope, virtuosity and mastery of composition.

Of note is the fact that many of Beethoven and Mozart’s works follow a pattern of fast, slow, fast (although this is not always the case).  For example, a composition 30 minutes long would be split up into 3 movements.  The first movement is in fast paced tempo, the second movement is in slow paced tempo and the third movement returns to a fast paced tempo once again.  The movements are also named in Italian, “in accordance with the Italian origins of many European musical conventions.”  I almost exclusively listen to the faster paced movements because those are the ones I enjoy the most.  You didn’t like all the songs on a CD usually back in the day right?  Same concept of liking the fast tempo movements over the slower tempo ones for me.

Another thing to note is that there are chronological catalogue number systems for Mozart and Beethoven’s compositions, such as the Köchel-Verzeichnis system (KV for short) for the former and the Opus number system (Op. for short) for the latter.  Each piece also contains in its description what key it is and whether it is a minor or major scale but I did not include that here because that is usually in the linked video.  Here is a list of my current top ten Mozart and top ten Beethoven compositions (it’s tough to say that any one of these is better than another, for they are all amazing and stick out to me amongst the other compositions which are also great).

 

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Mozart

1.) Piano Concerto No.10 for 2 pianos, 3d movement – Rondeaux-Allegro

2.) Symphony No.1, KV 16 1st movement – Allegro molto

3.) Piano Concerto No.23, 3d movement – Allegro assai

4.) Piano Sonata No.9, KV 311-284c 1st movement – Allegro con spirito (0:00 to 4:20)

5.) Piano Concerto No.20, 1st movement – Rondo (Allegro assai) (24:38)  

6.) Sonata for two pianos KV 448 1st and 3d movements- Allegro molto (0:00 to 8:00 and 18:04 to end)

7.) Violin Sonata No.18, 1st movement – Allegro con spirito (0:00 to 8:25)

8.) Symphony No. 39, KV 543, 4th movement – Allegro

9.) 12 Variations in C KV 179-189a

10.) Church Sonata No.14 (0:00 to 3:27)

 


 

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Beethoven

1.) Concerto for piano and orchestra No.1, 1st and 3d movements (0:00 to 17:48 and 29:47 to 39:04)
The only one of the mentioned pieces that I have seen played live, by famous pianist Lang Lang.

2.) Concerto for piano and orchestra No.5, Op.73, 1st and 3d movements (0:00 to 21:08 and 30:32 to end)

3.) Rondo for piano and orchestra, WoO 6 – Allegro (the meaning of WoO)

4.) Piano Concerto No.2, Op.19, 3d movement Rondo, Molto Allegro

5.) Piano and Cello sonata No1, Op.5 – Allegro

6.) Beethoven Cello Sonata No. 3 In A Major, Op. 69

7.) Overture “Leonore Op.72

8.) Overture “Fidelio” Op.72

9.) Concert for piano and orchestra No.3, Op.37, 1st and 3d movements (0:00 to 16:50 and 28:38 to end)

10.) Concerto for piano and orchestra, WoO 4 – Rondo

Even though the list is full, I couldn’t ignore this one:

Twelve Variations on the Mozart theme “Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen” from Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute.

On Classical Music and its Wonder to Me.

A8FFT0 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart at the keyboard

I have loved music in general for as long as I can mostly remember.  Alternative rock music was one of my first interests, the Mathew Good band being my first favourite band.  From there I fell in love with hop hop through high school and eventually electronic music after high school.  I remember one day about 9 or so years ago I was relaxing in the comfort of my own domicile, indulging in the jolly green, when I stumbled on a performance by a Turkish pianist named Fazil Say on Youtube.  He performed a song named “Ah! vous dirai-je, maman”, a children’s song from 18th century France which Mozart popularized by making his “Twelve Variations on Ah! vous dirai-je, maman” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NUSDpxZgy0I).  What Mozart did is he took the melody and made variations of it on the piano, having the same theme in each vacation but expressed in a different musical arrangement.  I took the time to really listen… since one of the effects of marijuana on the bodily system is heightened sense perception, this including touch, taste, smell and pertinently, hearing.  I sat there amazed as this pianist dealt out some of the most beautiful and complex piano melodies I had ever heard.

