Energy Healing, Sample Size 3

I’m skeptical and cautious when it comes to claims around energy healing. Over the past few months, I gave it a few sincere tries. I see now something is going on here, and whatever that thing is confuses me. Mainstream scientific culture did not prepare me for the physiological and psychological effects I experienced after these three sessions.

This started a few months ago, when a good friend of mine recommended me several energy healers / bodyworkers (I’m not sure the difference between them). The friend believed in the process so much, he paid for my sessions. This was enough to overcome my enormous skepticism and get me in the door. Each of these sessions lasted around 2 hours.

Here I try to describe what happened with objectivity. Even though I took notes, my memory isn’t perfect, and certainly some unconscious biases color the way I describe things.

When I was in a session, I felt a lot of skepticism. It would have been easy to shut down the efforts of the person working with me. In that case I might as well have stayed home and saved everyone’s time. I made an effort to work with them in their frame with an open mind.

I’d like to invite you to read this with a similar spirit of openness.

Can a single note make you cry?

The first person I saw was Corissa. I lay down on a table in a dim room in her office and began to swallow my skepticism relax.

As I lay there, looking up at the ceiling, Corissa touched me on parts of my body lightly, much lighter than a massage or even a friend would put a hand on a shoulder.

Throughout this Corissa would ask me questions about things, like what came to mind as she put her hands on various spots on my body. I can’t remember the particulars.

I do remember that day I had a pain in my neck and in my lower back, on the right side. Corissa honed in on that second spot without touching other spots on my back, which I took as a good sign that she was tuned into something real. I’ve had some success as an amateur masseuse in honing in on tense points on people with minimal exploration in between. I don’t know how, but it seems to be a skill that one can get better at over time.

And then she began to vocalize, bringing this whole experience closer to the realm of the uncanny.

Corissa had a clear and pure voice. She used it like a tool, sliding through a scale, a glissando, on a wide “ahh.” Then she would stop on a certain note, lingering there for the rest of a breath. These sounds were haunting. I felt strong emotional responses at some of these sounds.

My main physiological reactions was a feeling of increased body temperature, some muscle contractions, small noises, and feeling like I wanted to cry. I think I did cry, though I don’t remember specifically.

When I had a reaction, like a semi-conscious muscle contraction, she invited me to slow down that reaction and feel it happen again, but slowly.

While she worked, she shook out her hands and burped occasionally. She explained that people released energy in a variety of ways: yawning, sighing, burping, farting, for starters. That was her way, she explained, of releasing the energy she was picking up from working with me.

The most dramatic change happened later in the session. Without the feeling that my breathing was changing, I noticed my hands begin to curl up, a characteristic effect from hyperventilation. This brought up strong memories of the first time that had happened to me, my first panic attack (a traumatic childhood experience). I do not knowingly have conscious control over whether my hands are freezing up like this or not. It was surprising to learn that part of me does.


Immediately after, I was enamored to learn that just by hearing a voice sing a pure tone, I could feel like crying, good crying. What if I could do that? What if I could sing a wordless song that helped someone through their troubles?

I felt more open to thinking about that particular trauma after my experience with Corissa. At the time of the trauma, I had no way to understand what was going on. Now I have a lot more understanding and self-compassion. I was able to let go of more of the shame and confusion that stacked on top of the original pain and be more integrated, accepting that this happened to me and that it’s okay.

Cats and Vibrations

Only a few hours after my appointment with Corissa, it was time to meet Athena.

If reining in my skepticism was hard with Corissa, it was harder with Athena. She was the picture of an energy healer: frizzy grey hair, numerous cats, singing bowls, and small metal tokens with special vibrational properties.

Again, I went into a room and laid on a comfortable table and began to relax.

Like with Corissa, there was light touching and some manipulation of my relaxed limbs. I remember Athena touching the front of my neck in the most gentle way that anyone ever had. Energy healing or not, it’s the type of kind of compassionate touch I want more of in my life.

After that, most of the details have been lost to the fuzzy haze of deep relaxation.

Big, deep singing bowls make a drone that’s awfully hypnotic. I remember Athena putting a round disc of metal on my forehead. By the end of the session I lost all awareness of it. I thought she’d taken it off, but I had just gotten so accustomed to it. Did I have stones on my belly? Were there singing bowls and bells chiming around my head? I have no idea. I was as close to out as you can get while still being conscious.

When Athena brushed her fingers against my ears later in the session, there was a sensation of a vibratory buzzing, not like a sharp static electricity, but a thrum, like the beat of a bumblebee’s wings. She asked me if I noticed it later, saying that has started happening recently.

I tried to recreate this buzzing effect with other people’s ears since then and have been unable to.

