Why Develop a Flexible Mind

The root cause of frustration, irritation, anger, sadness is an inflexible mind — one that wants to hold onto the way we wish things were, the ideas we’re comfortable with. When things don’t go this way, we are then frustrated, angry, sad.

So developing a flexible mind is a way to be open to anything, happy with change, prepared for any situation. Think about it: if there’s a major disruption in your life, it’s only a bad thing because you’re holding onto the way you wish things could be, what you’re comfortable with. If you let go of that wish, the change isn’t bad. It’s just different, and in fact it could be good if you embrace it and see the opportunity.

It’s about developing the ability to cope with change, to be flexible, to simplify.


Flexibility is the capacity to bend without breaking, as well as a continual willingness to change or be changed in order to accommodate new circumstances. People with flexible minds are open to shifting their course when necessary or useful; they are not overly attached to things going the way they had planned. This enables them to take advantage of opportunities that a more rigid person would miss out on. It can also make life a lot more fun. When we are flexible, we allow for situations we could not have planned, and so the world continues to surprise and delight us.


The psychology of crowd dynamics

Le Bon’s book on the crowd was first published in 1895. Moscovici (1981) has argued that it has not simply served as an explanation of crowd phenomena but has served to create the mass politics of the twentieth century. Certainly, Le Bon influenced a plethora of dictators and demagogues, most notoriously, Goebbels, Hitler and Mussolini. This influence was not in spite of but rather an expression of Le Bon’s intentions. He repeatedly urged contemporary establishment figures to employ his principles in order to use the power of crowd for, rather than against, the state. His perspective matched the concerns of the age in their entirety: fear and fascination in equal measure; denigration of the collective intellect, harnessing of collective energy. Both are equally represented in the core concept of submergence which, for Le Bon, marked the transition from individual psychology to crowd psychology. Simply by being part of the crowd,

individuals lose all sense of self and all sense of responsibility. Yet, at the same time, they gain a sentiment of invincible power due to their numbers.

Once individual identity, and the capability to control behaviour disappears, crowd members become subject to contagion. That is, they are unable to resist any passing idea or, more particularly and because the intellect is all but obliterated, any passing emotion. This may even lead crowd members to sacrifice their personal interests – a further sign of irrationality. Contagion, however, is but an effect of suggestibility. That is, the ideas and emotions which sweep unhindered through the crowd derive primarily from the ‘racial unconscious’ – an atavistic substrate which underlies our conscious personality and which is revealed when the conscious personality is swept way. Hence the primitivism of that unconscious is reflected in the character of crowd behaviour. Crowd members, Le Bon asserts, have descended several rungs on the ladder of civilization. They are barbarians. But even here, where he seems at his most negative, the two-sidedness of Le Bon’s perspective still comes through. For, as he then clarifies, this barbarian: “possesses the spontaneity, the violence the ferocity and also the enthusiasm of primitive beings” (p. 32). The majority of his crowd text is, in fact, essentially a primer on how to take advantage of the crowd mentality, how to manipulate crowds and how to recruit their enthusiasms to ones own ends. In brief, Le Bon exhorts the would be demagogue to direct the primitive mass by simplifying ideas, substituting affirmation and exaggeration for proof, and by repeating points over and again. It is important to acknowledge this stress on the power and the potential of crowds as a strength in Le Bon’s work which has often been overlooked – and this is an issue that will recur several times in this chapter. Nonetheless there are fundamental criticisms that can be made of his ideas on three different levels.

On a descriptive level, Le Bon’s work is thoroughly decontextualised. The crowd is lifted both from the distal and the proximal settings in which it arises and acts. If Le Bon’s concern was with the working class crowds of late nineteenth century France, no sense is given of the grievances and social conflicts which led angry demonstrators to assemble. Perhaps more strikingly still, Le Bon writes of crowd events as if crowds were acting in isolation, as if the police or army or company guards who they confronted were absent, and as if the violent actions directed from one party to another were the random gyrations of the crowd alone. Such decontextualisation leads to reification, to generalisation and to pathologisation. Behaviours that relate to context are seen as inherent attributes of the crowd, they are therefore assumed to arise everywhere irrespective of setting and, by obscuring the social bases of behaviour, crowd action is rendered mindless and meaningless.

On a theoretical level, this divorce between crowds and social context is mirrored and underpinned by a desocialised conception of identity. That is, the self is conceptualised as a unique and sovereign construct which is the sole basis of controlled and rational action. Social context plays no part in determining the content of identity but merely serves to moderate its operation. Specifically, crowd contexts serve as the ‘off switch’ for identity. Thus Le Bon’s crowd psychology breaks the link both between society and the self and also between the self and behaviour. The former rupture means that no action, including crowd action, can either shape or be shaped by society. The latter rupture means that crowd action can have no shape at all, either social or otherwise. If the self is sole basis of control, then loss of self in the crowd means loss of control and emergent psychopathology.


