why people can’t coordinate (and/or connect)

That’s kind of a clickbaity title, above. I think there’s deep truth in some of the below, but in another sense it’s just one 50,000 foot hot take. There are lots of different ways to slice this, more and less abstractly, more and less heartfelt or “from the inside,” and otherwise.

[some of the bullets below grabbed from other places and people]

Most people have a sort of plan with pieces like [no particular order]:

  • (a) become a shiny and/or happy person, with precise details X
  • (b) find the people, with precise details Y
  • (c) find the person (or very most intimate people), with precise details Z
  • (d) pursue excitement and interest R
  • (e) have babies or something
  • ([g]) be safe
  • (f) transformation

(The above is meant to gesture at something “surprisingly exhaustive,” albeit very vaguely and equivocally, though it’s a quick sketch and I probably left out one or more huge things.)

And people seem to differ on these strange and infrequently (if ever) enumerated dimensions of [no particular order]:

  • (1) how concrete or abstract their current image of (a-e) is.
  • (2) tolerance ranges for (a-e), like some people will hit “good enough” *really* quickly and other people *need* a particular experientially hyperprecise thing, and it can be different on different dimensions
  • (3) instrumental/temporal ordering e.g. (a) is for (b) or (b) is for (a) or (e) be pursued alongside (d), don’t move at all on (b) until (e) is in the bag…
  • (4) in-the-trenches-salience, for example if someone needs one or two things to be “hyperprecise” as in (2), that will consume a great deal of time and attention
  • (5) extreme deferrals or resignations. this is similar to (3) but qualitatively different because of how it shapes people’s behaviors and plans. for some people, some things are sort of pushed “right out of reality” either into the afterlife as it were or “always already”. And in one case, a person might build a “shell version” to seem normal or to get a facsimile or shadow of the thing and other people will sort of not be tracking it at all or will accept almost anything as the thing. (And, somewhere around here is tied into sexuality and sexual expression.)
  • (6) perception, whether accurate or not, on how resourced a person currently is (as well as how resourced they’ll be in the future). this includes concrete monetary savings and more abstractly what a person thinks they already have, how easy they think it’ll be to lose or reacquire those things, what they think they can get, and how hard it’ll be to get or figure out things, all of this will of course greatly affect a person’s future plans. this also includes sort of what things a person has already mostly “handled” or what “deep truths” they may or may not have already sussed out. this will also be correlated with age to some extent or perception of “time left for/until X”. and also beliefs about what the world is and what the world will or might be. actual and perceived current and future material conditions, and more.
  • (7) expectations around how all of (a-f) might change, with regard to time spent on (f) specifically. this includes beliefs about the self, beliefs about current and future resources, and so forth. and also belief about how long transformation will take and what might go wrong the meantime and how profoundly, and how much bandwidth transformation will consume, and how much help people need or not, and along what dimensions things might change, per person, as well as what’s possible in the meantime. and then sort of forbearance, patience, long-view, smart compassion, dumb compassion, meta-awareness of all the above, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse, will factor in.

(The list above isn’t intended to be exhaustive or mutually exclusive, though it might be either of those things, in some sense.)

So, differences in (a-f) and/but even more so differences in (1-6), not to mention how people smell to each other, and all sorts of other stuff, will profoundly affect alignment, people’s in-the-trenches ability/desire to work together, plan together, take risks together, play together, live together, share resources, raise kids, and so forth.

It is broken. It’s a bug. Let’s not settle. Let’s fix it.

https://youtu.be/X7brJ8qrLBo?t=3485 (20-30s) Re the Culadasa stuff, this sort of gestures at the key failure mode, in his own words, the experience of it as described from the inside. This is not just Culadasa, this is every practitioner to some degree and every sex scandal ever, maybe. 1/

Meditation doesn’t have to do this to people, this asymptotic blindness to suboptimal behavior. There is more truth in the fetter/perfection models than is currently sexy. Though, if you combine current pop. meditation methods w/ such models you do get disasters, in practice. 2/

The mind can’t look at terrible things in self & world without preparation. This is partly where the term “equanimity” is pointing, creating an ever-safer space for for bad stuff to come up, so then it does bubble up, fizz up, enter into experience, to be metabolized, roughly. 3/

Popular insight & concentration and combined methods are unprincipled, ad hoc in this sense of equanimity. They do not systematically restructure the ground so that *anything* in the mind can come up. So one raises a contingent subset, extraordinary change, but demons remain. 4/

And it’s actually worse than that. Popular insight & concentration & combined methods do produce limited *compensation* for those remaining demons (abuse, trauma, etc.), which sometimes allows for functional behavior and sometimes causes sex scandals. That’s… somewhat good. 5/

But that compensatory function comes at a cost. It causes a layering, a papering over of the *inroads* to getting at remaining demons, abuse, trauma, childhood confusion and misinterpretations, and so forth. The more compensation, the longer it takes to recover those inroads. 6/

The hiding of those inroads does look like blindspots, rigidity, anger, belligerence, neurosis, etc. So, most meditators DO get saner and crazier at the same time, on short and long cycles. There is nonmonotonicity to even “ideal” practice. 7/

In maybe not the worst case, but still pretty bad, you get a meditator who’s processed so much stuff, is so damn sane in a lot of ways, but then they got this BRILLIANTLY-DECADES-BURIED bad stuff, too, patchily compensated for. 8/

So then you get people who can deliver tremendous value to learners, but then this is combined with, potentially, gaslighting and double-binds that will potentially do tremendous long-term damage. 9/

So, yes, let’s bring in Western psychology, depth psychology, shamanism, bodywork, IFS, Core Transformation, etc., etc., etc.

Use it; use all of it.