Athena explained to me that she had been working to fix the way the very top of my spine is aligned with my skull, and that it was slightly askew. She warned me that I would feel sore after.


Like Athena said, my neck became uncomfortably sore, starting a few hours after the appointment and lasting the next 36 hours. Months later, I have a habit of holding my head in a different way than before. The back of my head is held up higher, such that my top few vertebrae are straighter and higher than before. Less jutted out. I’m pretty sure that’s an improvement.

Chiropracty makes sense. You can use physical force to change how bits of bone are aligned with each other. This felt like a chiropractic adjustment, but without the characteristic cracking and antagonistic force. My limp body got wiggled slightly and touched lightly, and that was enough. If that’s possible, then I’m not so keen to see a chiropractor in the future.

In the following days, I learned that doing two intense sessions in one day in an unstable environment was a bad idea.

I started to get hypomanic. Hey, If energy healing is real, energy hurting is real? That’s what cities do, right? Maybe witches were real? Witches, that is to say, ladies that did subtle things that caused negative health effects down the line. Maybe I could fend off attackers by singing like Corissa, causing them to run away and think about their mothers? Oh, dear.

This series of rapid updates was destabilizing. I had to end my trip to Austin early. After a week of nervous energy, I eventually calmed down, got depressed for two weeks, and decided to stay away from energy anything for a while.

The Omnibenevolent Angel

Several months passed. More recently, I was in a healthy and stable state of mind. The perfect time to shake things up! I heard enough good things about Emily that I wanted to try this again.

Like with the others, I lay on a masseuse’s table.

I have some experience with using Tarot cards for introspective work. The way I’ve used them, it is not about reading the future, but examining the internal stories we hold about the past, present, and future. Tarot cards are a toolkit of symbols that we can slot meaningful things in our own lives into.

For example, if I pull out the card of “The Devil,” I might find a conflict within me that I might not have noticed before. Or if I pull out “The Devil,” a card representing patience, and a card representing a youthful relationship, I might slot in a different conflict. Bringing that conflict to attention makes it easier to resolve than if we never think about.

From the Robin Wood Tarot

Because of this background, I heard what Emily was doing as similar to how I read Tarot cards. She would say things that were vague but could have something meaningful slotted into them, and I would say what came to mind.

Here are some examples. These are approximate, not exact quotes.

Emily would turn and look half out the window, seeming to feel into something in the space between me and her, and say, “I sense there’s a barrier of some sort, like politeness. Ah, yes. Right there, I felt it getting more solid. That makes it easier to work with.” Also, “Here, I feel three objects. I wonder which one to investigate.” Then I would helpfully provide three objects based on what was coming to mind.

In my case, the slots became full of flashes of memories of family, especially of my mother.

The understanding I was getting from introspecting at that moment was that part of me, deep down, still saw my mom as an onmibenevolent angel that could do no harm, the kindest, nicest, most excellent being.

This was in conflict with what the other parts of me knew: She was human and flawed like the best of us.

The frame Emily was using was IFS parts / trauma integration, which I also know and like. So I saw what was happening as a young part of myself getting into contact with more recent parts of myself and exchanging information.

I didn’t feel much at the time. No strong physiological reactions, no strong emotions. And then…


I left the appointment and was hungry, so I went to get some food, an ordinary savory waffle that I’ve had before, from my favorite coffee shop. However, this waffle curdled in my stomach. I felt sick. I walked home with a stomach ache, and started to experience acid reflux.

Acid reflux has to do with a muscle at the bottom of the esophagus that is not typically within our conscious control. Well, this acid reflux was constant, bad, and lasted for the next two days.

I ended up in a state of confusion, walking to the grocery store, wandering aimlessly, walking back without buying anything, walking to the grocery store again, changing my mind and walking to the other grocery store in a daze.

After two days, I could eat normally again.

The story I had about this was that the young part of me found it upsetting to realize that there was no omnibenevolent being out there!

Flashes of things that came to mind over the next few days:

  • “I wish I didn’t have a mom or dad! Why are they in me? Get them out!”
  • “I miss my mama!” [wretched sobbing]
  • “Teenagers are inherently unlikable, I am a whiny lazy loser, I don’t wanna”
  • Immense suspicion that Emily somehow bamboozled me into believing in her technique

A few days of turmoil later, I felt normal again. It’s unclear what all that processing did for me: will it lead to a better, healthier equilibrium? That would be the hope.

It somewhat surprising that I felt comfortable talking about early childhood memories I haven’t shared with anyone within a 2 hour session with a person I don’t know particularly well. That seems like a neat thing to happen between two people. I’d like more interactions in the future that invite that level of sharing.