“Ear tones” – intermittent short lived tones, occurring in either ear, which many people seem to experience. Often times they are preluded by a pronounced muting effect, where the sound in the room seems to abruptly shut out as the tone then fades in. So it’s a tone that fades in, goes on for a bit, then fades back out. But it’s not to be confused with tinnitus, the chronic condition of damaged eardrums where one’s ear(s) constantly ring or hum, (as I understand it).

Yes the approach is mostly scientific but also shamanic in a sense, the experience can be a form of meditative trance.

Maryanne Amacher’s sound pieces for example. A particularly good example is “Music for Sound Joined Rooms”1980.

Ear tones are not  like those a boxer hears at the stage of KO but probably not too dissimilar either. Thankfully I have never had the displeasure of being knocked out cold.

In the spirit of buddhist teaching I would suggest that the experience of ear tones is one of an altered perception. Holding an ear tone is as much of an achievement as a moment of flow. 

The goal can never be focused on too desperately or it can not be reached, there must be a balance of focus and distraction. A kind of coaxing oneself into and beyond a meditative state.

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SUBJECT : Creative Expression

In relation to my preferred  method : digital manipulation of images.

It occurred to me while thinking about the creative process, that the process of flow is, while extremely enjoyable, largely illusory. Although I do not in general have an issue with illusions, hell, I would not get through the day without them! In the context of creativity however I wonder about the possibility of a link much closer to the physiological than psychological states of ourselves. Keeping in mind that all processes are of course linked, my pondering of Digital f’ART came about as a way of expressing a kind of physiological necessity to create – to expel so to speak – as though the utterance of creative gesture is an involuntary jerk which finds origin in, yes the cognizance of our state/being/surrounding but  is much less a map of our minds than our bodies?

The expression is thus a far more base and brutish one and fittingly termed digital f’ART

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Confirming inflation would mean that the universe we see, extending 14 billion light-years in space with its hundreds of billions of galaxies, is only an infinitesimal patch in a larger cosmos whose extent, architecture and fate are unknowable. Moreover, beyond our own universe there might be an endless number of other universes bubbling into frothy eternity, like a pot of pasta water boiling over.

‘As Big as It Gets’

In our own universe, it would serve as a window into the forces operating at energies forever beyond the reach of particle accelerators on Earth and yield new insights into gravity itself. Dr. Kovac’s ripples would be the first direct observation of gravitational waves, which, according to Einstein’s theory of general relativity, should ruffle space-time.

Marc Kamionkowski of Johns Hopkins University, an early-universe expert who was not part of the team, said, “This is huge, as big as it gets.”

He continued, “This is a signal from the very earliest universe, sending a telegram encoded in gravitational waves.”

The ripples manifested themselves as faint spiral patterns in a bath of microwave radiation that permeates space and preserves a picture of the universe when it was 380,000 years old and as hot as the surface of the sun.

Dr. Kovac and his collaborators, working in an experiment known as Bicep, for Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization, reported their results in a scientific briefing at the Center for Astrophysics here on Monday and in a set of papers submitted to The Astrophysical Journal.

Dr. Kovac said the chance that the results were a fluke was only one in 10 million.

Dr. Guth, now 67, pronounced himself “bowled over,” saying he had not expected such a definite confirmation in his lifetime.

“With nature, you have to be lucky,” he said. “Apparently we have been lucky.”

The results are the closely guarded distillation of three years’ worth of observations and analysis. Eschewing email for fear of a leak, Dr. Kovac personally delivered drafts of his work to a select few, meeting with Dr. Guth, who is now a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (as is his son, Larry, who was sleeping that night in 1979), in his office last week.

“It was a very special moment, and one we took very seriously as scientists,” said Dr. Kovac, who chose his words as carefully as he tended his radio telescopes.

Andrei Linde of Stanford, a prolific theorist who first described the most popular variant of inflation, known as chaotic inflation, in 1983, was about to go on vacation in the Caribbean last week when Chao-Lin Kuo, a Stanford colleague and a member of Dr. Kovac’s team, knocked on his door with a bottle of Champagne to tell him the news.


CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — One night late in 1979, an itinerant young physicist named Alan Guth, with a new son and a year’s appointment at Stanford, stayed up late with his notebook and equations, venturing far beyond the world of known physics.

He was trying to understand why there was no trace of some exotic particles that should have been created in the Big Bang. Instead he discovered what might have made the universe bang to begin with. A potential hitch in the presumed course of cosmic evolution could have infused space itself with a special energy that exerted a repulsive force, causing the universe to swell faster than the speed of light for a prodigiously violent instant.

If true, the rapid engorgement would solve paradoxes like why the heavens look uniform from pole to pole and not like a jagged, warped mess. The enormous ballooning would iron out all the wrinkles and irregularities. Those particles were not missing, but would be diluted beyond detection, like spit in the ocean.

“SPECTACULAR REALIZATION,” Dr. Guth wrote across the top of the page and drew a double box around it.

