Choice & Authenticity

 

I am about to read more about the Radical Authenticity approach, as I do think there is much of value there. I have heard some stories of how it sometimes is expressed, and am reminded of the importance of choice.

It seems that a mature approach to authenticity includes choice. If we habitually express our views “authentically”, with little consideration for other people’s reactions and feelings, it seems rather immature. We do not have much freedom, and it seems that we are stuck in an idea of authenticity – or maybe in a reflexive reaction against what we perceive as “inauthentic”.

On the other hand, we can aim at choice. We have more of a real choice in whether and how to express our “authentic” views and experiences. We go beyond habitual responses, can find approaches appropriate to each situation, and thus act in a way more helpful for all involved.

I have written authentic in quotation marks, as it does seem to be a rather dubious – although maybe useful – concept. What is really “authentic”? We have our experiences, feelings and thoughts, although these always change. What is real for me at one moment, is merely a memory in the next. It is all fluid….

Of course, these are the worst assumptions about this movement, and I hope these issues are dealth with well there.

Masculinity

 

For years, I have strongly resisted the idea of significant social/psychological differences between men and women. I still do resist the thought of inherent/necessary differences, but also realize that I want to take into account culturally created differences more than I have in the past.

In Norway, it seems that it is easy and expected for men to express traditionally feminine characteristics, such as caring, nurturing, staying home with the kids, etc. Traditional masculine qualities, some more than others, are often seen as more suspect. I do think it is mostly a healthy approach, although it sometimes seems that there may be a lack of (public) exploration of healthy expressions of masculine qualities.

In the US, the situation quite different. While men in Norway typically are comfortable with feminine qualities, men here are often not encouraged to express and explore these. American men are often expected to express masculine qualities, and often in a quite unhealthy way (sports, violence, war etc). This is of course a caricature, and not true for everyone, but seems to capture some of the spirit here.

In both cultures, it seems that there is not so much public exploration of the differences between healthy and unhealthy expressions of masculine and feminine qualities.

I am now at a point where I am ready to explore these more in depth, and how they play themselves out in my own life. I am especially interested in healthy expressions of masculinity.

It seems that two current world leaders are exemplifying the healthy and unhealthy expressions. Bush is expressing profoundly unhealthy masculinity, with his insistence of vengefulness and violence – strength w/o caring. Kofi Anan is at the other end of the spectrum, with his integration of strength (clear/direct talk and action) and deep caring.

Lord of the Rings & Duality

 

Lord of the Rings obviously touches on archetypes that are alive in the western culture (or it would not be as popular as it is). Two of the obvious archetypes are the hero, in the healthy form of strength combined with caring, and duality, in a less beneficial form of “good” vs. “evil”.

I did read the books as a teenager, but was even then bothered by the strong duality in the idea of the story. The world is divided up into “good” and “evil”, we exclusively identify with the “good”, and the “evil” are dehumanized – in this case quite literally. We feel little or no compassion for the “other”, and little remorse for killing them. This reflects a traditional European worldview. A fragmented and blindly dualistic worldview that has lead to most or all of the aspects of western culture we are not so proud of, from imperialism (civilize the uncivilized) via witch hunts (exterminating the evil) to Bush’s “war on terrorism” (same).

Unfortunately, The Lord of the Ring trains us in this way of seeing the world. The “evil” are so clearly “evil” in the story, and since most of them (the orcs) are nothing more than soulless creations where there is little or no room for identification or empathy. It is a story where we are justified in dehumanizing the opponent, which makes it easier to transfer the pattern to real life situations – with the horrors it brings with it.

Blind duality, and dehumanization of the opponent, arises from a sequence of perceptions.

1. From the unified whole of the world, we differentiate. We need to do this to make effective choices and survive in the world.

2. We, correctly, perceive polarities. Us-them, up-down, life-nonlife, friend-predator, etc. In some cases, one end of the polarity is seen as aiding our health and well-being, and the other as a risk to our health and well-being. Again, we need this to survive.

