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Fatigue, Machine Learning, and Mass Extinction

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I feel unwell today. And the body is creaky. Fatigue is challenging. It often defeats me. I really didn’t want to get out of bed this morning. It can be a mission sometimes. Cooking felt like a chore. Did manage to rustle up a meal in the end. It is always a relief when I get that out of the way. I don’t have to worry about cooking again or eating for the rest of the day. I try to eat before 3 p.m. and fast until the next morning.

I am studying machine learning at the moment. Did a recap on Python programming, got lost somewhere in arrays and tensors, and the many ways these can be accessed — before I had to stop and have a rest. I will try to manage it in small doses. Learning new stuff can be painful, especially when it comes to computers. 

There’s a lot of hype about A.I. in the news, but it isn’t what we think it is. We like to attribute human characteristics to it, but it is just a machine, an advanced autonotom. It gets fed lots and lots of training data, and if it makes mistakes, it adjusts itself according to some set parameters. It keeps doing this until it gets better at what it does and makes fewer mistakes. But it takes a long time to get there and a lot of training.

The scary thing is people are giving power to these machines to make important decisions. AI is very efficient at specialist tasks and can do them really fast, but only those specific tasks, and it still can make mistakes, it isn’t 100% right all the time. 

If an AI was to try and live a day as a human being or even as an earthworm. It would struggle and fail. It has no experience of what it is to be a human.

 I guess hype sells. It is the next Silicon Valley gold rush. 

While AI does have the potential to be a useful tool, to become dependent on it to run society would be a huge costly mistake and a disaster waiting to happen. Not because AI is evil and wants to take over the world, and not because it wants to destroy humanity, it has no concept of good or evil. It just obeys instructions and does what you ask it to because it is a mindless machine. 

It’s the way it solves problems that may be dangerous. The solution it comes up with may be unexpected and not what one intended. A.I. has no experience of being a human or what it feels like to have a body. So its solutions can be a bit quirky, and unlike anything a human would have thought up. 

It may also worsen social inequality due to inherent bias in the data it is trained on. As well as hallucinate and make mistakes. Not to mention the huge amount of electricity that is needed to run these machines, and the materials used to make them, how that is harming the environment. The truth of the matter is they are designed to make corporations wealthy, not really about making society or the planet better. 

AI is not what we imagine it is when we interact with it. It is not like us, it’s a bunch of algorithms and artificial neurons, and nowhere near as advanced as a human being.

Maybe one day it may get that advanced, who knows, but it is not there yet. 

There are computer chips now in development that use human lab-grown brain cells, called neuromorphic chips, which could have the potential to become sentient. They are being designed because they are more efficient at using electricity. But it is rather creepy, and I am surprised scientists were even allowed to do this. If these part biological machines do become sentient, it would be cruel, as the corporations that made them will claim ownership over them and of course, deny they are sentient. It raises all sorts of ethical quandaries.

Still, humans may not survive long enough to see really advanced AI, especially with the way modern consumerism is consuming the planet. Greed is insatiable, and all this industrial pollution is not just affecting the wildlife, it is affecting us too, our biology. We are part of the natural world, what kills ecosystems, also kills us.

 ...


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Asoka

Sickness Became my Teacher When I Changed my Perception About it

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Saturday, 30 Sep 2023, 22:24


They say the body is a temple. I contemplate this as I sit here in stillness, connecting with the aliveness within. This mysterious vibrating energy. This interdependent flow. It's a causal stream that's different from one moment to the next. Physics tells us that energy is neither created nor destroyed. It just changes form.

A crow 'caws' in a nearby tree. And some jackdaws 'chack' excitedly. A pigeon coos. And a neighbour drives past in their car. All these are different expressions of life.

The air feels cool and refreshing. Each breath an intimate connection to the air element and also to life. Without air, we soon die.

I am sick today. The body feels weak and fatigued. There's a fever, and a thorny bush in my chest and throat. And I notice that wishing for the illness to go away just makes things feel worse. It adds mental suffering on top of the physical.

