Thursday, March 06, 2008

A Primer on AOL

Archived from the former firedocs blog. 26 May 2007

As most viewers online already know, Remote Viewing semantics are especially at issue on the internet, where words are all people have to work with. Even without issues like social politics or differing approaches to the discipline, even in groups with much in common, viewers still often get lost in the semantics of discussion.

That isn't just the modern world or the internet, of course; this has been an historical problem with parapsychology around the world, perhaps in part due to a severe lack of 'shared experience'-based terminology.

Remote Viewing's terminology is rather colorful. The patchwork history of the nature of anything psychic, and RV's former exploration in science and military, both renowned for their ability to coin complicated terms and no end of acronyms, and RV's modern commercial sales market of the last decade+, which is usually presented in a virtual snowglobe of uber-hip Matrix-Technojargon, all have combined to make RV terminology inconsistent at best, often confusing at the least -- and sometimes funny as hell.

Many viewers know some basic terminology from psychic methods training. But how well they understand it may be another story. Most folks learn this when they are so brand-spankin'-new to the subject that they really wouldn't know what questions to ask, and they are mostly introduced to the level of understanding they are ready for at that moment, which is fairly shallow. Follow-up is the weakest point in the commercial field, so deeper understanding of things doesn't always arrive. As if that isn't enough, what is taught is often in question as well, or at the least, differs greatly between sources.

I've seen some casual usage of terminology that is "gleaned from others," over in the dojo, but is probably not well covered online.

So for the sake of those new to the subject, I'm going to talk a little about one of the common jargon-terms in RV: "AOL."

This is broken into several parts to make it a little easier to get through.

Analytical Overlay, also known as AOL
AOL: The Labels of Conclusion
AOL and Learning Theory
AOL and 'Allowing', AKA "Let it Be"
AOL: Slightly More Complex Considerations
AOL: Slightly More Subtle Considerations
AOL the Temptress
Issues That Worsen or Invoke AOL
AOL from Target Pools
Using AOL Notation During Session
What Matters About Annotating AOL
New Viewers and AOL
When it's Data, it's not AOL
Exercises to Improve AOL Avoidance & Handling
AOL: The Point of it All

Analytical Overlay, also known as AOL

This term was originally used in psychic work to refer to the analysis the conscious mind is always trying to apply to our data.

At the entry level, the first and simplest way to think about this is "labels". Our mind immediately attempts to evaluate and conclude "what something is," and presents us with the highest-level "conclusion" about it. For example, instead of presenting data components such as 'red', 'motion' and 'spinning', our mind might present: "a red car".

Outside of psychic work, this is probably the way we've always needed our info anyway. If a friend is driving up in his car, we don't want to receive the data in 5000 separate components we have to consciously put together before we can even figure out what's going on.

If human mental processing were that slow, we wouldn't have survived the saber-toothed tigers.

AOL: The Labels of Conclusion

We probably do get information about events in 5000 components, but our minds are used to evaluating all that, putting it together for us, slapping a summary on it (Jimmy's car is headed for my driveway at normal speed) and handing us "the label of conclusion".

We rely on this as a norm. But when we begin viewing, we suddenly don't our mind actively and rapidly working to obtain "the labels of conclusion" anymore. In viewing, we seldom have enough information flow at least right-off, for those labels to be accurate. But since this way of mental processing is a lifetime habit, it's a bit of work (to understate it) to change your ways.

AOL and Learning Theory

Let us say, in this over-simplistic (and commonly used) example, that we had the sense of round (the wheels), the sense of motion, the sense of red, maybe even a sense of fun, or of speed, all of which were probably accurate, or likely enough.

Alas, "a red car" is simply wrong as data. If we write down this data, we later compare our session to the feedback photo of two children playing with a red ball and we roll our eyes over how clueless we were. "Well, I got the red," we might tell ourselves glumly.

The worst part of that equation has to do with our learning. It's important that we consciously recognize the data components that we did get accurately, and those we did not, and what processing we applied--which either helped or harmed. That's how we learn, is getting feedback on our process results.

