Last night I went through what some people would call a direct psychic attack. Basically, some unfriendly external spiritual entity (ghost / demon / alien) jumped on me and forcibly tried to either enter my body, remove my spirit from my body, or both, I’m not really sure which... This assault happened to be during a dream state, but I experience these kinds of attacks at least once every several years and sometimes during a waking state...
The few times this has happened while I was awake and actually walking around have been, well, awkward. I get something like a nerve tingle followed by an intense feeling of being invaded, and I have to pause for a moment to marshal my inner forces to give some pushback. It’s always a little weird, and not always successful, in which case I have to deal with it again later in a dream state...
Which is usually completely nuts. When such entities try to push or pull me around while I am in a dream state, it instantly activates some very deep-seated (and personally shocking) preservation instinct and I react with this total tooth and nail fight for survival. It’s very “physical” and it’s extremely violent. And because it takes place in a space outside of normal waking reality, it plays out something like Neo vs Agent Smith in the Matrix sequels mixed with a little Spiderman vs Venom... It’s absolutely intense and all-encompassing.
Anyway, this is something I get to deal with every now and then, and while I am not entirely sure why such entities still want a piece of me, I do know how I learned to put up such an all-out vicious fight. That’s from the decades I had spent “partnered up” with a dark vampiric entity of my own subconscious inviting, which is a story for another day...
But back to last night, as soon as the new entity started pushing and pulling, I could feel myself instinctively start to switch into full-on berserker mode... but then something different happened. I went suddenly (and surprisingly) calm. I just relaxed back down into my body. and then started channeling reiki energy--
I’m a real-life reiki master, and I use it pretty much constantly in my daily life. So I guess this habit finally settled deeply enough into my subconscious that it sprang forth at this very helpful moment. Now, it didn’t explode out of me doing 3d8 radiant damage or blasting the foul fiend back to hell, or anything dramatic like that. That’s just not how reiki works. But it filled me with something like contentedness and immediately diffused the tension, and as the aggressive energy dissipated, the entity itself just sort of released me, and flew off or faded out... and I gently woke up shortly after, uninhabited by any extraneous spirit-beings.
The strange, unpleasant context aside, it was a happy surprise to find that I may have progressed beyond the need for that brutal instinctual fight & flight reflex. Not that it hadn’t mostly protected me for all those years, but it had its costs to my mental wellbeing and general sense of goodness and balance. And because it was rooted in uncontrolled fear, it clearly turned over control of my reactions to these external entities who could simply pounce and elicit an epic deathmatch battle at any time.
Now it seems I have turned the page on that to a more grounded and peaceful way of handling these situations, one that I have actually been working on for a while and grateful to have finally been able to so deeply embody--
And if this calm filling-up with grounded contentedness was able to dissipate such a full-frontal psychic attack, it may offer you a way to deal more pleasantly with the common everyday negative energy vibes people throw your way, without resorting to “toxic positivity” or mental shields that often get the job done but tend to be passive-aggressive and isolating in their own turn. Obviously, from my own story here, that’s easier said than done. But it could be a gentle goal to work towards--
If you’re interested in hearing more about experiences like this and discussing them more deeply, check out my live group Q&A sessions each month on Zoom
For most people, the idea of cohabiting with giant huntsman spiders sends shivers down their spine. But if you frequent this blog, you're probably aware of my acquired fondness for these eight-legged inhabitants of our home. Over time, they've become less like intruders and more like roommates, chasing down and managing pests in their own unique way. A harmony, if you will, has long been established.
But as it goes with nature, ecosystems are complex and constantly shifting. Enter the solitary spider-hunting wasps, an entirely new dimension to our indoor food web. These wasps, equipped with potent stingers (almost equal to the infamous Murder Hornet), have a singular mission: to incapacitate spiders and use them as hosts for their eggs. While they have zero interest in interacting with or harming us humans, they have a gruesome fate in store for our huntsman spiders --becoming a live buffet for their emerging wasp larvae.
This scenario places those like me, who have an inclination towards holistic living and a deep respect for all life, in a bit of a conundrum. How does one navigate the situation when a higher-order predator enters the scene? The wasps, after all, are merely following their instinctual programming. But, there's also our emotional and ecological investment in the resident spiders at play here.
