Values in Action

 

Values in Action (VIA) comes from positive psychology, and is a way to rank our individual character strengths. What is important to me? What am I good at? How can make use of it in everyday life? What ranks lower for me? How can I strengthen those?

The VIA test can be taken at the Institute for Character website, or at Authentic Happiness which has a wide range of tests.

Here is my current Values in Action score. I have guesses how it relates to NEO PI in parenthesis.

Your Top Strength

Creativity, ingenuity, and originality (may be similar to high in Openness to Experience in the NEO PI)
Thinking of new ways to do things is a crucial part of who you are. You are never content with doing something the conventional way if a better way is possible.

Your Second Strength

Love of learning (related to high in Openness and Conscientiousness)
You love learning new things, whether in a class or on your own. You have always loved school, reading, and museums-anywhere and everywhere there is an opportunity to learn.

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Reflections on personality

 

The NEO PI test shows roughly where we are on the Big Five personality traits.

It is easy to think that being low on neuroticism and high on the other four is always and inherently good. After all, that is what our culture tells us. But it is fortunately not quite true.

It depends on our role. For instance, as an army officer, it may be good to be low on some of the facets of agreeableness (able to make tough decisions that harms certain individuals), and perhaps higher on some of the facets of neuroticism (more alert). A philosopher, psychologist, or artist may benefit from being higher on neuroticism as it allows more inner processing and insight. A nuclear plant operator, or anyone in a role where innovation is of little or no advantage, or where it may even be harmful, may benefit from being low on openness to experience.

It depends on how it is expressed and how we relate to it. Whether we are high or low on any factor or facet, we can find ways to use it in a constructive way, and find genuine appreciation for its benefits.

And as a society, we need all types. There are many roles that needs to be filled in a society, so it is good people come with different tendencies and orientations.

NEO PI (ii)

 

I took the brief online NEO PI test again.

My energy level fluctuates some due to the chronic fatigue, which is reflected in some of these results. When I feel better, as I do now, my level of extraversion goes up slightly, and my level of neuroticism goes down. I also suspect my conscientiousness, agreeableness,  openness to experience goes up. With more rest, as I have had the last several days, I feel a bit more energetic, am more able to get things done, feel more friendly towards others and myself, and am more interested in life in general.

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NEO PI

 

I came across the NEO PI personality test online – see below for my results from the short version.

My answers to some questions would be somewhat different at other times of my life, but, overall, the result seems pretty accurate for me now.

Here is the short version of the results: Average extraversion, high agreeableness, high conscientiousness, low neuroticism, high openness to experience.

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Politics and personality

 

Elections are a good opportunity to explore what it means to have a personality 🙂

This personality supports Obama wholeheartedly, and others see him as a threat and a danger to Americans.

Why is that? Of course, it is easy to say that we are at different developmental stages. Or that conservatives are more – or differently – caught up in fear than liberals are. Or that we have more of an either adventurous or cautious personality based on evolution and biology. All of that may be true in its own way.

But from a practice perspective, there are other ways of looking at it that may be more interesting.

For instance, what happens when I identify with the personality? It naturally has preferences, which it should. What happens when these are solidified into beliefs? What happens when they are recognized as preferences only, and practical tools for functioning in the world?

Also, what do I find when I explore where these preferences come from?

In my case, I find that my political preferences come from my culture. I grew up in a culture with universal health care, free education through PhD, a low difference between those with highest and lowest income compared to almost all other countries. I have seen – and lived with – all of this working very well, so I naturally think it is a good idea. I got the values of solidarity through my culture, and I got to see it working well through experience.

Seeing this, I can more easily appreciate how others, who may come from a radically different background and experiences, have quite different preferences.

My preferences come from my background and my experiences. And the preferences of others come from their background and experiences.

It is not personal. And recognizing that, I don’t have to take it personally. I will of course continue to live from my own preferences – and act and vote from them – but I don’t need to take it as an absolute truth, or as something personal.

And I can explore how to express these preferences in a healthy and mature way. That is my task.

(more…)

Likes and dislikes

 

There are many aspects to the likes & dislikes of this personality…

When there are beliefs around it, and we are identified with these likes & dislikes, there is often a sense of reactivity and compulsiveness around it. I either resist acting on them, or act on them compulsively. And it is generally quite unpleasant.