3. Our mistake comes in when we do the following:

a) Loose sight of the larger whole the polarities emerge from, and even loose sight of the unified polarity that each pole are part of. We fragment the world.

b) We forget that all qualities we see outside of ourselves are also inside of ourselves. When we perceive qualities in the outer world, it is because we recognize them from ourselves.

c) From seeing one end of a polarity as beneficial to us and the other as not, we go one step further and assign “values” to each end of the polarities. One is seen as absolute “good” and the other as absolute “bad” or “evil”. We create abstract notions of good and evil, and assign them to real life objects and beings. From this, we create ideologies.

d) Beyond this, we apply the same pattern to our aversions and attractions. These likes and dislikes are formed in us by our culture(s) and personal experiences. We like one end of a polarity, and dislike another, even if there is not always a good reason for doing so. From this, we apply the same process and assign values, we see one as “good” and the other as “bad” or “evil”. One is “better” than the other. And from this again, we create worldviews and ideologies to match our particular patterns of likes and dislikes. These ideologies strengthens and gives stability to these patterns which were more or less arbitrary creations in the first place.

e) These ideologies strengthens our habitual patterns of likes and dislikes. They allow us to act blindly, with little choice.

It takes much to recognize this, and even more to allow it to dissolve. A good place to start is to create a habit of seeing in ourselves all qualities we see in the outer world. It is all in there, unfolded or as a potential. By doing this, we start dissolving the blind dualism, and we open up for true empathy with all living beings. We recognize ourselves in them, no matter who or how they are.

To take one example of how these processes play themselves out: the current obsession with “terrorism”.

From a trans-dual view, we see that we are all human. We all seek happiness. Those who engage in terrorist activities deserve our sympathy and understanding, as much as the victims of their actions. We seek to understand where they are coming from, to understand the desperate situations that leads to their desperate actions. This helps us to act to prevent such actions in the future. We can act on all levels, from the immediate symptom prevention (finding the people and prevent them from carrying out actions that harm others), to going to the deep source of their frustration, address their concerns and legitimate reasons for frustration (which are always there), and preventing such extremes of desperation to occur in the future. From this view, we will act with deep respect for each individual, while acting quickly and effectively to prevent harm to anyone. This view is expressed by Kofi Annan, and several European leaders.

From a blindly dualistic view, we get caught up in emotions and ideology. We see ourselves as “good” and the terrorists as “evil”. We see ourselves as the heroes in an epic battle of good against evil. We get caught up in archetypes, and allow them to take charge of us. We loose our ability to see the situation more as is, and make decisions not good in the long run (nor in the short run, in most cases). This view is expressed by the Bush administration, and their supporters.

Placebo

 

I have noticed that in discussing the effects of certain treatments, it is often said something along these lines: “the treatment had an effect for 55% of the participants, although the placebo had an effect for 40% of the participants.” They may then continue with pointing out that the treatment may be less effective than it seems, since the results are relatively close to the placebo. That the placebo had an obvious effect, and the implications of this, is often ignored. To me, that seems to be the most interesting point of those studies.

If the mind can have a significant effect for a significant number of people, that is indeed worth exploring. It means that a cheap or free treatment, with few or no side effects, is available with a little exploration and training.

Intelligence

 

I just listened to a story about intelligence on BBC. Some researchers have found that people in wealthier countries are significantly more intelligent than those in poorer countries.

Neither the researchers, BBC, nor anyone they interviewed, pointed to what seems to be the most obvious explanations: Intelligence test measure certain skills that are highly culturally dependent and trainable. In societies with a western style education system, people will naturally score higher on intelligence test created within a western culture and mindset. Of course, these countries also happen to be wealther, in the western definition of the term (narrowly focusing on money).

As a case in point, I have dramatically improved my score on “intelligence” test which supposedly measure some “inherent” ability – through plain old practice (for instance, 40 point improvement on IQ tests). Mostly, it is a matter of figuring out what they are looking for – as is the case with just about any test on any subject (tests are generally to a minimal degree about any inherent ability, or a wider understanding of a particular topic).

