Cultural differences in taking about issues

 

After having lived for a while in Oregon and California, I notice cultural differences in how I and others sometimes talk about emotional issues.

For instance, if I share about something triggered in me, I often also share the triggering situation. My intention is to share, clarify it for myself, and sow a seed for continuing to explore and work on it. It’s a confession and it helps my process. (And it can also be a way of connecting with the other, letting that person know what’s going on in me.) Mostly, it’s understood and received that way, and perhaps especially by people from the US west coast since we share this language and orientation.

And sometimes, it’s misunderstood. Sometimes, the other person focuses on the triggering situation and issue and goes off debating it.

Yesterday is an example. I shared how I noticed something in me getting triggered when a Facebook friend posted a snarky (conspiracy-laden, anti-climate change) comments on one of my posts. Instead of listening and acknowledging it, as I hoped for or expected, she went into debating the content of the comment.

I felt hurt because I felt she didn’t see me, and also because the conversation went off in another direction than I wanted, and in a direction irrelevant to why I mentioned it in the first place.

So what to do? It’s good to anticipate that these misunderstandings can happen. And if I suspect there is a chance it may happen, preface my sharing and clarify my intention in sharing. For instance, I may say: I notice I got triggered earlier today. Can I share with you? The situation is not important in itself, but I would like to share so I can see it more clearly and work on it later.

As this keeps happening – and especially in Norway where people have a different way of talking about these things – I want to hone my skills in prefacing and clarifying.

I have written about this topic in earlier articles.

For instance, I sometimes use parts language and talk about subpersonalities, and say I notice a part of me [sees the world this way, feels this way] and assume the other will understand that this is just a part, it’s universal and something we all have in us, and it’s not my conscious view. Most people in my life understand this and we share this language.

And yet, people not familiar with parts language – including psychologists and spiritual teachers – sometimes misunderstand. They assume that what I shared about the part is something I am consciously identified with and how I, as a whole, see the world. And they sometimes appear shocked, start arguing with it, and take the conversation in a very different direction than intended.

I have experienced filling out psychological questionnaires that only ask about the presence of something (an emotion, a set of thoughts) and not the strength, and – being honest – I’ll answer yes to all of it since all of it is in me, even if it’s at a very small level and doesn’t impact my daily life. And it’s taken as if these are in me at a strong level. (I understand that for most people filling out those questionnaires, that’s the case. But I have to be honest and answer truthfully, and I notice these in me even if they are at a tiny level.)

And I have also noticed that some in Norway – including people who I had assumed would know better like psychologists and spiritual teachers – assume that knowing about or understanding an issue at a story level should be enough to resolve it. And they, again, seem shocked (shocked!) that I am aware of issues and dynamics in me that are not (yet) fully resolved.

To me, this is not surprising at all since knowing about something at a story level doesn’t resolve it. We need to go further and deeper for something to resolve more thoroughly.

The answer to all of this is anticipating when this may happen and nip it in the bud by prefacing what I am about to share. And if it’s misunderstood, notice as soon as possible (it sometimes takes a while for me to understand what’s happening), step back from where the other person is taking the conversation, and clarify.

The depth of popular culture

 

Some folks see popular culture as inevitably shallow. But is that true? And is it true that shallow is bad?

First, is shallow bad? No. There is nothing inherent in life telling us what we should be into. There are no requirements.

Many have stressful and busy lives and need something undemanding to help them relax and switch gears. Nothing wrong in that. (Although we can question a society that sets us up for such busy and sometimes stressful lives.) At one time or another, easy pop culture serves a helpful function to us.

And for most of us, it’s just one part of a much more varied cultural diet.

Is it true that pop-culture is shallow?

Yes, it’s perhaps true in a conventional and limited sense. There may be less soul and more formulas in much of what we find in pop-culture.

It’s easy to find exceptions. There is often depth to aspects of what we find in pop-culture. Something surprising, moving, or something that gives us an insight into ourselves or the lives of others. And some of what we find in pop-culture obviously has more depth, richness, and complexity to it, for example, stories rich in archetypes like Star Wars (original trilogy) and Pan’s Labyrinth.

It also depends on what we define as popular culture. Bach is quite popular. Is that pop culture? Chopin was a pop-culture superstar in his time.

And it depends on how readily available something is to us. When we have to put more effort and intention into finding something, it can seem more sophisticated, for instance when we are into the pop-culture of another time or culture.

Finally, we bring the depth to it.