Free from beliefs, there is more clarity and also more kindness to myself and others. The kindness to myself includes taking the preferences of this personality more seriously. And this clarity and kindness to myself and others influences when I act and don’t act on these preferences, and how I do it.

When there is a baseline of clarity and kindness to myself and others, and a release of identification with the preferences of the personality, there is freedom to take these preferences seriously, to act on them when it seems appropriate, and to not act on them when that seems appropriate. It all depends on the situation, and is guided by whatever kindness, clarity and experience is available to us.

In this context, the preferences of this personality flavors the more impersonal clarity and kindness. It makes it personal, human, gives it a unique quality that only this human self can bring to it.

Said another way… the preferences of this personality flavors how Big Mind/Heart expresses and experiences itself in the world, whether awake to itself or not.

And that is one of the reasons why there is more than one of us 😉

As so many have said before, each human being, each living creature, every phenomenon, is the mask of God. It is God expressing and exploring itself as everything we see in the universe and the world, as everything we know from our selves.

And God never repeats itself. Each being and phenomenon is a unique expression, a unique flavor. One that has never been before, and will never be again, in that exact way.

So why not embrace who we are, this particular human self, with all its flaws and strangeness? It is one of the flavors of God. And the only way to taste the fullness of life.

Free to dislike

 

It is funny how clarity comes with a freedom to dislike, to take the preferences of this personality more seriously.

When there is a release from beliefs through inquiry, I relate to myself and others from more kindness and clarity. And being kind with myself includes taking the preferences of this personality seriously.

When in the grips of beliefs, there is often a sense of lack of freedom to act on likes and dislikes. It feels reactive, compulsive and unpleasant.

Free from beliefs, there is a freedom to act from personal preferences, but now from clarity and kindness to myself and others, instead of from reactivity and compulsiveness. And if I am unable to act from the likes and dislikes of this personality, or choose to not act on them (there are many reasons to not act on them), I am OK with that too.

This shift, taking the personal preferences of this personality more seriously when there is a freedom from beliefs, is one of the many (apparent) ironies of this process.

Gain and loss

 

In my middle- and high-school classes, there was a running joke whenever we discussed a short story, novel or poem. The teacher would ask us what the story was about, and someone would inevitably respond “gain and loss”. It was funny because it was always true. Our human drama is always about gain and loss. If those elements are not present, we typically don’t find it worth writing about or reading.

It is of course the insight of Buddhism and many other traditions… when there is a sense of a separate self, everything is filtered through gain and loss, or more presisely, attraction, aversion and neutrality. Will it be of gain to me? Will it bring a loss? Is it neutral (for now)? Will it enhance my life? Is it something I need to protect myself against? Is it something I don’t need to bother with?

As I went about my business today, and especially on the bus and while walking around downtown, I noticed how whatever came up was filtered in this way, and to be more aware of it, I labeled whatever attention went to as either gain or loss (attention naturally goes to the things the personality sees as as gain or loss). By doing this, I saw more clearly how this labeling process goes on throughout the day, often outside of attention.

For instance, walking down a street, I see how the labels of gain and loss come up with only seconds apart. Something in a store window is a possible gain (something that would enhance this separate self). Another thing or person a reminder of a loss (a loss of what was or could have been).

Digesting habitual patterns

 

I have recently come across several references to digesting the habitual patterns of our human self… the beliefs and all their effects, including emotional reactivity and behavioral tendencies.

When I explored this for myself, I saw that this digestion happens in several ways.

It can happen through an heart-felt seeing and being with. For instance (a) by being with the gestalt of it as it arises, which tends to invite a deepening into our humanity. (b) By noticing whatever thoughts and emotions that arises as void itself (as fleeting, and insubstantial). And (c) by differentiate and clarify what arises, through for instance labeling practice (seeing how emotions are really just sensations and a story added onto it).

I can also explore the content of what comes up, through for instance identifying the belief behind the reaction, and exploring that belief (The Work), or through tracking the process behind it (e.g. Process Work).

I can also invite the soul level to work on it, either while bringing in the heart-felt seeing, or as an ongoing process outside of attention. After the endarkenment shift, this one has been especially alive.