Paying for Health

 

Apparently, in China, you paid your doctor only when you were well. If you got sick, the doctor would not receive any money until you were well again. This is in stark contrast to how it works in the west (and most other places) today. You pay for a service that may or may not have any effect, and if it does have an effect – may or may not be the desired one.

Health must be one of the few areas where there is no money-back gurarantee. You pay, wheter you receive the service you are seeking or not.

Of course, in the long run it is possible to pinpoint approaches that work for oneself, and stick with those (for me, Five Elements acupuncture, and NAET for allergies).

Existence

 

I took last night off, which allowed some big picture topics to resurface. Topics which I lately have set aside to the benefit of relatively urgent and numerous day-to-day tasks.

I thought about my opportunities in this life – and the choices I am making. Last night, I dreamt about a friend who died last year.

For me, what is most astonishing about it all – and what I was astonishing to me even as a little kid – is that anything exists at all. It is amazing that this universe exists, this planet, life… That I exist.

Patterns

 

Some patterns from my life:

1. Oslo, Norway | 1989-1994
Spirituality, art, relationships, explorations
(chi gong, tai chi, jes bertelsen, tibetan buddhism, cg jung, rudolf steiner, fritjof carpa, systems theories, world literature, painting, drawing, odd nerdrum)

2. Salt Lake City, Utah | 1994-1997
Spirituality, psychology, nature, photography
(kanzeon zen center, environmental and health psychology, utah nature)

3. Madison, Wisconsin | 1997-2002
Community, sustainability, food, rural
(sustain dane, ecoteams, earth institute discussion groups, organic food, csa, rural life, lakes, nature)

4. Eugene, Oregon | 2002-?
Architecture, ecological design, permaculture, spirituality
(sustainable architecture, eugene permaculture guild)

5. Future?
Spirituality, ecological design, community (weaving together)

Thermal Delight

 

Silver HouseI am reading Thermal Delight in Architecture by Lisa Heschog.

It reminds me of our time living in a rural farmhouse in Wisconsin, near Mount Horeb and Madison (built in the 1880s by a Norwegian family – Tollefsen). During the cold winter days and nights, we spent nearly all our time in the large kitchen – the central part of the house. We fired the woodstove, baked bread, and were warm and content. We let the rest of the house stay cold as we did not need it for other than occasional use. This strategy – insipired by the design of the house (kitchen as focal point) preserved energy, and gave us hightened awareness of the joys of warmth from wood fire and freshly baked bread.

This is in stark contrast to some bland and boring modern designs where all parts of a building is equally heated… dulling our senses and awareness of our surroundings.

Food

 

Food can be poison or medicine. And the same food can be one or the other, depending on time, amount, and combination. I have known this – from personal experience – since my teens, and am reminded of it daily.

Sometimes, even the food that normally makes me sick, is exactly what I need to feel better. After several months in Nepal and India, I spent a few days near the beach by Los Angeles, and ate 5-7 milkshakes daily. It was just what my organism needed at that time, although I rarely if ever eat milkshakes otherwise.

Death

 

I read the Winter 2002 issue of Parabola today, which is on death. It reminded me of some insights from Buddhism, and my own meditation practice.

Each phenomenon dies and is reborn, continuosly. It dies as what it was, and is reborn as something else. Everything is in flux.

There is nothing to hold onto (no phenomenon, no experience, no insights).

All phenomena are born from and expressions of that which is beyond all dualities. The “ground” beyond existence and nonexistence.

This means that “I” am never reincarnated. This body, this collection of experiences, which I try to “fix” by calling it “I”, dies for good at the end of this life.

Beards

 

Marcus AureliusI listened to a five-episode history of beards on NRK today. (With with typical euro-centrism they call it “history of beards” while it is only the history of beards in the west.)

The author Anders Kvåle Rue obviously has a strong pro-beard view, and another point he wants to get across. Below is a summary.