When I watch movies, including the most mainstream Hollywood movies, I often look for archetypes and archetypal dynamics.

I take it as I would a dream, see the different parts of the story as parts of me, and find it in me.

I notice what I react to and look for the beliefs or emotional issues it triggered in me.

I notice what I am fascinated by and find what the fascination is about and then see if I can find that in myself.

So when it comes down to it, if we see something as shallow, we can only blame ourselves. We take a shallow approach to it.

We bring the richness or the shallow to it.

A personal note: In my late teens and early twenties, I had judgments about pop culture and went deep into more “high” and “sophisticated” art, music, books and movies. There was nothing wrong with this, and it was very rewarding and I still enjoy that type of culture. But it also came from insecurity. I wanted to be “better” and more sophisticated. I didn’t feel good enough as I was. Now, fortunately, I feel more free to enjoy all of it.

If we have ideas about high or low culture, or one thing being better than the other, it’s a reminder to take a look at ourselves. Where in me does it come from? Do I try to create an identity for myself to feel better about myself? How would it be to enjoy it all independent of labels?

Reflections on society, politics and nature XV

 

Continued from previous posts…. These posts are collections of brief notes on society, politics, and nature.

Spending time nature. This is something many have written about so I’ll just say a few words. Since I was little, I have spent time at a family cabin on a lake in the forest outside of Oslo. (The area is on track to become a national park.)

The cabin is without running water and electricity (apart from a small solar panel to charge phones and iPads). We get the water from the lake, the firewood from the forest, cook food with gas we bring with us, and heat the cabin with one of two fireplaces.

When I go there, I notice it takes a few days to “land” and that continues to deepen the longer I stay. There is a sense of gradually becoming part of the place and nature.

When I am there, I inevitably become very aware of resource use. I need to plan what food to bring and for how many days. I tend to eat fresh foods first and then, after a week or so, have more of the lasting foods to eat. I notice the effects of the different foods on my body.

During the summer, even when the temperature gets over 30 degrees Celcius, there is never a problem with the heat. If I get hot in the sun or from physical activity, I cool off in the lake. And the cabin stays cool due to the breeze, open doors and windows, and the shade from the trees.

Early and late summer – when they days are warm and the nights cool – I warm the cabin during the day by opening doors and windows, and trap it during the night.

The rest of the year, when I need to heat the indoor space, I separate the cabin into heat zones. I mostly spend time in the new living room, and use the fireplace there since it’s a good heat sink (the stones and brick stores heat and gradually releases it even after the fire is out). I close off the room and allow the other parts of the cabin to stay cooler. The kitchen warms up from cooking. (On early cold mornings, I sometimes eat and read in the kitchen since it’s warmer.)

When I go to get firewood, I typically take the rowboat and go to one of the three or four places where I know there are beaver-houses. There, close to the lake, I find birch trees felled by the beavers. They do the initial work, eat the bark and leaves, and I take the trunks they are done with, bring them back to the cabin, and cut them up for firewood. It feels like a nice partnership with the beavers, although they don’t get that much out of it.

I also notice what they say about firewood warming three times: When I collect the wood. When I cut and split it. And when I burn it.

In early and late summer, I tend to go to bed when it gets dark and wake up when the sun comes up. This changes other times of year since the sun is up 18 hours a day during the summer and only six in the winter.

In the summer, I enjoy swimming in the lake. Sometimes, I put on snorkeling gear so I get to see what’s under the surface.

I notice the direction of the wind and the types of weather the wind brings from different directions. I notice how it’s often still in the morning and evening, and windier during the day. When I row across the lake and it’s windy, I often take the slightly longer path through a group of islands since its more sheltered.

I am grateful when I see butterflies, insects, birds, and other creatures. They and I share the space for a while. We are neighbors. (This awe, gratitude, and sense of fellowship is heightened by my awareness of the loss of insect, bird, and animal life in the area and the world in general.)

I wash from top to bottom each day, either in the lake or using hot water in the kitchen. After a few days without showering, I notice that my skin doesn’t feel dry anymore. It retains the natural oils.

By being there, I gradually and effortlessly feel more and more as part of nature. My days are simple and mostly focused on basics such as food, heat, water, and sleep. And I become very aware of resources in many different ways. All around, it’s healing and – to the extent I allow it to work on me – transformative.

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Magical realism in real life

 

Magical realism, magic realism, or marvelous realism is a style of fiction that paints a realistic view of the modern world while also adding magical elements.

