A friend of mine’s profile picture on Facebook is of her snuggling with her cat. It’s very cute. And, knowing something about her background, it also reminded me of our human situation.
We have created a civilization that harms us and the Earth in some significant ways. It harms all life. And because of it, we seek comfort and healing in myriad of ways. My friend does it, partly, through reconnecting with nature and animals.
There is a lot more to say about this topic. But the main thing that struck me was just the image of her snuggling with her cat. And how that, in some ways, is such a good image of the trauma we have created for ourselves through our civilization and how we all seek comfort and healing from it in different ways.
Our civilization is partly built on an imagined disconnect from nature. That hurts us and all life. And we try to compensate for that hurt in so many ways, including seeking love, acceptance, money, power, healing, awakening, connection, and a great deal more that we see all around us and in ourselves. From our experience of disconnection comes a sense of lack and something missing, and we try to fill that hole in many different ways.
I received my 23andme results a few weeks back and it has reminded me of a few things about genetic testing. Depending on how it’s used, it can definitely have some drawbacks. But it can also have many personal and social / cultural benefits.
Here are some of the possible social and cultural benefits that come to mind.
We are reminded that we are all overwhelmingly alike. Only about 0.5% of our genetic material has to do with our particular geographic or ethnic history. We are overwhelmingly alike as human beings, and as Earthlings we are also overwhelmingly alike. As human beings, we share almost all our history and ancestors, and as Earthlings we share a great deal of our history and ancestors.
Many of us, and especially in North America, have a far more mixed ancestry than we may expect. For instance, some who identify as “white” may have Asian, North-American, or African ancestry mixed in.
Same or similar genetic sequence-patterns are found in most or all human populations. So when the different companies assign an ethnic group based on particular patterns, they do it based on statistics and probably. Any particular pattern may be more prevalent in some groups but are found in other groups as well. So the analysis is not always accurate. Again, it’s a reminder of how similar we are.
Our official family history isn’t always the same as the genetic one. We have an official set of ancestors. We have a genetic set of ancestors. And the two are not always the same. This may help us hold our identity more lightly. We can (learn to) embrace and appreciate both.
This all makes it more difficult to justify or hold onto racism. (Although I am sure some will be able to if they really want to.) We are all Africans. We share almost all of our DNA. Many of us are more mixed than we think. Any differences are, in the big picture, very superficial.
As genetic testing becomes more common and our understanding improves, it may well have an impact on culture. And, if we want, it may help us see how closely we all are related. It may widen and deepen our sense of “us” as human beings and even as part of the Earth community.
As mentioned, there are also possible drawbacks. For instance, it’s easy to misinterpret or hold certain interpretations as more solid than they are. And some may get stressed out by certain interpretations of their health or ancestry data. They may realize one or both of their parents (or grandparents) are not the ones they thought they were. Or they may mistakenly think that’s the case based on misguided interpretation of the data. Or they may think that a slight statistical increase in likelihood of a certain illness means they are actually likely to get it (which may not be the case at all). And I guess there is some risk that employees or governments can use certain data in unfortunate ways. (I don’t think it’s happening much or at all now, but there is always the risk.)
Oxygen and the air pressure are always being monitored. In the event of a decompression, an oxygen mask will automatically appear in front of you. To start the flow of oxygen, pull the mask towards you. Place it firmly over your nose and mouth, secure the elastic band behind your head, and breathe normally. Although the bag does not inflate, oxygen is flowing to the mask. If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person. Keep your mask on until a uniformed crew member advises you to remove it.
This is the classic analogy, but it’s still very appropriate.
Take care of your own basic needs first, and then you’ll be in a much better position to assist others.
On the one hand, this is a dynamic balance. Sometimes, it’s appropriat to focus on taking care of our own needs. Other times, we are in a position to focus more on the needs of others. And this often changes with the roles we play over the course of a day and a lifetime.
On the other hand, they are two sides of the same coin. We may spend time taking care of our own needs, for instance when we need healing or to get basic needs taken care of, and that benefits others in the moment or later. Or we may find ways to assist others in ways that are deeply nurturing and meaningful to us, and also takes care of our own material needs.
Several things may help us find and live these solutions that simultaneously benefit and nurture ourselves and the wider world (even if it’s in apparently small ways).
It helps when we hold the bigger picture in mind. When we seek solutions good for all, including future generations. And when we are open to solutions outside of what we expect or are familiar with.
