Personal Journey

I always wondered how this world operates. Early on, the notion that people, phenomena, and circumstances arise and interact in a largely random manner bothered me. It seemed a debilitating view since it meant that any guiding principles one might find would apply only partially, and that our power to direct our own outcomes is very limited. I wanted to discover connecting linkages deeper than the apparent that could account for the interplay between things. This drove me, in large part, to become a physical scientist. Although the prevailing theories and models describing how inanimate energy and matter interact are extremely robust and useful, physics has little to do with human outcomes. So my list of things eventually grew beyond physical objects to include human behavior. Since it is what drives that behavior, consciousness (thoughts, cognition, intents, emotions, strategy & schemes, opinions, insight, biases, …) had to come-along. I did some reading on philosophy, meditation & spirituality, and later on behavioral finance.

I left the physical for the social sciences when I dropped turbulence research to go work in the financial markets. The theories constructed to explain social behavior have much weaker explanatory power than those devised for physical phenomena, and they are sometimes specious outright. The scientific method (verification through carefully-controlled experimental testing) usually is not even directly applicable to them. But the securities markets comprise a huge ecosystem of personal behavior that perpetually generates quantitative data for study, plus investment management afforded me a nicer standard of living.

Beyond my professional life, I sought to function more optimally and happily with better calm, focus, efficiency, and sounder sleep. After bumping my head with other approaches to achieve this, I succeeded over time with a regular practice of yoga and meditation. But no thought of dropping those practices occurred to me once I had reached those goals. After receiving much healing and growth from it, I continue to practice my sadhana because I became certain, from my own empirical experience, that it is bringing me into greater communion and oneness with my deeper essence which is characterized by peace and bliss. This is precisely what these practices were designed, tens of thousands of years ago, to do. They work.

A number of successful people (Ray Dalio, Jeff Gundlach, Bill Gross, Dan Loeb, Bob Shapiro, Marc Benioff, Jeff Warner, Sergey Brin, Jeff Weiner) know this for themselves. Adherents of meditation are growing, and more businesses and organizations are providing instruction so their employees and members can effectively practice it. The David Lynch foundation is making it available for free to troubled youth, which is wonderful. There is little that can make for a better, more harmonious, healthy, kind, and mutually-respectful future society than to train young people to meditate daily, and encourage them to continue meditating throughout their lives. It is areligious and does not conflict with any religion (as far as I know). It works to gradually clears obfuscating mental and emotional clutter. If you manage to clear it all, you then get to discover and realize the brilliance of who you quintessentially are beyond all that clutter. Most people, absorbed in their day-to-day life drama, would have scant interest in deeply pondering a question like: “who (or what) am I really ?” But it is a profound question that actually can only dismissed as unimportant by neglect. Discovering what you fundamentally are is much more than just a mere trivial indulgence in fancy.

With automation and AI on the rise, people will increasingly have to migrate away from physical labor towards more creative work. Creativity is not a teachable skill in the standard sense, and raw creative ability (in areas where no prior learning and experience has been acquired) is something that no programmer will ever be able to endow a machine with. It is something that ‘just comes’ from somewhere deep inside consciousness. There is no better training to fortify your access to it than meditation.

I have earned my living over the past two decades by examining and modeling organizational, market, economic, governmental, and investing behavior. Studying and modeling human behavior in various contexts such as markets & economics, commerce, politics, law, crime, and so-on is vital, but ultimately I believe the objective should be to refine, purify, and optimize the quality of the voluntary behavior itself, rather than to just observe and respond to it as it continues to go though its ever-repeating cycles of growth and progress followed inevitably by destruction. For us to finally leave these anti-productive patterns behind us and advance in a more genuinely fundamental way, the objective should be to refine our own nature.

Society tries to curtail harmful behavior by means of government passing and enforcing restrictive laws on it. But there are inherent problems with such punitive bumper guards. For one, they only provide a disincentive against the negative behavioral tendencies, rather than working to actually eliminate them. Also, governmental bodies consist of relatively small groups of people whose minds are just as contaminated by the same types of negative tendencies as anyone’s. In fact, the power these people wield tends to have a corrupting effect which amplifies those tendencies. The truth is that government exists primarily because we cannot all yet collectively work together equitably towards our common interests without some authoritative governing body forcing us to do so. Thomas Paine clarified this state of affairs very well in the opening paragraph of his Common Sense:

“Some writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher. Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one.”

Society is just all the people, who optimize their collective welfare as free individuals only through their cooperative work, commerce & enterprise, charity & volunteerism, health promotion, education & other modes of personal growth & development, and of-course with their comity. Proof-testing has shown that free markets, where all the transactions are bilaterally voluntary, are the best institution so-far for incentivizing people to earnestly undertake such productive, contributive activity. That will likely persist so long as people remain driven primarily by selfish motives because in free markets, the self-interests of both the producer and the consumer must be served before they will enter into a transaction together.