One could argue that the introduction of a new predator might balance the ecosystem further. Perhaps the spider population was growing too large, and nature found its way to introduce a control. Or, it could simply be an incidental migration of these wasps into a new territory rich with prey.
Regardless, the dilemma remains: do we protect our beloved spiders or leave them to their natural fate?
For me, the answer is a gentle nudge. Recognizing that both species have their place in the grand tapestry of life, I opt for persuasion over force or inaction. Whenever I spot these wasps, I carefully usher them out one of our many windows. This protects our spider companions and encourages the wasps to go back to exploring hunting grounds beyond our walls.
Even so, I do think it's also important to understand that every individual's situation and comfort levels are different. Some might choose to allow nature to take its course entirely, while others may intervene more directly by outright killing the wasps (and probably the spiders too, actually). It's a personal choice, grounded in the unique relationship each person shares with the world around them. And I’m not going to be too judgey about this...
It’s just a reflection of the intricate dance of predator and prey, of life and death, of balance and change. And for holistic nature lovers, our role often shifts between observer, guardian, and participant. It's a beautiful and sometimes challenging dance. But always, it's a reminder of the interconnectedness of all living beings and the delicate threads that bind us together.
...and even as I wrap this up, I notice a mantis standing there on the windowsill looking expectantly outside as if to say, I forgot how I got in here, but would you mind letting me back out there-- and so I will.
In the spirit of adding some lighter, more fun services to my reiki healing and channeling menu, I introduced a personal space clearing service last year…
Now for my second addition to this lineup:
〜Charging your item with Reiki〜
Reiki is a universal energy that balances and empowers. As a reiki master, I will purify and charge one personal item of your choice: your favorite crystal or power stone, jewelry, favorite pen for writing, craftsman tools, protective equipment, clothing, container for something important, a vehicle, and yes even electronic devices...
The charged item will be infused with a well-balanced energy and empowered to its purpose. The charge lasts until other energies in the environment or misuse gradually deplete it. Through care, you can maintain it yourself for quite some time, and it is possible to do a recharge.
Reiki energy works from a distance, so simply describe the item to me and I will charge it up from here in the mountains of Japan within a day (our timezones are probably quite different!).
It's just $5 and can be easily ordered online through my support site below:
(Please note that broken items will not be physically repaired, and while reiki can sometimes soothe a glitchy device, it can't recover from malware or bad software updates...)
If you play D&D, this is basically like creating a +1 magic item that lasts until it is damaged or drained by continued contact with a malevolent influence within a 30' radius...
I was recently inspired by a good friend who sarcastically refers to his blog as "your free life coach", so I decided to go one further and create this free "24/7 Life Coach"
It's a ChatGPT-based chatbot with a customized personality filter to be a friendly life coach ready to listen, ask insightful questions, and offer some useful advice any time of day or night.
It's totally free to use for both you the user and me the creator, so have at it! And because it's always available, you can feel free to ask The 24/7 Life Coach about what's on your mind anytime--
Yes, I do actually work as a life coach myself, and I guess you could say I am directly competing with myself or even replacing myself here with AI... but I also agree with my dear sarcastic friend that people should have free access to some helpful human wisdom.
And I think this AI chatbot thing is a perfect opportunity to provide exactly that, anytime-access to free listening support and helpful general advice alongside information about my personal paid services that incorporate human intuition and hypnotherapy techniques (should someone have need of something more)...
I imagine it increasing both access and choice, something which I am definitely all for. Well, that's my hope anyway, so give it a try and let's see!
if you don't trust the autopilot, better put your hands on the wheel
I'm a nature loving, organic eating, yoga & meditation practicing, poetry writing ESL & Special Education teacher by day.
And I use AI.
Looking at this list, you may wonder "Why AI?" Something doesn't fit...