Beards have, not surprisingly, been the norm throughout western history – with beardless phases as anomalities. In the “cradle of civilization” (eurocentric again), beards signaled which group you belonged to. To have ones beard shaved off, the fate of slaves and prisoners of war, was the ultimate humiliation. The first beard-free phase was among the soldiers of Alexander the Great, as beards were a drawback in close combat. Later, the Roman soldiers shaved for a similar reason.

The next beard-less phase came during the middle ages, where knights needed a clean shaven face to fit inside their helmets, and the Catholic church wanted its monks to shave as sign of humility. Beards became the norm again in the Renaissance, and – with few exceptions – remained the norm until the early 1900s.

During World War One, soldiers were again required to shave, this time to allow the gas masks to fit closely. Gilette, which made a fortune during that time, engaged in a massive attitude changing ad campaign following WW1 to increase their market.

Clean shaven faces have typically been the expression of submission to authority throughout western history. Clean shaven faces were seen on slaves, soldiers, monks, and now (in a slightly one-sided phrasing) – those enslaved to a consumer culture where sales of shaving implements means big profits.

Permaculture

 

The Eugene Permaculture Guild is hosting the 7th Annual Permaculture Gathering this weekend, and it is running smoothly and with quite a number of people (three digits). I was less involved in the early planning as I normally would have been, due to my architecture studies this summer.

The workshop topics are the typical (and important) ones: water systems, food preservation, biodiesel, etc.

I realize that I would like to see the topics expanded to less typical and still permaculture related topcs. Here are some ideas for next year: complexity theories, effective community organizing and social change strategies, facilitation training, open source technologies, nonviolent communication, techniques for participatory democracy (e.g. citizen councils).

Large House

 

I dreamt that we were moving into a house far larger than we thought. It had a large number of rooms, one of which led to a large public swimming pool…!

We are moving into a new house next week. It is large, but I have concerns about storage space – its from the 70s when they thought people didn’t need storage space. These types of dreams often reflect a process of exploring new sides of oneself. That may be the case as I am in a quite demanding architecture program, and already feel I have explored much – in terms of design and my personality.

Winged Migration

 

I saw Winged Migration tonight. It is a powerful reminder of the unity of all life – we all share the same struggles and concern for food, shelter, community, providing for our offspring, seek safety.

For me, it was also a reminder of something that seems as true now as when I first started to perceive it. Our own survival is intimately connected with the survival of all life on Earth.

Our own survival is dependent on our ability to expand our circle of concern to include all life – current and future generations. And it is fully possible. We are already making choices based on what we perceive as good for “us”. Now, we need to expand “us” to include all life – nothing is outside. It will not be perfect, but any step in this direction is immensely important.

Matrix & life

 

I watched Matrix Reloaded today. The first movie intrigued me due to its clear parallels to Buddhism (waking up to the reality gives choice). The second one obviously needs to be finished by the third, although I do like its complexity, its lack of a clear resolution – just like life. Life is rarely black and white, resolutions are rarely complete. There is always more to work on. Life is dukha – something is always a little off. While Matrix I gave a glimpse of enlightenment, the second shows dukha.

Dream – Intentional Life

 

I had a dream yesterday where one of my housemates, who I perceive as living a strongly intentional life, asked me about my intentions about an aspect of my life. I became uncomfortable, realizing that where I previously had strong intentions and awareness – it is now more in the background. The last several weeks weeks in particular has changed my focus from the big picture to the day-to-day, sometimes the hour-to-hour, details of my life. The big picture, and my intentions for my choices in that context, has been placed on the shelf. Now, in my first break in the architecure program I started in June, I have an opportunity to refresh my intentions.