But, also, meditation can be fixed. It *is* broken. We are *not* asking more of it than it can do. We *don’t* have to settle. 10/

More here: https://meditationstuff.wordpress.com/2019/08/20/mechanisms-and-motivations-of-self-suppression-curated-post/


Apologies for not yet widely publicizing concrete fixes. There is still much to do around self-safety and other-safety. But, there are ways to get involved.



Also, I want to emphasize that I’ve critically benefited from multiple contemporary teachers. And I’ve definitely benefited from Culadasa’s written material, possibly critically.

I personally would have been fucked without the contemporary scene. I still have more to do.


So many meditation communities are iterating on theory and practice. Every serious teacher is a aware of this stuff and cares about it and is doing they best they can. (Culadasa, everyone.) Every student needs to be aware of it, too. It’s alive. Let’s do this.


I should have said after 10/ that out of all techniques nothing can “get in the cracks” like meditation potentially can. It is potentially the most exhaustive self-transformation method, bar none, all else being equal.


trusting your gut

[this is a “refinement” conversation, and falls under the heading of special/preliminary/auxiliary practices, separate from a main, workhorse practice/crank. this person already has a strong, mainline practice (and we have a large, shared context) and the below is looking for ways to accelerate progress.]


[…] 6:47 PM
@Mark how fraught do you think “listening to your gut” is?

Mark 6:51 PM
will mean a billion different things to a billion different people
but usually comes up when like it’s not the only voice?
like “gut” will be in context of “inner conflict”?
which will also mean a billion different things to a billion different people
i think generally if no obvious repercussions, should generally just listen and go get data. can sometimes reinforce bad stuff, but that’s fine in context of a regular transformative practice.
can also try to guess if it’s a temporary surge, but no hard rules. sometimes go with it sometimes wait for it to recede, partly depending on whether it’s just going to come back stronger, but patterns can be complex again especially in context of a regular transformative practice.
i think generally should just listen to lowest [currently lowest+loudest] chakra, all things equal, if no permanent [unfixable] dangers. and always keep meditating blah blah (edited)
if “real risks” then generally have to work through the conflict or titrate data or get external/oblique perspective/input/data to point of something but again no hard rules (edited)
Mark 7:03 PM
general thing is that external action/behavior, as it were, is complexly cued/caused by complex and massively parallel phenomenologically-participating, conceptually-participating feedback loops throughout entire experiential field. and everybody does it differently, though some ways of doing it are better and worse, all things equal, and transformative practice will nonmonotonically converge towards a relatively general better way.

at beginning and middle of the journey, will be rules of thumb like trust self, trust feelings, trust gut, trust lower chakras, if-feels-wrong-is-wrong but only rules of thumb [bc people are set up differently and will interpret the words and mental actions differently and use different internal checks and balances]. [so can sometimes] lead to drama, bridge-burning, lost-opportunities, non-cumulativity, self-justifying/closed-off epistemics/behavior, stuff like that.

not knowing what to do, and it hurts right now, and it hurts to try to figure out what to do is like X% of the whole game yay (edited)

[…] 7:14 PM
yes yes very helpful
not knowing what to do, and it hurts right now, and it hurts to try to figure out what to do is like X% of the whole game yay (edited)
yup yup yup
story of my lyfe
Mark 7:15 PM
i know the feeling
the below are in no particular order [and i’m probably leaving some out] but can sort of line them up in some order from perineum to crown along centerline of the body and check in with them:
(a) …wishing, wanting, liking, feeling, hoping, longing, desiring, hungering, lusting, loving, [thirsting, craving, ]
(a/b??) …urging, impulse/impulsion, …
(b) …hating, fearing, disgust, aversion…
eventually symphonic or singing the same song, wholehearted, whole-everything or doing fast, friendly, perfect baton-passing handoffs in time (edited)

[…] 7:16 PM
check in with the individual items in (a) or (b)?
like for each item find corresponding spot on the center line?

Mark 7:17 PM
as like a potential bootstrap, yeah

[…] 7:17 PM
which will be consistentish over time? like wishing is usually in Y location?

Mark 7:17 PM

[…] 7:17 PM
ok wasnt sure if that’s what you were suggesting

Mark 7:18 PM
and if specific go/no-go, can do pros/cons for each of go and no-go, so four columns total. or for two “go’s” can have like eight columns total, when including a no-go for each go.
but often no clear ontology so then can always fall back to meditation.

[…] 7:19 PM
yeah very interested in bootstraps as i am here “beginning and middle of the journey, will be rules of thumb” (edited)

Mark 7:20 PM
u r not so beginning but rules of thumb r good
if i may say so

[…] 7:20 PM
you may 🙂

Mark 7:20 PM
wayfinding in seeming internal chaos
when u r also chaos

[…] 7:21 PM
if a “feeling/emotion/thingy” is at a particular place or near a particular chakra, you’re saying that that matters, right?
like fear further down is distinct from fear further up?
and not just blanket fear
or like, location adds extra info? (edited)

Mark 7:25 PM
kinda kinda, it’s all significant. i think nothing will truly localize. no boundaries. and blah blah be careful re narrowing attention as it were. like, these are all provisional commitments: the (a) and (b) lists above, time, space, body, location, attention–want to be careful not to inappropriately reify, careful of relying to much on ontological commitments. every movement of mind is sort of a tacit ontological commitment until it’s not

[…] 7:26 PM
inappropriately reify, careful of relying to much on ontological commitments.
emphatically noted (edited)
been there. now am looking for rafts to cross the river with etc

Mark 7:27 PM
“how might these words be useful, how might taking this as real, temporarily unreflectively falling into thinking about it this way be useful”
“or not, or in part”

[…] 7:27 PM
cf how are the instructions helping? how are they getting in the way?