– Wikipedia article on magical realism

This aspect of magical realism describes the world as it has been for most humans who have ever lived: an ordinary mundane life intermixed with magical and fantastic elements.

The exception is our modern western society. We have a largely materialistic scientific worldview, and most of us are understandably wary of mentioning any experiences that don’t fit this worldview.

I love modern science. A great deal of good has come out of it. And even more, I love the scientific methodology. It is essential that we stay sober about our experience and our view of the world, apply grounded critical thinking and verify any claims about reality. Collectively, we need to stay sober.

At the same time, we know that the way we individually and collectively see the world is inherently limited. Reality is always more than and different from our view of it.

Different parts of our current scientific worldview are always updated and replaced. And eventually, it’s inevitable that even its basic assumptions about reality are recognized as outdated and replaced with something that better fits the data we have collected.

So why are most of us wary of talking about any unusual experiences we may have? It doesn’t fit our current collective worldview. Often, it cannot easily be verified by others. And we may even be seen as weird, naive, or delusional.

I am talking about myself too. I usually don’t mention these things unless I talk with someone I know or suspect are receptive or understand.

So what types of experiences have I had?

I have seen energies since I was fifteen, around people, animals, plants, and objects. Mostly, with people, I see how awake the field is (or not).

There was a spiritual opening when I was sixteen where everything – without exception – was revealed as consciousness or the divine. (Of course, this can be interpreted in a small or psychological way (to me, the world happens within and as the consciousness I am and any ideas of being a separate being is added to that), or a big or spiritual way (everything, all of existence, is the divine, and it temporarily and locally takes itself to be a separate being until it no longer does).)

I have had periods with frequent and astonishing synchronicities, far beyond regular coincidences.

I experienced a ghost in an apartment in San Francisco that repeated the sounds from the day before. (Running water, the dog’s ball bouncing on the floor, the dog licking water.) This was verified by another and the dog.

I have an old friend who always seems to know what’s going on for me and in my life, and what will happen in very specific detail. And it’s been accurate so far.

Now, with Vortex Healing, I daily experience sensing at a distance, and often sensing that’s verified (by the client and/or another Vortex healer).

Again, what’s typical for all of these experiences is that they are unverifiable for others who were not there or don’t share them in another way. And they don’t fit in with our mainstream worldview. That’s why I rarely mention any of this unless I talk with others who I know or suspect will understand.

I also do my best to relate to and talk about these experiences in a relatively sane and grounded way, and to hold my stories about them lightly.

My stories about them are questions rather than statements.

Note: Magical realism typically refers to post-colonial critical literature speaking up for marginalized groups of people. I love that aspect of it but left it out of the article above. It was too tempting to use the short Wikipedia definition, and the one aspect of magical realism it talks about, as a starting point. But I realize that what I left out is very interesting too.

Magic and the supernatural is an ordinary part of most traditional cultures but is excluded or treated as superstition by western colonial and imperial powers. Simply including magical elements in literature or other art, and treating it as ordinary and unremarkable, is, in a way, a subversive act.

This helps me to see that when I choose to not speak about it, I allow myself to be colonialized by the modem western mindset, and speaking about it is a subversive and revolutionary act, for me too.

Image: The magic carpet (1880), Viktor Vasnetsov.

Is spirituality timeless?

 

The answer is yes, and no, and it depends, and we don’t really know.

Yes, the simple essence is perhaps more or less timeless and universal. It’s all the divine. And the divine, locally as us, can discover that – and live now from it – through sincerity and basic practices and pointers.

No, a lot in spirituality (and especially religion) is not timeless. Religions come and go. Spiritual taurine come and go. Specific practices come and go. The specific context all of it is understood within comes and goes.

It depends on what we are taking about. As said before, some of the basics – in terms of understanding, practices, and pointer – seem more universal and timeless. And a lot is more specific to a time, culture, and tradition.

And more honestly, we don’t know any of this for certain. Even what seems more timeless and universal can and will change. It changes with the time we are in, our culture, and our general worldviews and understanding of really.

Is it likely that spirituality, and even more so religions, will be quite different in a distant future? Yes. Is it likely that if there is life other places in the universe, and interested in these things, they will have a different take on this? Yes. And is it still likely that the essence may be somewhat similar? I would say yes to that too.

What do I see as relatively timeless and universal?

The main is that all is the divine. Existence – including us and all our experience – is the divine exploring, expressing, and experiencing itself.

