Mindfulness to deal with burnout?

 

I usually don’t write about mainstream psychology here since it’s covered well many other places. But the topic of burnout has been on my mind lately as I have helped with a thesis on the topic and it illustrates a more general point.

In the mindfulness world, mindfulness is sometimes promoted as an antidote to burnout. And that’s true enough. It can certainly help individuals to be more resilient and reduce the chances of burnout.

At the same time, mindfulness is an individual solution to a more systemic problem. In most cases of workplace burnout, the problems lies with the structures and the system. It has to do with how the business is organized and operated. It has to do with the owner and management.

And beyond that, it has to do with how we have organized ourselves collectively. It has to do with our current social and economic system, and especially the very obvious downsides to neoliberalism.

Beyond that again, it has to do with our most basic worldview. We currently have a worldview that separates humans from nature, values the material over the immaterial, the human over rest of life, and too often values profit over people.

As individuals we function in a larger social and ecological system, and that’s where most of the causes and solutions to burnout – and a range of other apparently individual problems – lie.

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Healing & awakening = aligning with reality 

 

Healing and awakening is all about aligning with reality – at all levels of our being.

That’s a tall order. And it’s already what’s here.

In brief:

We are a local part and expression of life. We are already reality so from this perspective, no alignment needs to happen. We can’t align with what we already are.

And yet, as human beings, we are typically out of alignment in many ways. There is room for alignment and this alignment is an ongoing process of exploration and inquiry, healing and maturing as human beings, and embodying our discoveries and realizations.

How did we get out of alignment? We got out of alignment by holding our thoughts as solid, real, and true. We aligned with our thoughts more than being receptive to life as it is. We came to identify and experiencing ourselves as a being separate from the rest of existence. (Consiousness identified in that way, and took itself to be a being within the content of itself.) And this process built on itself so we came to create wounds, trauma, dynamics leading to some physical illnesses, relationship problems, and a culture and society out of tune with the larger living world.

Nothing is wrong. It’s all life expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself. And yet, it is uncomfortable so at some point, there is a motivation to coming back into alignment with life so we can find a sense of home, being in tune with reality, and being more at ease.

How do we get back into alignment? We do so by noticing what we are. That we already are (this local expression of) life and a whole that always is whole. We do so by healing and maturing as human beings. We do so by an ongoing process of clarifying and embodying.

That’s the short version.

And in more detail:

Already reality. We are, in a sense, already 100% aligned with reality. We are life, this local part of the Universe, all of us is already Spirit. We cannot help being 100% reality. We are more than aligned with reality, we are reality. We are this local thinking, feeling, experiencing part of reality. As what we are, we are already reality.

Room for realignment. And it’s a tall order. It’s an ongoing process. We’ll need to face a great deal that may be uncomfortable to us, mainly because we have habitually pushed it away and seen as scary. As who we are, this human being, there is a lot of room for realignment.

Out of alignment. How did we get out of alignment?

One answer is that we, as human beings, tend to believe our thoughts. We hold some of our thoughts as real and true representations of reality and perceive and live as if that’s the case. That inherently creates a sense of separation and of being a separate being, and temporarily veils what we already are. (Life experiencing itself through this local body and these local thoughts, feelings, and experiences.) This – combined with meeting difficult life situations – is also what creates contractions, wounds, and trauma, and the accumulated effects of different types of contractions.

Another answer is Lila, the play of the divine. It seems that Existence has an inherent drive to experience itself in always new ways. The universe is life expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in always new ways. And one aspect of that is creating beings and energetic/consciousness veils that create a temporary and local experience of separation. Nothing went wrong. There are no lessons to be learned, no redemption to be earned. It’s just the temporary play of the divine.

Into alignment. So how do we get back into alignment?

We get back into alignment by noticing that we already are life and whole as we are. We already are a wholeness that’s always whole. We can understand that in different ways, and the easiest may be to notice that all happens within and as awakeness or consciousness. And that’s always whole and undivided.

We also get back into alignment through healing and maturing as human beings. And by consciously living from whatever realizations we have about life, what we are, and who we are (aka embodiment).

Both of these are ongoing explorations. As what we are, we keep noticing and clarifying. As who we are, we keep healing, maturing, and embodying. And it’s not at all a linear path.

A few additional notes:

Christianity. I thought I would say a few words about Christianity. In some cultures, the idea of aligning with reality for healing and awakening is natural and comes in from birth. I assume Buddhist cultures, Taoist cultures, and many native cultures are this way.

