WEEKLY HARANGUE #217 — Care is a Delicacy


What can be done???  We feel a rushing surge of care for the broken and slaughtered victims of cataclysmic events.  We are rocked with concern for the world.  All the same, it is a bit sad that our caring had to wait for all those victims.  Where was our care before the Terrible Events?

Care is good for society.  It is also good for you if you can recognize it.  Consciously recognized feelings of caring have a special power.  It starts to change us, to refine us, when we realize that we are already empathic creatures.  People care for each other a lot but they do not always notice they are being cared for or caring about others.  Care can be so subtle we miss it.  But if we catch it and keep hold of it for about ten minutes, we will start to be healthier, more clear and more deeply ourselves.  That’s neuroscience.

But sustaining a feeling for ten minutes is tricky work.  You might have to work into it, slowly, delicately, carefully

Thinking about how awful an Awful Events is — can be like trying to drink ten gallons of water in one gulp.  Too much.  To stay effectively hydrated, you actually want to have lots of little drinks of water all the time.  Care is very delicate, very tender.  Even thinking “it is important to care” might be too blunt and too forced.

Start with what is small and true in your own life.  Have you ever helped anyone?  Watered a plant?  Fed a child?  Petted an animal?  That means that YOU have a capacity for care that is like a little stream running underground.  Let’s bring it to the surface.

Think of all those people trying to help others around the world — in disaster zones and in daily life.  They have something in common with you.  They have some degree of embodied caring.  There is a posture of care, a gesture of care.  That posture is inside your heart as soon as you think of it.

Some people are even too busy doing caring things to notice the feeling-of-caring.  This feeling is important.  Where is it right now?  Is there something care-like inside your chest?  Would your bodily and mental tempo change if you became more aware of that feeling?  Would your breathing change?  How would it change?

Who would you be… if you just… slipped… into the delicacy of caring?


Thanks for reading,

I’ve been Layman Pascal.

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WEEKLY HARANGUE #216 – Warmth Toward Repetition

Q. What’s the best Christmas movie?

A. Groundhog Day.

That’s a joke.  Maybe not a very good one.  The classic Bill Murray film Groundhog Day is very snowy and it has a magical theme about small town redemption and sharing. That sounds very Christmassy.  Yet it obviously takes place on Groundhog Day — rather than during the Christmas Season.

The reason I mention it is because it is probably the most famous movie about a time loop.  Bill Murray keeps living the same day — over and over and over again.  At first it drives him nuts.  He gets extremely depressed.  Eventually, though he gets over his bad attitude and starts to adapt.  When he gets a good attitude about repetition he begins to become… godlike.

Another good movie is Jiro Dreams of Sushi. It is the true story about the world’s greatest sushi chef who lives in Japan.  Jiro did not like making sushi when he started.  Over time, however, repeating the same moves, in the same situation, day after day, year after year, he said it started to become — ecstasy.

Isn’t that strange?

Our minds are always seeking out change.  We look for discrepancies (to get upset about) or novelties (to get excited about).  We have a kind of bad attitude about repetition.

Of course you should grow by trying new things and do whatever you can to avoid repetitive stres injury, etc.  But no matter what you do, almost all your experience will be the SAME.  Every life is going in cycles and circles.  Day by day.  Year by year.

You pass along the same roads and see the same people.  You have emotional reactions you’ve had before; you have thoughts that you have had before.  You even make the same discoveries again and again.  On most days the grooves in the sidewalk remain constant.  The same planet keep spinning the same way.  Most experience is bound to be repetitive.  So if you have a basically good stance toward repetition — your life will be pretty happy. If you have a bad attitude about repetition — your life will be terrible.

A person who is only happy when not stuck in a loop will be happy only for a very small percentage of their days.

But how do we get a better attitude toward repetition?  Well, we become mindful of its unique quality.  We take a breath and expect it.  We try to anticipate repetition.  Isn’t that a part of learning any skill?  You have to get into the groove by correctly guessing what’s coming next.

Ah, we say, there is my good friend Mr. Repetitiveness!

When we seek novelty with our attention we can become, by contrast, negatively disposed toward the ongoing, continuous and repeating elements that are all around us.  We cannot find the novelty within repetition when we are busy preparing ourselves to react to the surprises that oppose repetition.

We prime ourselves for a trouble.

Instead we can actively look for repetition.  Expect it.  Try to think well of it.  See what progress you can make in this area.  Smile at it.  A good relationship the the simple fact of “ongoing sameness” will go a long way to improving the general quality of your life.  Just ask Bill Murray…


Thanks for reading,

I’ve been Layman Pascal.