Mark 7:27 PM

[…] 7:29 PM
yeah struggle as of late has been trying to distinguish something something “wise” gut aversion from misplaced misguided childhood fear or something (edited)

Mark 7:30 PM
maybe a way to “take it all seriously”, like a “commitment to exhaustivity” giving 110% of it a fair hearing? it’ll be finite, like 10,000 hours absolute, absolute, absolute max, probably. :slightly_smiling_face:
more likely 2000-6000


[…] 7:46 PM
maybe a way to “take it all seriously”, like a “commitment to exhaustivity” giving 110% of it a fair hearing? it’ll be finite, like 10,000 hours absolute, absolute, absolute max, probably.

yeah this is interesting

like whole strategy can change when zoomed out / big-pictured
i haven’t thought too much about stuff in that direction yet but seems really useful

maybe a way to “take it all seriously”, like a “commitment to exhaustivity” giving 110% of it a fair hearing?
as in, (try to) honor everything? take all the concerns seriously? and collect data, repeat

* asked while being very careful not to reify your answer * (edited)

Mark 7:49 PM
doesn’t have to be heavyweight question-asking or even liminally verbal, though it can be. more like an attitude, a stance, a commitment, an expectation to parallel-ly/linearly/serially/everything-ly honor 110% of the system
all concerns, all confusions, all conflicts
down the planck scale, leaving absolutely nothing out

[…] 7:50 PM
ahh my “asked” was referring to me asking you the question

Mark 7:50 PM
gotcha. i think same answer still

[…] 7:50 PM
yup yup

hmm and in the case of conflict it’s like, how to honor the conflict while forging ahead? and perhaps that’s where the heuristics come in while “listening”, collecting data, and diligently refining/improving them and ultimately aiming to move beyond them (edited)

Mark 7:59 PM
general rule of thumb is to treat live conflicts as bottlenecks or not to be bypassed, but may have to go far afield to get the tools to resolve the conflict. but want to do that in a way that doesn’t ignore, suppress, paper-over, or hide the conflict.
so it’s sort of recursive, depth-first search problem solving.
but ultimately bare-metal, nonverbal, bootstrapped wayfinding, eventually with extraordinary skill and finesse.
sort of sort of sort of sort of sort of sort of sort of sort of sort of sort of sort of sort of sort of sort of sort of sort of sort of sort of

[…] 8:01 PM
may have to go far afield to get the tools to resolve the conflict
ok now we’re talking 🙂

Mark 8:01 PM
ok :slightly_smiling_face:

[…] 8:02 PM
or like, was making reference to importance of actually resolving the conflict(s) (edited)

Mark 8:02 PM
oh yeah, they ALL have to get resolved by exquisite non-force

[…] 8:02 PM
not necessarily the going-far-afield-ness

Mark 8:02 PM
they all WILL be resolved
in ways that HAVE to be incrementally acceptable in every femtosecond to all stakeholdingness in the system
the system is like saran-wrapped liquid steel all twisted up and have to untwist things so all the liquid steel can become one big ball. [sort of sort of sort of sort of sort of sort of sort of sort of sort of sort of sort of sort of sort of sort of sort of sort of sort of sort of] but it’s still steel. totally unforgiving in some sense. cannot force it, trick it, bypass it, indefinitely
can thin it out to molecular-thin layer but it will not go away and will eventually have to come back for it so like try not to do that. [sort of sort of sort of sort of sort of sort of sort of sort of sort of sort of sort of sort of sort of sort of sort of sort of sort of sort of]
nothing of possible […] will allow itself to be lost until exhaustively examined in some sense [sort of sort of sort of sort of sort of sort of sort of sort of sort of sort of sort of sort of sort of sort of sort of sort of sort of sort of]


[…] 8:19 PM

Another pattern I imagine seems to be
a) there’s inner conflict X that’s live and eating up resources
b) even though inner conflict X is live and eating up resources it’s resolution has dependencies that are nowhere near ready to be resolved
i’d expect this to mostly be the case, and i’m curious if you agree
like the order in which problems are encountered and causing suffering is not equal to the order in which problems are ready to be solved (edited)
well i guess that’s not totally true. […] is evidence that it’s not.

Mark 8:29 PM
yes, and it sucks. have to sometimes do hard, long-range stuff with pencil-thin resources sometimes for months.
best case you can draw resources/suggestions/solutions from written content or smart, helpful people. for some fraction of things, because too idiosyncratic or can’t trust other resources, have to do it on own.

can get boosts and resource-free-ups, some [quasi-]arbitrary-order interventions from bodyworkers [shamans, therapists], etc., and can be huge, sometimes, but will still eventually have to do cleanup (edited)

[worth it if can find trustworthy people. can sometimes tangle you up further or cause subtle, really bad problems, and/or net good but at a cost.]