---

"When touched with a feeling of pain, the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person sorrows, grieves, & laments, beats his breast, becomes distraught. And he feels two pains, physical & mental. Just as if someone were to shoot a man with an arrow, and right afterward, the man shoots himself with another one, so that he would feel the pains of two arrows; in the same way, when touched with a feeling of pain, the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person sorrows, grieves, & laments, beats his breast, becomes distraught. So he feels two pains, physical & mental." - SN 36.6

---

I can't do much about physical suffering, but the mental suffering I do have some degree of control over. I have the ability to change the way I talk to myself about the experience. Doing this can have a powerful effect on the mind. The stories I tell myself have the power to alter my perception. And perception is the bridge between the physical and the mental.

I can tell myself not to let this experience be a problem. There's not much I can do about it anyway, so what's the point in adding more suffering on top of it. I can just let these unpleasant feelings in the body be as they are and not take them personally. Choose not to feel any hostility towards them. I can choose to be compassionate towards myself instead and show kindness to the body. It is nothing personal. All living beings get sick. It is a dhamma that is largely outside my control.

---

When you can't do anything to change what is happening.
Challenge yourself to change your response to what's happening.
That's where your power is. '
- the Buddha

---

I can choose to let that which is sensed be only that which is sensed. Without labels, without the story. It just becomes sensations and feelings then. And I can go into a flow state just sitting here and watching them arise, persist for a time, and pass away. Like someone sitting serenely on a riverbank under a tree. Watching the contents of the mind flow by like a river. But not jumping in and getting involved with it, not getting swept away by the current.

Being sick is not my preference, but we're seldom given those in life. We have to work with the hand the universe has dealt us. And most of us get a pretty average hand. But still, we have to make choices. Life is the game that must be played.

Some people's gardens are rockier than others, but rock gardens can be beautiful.

We each have to do the best we can with what we've got.

And those who are given much have a great responsibility to use what they have been given wisely.

Be careful what you wish for.

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Asoka

Happy birthday

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Photo of sunlight coming through trees in ancient woodland.

Grief is lonely. 
World continues 
Time 
streams on
Waits for none.
But I can't face anything just now.
I sit alone.
Still
Quiet.
In deep transitions.

Your life taken so suddenly.
It affected many.
Abides within us still.

Such a beautiful moon tonight.

Take care 
Wherever you are 
May you be at ease
On a golden shore
Expansive 
Sorrowless
Your mind at peace
Luminous
and

Free.

...


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Asoka

Karma coma

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Woke up feeling a bit feverish. Meditating in the woods is not without its dangers it seems, I've had a few tick bites, so hope it isn't that what's made me ill. 

Just wasn't feeling like meditating today, mind was hard to still, so I didn't sit this morning, but I got some studying done. I've almost jumped through all the hoops for an assignment due next week. 

Read how BT are planning to axe 55 000 jobs here in the UK over the next ten years in order to replace the staff with A.I. And Vodafone have announced they're going to axe a tenth of their staff and replace them with A.I. over the next three years.

This technology in all honesty, I don't think we need it. It is just another way for a few people to become more wealthy. Or is it? You have to wonder about the intelligence of these corporate CEOs. If they're all for profit, they aint gonna make much if we're all too poor to afford their products and services.

 I imagine it will mostly be customer support they lay off. And customers will phone in to get help with problems they are having, and the A.I. will only help in the way it has been programmed to, which I imagine will be blanket responses that aren't very helpful at all, designed to lead customers into dead ends, unable to resolve their queries. It will leave many people feeling powerless. I wonder if all this rush towards A.I. will blowback up the government and corporation's arses one day.

People may get angry, there could be unrest, riots. Society will come for those in charge, and it will all get ugly in the end. Ultimately you have to feel sorry for them. Their greed and stinginess will come back to bite them on the backside, either in this life or in a future one. There's no escape from the law of karma. The universe will have its pound of flesh to balance the scales. A wise corporate CEO should take heed of this and renounce their greed and delusion. Practise generosity, kindness, and selflessness instead as that will lead to better outcomes for them. Karma is no joke, it is very real.