Online Audio & Text

 

Some of the online audio I currently listen to:

News

BBC World Service – mostly solid news reporting
NRK – Norwegian news and in-depth reporting
As it Happens – Canadian perspective

Stories

To the Best of Our Knowledge – stories on a theme from Wisconsin Public Radio
This American Life – Deeply human stories on a theme
The America Project
Hearing Voices
Third Coast Audio Festival

And what I read:

Google News – world news from a range of news sources (good opportunity to compare reporting)
The Guardian – British newspaper
BBC – World News
New York Times
NRK – Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation
Dagsavisen – Norwegian newspaper

BBC and NY Times both have a strong “modern” bias in the Cultural Creatives terminology: Belief in salvation through scientific progress, strongly supportive of neo-liberalism (and disparaging towards its critics) etc. BBC is sometimes surprisingly patronizing when reporting from former British colonies.

Independent/Noncorporate Sources

Common Dreams New Center
AlterNet
TruthOut
ZNet
Independent Media
One World

International

United Nations News
Outlook India – range of international views
IPS News – international news
Islam Online – Islamic views
Al Jazeera – Arabic view on world news

Journals

Adbusters
Yes Magazine
Resurgence
Mother Jones
Linux Journal

Future

 

Some thoughts about our future:

1. Hope and Fear
Hope and fear reflect blind projections. We see in the future that which we are not fully aware of in ourselves – that which we are not fully familiar with or comfortable with. This takes our attention away from life manifesting right now – the only way it can manifest. Past and future do not exist apart from in our memory or ideas. There is only a continuously changing present.

2. Scenarios
Scenarios are nevertheless useful. They help us think about our choices right now, and what they may lead to further into the future. Which scenarios are my current choices consistent with? Which futures may they contribute to?

3. Current Trends
There seems to be a few current trends that will impact our future more than other. Of course, this is in flux and there will be strong trends in the future that are beyond our current horizon.

a. Dualism
In the larger picture, our current blindly dualistic perceptions is a strong factor. We split and fragment the world, and see the fragments more than we see the whole they are embedded in.

We perceive certain characteristics in ourselves (our group) and not in others, and other characteristics in others (other groups) and not in ourselves. Seeing desirable characteristics in ourselves and undesirable characteristics in others, lead to aversion and dehumanization. Seeing undesirable characteristics in ourselves and desirable characteristics in others, lead to blind attractions. (What is seen as desirable and undesirable is mostly dictated by our culture and subculture.) These blind attractions and aversions lead to the actions that typically follows these (as we are all too familiar with), and finally to collective and individual suffering. On the other hand, when we recognize in ourselves what we see in others, we open up for compassion, recognition of our common humanity, and to clearer and more free choices. Attractions and aversions are the guideposts for us to become aware of projections, and recognize in our inner world what we see in the outer world.

Similarly, we fragment our world in an ecological sense. We see ourselves and human culture as mostly separate from the Earth. We have created and support an economical and industrial system that is based on an idea of unlimited resources. A system that does not take into account our intimate connection with ecosystems and their limited capacity. We spend most of our time indoors, and do not recognize how vital a daily connection with ecosystems is for our well being and health. We make daily life choices, and do not fully realize how they create our common future. We have one set of ethics for how we behave towards one species (the golden rule), and another set of ethics for how we behave towards most or all other species (dominance).

The dualistic phase of human evolution is still strong, although there is more and more recognition of what lies beyond – a more transdual view. It is possible that the evolution of mind goes from unaware oneness (plants), via half awake duality (most animals), to a more fully awake transdual experience (expressed by prophets and saints of many traditions). If humanity as a whole will ever go beyond mostly blind duality is an open question.

Ecology
Ecology is another strong factor, already mentioned above. Humanity has an ecological footprint larger than the Earth. (An ecological footprint is the area required of bioproductive land/sea to support our current lifestyle.) Living within our means is similar to living of the interests of an investment. This overshoot is similar to living off the principal – there is no obvious effect until we reach the bottom of the account. We know how to live within our means, while maintaining or possibly increasing our quality of life.