It helps when we take care of our beliefs and identifications around either being a self-sacrificing martyr or selfish. The solutions present themselves easier the less we are identified with these, and the more we are free from them.
It helps the less substantial we take the imagined boundary between ourselves and the larger whole to be. The more we experience it as just a temporarily imagined boundary, the easier it is to act in ways good for ourselves and the wider whole.
And it helps the more healed we are as human beings. Wounds often make us act in reactive ways, including from reactive and narrow-minded self-preservation. The more healed and whole we are, the more natural it is to wish to act in a way that’s kind and informed by larger picture concerns.
And working on these is, in itself, an example of a solution that benefit ourselves and the larger whole.
It was fun. And it also made the dream factory aspect of Hollywood very obvious. They are explicitly and openly in the business of (a) producing compelling dreams that (b) people will invest with emotional energy so it (c) seems real, substantial, charged, fascinating, and attractive to them, and they (d) seek it out and are willing to pay money for the experience.
It’s a manipulative business. But since it’s so explicit it’s also honest. We know what’s going on, and we – to a large part – chose to which degree we wish to participate. (The other side of this is that we get to vicariously experience a great deal we otherwise wouldn’t, which enriches our lives and – in the best case – help us learn and grow.)
Since the dream factory function of Hollywood is so obvious and excaggerated, it’s easy to see and explore there. And that can help us see similar dynamics in other areas of human life.
The dream factory side of the entertainment industry in general is pretty clear. But it’s also there in most or all businesses. Most or all organizations. And also in all religions.
All are in the business of creating dreams that people invest with emotional energy, draw themselves into, and are willing to invest time, energy, and sometimes money to experience more of.
There is nothing inherently wrong in this. But it’s good to be aware of.
This seems to be the mainstream interpretation, and although I try to avoid topics that are covered in the mainstream, this one is too good to pass up.
In many spiritual traditions, and in our own ordinary maturing as human beings, we tend to initially split between good and bad, light and darkness. We seek the light and avoid the darkness. That’s the safer approach, initially, until we gain some more experience and reach a certain level of maturity.
And then, we realize we need to outgrow it. We see the pitfalls in splitting life in that way. We realize that we all have both in us, and if we identify with one we have to suppress the other which doesn’t work in the long run. At a social level, we end up demonizing groups, which is not good for any of us.
So we need to find both sides in us. Find a larger whole that already embraces and includes both. Find ways to live with and from both. And in that process, we find some maturity and a different and more real type of kindness. We don’t have to demonize anything in ourselves or others. We recognize ourselves in the whole world, as it is. There is a deeper and more genuine empathy.
Is that why it’s time for the Jedi to end? If the Jedi only know and use the light side, they are out of touch with life and reality. A new approach is needed. And Rey may be one of the first ones to be trained in this new approach.
Embracing both sides we find something so much bigger than either one. So much richer, fuller, more mature, and – if done with some skill – more kind in a real way.
It can also be a dangerous transition. We go from a safer and more immature identification with the good, to getting to know and embracing both sides. We often make mistakes in this transition, and that’s how we learn and mature. That’s how we find the deeper form of kindness that can come from embracing and befriending both.
There is nothing new here. This is part of any relatively mature spiritual tradition, and it’s what we realize growing up – at least most of us. It’s also not new in literature, mythology, or even movies. But if this is the theme of the new Star Wars movie, it’s certainly good that it comes into mainstream culture in this way. It is a message that can be helpful to many, especially younger ones, and especially in the US.
It may not be popular, but I still have to say that the US culture tends to be more obsessed with the good/bad split than many other cultures and has a more immature take on it. Evangelical Christians, and any form of Christian or religious fundamentalism, is an example of that more immature view. Other examples are, unfortunatly, how the US media tends to frame issues, and aspects of US foreign policy.
There is nothing inherently wrong with this approach although it does create some suffering and is dangerous if taken too far. And it’s also a stepping stone. One of an infinite number of stepping stones. Each one with its own drawbacks that we eventually discover, take to heart, and partially resolve with the next more inclusive approach.
And the Last Jedi movie poster is awesome. A great take on classic 50s sci-fi art.
Note: When Rey says “light” there is an image of Leia and a rebellion control room (I assume), when she says “darkness” we see Kylo Ren’s charred helmet (I assume), and when she says “the balance?” we see some books perhaps symbolizing wisdom and maturity.