I am reading a free book at the moment, which helps take my mind off being sick. It is the biography of a famous meditation master from Thailand in the Forest sangha, called Ajahn Mun. It is reassuring to hear the honest accounts of the times he struggled, and accounts of how other meditation masters also had their moments of doubt and weakness. They all made mistakes, and failed at times, did things they regretted. But instead of letting that defeat them, they got back up on their feet and kept going, learnt from their mistakes. Using them as fuel to practise harder, grow wiser and stronger. It reminds me that meditation is something that one practises for the whole of one's life, right up to death, even the Buddha in his last moments meditated.

It is inspiring hearing how these meditation masters lived in the forests of Thailand. They were hardcore meditators. Sadly, Thailand is very different now, the forest is much less than it was, being cut down as the country modernises, it seems no part of the world is safe from the greed of this right-wing capitalism that is causing so much harm to the life on this planet. I am not sure there will be much future for forest monks with the way things are going in the world, there might be city monks still. But I think the future of Buddhism may well be down to householders (lay followers) at this time, to keep the dharma alive for future generations. Perhaps one day when this relentless crazy destruction of the environment stops, and governments, corporations and shareholders start to see sense, perhaps the forest will grow back then, and one day the monks will return.

I experienced a fair bit of pain in the body today. It is unpleasant. But I keep remembering it is nothing personal. Most, (if not all) beings on this planet get sick. I have not gone beyond that. I remind myself of this periodically, and it can help me feel mentally okay with it. Makes me feel more determined to practise, remembering how cruel sickness, ageing, death, and separation is (SODS law). This is what keeps me motivated to practise, the suffering, because it really hammers home how much I really don't want to come back to this world, and have to go through all this again. This is were the law of karma gives me hope. One can use the power of karma to put in the right causes and conditions now, so that one day their actions will bear fruit and eventually bring about the permanent end of suffering.

l am worrying about a cat called Rango at the moment who has a bad eye. It has got really swollen and infected and he is not looking well. I worry it is going septic and needs medicine. But he is a large stray cat and wild, I don't think I will be able to catch him and take him to the vet. He sometimes hangs out in the woods where I meditate and often comes to our garden where I give him some food. A beautiful large ginger cat, with a peaceful temperament. Not sure what to do. It is hard watching him decline and feeling powerless to help him. I am worried the infection will kill him if it isn't treated. I have grown quite fond of him. Another reminder of how cruel and brutal nature can be. This world really is a slaughter house. The challenge for a meditator is how to feel well amidst all the sorrow and suffering of this world. It can feel like a koan. It is hard to feel empathy without also feeling the other's pain and suffering.

 Been working with a low mood today. Very unpleasant at the moment. It seems the kleshas  (The various negative mental states that cloud the mind and lead to unwholesome thoughts, words, and actions. They can all be narrowed down to the three roots of greed, hate, and delusion.) The kleshas tend to come out in force when one is sick or tired. It might sound crazy, but something I picked up both in my own practise and from reading about Ajahn Mun is that the kleshas do fight back, they don't want you to purify the mind, they don't want to be uprooted, they want to keep you trapped in Samsara, and they will even go to the extreme of killing you if they can get away with it, to stop you purifying the mind. It is a serious business this purifying the mind and taking on the kleshas, one should be aware of this. But one can protect oneself by practising mindfulness, right effort, samhadi and also the brahma viharas (loving kindness, compassion, empathetic joy, equanimity), and not taking anything personally, it is all bound up in the conceit 'I am.'