I never liked classical music before.  I would cringe as my mother put it on the stereo in the car all to get under my skin, for she was not a huge fan of it herself, mostly listening to Yanni and contemporary latin music.  This time it was different.  After I listened a few more times to the entire piece, I became very interested in hearing more.  This did not end.  To tell a long story short, I indulged in a 2 year long classical music binge… involving listening to classical music most of my music listening time, specifically Mozart and later on, Beethoven.  I spent months listening to all of Mozart’s compositions, from piano sonatas, to piano concertos, to piano works with two hands, piano works with two pianos, violin sonatas, violin concertos, operas, etcetera.

I basically fell in love with Mozart’s music, as it touched me emotionally like no other music had done before or has actually done since.  I would marvel at the complex and harmonious melodies which Wolfgang had composed.  One of the more interesting peculiarities which occurred during my times listening to this genre of music was that there were times when I could predict what was going to happen next… and it would happen.  Let me elaborate.  Throw on a piece by Mozart and you are met with a barrage of musical notes which come together to make a harmonious whole.  When I listened to a composition I had not heard before (for he had over 600 works he composed in his life… it took some time to go through most of them) there would be parts where I could anticipate what was going to happen next in the piece… not because it happened already, like a chorus in your average song, but because it “felt” like the “right” thing to come after a particular musical passage.  Lo and behold, many times the melody which I created in my imagination would show up in the piece I was listening to.  This made me ponder.  I eventually stumbled on some quotes by Mozart concerning his composition process which incited thought:

Whence and how these ideas come I know not nor can I force them…. Nor do I hear in my imagination the parts successively, but I hear them gleich alles zusammen [at the same time all together].

and

What a delight this is! All this inventing, this producing, takes place in a pleasing, lively dream.

According to what Wolfgang himself said about the way his ideas came together, it is as if he “discovered” the compositions rather than make them up himself.  One gets the feeling that perhaps certain minds are apt to receive certain ideas which may not come to other minds as attuned to such subject matters.  Another genius which comes to mind and which also had a similar creational experience is Nikola Tesla:

My brain is only a receiver, in the Universe there is a core from which we obtain knowledge, strength and inspiration. I have not penetrated into the secrets of this core, but I know that it exists.

and

Be alone, that is the secret of invention; be alone, that is when ideas are born.

Both of these men of genius admitted that they felt there was a store of knowledge which was beyond the reach of some people and which was only accessible in certain states of mind, of course after extensive preoccupation with the subject matter.  I put forth these quotes on their creative processes because if, for example, Mozart’s compositions were discovered by him rather than created, the peculiar idea that I could anticipate certain passages in his works seems to me like being able to perceive what was there all along, if only for a moment.

There is one last bit which makes all this very interesting to me.  Forward about 9 years in the future after I first started listening to Mozart and having feelings of being able to anticipate what was coming next in certain compositions.  This summer, I read a book called “The Antipodes of the Mind” by Benny Shanon.  Benny is a cognitive psychologist at the University of Jerusalem.  The book is about his years of research on the hallucinogenic and therapeutic Amazonian brew most commonly known as Ayahuasca.  This brew is taken in ceremonial settings and makes the participant have visions which are of a revelatory nature concerning their own characters and the world around them.  People are often cured from addictions, deep depressions and many other emotional ailments much faster than traditional psychoanalytic therapy could usually manage.

Many have reported on their heightened artistic abilities while on this plant hallucinogen, stating that their creative senses have been improved and they had been able to come up with the most wonderful of works while intoxicated with the brew.  Benny himself tells the tale of how he sat down on his piano while under the intoxication of Ayahuasca and started playing what was to him, the most wonderful, exquisite improvisations he had ever played.  There is one part in the book (among many) which gave me what I call an “AHA” moment… I mean to say, a moment that was related, if not an almost exact replication of certain things I myself have experienced not just while on Ayahuasca (I have done it in the Amazon 4 times) but also in my regular life:

“Often, Ayahuasca also induces a sense of heightened understanding.  Once, in a private session I directed, a Mozart concerto was played.  It was clear to me that I understood what Mozart was doing in the composition, what he wished to convey, how he decided to do it.  I understood the harmonies, the developments and the modulations, the acrobatics performed with the line of composition, and their resolutions.  Indeed, often I felt I could anticipate what the composer was saying. In the same session there was also a person present with practically no knowledge of classical music and who had never heard that Mozart piece before.  This person’s experience was very much the same as mine.  This phenomenon at hand seems to be analogous to that normally experienced in language.  Listening to a person speaking or a lecturer delivering a talk, an involved interlocutor or member of an audience can assimilate the line of presentation or reasoning so as to be able, in real time, to predict what the speaker or lecturer is about to say.  The first time I experienced such a mode of understanding with music was with Ayahuasca”.

