Suggested Reading: Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha

Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha is a book I came across a while back but I didn’t actually take the time to read until recently. I started reading it a few days ago and was instantly hooked; I read it all within a day!

Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha is a thorough, “straight-to-the-point” and “no-bullshit” guide to meditative practice. It is very practical and easy-to-understand and it providMastering the Core Teachings of the Buddhaes the interested readers with a complete road-map of the “spiritual path” and of the stages of insight they can expect to encounter when practicing meditation. It also answers some commonly asked questions and has really helped me understand some parts of the practice I previously had trouble with. This has proved to be very valuable to me, especially since, in other sources, these teachings are often taught in an ambiguous and hard-to-understand way. Sometimes, it even seems are though some “teachers” want to keep some information hidden and secret! Not in this book!

If you want to get more specific about some particular subjects, Daniel M. Ingram, the author, does a great job by suggesting several other reads on the matter.

I very strongly recommend reading Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha to anyone interested in meditation; whether you are a complete newbie or an advanced practitioner, you will most definitely get a lot out of this book.

You can buy Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha: An Unusually Hardcore Dharma Book here!

Current Drug Policies Are Irrational, Irresponsible and Dangerous

The more I look at drug policies in the world, the less I think they make any sense. There doesn’t seem to be any correlation between the illegality of drugs and their actual safety. In fact, for many cases, the correlation is reversed!Irrational Drug policies

Let’s break down and analyze the essential facts about these substances one by one:

Junk Food is in large part responsible for diet-related conditions such as obesity, asthma, type 2 diabetes, liver diseases, strokes, cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Obesity alone causes an estimated 300 000 deaths per year in the US. Yet, junk food is fully and cheaply accessible to anyone of any age.

Tobacco is responsible for an innumerable amount of health-related problems. In fact, cigarette smoking causes more than 440 000 deaths annually, which represents about one of every five deaths in the US. Worldwide, almost six million people will die from tobacco use this year. Yet, it is legal to buy and consume tobacco products from the age of 18 or younger in most countries. Nicotine, the active product in tobacco, is also highly addictive; it is even harder to quit than cocaine!

Alcohol also has a terrible record. Even though it is considered safe (and even beneficial, e.g. red wine) if used responsibly, each year, about 2.5 million people die from harmful use of alcohol worldwide. Additionally, countless people also suffer from alcohol-related problems such as alcoholism, drunken driving and other crimes committed under the influence of alcohol. Studies have also consistently shown that alcohol is one of the most addictive and hard to quit drugs.

Pharmaceutical Drugs are killing more people each year than illegal drugs. While prescription drugs have been the cause of more than 22 000 deaths in the US in 2010, 17 000 people have died from all illicit drugs use combined! It is also very frequent for people to get addicted to prescription medication, especially painkillers and sleeping pills. Over the past several years, there has been a constant increase in the number of prescriptions of these drugs, up to staggering amounts.  In 2010, enough prescription painkillers were prescribed to medicate every American adult around-the-clock for a whole month! How does that even make any sense!?

Cannabis, on the other hand, has caused … 0 death. In fact, to be at risk of dying, you should smoke from around 20 000 to 40 000 typical joints in one session. Despite strong evidence pointing to its innumerable medical benefits, to the very small risk of physical dependence, and to the lack of results from the existing drug policies, cannabis remains, for many countries, as illegal as cocaine and heroine. The situation seems to be evolving though, as many countries contemplate decriminalizing the drug; in late 2012, the states of Colorado and Washington have even passed a bill to legalize it!

LSD and Magic Mushrooms A highly misknown fact is that LSD and psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms) present no potential for addiction and are virtually impossible to overdose on. A recent study has also shown that the use of psychedelic drugs like LSD and magic mushrooms does not increase the risk of mental health problems. In fact, studies say it may even help! Albert Hofmann, the scientist who first synthesized and ingested LSD and who, in 2007, was considered the greatest genius alive, said the following about LSD at his 100th birthday conference:

It gave me an inner joy, an open mindedness, a gratefulness, open eyes and an internal sensitivity for the miracles of creation. [...] I think that in human evolution it has never been as necessary to have this substance LSD. It is just a tool to turn us into what we are supposed to be.

Although not physiologically dangerous, these drugs have a immense impact on the way you perceive the world.  These substances give you the opportunity to take a step back and look at your mental processes in a whole new light, they heighten your fascination and appreciation of life, make you realize the interconnectedness of everything and their responsible use often results in profound, life-changing and long-term shifts the way one views life. Here is a quote from Matt Johnson, Ph.D. in behavioral pharmacology, when asked what the most mind-blowing observation about the use of psychedelics was:

The most mind blowing observation is for people in their 60s who have never taken a psychedelic before say that it has dramatically changed the way they interact with the world. To have a 70-year-old man tell you that for the first time he knows what it means to stop and smell flowers, that he can’t walk down the street and watch a tree without being brought to tears by the unfolding miracle of existence. Or to have a lifetime nail biter say he has gone a year without biting his nails after a session – the tendency just disappeared. Or to have a decades long smoker say he didn’t even experience withdrawal when he quit smoking (as I was recently told by a participant 6 months after quitting). How in the world does a 6 hour experience on a substance have the ability to change somebody in such dramatic ways? We know very little about what is really happening cognitively. Much to learn! [Source]

It is a shame our culture and social structure doesn’t allow these great tools to be used in safer and more enlightening contexts.