Government compels the citizens to transact with it involuntarily by means of force. It holds the ‘stick’ over us in the form of law enforcement to unilaterally drive us to cooperate with it. This can work in service of the greater good only so long as the laws it enacts are designed justly and unselfishly to benefit society holistically rather itself preferentially. But of course such selflessness is no more a hallmark characteristic of the lawmakers in government than it is of the people in the private sector. As a result, government inexorably tends to gradually encroach through time to become increasingly usurpative of the people in the society.

How can the laziness, disregard, cunning, and treachery that people have towards one another be turned more into respect, tolerance, integrity, and energetic service ? The only way to improve the level of altruism and amity throughout a free society without a stick is for the individuals who comprise it to work on refining (beneficially reprograming) their own consciousness’. Meditation is a means to achieve that purpose that is worthy of consideration. The benefits that individuals gain from it themselves (clarity, higher efficiency, more peaceful calm & dispassion, sound sleep, lowered stress, and better insight, intuition, & creativity) can entice even quite selfish people to take up practicing it.

Economic cycles are evident in the histories of all societies. Sovereign debt crises are one of the most catastrophic instances of the destructive phase of these cycles. Yet over and over again, nations continue to spend themselves into them, basically without exception. Excessive government indebtedness has been the downfall of every great civilization. Rome, Byzantium, and the French & British empires all collapsed because of it; none of them were conquered from without. The world is now facing an unprecedented debt problem. For the first time, multiple leading countries on various continents synchronously face insurmountable debt loads. Just as has happened repeatedly before, the governments are becoming more restrictive in their regulation and taxation of the people in order to keep themselves propped-up, while we see the people pushing back in their ‘populism’. The ending to this state of affairs will not be pretty. But it will continue to repeat again and again as long as humanity continues to focus on evolving everything besides its own consciousness. As wonderful as the advances of science and technology have been, they do not address the most fundamental problem that we face: ourselves.

I am obviously driven to cultivate myself through my own sadhana, which includes meditation because I feel that it’s important. It would have been more typical for me to [(and perhaps I should ?)] have written instead about the modeling methods and software I can use, the projects I’ve done, and the consulting services I offer to businesses to help them deal with their immediate problems and needs. But that is distilled in my resume, and if you are interested to work with me we can cover it in more depth in our initial conversation. I wrote this to give you a glimpse beyond my skills into what I value and how I think. Also to leave you with a seed proposition in your mind in the event that some of you might resonate with it: That the one central overarching problem that drives most of our others is the extent to which we are sub-optimally [programmed] configured emotionally and cognitively, and that by means of entirely harmless and free practices like meditation we can continue to optimize our configurations. Since big-picture thinking and problem-solving is what I’m proffering as a consultant, revealing my biggest-level of it, and the one which is my primary personal pursuit, did not seem grossly inappropriate.

To blow the picture for this self-refinement theme all the way up to its broadest scope, what could the ultimate result be if 100% of people made a meditation session equally an element of their daily routine from the age of, say, 12 as brushing their teeth ? Many people before us were such dedicated practitioners. Those who succeeded to clear all of their internal ‘clutter’ away to completely decontaminate their core essence found it a treasure to live from. But at that point they also became able to see very clearly, not in just some conceptual way but as their own self-evident experience, that their core is the very same as everyone else’s. At that point, the notion of cunningly exploiting, gaming, or hurting another becomes as unnatural and perverse as cutting-off one’s own fingers. Self-realization (realizing that your true essence is that pure peaceful core) is a term used for this purified state of consciousness, and it is the destination that sustained meditative practice leads one towards. Countless people have achieved it through history and it is the goal of my life. I can become free from the pernicious aspects of my own human nature and untroubled by its presence in others. My sadhana also includes some altruism, because doing volunteer work to help others is a good thing to practice purposefully until it becomes natural and automatic.

I long most to promote the refinement and elevation of consciousness more broadly. But expertise in that isn’t valued much as a professional skill just yet. So I will continue to serve the needs of clients with my executive strategy experience and my quantitative background in physics, data science, analysis, and hedge fund investing & risk management. While helping them solve their quantifiable business problems, perhaps I can also interest some in working on the fundamental problem. The former will continue exist as long as the latter remains unaddressed by the majority of the people. As the marketing saying goes: ‘Sell them what they want, and give them what they need’.

In the west, the success of the physical sciences that blossomed during the reformation and the age of reason in Europe led us to commonly believe that the material universe existed first and conscious beings somehow arose in it, but that is backwards. It is consciousness that is primordial – the arising and evolution of the physical universe has been guided by it – it is no grand random accident. We also have a common conception, handed-down from Descartes’ proposition “Cogito ergo sum” (“I think, therefore I am”) that our consciousness is just the thinking that continually runs in our heads, but that is also wrong. Consciousness is much deeper than that. Consciousness is primordial, and it is you. But you needn’t take my word on that – you can check it out for yourself.

I still have a ways to travel before I can say that the path I am on leads to the understanding that I sought decades ago for the ‘deeper connections that account for the interplay between things’. However I sense that I’m moving in the right direction, and the history of others who attained realization by undertaking similar journeys is confirmative and encouraging. I’ll only know that I’ve reached my goal once I experience it directly myself. Direct personal experience is the surest way to genuinely know anything.

March 27, 2019

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