I write these thoughts together to not only speak of my admiration for classical music, specifically Mozart’s, but to also illustrate the peculiar feeling of anticipation I would oftentimes feel when listening to it as well as the idea that some music and inventions in general may be perceived rather than created.  I had such feelings with classical music long before I had heard of the phenomenon mentioned in the last quote from professor Shanon.  To me classical music, with Mozart in particular, is amongst the loftiest conceptions of music the human race has brought forth in recent memory.

On Ayahuasca and plant teachers as tools for the mind

On tools Ayahuasca… is a tool.  Psychotropic substances can all be tools for the people that know how to use them in that manner.  Ayahuasca can certainly be used to heal or for more mundane purposes like finding lost objects or trying to figure out who your wife is cheating on you with, but it can also be used for pure exploration.  It also tends to act like a mirror, showing you the things you need to improve on in your life and some people definitely have a rough time getting through the experience.  This is due to their lifestyles and their frame of mind.  I had no such issues when indulging the brew.  Ayahuasca can be to the individual consciousness what a shovel is to archaeology.  The difference is that you aren’t digging for physical artefacts… but actually, for artefacts of memory.  I have read before that the word education comes from the latin educo, which means to draw forth/take out/raise up.  Plato, that celebrated and highly esteemed philosopher, had a particular theory called anamnesis: “It is the idea that humans possess knowledge from past incarnations and that learning consists of rediscovering that knowledge within us.”  Taking both aforementioned points into consideration, it could be said that the appropriate partaking of certain psychoactive substances can lead one to the true meaning of the word “education”.  Of course, this can also be done without substances.  In my personal opinion, the substance-free way is a loftier route… but different bridges for different individuals.

Help1

Be kind to all friends and strangers alike

The future hand is unknown that will help you upright

On that note, be good for goodness’ sake

Be the change in the world that you want to make.

The Bigness of the Fellow Within

Written February 23d, 2015

Quite the novel day today. Got to go to the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College in Toronto to attend a cadaver lab which was open to students in Health and Wellness programs. (Some thoughts):

-Formaldehyde, the chemical compound used to preserve biological specimens, does not smell as bad as I thought it would. Although… it sticks to clothing like nothing else.

Things I got to hold:

-Human brain (the weight seems fairly proportionate to what one would think it weighs according to its size. Also… as I stared at the one brain which I held up and which was split through the middle, I marvelled at the fact that all human endeavours…the arts and sciences..had come through this organ; one of, if not the most intricate biological structure we know of so far)

-Human liver (the one I held up from the specific cadaver seemed to be rather large in size and I believe was subject to some sort of liver pathology, for it was immense)

-Human heart (I have already dissected a pig’s heart in a Biology lab in class but this was a human heart I was holding this time. It was a bit smaller in size and shares many of the similar features found in a pig’s heart, thus the use of a pig’s heart for a lab dissection)

-Human lungs (it was darker then one would think in colour and one student asked one of the teachers if this was a smoker’s lung and he answered no, that it was a bit discoloured due to the preservation process. He also said if it had been a smoker’s lung, it would be completely black. This would be after 10/20/30 years of smoking)

Nervous moment:
Being asked what my favourite muscle was by Dr.Kumka (http://www.cmcc.ca/page.aspx?pid=1162), chair holder of the Department of Anatomy at the institution. I am not too versed in all the muscles so I said “biceps” since I used to work out and its one of my favourite ones I suppose. She then says “there are two, bi means two, so find the short head”. I then go to the cadaver and try to find the short head, only to have to ask her to come help since my anatomy knowledge is subpar (so far). There were few students left in the lab, the rest were waiting in the foyer. She then came over and started showing me what she wanted me to find, and more. The rest of the students including the teachers all came around as she spoke, for she was teaching and this woman was steeped in anatomical knowledge. I was eventually able to find it, not before sweating from the pressure since I was surrounded by Bachelor of Science in Nursing students and Massage Therapy students, who knew much more then I. lol.

Final thought:
I think every human being should get the chance to see what a human body looks like from the inside, for it greatly facilitates the understanding of this most marvellous structure we inhabit. Upon leaving, I checked out the store in the college which had chiropractic supplies. I was drawn to a little section which had an add about phytonutrients (phyto means plant in greek, and I am interested in plant medicines) and behind that, there was a bookshelf… and one book stood out. The title and the book’s content reminded me that although I had just seen 15 lifeless dissected cadavers, not to forget, about “The Bigness of the Fellow Within”.

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