I keep sweeping the negative thoughts aside like useless rubbish, dismissing them, refusing to get into a discussion with them. If I notice I am absorbed in negative thinking, I give myself permission to not have to engage with them or debate with them anymore, no matter how dark, or how much I feel I need to tie up any loose ends to tidy them up. No matter how ashamed I feel for thinking those thoughts. I drop them, ignore them, centre my attention away from them. There's nothing to be solved by continuing to pay attention to them or have a dialogue with them. It doesn't lead to any resolution. One does not think at their best when the mood is low, the thoughts will be coloured by whatever mood one is in. So when depressed, it is best not to think then. I try to watch the sensations and feelings in the body as they are, with acceptance and equanimity, as they manifest in the present moment. The aches, the creaky pains in the joints, the feeling of weakness and dullness. I let it be there, accept it without following it, fighting it or wishing for it to go away. Just noticing it all without the story, without the mental proliferations about it. Without feeling attached to the body and the sense of 'I', seeing it as all empty of self. This can help.

Just letting things be as they are. It is all just sensations at the end of the day. Outside my control. I can't tell the sensations to stop, it doesn't work. They're nothing personal. They arise, persist for a bit, then cease. I can choose not to judge them though, not to follow them, or identify with them. 

 I can get into a bit of a flow doing that, just watching sensations as they arise and cease without adding any more to them, without liking or disliking them. Ignoring the thought processes. Just watching the contents of the mind flow by like a river, but not jumping into it and getting involved with it, not holding on to any of it, not clinging to it or taking it personally, without the story. And this can help decrease the suffering somewhat.

I also practise kindness towards the body. I don't despise or mistreat it, that is wrong. It is the home of many different beings and consciousnesses, this organic walking bag of interdependence. It should still be taken care of and loved, but without clinging to it or identifying with it. It is not me, it is just a vehicle for consciousness, a vehicle that has the potential to set one free, so one should look after it as best they can, make good use of this opportunity I have now, as nibanna is reached through the body. It is the vehicle of a bodhissatva (seeker of enlightenment). We borrow the body for a time from mother nature, but one day we have to return it. It isn't ours to keep.

Death is quite normal, nothing to fear really, except the fear itself. All one needs to remember is, when one is dieing, one wants to be in a good state of mind. Peace, love, kindness, compassion, gladness, joy, serenity, mindfulness, meditation, samhadi, and equanimity, these are all good states of mind to be in when dieing. There are other beautiful emotional states too. The rule of thumb is, if you have a good state of mind in your final moments, you have a good chance of either realising nibanna at death (if you are a Buddhist) or at least getting a more fortunate rebirth in the next life.

Easier said than done though. That's why one practises now, begins training the mind while one can. If one puts it off for too long, and waits till one is old and infirm, one will struggle then, it will feel impossible to steady the mind. The body gets tired as it gets older, wears out, and one's energy to practise will diminish somewhat. If one hasn't trained the mind, a lifetime of unhelpful conditioning will thwart one, and the negative thoughts will be hard to resist in one's final moments. All the meditation we do now, is like a rehearsal, and death is the moment when we have to perform for real. But it will be difficult to perform well if one has not practised and rehearsed beforehand. The monkey mind will be all over the place and the Kleshas will make sure you remain in the realms of Mara. That is why it is a good idea to practise the spiritual life now, because it gets harder to do it when you're older.

We are apparently living in an auspicious aeon just now, one where there will be five Buddhas. This is rare according to the ancient texts. As there can be aeons where there are no Buddhas at all or there may be just one or two. To have an aeon with five Buddhas is quite unusual. Gotama Buddha (our current Buddha) was the fourth. And we are lucky to be around at a time when his teachings are still available. Because they will disappear in time and the true dharma will become lost eventually. The world of humans is prophesised to decline considerably in the period of time between Gotama and the next Buddha and then rise again to happier times. The next Buddha is said to arrive at the tail-end of that golden era, just as things are beginning to decline in the world once again, and it is said the next Buddha will live to reach the ripe old age of 84, 000 years old. Anyway, it is safe to bet it will be a very long wait till the next Buddha arises in the world. Could possibly be millions of years in the future.