I don’t know why I had the physiological effects I did when Corissa, Athena, or Emily did this or that. Rather than rush to fit my observations to the nearest existing framework, I’ve found it useful to look at this and say, “Huh.”

But the chaotic complexity of existence is less terrifying when we have bad models for things, so here are some rough models to start us off.

Cranio-sacral Therapy

Luckily for me, Corissa gave a talk two days later where she explained her methods. Her background is in craniosacral therapy, with some tecnhiques from hypnosis. Her singing is a technique she developed based on her work with tuning fork therapy.

Everything in this section is me trying to re-exaplain what I got from Corissa’s talk.

In the craniosacral model, the fascia of the body can get “energy packets” that disturb the field of the human body, like a large object distorts a gravity field. This can be felt by touch with practice, noticing an 8-10x per minute contraction and extension of this field.

Energy packets get contained in the body like a foreign object, and this might occur in a place for a few reasons:

  1. Where physical stress is at the time
  2. Where an injury is
  3. Subconscious choice (dreamworld logic)

For example, if I make a fist whenever I think about something I’m angry about, there might be something caught up in the fascia of the forearm.

Some of the tools for resolving these energy packets are:

  1. Micro movement manipulation, like subtle nickel pressure
  2. Macro movement of relaxed limbs. Relaxing is important to feeling muscles
  3. Noticing an impulse in the body, and then doing it in slow motion
  4. Sound therapy: tune into pocket, then move sound towards the healthy vibration

Another major technique is Internal Family Systems (IFS), where you treat the body as having subagents.

One subagent that might get invited into presence is an Inner Physician, a part that monitors and might know more about why an energy pocket or pain is present. Then you can ask that Inner Physician part questions. Or, more generally, IFS can be used to get a specific body part to communicate with the rest of the body.

When an energy packet is released, there might be a number of signs: heat, shivering, prickles, vibrating, eyes fluttering. That 8-10x rhythm might stop. Or burping, farting, full body sigh, crying, or a cool water feeling.

Symptoms that might call for Corissa’s type of work are:

  1. Migraines / headaches
  2. Newly developed sensitivity to touch
  3. Stuck crying / screaming
  4. Can’t stop crying
  5. Chronic pain
  6. Insomnia

Internal Family Systems (IFS)

I first learned about Internal Family Systems from the book Self-Therapy: A Step-By-Step Guide to Creating Wholeness and Healing Your Inner Child Using IFS, A New, Cutting-Edge Psychotherapy.

Since then, I’ve found it useful almost daily for finding parts of myself that aren’t in communication or have disagreements.

More recently, I learned that it originally comes from hypnosis.

Trauma integration was a frame that came up with Corissa. If something overwhelming and hard to understand happens, it’s common to distance yourself from the memory and stick it in a box somewhere. But if you have a habit over life to stick things in boxes or corners you know not to look at, it gets hard to see clearly.

The integration process is finding a safe place to take those once overwhelming things back out of the box, and into the larger self for more cohesion down the line.

Parts integration was a frame that came up with Emily. For me, it was where an old part had beliefs about the world. Because this part wasn’t in contact with the rest of me, it hung onto some very old beliefs that the rest of me has moved away from. By bringing that old part into attention, the old belief and new belief have been able to reconcile.

A story for why this would be useful is that if one young part thinks the world is safe, and that there’s an angel mom figure out there, the other parts that see we have to take care of ourself might have to fight the young part, leading to internal conflict that saps vital energy.

Subtlety and Touch

A dramatic stage punch will raise your heart rate, even though the only contact is the air rushing off of the moving fist. Very light touch isn’t necessarily less efficacious than a deep massage touch. We’re used to the effects that massage touch has. But if I wave or frown at someone, they’ll have a reaction. It doesn’t seem crazy that energy healing techniques that doesn’t involve touch, like Reiki, could have powerful effects.


I don’t expect to see a profound improvement in my life from 2 hours of therapy. I took that same expectation into these brief and strange encounters, not expecting to see profound effects immediately.

We like to think that the interventions available to us are useful and worthwhile. If I did all of that and it left me worse off, would I want to admit it to myself? I hope I would. It would be great if these techniques did make us better off. I can see how that might make me want to believe in its efficacy.

From my three experiences, it is hard to say what the long-term effects were, if they exist, let alone if they’re positive or negative.

I wouldn’t be able to recommend that somebody else see energy healers, unless they were curious for its own sake. But I would still do it again with Corissa, Athena, Emily, or someone else with solid recommendations. And record the audio, next time.

For my hard-to-fix psychologically rooted problems like anxiety, insomnia, allergies (maybe), and miscellaneous trauma, I’m bullish on energy workers being useful. The hard problems that the medical establishment are mostly stumped on and the things that we ourselves can’t work on are good candidates for alternative therapies.