Note II: I see that people talk about “grey Jedi” as a term for those who embrace the larger and more inclusive wholeness of the light and the dark. I don’t like the term since it sounds bland and as if the light and dark blend together. It’s much more about including both, the full spectrum. Maybe “full spectrum Jedi” is more accurate but obviously less catchy.
Note III: As mentioned above, there is an apparently safe simplicity in dividing the world into good and bad, and identifying with the good. It seems safe, and it’s also a bit naive since that’s not how the world works. We all have both in us, and identifying with parts within that split leads to scapegoating, dehumanization, us-them attitudes, and struggles with others and oneself. So eventually we realize we need to include both. We need to find both in ourselves, and learn to befriend both and live with and from both. And in that, there is a deeper and more mature kindness and compassion towards ourselves and others.
The simple dualism is a stepping stone. And the exploration of a more inclusive wholeness is also a series of stepping stones.
There is a slight risk here: the initial exploration of wholeness can be used to justify living from parts of ourselves in an unkind and less wise way. We can tell ourselves that “it’s good to embrace all of me, and that means it’s OK to be mean” or greedy, or hateful, or whatever it may be. I certainly saw that with some of the senior students at K. Zen Center. They used the wholeness principle to justify being jerks.
That too, of course, comes with consequences, and those consequences invite us to find a kinder and more mature path.
There is an ongoing debate in norway about whether we should have wolves or not, and how many. The fault lines – as so often these days – seem to go between the urban and/or more educated, and the rural and/or less educated.
Here are some of the arguments against wolves, and my comments.
They take livestock. They do, but they take far fewer than trains, traffic, and disease. And the farmers receive compensation from the state if any are taken.
They are a risk to humans. No, they are virtually no risk to humans. The real risks are what we all know about, including traffic, suicide, poor lifestyle and food choices, and much more.
They are evil and scary. Yes, we may culturally have learned to see them as evil and project our shadow onto them, and they may trigger fear in us. That’s no reason to get rid of them. (I suspect this is what’s really going on since the apparently rational arguments are not very strong.)
And here are some arguments for having wolves.
For the benefit of the wolves. They have as much right to be here as we do. They are sentient beings just as us and wish to live.
For the ecosystems. Our ecosystems evolved with large predators, and healthy and thriving ecosystems depend on large predators.
For our benefit. Just as ecosystems, we need the wild. We evolved with and in the wild, and with high level predators. We need it for our own health and well being. We need it as a reminder of who we are, in an evolutionary context. We need it to feel alive.
Why are people really against wolves? I suspect primal fear of wolves is one aspect. Specifically, fear of losing animals to wolves may trigger a more primal fear than losing them to illness or trains. Another may be instinctual competition. Humans and wolves are both large predators, and it’s natural to try to eliminate the competition.
In my view, the arguments against don’t hold up well. And the arguments for are far more important – for them, for us, for nature as a whole.
As usual, I can add that this view is very predictable for someone with my background. I grew up in a well educated urban family. I love nature. I want to consider the rights and needs of other beings, including nonhuman species. I am liberal in terms of politics. If I had grown up as a sheep farmer in an area with wolves, my views may well have been different. And that doesn’t mean I won’t speak up for wolves. They need someone to speak for them.
… you have to think about what it means to actually be more complex than what your culture is currently demanding. You have to have a name for that, too. It’s almost something beyond maturity, and it’s usually a very risky state to be in. I mean, we loved Jesus, Socrates, and Gandhi—after we murdered them. While they were alive, they were a tremendous pain in the ass. Jesus, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr.—these people died relatively young. You don’t often live a long life being too far out ahead of your culture.
I would add that those who are far ahead of mainstream and publicly seek social change, risk not living a very long life. There are certainly many who are far ahead of mainstream and foucses on facilitating change in other areas of life, such as Adyasanti, and they don’t run the same risk.
Sometimes, I hear someone say it’s a made up word. What they mean, of course, is that someone recently made up the word. And really, it’s just a reminder that all words are made up. And that all ideas are made up as well. Anything imagined – including all words and images and all abstractions and ideas – are made up.
All religions, philosophy, science, worldviews, self-images, stories about anything and anyone, are made up. It doesn’t mean they may not be meaningful, or useful, or work well to help us orient and function in the world. Many of them do some or all of those things for us.
