Roscoe Learns to Think – The First Week In Review


I wrote in the notes section of one of my pages, ”HAET HARRY KAHNE!” I think many of you can agree with me on that one. But I remember this from the first time around, and the second week is not nearly so … tedious.

The biggest problem that I faced this week, insofar as multiple mentality is concerned, was attention span. As Loweko commented, “I have found Kahne’s exercises magnificent meditation in their own right.” Which is true … it’s almost easier to focus on the breath. I found a couple of ways around the issue of paying attention.

First, I played with the lines. I did variations, like transposing the alphabet in a different order or interlacing “wrong” (ZA instead of AZ). For the past four days, I’ve done the transposed alphabet four ways in one sitting. This usually gets my interest back and makes me pay much closer attention, to make sure I don’t confuse them.

In interlacing the alphabet, I felt “brain split,” like I did back in Yangshuo…but it seemed to happen at random. Tonight, I worked out what it was. As long as I was paying attention to something else, besides what I was writing, I could split my attention. That sounds obvious, but you try getting distracted intentionally. 🙂

The easiest way I could figure was to focus on the last letter in sequence, so I would stare intently at “B” while I was writing “C,” then move on to “Y” while I was writing “X.”

I also found less…sophisticated ways to get it done. Yesterday, when I was gritting my teeth through yet another round of transposed alphabet (ACBD… or alternately ZXYW…), I played “okay, just one more,” with myself from lines 30 to 50. Just get to 30, ok. OK, now 33, that’s the end of the page. OK, just two more and you’re at 35, nice round number. Do one more, just to be a bit over the top, give yourself an edge when you pick up tomorrow. Yes, I know it’s already been an hour. Well, you’re next to 40 now…

I realized earlier, as I was finishing my interlaced alphabet (AZBYCX…) that Kahne probably meant that his students should do Part 1 each day until you got it, then move on to Part 2, then Part 3…instead of, say, trying to write 150 lines in an hour, like some of us who are insane.


I didn’t realize this the first time through, and if anyone else tried to do all three at one sitting: I’m so sorry. But look at it this way, we got through more than Harry ever expected, and faster!


My apartment has no heat and it’s hovering around 40 right now. I’ve meditated in here twice, maybe three times. Mostly, I’ve been meditating out in the world, on the subway or in Pacific Coffee. I’m finding that my brain actually settles the fuck down at right around the eight minute mark, and I actually feel calmer and can focus on my breath then. I look forward to next week, and sits of twenty minutes.

I’ve also found that setting an alarm actually makes me more antsy and nervous than checking the clock two or three times during the sit. So, yeah, I’ll just do that, instead of trying to use alarms.

My libido has been having a fun time distracting me. Which makes sense: Nothing distracts me quicker or more profoundly. Or, I try to fight it, and end up getting distracted. I’m going to work on letting that stuff go in the coming weeks.

On the plus side, the fantasies that burble up when I’m trying to meditate are magnificent.


I have the basic concepts down from Sessions A and B, but my implementation still needs work. I seem to have a “natural” limit of about ten items at a time, or at least I have pretty significant trouble remembering longer lists. I tried the first list after a day, and could remember it just fine. Same with the Petit Perception lists. But the long list from Session B? After an hour, I’d forgotten “soap,” and after a day, I forgot four items, and misplaced a large chunk of the middle.

I think the problem’s to do with my implementation. I didn’t practice my mnemonics nearly as much as I practiced with Mr. Kahne, so I kind of skimped on that homework (boo hiss). And the images I came up with, while funny in a pedestrian way, didn’t really arrest me or tickle my funny bone. It says something that I immediately remembered chicken, melon, because of the image Smid supplied, as well as baked beans, shampoo, for the same reason. I think I might have to watch old Warner Brothers and Animaniacs cartoons to get a feel for the kind of images I need. Quelle horreur.

More lists. More lists. Need to invent more images, memorize more lists. One a day, with a review of yesterday’s and the one from the beginning of the week, would seem appropriate, and a review of all of them at the end of the week.

I wonder how long you can let something “sit” without refreshing it, and still remember, say, 90% of it?

Petit Perception:

At last, some good news! I’m noticing a quantum leap in my involvement in everyday life after one week of practice. Last night, I saw Marissa drop a piece of sausage in the stir-fried vegetables, and I got it with my chopsticks before she did. My ears perk up at the slightest sound of the kettle or the soup boiling over, and like a shot I’m at the stove and taking care of it. Marissa is already relying on me to know where her glasses are whenever they aren’t on her face.

And it’s not just her. We played a round of room survey in the bar the other night, one of my students, two friends, and I, and they were amazed that I could describe the three people behind me without looking, because I’d clocked them as I sat down. I’m amazing myself, really, because now I see things that I passed by so often before. Diwang glitters in the night, and I never knew. There’s a mahjongg gambling den just down the street that I never saw before. I haven’t been working it, and I can even smell more clearly.

However, I noticed myself falling into a rut when it came to the clocks somewhere about Thursday, always “what color was it?” So I started grilling myself on variations: cut of the jacket, then? Number? How about the person next to him, was it a man or a woman? What are they doing? Hairstyle?

And, having overlooked it six times now, last night, I finally sat down and room surveyed the café where I do work.

I’m still amazed.

At everything I miss.


Coughed and stumbled on Wednesday, but got back up again. Need to work harder on mnemonics, longer on meditation, and vary my petit perception practice a bit more. Harry Kahne, if I remember right, will look after himself just fine.

How about you? Have you been keeping notes, keeping track? Let us see them! Let us know how you’ve been doing, what you’ve noticed about yourself and your practice. I started all this so that no one of us need feel alone.


About R. Jean Mathieu

They say he speaks five languages, was conceived on a chess board, and once seduced a tong boss' daughter and lived to tell the tale. All we know is, he's called Roscoe. You can find more scurrilous lies at and buy his books at View all posts by R. Jean Mathieu

4 responses to “Roscoe Learns to Think – The First Week In Review

  • thalass

    I tried the meditation and the simuflow today. I forced my way through the fifty lines of reverse alphabet, and before that did ten minutes of meditation. The meditation was interesting, because at around 8:30 the prevailing intruding thought was that ten minutes was up, and my phone had failed me. But when i opened my eyes, and leaned forward to wake it up, it felt like i was moving and thinking through molasses.

    Before that moment my mind felt quite normal. It was the usual story of a difficult to quiet mind (though it was getting better by around eight minutes), until i tried to reenter the real world. The molasses effect wore off after a few seconds, but it was interesting. Both my arms and my mind felt slow.

    I didn’t do anything else, though. Not enough time with chores and such. I did try a line of reversed anglicised futhorc to liven the simuflow up a bit – which worked fine but screwed my next few lines of latin-english alphabet! haha

  • Wraith

    I actually ended up getting my meditation done in the steamroom at the gym this morning, of all places. Warm, dimly lit room and slight white-noise hissing really made it easy to separate what was me from what was around me.

  • rmathieu

    Try doing the petit perceptions, thal. Most of them are nigh-instantaneous. Interesting effect, though…I wonder why you feel it and I don’t?

    And wraith, I find it interesting that warmth and darkness actually helped you distinguish. They make me kind of ‘fuzz out’ (which would explain why I like showering in the dark, I guess).

  • Billdo

    I found this by looking into Harry Kahne. What types of mnemonics have you been studying. And the meditation? I’m interested in what you’re doing.

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