[…] 8:41 PM
I mean, I’ll pose the question that’s in my head that I have some partial answers to, and not necessarily posing expecting like an (exhaustive) answer because afaict the answer is like the thing

but the question is
what is entailed in figuring stuff out?
will yet again say more later

Mark 8:42 PM
my knee-jerk answer is:
“either it is or it isn’t [figured out]”

[…] 8:42 PM
or like entailed in the process of figuring stuff out, if that wasn’t clear
like the actual figuring

Mark 8:43 PM
i know. just sort of establishing the measure or feedback loop which is X% of the thing

[…] 8:43 PM
: o

Mark 8:43 PM
if it either is or isn’t figured out then you sort of always know where you are at least on that dimension

[…] 8:44 PM
ok that is helpful

Mark 8:44 PM
and then sort of all that’s left is like a tower-of-hanoi problem with nebulous ontology
where sometimes moving forward looks like moving backwards for a long time, or not, but there’s always a true forward

and knowing where you are and what to do next, wayfinding, is the skill that develops over time

[…] 1 minute ago

where sometimes moving forward looks like moving backwards for a long time, or not, but there’s always a true forward
I wonder if I’ve been interpreting this line too narrowly in the past

Like I usually hear in the context of like what’s happening when one meditates

Mark < 1 minute ago
it’s the whole X-thousand hour thing

[…] < 1 minute ago
And now I’m hearing also possibly in the context of one’s life/plan

Mark < 1 minute ago
yeah i guess that too for sure

[…] < 1 minute ago





Check it out, some people have been hilariously half-assing the application, and, so far, it’s been adequate for making a call on self-safety and other-safety. I wanted to set a high bar and then step it down, for signaling/learning/resource constraints, but I didn’t mean for it to be a gross, bro-code, guess-the-norms, guess-the-password thing. I’ll clean it up as soon as I have enough data for that to make sense. I’m sorry if I somehow made the stakes too high, please take a chance, throw something together, and apply:


mechanisms and motivations of self-suppression (curated post)

[1. Given this posts talks a bit about a real, living person, in an ideal world I’d want to write clear, carefully considered prose. But… this is about the quality level of the usual fast, sketchy normal blog post. Just saying.]

[2. tl;dr: click this link and search for “culadasa”: https://meditationstuff.wordpress.com/2015/06/05/mindfulness-in-daily-life-culadasa-the-dangers-of-keeping-stuff-out-of-consciousness-7000-words/

(This link is also at the bottom of this post.)]


The Culadasa stuff is happening right now. As I’m writing this, Culadasa hasn’t yet published a response. I’ve been thinking about how I could catch this wave for my own purposes, and I’ve been exploring my motivations for doing so.

I want to say that I don’t know the guy, and from a very far distance he seems to be on the more mature end of the meditation teacher continuum. Of course, reducing it to a continuum does a total disservice to the complexity of people. And, what does “mature” mean? Broad strokes. My goal here isn’t to litigate Culadasa; I’m too far away from the thing. Maybe he had sex with a bunch of people and lied about it. Maybe he had sex with a bunch of people and didn’t lie about it. Maybe he didn’t have sex with a bunch of people. Maybe he was terrible to people close to him. Maybe he’s a total saint. Maybe even if he lied about something it just wasn’t a big deal, or he took a risk for good reasons, and he made a mistake. Maybe these are carefully considered, mutually emotionally fulfilling relationships. Maybe he’s being attacked as some part of power play. Or all the above. Or none of the above. I’m not trying to figure that out, here.

All that being said, it seems like *some* drama is going on. And, life is hard–I’ve participated in all sorts of drama, and I’m sure I will again. But, at least some schools of thought would think that the more (high-quality) meditation you do, all things being equal, perhaps nonmonotonically, one is less likely to be involved in drama.

I think that’s true. I am not in the camp that enlightenment/nonduality/etc. is orthogonal to skillful/wise behavior/feeling/action. I think that they are mildly separable-ish, which is where the orthogonality intuitions come from, but they are not fully separable and in fact nonduality and wisdom (skillful everything) are intertwined because of what minds are and how the transformation of minds proceeds.

So, I believe that, in the limit, meditation gets you wise, powerful (and/or harmless) people (who can still be surprised and make mistakes). Though maybe in practice this is very, very hard. I want to emphasize that I think most meditation teachers today are like a quarter way up the mountain, halfway up, maximum. Minds are vast (though finite in a relevant sense, in a good way) and reality is hard.

“Nonduality” is like table stakes.


My goal here is not to tease out the relationship between meditation, nonduality, and wisdom, but there’s a little bit, here:


This post is more about how one can be meditating, and, at least along some dimensions, be going in the wrong direction for a very long time. Or, one can certainly be going in the wrong direction and the right direction, along different dimensions, at the same time.

Additionally, this post is hopefully some sort of corrective on, “let’s provisionally assume Culadasa did something bad, so, maybe Culadasa’s material is bad; maybe Buddhism is bad; maybe I’m wasting my time. If someone can be ‘that far along’ and be involved in drama like this, especially if they did do something bad, and maybe even if they didn’t, wtf?”

First, I want to say that I believe that Culadasa is a brilliant pedagogical theorist, and that it’s clear he’s actively working on the limitations of his material. In one of the links below to a post I wrote about his material a long time ago, and I think he’s aware of the issues that I raise, and he’s written and spoken about them (not directly responding to me; he doesn’t know who I am, afaik).

To connect this to my other material:

I’ve talked about the metaphor of technical debt. Meditation can add technical debt in some areas even as it’s removing it in other areas:


I’ve talked about the layer/shell metaphor. And, I’ll note here that, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse, meditation can be used to *add* layers/shells:


[ https://meditationstuff.wordpress.com/2014/12/01/soul-on-fire-i-am-the-captain-of-this-ship-for-like-ten-seconds-per-day/ ]

And then, what is technical debt and layers/shells being added *on top of*? Well, there’s, say, deep goals, deep drives. This stuff is scary because it can lead to impulsive and destructive behavior that, worst-case, can be life ruining. Also, this stuff can seem to be so orthogonal to success in the modern world. And, finally, one might be confronted with the possibility that they’ve arranged their lives and minds all wrong if their goal in the first place was to be happy.

So there’s a tendency to want to suppress deep drives, to keep other people safe, to not do something life ruining, and not be distracted from e.g. making money, which would afford the possibility of, say, indulging in some deep drive stuff later.