In other cultures, and specifically Christian and perhaps Abrahamic or theistic cultures in general, it’s different. Here, nature, life, and reality is viewed with some ambivalence and perhaps suspicion.

In Christinanity, there is the idea of original sin which makes us question our own nature, we are suspicious of our natural drives (sex, eating, resting etc.). We may also be trained to be suspicious of nature and life since it can lead us into temptation. In a Christian culture, or one that was Christian for a long time, it can seem odd or questionable to want to align with reality. If we and nature is more or less inherently sinful, why would we align with it?

Maybe it’s better to push it away as much as we can? Or maybe it’s better to transcend? We may try transcending, and find it works for a while, but reality is whole so we are inevitably brought back here and now with what’s already here.

In this case, it’s good to take small steps. Try it out and see what happens. We can explore this through inquiry where we question stressful thougths and find what’s more true for us. We can also explore it through body-centered practices such as Tension and Trauma Releasing Exercises where we use the natural and inherent mechanisms of the body to find healing. Through these explorations, we may see that aligning with nature and reality is healing and can give us a sense of coming home.  We gradually build trust.

Healing, awakening, & sustainability. As shines through what I wrote above, healing, awakening and sustainability are all about aligning with reality. That’s why the three – for me – are inseperable. The seeds of dis-ease, an unawakened experience, and a society out of tune with the larger living world, are all the same. And the basic remedy is the same as well – align with life and reality.

For healing, we can align through inquiry, TRE, Breema, yoga, meditation and more. For awakening, we can align through inquiry, meditation, prayer, and more (whatever helps us ripen). For sustainability, we can align with life through philosophical and economic frameworks that takes ecological realities into account (which none of the current mainstream ones do), and a generally worldview that does the same.

Psychotherapy. I intentionally left out psychotherapy from my (brief) list of ways we can find healing. That’s because psychotherapy can be healing or not depending on who’s doing it (the therapist) and the approach they are using. If the therapist’s view is inherently skeptical about life and reality, then any healing won’t go very deep. It may even be traumatizing. If their view and life is more deeply aligned with life and reality, and they have a deep trust in life, then the healing can go quite deep. Process Work is an excellent example of an approach that’s inherently trusting of and aligned with life.

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Making use of how people already are

 

Human behavior is often irrational. We tend to focus on what’s immediate, dramatic, and emotional. We are drawn to what’s shocking and unusual rather than long-term trends. We are more interested in this morning’s dramatic death than the thousands dying of hunger each day. We are more interested in what Trump tweeted at 5am than increasing social inequality.

The media knows that and plays into it by making news into entertainment and drama. That’s how they get viewers and readers. That’s how they maximize profit. They too act in their short-term interest.

And all of it is from evolution. For our ancestors, it was important to pay attention to anything that stood out and anything dramatic, and they rarely needed to pay attention to the big picture or slow trends. It’s how we, as a species, survived.

In a democracy, we need to get people to pay more attention to the serious and slower trends, and less on shorter term drama and entertainment. And we can do just that by taking evolution and how people really function into account, instead of wishful thinking about how people “should” function.

If we have sufficiently informed political and business leaders, we can set up structures so that what’s easy and attractive is also good in the long term and in the big picture.

And we can speak to people in general in ways that work with the mechanisms put into us by evolution: Tell compelling stories. Make it simple, immediate, and personal. Show how it aligns with the values and identities they already have. Make it genuinely attractive.

There are two more facets to this. Some of us seem wired to look more at the big picture and think about things in a more dispassionate way. That too makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. As a species and community, we generally need many who are drawn to the immediate and a few drawn to the bigger picture.

And there is another reason why many tend to avoid thinking about the big picture: they feel they are unable to do anything about it. So we can add one more element to how to work with how people already function: Show that their actions do make a real difference. And make that too immediate, personal, and emotional.

Samuel Bercholz: A guided tour of hell

 

I went to an excellent talk with Samuel Bercholz and Pema Namdol Thaye at the Asian Art Museum earlier today. They are the author and artist of A Guided Tour of Hell: A Graphic Memoir. I can highly recommend the book. (Samuel Bercholz also happens to be the founder of the Shambala publishing company. I must have read hundreds of their books.)

A few things about hell. It’s created by our own mind, and more specifically by our beliefs and identifications. Beliefs and identifications are at odds with reality, and create unease and sometimes suffering. This hell is with us as long as we have these beliefs and identifications, whether in this human life or between incarnations. We create our own hell.