When our session only leaves us with information that doesn't match the target, new viewers especially are prone to just sigh, feel like dismal failures at this psychic stuff, and wander off forlornly, thinking they are a lost cause. That's because most their 'results' are packaged in "labels of conclusion" which do not match the target.

The viewer being able to obtain data at a more 'component' level and record it that way is about the only way a new viewer will get real feedback on what actually "came through," and how they "interpreted" each bit, and how they communicated it. That's when feedback can be applied and the "learning theory" part of practice can kick in and do the viewer some good.

Genuine AOL is a matter of the viewer repackaging or over-translating the information, which can range from a very mild flavoring to radical revision. It's like a bad internet language translator but in concept-shape form. It can be pretty funny at its more extreme levels.

In the example we started with, you might ask why the mind didn't know it was a ball instead of a car. Well, maybe eventually the mind would have. But the initial data in a session is often in small fragments: a sense of reflection, a horizontal motion, a color, a spinning. That is what the mind had to work with, and it did its best at the analytical process.

That's part of the problem, really: there isn't enough information for the mind to use its fabulous tools in the normal way. As Spock (and later Data) used to say on Star Trek, "I have insufficient data for a hypothesis." Our mind is stuck trying to do its job as wonderfully as it has always done it, but under impossible circumstances.

It's up to the viewer to help keep the mind 'open' long enough, and well enough, that sufficient data can pour through prior to expectations filtering or distorting the experience.

Some viewers survive this for about 5 or 10 minutes. They shouldn't even be allowed to view past that: their sessions rock that long and then totally suck thanks to AOL. That's just a visible example of the tenure of their ability to keep the right mental state in place. Up till the point where that expires, they might be amazing. If they could start breaking their sessions up into shorter sessions done more often, they'd probably be better off.

Control Issues and 'Allowing', AKA "Let it Be"

This analytical processing may be somewhat below the fully intentional level, but the impetus for it happening is at the conscious level. It is a matter of training yourself into the "allowing". You must allow the target to be whatever it is, without pressuring yourself in the "need to know", which translates directly into your making the target into what you assume it is instead.

The tendency is pretty much human nature it appears, at least prior to bringing conscious intervention into that process (and possibly is a fight forever). But how often, how quickly, and how severely that is invoked, in my opinion ends up being something like a psychological control issue.

Everybody has some degree of this because our mind has been working with us in that way our entire lives. But some people can't let go of this "need to know". High J's on the ENTJ personality scale probably are a good example; those with major control issues are another. I am exampling the more extreme versions of a trait we all carry, but some a lot more than others. Some people are simply not cut out for this kind of art.

A viewer must be able to relax and let go of at least enough of the need to know, at least long enough to get decent data. That doesn't mean that a viewer is always going to be free of it -- or even ever fully, depending -- it's a matter of degree. It's also a matter of the viewer being able to recognize, in session, when they are falling into this mindset to a high degree, and either let it go, or end the session and come back to it another time.

Like most things in remote viewing, the issues viewers have are echoed in other roles. The same problems with "AOL" in people functioning as taskers and monitors have done a great deal of damage to their viewers and RV's reputation in public media, so it's worth pointing out that AOL--particularly "untreated" AOL let alone fostered AOL--is very damaging to psi work across the board, no matter what role it is played out within.

AOL: Slightly More Complex Considerations

Analytical over-processing of data is really just one of many likely issues in a remote viewing session. There's a long list of internal processing behaviors and filters that affect data as badly or worse than purely "analytical" issues.

To some degree, the term AOL is used as an "umbrella" term to represent what I initially called "Affected Data" about ten years ago. Data can be "affected" in many ways. The reasons this can happen are incredibly numerous, and likely to vary a little depending on the viewer.