Spirituality, at least the typical human version, is about helping the divine – locally as us – rediscover this and live more from this in daily life. This too is part of Lila, the play of the divine.

And what about spiritual practices? These are a little more tied to a time, place, and tradition, but there are perhaps some universals here too.

These include:

Guidelines for our life. (For social and community reasons, but also to minimize distractions and help us mimicking view we naturally live when we are more clear and healed).

Devotional practices like song and chants, mantras, prayer, and some forms of meditation. (This includes all forms of mediation and other practices when done with devotion.)

Contemplation, inquiry and pointers.

Basic forms of mediation. For instance, notice and allow whatever is happening within content of experience. (And, with time, what it all happens within and as.)

Training a more stable attention, which helps us in spiritual practice and all areas of life.

Gratitude and forgiveness practices, and working with projections, like some forms of prayer (“thank you”), all-inclusive gratitude practice, Tonglen, and ho’oponopono.

Body-inclusive practices like dance, yoga, tai chi and chigong.

Subtle-energy practices through any form of inner yoga, and as found in traditional Indian yoga, tai chi, and chigong. (I would include Vortex Healing as an example.)

And (emotional) healing practices to remove blocks to noticing what we are and living from it.

Of course, I say these are more universal and timeless, but I am very aware that different traditions emphasize these differently, have different ways of doing each of them, and that this list reflects my own preferences, interests, and what I have found useful and helpful.

Reflections on society, politics and nature XIV

 

Continued from previous posts…. These posts are collections of brief notes on society, politics, and nature.

Lawns as a symptom of an eco-alienated culture. Lawns. Why lawns? Is it so we can pretend we are relatively well-off landowners a couple of centuries ago in Britain? (Even if we are not aware that’s where it began.) Is it because our neighbors do it? Is it because our infrastructure is set up to support lawns and not the alternatives? Is it because the alternatives seem more difficult?

It’s probably all of those. To me, the lawn is a nutshell representation of our eco-alienated culture. It’s sterile. It requires (often noisy) machines to maintain. It’s mostly not used. It’s there because others do it, it’s expected of us, and our society makes it easy to have one.

The alternatives make so much more sense. A food garden with low-maintenance berry bushes and fruit trees. A wildflower garden. A natural garden with native vegetation. Or perhaps a beautiful, alive, abundant garden that includes sections all of these.

Lawns are monocultures and inhospitable to insects and other animals. They are part of the reason insects are dying out. And instead, we have the option of creating alive, abundant, thriving sanctuaries for life.

What does it take to create this change? It requires a change in attitudes and culture. It requires an infrastructure that supports abundant gardens – for instance, local government support, classes, media information, incentives, and perhaps most importantly easy access to plants, seeds, information, and practical help. And it requires a few of us to set a good example before it catches on and becomes common on a wider scale. (I have little doubt it will.)

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Rammstein: Deutschland

 

In the mind apart
In the heart united

– from Deutschland by Rammstein

This is another epic song and music video, similar to This Is America by Donald Glover (Childish Gambino). Both highlight issues of conflict, division, violence, and dehumanization in their countries, and bring these uncomfortable and often politely ignored issues right in front of us.

The music video for Deutschland follows these themes through German history, and I won’t go into the specific references since it’s easily found online. (Red thread, Germania, high technology co-existing with primitive cruelty, etc.)

In the lyrics, I am especially struck by the phrase…

Im Geist getrennt / In the mind apart
Im Herz vereint / In the heart united

That’s the human condition in a nutshell. We often find ourselves divided in the mind while united in the heart.

Just by being human, and being part of existence, we are united in the heart and our being. And as soon as our mind believes its own ideas about the world, we are often divided in the mind, and this is what’s behind (most of) the violence, conflict, and division.

And then…

Du / you
Ich / I
Wir / we
Ihr / you (plural)

…. which I take to mean that this applies to all of us. We are all in the same boat. We cannot blame some of us and pretend we are not part of it.

Rammstein are masters at the occasional epic and unforgettable lyrics, music, and music videos, and also of marketing. They know how to upset some people just enough so they get more attention. In this case, it’s the hanging scene that’s controversial, although they cast themselves as the jews (again, the theme that this is about all of us) and the lyrics and video are obviously critical of the themes of cruelty and dehumanization running through German history. And not only German history, but the history of humanity.

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Life 101: How we think about the world (philosophy of science)

 

There are some essential Life 101 topics. Things that are fundamental to being human and can serve us for a lifetime.