This stuff can be so intense, so scary, that it’s really natural to detect even a glimmer of that intensity, those impulses, those urges, those longings, that one outcome is to try to not just suppress them but to make them go away completely.

Healthier things would be to titrate their expression, create safe contexts for their expression, to transform the parts that can be transformed, to “purify” this stuff–but of course these can be very hard, and the the more suppressed this stuff is, the more unpredictable and explosive it can be come to the surface. It’s a vicious cycle.

To be concrete for a moment, for example, with, say, sex stuff, there is an animalistic thing down there, somewhere, that can be really scary, that of course can lead to deeply regrettable choices. But, a lot of the impulsiveness, insensitivity, and risk-taking around sex comes from low-level desperate automaticity that is *not* identical to the animalistic thing. And, while the animalistic thing might not be optional, in a vacuum, depending on your hormones and whatever, a lot of that low-level desperation *is* optional, even if it takes a few thousand hours to work through it. (And I know that’s impractical for people low on time and money and opportunity-costly even if one does have time and money. This stuff is hard. The payoffs are big, too, though.)

Even with in-a-vacuum-nonoptionality around some of the very deepest sex stuff, in the healthiest case one tacitly (or explicitly) learns all sorts of things about their own hormone cycles, odor cues, arousal cues, arousal timelines on multiple timescales from seconds to weeks. One learns how to create safe contexts and precommitments, one learns how to communicate, one can learn about barriers, and mucous membranes, and absorbing other people’s hormones to satisfy the animalistic stuff, or not, and why condoms suck so much and what to do about it, and how to become a black belt masturbater (and when and why that does and doesn’t work), and so forth. And even then it’s still possible to make a costly mistake!

That paragraph above is pretty labored, and most people do ok. Hookups, serial monogamy, long-term fulfilling relationships, something. But, the above paragraph suggests useful things for two classes of people. The first class is for people who’ve entered into vicious cycles or who have very old traumas or confusions around this stuff (which is everyone if only a tiny bit). And the second class is for people who want to become full and complete and powerful, who want to safely own their sexuality and power, with all the risks and rewards that come with doing so. When you suppress parts of yourself, other parts get suppressed, too, in complex and subtle ways.


Because minds are so large, one can use meditation for hundreds, even thousands of hours to suppress, suppress, suppress dimensions of sexuality including the low-level but not bottom level desperation that people often have. And so the pressure builds and builds and that sexuality comes out in weird ways, the more suppression the weirder it eventually escapes.

But, and again, this can be risky, opportunity-costly, and one has to have resources to even think about taking such a plunge, but one can become fully aligned with their sexuality.


And meditation is a power tool for doing so. But power tools are dangerous. I’ve listed some of those risks, here:


And some of the mechanisms of those risks and dangers are described below:



connection/time theory 2 x 2 (intimacy/allyship)

Screen Shot 2019-08-17 at 9.51.38 AM

This might be my first 2 x 2. It is not a theoretical form that I usually use.

Anyway, take your two axes:

The horizontal axis is something like “conception or experience of time.” On the far left is imminence, now-ness, unstructuredness of time, a particular kid of timelessness. On the far right is comprehensive time, total time, “sempiternality,” telos, the future, etc.

The vertical axis is “comprehensiveness or completeness of connection/intimacy.” At the top is just that. At the bottom is gappiness, splash pattern, contingent idiosyncrasy, to finally nothing at all, fantasy-connection-only, complete aloneness.

So, that yields four quadrants:

In the top left is imminent and comprehensive, or lacking time and comprehensive. At the top right is comprehensive and timeful. At the bottom left is imminent and disconnected (relatively or broadly speaking). And the bottom right is disconnected and timeful.

So, back to the top-left:

Maybe call this, also, unstructured, synchronous full-contact.

Here is the 2×2 text:

  • idealized, vanilla, untraumatized [undesperate?] hookup sex [or perhaps *those* moments in a long-term relationship]
  • unplannable [stranger-on-the-bus] gamebreak (@vgr) [or perhaps *those* moments in a long-term friendship]

It’s characterized by being serendipitous, hard to plan, hard to create, ephemeral, etc. I’m not sure which characteristics are the most essential or important for this discussion.


Now, the bottom-right:

Here is the 2×2 text:

  • bricolage ritual
  • professionalism
  • deal-making
  • transactional leadership
  • marriage of convenience
  • team of rivals
  • principle-agent
  • explicit game theory
  • healthiest forms: bits and pieces of ancient and older societies
  • farthest extreme: market-only
  • [(infinitely) deferred connection/intimacy; later]

This is sort of the current, visible market society, capitalist society. A dominance of the rendered legible, the rendered transactional. This is markets and software and atomization, bleeding into conceptions of time and intimacy.

Now, the bottom-left:

This is the quasi-illegible mirror side to the current, visible, market society. It’s perhaps what’s left when the market is eating everything and winning.

Here is the 2×2 text:

  • imminent connection-in-disconnection, keyhole connection
  • ships-passing-in-the-night (along at least some dimensions)
  • [often extreme authentic, interpersonal skill along narrow content or life-domain dimensions, often fragile or enabled only by the presence of societial/structural forms, assumptions, preconditions]
  • [created by trauma, lack of childhood experiences, unfortunate interpretations of normatively benign experiences, significant personal nonnormativaty on any dimension]
  • linear, single-threaded, scripted ritual
  • experience seeking/chasing
  • bdsm, other kink/fetish/paraphilia
  • circling
  • rationality community
  • performer personality
  • influencer personality
  • unhealthy: crabs-in-a-bucket
  • healthiest: acceptance, accomodation,
  • farthest extreme – no connection, fantasy-world only connection

I like to call this “connection-in-disconnection” or “imminent connection-in-disconnection.”