The reasons are not just analytical. They can be a result of the sheer novelty of something and not knowing how to translate it, for example. Or, they can be the result of an empathetic emotion from the viewer, or of aesthetic-impact upon the viewer, or other in-session experience that has its own "progression" into other assumptions that are often less logical than emotional.

Some viewers or methods trainers have come up with their own vocabulary of acronyms to describe different possibilities.

AOL: Slightly More Subtle Considerations

AOL as exampled at the beginning of this article, "labeling", is really the easiest, most obvious aspect of the issue. Most AOL when a viewer first begins does come in this form. Or at least, so much of it comes in this form that you don't get much chance to even see the other issues that might be lurking! But with some experience, the example given becomes over-simplistic to say the least.

The most dangerous AOL is not the labeling, because that type, a viewer can learn to recognize pretty easily. The more subtle and nasty forms of AOL usually stem from other sources.

For example, there may be a low-grade AOL regarding the likely 'nature' of the target, possibly based on the tasking source. This might never become strong enough for the viewer to recognize, but it may bias and filter their whole session. This is a bad thing when it makes the data more-wrong, but it can be a worse thing when it makes the data more-right. At least you learn something from being wrong, often. And the AOL drive may give the session a more 'intense' experiential aspect for the viewer, which can result in a greater sense of certainty for sure, and if they do this often enough, the viewer may end up subconsciously biasing in favor of situations where they have some way of knowing or suspecting the target because, plain and simple, it is a lot more fun that way.

There may be a more obvious AOL regarding thinking something in the session is AOL--because the data is just like another target you just had, or just like a movie you just watched, for example, or even, is just like you would have analytically-via-AOL expected it to be (because, ironically, your AOLs from the early session may have been correct). In this case, the analytical assumption is that it IS analytical assumption--an invalidation of the data you're receiving, which is usually just as damaging to a session as anything else. This tends to result in viewers getting wonderful data they "don't write down because they're sure it's AOL," and then they want to kick themselves afterward when they see the feedback.

One of the common causes of AOL once the viewer is getting into the groove of viewing, is the way that information presents itself. The viewer may have a flash visual of something, and they may think that is the target. It might be, but usually, it is not. (Only the viewer can make this call, as best they can.) Usually, it is something in the viewer's mental database of experience that has something in common with the target... but which other than some major aspect (which can be shape, concept, or a combination of factors), has nothing to do with it. (See 'exceptions', later in the article.)

There are pretty much no limits to the possible 'sources' of AOL or 'data-affecting issues'. Every human is unique and every viewer could probably find a dozen new ways.

AOL the Temptress

AOL if recognized and released is usually not all that damaging to the viewer or session. (Obviously, circumstance and details vary.) It may be just a minor point of observation, released and the viewer moves on.

But that mental 'base of assumption' tends to grow, especially if not recognized and dealt with. It can bias the mind toward recognizing only data which fits the filter of expectation, as an early problem. It can literally help create data which fits the expectation, which is a larger problem. Usually though, the mind's ability to creatively configure even what does come in, is more than enough flexibility to "help" the viewer make the session into exactly what they "suspect" -- which translates to what they want, because the lack of closer and not-knowing in a session is psychologically very difficult.

AOL's biggest tragedy in a session isn't usually what it does to the data with which it arrives, but what it does to every "experience" for the viewer which follows. And for sure, attempting to 'surgically remove' AOL from data in retrospect is easier said than done.

Suspicion can function as AOL, including AOL-Drive which is the term some use for when the session is totally driven by some form of assumption, expectation, etc. One of the more insidious things about AOL is that the more of it the viewer gets, the more tempted to follow that road they might be. It feels GOOD to have a 'suspicion' about what something in the target might be, and viewers often unconsciously "retask" themselves on "that-thing-I-suspect" in the middle of a session, shifting the focus away from "the target" and onto "this thing I just perceived or that I think is the target."

Issues That Worsen or Invoke AOL

Knowing your tasker can help invoke AOL in a viewer based on the assumed nature of the tasking. I've suffered that more than once. It's especially insidious if the nature of the target (for example, The World Cup sporting event, people with painted faces, etc.) has something in common with the nature of your AOL (that the tasker tends to task big disasters, terrorism, etc.) because then it "skews your AOLs" or helps create them.