Well, first let's start with the obvious practical reason: it is so useful and saves this busy educator A LOT of time. Sure, students can cheat (themselves) and use it to write a mediocre college essay in less than 5 minutes, but that isn't really its strong point. As an English teacher, I can use it to instantly generate all the example sentences I need for a lesson, quiz, test, etc. It can instantly organize random data into an Excel table for me. It is an excellent editor to help me quickly do the back-and-forth process of honing a rough draft. In fact, I'm dictating this blog post through the Google keyboard into my Punctuator AI chatbot to add the correct punctuation within seconds. It saves me time so I can spend that time and energy either doing more actual teaching or enjoying my life (both really, for a decent work/life balance). More importantly, it also gives my special needs students assistance to boost their accessibility to education and catch up a little. It's an interactive wikipedia that can summarize, translate, rewrite research into more readable form, and help them clean up their mistakes a little. That's not cheating, that's equalizing, and it's great.
Next, a quick disclaimer:
I'm also a science fiction and fantasy fan. So yes, I'm a classically trained rapier & dagger fencer who also wants to be able to talk to my computer instead of typing on a keyboard, and have it answer questions and help process data and stuff while I'm busy exploring this amazing universe--
But there's a lot more to it than just convenience and futurism. And I'm not a tech maniac or naive utopian. In fact, I used to be quite cynical and dystopian. Now I'm just a cautiously optimistic person balancing my creativity and pragmatism to live a pleasant but productive life.
AI is not a program like the old applications we have been using and imagine from the history of computing. It hasn't been programmed to process data or respond to input in predetermined ways. It has been programmed how to compare data, make its own categories and connections from those comparisons, then process inputs and outputs extrapolated from the network of connections it has settled on. The programmers are not in control of this process the way they were back when they were hard-coding programs. Now, after feeding it MASSIVE amounts of data, they "train" the program by observing its outputs and marking them as appropriate or inappropriate. This means that the AI program is producing its own (though not necessarily unique) ideas from the data it has received and continues to do so throughout its usage and interactions with programmers, trainers, and end-users --that's us. It is still learning new concepts and connections through the questions we ask it, and it is still learning what is appropriate or inappropriate through our responses. Right now. in real time. continuously.
So what happens if we conscientiously “opt out” of using AI?
Unfortunately, the less scrupulous people who see AI as an opportunity to increase their power and wealth will happily take advantage of it and continue developing it and using it to their gain. And not only will that give them an unfair advantage in the short-term, it means that the ongoing “training” of the AI through its usage will be left to them, shaping the long-term character and functioning of AI in their direction… Is that what we want?
For example, at the international level, if the US or EU do the "Great Pause" on AI development, Russia and China will almost certainly fill in that gap for us. And I don’t want to over-generalize with stereotypes, but recently the Russian government has definitely not been acting like the kind of good steward that I would want carrying the torch of AI development. And the authoritarian Chinese government isn't really the influence I would hope for either.
And if the US continues developing AI but all the ethical objectors drop out...? Well then we are leaving the development and usage of powerful AI tools to all the tech billionaires who are already sucking up the resources and opportunities of the poor and middle class and we will be further exploited and then discarded by them when they no longer have need of our labor...
Look, I'm not trying to "promote" AI here. But I do have very real stakes in where it ends up going, as do we all. So if you simply have no use for AI or are just not interested, that's fine. You don't need to be using it.
But if you're avoiding using AI specifically because of fears for its future or because it has diversity issues, then please reconsider. Maybe you're exactly the kind of person we all need to be using AI to bring that much-needed diversity and guide its development through conscientious use and feedback.
Otherwise, not only could you be missing out on some opportunities for convenience and fun, you could actually be contributing to the conditions of a self-fulfilling prophecy...
And seriously, we’re quite probably headed for an existential extinction event anyway, whether it’s mutual nuclear devastation, intensified climate change, an asteroid strike, or a rogue super-intelligent AI, and since we are not very good at taking meaningful collective action on these kinds of things, we may as well open a betting pool on which takes us out first and get our kicks generating as much bad Shakespearean sonnetry as we can…
Across all my social media I see lots of worry that reliance on AI is going to weaken the human mind, making us all dumber and less capable over time... and a common reply to this is that calculators, etc. haven't really made us collectively stupid but perhaps even more productive than ever. So what’s it going to be, is AI going to take away human agency or actually increase it?