I would recommend against this for people who are in a stressful place in their lives, those without a good support network, or anyone in a situation that requires them being the same person they were before without much leeway for changing.

After each of these encounters, I have been unsettled out of whatever equilibrium I have been before. The few days after have been unusual, unpleasant, and unbalanced. I’m left with a lot of questions.

I hope that over time this becomes less mysterious and more systematic.

Perhaps one day, instead of having to tread carefully when writing posts like this, we’ll look back and say “well, obviously, if you touch someone lightly on the back of their neck and the bottom of their back, then go from an F# to G, of course a person will start thinking about old traumas!”


Sometimes, when I’m annoyed, I don’t want to do anything about it because that would take energy. But! Good news! Everything takes energy.

Tolerating something takes energy—a lot of it. Annoying things are like weights that drag on our attention and pull down the mood. It’s easy to discount just how much energy being annoyed takes! Omnipresent and subtle issues are harder to notice than spikes of badness.

I used to spend a lot of time annoyed. Like many people, I would attempt telepathy. “Stop? Stop! Go away! Please? Can’t you sense my annoyance?” Or I’d try equanimity. “I’m not bothered. I am totally at peace with the pain I am in. Ow.”

All that suffering was taking a lot of energy that I could be using on something else, perhaps… improving my experience?

Now, I take the annoyance as a cue to consider how I’m feeling and what I want. When I notice annoyance, I get to ask myself: “How can I make this moment better?” And then I do something about it. (Or find true equanimity.)

In fact.. if annoyance is the cue that something isn’t right, I can circumvent the annoyance entirely! “How can I make this moment 10% better for myself / you?” is a question I like to ask now. There’s almost always something obvious we can do.

The work that it takes to move from the annoyed world-state to the new one used to feel prohibitive (“I have to STAND UP and WALK somewhere ELSE?”). But I saw how much energy I was spending on being annoyed. And how this impacted the respect I had for myself, suffering to save the meager cost of standing up. Not standing up for myself, literally!

In contrast, every time I act to improve my situation, I signal to myself that I care about my experience and will take actions to make my own life better. I show myself that I have agency and power to massively change my experience through tiny interventions, like moving 10 feet to the left.

Sometimes, this looks silly. I might move 10 feet to the left, check out what it’s like there, and then move back, 10 feet to the right. And then move somewhere else.

What a relief.

Actually Making a Decision

Making a decision is hard work. Normally, we act out of habit or on the spur of the moment, or simply do things without thinking about it.

I have a story about making a decision. It’s about a bag of cheesy-bad-snack.

That day, I felt like a slug: slow moving, passive, and mildly uncomfortable with existence. I munched on a snack that reminded me of the glorious superstimulus of cheesy-bad-snack. Which meant that now I couldn’t stop thinking about cheesy-bad-snack. Yum. Oh no.

Why? Well. I haven’t had it in a year. Part of me remembers that every time I had it, I felt sick in my stomach afterwards. But that was a year ago! Maybe things were different now. And I already felt bad, so I might as well do more things that would make me feel bad. Bad feelings don’t stack linearly.

I checked in with myself. My stomach said ‘no’, my mouth said ‘yes’, and my mind felt weak.

I walked to the store. I stared at the bag of cheesy-bad-snack. My mouth began to water. I considered both futures, one with cheesy-bad-snack and one without. I grabbed it off of the shelf and walked around the store. I set it back down, considering what I really wanted. And then I left the store without the cheesy-bad-snack.

Well, you can always turn back. At any point and in either direction. And there is no shame in turning around. I walked out of the store and halfway down the block before I began to feel regret. Sitting on a bench, I thought for a minute.

I turned around and went to buy some cheesy-bad-snack after all.

I ate it.

I paid a lot of attention to how it tasted. It didn’t taste like guilt this time.

Making this decision was difficult. It took more than twice as long as just buying the snack and getting it over with, or just sitting in my house and doing nothing about that urge. It took a lot of energy to introspect rather than run on heuristics.

I felt mostly content with my decision, especially in how I chose to make it. By taking my time, I avoided the counterproductive impulse to buy the cheesy-bad-snack quickly while hoping the rest of me doesn’t notice as I slam it down my gullet. It’s a shame when that happens. Then I neither enjoy it nor avoid the nutritional hit.

While walking up and down the street and in the store, I didn’t stop paying attention to how I was feeling. I kept collecting data within myself. And I was open to the decision going either way. Honestly, I couldn’t have predicted the outcome.