To deal with it: you can use an RV tool like Taskerbot to mix up your tasks, so even if you only have a few, you won't be sure of the source when they are given to you. tbot Tasker allows a super simple entry of nothing more than task numbers for example, for tasks that already exist. It isn't tasking you, it's simply handing the tasks to you in a random order to help increase the blinding factor.

The best way to work against having any expectation at all about the target is (a) the widest variety of task sources or task genres, and (b) experience. Once you've had the chronic experience of having no idea what the hell you were talking about in a session, and you see how assumptions whether gross or subtle messed you up, you get a little better at not coming to a conclusion because you know too well that you have NO IDEA what it might be.

AOL from Target Pools

Familiarity with a target pool can be one of the worst sources of chronic AOL. Target pool AOL is pretty obvious when observing sessions of people suffering it and it's painful even from a distance.

I give this a separate section of its own because any practice utility that people can use at their own discretion, and especially those where they can see what other viewers get as tasks, is going to engender some target pool aol. Most viewers don't do enough viewing to run into this if the pool is at least 500+ tasks, but occasionally you get folks who do 20-50 mini-sessions a day, plus look at what others do, and the result is that before long, even in a pool of well over a thousand tasks, they're going to end up with target pool AOL.

I see this pretty often over at TKR at the Dojo Psi, with viewers who are either brand new and still big on the assuming, or who are so over-familiar with the pool that a good portion of the time, shortly into the session they have either identified the target entirely by the feel of it, or they have identified enough elements to come to a conclusion that it is another target (which probably has something in common with this one which led to that).

Usually the initial data is good, but at some point the mind decides what it 'might' be, at which point suddenly the viewer veers off into describing the assumed target. The difficult part of this is that a viewer gets what they focus on. When a viewer is in session and suddenly gets enough data to suggest it's target X, they often unconsciously shift their attention to target X, or some of it. At that point, they might legitimately be getting 'psychic information', but they've unintentionally retasked themselves in the middle of the session on a different target.

Like other kinds of AOL drive this can be more dangerous when accurate than inaccurate, since at least you'd learn from being wrong, but being right may unintentionally 'teach' the viewer to allow that to happen. It also causes great confusion in the mental-processing part of RV, because a lot of what might come through for the viewer are bits of memory, not psi-derived data, another thing that one doesn't want to entrain oneself to perceive as-if-its-psi.

It's true that some people have learned to work with target pools they know decently, and that training oneself against frontloading/tp-aol can be a good exercise. But it's rather like wearing bad shoes to jog in. Just because you can do so, doesn't mean it's a very helpful thing to do... might even be harmful... there are no karmic brownie points for unnecessary suffering.

There are many sources of free targets on the internet, or that your friends can help you with, not to mention many ways to use precognitive tasking to task yourself on all kinds of things regularly that are still blind to you -- you know the target (e.g., Tuesday's headline in newspaper XYZ) but not the detail. There are many ways to dig yourself out of an over-used target pool, and it's well worth seeking them out.

In a perfect world, viewers would focus as much on live-feedback and current-time targets as possible, just because the feedback tends to be greater and the interest factor tends to be higher, both of which can have a great effect both on the session and on the learning component.

Using AOL Notation During Session

In standard 'methods' training (swann-based training methods), AOL is used as a notation when the data is recorded.

These methods were developed to be training methods, and the point of them is to be an external roadmap to helping the viewer become more aware internally of what is going on in their head, what they are experiencing and how they are processing the information. In my view this was a good idea, since we haven't yet evolved to the technology of being able to open up people's heads and look inside them. So, you have people record what they perceive, and you teach them to recognize certain things in what they are recording that should be an 'indicator' of something going on inside them.