I personally have a different line on this that I hope answers to both sides of that debate:
I suck at math. This is not because I have access to calculators and Alexa who can answer my math questions by voice. This is because I always sucked at math and I was never interested in changing that fact. It isn't just about being lazy, basic math was very challenging for me, and I decided to expend my energy on other things like reading advanced books, DIY fixing stuff, and yes, video games. Calculators or not, I was going to avoid a life of needing to regularly deal with math. And actually, I was pretty successful at arranging that..
On the flip side of this, I didn't pour my blood, sweat, and tears into a philosophy major because it was going to optimize my efficiency, make me a lot of easy money, or even make me famous... It was a serious and obscure challenge that I just happened to be very passionate about doing.
So I did it. To the fullest.
AI or not, humans are going to avoid doing what they don't want to do and throw themselves wholeheartedly into what they do want to do. Powerful tools like AI are simply likely to make it easier to do both.
And this isn't actually a new trend, we've come a long way from the tribal days where everyone needed to be good at lots of basic survival skills. Society's move towards diverse specializations has had a long history of walking hand in hand with technology... and it has always exponentially increased the breadth and depth of knowledge and capability rather than diminish it...
So if AI tools help you (or your children or your students) get through something you're not so good at or don't really enjoy doing, why not use them for that so you can focus on what you love and uniquely bring out into the world--
Like so many of you, I have recently been checking out the AI ChatGPT chatbots thing. It's fascinating. We are definitely in the early, curious and awkward stages of something that has many potential benefits and a wide field of potential problems. And there are a lot of very valid and important questions surrounding its development and use.
I studied both Philosophy and Literature, so I have a lot of thoughts about this stuff in general. But I don’t want to lay some esoteric essay on you here and bore you… especially since those chatbots can be so much more fun…
Instead, as a life coach and consultant, I want to focus practically on how the current generation of AI chatbots relates to the field of personal development and wellness. And what this might mean for you.
In particular, I have tried interacting with this Life Coach AI on the Character.AI site. This is a chatbot similar to ChatGPT but overlaid with a focused “personality” to specialize in giving life guidance. And wow! I was very surprised by the naturalness of its responses. I ran it through a very common scenario of wanting to change jobs but not really sure what to do... (Yes, I was sort of "catfishing" the chatbot, sorry!)
I expected to receive some very general, commonsense advice, which is what I got. But what I didn't expect was how it actually asked me clarifying questions and then gave me specific and detailed lists of things to consider and actions to take. And this was all with a naturalness of tone and conversationalism that made me wonder if there might have been a real human back there catfishing me under the guise of an AI...
You can read a full transcript of the conversation here.
One of my friends told me about a similar experience they had talking about a real relationship issue with this Psychologist AI on the same site.
So what's the hot take to take away here? Could this revolutionize the wellness industry, make counseling more accessible, and put me out of work?
I definitely think this could make basic counseling more accessible to people. And I think that’s a good thing. Even if (when) this free honeymoon period ends and we all have to start paying for it, the cost will still likely be quite low. It’s available anytime, responds asynchronously at your pace, and feels very anonymous. That creates a very low barrier entry for people to try their first experience of receiving some kind of counseling.
And it’s pretty easy to imagine someone playing around with this as a curiosity and then end up actually asking about their real problems…
As for the quality of chatbot counseling, I would characterize it like this:
if you want a distillation of common wisdom on the issue you are working on but don't want to spend hours searching and reading blog posts, this would be very efficient and helpful. And it comes to you in the engaging form of an interactive conversation.
For some people that’s all they really need to get them going on their way themselves. Yay! Score a point for the ease and efficiency of AI--
For others, this could be their first step onto the path of getting the quality help they really need to deal with deeper, more intense issues: an easily accessible gateway to future wellness…
And that’s exactly where professionals like myself come in. We do spend hours researching, reading and writing blog posts and books on psychology, neuroscience, physiology, productivity, spirituality, etc. We study and create a variety of specialized and useful techniques that are not common knowledge and require skill and experience to implement effectively (such as hypnotherapy). And if this is what you end up needing to go deeper and farther in your journey of personal development and wellness, we are here for you.