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WEEKLY HARANGUE #215 – Beyond Interfaith

Let’s talk about local, organic, intersubjective spiritual reality:

LOCAL = your city or region

ORGANIC = naturally complex, alive, open-ended

INTERSUBJECTIVE = we-space, us-consciousness, shared being, common experience

SPIRITUAL = sacred or self-developmental depth in a human being

The Beyond Interfaith movement believes every city should regularly update itself about whatever is really going on in the spiritual lives, inner journeys & existential conclusions of its citizens.  We have a pretty shallow culture if we are not doing things like that!

Much good work has been done over the years by the Interfaith Movement that works to establish mutual recognition and friendly relations between people of different faiths.  We salute them.  However, Beyond Interfaith is interested in going beyond.  We want the faithful and the faithless.  We are searching not only for our commonalities but also for whatever living, surprising and emerging intelligence might be waiting within and between all of us.

Whether you belong to one or many “traditions,” or whether you find yourself in a more casual or idiosyncratic relationship to your own most transcendental parts, we think the community needs to hear from you.  Any success, difficulty, ambiguity, paradox, epiphanies, insight or conclusions that are coming up for you form a valid part of the living field of local spirituality in the present moment.

We no longer live in an age when it is simply tolerable to receive wisdom from expert.  Your participation is needed.  Other people need to hear what you are going through on your ‘inner journey’ (whatever that might look like) and you could probably learn something from them.  Or least you might hear some very interesting things.  And collectively we might be able to call forth and attune ourselves to whatever invisible spirit is really alive between and within the sensitive members of community.


Maybe you have heard that many different mushrooms grow upward from a single “mycelial network” living hidden under the soil.  Our local community is also a kind of soil.  Our experiences of what is most valuable in our subjective experience (and the way we language that and act upon it with like-minded others) are mushrooms.

So what is that living network that is expressing itself in all these superficially separate forms?  How can we find out more about it?  Can we contact it?

The first step is to actually get together (in bodies, not online) with other people are are alive inside in our area.  Then we have to speak from that part of ourselves that is still growing, changing, seeking, finding, intuiting the profound.  And we have to hear each other speak from that part of ourselves.  Then we can collective sense whatever all those voices have in common.

You know, we have a lot of official and unofficial holidays.  There are shopping festivals and dietary awareness days.  Earth week and flag day and history month.  We have all kinds of regular public events to mark our social values — but shouldn’t we have one where we put aside aside our ideas about the spirit and strive to really check-in with whatever is actually going on for everyone?


  1. Find an accommodating location in your areas and select a date.
  2. Propagandize the event and try to reach a diverse group of people.
  3. Hold the event according to the meeting protocol.
  4. Plan the next one.

What is the meeting protocol?  What should you do at a Beyond Interfaith event?  The proper “ritual” for local, organic, intersubjective spirituality is experimental. We are all just figuring it out. At the moment we are using a three question format led by a moderator:


  1. Each person speaks a little part of “wherever they’re at” with their inner life right now.
  2. Each person gets to say whatever they wish they had said the first time.
  3. Each person gets to say anything they heard, half-heard, sensed or thought about whatever everyone’s remarks had in common.

This is not a debate.  People should not be answering back or commenting on each other.  Tangentially discussion should be curbed in favor of listening and sharing.

Aren’t you curious about what’s going on with everyone?

PS – If you live in the Victoria region of Southern Vancouver Island in British Columbia we will holding our first session Friday, October 30th 630-730pm @ The James Bay Community Centre on 140 Oswego Street.  Entrance by donation.

WEEKLY HARANGUE #214 – Premature Empathy (or: Judgmentalism)

According to my recent Google search, the word JUDGMENTAL means “having or displaying an excessively critical point of view.”

It is not the same as having good judgement.  We should all get better at actually making judgments.  But being judgmental is excessive, unnecessary, stress-based and anti-relational.  It ruins everyone’s day… including our own.

I am a very judgmental person.  I was quite happy to realize that fact about myself.  It felt curiously good and strong.  It felt like I was learning to tolerate a strange but nutritious vegetable that was previously rejected by my childish appetite for sugary treats.  So I believe you should also be glad to notice how judgmental you are always being.

Here’s a good reason:

Judgmentalism is (according to me) just premature empathy.  It is clunky and clumsy empathy. Unrefined empathy.  The crude oil out of which empathy fuel is manufactured.  Being judgmental is the material you use to make compassion.

