Life 101

 

Most of what I write about here is Life 101.

It’s simple, and – for me — essential.

And that’s why I write about it.

I wish to contribute, in a very small way, to a society where (some of) these things are seen as basic and essential.

It may be helpful to some of the people reading it. (For me, it’s always helpful to be reminded of the basics. And I know it’s helpful to me to find others with similar experiences and interests as myself.)

And, in the best case, it’s helpful to me when I write. It allows me to explore, clarify, and remind myself. The more sincere I am, and the closer to immediate experience, the more I benefit and the more likely I am to be surprised by what I discover.

Life 101: Notice + allow

 

I sometimes write about a basic form of mindfulness which can be translated into notice + allow.

Notice what’s here in the sense fields, allow it to be, and perhaps notice it’s already allowed to be here.

In daily life, there is an additional emphasis I find very helpful. And that is to notice sensations, and especially those sensations that fuel and give substance to stressful thoughts and identities.

When these sensations happen outside of conscious awareness, the thoughts they lend their apparent solidity to tend to seem real, solid, and true. And when they are brought into conscious awareness, and the way they combine with certain thoughts and identities to lend them a sense of solidity is brought into conscious awareness, it’s as if we peek behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz and the illusion falls apart.

It’s easiest to discover this through inquiry, and especially the Living Inquiries. And then notice it while taking some time out and having space and time to notice. And then, after a while, we can bring it into daily life.

For me, this is one of my favorite explorations these days. I notice my mind is caught up in stressful thoughts or identities. (I notice the typical symptoms like stress, tension, blame, mental complaining, feeling like a victim, feeling I need to protect something, a compulsion etc.) I bring attention to the sensations in the body and allow them to be as they are. And I specifically look for and give attention to the sensations giving the stressful thoughts a sense of solidity, reality, and truth.

And that tends to break the spell. It creates space to notice and allow it all, and not be so caught up in it. It shifts the mind out of identifying with the stressful thoughts and identities, and into that which allows and is it all.

And that gives space for relating to what comes up in me more intentionally, and the triggering situation in life more intentionally. It opens for a slightly more mature and kind way of being.

It is fascinating how such as simple mechanism creates our stressful beliefs and hangups. We have thoughts which, in themselves, are innocent questions about the world. The mind then associates these with certain sensations in the body, and may even tense up muscles to create sensations it can associate the thoughts with. The sensations then gives a sense of solidity, reality, and truth to the thoughts. And the thoughts give a sense of meaning to the sensations.

As long as this happens outside of our conscious awareness, the thoughts seem solid and true, and we perceive, act, and live in the world as if they are true. As soon as we “peek behind the curtain”, the illusion falls apart, it loses it’s grip, and we can relate to it more intentionally.

In my imagination, in a future society that’s a little more mature, this is Life 101. This is what children learn along with riding a bike, reading, writing, and singing songs.

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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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Bliss addiction

 

This is another 101 topic I have written about before and thought I would briefly revisit.

We can be addicted to bliss, especially during a certain phase of the spiritual path.

Here is what often happens:

We get a taste of bliss.

We want it again.

We try different strategies to get it again.

We try strategies to get it to stay.

And eventually, we discover that we seek a transitory state and an experience, and that’s ultimately futile.

As far as I can tell, this bliss-seeking compulsion has a few different functions.

It’s a carrot on the path. It keeps us going so our seeking and practices become more established and more of a stable habit. Especially as it tends to happen early on the intentional path.

It can bring a certain healing. It can make us feel loved. It can help us trust life more.

It’s a lesson in the difference between states and what we are. It helps us differentiate the two.

It’s an invitation to explore what in us drives the compulsion and find healing for it.

As experiences come and go, we will eventually notice that what we are is what experiences happen within and as. And that that’s what it really is about, at least as we mature a bit. Seeking and losing and refinding and relosing bliss is a strong invitation to notice this.

And what drives this compulsion to find bliss, or really any compulsion? It’s often a sense of lack, a sense of not being good enough, and wanting to escape uncomfortable identifications and feelings.