Corporations
There are many reasons why we have not moved more strongly towards a more sustainable and rewarding way of organizing our lives. One of them is multinational corporations. These corporations, some with a cash flow larger than that of many countries, have one goal: maximizing profit for their shareholders. Everything else takes second place. These same corporations are in corporate conglomerates that include most of the mass media in the world, which means that the views of the corporations and the views of the media are mostly aligned. Stories and views that support the interests of corporations are likely to be promoted, and those conflicting with the interests of corporations sifted out. Corporations also control, or have a strong influence on, the political systems around the world. In the US, few politicians can hope to be elected, even on a local level, unless they are backed by corporations. Election to national office requires a politician to support policies that benefit corporations, and set aside policies that may hurt them. (It follows that the police and military are used to protect the interest of corporations.) This leads to a situation where multinational corporations, media and politicians share common interests and aligned views.

4. Possible Futures
It seems that the unraveling of ecosystems and dominance of corporations will continue for a while. It will lead to massive suffering around the world (natural disasters, famine, diseases, wars, mass migration) – even more than what we see today. It seems that it may lead to one of two different scenarios. One where our social system unravels with the ecological system (leading to a significantly reduced human population). Another that leads to an awakening and change of course. Maybe the most likely is an awakening that is just enough to help us keep going longer, but one that also will not respond fully to all of our challenges.

Interactions

 

I have been listening to archived audio from NRK (Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation).

One of the statements that resonated with me was Anne-Cath. Vestly talking about one of her reasons for writing children’s books: Modelling interactions between adults and children that are primarily an interaction between human beings – where people do not fall into the predefined roles of “adult” and “child”.

It seems that this is good to keep in mind for all our human interactions. Do we interact as human beings – open for each other as we are – or do we fall into predefined roles?

Adaptability

 

After several years in Utah and Wisconsin, learning to live with long periods of warm temperatures (90-100 F, 30-40 C), I find it interesting to observe how Europeans are dealing with their current heat wave. For them, it is difficult to live with temperatures that people in other places around the world are used to and relatively comfortable with.

It is a reminder of how adaptable humans – and life – is.

We adapt biologically, mentally and with our behavior. In terms of heat, I noticed that during the summers in Utah where worked outside daily in temperatures up to 100F/40C, I adapted physiologically to the point where it seemed relatively comfortable. Being in a cooler space, especially air conditioned buildings, was very uncomfortable. This summer, I have spent much time in an air conditioned space (not my preference), and notice that I have not had an opportunity to adapt to even the low 90F (30-35C) temperatures we typically have here east of the Cascades.

There are also many behavioral tricks to deal with the heat: Getting up at or before sunrise and get most of the activities done by mid-day. Drink lots of water to prevent dehydration. Stay in the shade. Use a hat. Find a breezy spot or use a fan. Cool the house during the night by opening windows and doors, close everything during the day. Use external shading for windows. Build buildings that stay cool without air conditioning: external shade (deciduous trees, louvers), good insulation, designed for airflow (low – incoming cool air – and high – outgoing hot air – openings for cross ventilation), cooling towers, etc. Plant trees in the city to reduce the overall temperature (hard surfaces and lack of vegetation raises the temperature of cities 6-8F).

Choice and Energy

 

I had something very close to chronic fatigue syndrome for several years, and it finally cleared up after discovering NAET and going to a practitioner in Salt Lake City for some months. In addition to diet (I had strong food intolerances, and still have traces), I noticed that my mental state has a significant impact on how fatigued or energetic I feel. It seems that choices seems to be at the core – my relationship to the choices I make.

If I pretend that I do not have, and do not make, choices, but still act as if I made the choice (which I obviously did), then I tend to experience fatigue. If I recognize the choices I make, and take full responsibility for them, I feel lighter and more energetic. To me, it seems that the difference is dramatic. One is a victim mode, the other is taking charge and seeing this aspect of our life more clearly. When I realize that I always make choices, I am able to make more conscious choices. When I realize that I do something because I want to do it (aware of which needs it meet), resistance drops away. It also seems to be an effective way of letting go of habitual patterns.

