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When I was 16, I performed relatively poorly in my GCSE exams, exams which every kid in the UK takes. Having missed most of my classes, and barely studied, I received a D in math and an F for French (which I think is funny). I’m a little embarrassed to even write about this, and I’ll try to redeem myself by letting you know that four of my nine grades were C: for physics, biology, English language, and English literature. Any small success I had was basically down to luck, and it was terrifying to take those exams with no preparation. …


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Me being silly at a friend’s house. The sunlight happened to bathe me through a skylight.

I started meditating consistently in the summer of 2001. I had just finished developing the first Microsoft Xbox, and I literally sat with my feet on my desk. I should have felt proud and satisfied. I had a beautiful, big, brand-new house in Silicon Valley, and an Audi and a Porsche. I was a multi-millionaire and had more money than I knew what to do with.

Sitting there in my office, I noticed that I couldn’t relax. I felt dissatisfied and anxious, and I had no idea why. Shortly afterwards, at my 27th birthday party, I drunkenly walked from guest to guest asking people what the meaning of life was. One response that stands out in my memory was from a friend named Jing; I’m proud to tell you that Jing created gmail. Jing said, “Never own a house that’s too big to hold all of your friends.” …


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Photo by freestocks.org (via StockSnap)

She stroked my leg under the table in the Student Union. I liked that, so I married her. I’m serious. This is what I’m like; I tend to go all-in immediately. I commit like crazy. At least this is what I used to be like. I’ve changed a lot since then.

Soon we had sex, first in bed, and then in the shower. It was pretty good. Three months later, I proposed to her in bed in Paris. That was the same bed we spent most of our time in while in Paris. …


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There is a one key skill that you can develop that will make you masterful in relationships. Without this skill, your relationships will be unsatisfying and short-lived. With this skill, you will be fully in control of your relationship destiny, enjoying relationships that are fulfilling and long-lived. This article focuses deeply on this one key skill.

Many people believe that when they are hurt by their partner, their emotional reaction is the responsibility of their partner. …


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This is a rendition of one of my knots

I’ve not been doing well recently. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed, depressed, and anxious. Yesterday, I posted the following on Facebook:

I seem to be suffering from depression and anxiety. I think it’s related to stresses at work. I’m in a situation where I don’t seem to be able to advocate for what I need. I have no idea about how to get myself out of this pickle. I have some kind of conflicting programming that is making me very stuck.

This generated an outpouring of love and support from my friends, with many offering to spend time with me, listening to me. Strangely though, these offers seem to add to my burden; I was not fully conscious of this additional loading, let alone of its source. …


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Cindy with a message for bullies

Cindy and I were walking along a street in Central London, her a few steps ahead of me. She passed into the view of two lads in their twenties who were standing on the steps of a house. I was still obscured by the wall of a neighboring building,

“Hey gorgeous, give us a smile,” yelled one of the boys wearing a suit and tie. He then turned to his male companion to calibrate the effectiveness of his heterosexual confirmatory signaling.

As he turned back to look at the object of his insecurity, he was surprised to find another male approaching, one who was clearly with Cindy: that was me. There I was, six-foot-three tall with muscles, a shaved head, and a giant beard, looking ultra-masculine, unintentionally obscuring the subtle blend of masculine and feminine within me. …


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I rode this motorcycle to and from my most-recent ten-day retreat

An Old Student’s Perspective

As I write this, I’ve attended a Goenka-style ten-day Vipassana retreat four times, which makes me an “old student.” These retreats represent industrial-grade meditation training and practice, demanding around ten-and-a-half hours of meditation per day. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably either attended at least one, or you’re planning to attend one. In order to get the most from these retreats, here are four things I’ve learned to value.

Return to the Practice

Everyone’s retreat experience is unique, and different content seems to come up each time for the same person. For me, a recurring thread that runs through my retreats is some form of emotional distress. On more than one occasion, I’ve considered going to the teacher asking, “Is it normal to be this emotionally disturbed?” I usually answer this kind of question myself: it doesn’t matter. What’s happening is what’s happening; there is no escape from it. …


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Photo by mari lezhava on Unsplash

and what AI seems to be revealing about it

I’ve lost friends over this because a denial of consciousness undermines a final refuge of the arrogance of selfhood: universal consciousness. But even most normal people are strongly insistent that consciousness is a real thing, a special thing, and that they possess it. The problem I have is that there’s not only no evidence for it, but what people seem to be referring to as consciousness is explainable as an effect no more unusual, no less materialistically explainable, than water flowing downhill.

Now I’m not going to get too far into the metaphysics of non-separation. At least initially, I’m not going to try to explain that, on one level, consciousness, being an aspect of the illusion of a subject/object separation of the wholeness, is itself illusory. That either gets revealed or not, and there’s no way to cause that revelation. If that has been revealed then you’ll just be inwardly nodding your head right now. If not, it would be impossible to ever persuade you. No, for as much of this article as possible I’m going to stay “scientific” on you and remain in the realm of logic. …


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Photo by Echo Wang on Unsplash

A coaching session is something that tends to happen when I reach a point in my life at which I realize that I’ve been trying to get to some new level of performance or success and that to get there I need the support of another person. Effective coaching can help me move to that next level.

By why do I need another person to help? Why can’t I just pull myself up by my own bootstraps? The main issues are unconscious; I don’t know what I don’t know. I need another organism to introduce new information. But it’s usually not expertise or advice that I need; I can gather information on my own. …


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“We’re coming for you with pitchforks,” he wrote, “Just you wait.”

I told him he should come, but to leave the pitchfork behind.

“Welcome. Maybe bring a mechanical keyboard and a latte,” I responded. “Pull up a chair. You can share my cube. Look at these beige walls.”

They’re either beige or brown, nobody cares. “Just pull up your chair and set to hammering away on that keyboard. Nobody starts out an expert. We all start as beginners. Then we take one step at a time.”

They’re coming for me with pitchforks, I’m told. You can’t eat money, but you can eat the rich. Wait, what? …

About

Duncan Riach

An engineer-psychologist focused on machine intelligence. I write from my own experience to support others in living more fulfilling lives | duncanriach.com

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