So the way I look at it is, use this rare opportunity now to get as far along as you can in the dharma, while the current Buddha's teachings are still available and accessible in the world. All you need these days is an Internet connection and some critical thinking to help you navigate through the thicket of views online. I recommend learning the early Buddhist teachings first, the suttas of the Pali canon is a good start, a good foundation. Then after that explore the later developments in Buddhism if you wish to; but use the early teachings as a reference and guide, a touchstone to check you are not being led astray by the myriad views out there. It really is a jungle of views out there, and the early Buddhist teachings are in danger of becoming lost to future generations if we are not careful. They are gradually becoming more and more watered down and changed to suit a worldly material agenda. I keep coming across memes with a picture of the Buddha on, attributing a quote to the Buddha which he didn't say at all. So one has to be careful of misinformation and disinformation, even in Buddhism. 
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Asoka

Nothing personal

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Pummelled by negative thoughts.
Sickness often makes them worse.
Creaky joints and muscle aches.
A clumsy fatigue,
And the humidity bakes.
But it's nothing personal.

This body
Where did it come from?
It just grew by itself.
From a sperm and an egg.

I didn't make it.

Am I the body?
This bag of flesh.
Fated to age and one day die.
And when it becomes a corpse,
Is there still an 'I'?
What is it that animates it so?
When the body dies where do 'I' go?

I watch the myriad sense impressions.
Detached
Choosing not to
like or dislike,
but still feeling love.
Metta for the body (-:
May it be well.

These changing sensations.
Not who I am.
Nothing personal.

I brush the delusional thinking aside
The inner critic.
Just rubbish
Nonsense
I know that now.
I don't have to pay attention to it anymore.
Not self, not me, not I.
Just conditioned loops from the past.
Sankharas
They don't last,
They arise, persist for a time, and cease.

I don't have to listen to these negative thoughts.
They're not me
Not self.
So I just let them be,
While I centre with root energy.
The sensations in my feet
As I walk down the street.
Each step a beautiful connection with Mother Earth.
The ancient witness of every birth.

Where does perception come from?
Our memory and
Recollection.
Recognition and
Association.
An interpretation
Of the past.

The mind gives it all meaning
And falls for its own interpretations.
Believes them to be true.
Becoming our opinions.
And the stories we weave in our heads.

We conceptualise our perceptions
Elaborate on them
Identify with them
Make assumptions about them
Assign significance to them.
But their nothing personal.

And consciousness where does it come from?
Is it a product of the brain?
It contains everything.
Yet I don't know how it works
It keeps changing.
Sometimes it isn't even there
When I'm asleep and not aware.
Does it still exist when there's no sensations?
No perceptions?
No thoughts?
No memory?

Who is this 'I' anyway?
This person I cannot find.
Is it just a construct of the mind?

All of this
Where is it happening?
The world.
Life.
The universe.
The mind.
What is it?

Nothing personal.

...


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Asoka

Life as it is

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Feeling unwell again today, and that's alright, sickness is part of life. It isn't sickness or fatigue that's the problem. It's my aversion to it that's the problem. Let go of the aversion and one can make peace with anything.

The five wise reflections

' I am of the nature to become sick, I have not gone beyond ill health.

I am of the nature to age, I have not gone beyond growing old.

I am of the nature to die, I have not gone beyond death.

Everything I hold dear and everyone I love will become separated from me due to the nature of change.

I am the heir of my kamma, the owner of my kamma, born of my kamma, related to my kamma. Therefore I should try to remember whatever I do good or bad, becomes the kamma I inherit.' - [attributed to the Buddha]


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Asoka

The wise king

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Saturday, 26 Feb 2022, 19:19

COVID is absolutely horrendous. I have never had anything quite like this before. It is fecking horrible.

It certainly puts one to the test does sickness, it is quite tiring remembering to try and see the dhamma (four noble truths) in each moment and to disengage from the pain and not suffer, only to wish it would stop the next moment, then remembering dhamma again. I don’t know how advanced practioners do it, how they manage to not suffer when in pain, but I really respect and admire them. Sickness definitely humbles one.

Still I feel an odd peace, my life has not been wasted. I have grown spiritually and that’s all that matters in the end. The true wealth is within. I may be poor and considered a loser by the standards of the material world, but spiritually I feel like I have been very fortunate and the thought occured to me if I die now I don’t mind at all, I feel I can go with some peace and dignity and no regrets.