(At least, in a better understanding of the methods than many people have, this is the purpose. Whether this is fulfilled by the way they are taught may be another story, depending on the trainer and situation.)

It appears that truly getting anything out of your system that is in your head/heart requires physically acting out the expression of it. Or in plain english, in a remote viewing context, saying it or writing it down. Even recognizing something as AOL in your head does not tend to be as effective for many viewers in "letting it go" as writing it down "as" AOL.

Oddly, saying or writing down things which are true or accurate seems mostly to better confirm them within yourself. If I were better versed on this research I believe I could reference some here; both of these points have been studied. I'm too lazy right now so, if you want to know more, google it.

In the methods, when a viewer recognizes something as aol, they write it to the far right side of the paper, and annotate it "AOL".

In practice, the point of this is to help the viewer recognize when this kind of processing has happened in their head, and to allow them to 'vent' that assumption. In content viewing (where the session content is used for some purpose, such as science or applications), it can serve to tell the onlooking interviewer (monitor) or a later analyst what was going on with the viewer.

When viewers begin, they usually only have the "labels are AOL" level of understanding about this. Eventually, if they get data like "car" they write it down as AOL because they recognize the label as "processed data".

But realistically, even "brown" is processed data. Maybe not as processed as "A Roman Chariot" for example, but the mere act of translating something to the level of words is processing. So initially, this act of writing it down for novices mostly serves to cause them to pay attention to the more obvious "labeling" tendency.

In other words, new viewers don't write down AOL because it is AOL. They write it down because it is a label and they have been taught that labels are AOL.

In the later stages of most RV methodologies, AOL can sometimes be written as AOL-signal if the viewer chooses. That means that although the viewer recognizes it is AOL, they also believe that it is directly related to the target anyway.

What Matters About Annotating AOL

For the viewer themselves, the important thing about annotating something as AOL is recognizing and releasing it; is realizing it is a mentally-manufactured or over-processed data point. Also, realizing this means that the viewer can often stop, replay the "data experience or observation" they just had, in their head, and better evaluate what they really DID experience, in its components, and better articulate it for recording.

In other words, it's not just recognizing what data may be affected; it is also being able to recognize that issue on the fly, while you are viewing, so that you can figure out what the data should be--or what the data actually was, prior to your head getting carried away with it.

For anybody evaluating the session, annotating something as AOL is the viewer's way of saying: "This was not a psi-based impression or experience. I recognize that this was just something my head has 'affected'. Even if it is accurate, it should not be considered data."

The "AOL-signal" notation would instead say: "This data is affected in some way by my mental processing, but I believe the core of this was based on psi." This functions almost as a way of saying, "This relates to something in the target, but whatever it is, is probably not this."

Ordinary "AOL" annotated data is generally disregarded when evaluating a session. The viewer themselves is telling you, "This isn't psi based information and I am just venting it to get rid of it." There is no reason for an evaluator to want to equate that to data that the viewer genuinely perceived as a psi-based experience. AOL is a viewer's "discard" pile. That does not mean the data point is wrong, by the way.

Sometimes in session a viewer will sense themselves going into a sort of "free association" or "logical correlation" mode. Things flashing into their head related to that would be AOL. Sometimes, a viewer gets a few pieces of info via psi, and feels their mind come to some logical conclusion based on that. They write it down as AOL to vent that and move on.

New Viewers and AOL

A common mistake new viewers make is to write down so much of the 'noise' in their head that instead of remote viewing, they simply spend an entire session writing down AOLs. They end up with sessions that are 50%++ AOL notation. Sometimes this is because they are so new, that they are not easily able to tell what "pings" inside their head are such light mental associative fluff that it is not an 'impression' -- or anything even potentially one. Unless one has got the state of Zen No-Mind down pat, every viewer is going to have to gradually learn enough about what comes-from their head vs. what comes-into their head (and there is a middle, joined ground, too) that they do not feel obliged to spend 20 minutes recording their free association. Half the time, the recording of it simply creates more of it and they never even get around to viewing.