On Monday, Dr. Guth’s starship came in. Radio astronomers reported that they had seen the beginning of the Big Bang, and that his hypothesis, known undramatically as inflation, looked right.

Reaching back across 13.8 billion years to the first sliver of cosmic timewith telescopes at the South Pole, a team of astronomers led by John M. Kovac of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics detected ripples in the fabric of space-time — so-called gravitational waves — the signature of a universe being wrenched violently apart when it was roughly a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second old. They are the long-sought smoking-gun evidence of inflation, proof, Dr. Kovac and his colleagues say, that Dr. Guth was correct.

Inflation has been the workhorse of cosmology for 35 years, though many, including Dr. Guth, wondered whether it could ever be proved.

If corroborated, Dr. Kovac’s work will stand as a landmark in science comparable to the recent discovery of dark energy pushing the universe apart, or of the Big Bang itself. It would open vast realms of time and space and energy to science and speculation.

THE UNIVERSE  is just under 14 billion years old. From our position in the Milky Way galaxy, we can observe a sphere that is now about 92 billion light-years across. But there’s a mystery. Wherever we look, the universe has an even temperature.

NOT ENOUGH TIME  The universe is not old enough for light to have traveled the vast distance from one side of the universe to the other, and there has not been enough time for scattered patches of hot and cold to mix into an even temperature.

DISTANT COFFEE  At a smaller scale, imagine using a telescope to look a mile in one direction. You see a coffee cup, and from the amount of steam, you can estimate its temperature and how much it has cooled.

COFFEE EVERYWHERE  Now turn around and look a mile in the other direction. You see a similar coffee cup, at exactly the same temperature. Coincidence? Maybe. But if you see a similar cup in every direction, you might want to look for another explanation.

STILL NOT ENOUGH TIME  There has not been enough time to carry coffee cups from place to place before they get cold. But if all the coffee cups were somehow filled from a single coffee pot, all at the same time, that might explain their even temperature.

INFLATION  solves this problem. The theory proposes that, less than a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang, the universe expanded faster than the speed of light. Tiny ripples in the violently expanding energy field eventually grew into the large-scale structures of the universe.

FLUCTUATION  Astronomers have now detected evidence of these ancient fluctuations in swirls of polarized light in the cosmic background radiation, which is energy left over from the early universe. These are gravitational waves predicted by Einstein.

EXPANSION  Returning to our coffee, imagine a single, central pot expanding faster than light and cooling to an even temperature as it expands. That is something like inflation. And the structure of the universe mirrors the froth and foam of the original pot.


Jill Davies, Research Programme Manager at the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities: 

“Over the past few weeks, a comedian has sparked outrage following his use of a word that is detrimental to those with Down’s Syndrome. Terms that refer to disability or mental illness are commonly misused and misinterpreted in society. Whereas someone might argue that calling a socially awkward colleague at work “autistic” is meant as a joke, the misuse of such words can confuse conditions that are widely misunderstood and stigmatised. We are glad that society has moved on from a fear of mentioning clinical diagnoses at all, but if a word referring to a disability or mental health condition is applied to mean something unpleasant, or abusive, then it further promotes the stigma and discrimination that many people are unacceptably subjected to in their everyday lives.

But the problem doesn’t stop there; verbal abuse is also at the root of all disability and mental health related hate crime. Mencap reported that 90% of people with a learning disability have experienced harassment and bullying, with 32% saying that this bullying was taking place on a daily or weekly basis. Furthermore, Mind reported that 71% of those with mental health issues had been a victim of crime in the past two years, with 41% experiencing on-going bullying.

In the Daily Mirror last week, Ann Mathews, a mother to her 20 year old son who has Down’s Syndrome, pleaded to all public figures to “please think about what you’re saying. You might think it’s harmless, you may think it’s funny. But I promise you, for those on the receiving end of your jokes, it is anything but.”

With this in mind, the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities has teamed up with Lemos & Crane for a three-year project called Voice and Community. The project will identify and explore people with learning disabilities’ experiences of harassment and evaluate how organisations and practitioners who provide services in the community can best work to support victims of harassment and respond to and prevent incidents. The aim is to develop practical resources to help practitioners support people who experience harassment, respond to incidents of abuse in collaboration with other agencies, and deliver community-based prevention strategies.

This idea of ‘community’ is fundamental to reducing incidents of hate crime, stigma and discrimination. Not only were disability groups and charities outraged at the comedian’s choice of language, but the public were too, and it is vital that we harness this society-wide support in our continuing work to stop the stigma, discrimination and hate crime that society’s most vulnerable people are subjected to every day as a result of their disability or mental illness.”

The real question however in mind min is how much of mental illness is preventable?

Rather than finding solutions for the symptoms we should investigate the origins and much like the link between spina bifidda and folic acid – accept the fact that our actions have consequences. Our genes hold secrets to the well being of our children. Conscious living means accepting our short comings yes but these must never hold others back. To widen the lens in this case will mean preventing human suffering rather than tending to it once it has set in.