One of these is learning how to think about the world, also known – when more formalized – as philosophy of science.

It’s something we all can explore for ourselves. And, as I see it, it’s a bit shocking it’s not included in a more systematic way at all levels of formal education – adapted to each age level and made fun, relevant, and with the ordinariness of it emphasized.

It’s what we already know, this is just a way to bring more awareness into it and investigate it more consciously.

Here are some ideas of what could be included in formal education.

When it comes to exploring the world, there is the basic approach of observation, hypothesis, testing, revising, testing by others, etc. And how each step is influenced by our underlying assumptions and worldviews. What are some examples of how we use these steps, often without thinking about it, in our own life? What are some examples in our history? What do we find if we apply this approach to an area of our own life?

Equally or more important is how we more broadly think about the world and our understanding of it.

We don’t know anything for certain. This goes for us as humanity, as a culture, and in our own life. Our statements or assumptions are practical guidelines for orienting and functioning in the world. They are questions. They are not the final word. What is an example of an assumption we made – about the world, ourselves, others, a situation – that we were convinced was true, and then it turned out it was not? What are some examples from history and science?

Our understanding of specific things in life changes over time. Our collective understanding changes, and our personal understanding changes. Over time, all of it may change. What are some examples of you seeing something a certain way, and then change your view? What are some examples from history?

Our worldview and most basic assumptions about the world change over time. What are some examples of worldviews changing over time? What are some examples of different worldviews from different cultures? What are the most basic assumptions about the world in our culture? Could these change in the future?

There are other understandings and other worldviews that may fit our experience (data) equally well as the ones we are familiar with, and some may even fit them better.

Our worldview and most basic assumptions about ourselves and the world is the water we swim in. It’s hard for us to notice these. And if we do, it’s often hard for us to question them. What are some basic assumptions we – in our society and culture – have about the world? What are some examples of assumptions that we usually wouldn’t even think of questioning? Are there taboos around questioning some of them?

Our background colors our understandings, values, and worldview. Our background – – as a species, culture, and individual – color what we see as important, what we see as right and wrong, and our assumptions about the world and ourselves. What are some examples of how our background influences how we see something? What are some examples of cultural differences? Imagine an intelligent species very different from us (bird, reptilian, fish, etc.). How would their perceptions, inclinations, and perhaps values differ from ours?

What is cognitive bias? What are the most typical cognitive biases? Take one and see how it plays a role in your own life. Is there a time you realized you made a wrong assumption because of bias? Which cognitive biases do we most see in our society? How can I be more aware of these? How can I counteract them? What may happen if I don’t notice or question my biases? And what are the benefits of noticing and questioning them?

How do we discuss well? Do we go into a conversation with the intention to learn from the other? Or do we just want to keep our initial ideas unchanged? (If so, what’s behind it?) What is the outcome of one and the other? Roleplay both and see how each one feels.

What are some common logical fallacies? What are some examples of logical fallacies in public discourse? And in our own life? How can we notice and counteract them in ourselves? How can we – with kindness and effectively – point it out when someone else uses a logical fallacy? When is it appropriate to do so?

This ties into trauma education since traumas often influence our perception, ideas about the world, and how we hold onto them (often for dear life when traumas are involved).

It would be a fun challenge to adapt this to each age level, and also develop (potentially) engaging, fun, and illuminating exercises and activities for each of the areas listed above. (And other areas I inevitably have left out.) Of course, it’s even better when the kids/teens develop this on their own.

And it is important to show that this is a fundamental part of being human. It’s something we already know and apply, at least to some extent. This is just a more organized exploration and application of it.

I personally learned some of these in school. Some on my own in my teens through reading books about science (especially the Fritjof Capra books). And some at university. (Philosophy of science courses are mandatory at universities in Norway, although why not at earlier levels?)

I am a bit surprised that this is not a more integral part of education at all levels. It’s useful in all areas of life and throughout life. Essential for nurturing a more well-functioning society. And today, with the internet echo-chambers, it’s more important than ever.

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Civilization and its discontents

 

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.

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The social and cultural benefits of genetic ancestry testing

 

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). With all of this, it’s important to be informed before jumping to conclusions, and in any case take it with a big grain of salt.

I guess there is also 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.)

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If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person

 

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.

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Dream factory

 

I saw the Hollywood Costume exhibit in LA a couple of years ago.

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.

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi

 

 

Luke: What do you see?

Rey: Light…. darkness….. the balance….?

Luke: It’s so much bigger.

What do these words from the trailer mean?