As a solution to that I recommend new viewers write down "what they feel is important or relevant about the target, even stuff they imagine." Usually the "important or relevant" filter will gradually help them get a feel about what is a bunch of unrelated mental fluff they can just ignore. Sometimes, taking the trouble to recognize something, stop, and write it down, gives it far more credit than it deserves, plus it shifts your attention from focused on the target with receptive mind, to focused on the paper with projective communication. It just takes some practice to figure out what is 'subtle' enough to be dismissed as light surface mental wandering, vs. what has enough 'feeling' or 'impression' with it that it counts as data. Either way, AOL is not viewing. The RV session needs to actually contain some psychic work.

Another common mistake viewers (even with more experience) might make is using AOL as a "safety net." It's like their Monopoly Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free card. They figure if they mark something AOL it's ok for it to be wrong; it's like a "free" data point because one has already declared it "more processing than psi". So you can say anything you want as long as you mark it AOL.

Ah, but then you find that when they review their session, if they have something valid annotated AOL, then everybody wants to take credit for it! This is not appropriate. Part of learning RV is learning to "own your data", is learning to take responsibility for it, be willing to go with what you experience and do your best and face the results, no matter how they match or don't, learn something from the experience and move on.

Also, part of using any annotation is using it correctly, of course. Psychic impressions do not belong in the AOL column.

When it's Data, it's not AOL

There are plenty of examples where data that is a noun, a label, and even a highly processed data point, for that matter even an entire location or situation of highly processed information, is genuinely based on psi-perception. It is not about secondary processing by the viewer making it something complex or labeled. It is literally what the viewer experienced.

If the viewer has a sense of flying over an island and zooming down near a woven bridge in lush greenery and seeing a small village on fire, then that is their data. Their data is not "flying. island-aol. zooming. bridge-aol. greenery. village. fire." but to hear some people define AOL you'd think so. That is working against psi, and against the viewer, and using the red-tape bureaucracy of something designed to help, to instead hinder the process.

Psychics often run into this when they begin working in an RV protocol. They are often used to opening up and BAM they've got more information in 30 seconds than some viewers could get in 30 hours. And some people naturally get much larger data constructs. They may write down labels because they quite literally experience things in that more 'data-combined' form.

This may require more work on the viewer's part to prevent that kind of mental combining from happening even when it shouldn't. To the degree it works for them... great, they should go for it. What matters is what works. Usually it's a good exercise, if you get data this way, to make a point after anything you write down like that, to then flesh out how it feels inside you; the components that make it that-thing. Be sure though, that you are not describing what you intellectually know that-thing contains, but rather, that you are describing what you psychically feel that-thing contains. When this happens, the viewer ends up with a combination of labels (as data, not as aol) and detailed descriptions.

It usually won't take long before they realize that focusing on the more component information, will provide a ton more data that might be useful. RV is not about matching pictures after all; it's about providing "descriptive information" to someone who wants to use it. So the more accurate, detailed description that can be provided, the better.

The viewer's data should be based on their experience. Whatever that may be. Describe it as best you can, whether that means sketching (always a good idea if you can), taking shorthand, writing an essay, or talking into a recording device. It's up to the viewer to communicate the data as well as they can.

Sometimes, based on the wholly subjective experience in their session, they may feel that "parsing down" the information to basic fact-phrases is what is best. Sometimes, they may feel that waxing eloquently about a whole experience and feeling is what is best. This is up to the viewer, unless they use a methodology that restricts them. If your methodology insists you write all your data in words or tiny phrases in logical columns, then either you need to adapt to that, or you need to ditch at least some of that method and explore what comes naturally for you and develop your strengths as best you can.

Let's say (a funny real example of a viewer friend of mine) you're in session and you see a cartoon Snoopy Flying Ace and you 'know' the target is a fighter plane. It doesn't matter that your data isn't even what you experienced. It doesn't matter that your data is definitely a highly processed thing. If you are pretty sure you know the data is a fighter jet, not because your head is making the association or assumption, but because you feel in your gut that this is what it means, then that is what goes on paper. If you're wrong, you will gradually learn what sense perceptions you are willing to gamble accuracy on and what you aren't.