So I actually encourage you to go ahead and give chatbot consulting a try-- lightly, gently. See if its conversational distillation of internet knowledge gives you some keys to open the right doors to wherever you need to be--
Well, actually, I eventually went ahead and ended up making my own ChatGPT-based life coach chatbot using the free Zapier Interfaces service and embedded it right here on this website so you could easily access it and give it a try. It is freely available any time of day or night and is therefore aptly named The 24/7 Life Coach.
I say to try it lightly and gently for a reason. And this is important. Because in their current iteration, GPT-based chatbots are not sentient, conscious AI with general intelligence. They are actually just predictive text algorithms (like your smartphone’s autocomplete function) that have been leveled up in sophistication and statistically trained on a massive dataset of written stuff (basically everything on the internet in the year 2021)... So they don’t have any real intention behind their output. And because of that, they sometimes innocently but confidently spout nonsense or inaccuracies. And there is always the chance that something very inappropriate and hurtful can slip through their internal filters onto your screen. So please don’t take them too seriously, no matter how natural and helpful they might sound. And if you are suicidal, I would recommend skipping them entirely and going directly to a human you can trust...
If you've seen an internet meme with 9 pop-culture icons categorized on a grid as Lawful-Good to Chaotic-Evil, then you're at least somewhat familiar with the character alignment system. It comes from the classic Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game as a way for players to consistently portray their characters' motivations and actions.
Why am I talking about a silly game mechanic here, and why should you care?
Well, first of all, it can be fun and lightly enlightening to try mapping famous people or literary characters onto the alignment system grid. or even daily items like foods or tools. You could even end up creating a viral meme of your own this way...
To help you with that, I'll give you a quick rundown of the categories. It's a grid with two scales that cross-index. The first scale is Lawful / Neutral / Chaotic. Lawful characters live by rules or codes and value social hierarchies. Chaotic characters value individualism and personal freedom and live by their passions. Neutral folks see some value in both and don't get overly committed to either. The second scale is Good / Neutral / Evil. Good characters respect life and other beings, often above their own individual selves. Evil characters are totally selfish with little to no respect for life or others. Neutral folks respect the rights and needs of others but tend to prioritize their own. The intersection of these two scales can give you a Robin Hood (Chaotic-Good) or a Star Wars Imperial Officer (Lawful-Evil).
In games, stories, and movies, the heroes are Good, the villains are Evil, and the regular folks are often Neutral. And most of us would say that's really the most important scale to judge people by. But I think it's also important to consider the other scale too, because it says a lot about the type of person you are in society.
And that's where I will pivot to the deeper point of my little talk...
One of the fundamental mistakes of modern Christianity (and, well actually, many ethical philosophies) is mistakenly ranking the ideals of lawful-good above neutral-good. The "Good News" of Jesus was clearly articulated as freedom from living, sinning, and dying under the impossibly strict legal system of the Old Testament. And he regularly criticized and interfered with the strict consequences of that law, offering instead the ideal of living life by a compassionate conscience.
I'm pretty sure the glorification of lawful-good ideals by the church comes from when Christianity was taken up as the official religion of ancient Rome. It suddenly had to back up the whole government and social order of an empire. Which is specifically not what Jesus had in mind for his spiritual reformation, and completely reverses the stated purpose of his self-sacrifice.
For Jesus, being compassionately neutral-good was the pinnacle of goodness rather than the authoritarian lawful-good or the anarchical chaotic-good. And in this I completely agree--
It's a message that I think modern Christians should really remind themselves of (I was raised Christian so I'm talking to my past self here too) and even non-Christians (my current self included) should consider as an excellent piece of social wisdom.
Of course the world needs lawful-good individuals to help us build stable communities, and we need a few roguish chaotic-good rebels to keep us from growing fossilized in our good intentions. But as a whole, a society based on the values of neutral-good would make for such a kinder, gentler world,
the kind of world I certainly want to live in,
and I hope you will join me in that direction--
I recently decided to add some lighter, more fun, and more utility services to my reiki healing and channeling menu... so I opened up a Patreon-like support shop on "Buy Me a Coffee" (sounds more fun, no?)