Part of me still wishes I hadn’t ended up buying it. It was a close vote. But the important thing is that I gave myself time to look at all of the voting blocks within myself, rather than forcing a decision through or being sneaky with myself. I didn’t dissociate with any part of myself in that decision. I sat with the conflict until it resolved. I wasn’t afraid of the answer.

I know someone with a penchant for dissociation who described himself watching as he took one step after another towards a goal he knew he “shouldn’t” have. He felt like a passive rider, denying that he was making a choice but observing it happen at the same time. What is “I” mean, if it’s so small that it doesn’t include your body?

I didn’t quite want to take the opinions of my mouth as seriously as I did. Much of me thinks my tongue is stupid and easily tricked. But my mouth is part of me, and it can get wiser over time by getting included in the decision-making and feedback process.

In making a true decision, there must be an actual openness to the dial moving either way. One might hope that when all the votes come in, we go one way over another. But if we don’t, that means that “I” isn’t actually counting all of us, and that we should work to become more integrated.

In Resonant Alignment

Sometimes I stumble upon music with voices that have a particular sound to them. Don’t worry about listening to these unless you have the time. They deserve at least half of your attention.

Existence: Life (alt link)
My favorite example.

I probably don’t have to tell you this. You’ve all heard a violinist play their instrument like a lover or seen a dancer give themselves to the music completely. Intuitively, we know what a disingenuous speech sounds like versus when someone believes in what they’re saying. It’s almost a caricature to hear how sarcastic and disingenuous the Chairman sounds in comparison.

Think about the difference between an honest plea from someone who needs help versus a sideways request that they choke out in after some distracting small talk. It doesn’t mean they’re lying to you, but it does show that there is dissonance in them. Parts of themselves that aren’t on board.

It’s not just passion. It’s also determination, confidence, an unwavering gaze. It’s chilling and powerful. There’s a way of sounding that you get when there is complete alignment. You’re hearing that what they singing is what they feel the truth is. Somewhere inside of you, it resonates the same thing in yourself somewhere in a way that’s very hard to ignore.

This isn’t just for music or creative acts. It’s important to know what this sounds like in yourself in others. Learning this is important. It’s how you can tell if you’re telling the truth.

This is how you tell if you’re speaking the truth or not.

Truth meaning what you actually believe, not what is objectively true out there. We’re not oracles for the world, but we can get closer to one when it comes to ourselves.

Mentally, this manifests as lack of energy or motivation. Procrastination, internal resistance, dragging yourself along. Shouldn’ts and Shoulds.

Physically, this manifests as a lack of smoothness, stopping and starting. Hesitancy and lack of confidence in movement. Tightness and aimlessness. Literally, spinal alignment.

Voices will sound shriller, shakier, quieter, hesitant, with more vocal fry, or just plain strung out in some direction. Sarcastic side comments, falsely inflected cheery small talk. Not being able to speak at all.

We’re a shadow of ourselves when our internal part are holding each other back, a confused collection of vectors that don’t fully line up with our speech and action.

When I’m in resonant alignment, moving forward isn’t tiring. Action isn’t costly. It’s flowing into the future. The words write themselves and my speech comes out clear. When all of those parts are in order—all of them, from our toes to our heart to our thoughts—is my working hypothesis for what a soul is.

I have an exercise that I find both painful and incredibly cathartic.

Look into the mirror and don’t break eye contact with yourself. Say something you believe. Listen to how it sounds. Say something that you don’t believe. Listen to how that sounds.

If you try to say it with feeling, are you convincing yourself? Be very careful to avoid learning how to better convince yourself of things you don’t believe, or you’ll risk jeopardizing your relationship with the truth. If you’re in a situation where you need to lie to yourself, maybe this exercise isn’t for you. If so, I hope you can move towards a situation that doesn’t make you do that to your soul.

Internal resonances isn’t a binary. It’s a matter of degree, and it takes a while to find the words that resonate the most. When I do find the right words, my chest will literally resonate more. And it often makes me cry when I do find them.

To sum up: There is a way of sounding when in alignment. Find the things that bring that voice out of you. Do that.

The Qualia of Lasik

I got Lasik eye surgery a month ago, early May 2019. Since then, my vision has been between 20/20 and 20/15. It is somewhat baffling to me that my vision never stops being good. Contacts get dry and the world clouds up as the day goes on. Glasses get dirty. My imagination was underprepared for the reality where my vision is excellent from when I wake up to when I go to bed, full stop.

Making the decision

Making the decision took several months. I knew for years that I wanted Lasik when I was old enough, and at age 23 I was taking the decision seriously. I had stable -1.50 vision in both eyes, bad enough that I couldn’t drive but not bad enough that I needed to wear contacts or glasses all the time.