Imagine someone is acting or speaking in a way that upset you.  You are bothered by what you feel is their “error”.  They are such idiots!  Why are they even doing that???  But look closely — you are experiencing emotional suffering in response to the perceived imbalance, ignorance or error of another person.  Is that not pretty much the definition of sympathy?

When the thin beam of distress links us to another person’s error, we find ourselves at a fork in the road.  We can either recoil or open.  We either tell ourselves (and whoever will listen) a story about those terrible other people — or we can interpret this as if we are making a guess about the tension within the other person.

Exercise good judgment but, while you are doing that, remember your automatic judgmentalism is only a hair’s breadth away from being… compassion.


Thanks, I’m Layman Pascal.

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WEEKLY HARANGUE #213 – The Radiant Blackness

What happens when you die?  Something?  Nothing??  I think those two are pretty much the same — just different descriptions of the “causal dimension”.  Do you know about the “causal dimension”?

“Causal” is an old Hindu-Theosophical word for that tricky part of ourselves that isn’t a body or a soul.    It really means self-Causal.  Things that cause or prove themselves.  Impossible loops.  Tautologies.  A priori truths.  It is what it is because it is what it is.  It has to be.  Doesn’t it?

The very most famous “self-proving thing” is Awareness.

To doubt your awareness you have to be aware.  If you try to imagine a world without awareness… you will discover that you are actually imagining being aware of it.  Even when two asteroids collide in deep space, they sort of “detect” each other.

Another famous “self-causal thing” is Reality Itself.  You’ve got to have Reality!  In order for anything to exist or to not exist… existence has to already exist.  Is-ness.  Am-ness.  Such-ness.

A different way to say “isness” is by using two horizontal lines (=).  In English we call than an “equals sign”.  It is the engine that makes mathematics and logic go.  Most of mathematics consists of Causal structures.  These are things we have to assume.  Any kind of universe requires them.  If we are right, wrong, sane or hallucinating… they are still implied.  That’s what self-proving means.

But think about what these self-provers are like.  They are not like shoes or cats.  We cannot kick them or smell them.  They exist “potentially” everywhere and always.  We can talk about them but not see them.  We can understand them but not touch them.  They have no size, no mass, no form, no color.  They don’t come and go.

They are sort of like… nothing.

Imagine dying and being “only” an eternal awareness.  No body.  No world.  No size.  No stuff. Doesn’t that sound like what people mean by: “I don’t believe there is anything when you die.  Just blackness.  No things.  The same as if you’d never been born.

Those people are Causal mystics!


Thanks, I’m Layman Pascal.

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WEEKLY HARANGUE #212 – The Second Hand of Awareness

Be more aware.

Be. More. Aware.

Just do it.

Boy, that sounds like great advice doesn’t it?

I’ve heard this exact thing from lots of wise-looking & impressive-sounding people.  I sure wish I knew what the heck they were talking about!  What does awareness mean?  I know we can get lost analyzing words… but we can also get lost pretending we already know basically what everyone means by everything.

Osho (Bhagwan Rajneesh) had a lot to say about awareness.  Some people think he was just another 1970s cult leader.  Other people think he was a progressive philosopher.  Lots of folks even regard him as the iconoclastic Buddha of the Modern Age.  Forget about all that.  And while you’re at it — also forget everything you have ever thought, heard or felt about “awareness”.

As an experiment just let all of that go.

Now check out this video of an interview with Osho.  He explains that he personally uses the words “meditation” and “mindfulness” and “awareness” as synonyms.  And what they all collectively mean — for him — is demonstrated at 0:58 into this video.  He waves his hand once (described as “mechanical”).  Then he waves it again “with awareness”.

What does he mean?

Look more closely.

What is the actual difference between these two hand-wavings?  Take a guess.  Take several guesses.  If you absolutely HAD TO describe what he is doing differently in the second wave… what would you say?  I wish you could tell me.  Unfortunately I am writing this so I will have to do some of the work.

During the 1st wave he seems to keep his focus on the interviewer.  The gesture seems a little casual.  He moves his hand back and forth as if he doesn’t care about what it is doing.

The 2nd wave starts with a sudden jerk.  He lifts it quickly as though it was building up a potential.  His eyes fall upon his hand.  Then it moves more slowly but very deliberately.  The tempo has changed from the first wave.  His motion is longer, smoother.  He attends to the buildup.  He seems to note the beginning and ending of the movement with his eyes.

I try it myself.  It seems I am attending more to the sensations in my hand.  Or rather I am attending to the sameness of sensations, the continuity.  I feel the moment.  I appreciate the precision.  Perhaps I am taking more pride in my movement.