Conclusion

Now, I’m not suggesting everyone should stop drinking and start taking LSD, but shouldn’t drugs be as dangerous as they are illegal? What erroneous assumptions are drugs policies built upon? Isn’t it time for more intelligent and comprehensive drug policies?

I want to live in a world where drug policies are based on evidence and reason, where laws are founded on understanding as opposed to fear, and where doctors prescribe meditation before medication.

Polyphasic Sleep Conclusion

Hey guys! It has been almost a year since I had not updated you on my Polyphasic Sleep experiment. For those of you who weren’t following it, my goal was to reduce my sleep to the bare minimum and to attempt replacing some of my sleep with meditation.

Biphasic Sleep – Sleeping less than 5 hours total

My first step consisted of replacing my average of 6 hours of sleep a night by a 4h30 core sleep and a 20-minutes nap. I was usually sleeping from around 2-3am to around 6-7am and taking my nap shortly after lunch, at about 1-2pm. Although the first few days were slightly hard since my body was adapting to the schedule, I quickly experienced success with the technique. I felt like on average, I had more energy throughout the day and had a lot more lucid dreams than I normally did with a monophasic sleep schedule, especially in my afternoon nap.

In my core sleep, I also woke up frequently after only 4 hours and generally felt better when I woke up after 4 hours than after 4h30. I assume this is because my sleep cycles are slightly shorter than 90 minutes (probably around 80 minutes or so). This step being a success, I moved to the next step.

Triphasic Sleep – Sleeping less than 4 hours total

At that point, my goal was to sleep 3 hours at night and to take two 20-minutes nap spread evenly throughout the day. It was a bit harder to adjust to that schedule than it was to adjust to biphasic sleep; when you  wake up after only 3 hours of sleep, you really don’t feel like you’ve been sleeping that long.

Interestingly though, once I was able to get up, my overall level of energy was higher than what it was with biphasic sleep. I had more motivation and felt happier throughout the day, but these could be attributed to psychological factors, since the mere fact that I was succeeding with the experiment could have made me more motivated and happier.

On the downside though, I also started experiencing sleep paralysis at an unusually high frequency. Although most people will experience this once or twice in their life, I was getting sleep paralysis episodes at least 10 times a week. I must say that at some point, I was getting quite annoyed; sleep paralysis can get pretty scary and sometimes, I really felt like I would never be able to fall asleep again. Each time I’d lie down, I would feel my body falling asleep, yet my mind would remain fully awake and alert, and I was getting some pretty disturbing hallucinations at times. Since I wasn’t as educated in sleep paralysis and trained in meditation as I am now, I had a hard time dealing with those.

Moreover, this step is where I really started to feel the effect of my daily habits on my sleeping requirements. I felt like what I ate and drank had a tremendous impact on my sleeping needs. I noticed that vegetarians foods and light meals made me less sleepy whereas heavier meals made me drowsier and made it harder for me to strict to my schedule. A funny anecdote is that any alcohol I drank had many times the impact it would normally have on me, which I guess is interesting if you want to get drunk for cheap, haha :P. Obviously though, drinking also made it much harder to strict to my schedule.

Talking about the schedule, I also felt that at this point, sticking to it diligently was very important. I would feel the effects of a missed nap for days and even delaying it by a few hours yielded some pretty bad side-effects.

Stepping Down

I realized I had underestimated the flexibility of my daily schedule. Although on most days keeping my strict sleep schedule was doable, on others it was simply impossible. I would have had to turn down a lot of invitations and events simply to “take my nap”, which seemed unreasonable to me. I opted for quality over quantity and decided to go back to a biphasic sleep schedule, which was clearly more flexible and adapted to my daily life. This was about a year ago. Except a few times, I have never slept monophasically since. From experience, I can definitely tell that I feel much less energetic when I sleep monophasically for 7-8 hours or more.

On average, I now sleep about 5 hours each 24 hours, often less. Exceptions are when I drink or undergo more intense physical activities. I have also had success replacing some of my sleep with meditation. In fact, I feel like if I meditate about 2 hours a day, I will need about 1 hour less sleep. Obviously, meditating has a ton of other benefits, you should definitely learn and practice meditation!

One of the interesting things this experiment has also made me realize is that although most of us wish we had more time, when we actually find ourselves with a lot of free time on our hands, we usually waste it and find other reasons why we are not doing X, Y and Z. In my opinion, one of the most valuable skills any human can learn is time management.

Lastly, I now feel like I can much more easily deal with sleepiness. This can be due do this polyphasic sleep experiment but also to the Vipassana meditation I’m practicing, which makes you much more capable to deal with negative experiences in a peaceful and detached way. In times where it is needed, I may only sleep 2 or 3 hours a night for a few days and function without any difficulty and then “recuperate” sleep at a later date. I have heard similar experiences from other polyphasic sleepers.

I hope you enjoyed reading about this experiment. Also, I encourage you to like UP Development on Facebook and follow me on Twitter so you can stay updated! :)