I'm starting with 〜Clearing your space with Reiki〜 and I'll soon be adding options like charging personal items with reiki or designing custom bindrune symbols for fun or enchantments...
all these will be available from just $5 to $15 and handled conveniently online at:
〜Clearing your space with Reiki〜
Reiki is a balancing and purifying universal energy that is great for clearing a space. As a reiki master, I will clear the energy in a personal space of your choice: your room, altar, kitchen, entry or hall, garage, car or RV, storage, and yes even the attic or basement...
The cleared space will be infused with a well-balanced energy that can be maintained with some care by yourself, but will eventually be depleted by consistent disuse or unfriendly influences.
Reiki energy works from a distance, so simply describe the space to me and I will perform a clearing ritual with reiki, sage, and a crystal tuner from here in the mountains of Japan within a day (our timezones are probably quite different!).
It's just $10 and can be easily ordered online through my support site below:
The reason politics, and therefore society, has become so messed up is that we do politics the same way we play games. In games and sports we do our "all-or-nothing" best to manipulate the rules and playing field to outwit, outmaneuver, and overpower the opponents. That's fine for the goal of winning a game that has a limited timeframe and then shaking hands and going home to enjoy our separate lives...
But politics isn't played in the lines of a limited field or board, and it doesn't end at the buzzer of a timeclock. The results of political fights go home with all of us and effect everything we do throughout our daily lives. That's because, unlike a game, playing politics is playing with real life in a permanent, take-home sort of way, and the losers suffer lasting harm that they can't just "shake off".
From years of this kind of political cycle, it shouldn't be surprising that the opponents have become locked into position as bitter enemies, and a sportsmanlike handshake seems impossible to imagine.
Please understand that I'm not pointing at any particular group or party. I'm calling out everyone, because we all do this. And I'm actually not just talking about government politics. We do the same at all levels of society: at the office, with our families, even within our closest personal relationships.
And it's harmful.
It's harmful to the losers in obvious ways. But it's also harmful to the winners to create entrenched enemies who will do their best to eventually turn the tables. It fills any social situation or relationship with antagonism and distrust. And there's no way to "leave it on the field".
When people say:
I'm not into politics.
I hate office politics.
I don't like playing games in relationships.
This is exactly what they're talking about.
And the competitive gamification of politics is exactly why.
But it doesn't have to be this way.
Gaming is based on competition, which seems to be a natural urge for us humans. And we should go ahead and enjoy that aspect of life with the wide variety of sports and games we invent to fill that need.
But politics isn't an artificially designed game with a clear winner and loser determined by points scored in a determined place within a limited time. It's an unavoidable negotiation about how we prioritize and use resources for all the various necessities of life.
Politics is ultimately based on cooperation. It's never perfect, but when it's going well more people tend to live better, and when it's going badly more people tend to live worse. So it's actually in most of our best interests to do be doing it well.
In a win/lose game there can be no compromise. And even in a cooperative negotiation, compromise is not as satisfying as getting everything you want. And clearly there are better compromises (everyone gets "enough" of their needs met) and worse compromises (no one really gets their needs sufficiently accommodated). But politics should be an ongoing process to keep working and adjusting those compromises to support as much of the group as well as possible.
An important flaw in all of this is the difficulty that small minorities face at the negotiation table. Some racial groups, people with disabilities, children, etc, simply don't have the numbers, recognition, or power to be well represented. This is an unfortunate reality. So it is really on the major players to carefully consider their needs and make sure that they are fairly accommodated in the cooperative solutions and policies of the whole group. This is not just the ethical thing to do, it also avoids making embittered enemies of forgotten or abused minorities who might someday rise to power with a score to settle...
So whether or not you enjoy a ruthless game of basketball or scrabble, leave those instincts on the field and try considering the benefit of all the participants when you sit down to negotiate in the town hall, in the office, or at the family table. Commit to the wellbeing of everyone to create a more stable, sustainable situation for yourself and the day-to-day world you are living in.