The main questions were:

  • Would it be worth it if my vision isn’t that bad to begin with?
  • PRK or Lasik?
  • Are negative side effects likely? (Dry eyes, poorer night vision)
  • Is my age an issue?
  • Which surgeon should I go with?

The people who tend to say that Lasik is worth it start with terrible vision. Mine was only mediocre, so it was less clear up front.

“Going from -1.5 to 0 means you lose about an inch of sharpness at maximum closeness (2 inches from your eyeball) and you gain the entire world from 2 feet to infinity.”

Mars Van Voorden

The consensus I found from talking to friends who had gotten Lasik was that I had more to gain, especially with modern techniques and a good surgeon.

PRK vs Lasik: I considered PRK as an alternative to Lasik. The benefit of PRK is that it does not create a flap in the cornea, so the flap can’t be dislodged. In my first consultation, I found out that there is a lot more pain and risk of infection from PRK. Also, surgeons are less experienced at doing PRK. In hindsight, the pain of Lasik was enough for me. PRK sounds miserable.

If I did a lot of martial arts or contact sports or thought I would in the future, that may have tipped the balance. But even then, the corneal flap heals to around 90% of original strength within a few months (according to one consultation). One reason the flap is less of an issue is that a blade is no longer used to cut the corneal flap. A laser is used instead, which promotes healing better than the smooth knife cut.

Age: I’m in my early 20s. My optometrist was concerned about my age, since my prescription might still change in the future. Both consultations that seemed to think this was a non-issue. I knew for myself that my vision had been consistent for the past 10 years, so I judged that it was okay. If it does change within the next few years, I can get a corrective Lasik surgery. I hope I don’t have to. One thing that reassured me is that my mother and grandmother both got Lasik to great success.

Dry Eyes and Night vision: Most friends I knew with Lasik didn’t have problem, and the ones who did still felt it was worth it. I felt confident about the machines and skill of the surgeon I went with, and feel like this reduced my risk of side effects.

I was concerned about halos and worse night vision, but at the second consultation they explained that the new state of the art in Lasik could actually improve night vision.

One of my very trusted friends said this about night vision: “It got more like I was on acid all of the time. Lights are just brighter and more dominant than they used to be and finding things in true darkness is harder. I was also one of the last to get hand cut eye flaps, night vision is supposed to be improved in current generation all laser Lasik.”

Which surgeon: Two friends of mine had gotten Lasik from the same surgeon. A benefit was that it was cheaper than average in the area, which to me implied that the surgeon did more surgeries and thus had more practice. The machines they used in that office seemed to be the state of the art, the same ones used at the Lasik center at Stanford. The two friends also had no meaningful side effects.

Other considerations: With a low prescription like mine, there was a higher chance of having better than 20/20 vision.

I asked a lot of friends about this to see if I was missing anything big. Someone explained diopters, and how I would lose some ability to focus close up and need reading glasses sooner than otherwise. There were some stories of knowing someone where things went wrong, but many more personal anecdotes of Lasik being worth it.

Something I didn’t take into account was safety. I am much less likely to get hit by a car now, and feel a lot safer walking around city streets.

There are some downsides that might show up later on, but so far, Lasik seems very worth it.

Timeline of Subjective Experiences

The first four hours were incredibly uncomfortable. The eye numbing drops wore off around 20 minutes after the surgery. Opening my eyes was too bright. Even with my eyes closed, everything was too bright. This pain lasted for around 4 hours. During that time, all I could do was sit with my eyes closed while my body focused on healing.

The rest of day one, I was zoned out from Valium but was able to keep my eyes open enough to barely participate in my weekly Dungeons and Dragons game. After I could get my eye open, I could see things clearly, including screens and things up close. I did have to blow my nose every 15 minutes from the constant tearing.

On day two, it shouldn’t have been a surprise then that I got a cold. The valium, stress, and the constant tearing of my eyes at first led to a week-long feeling of clogged sinuses. I was pretty relaxed about it. Valium lasts a while.

Day three, I bought a pair of sunglasses. I found the darkest ones I could that would also block out UVA. Even then, the world was too damn bright. I was worried that I would be overwhelmed by people on the street and making eye contact with them, but this is entirely solved by wearing sunglasses. Also, I can see people from further off and avoid them more effectively. This isn’t an ideal strategy, but it’s how I cope with living in a city right now.

My eyes were no longer tearing. They were dry sometimes and uncomfortable, but not what I would call pain.

Later that day, I got bitten by a small dog. It was a small bite that didn’t break the skin but left a bruise. I broke down completely, barely able to speak and still hold back my tears. This was confusing! I knew that I didn’t care that much about minor pain. It wasn’t about the dog. I retreated somewhere private and sobbed for around 10 minutes before being able to interact with people again.