So, interaction in this quadrant is created by created by trauma, lack of childhood experiences, unfortunate interpretations of normatively benign experiences, significant personal nonnormativaty on any dimension, lack of bootstrapping societal forms, etc.

You got people that have parts left out, sometimes systematically across people but often idiosyncratically and contingently. So, people who have missing parts often have different missing parts.

And this leads to a common pattern:

That is, such people will have extraordinary ability to connect/relate/understand (in the pure healthy case) or control/coerce (in the pure unhealthy case) in ways that can and often do generalize. But there will also be a core for which they cannot–contexts, situations, content domains, types of people. And also the general machinery will potentially be brittle, fragile subject only available in certain contexts or ritualized forms.

So when it works in the normal case, one has connection-in-disconnection, or keyhole-connection, or byzantine connection, or puzzle-box connection: peak experiences or stable intimacy, and it can be a profound meeting of the minds and/or bodies.

When it works in the ideal case you have perfect lock-and-key connection, two perfect duals, complements, etc.

When it doesn’t work you have explosive disappointment, ships passing in the night, abuse, cults, etc.

Finally, there is the top-right quadrant:

Here is comprehensive-connection-across-time.

The 2×2 text:

  • empathic methodical allyship [within and across generations]
  • multithreaded ritual[; tower-of-hanoi-ritual]
    emergent forms
    transformational leadership
  • personal systematic transformative practice
    interpersonal systematic transformative practice
  • absence of resignation, absence of dimensions of alone-forever, misunderstood forever
    union of vulnerability and strength
  • enabled by abundance of time, resources, methodology, vision
    farthest extreme: saints/bodhisattvas as center-of-gravity?

It’s a setup! Anyway, because of contingent societal conditions, because of the idiosyncrasy and contingency of people, getting some good things require luck/grace in the form of systematicity/method, knowledge and other resources (time, money, infrastructural bootstrap, etc.). Some practices work better than others, which is why BDSM and circling are in a different quadrant (shots fired).

It’s hard to envision this quadrant, because most of us are bottom-right in the streets and bottom-left in the sheets, as it were, with flickers of top-left and sparse implementation of top-right.

Abstractly, this “looks like” unsubsidized, continuously responsively evolving institutional and societal forms at the societal-level. And, at the level of people and groups, one might imagine evolving stability and radical interpersonal optionality without paradox of choice.

Perhaps everything will be interpersonally ordinary and interpersonally possible, boring for the right reasons and exciting for the right reasons…

This perhaps requires affordances for the uncoercive transformation of the individual.

Everything in the streets and everything in the sheets? But, like, with moderation, with wisdom. And scale-free. Dense, reconfigurable with generally low edit distance but tower-of-hanoi enabled, visionary and chesterton-fenced.

For an individual this feels like radical affordance and optionality giving rise to a stable, clear path, from responsive, sensitive intimate moments to cumulative choices across a lifespan.

The lower-left quadrant drops away, more moments feel like the upper-left, life is lived like the upper-right, and tremendous energy is freed to transform the lower-right quadrant into the upper-right quadrant.

This is only possible in full through personal radical self-transformation.

Another way to break it down (fast and loose) is:

  • UL: moments of transcendence
  • LL: intimacy in fragmentation
  • LR: transactions in the void
  • UR: allies in love and power


Finally, the cynical self thing at the center is somehow connected to all this, but I’m not sure how. Here is the text:

  • cynical self-nexus:
  • “authentic self” – how you want other people to see you (robin hanson?)
  • “true self” – how you want to see yourself
  • shadow self – how you don’t want to see yourself [but do, but avoid it]
  • narrative/avoidant self – how you see yourself [apparently; what you tell yourself]
  • blind self – how you don’t see yourself; how other’s see you


tentative preliminary value proposition (clickbait: meditation and weird sex [and chromosomes and hormones and wiring])

[Update: I added more postscripts at the bottom.]

So I never thought I’d get here. Intimacy, yes, but ten-year-old me was literally like, “Marriage is death.” It was not a particularly coherent position.

In any case, for the below, I am mostly eschewing ideology and scientism, as best I can, iterating on method and then applying method. This is mostly empirical, though still with a very small n count. And I am drawing on everything available, including least-shitty scientific and sociological literature.

In the below, I am not being super careful with the terms sex, gender, orientation, expression/presentation, etc.. Please read what I mean, not what I say…

So, here we go:

I’m going to start with a bold thing and back off a little bit.

Regarding the value proposition, if your life is intolerable to the point where you’re willing to burn a lot of resources and take big risks, and you meditate correctly, you will end up, if all goes well enough, here:

  • wholeheartedly game for bright-line heterosexual monogamy and pregnancy* [*medical uncertainty and risks withstanding, all things equal] (provider-ish role if dude, child-rearing-ish role if woman)
  • into gentle, intense, pretty vanilla-ish sex [that is, free of kinks, paraphilias, fetishes, etc.]