What do you think?  Try out the two different movements.  Who cares about “awareness”?  Just try to figure out if there is any useful distinction between these two ways of moving your hand.




Thanks, I’ve been: Layman Pascal.

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WEEKLY HARANGUE #211 – The Meditaste

Yesterday a charming 4-year old girl did a very interesting thing.  A meditative thing.  I’ll tell you about it in a minute.  First let’s talk a bit about meditation in children generally.

Meditation for children is a strange topic.  They usually do not understand the “concept” very well.  The purpose of extended intentional inner activity for self-development is not as immediately engaging as a dog, a cookie or the Netflix.  Heck, it’s tough for most adults too!

There are two obvious ways to help a child be more meditationy.

First you can support their heart-mind coherence.  Holding babies safely near your chest is important.  So is maintaining a calm loving presence even during chaotic moments.  This helps them practice and stabilize a harmonious neuro-electric field.

Second, you can get them used to the physical postures.  The old “meditation position” has some benefits on its own.  Just sitting with closed eyes and having a look around inside is good practice.  Plus for young children most of their learning is bodily.  Learning the movements sets up the patterns that they will later be able to use abstractly.

But there are other little gems of meditation tasting that can go on.  Let me tell you about this little girl who was having some juice with her father and myself.  He and I were having some coffee with cream & maple syrup.

If you want some juice later,” she told me helpfully, “this is where it is.”  To illustrate the point she patted the top of the juice container.

I was moved to attempt a negative concentration exercise.  “Okay,” I said.  “But where will it be if I DON’T want juice later?

This was too high-concept.  She ignored it and just patted the juice container again.  But then, after a few moments, she also patted the cream.

If you want some coffee later, this is where the cream is.

Thank you.  That’s very helpful.  But where is the maple syrup?” I asked.

She patted it helpfully.  Now I tried to take it to the next dimension:

And is the maple syrup AND the juice?

This was slightly trickier but not too tricky.  She tried to pat both of them — one with her thumb and the other with her fingertips.

And where is the cream and syrup?

She tried to show me.

And where is the juice and the cream?

She demonstrated.

Finally, I asked:

So where — exactly — is the juice AND the cream AND the syrup?

Now there was slight hesitation.

A look of deep concentration comes over her face.  She tries to extend her hand in three directions simultaneously.  The fingers do not quite oblige.  Then she just holds her hand in the air, frozen, relaxed and precise.  Perfectly poised.

Exactly a little more than thinking.

You could taste the flavor of “balanced simultaneous consciousness practice” in the air.

The meditaste…


I’m the Layman Pascal.
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WEEKLY HARANGUE #210 – The Anvil of Pythagoras

The Greeks (but not only the Greeks) were sublimely great.  The sheer torrent of spiritual, scientific, political & philosophical genius that poured into History from those ancient Mediterraneans was exquisitely profound.

Why did they produce so much?  How was their understanding so productive for the soul of civilization?  Let’s sample this problem through the wonderful legend of Pythagoras’ Anvil.  This is a tale told by the historian Nicomachus about how Saint Pythagoras discovered “the octave” used today in many branches of art & science.

The story goes like this:

Mr. Pythagoras was out walking on a fine sunny day.  Strolling along he found himself listening to the steady CLANG CLANG of a distant blacksmith who was banging on metal.  Some of the bangs were jarring but some of them seemed to vibrate very nicely with each other.  So nicely, in fact, that it was like another whole layer of harmonious reality was coming into being.  Contemplating this superfluous and subtle resonance, Mr. Pythagoras slipped, bit by bit, into an ecstatic state.  He found himself overwhelmed with an empowering and luminous feeling of expansive fits-together-ness. How marvelous!  How marvelous!  As he enjoyed his temporary divine condition he began to consider how strange it was that it should have launched from the banging of a blacksmith.  Curious, he rushed to blacksmith’s shop to investigate.  There he found several men hitting metals with different-sized hammers.  Watching and questioning these men, Mr. Pythagoras started to suspect that certain weights of certain hammers combined to produce the very nice combinations of additional harmony.  All you had to do was get the rations just right.  So he then went home and began experimenting with weights and strings.  He soon discovered proportions that we still use to make musical harmony today — and which, very mysteriously, are also used in particle physics and many other areas of science and art.  

Did you notice the unusual thing about this story?