If you are practicing for yourself, do record this processing for your records. For example, you might write down: "sym> Snoopy Flying Ace = fighter plane" so later, you will know that you got data you believe is symbology, and then here is what you believe the information actually translates to. This is important, because later when you review past sessions (which you should definitely do. I've learned more from past-session review than actual viewing I think.) you may see certain commonalities in symbols, or in how you translate symbols.

(This is assuming the viewer gets symbology as data. Most do, but not all.)

There is another kind of data that is not psychic, it is analytical, but I do not consider AOL, because it is not overlay 'affecting' data, it is understanding 'explaining' data, instead.

This is when, during a time when the data seems relative flowing or more contextual, when the viewer may write down something like "red star > ana = Russian". The difference between this and the symbology is that (a) this may be data that is not symbolic (only this example was), and (b) this is not about the viewer "feeling" a gut-sense of what-it-means, this is about a sheer mental recognition on the viewer's part that when they get data X and Y, it usually means Z and they believe it does this time.

Technically the session is not the place for analysis obviously, but a viewer with experience is likely to sometimes recognize one or more data components, or their sequence, as having a likely meaning that may not be obvious on paper if they don't write it down.

Exercises to Improve AOL Avoidance & Handling

There are several ways a viewer can work toward improving how they avoid and/or 'deal with' AOL in session, whether directly or as a side-effect (positive benefit) of other issues. Here are a few pretty powerful things that I recommend.

1. If you record anything as AOL, ask yourself what it is based upon. If you got 'little red car', the instant you realize it's AOL, ask yourself: 'What made me think of that'? Hopefully, you will then realize that a sense of small, round, red, motion, fun, was rapidly flipping through your mind. At that point, write down the real data. Eventually, the goal is that a viewer instantly recognizes when it's happened, flips back memory a few seconds to their original perception for replay, and writes down the proper information.

Of course, this eventually leads to a viewer simply sitting down and viewing. Other people say, "Look, he doesn't even have a method! He's just a natural." Yeah, riiiiiiight. There is a good deal of RV that can be, and in my opinion eventually should be, done in the viewer's head (in part for immediacy reasons). The viewer records what results. The external methods many people use are good training for brand-newbies and for the gradual, uniquely individual development of internal methods by a viewer. If for no other reason than rigidity and time, eventually for most (not all) viewers I know, external stuff gives way to a more flexible and more internal approach. Yes, the data eventually gets to the paper, but the 'session experience' tends to get processed fast enough in the head that writing down data becomes primary, not writing down process.

2. When you get feedback on a session, that moment is of key importance. Don't rush on to some other target or activity. Sit down, be quiet, and look at every data point that you wrote down. Read one to yourself. Stop. Look at the feedback. Consider. Does this match? What all might it match? If it doesn't, what was I feeling that caused me to write that down, can I repeat that experience in myself? If I can, and I do, and now I see feedback, how do I think that experience relates to what's in or implied by the feedback? What caused my "experience" in session to get written down as I wrote it? Do this for every single thing you wrote down that is not marked AOL.

Popular methodologies have somewhat attuned people to looking at data as simply right vs. wrong, or nearly always "literal" (as opposed to symbolic, etc.). Worse, it often inspires viewers to end a session and instantly go into a math-test mentality where they start evaluating what category every data point falls into and counting how many they've got and so on. I can't think of anything worse for a viewer than doing this after a session. If you must database your results, do it later. After-session is the most powerful time for psychological review and consideration. The session feedback time is a time of intimacy in a way, where you and your mind can go over the experience you just had together. Don't underestimate how important this is.

3. Never give yourself credit for AOL. If you mark it AOL, it doesn't 'count' as credit for you if it's right. If you want your AOLs to count, own your viewing. If it's real, write it down as real. AOL means it's a mental construct, not psychic data. AOL becomes a CYA cop-out for many viewers, rather than a way of communicating something.