Or! Not done:

  • in a setup that perfectly fits your chromosomes, hormones, and developmental/cellular/neural hardwiring (the latter being firmly a thing but less and different than pop-believed)
  • I don’t know yet if nonheteronormativity (I’m abusing the term “heteronormativity” a bit, here in this bullet, and in the bullets below) is a fat tail or a thin tail. I guess it’ll be mostly empirical (and base rates and phenotypes may continue to evolve as we keep pumping hormone-mimics into the environment modulo older and more stable latent and nonnegligible factors).
  • So, I think some gay people will get gayer and some fraction of gay people will “become” “straight.” Some straight-living people will realize that they are so gay or otherwise, as happens all the time. Some trans (or autogynephilic) people will get trans-er and some fraction will go un-trans, nondysphoric, cis, cis-presenting, gay and/or straight. Some fraction of mixed-gender feeling or no-gender-feeling people will move towards or away from a felt single gender. Some fraction of asex and aro and childfree people will go sex and ro and child-yes. Some fraction of nonbinary people will become more binary. Some fraction of demisexuals will become less, more, or differently demi. Some fraction of bisexual or pansexual people will probably head in a particular less bi or less pan direction. Currently questioning/exploring people will probably settle/stabilize faster, maybe/probably nonmonotonically, all things being equal. (And, vice versa, where I didn’t explicitly vice versa, above–everything in both directions.) (Finally, some intersex thoughts are in the postscript.)
    • (Some might ask, why can things get so mixed up such that e.g. behaviorally gold star (sigh) gay people could “actually” be straight or vice versa?? The answer is extremely early (or not) trauma and ideology and no-fault confusions and doubling down on prereflective, “genuinely intrinsic feeling” compensatory/functional strategies.)

Backing off a bit on the bold statements:

  • Maybe monogamy is actually (a) monogamish or (b) seven-year cycle serial monogamy. I don’t know. Maybe nonmonogamy or swinging or polyamory (and so forth) or polyfidelity or partible paternity does work better in particular cultures and times.
  • Maybe heterosexuality is actually heteroflexible/”mostly straight” sometimes or always, for one or both genders, or not, and/or maybe it’s just “fun”/useful if not fundamental.
  • Maybe nonnormative sex stuff is “fun”/useful, i.e. ultimately contextually functional. I would think the key is total optionality and the capacity to be emotionally/intimately/sexually fulfilled under a wide range of behaviors. For some people this stuff rules their lives and drastically cuts down on the number of compatible partners.

In any case:

  • Meditation is going to do finest-grain combinatorial rearrangement, nonmonotonically, to, again, whatever most lines up with your chromosomes, hormones, and developmental/cellular/neural hardwiring (which, again is firmly a thing but less than pop-believed), and cultural milieu.
    • (I’m not sure this is what Zen has in mind, because lots of old-school buddhism is so anti-sex and anti-women, but they have a whole thing, I think, of becoming normal or ordinary. I don’t know how Tantra relates excepting non-anti-sex and pro-personal power.)

Now! To clarify:

  • say, monogamy, vanilla sex, child-rearing is the beginning, not the end. Once you line up your goal stack with your chromosomes, hormones, and developmental/cellular/neural hardwiring everything goes more smoothly–
  • After/concurrently with family, is your local environment, your community, local and wider governance, and from there the entire world. You get personal power, competence, mastery not out of seesaw desperation but seated properly in your goal stack, naturally arising out of the cultivation of more and more goodness/awesomeness. Men and women.
  • if it feels like not getting to have sex with 5,743 women or men, or not being able to get reified kinky sex fantasy subtype 96.4B76, or supporting a kid instead of becoming world famous or stopping unfriendly AI or nukes right now, is utterly terrifying, or utterly disgusting, or will utterly destroy your life, utterly tear your universe apart, yes, that’s what meditation operates on. and doing it right means the transformation won’t be suppressive, curtailing, etc.
  • Finally, the meditation life ™ is not a cold-turkey thing, and it’s nonmonotonic, and there is a long tail, regarding what one should be doing on the path, as it were. Some people *should* (try to) have all the (kinky) sex (or just once in a while, or just once or twice), and some people should become famous or try to become famous. But, at the top, I said this was for people who are experiencing their lives as intolerable. And kinky sex and fame are really brittle means and ends. It just depends.
  • Finally, finally, some people, of course, will not experience their lives as intolerable, but will suss out meditation as being a smart thing to do, as early in their lives as possible.


P.S. What if your chromosomes, hormones, wiring say to have kids, but it’s medically impossible (infertility, intersex , etc.) or medically unsafe (pregnancy or childbirth, vaginal or c-section for a bazillion valid reasons) or truly resource-wise infeasible or impossible to partner up to biologically have kids or it’s truly too late to have kids? (Say, if a woman didn’t have kids for “wrong” or unfortunate reasons, is now into menopause [or say a guy becomes infertile unexpectedly or realizes too late on some dimension that he wants kids] and becomes a systematic meditator, they will eventually probably grieve, possibly quite significantly, and then be fine??)  I don’t know. Adoption. Pets. Nieces and nephews. For whatever it’s worth, I suspect meditation will sort all that out, too, though I can’t yet point to plausible mechanism, after I’ve implicated “natural hardwiring” above. Everything that I thought meditation couldn’t sort out, it has so far sorted out (99% contingent and flexible configuration, 1% hardwiring, and some ultimate, long-range way to make friends with the hardwiring). So is there a little bit of inconsistency in my position, some equivocation or vagueness in/around “hardwired”? Maybe. At the bottom it will probably be counting cell types and tracing axon routing that give rise to determine short-cycle and long-cycle hormone regimes, etc, . In any case, we need to learn more about hormones, smell, bonding, signs and signals, and so forth, to separate out all the things that are separable, for sufficient optionality, for all the goodness. What are the exact signs the bodymind uses to know that you’ve had the sex or the babies and there they are right there and it’s ok to chill out or only now, in the right order, take over the world, for the right reasons? We don’t know, though there’s been a bunch of exquisitely mechanistic progress on rats; still only a fraction, though. This will be straightforwardly solvable. We should. And some people will eventually cleanly hack those signs and signals, in order to have a better life. And for some people it will make sense to do so.