The following is one of 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.

Of course, this may not at all be how these words are explained in the movie. Somehow, I doubt it. I think they’ll take an approach that’s more “horizontal” in terms of maturity. One that doesn’t neccesarily require a step up in maturity.

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.

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Why wolves?

 

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.

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Being more mature than what your culture requires

 

… 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.

– Robert Keegan in an interview with What Is Enlightenment? Magazine, cited in Robert Kegan’s Awesome Theory Of Social Maturity by Mark Dombeck

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.

All made up

 

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.

I am not good enough, original sin, and marketing

 

I am not good enough. I am broken beyond repair.

These are core beliefs for many people.

Where do they come from?

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.

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It was in place long before me

 

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.

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Depictions of Native Americans

 

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.)

Culture, forgetting, and resistance

 

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.

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Cats and culture

 

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?

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The World’s Happiest Countries

 
RANK
(BY % THRIVING)
COUNTRY REGION PERCENT
THRIVING
PERCENT
STRUGGLING
PERCENT
SUFFERING
DAILY
EXPERIENCE
1 Denmark Europe 82 17 1 7.9
2 Finland Europe 75 23 2 7.8
3 Norway Europe 69 31 0 7.9
4 Sweden Europe 68 30 2 7.9
4 Netherlands Europe 68 32 1 7.7
6 New Zealand Asia 63 35 2 7.6
6 Costa Rica Americas 63 35 2 8.1
8 Switzerland Europe 62 36 2 7.6
8 Israel Asia 62 35 3 6.4
8 Australia Asia 62 35 3 7.5
8 Canada Americas 62 36 2 7.6
12 Brazil Americas 58 40 2 7.5
12 Panama Americas 58 39 3 8.4
14 Austria Europe 57 40 3 7.7
14 United States Americas 57 40 3 7.3
16 Belgium Europe 56 41 3 7.3
17 United Kingdom Europe 54 44 2 7.4
18 Mexico Americas 52 43 5 7.7
18 Turkmenistan Asia 52 47 1 7.5
20 United Arab Emirates Asia 51 48 1 7.

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.

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Insults and reason

 

flag_burning

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.

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Lessons from the Blue Zones: How to live longer and healthier lives

 

The four essentials:

1. Move Naturally – Make your home, community and workplace present you with natural ways to move. Focus on activities you love, like gardening, walking and playing with your family.

2. Right Outlook – Know and be able to articulate your sense of purpose, and ensure your day is punctuated with periods of calm.

3. Eat Wisely – Instead of groping from fad diet to fad diets, use time-honored strategies for eating 20% less at meals. Avoid meat and processed food and drink a couple of glasses of wine daily.

4. Belong to the Right Tribe – Surround yourself with the right people, make the effort to connect or reconnect with your religion and put loved ones first.

More info at Blue Zones.

Illness, and then shame

 

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.

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Godless society

 

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.

From Can a Godless Society be a “Good” Society? on Neatorama.

They don’t care about us

 

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.

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Living our past

 

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.

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Yes, And…

 

I have enjoyed following the Improv Everywhere missions since I first heard about them on This American Life a few years back.

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.

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The Work and owning the shadow

 

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.)

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“Not gay” and flawed thinking

 

The Republican Senator Larry Craig insisting that he is “not gay” reminds me of some of the flawed thinking about these things that seems to be out there.

The polarization into either gay or heterosexual seems, even on the surface of it, pretty suspicious. Why should it be either/or? In most of these type of cases, it is more often both/and.

This polarization and either/or thinking seems to be a product of taking on an exclusive identity as one or the other. I see myself as either heterosexual or gay, so then filter myself, and my impulses and attractions and even my behavior, through that identity.

If there is an attraction or action that doesn’t quite fit with my conscious identity, I can always dismiss it as something else.

These attractions are not really what they seem to be, or they are, but I can’t be the one experiencing it, so it must be somebody else. My actions are not really an indication of my conscious identity being too narrow. And, to prove it to myself and others, I may reinforce my identity as “not gay” even more.

And finally, these identities in general do not take circumstances into account. They assume that there is something inherent in our personality that is always that way, independent of circumstances, which again is a dubious assumption. In the right situation, I would guess that any one of us can experience and act either way, even if it doesn’t match our conscious identity.

It seems that it makes more practical sense to see all of us as bisexual, and what comes up for us, and is lived in our lives, depends more on circumstances than anything else… such as culture, subculture, who is around, and more.