The viewer's "assignment of meaning" is vastly important to their experience and progress and learning. You have to set your internal rewards, recognition, etc. based on what you want to 'teach' yourself. Viewers should set themselves as the driver and owner of their talent and their skill, no matter what their background or who their teachers or what their methods. A great deal of psychic work is affected by a viewer's strong sense of autonomy (or lack thereof) and making yourself take yourself seriously, and not letting yourself get away with excuses, is an important part of developing that strength.

4. It is a good exercise, once a viewer has some experience (not for brand-new viewers), to make an exercise, temporarily anyway, of writing down everything that relates to your session, not just your data. In other words, if you write down "AOL - car" then write down, quickly as you can, WHY 'car' was an AOL. I don't mean why intellectually, I mean what you 'sense' that leads to the 'car' conclusion. A primary point of using an external notation of something is to teach yourself 'awareness' of it. Eventually, while you are viewing, this kind of understanding about yourself should be part of the process. It should not take up big blocks of seconds while stuff gets written down. It should be a micro-second realization, backtrack, data re-vew, and then recording what should be recorded. The external is there to teach the internal. Everything you can do toward that learning process is a good thing.

5. Another exercise worth doing is recording 'how' data comes across to you. For example if you get names, words, or visuals, there are many different ways that these can come through. You may hear a voice say a word; you mean get a 'sense' of a word; you may visually 'see' the word written. Over time, you're likely to find, if you pay attention to this, that "how" data comes through may relate to how literal it may be, and even how accurate it may be. It may also relate to processing issues you have including AOL. It's worth tracking, when you can.

6. Speed during the session can help, mostly because it can reduce the amount of time that the mind has to wander, associate, etc. This is a very good approach for new viewers. In general though, it is a bit of a tradeoff. Being able to truly pay attention and often 'explore' data is lost if one is rushing through it with all haste.

A viewer friend gave a good analogy of this. He said in the gym, many people use music or videos to distract them from their workout exercises and make them seem to go faster, and for the general public level, this works well. But serious athletes and bodybuilders want to pay attention to what they are doing, and so you don't find them 'spacing out' the process, you find them really focusing on it instead. There is something to be said for all-haste: it gets things done, gets you through it, and reduces mental distraction. But there is something to be said for a slower, more focus-intensive effort as well. What approach works best may depend on the target, and the reason for the session, as well as the viewer.

The Point of it All

What 'matters' to a session is that you obtain valid information about the target, much of which is usually correlated with what we call (as slang; nobody can truly define this) "target contact," or "rapport." A few seconds of close target contact can often do more for loads of accurate data, than a much longer period of distant methodical work (and often with less inaccurate data, and less overall data to wade through when trying to make sense of it all). Your practices as far as methods and process go, should serve this goal first.

So how you think about the viewer's interference with data -- including "AOL", often used as a term to encompass nearly every kind of potential interference or affect -- should be considered in the context of what is best for learning about yourself, and what is best for providing accurate information about your target. Experiment if you can. Get a feel for what works for you.

Using AOL in session notation is not necessarily something a viewer "should" do, but anybody "can", and I find it helpful personally. You can make up your own notation if you wish. Some methods use "d:" for "deduction" for example. Every methodology has a whole vocabulary of its own, and most viewers gradually develop a written shorthand for a ton of different stuff, much of which they've come up with for their own unique process.

Words don't make RV. Nothing matters to viewing but the viewing, and nothing matters to the practicing viewer but the experience and the learning. So terminology is worth understanding, and you can use some of it if you wish -- or not. If you don't like it, don't use it. In the end every viewer is responsible for themselves . . . just do what works for you.

But if you want to talk with other people about it, it's a good idea to have a shared vocabulary.

-- PJ

(P.S. I wrote this off the top while sleep deprived--as always. It may be imperfect and I may improve it in places later.)

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