There’s a story in the suttas about a wise king who answered the Buddha skillfully when he asked him what he would do if armies where coming for him in all directions crushing everything in their path, and the king answered he would practise generosity.

I am not wealthy like the king, but generosity doesn’t have to be just about money. One can be generous in all sorts of ways. Even in poverty and lieing in bed sick one can still practise generosity by sending metta (loving-kindness) energy to others. And a mind imbued with loving-kindness is an excellent state of mind to be in when sick and also at the moment of death.

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Asoka

The five remembrances and the nature of change

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A bit under the weather today. Woke up with a touch of sickness this morning. Didn't feel comfortable lying in bed as had sweated a lot in the night. So I got up and had a bath. Then sat in meditation with a Zen group I sit with regularly. Felt quite unwell whilst I sat, and have an annoying cough which kept interrupting the flow of meditation and stopped me getting into a deep state of concentration. At first I wondered why on Earth I was sitting meditating with others on Zoom when I just wasn't feeling it. But I remembered a story about a monk who got sick with malaria, and he carried on sitting and meditating with the sangha every evening, and even though he felt like he was on death's door, and felt gravely ill, he kept meditating and it was hardwork, he struggled; but he also persevered and eventually managed to reach a flow state known as samhadi (A profound deep stillness, lucidity and unification of mind) and from then on his sickness turned around and he got better. I have heard other stories like this, so I think there is something to it. There's something powerful and healing about getting into a state of samhadi. I didn't manage to do that today, after 30 minutes I felt like I had had enough and left the sitting to lie down for a bit. 

But it was not a wasted effort, there was merit there. I think just sitting with the sickness and learning how to flow with it and be kind to myself was a helpful experience. I tried to remain aware and mindful throughout and learn what I could about the mind and how to be okay with ill health and pain; not reacting, accepting things as they are, letting them be, without the suffering. 

 I can't seem to generate the energy of metta (loving-kindness, goodwill, friendliness) today, feel a bit weak and fatigued, athough I will persevere with that as I have found doing metta practise for the bacteria/viruses causing sickness in my body has powerfully turned things around for me in the past. I can't seem to bring up that feeling just now though, so am spending a lot of time in equanimity. I may listen to a playlist of dharma talks on metta later, as using the voice of another can help to generate the feeling of metta when I am struggling to be able to.

Remembering the five wise reflections oddly brings me comfort, and seems to help the mind to accept the way things are. It reminds me that the first four reflections: ageing, sickness, death, and separation  are natural, and happen to all living beings. The last reflection reminds me to show kindness to myself and others, and develop a generous heart and try to give in whatever form I can, even if that is just silently practising metta for myself and others, it still helps. As these are actions that can bring one good karma. 

The Five wise reflections

I am of the nature to age; I have not gone beyond old age.
I am of the nature to get sick; I have not gone beyond ill health.
I am of the nature to die; I have not gone beyond dying.
Everything I hold dear and everyone that I love,
Will become separated from me due to the nature of change (of impermanence).

I am the owner of my karma, heir of my karma, 
Born of my karma, related to my karma.
My karma is the ground on which I stand.
Therefore should I frequently remember:
Whatever actions I do for good or for ill,
Become the karma I inherit.



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New blog post

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Sunday, 3 Oct 2021, 13:16


Feeling a bit under the weather today, think it is just a cold. Spent some time with a few drops of olbas oil in a bowl of boiling water and a towel over my head, breathing the vapours in for as long as I can stand it. Also drinking plenty of chamomile tea as that is good for the immune system, (at least I believe it is, always seems to help me recover quicker anyway).

I am lucky to have a robin that perches in the bush next to my window and sings his little heart out. The sound transports my mind into some otherworldly peace that is hard to put into words.

Seeing some interesting colours, shapes and patterns in the walls and floor, I wonder sometimes if there are many worlds that overlap in the same space,  this material one we inhabit being just one of many. Perhaps there are ways to tune our consciousness so we can visit the other realities - that would be fun.




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