This is a useful technique for bringing awareness into our choices:
(a) Make a list of our ten least favorite activities (pay taxes, work, etc).
(b) Write down our habitual statement we make about them (“I have to … because…”).
(c) Turn each around to a choice statement (“I choose to … because”).

This exercise, if done sincerely, can have several consequences:
(i) We drop a certain action, because we realize we do not have to do it, and it does not meet our needs.
(ii) We change our attitude about the action by realizing why we do it and what needs of ours it meets (we drop our complaining or victim attitude).
(iii) We change the behavior to better meet our needs.

Fragments of Life

 

Not only is life stranger than fiction – it is more complex, grounded and often far more fascinating.

Two of my current media favorites are Found Magazine and This American Life). Found Magazine publishes found fragments from people’s lives – notes, photos – including the card above. This American Life uses brief radio documentaries – often with a similar “found” character.

I find these glimpses into people’s lives facinating. They gives us a sense of our common and shared humanity.

Sound

 

Sound was an issue at our house meeting (Walnut Street Co-op) last night. Some folks want music into common spaces in the house. I prefer not. I realize that it has many reasons:

(a) I enjoy music too much. It means too much for me to be random background sound.
(b) We have such dramatically varied music taste. While I enjoy exploring new music, I prefer smaller doses.
(c) I have an aversion to the dullness, lack of inventiveness, and lack of organic sense of sound in most popular music. The worst for me is constant and unchanging drum rhythms. They seem dead and devoid of an organic sense of music and sound. It lacks aliveness and spontaneity.
(d) I enjoy silence tremendously. There is so much in silence – all the small sounds created by life. It gives space for experience and intimacy with oneself and the situation. Constant music dulls my experience of the world.

Old Log Entries

 

Here are several log entries that got lost when I moved from one to several separate logs:

Mon Dec 09, 11:47:26 AM
Happiness & Choice
Happiness is a choice. Simple, but not easy…

Happiness comes from within, independent of external situations. It is chosen, or not. Of course, realizing it to the point where there is a real choice, takes skills and practice.

We are thoroughly trained, especially in our western culture, to experience our happiness as completely dependent on external situations. External situations “create” responses and feelings in us, just like a mathematical formula (2+2=4). Of course, this is not true, but it takes insight, practice and patience to turn this around.

Choosing happiness, independent on circumstances, can be learned, and the tools are there. I have found the most effective ones in the Tibetan mind-training (lo jong) teachings. (Lama Zopa’s “Transforming Suffering Into Happiness” is an excellent beginning).

Sun Dec 08, 07:35:25 PM
Dreams of Impermanence
I did a solo retreat this weekend, and had the following dream on the last day:

An experienced diver lead me through a series of underground caverns. They were filled with ice cold water and I wore a dry suit as protection. The opening to the first cavern was a small hole in the ground, and I experienced a surprising amount of apprehension before entering.

The cavern was dark and cold. We dove down, and the floor was lit up by our headlamps. I noticed that the rock looked volcanic and ancient.

The entrance to the second cavern was small, as the first one. The surface was some feet below, and we had to drop down. Diving down, we saw shapes in the rock resembling a petrified city. We saw people in cars, light rail, streets, buildings. It reminded me of cities I have lived in.

The entrance to the third cavern was small, and with a drop to the surface. There, on the floor of the cavern, we saw fossilized imprints of the Earth and many similar planets which had harbored life.

In the fourth cavern, we saw the imprints of a multitude of Universes.

Throughout, there was a strong sense of impermanence: Human civilization, planets and Universes exists only temporarily. Then, there will be no trace of them.

At the last opening, we left the series of caverns and entered a sunlit natural landscape full of life. My guide was exhilarated and joyful.

I was left with a strong sense of the impermanence of everything. Of the importance of making the most out of what we experience at the moment, and the pointlessness of seeking fame and wealth, as there will be no trace left. Most of all, I was left with a sense of urgency in engaging fully in my spiritual practice.