But it does mean they are made up. They don’t reflect any absolute or final truth about the world or ourselves or anything else. And they are passed on through generations making up culture, religion, and worldviews that is shared by most or many in a society, and are then made to look final and absolute since so many take them for granted.
Through inquiry, we can begin to undo this sense that these ideas are final or absolute. We get to see how our mind creates and recreates them for itself here and now. We may get to see how imaginations combine with sensations where imagination gives a sense of meaning to sensations, and sensations give charge and a sense of solidity to the imaginations. We get to see how they must have been initially imagined by someone, perhaps a long time ago. We get to see how they are passed on from parents to child, and society to individual. We get to see how they can seem real and absolute just because they are shared by many in a society. We may find that we can relate to them more intentionally and use them more as seems appropriate. The charge in them may even lessen or fall away.
The immediate cause may be childhood experiences and what the mind does with them to protect us.
The broader cause is to be found in our culture. For instance, the marketing industry intentionally reinforces our experience of not being good enough and then promise that their products will make us good enough – at least temporarily. They create a problem and then sell a product to fix it.
And it may reach all the way back to the Christian idea of original sin. In Christianity, we find the same strategy of creating a problem (original sin) and then selling a product to fix it (Jesus as a savior). Christianity has permeated our culture for a couple of millennia so it’s natural that the underlying beliefs and assumptions in Christianity still operate in our culture, even if many or most no longer consider themselves traditional Christians.
As usual, there is a lot more to explore here. For instance, is the core identity of “not good enough” found only in our culture or in all cultures? (I would guess it’s cultural more than inevitable.) It’s also clear that the marketing industry intentionally play on and reinforce people’s low self-esteem so it’s easier to sell them products and services.
There is also the issue of how to tackle this issue. When we work with individuals, it’s helpful to do inquiry on this and help people find freedom from this identity, and it’s also good to help them see the bigger picture and where it comes from in terms of marketing and culture. Working at a group level, we can support critical thinking and media literacy at all school levels, and also work with the marketing industry. (Media literacy also includes being critical to what’s sold by Christianity and other religions.) Ultimately, we need to shift out of a consumerist economy and into one that’s healthier for all of us, including ecosystems and future generations.
Sometimes, when we get frustrated with our own conditioning and patterns, it can be helpful to remember that this was in place long before me.
These human dynamics, patterns, conditioning, beliefs, and identifications were in place long before me. They were already in place in humanity, culture, society, in the family. And as I was born and developed, I took on more patterns that were already in place.
It’s much less about me than it seems. It’s much less personal. And at the same time, it’s all about me since it’s happening here and I am the one who can relate to it more intentionally now.
Of course, this is the case for others as well. Whatever I see in them – and me – was in place long before any of us. It was in place in culture, society, and previous generations. And even for those previous generations, it was in place before them.
This is a topic that came up in conversation yesterday.
Many or most “white” depictions of Native Americans will be seen as offensive by some or many actual Native Americans.
The depiction may cast them as primitive savages or villains, especially in the books and movies up until the 70s(?). As noble savages or heroes. As damaged alcoholics. Or as wise people in tune with nature, as in the modern new age mythology.
In most cases, the depiction will be of an imagined Native American which may not ever have existed in that way. It’s a generalization, a cardboard cutout, often based on myths and fears and/or wishful thinking. And this generalization is across time, groups, or individuals.
That’s almost a given since few westerners have actual and in-depth personal familiarity with their lives and culture, either in the past or now, and there is also a great deal of cultural and individual variation among Native Americans, as there is within any reasonably large and diverse groups of people.
And due to the Native American history with Europeans, they are understandably sensitive to how they are treated and depicted. If they were and had been the “top dog” in the relationship, they would probably see it as mildly amusing, but as it is, it’s understandable if some or many of them are more sensitive to this.
(When I see how Norwegians, or vikings, are depicted in popular culture outside of Norway, I see the misconceptions and often find it amusing. And that’s because it’s not a sensitive topic for me. Norwegians do well, and there is no history there for me that would make it a sensitive topic.)
It’s understandable if this is quite emotional for some, and come out in the form of anger.
It may hurt even more since what’s happening *can* be seen as a continued colonization. White people use the imagined Native American as subject of books, movies, music and visual art, and make it into entertainment, and also make money on it. That may be experienced, by some, as rubbing salt in the wound.