So there is nothing wrong in seeking bliss. It’s natural. It’s quite common. It has several functions. And it leads us to a slightly more mature phase of the path.

Note: What strategies do we use to seek and maintain bliss? Most often, it’s a combination of meditation practices, prayer, and yogic or energetic practices. And for some, it’s psychoactive drugs.

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Getting to know those you dislike

 

This is another one of the things that parents, in the best case, tell their children.

If I enter a room or a group I’ll spend some time in, my mind tends to quickly sort people into “like” and “dislike” – at least as an initial map.

I have made it a practice to get to know those I have put in the “dislike” category. To get to know them a bit as humans and some of their back story.

It helps me to see them as humans rather than cardboard cutouts. It humanizes them in my mind. I may end up liking them or not, but that’s secondary.

And, of course, they are “me over there”. This is just me as this human being getting to know me as that human over there. And it reflects how I approach and relate to parts of myself and my own experience I dislike. Do I agree with the initial dislike and try to avoid it? Or do I know it’s worth getting to know it?

So if my mind tells itself “I don’t like that person” that’s a signal to get to know that person, at least a bit.

Note: This happend in the most recent Vortex Healing course I attended. My mind immediately disliked a person there, and just by circumstances I ended up talking with her for a while, seeing her as a real human being, and finding sympathy for her. She is still not someone I would actively pursue a friendship with but my experience of her has changed.

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Not knowing what we’ll find

 

A part of Life 101 is having an open mind.

We don’t know what we’ll find in any exploration of life, whether it’s through science, psychological or spiritual explorations, or just through living our daily lives.

We honestly don’t know, apart from that it – most likely – will be different from what we think, expect, envision, hope, or fear. And when we admit to ourselves, and remind ourselves, that we don’t know, it helps us stay honest with ourselves and the process and notice what’s actually here.

It’s easier said than done. Our minds are typically experts at getting themselves caught up in hopes, fears, and expectations. Our hopes and fears have a charge, and that charge makes them irresistible to the mind. (Of course, the mind creates all this itself, but that’s for other posts.)

What can we do? We can notice. Allow. See it’s the play of the mind. Notice the specific fears and hopes. Meet them with kindness and respect. Inquire into the fears and hopes and see what we find. All of that helps the mind soften and release it’s tendency to get caught in its own creations of hopes and fears.

It can also help to see that this is universal. It’s an universal human experience. And it’s here for a good reason. Having hopes and fears, giving them a charge, and even for the mind getting caught in them, all helped our ancestors survive. We wouldn’t be here without it. At the same time, it’s not conducive to more rational big picture or long-term decisions on behalf of ourselves and humanity, or even for our individual contentment (if that’s what we seek).

Note: I mentioned charge above, and have written about it in other posts. The charge comes from thoughts – mental words and images, being associated with bodily sensations. Sensations lend a sense of reality and solidity to the thoughts and make them seem true, and thoughts lend a sense of meaning to the sensations. For instance, a set of sensation is taken by the mind to mean that I am this body, and that same idea is given a sense of substance and truth by the same sensations.

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Life 101

 

So much of what I write here is Life 101.

It’s very basic. Simple. Even written so it’s easier to understand.

And yet, it’s not so obvious in the context of our contemporary culture.

Perhaps it will be more obvious and mainstream in the future?

And perhaps it will be included more often in a Life 101 track through school.

It seems as important as the other basics already included in most schools: language, maths, history, sports, religions, and social studies.

Here are some ideas for what could be included in a Life 101 track:

Communication skills.

Relationship skills.

Media literacy.

Critical thinking. Rational thinking.

Training of a more stable attention. (Helpful for anything.)

And perhaps, for the especially interested:

Mind-body practices. (Yoga, tai chi, chigong.)

Basic forms of meditation.

Basic inquiry.

Parts work (subpersonalities).

And even, in some schools, basic universal spirituality. (What it’s about, typical process etc.)

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