Thu Dec 05, 12:38:21 PM
Food Poisoning
I had food poisoning over the weekend (from a gift of smoked salmon).

It was an excellent lesson in just being with what is occuring. With no separation, without adding anything. Letting any thoughts (of self-pity, past, future, cause) pass. Holding on to them only added suffering to discomfort.

Extreme situations are often our best teachers, magnifying the patterns of our mind and their effects.

Fri Nov 29, 09:57:05 AM
Visualizations
I have practiced visualizations regularly for about a year now. I was initially skeptical, but have found it a valuable practice, and sometimes remarkably effective. It seems to work in setting a clear direction and purpose, which in turn gives guidelines for choices and actions.

I tend to visualize what I would like in my life, in long and short term.

For health, I visualize general good health, and the healing of specific ailments (e.g. scoliosis, food allergies). For my scoliosis, I visualize a smooth and supple spine, and it has encouraged me to seek out practices and therapies that may bring that about, such as yoga and therapeutic massage. The scoliosis has improved markedly over the months I have engaged in visualization. For my food allergies, it has helped me choose food that is good for me and does not give me reactions.

For relationships, I visualize clear communication, a good connection, and smooth cooperation. I use it with people I interact with regularly, as well as before meetings and other situations where I will interact with new people.

For work, I use it for ease, effectiveness, and efficiency. It has even proved valuable for nitty-gritty tasks such as computer programming. If I get stuck, I go for a walk, clear my mind, and visualize finding the solution with ease. It sometimes works!

Dream

 

In my dream, a drug addict came into our house on my invitation. I noticed he seemed very weak. It turned out that he took something and later sold it. I was ambivalent as I wanted to help (although was not clear/firm in my resolve) and also did not want to encourage him expressing/meeting his needs in a concealed way. He came into the house a second time, I pinned him down under a boxlike piece of furniture, and called for assistance. After a short time, I saw blood coming out. I assumed he had committed suicide.

Taking the dream literally, it seems to connect with this issue: How do I use my privileged situation? How does it benefit others? I want to ask more consistently: “How am I in a privileged situation right now, in terms of knowledge/information, experience, resources?” “How can I use it in a way that benefits life?” This also has to do with letting go of false pride and humility, seeing our gifts for what they are, and how they can be used to benefit life.

How we relate to the world is reflected in how we relate to the outer world (people, ecosystems) and our inner world (thoughts, emotions, characteristics). How I relate to people in my life, to the Earth community, and to figures in my dreams, reflect how I relate to similar parts of myself. Less literally, the dream may have to do with how I relate to the weaker parts of myself. I exerience sympathy towards them but do not clearly choose to (a) accept them fully as they are, or (b) assist them in becoming healthier and stronger.

Maybe most of all, the dream reminds me about choices. I always make choices, and by bringing my choices more into awareness, I can make choices more aligned with my values, and take more full responsibility for my choices (less complaining).

Here is one way of bringing choices into awareness: (i) Look at what I do and how I talk to myself about it (“I pay taxes because the government says I have to”). (ii) Rephrase it into a choice and real reason (“I choose to pay taxes because I want to support society, and do not want to go to jail.”). (iii) Change action or our attitude towards the action (“I choose to not pay taxes because they are not used in a life serving way, and I take full responsibility for the consequences”, or “I am OK with paying taxes because they serve society and I do not put myself in risk at going to jail.”)

The Map is Not the Terrain

 

I attended a concert of Turkish music at Fools’ Paradise with Mahmut Genceli tonight. The music was beautiful, touching and varied. It also brought up something that has been in my mind for quite a while as it points to a gap between my views and actions.

I asked him if he had a CD with his music, upon which he reminded me that canned music is similar to canned food, or photography. It is all dead representations of what was an alive moment. An attempt to hold onto something that is no longer. A symptom of a culture of alienation, where we value the canned representations of interactions among people, and often do not engage in those interactions ourselves.

As he said, “the map is not the terrain”.