There is another aspect to this. For many of European heritage, and especially those who idolize or feel connected to the (imagined?) Native American, it’s well intentioned. They see something there that’s attractive and they would like to bring more alive in their own life. It could be a simple life, connected to and in tune with nature, and with close connections to your tribe. All of that is lacking for many in the modern world, so no wonder that many wish for it, and the traditional Native American is a good projection object for this type of life.
It may not be entirely accurate. It may sometimes be experienced as offensive. And yet, it’s often well intentioned, and comes from caring about a certain way of life.
In other cases, the projection will be more of a shadow projection, as in the old west books and movies where Native Americans are the primitive savages. I assume that’s happening even now, through stereotypes of contemporary Native Americans on reservations as lazy, or alcoholics, or running ethically dubious operations such as casinos.
One may even shift into the other, for some. Some who idealize the wise and nature-connected Native American may be disappointed by the reality today, and even get caught in shadow projections. And the reverse may be possible too.
I imagine there are a few ways for Native Americans to relate to this. In a reactive way, publicly rejecting it and seeing these people as having malicious intent. Rejecting it from seeing it as misguided and not “getting it”. Ignoring it, as much as possible, and perhaps only talking about it in private. Actively educating people about the reality, as you see and experience it. Recognizing it as projections. And I am sure there are other ways too.
I am very aware that what I have written here can also be seen as offensive. For instance, I could have used the term First Nations instead of Native Americans. I make many assumptions here, which may not be accurate. I am getting into a topic that’s not really my business. (Apart from being aware of my own imaginations and projections, and how it may be perceived.) And I am exploring this without having checked with people of Native American heritage. (Their responses would probably make me change how I write about this, and would probably also be quite varied.)
In our culture, we have learned to resist what we label discomfort, whether it’s physical pain, emotional pain, unease, or something else.
And with “our culture” I mean most, or perhaps all?, human cultures these days.
It’s so pervasive that it may seem inevitable, as the only option, but it’s not. We can learn a different approach, as individuals. We can learn to do the opposite, and see what happens. And from there, it’s easy to imagine a culture where doing the opposite is the norm.
Meeting what’s here. Resting with it. Welcoming it. Thanking it. Finding love for it.
Also, in most or all human cultures, we learn to forget who and what we are. We learn to pretend we don’t know. Here too, we can do the opposite as individuals, and imagine a culture where that’s the norm. We can remember the wholeness of who we are, of our human side. And we can live in remembrance of what we are, that which all – our whole field of experience – happens within and as….. that which a though may label awakeness, or awareness, or love, or life, or Spirit, or the Divine.
Having lived in the US (small town in Oregon) and Norway, I notice a difference in how cats relate to strangers.
In the US, cats tend to be very friendly with strangers, to the point of coming up to greet me when I go for walks in neighborhoods I am not familiar with. In Norway, cats tend to be skeptical to strangers, and avoid me when I see them coming through the yard or when I am out on a walk.
In both cases, their behavior seem to reflect the human culture. In the US, people tend to be very friendly towards strangers. And in Norway, people tend to be polite and distant with strangers, and reserve the warmth to family and friends. This pattern seem quite consistent and obvious in my experience, and others – who have lived both places – report noticing it too.
I wonder if cats pick this up from humans around them, just as we humans do as a child?
The five happiest countries in the world–Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands–are all clustered in the same region, and all enjoy high levels of prosperity…..
“The Scandinavian countries do really well,” says Jim Harter, a chief scientist at Gallup, which developed the poll. “One theory why is that they have their basic needs taken care of to a higher degree than other countries”…..
A reminder that egalitarian societies tend to have the highest levels of happiness. When our basic needs are taken care of – health care, free education, economical safety net – we are free from many of the most basic survival fears, and free to live our lives in a more meaningful and joyful way.
The Mohammad caricature saga continues, and it is all quite predictable. Extremists on one side go out of their way to insult traditional Muslims. Extremists on the other side allow themselves to be insulted and try to retaliate by burning flags (pretty hopeless) or violence. And the media, always looking for a good story, focuses on the extremes and not the large middle ground dismayed by the whole spectacle.