Something about that minor physical pain triggered a release of all of the numbed discomfort from the surgery. I had felt grief or loss about my old eyes since the surgery. My eyes had been trying very hard, and they weren’t good enough for me? That feeling of grief went away after crying.

This was also around when the Valium wore off. A thing I had to keep in mind was that Valium would interact with alcohol, making each drink dangerously more potent.

A week later, my eyes no longer felt like I had left contacts in them for several days. I thought “dry eyes” would feel dry, but really, it means itchy. I feel strong urges to rub my eyes every other day or so, and when I do, I put in eye drops.

One strange thing I noticed was that my hearing seemed to be better. The spatial cues in my environment or subtle lip-reading made some sounds feel louder. This could also be from freeing up processing power in my brain, now that interpreting my visual environment is so much easier than the interpolation and guessing from before.

Three weeks in, I’m still slightly sensitive to light but not in discomfort in the same way. Up until 2.5 weeks, I was wearing sunglasses outside every day, rain or shine. I no longer feel the need to when it’s overcast, but I think that sunglasses will be a larger part of my life now.

One nice thing about sunglasses I bought is that my vision is so clear that I can use the sides of my sunglasses as rear-view mirrors, and get a sense of what’s behind me without turning my head. This gives me a huge amount of extra spatial awareness I’m still learning to integrate, and when I don’t wear sunglasses I sometimes miss it!

I used to get headaches often. Getting Lasik reduced the amount of headaches I get. I now can pinpoint headaches down to more specific things, like reading in low light or looking at my phone in a car.

I also think this is helping my social skills significantly. I’m picking up and responding to a lot more cues from people. I have had less social anxiety since, and I hope it stays that way.

My depth perception and spatial awareness is a lot better, and this makes me feel less anxiety in general.

I feel freer in a way that is hard to pinpoint. If I were sent back in time, I wouldn’t have to worry about my vision. In the zombie apocalypse, I’d be able to spot them coming from afar. If I wanted to be a dirtbag traveling the world, I could do that all while seeing clearly. At festivals, I no longer will have to choose between seeing clearly and experiencing the pain of dust and sunblock that came from putting on contacts in a camping environment.

I’m a little disappointed that at no point did I get a feeling of euphoria from seeing clearly. No joyous “you’re free now,” or “this is so beautiful.” Instead, I get a few pings a day like “That’s convenient. You can see that person’s expression,” or “I guess it is kind of cool that you can see all of those nice rocks and trees right now.” I’m holding out some hope that my neurochemistry will change and that I’ll get a moment of euphoria when I look out at clear stars in a wide night sky.

Six months later, I’ve jumped in Barton Springs without a worry about my eyes, blinking water out them, and could see my friends smiling from a distance. But Lasik hasn’t been without drawbacks. If I am dehydrated, in a plane, or near a chlorine pool, my eyes get dry. Reading on my computer for 4+ hours will do this. It’s uncomfortable until I put in eyedrops, and if I don’t have eyedrops immediately on hand it’s stressful.

This seems to be getting better over time. We in our chronic screen dependent lives all have dry eyes to some extent, and long-term contact wearers deal with this too. It’s changing my relationship to screens in a way that I hope is for the better.

Seeing Lake Tahoe bare-eyed

Many parts of the world are not beautiful. Still, I am not looking away. I feel safer, and brave in choosing to experience the world more fully.

The Trees

I wasn’t lonely around the trees. I found two basking in some sunlight. Dead trees. No branches. Still stolid and present. They were my friends for a minute. I stood between them and imagined being a tree. It would be nice, I think.

There were windy ghosts creaking in the tops of the eucalyptus. I was scared. The ghosts didn’t know me, and I didn’t know them. What if a tree fell on me? Would I scream? Would I die instantly? If I screamed, would that attract predators or friends?

I didn’t bring my backpack with water, since I thought I’d be going on a short walk. But I couldn’t help but consider what would happen if I just kept walking. Walking past the sunset. Staying on the trail but with no sense of direction. I would become dehydrated first. Hunger would register second. My lips would crack and my gums would dry. I could keep walking, still. My limbs would grow tired, and I would eventually collapse in the dirt. But that wasn’t important—the important thing was that I could keep walking.

These thoughts make me feel isolated. I came back from that walk feeling much better about life. Perhaps part of me thought it wasn’t safe to have thoughts like that around other people. But we all do, sometimes, and that is okay.

RPG Self

This Google Doc is my todo list.

I’ve played a lot of video games and RPGs, and the way characters in them pursue goals feels so compelling. I’ve been writing up goals as quests and self-improvement tasks as ways to increase stats, and my meaning-maker loves this. Being productive is awesome.