P.P.S. I want to emphasize that this post isn’t meditation instructions, implicitly or otherwise. Trying to push away a part of oneself or to top-down become a very specific, particular thing is usually counterproductive and will usually have to be eventually undone and then obliquely re-done, in a surprising and counterintuitive way. Also, using any particular self-feature as a feedback mechanism can be and often is problematic because of ordering, discontinuities, stepwise change, and nonmonotonicity (going back and forth or uncovering alternating layers of e.g. different gender feels). Strategic obliquity with precision.

P.P.S. I wanted to put “tokophobia” somewhere in this post [I’m like an ally of the who wouldn’t find pregnancy and childbirth initially or stably terrifying camp…, though provisionally I’m leery of e.g. a future of artificial wombs], but I didn’t end up with a good place. Anyway, this is a thing that does/would get explored in the course of meditation, too. Here are some links:



P.P.P.S. The title of this post, containing “weird sex,” in an earlier draft, jokingly-yet-respectfully (seriously), referred to kinks, fetishes, paraphilias and not “sex” as in sex, gender, orientation, presentation/expression. I took that out of the body (I changed “weird” to “nonnormative”) when the tone of the post changed a bit.

David Deida Shell / Layer Theory

This is a great model that has endless applicability. One can find isomorphisms and homomorphisms in lots of other good models of mind.

I’m going to use what I think are some Deida’s original teaching examples, which are maybe sexist but are intuitive and fast. Mistakes are mine.

So take a kid who has feelings, this little dude feels stuff, wants to feel, wants to express feelings. And take a girl who wants to feel beautiful and express beauty. These are two parallel examples.

The little dude then learns that to be a “real man” he has to hide his feelings if he has them and even better not feel anything at all. So he figures out how to do this, even if somewhere he has a sense that something is very wrong.

The girl learns that she can’t be seen as a slut or sexual at all, and she has to be grim and serious and professional to be taken seriously. So she hides her beauty and the expression of beauty, perhaps even from herself, even if somewhere she has a sense that something is very wrong.

So, later, the dude and the girl/woman, in their early or late twenties or even later, or actually even as early as their teens, are eventually like wtf. But, absent proper tools, or boatloads of therapy, it’s sort of too late.

The dude learns to sort of maybe claw feelings from the deep and kind of feel slivers of stuff, and he can sort of manufacture feelings or act like he’s got feelings, or set up limited contexts where he’s got feelings, and he can say the right words, but it’s sort of laborious, unnatural, etc. Maybe it’s enough, and maybe he’s gentle and safe and supportive but sad, or maybe he’s a “nice guy” and/or really angry underneath, because of what’s lost or what he can’t do.

The woman reads up on makeup and clothes, maybe takes a dance class, changes her hairstyle, goes to a spa, gets massages, explores herself in relationships or novels. But, there’s something awkward and clunky going on, she’s reaching for something that she wants to be and feel and naturally be seen as, but it doesn’t quite work or barely works.

You have a natural thing, that gets suppressed or controlled by a different thing that takes its place, and then a facsimile of the original natural thing goes on top. There can be more complicated structures and structures in parallel.

So the above is Deida shell or layer theory. Now to summarize/expand–

Sometimes the layer version is very, very, very smooth and functional, and it’s hard to tell that it’s a layer. Sometimes the person themself knows and other people don’t. And sometimes other people can tell, on some level, and the person themself doesn’t know. And maybe everybody knows or nobody knows.

If something takes a lot of energy to do, or feels unnatural, or laborious, or like one has to switch gears or gear up to do a thing, or that it’d be really easy to make a mistake, or that there’s barely room in one’s life for this and other things at the same time, or it’s taken over one’s life, or if it’s the most important thing one’s life, or if one has spent a lot of time on the theory of the thing, or read many books about the thing, or that it’s a lifestyle choice, or there’s a preoccupation with how other people aren’t doing the thing right, or they have other people who are or aren’t doing thing or who are the opposite of the thing, or they want to do the thing in highly ritualized way, or they fetishize something (in a sexual way or not), or the sacralize something (in a religious way or not) and so on, or they’re particularly rebellious about something or particularly conforming about something–all of that can be a sign that there’s shell/layer structure going on. In general the shell/layer will be patchily fabricated and take a lot of effort to maintain, even if that effort has become completely habitual.

I know that’s pretty intense. That’s almost everybody for something, in small and large ways. There are very common layer structures, including some shared by almost everyone in a particular culture.

Sometimes performers have exquisitely perfected shells, and that’s why we love them. Sometimes performers out of luckiness or unluckiness or extreme sacrifice or access to superlative training have either (early) prevented a shell from forming or (later) have made their way back to a real thing, and we love them for that expression of the real thing. (And there can be all sorts of complex interaction between layers and layers along different dimensions with the real thing peeking out in complex ways.)

Sometimes people can’t figure out how to create a functional shell and suffer terribly because they can’t be like the other people around them, for better or worse. And some people get a functional shell and of course suffer terribly throughout their lives because they can’t satisfactorily get access to what’s under the shell, and have to make do with ritualized structure to set up the right conditions if even that.


So, what to do?

Sometimes you maintain and take care of the layer, make it as healthy as it can be. And sometimes you take apart that fabricated version, as well as the shell underneath, get to the real version which will probably be frozen in time at a young age, and then help that young version grow up into the seamless, effortless adult version.

Both approaches have risks. There’s combinatorial complexity whatever one does. Sometimes there’s lots of low-hanging fruit, and/but sometimes undoing layers, the way things are all tangled up, can involve undoing a lot of functional structure, sometimes a LOT, stuff that was allowing a person to have friends and make money, and it can be a harrowing project of months or years or longer, depending on skill and intensity of investment, to untwist all the things that got twisted around and layered on top of each other.