Deliberately offending or hurting someone seems a poor strategy, and in this case, it only serves to inflame an already too hot and dangerous situation. Can we expect others to gain respect for “freedom of speech” when what they see is the most misguided and infantile examples of its use? Much better then to say what we have to say, with clarity and respect, defend freedom of speech through laws and regulations, and demonstrate responsible use of free speech.
It may also be good to notice that we have taboos as well, and there are places where we are hurt in a similar way, the boundaries are just located differently. When a discourse treads close to our own taboos, we expect respect and sensitivity, so we may as well treat others with that same respect.
It is curious how illness – whether mental of physical – is often associated with shame in our western culture. I have experienced it myself related to chronic fatigue. There is a shame around lack of energy, not being as social or engaged as I normally would be, not being able to do as much or what I normally would do, and so on. It is as if I am not only responsible, but somehow morally at fault.
Here is another of those questions easily answered by reality: Can a goodless society be a good society?
Of course it can.
“First of all, I argue that society without God is not only possible, but can be quite civil and pleasant. This admittedly polemical aspect of my book is aimed primarily at countering the claims of certain outspoken, conservative Christians who regularly argue that a society without God would be hell on earth: rampant with immorality, full of evil, and teeming with depravity. Well, it isn’t. Denmark and Sweden are remarkably strong, safe, healthy, moral, and prosperous societies…”
p. 6 – “…their overall rates of violent crime – such as murder, aggravated assault, and rape – are among the lowest on earth. Yet the majority of Danes and Swedes do not believe that God is “up there,” keeping diligent tabs on their behavior… In fact, most Danes and Swedes don’t even believe in the very notion of “sin.” Almost nobody in Denmark and Sweden believes that the Bible is divine in origin. And the rate of weekly church attendance in these Nordic nations is the lowest on earth…”
p. 10 – “When they say they are “Christian” they are just referring to a cultural heritage and history. When asked what it means to be Christian, they said ‘being kind to others, taking care of the poor and sick, and being a good and moral person.’ They almost never mentioned God, Jesus, or the Bible in their explanation of Christian identity. When I specifically asked these Nordic Christians if they believed that Jesus was the Son of God or the Messiah, they nearly always said no – usually without hesitation. Did they believe that Jesus was born of a virgin or that he rose from the grave? Such queries were usually met with genuine laughter – as through the mere asking was rather silly.
Our culture – whether it is pop or fine culture or any other subculture – is abundant with our universal beliefs.
It is a great place to find stories to inquire into, because I have them too. It is all a mirror for myself.
In this case, I can find where I too believe that they don’t really care about us/me, inquire into it, and find what is more honest for me.
I can still appreciate the conventional view and find the validity and value in it. For instance, I can recognize how the majority or those in power directly or indirectly mistreat minorities and those less powerful. I can even find where I am doing the same in my daily life, and how I participate in these dynamics in our local and global society.
The difference is that when I am still caught up in this belief, I tend to come from reactivity, blame, a rigid view, and often a victim role. And when there is more clarity for me around it, when I find what is more honest for me than the initial story, there is more room to find chocies and actions that may be a little more effective, that come a little more from wisdom, kindness and experience.
Again, simple on the surface but it has profound implications the more clearly it is seen – and lived.
We are all living our past.
This personality, with all its likes and dislikes, is a product of its history. It is a product of my personal history, that which is more or less unique to this individual. And it is a product of culture, evolution, and how this universe happens to be put together. There is really nothing personal about it. It all comes from somewhere. Anything this human self does has infinite causes, stretching back to the beginning of the universe and out to its widest reaches.
Also, all my stories are based on my past, and these guide how I orient and act in the world now. They are about the past, whether they appear to be about the future, past or present, and I live from them – whether I believe in them or take them as guides only.
There is a great liberation in seeing this, to the extent it is investigated in daily life and in more and more areas of my life.
What I especially enjoy is their aim of shaking people out of their everyday routines in a way that is enjoyable for everyone (unless someone is set on not enjoying it), and also their long form improvisation guideline of Yes, And.
Accepting an offer is usually accompanied by adding a new offer, often building on the earlier one; this is a process improvisers refer to as “Yes, And…” and is considered the cornerstone of improvisational technique. Every new piece of information added helps the actors to refine their characters and progress the action of the scene.
This is not a bad guideline for life in general.