In general, the digestion happens through (a) noticing what already is, and (b) maturing as a human being through insight into patterns, and a reduced identification with particular identities (which in turns allows me to deepen into our shared humanity, and allows a more well-rounded personality to form.)

Feeling at home

 

There are many ways to feel at home, and I notice how I cycle through many of the over the course of a day, or even hours, or minutes, or even seconds.

The first one is the feeling at home as defined by the personality, or rather our belief system. It happens when life conform with what my personality likes, and what my belief system tells me is OK or desirable. This happens when there is peace and quiet around me, when I have a good cup of tea, am with friends, watch a good movie, travel somewhere interesting, am healthy, and so on. This level is very much dependent on circumstances.

The second is feeling at home as a human being, in the wholeness of myself as a human being, embracing body and mind. This is the centaur level and it happens when I relax into who I am as a human being, and also when I am in nature, do Breema, or am engaged in another body/mind activity (or am in the flow of its after effects). This level is a little less dependent on external circumstances.

The third, feeling at home as soul… alive presence, luminous emptiness, luminous blackness, alive presence in the heart area (indwelling god). This level is far less dependent on external circumstances, although it is still dependent on content, as described above, and this content comes and goes on its own.

The fourth, noticing that I am already home as spirit… as void, awake void, awake void and form as no other than awake void. This is not dependent on circumstances at all, apart from noticing it. It is what is already and always here and now, independent of circumstances.

When beliefs are triggered, for instance by life showing up quite differently from what my beliefs tells me is desirable, there is often a rapid cascade… the spirit level may cloud up, the soul level is not noticed anymore, I don’t experience the wholeness of myself as that which embraces body and mind, and even the personality is not much happy.

My attention is wrapped up in the small world of the story, the drama of life not corresponding to the story, and the deepening sense of a split between I (as the belief or the one having the belief) and Other (life showing up differently).

That is why it is easier for all of these levels to be present and be noticed when (a) beliefs are temporarily not triggered or (b) beliefs have fallen away, even if it is around just one issue.

Two ways of losing a belief: friction and investigation

 

There are two ways to lose a belief, and they often go hand in hand.

One is through friction.

I have a belief telling me how life is or should be, and an identity telling me what I am and am not. In both cases, I split life right down the middle, allowing one region of the landscape and not the rest.

When life inevitably shows up outside of my belief or identity, there is a friction between my belief and life, which is experienced a uncomfortable… as stress, something being off, suffering, anger, fear, and so on.

This friction, if it continues, slowly wears off (and out!) the belief. Over time, constantly at odds with life, it has to go, in spite of even the most persistent resistance. It is just too obvious that life is more than my belief, and I more than the identity. My personality may not like it, especially at first, but there is not much choice there either.

The other is through investigation.

I notice the warning signs of holding onto a belief or identity (stress), I identify the belief or set of beliefs behind it, and investigate its effects, what would be without it, and the grain of truth in each of the reversals of the initial story. This too allows it to fall away, although it can be faster and less painful, even fun.

In the first case, I take the side of my habitual beliefs and identities, and it may be a drawn out and painful affair.

In the second case, I take the side of life inviting the belief to go, and it becomes more playful, have a sense of more ease, and can even be fun and enjoyable.

Although most of the time, there seems to be a mix of the two. There is the friction between life and belief, and the stress and resistance that comes with it. And there is the ease of the investigation, when that is finally engaged with.

Shadow of arrogance

 

As I continue to work with projections and the shadow, many aspects of it become more and more immediate and alive as it happens. One way it manifests is having the shadow of a belief or identity come up along with the belief and identity.

A belief arises, and right there is the shadow of that belief. An identity arises, and right there is also the shadow of that identity. Or at least parts of the shadow.

So when arrogance arises, along with it arises inferiority, stupidity, not knowing, and whatever is left out from an identity which gives rise to arrogance. I see both out there, in others and the world, and also in here in this human self.

Together, there is a fuller picture, a wider embrace of what is. And it is all revealed as inherently neutral. The initial identity is neutral, what is left out is neutral, and the landscape (always) including both is inherently neutral.

Of course, our personality may not see it as neutral. It sees different parts of all of this as desirable or undesirable, mature and less mature, good or bad. But that too is inherently neutral.