I don’t force my perception of life to line up with the system, but rather try to make the system match my real life—while adding a good dose of dramatic and whimsical flair.

The RPG sheet is for me, not me for the RPG sheet. Sometimes my overall path changes out from under me, and none of the quests are applicable anymore. Then it’s time to find new goals that are compelling and write those up.

This is just the beginning.

The framework is highly inspired by Mage: The Ascension.

In general, stats go up by an order of magnitude. 0 is below average, 1 is average for a human adult, 2 is average for someone who has put in a good amount of deliberate effort, 3 is the level of someone who has dedicated their life to this, and so on. 5 is incredibly rare. 0, Unskilled: No training in the ability; rely on natural talent.

So for something like reputation, being well-regarded by 1000 people might be Reputation 1. The next level would be at least 10,000 and so on.

Traits are mostly for flavor. Next up, quests:

Example quests

For quests, the difficulty of them is related to the Impact Level. I can comfortably do Level 0 and 1 quests, maybe taking a month for the hard ones. Doing a Level 2 quest might take me half a year or longer or a lot of resources I don’t have yet. One day I’ll get to Level 3. Like with Skills, the difficulty goes up approximately an order of magnitude with each increase in number.


Poiesis is bringing into existence what did not exist before. It is the power of manifestation and reification. Mage: The Ascension refers to this as Prime. And that is what I’m doing now, by writing this.

A few months ago, I tried to manifest an idea of mine into an organization (a startup). But the more progress I made at manifesting it in the larger world, the less buy-in I had with myself. At some point I couldn’t convince myself (let alone anyone else) that it was worth the effort to try to manifest it anymore. This was disheartening! It still seems like a good idea. So why couldn’t I realize it in the world?

I think there’s a missing skill. Some people seem to have lots of it. And I don’t yet have enough of it. So, how does one get better at the skill of raw manifestation?

Here’s my model for how poiesis works so far:

  • Vision. This will determine how much energy is necessary to manifest it. Proper nouns / naming, consistency, repetition, and details enhance vision. The more vision, the less susceptible this is to distortion from others. Sarah Constantin wrote up this advice for reifying her organization.
  • Buy-in. This can be from yourself, your friends, a target audience, etc. They can lend their poiesis to co-manifest your vision. Subskills are getting, keeping, and controlling buy-in.
  • Reaction to challenges. When met with opposing poiesis, what happens? Some strategies are avoiding, ignoring, and convincing. Lack of ability to stand up to opposing poiesis is a reason why some people HAVE TO surround themselves with yes-men or disconnect from reality to go forward.

More examples of the thing I’m talking about:

Improv is all poiesis. If I walk into a scene and say, “Stop stealing my horse!” and the other person says “I’m not stealing your horse,” it’s hard to move forward. Buy-in is key, but this also teaches strategies to maintain poiesis in the face of resistance. “Oh, you would deny it, thief? The nerve!”

In Dungeons and Dragons as GM, I’m learning that consistency of the world over time and small details add to the realism and player buy-in. You can’t lead DnD if the players don’t buy-in.

An event can happen by telling 100 people to come to a place at a time. If there are too many setbacks, I lose the ability to feel like I can really make 100 people come to this place at a time. Losing the feeling of confidence is similar to losing the ability.

“Where do you want to eat?” “Let’s go to Angeline’s unless you have a strong preference against that.” This has gotten easier over time.

Poiesis is a skill that could be valued and sought-after in the same way that one might train up in Charisma. I don’t see much about it in the common discourse. What are ways to train up in poiesis?


3 years ago, I stared at a crystal ball until I happened to hallucinate a house on a hill. Over time, that house became my mindscape, a consistent internal visualization that I’ve checked in on over the years.

It’s no place I’ve been before. A log cabin / hewn stone castle is half-buried on a craggy hill studded with lichen-covered rocks. No trees around. Steep stairs. Mist.

In the center of the cabin is a pillaring fireplace, around which the floor is sunken in and filled with sheepskins and pillows. To the left, there’s a staircase that goes up one level and down.. who knows how many levels down. I can’t see much down there. It’s dark.

My mindscape is also a memory palace. I put a strand of rope on the mantel above the fireplace three years ago, and it’s still there. More recently I added a bottle filled with a brightly glowing spark.

I also like to summon models of people I know (“daemons”) and talk with them. It’s a good exercise for empathy. And tiring.

I can only access this place while sitting down. My eyes can be open if not much is going on. I tend to see myself in 3rd person, probably because of how many video games I’ve played. I wonder what that does for my sense of internal cohesion (“self” as one).

Sitting in my mindscape feels peaceful and safe, more safe than I’ve been in a long time. Surprisingly, when I’m there I don’t feel alone.