Life throws something at us, and we can respond with a Yes, And… We say yes to it, and then add our own, advancing the story from a place of Yes, And. The Yes is an invitation to allow it, and even find peace with and appreciation for whatever is happening. And the And is an invitation for us to bring it something else to it, to take it further.
Or we talk with someone, they say something that has a grain of truth in it, which just about anything has, so we can acknowledge that grain of truth, and add another perspective. The Yes is an invitation to find the truth in their perspective, and the And is an invitation for us to bring something new to it.
The Yes is a wholehearted Yes to whatever is happening, an invitation for receptivity and appreciation. The And an invitation to actively add something to it, bring something new to it, advance the story in a way that may be interesting, entertaining, beautiful and touching.
A great little article at the Observer website by a friend of mine, about gardening and its intersection with community, ecology, spirit, politics and more. It is a reminder for me of my own passion for and immersion in that world some years ago, now faded into the background, but still there waiting to come more into my life again.
Through some of the subquestions, The Work helps us explore how our beliefs and perceptions are formed and maintained by culture and community and more.
For instance, asking the question when did I first have that thought? tends to bring up the whole initial context, how it came from family, society and more, and how it continues to be maintained by those around us and our culture. Question no. 4, who would I be without the thought? and the turnarounds help us see that having that belief, that identity, and that way of filtering the world is not inevitable. Other people and cultures may indeed see the world quite differently. Their experiences and interpretations may be very different from what I initially took for granted, and I too glimpse this now.
The Work also helps us work with the he/she/it, you and I dimensions. The initial statement is about Other, a he, she or it. When we read our inquiry to the one it is about, for instance our partner, the you dimension comes in. And the I dimension is there throughout.
Here are some of the ways The Work works with the shadow…
It brings it up and out by encouraging us to find a stressful statement. Whenever there is a stressful thought, aka any belief, there is also a shadow inherent in it.
Often, a part of us see that belief as unacceptable, even if it is there, so we squash it and try to not make it visible to others or even ourselves. In this case, we may partly be aware of our shadow, and uncomfortable with it.
Other times, we may be completely identified with the initial statement and corresponding identity, so don’t even question it. In this case, it is usually a blind shadow, and we see it only out there in the wider world.
It works with the shadow in its many forms, as a shadow of a belief, an identity, and a group identity.
We work with the shadow of a belief through the turnarounds, which help us see the grain of truth in its reversals. The shadow of a belief, a statement taken as absolutely true, is exactly there, in the grain of truth of its reversals and also the limited truth of the initial statement.
Any belief creates a corresponding identity, at the very least an identity as someone who has that belief, filters the world that particular way, and behaves in relation to that identity (whether these behaviors are aligned with the identity or not.) When I explore what comes up through question no. 3, what happens when I believe that thought?, I explore this identity and its consequences. Question no. 4 and the turnarounds helps me explore what happens when this identity is not blindly identified with anymore, and I allow myself to move more freely among the different reversals of that identity. These reversals are the former shadow of the initial identity, and this is a way to begin to make more friends with it, bring it more actively into my daily life, see what it asks of me, and harvest its gifts.
And from the shadows of the belief and its corresponding identity, group shadows form. Again, through questions no. 3, 4 and the turnarounds, we get to see and explore this group identity, its consequences, its shadow/reversals, and what happens when there is a release from blindly identifying with it.
Through taking one or more of the turnarounds into daily life, we get to explore it more actively there as well, with the insights inquiry gave us.
We get find the truth in the reversals/shadow of the initial belief, live from a space holding the limited truth in all of them, and find a fluidity among them in daily life.
We get to find in ourselves the the reversals/shadow of the initial identity, explore how it is to admit to and live from those reversal identities, and finding a fluidity among them in daily life. What is different when I live from an identity that previously was not acceptable? What gifts does it offer? How it is to find more fluidity among them in daily life?
And we get to explore the corresponding group shadows as well. Which groups in my life have these shadows, and how are they expressed? What happens if I deliberately move outside of the group norms and acknowledge the grain of truth in the reversals of the belief, and maybe shift into the reversals identities? Is is accepted or not? Does it help shift the group into a wider embrace? If not, maybe I could leave the group?
The impulse to explore this in a little more detail (not that I haven’t many times before) came when I read some discussion about The Work in the context of the Ken Wilber type integral framework. Sometimes, we can be so intent on finding how things does not align with a particular framework that we miss how it does. (Not that it has to, or even should.)