Pythagoras did not just contemplate and enjoy his “peak experience”.  He was moved by it.  His moment of spiritual intensification lead him to make intentional efforts of pondering and experimentation.  It seemed natural and important to gain personal understanding of the mechanism associated with his best moments of being.

And, once he personally understood those principles, he could use them in other areas of life — to help make a culture that was more epiphany-friendly.


The Greeks did this a lot.  And it really paid off.

So the next time you are lucky enough (or skillful enough) to feel great, transcendent, truly-at-home or existentially astonished — you might want to do more than just enjoy it.  You might want to challenge yourself to figure out how it got triggered & why.

What specifically is required in order to produce extra harmony?


Thanks, I’ve been: Layman Pascal.


WEEKLY HARANGUE #209 – Granfallloonery & Fake Groups

The deceased American philosopher Kurt Vonnegut, jr. introduced the word granfalloon in his satirical 1963 novel “Cat’s Cradle”.  Here is what Mr. Vonnegut says:

[Hazel Crosby’s] obsession with Hoosiers around the world was a textbook example of a false karass, of a seeming team that was meaningless in terms of the ways God gets things done, a textbook example of what Bokonon calls a granfalloon. Other examples are the Communist party, the Daughters of the American Revolution, the General Electric Company, the International Order of Odd Fellows – and any nation, anytime, anywhere.

A KARASS is a natural group.  A functional team of people.  Collectively, they perform a role on behalf of God (or Nature) whether they know it or not.  A GRANFALLOON is a bunch people who might feel very strongly that they are in a group — but they are not.  Their group is fake. 

Can there be fake groups?

Well, think about this:  Whales used to be fish.  It was popular and traditional to put whales in the same group as fishes.  They have roughly the same external shape and habitat.  But now we think that is not very scientific.  When we look into the internal shapes and actual capacities of whales we realize they are mammals — more like humans & hippos than like eels & salmon.  

So the old group was wrong — in a sense — when we compare it to a more rational system.  We put away “childish things” and ask for extra verification.

So if whales are not really fish — are human beings really Christians or Chinese or Democrats or Aborigines?  Maybe.  But maybe not.  Are these even real groups?  Or are they just say-so groups? We like to say that a person “converted to Islam” or “became a French citizen”.  But if a maple tree packed up its roots, moved down to the tropics and painted its leaves bright purple — it would probably still be a maple tree.  

And if a turtle claimed to be a hummingbird…. it would not fool any zoologist.

Vonnegut said that a granfalloon is a fake group.  I think it is just an old-fashioned group.  It is a say-so group.  In the olden days when we had kings and fought with spears that was pretty much the only groups we had — either you or other people establishing group-feelings by say-so.  It was fine but primitive.  It is pre-rational.  It is pre-scientific.

Of course, there are different styles and things which we get from different places in the past.  And also it is a big hassle to disagree with people about what groups they are in!  If we tell Buddhists that they don’t get be Buddhists by “saying-they-believe-it” — things get very complicated.  We don’t like things that are too complicated.

And, frankly, it can be quite disrespectful to hassle people about this stuff.  Let them use whichever bathrooms they want!  But that doesn’t mean their “say-so” is actually an intelligent way to decide their type or think about what different groups want and do in the real world.




You are a Sikh?  A German?  An Arab?  A mystic?  A boyscout?  

Get real.  

Those might just be granfalloons.



Thanks, I’ve been: Layman Pascal.

WEEKLY HARANGUE #208 – “Killing the Witness”

The operational principle of spiritual (and human) growth is Consciousness.   Wonderful.  But there’s one small catch — consciousness is NOT the mental observer.

The “invisible, impartial note-taking eye-of-the-mind” is not the evolution of consciousness.

Or — to be a tad more precise — the mental Witness is simply one small example of a general set of phenomenon that we ought to call “consciousness”.  Obviously we can become more conscious if we add a lucid mental watchfulness to our ordinary re-activities.  But it also happens if we become more emotionally sensitive to our physical posture.  There an increase of consciousness when the “left brain” expands to include holistic “right brain” moods — but there is also an increase of consciousness when the exact opposite happens.

Consciousness is amplified when we interlace multiple subjective systems.  Consciousness-practice is to produce this effect more often, more intensely and more intentionally.  This is how we come to experience ourselves as “being” more.

Consciousness is the intensified coherence of alternative forms of intelligence.   Even to be very simply consciousness of a straightforward object depends upon the experience of the harmony-of-multiple-ways-of-knowing.

It is the integrity of the “more” which various forms-of-experiencing add to each other.

Thanks, I’ve been:  the Layman Pascal