Spirit and soul allowing a shift from tragedy to comedy

 

In periods, and especially so over the last year or so, my experience of myself shift… Partly, it because space & awareness goes into the foreground, partly because the soul (alive presence) goes into the foreground, and partly because this human self is shifting and reorganizing.

Sometimes, there is also a discrepancy of the experience of myself and how this human self presents itself in the world. I see old patterns acted upon (often in quite innocent ways) and then surprise comes up. Wow – I haven’t seen that one for a while, and it is certainly not how I experience myself…!

These are typically patterns formed early on in life, coming from more contraction than what seems necessary now. Coming up, there is an opportunity to see them, and holding them in awareness while feeling into it (the witness/feeling into combination that gives an engaged teflon mind.)

When I taught a Breema class last night, this came up quite strongly: seeing the personality behaving in ways other parts of it is not so happy with, with less fluidity, warmth and engaged presence than it would like (I have been physically off for a few days, and it invites some of the older patterns of awkwardness to come up.) It is quite clear that there is no doer in this. It just happens. Materializes out of thin air. Sometimes to the embarrassment of the personality itself. And that too just happens.

Since it was a Breema class, the Spirit (awake emptiness and form) and soul (alive full presence) were in the foreground, which allowed more space around it. The personality happens as ripples of the surface of the vastness of Spirit and soul. And this makes for more of an amusing show than anything else.

What my personality takes as a tragedy, the presence of Spirit and soul reveals as comedy. When the personality is in the foreground, and the Spirit/soul levels are distant, it takes itself very seriously. When Spirit and/or soul is in the foreground, the habitual patterns of the personality not only softens but is also taken, in a friendly way, as comedy.

This seems to happen whether Spirit or soul, or both, are in the foreground. But it happens in slightly different ways.

Spirit allows for a cool detachment. It is impersonal. The personality arises as no other than the awake emptiness itself, so cannot be taken as very solid, substantial or absolutely real.

Soul is an alive presence, and – depending on which aspects of it surfaces – gives a sense of fullness, warmth, nurturing, being held, soft bliss, intimacy. And this warmth and fullness offsets any hardness and habitual patterns of the personality. The patterns of the personality softens, including the way it judges itself. The edges are rounded. It soften, relaxes, releases. And this not only makes it more comfortable right here now, but also allows these patterns to reorganize over time.

Fearlessness

 

Since the endarkenment shift some weeks ago, there is a new sense of fearlessness…

Not courage, which is doing something in spite of fear, but a deep absence of fear.

A fearlessness coming from a sense that there is nothing to lose (a fruit of the dark night where everything was lost, and I had to embrace that), and also from the deep sense of nurturing and being held within (and as) the fertile darkness and the luminous blackness (which are similar but distinct.)

The fertile darkness and luminous blackness is a vast void, a Ground of all Existence, infinite potential, appearing as all form. And this Ground of existence is an infinite vast peace, giving a sense of infinite vast safety and trust. It is there independent of how this human self and the rest of the physical world shows up.

It is Ground, with nothing behind or beyond it, inherently absent of fear, and also showing up as vast infinite fertile darkness and luminous blackness, vast nourishment, allowing for a deep healing and reorganizing of this human self and the personality.

There is a vast Ground of fertile darkness and infinite blackness, with this human self and its personality as a thin layer on the surface.

Surface fears still come up, the ordinary human ones, but they are just dancing on top of this vast peace and absence of fear. And they vanish as soon as they appear. (Specifically, I notice some fear come up from the personality in certain social situations, and they may remain as long as the situation remains, but as soon as the situation changes, they go poof – just revealing the vast peace that was always there inside of and beneath it.)

Dark night as burning through remaining traces of a sense of I, and the effects of a sense of I

 

One of the functions of the dark night, which comes some time after a clear (or near-clear) and stable awakening to selflessness, seems to be to burn through and out (most of ) the remaining traces of a sense of separate I, and the effects of a sense of separate I on the personality…

The second part of it, burning through the effects of a sense of separate I on the personality, seems crucial here.

For most of us, our personality is formed within a sense of separate I. And although it does reorganize to a certain extent following an awakening, many traces of this sense of a separate I still remains.

And the dark night is one of the ways this is burnt through, allowing the personality (and the individual) to reorganize more fully within a context of realized selflessness. Maturing into it, becoming more seasoned.