What’s the remedy? It’s partly to heal our very human trauma and wounds. And more to the point, to heal our relationship with our experience. To befriend our experience, independent of it’s content. To find kindness and even love for it. And to recognize our experience as awakeness and even love. And this goes for all of our experience, including other people, the world, ourselves, different parts of ourselves, and our own discomfort, pain, and suffering.

My own experience with hellish states. It’s a good reminder for myself. As I have written about before, I have gone through a difficult few years. Following a nondual opening that lasted a few months, I was plunged into chronic fatigue (CFS) and later PTSD. Adyashanti talks about how an awakening or opening can “take the lid” off anything suppressed or avoided in our mind, and that’s what happened to me. There was no chance of holding it back or pushing it away.

A huge amount of unprocessed material surfaced over the following months and years, and it led to PTSD and several months where I hardly slept and all I could do was walk in the woods in Ski, Norway. (While listening to the audio version of the dark night chapter of Mysticism by Evelyn Underhill and Adyashanti talking about the dark night and other topics.) Fortunately, I had some guidance by someone who had gone through it himself and understood (Barry Snyder) and I also did The Work and found TRE, both of which helped me tremendously.

And still, a great part of this process was something I just had to ride out. Practices and healings helped in taking the edge off some of it, but the vast bulk of it just had to live its own life and was something I had to find a way to live with, even if it often felt indescribably unbearable and overwhelming.

As so many describe, it has gradually tapered off although I still feel I am in it to some extent. I am very grateful for having found Vortex Healing which has been and is a great support for me in the healing and continued awakening process.

Note: As I wrote the section above, I was aware that this is a good example of hellish states but not a good example of how we can work with it. The unprocessed material that surfaces is something I have worked with extensively and continue to work on healing and clearing – mainly through inquiry (Living Inquiries, The Work), TRE, resting with it, and – these days – Vortex Healing. As the intensity has gradually decreased, it’s easier for me to work on it.

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The world as a dream

 

I recently answered a set of questionnaires connected with a course using tools from different spiritual and psychological traditions.

One of the questions was (paraphrased): do you experience the world as unreal, as a dream?

Do you experience the world as unreal, as a dream?

In a psychological context, I would answer no since a “yes” could be taken as a symptom of schizophrenia. I don’t experience the world as unreal in that way.

In a spiritual context, or in the context of a spiritual emergence or emergency, the answer would be “yes”. The world is revealed as consciousness (Spirit, love), as insubstantial, as a dream. The world and dreams both happen as and within consciousness.

Although the questionnaire was presented as part of a course using spiritual tools, I did answer “no” since the questionnaire itself was clearly a standard psychological one.

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Is it who you are?

 

I was recently interviewed by a friend who is in Robert Keegan’s Order of Consciousness certification program.

One of the questions he asked was is it who you are? That orientation to see what happens as a gift, is it who you are?

It’s almost impossible to answer such a question simply. It completely depends.

To others who have known me for a while, the answer is probably yes. I have had that orientation since my teens.

If I answered a questionnaire aimed at detecting that orientation, I may score quite high. In terms of that questionnaire, it’s who I am – at least at the time of answering the questions.

In the big picture, it’s obviously not who I am.

At a human level, it’s not really who I am. I wasn’t that way, at least not consciously, before my mid-teens. There are moments where it goes in the background and something else is stronger. It may change in the future.

And I am really that which experience happens within and as. I am that which this orientation comes and goes within.

So is it who I am? Yes and no. It depends. It’s complex. And I am sure my answer will change if you ask me in a month, or a year, or ten years.

Asap Thought: Dear Lazy People

 

A good summary of some simple ways to (a) align more with reality in order to (b) get things done – or find peace with not doing it.

There are just two elements to it:

Don’t trust your future self. If you are not doing it now, you are not likely to do it tomorrow, or the day after.

Be honest with yourself. Instead of saying I don’t have time or I’ll do it tomorrow, say what’s more true: It’s not a priority to me right now. It can feel harsh but it’s the reality. And the truth shall set us free. It will either motivate us to do it now, or find more peace with not doing it.

I have found these two helpful for myself.

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Psychological questionnaires: Assumptions behind the questions

 

I am doing the Finder’s Course in a few weeks and filled out most of the psychological pre-measures today. It was a reminder of how imprecise many questionnaires are.

They make assumptions that may not be shared by the ones taking it, so the results are unreliable.

For instance, one asked me what percent of time I am happy, sad, and neutral. I initially came up with a number far higher than 100% and then had to bring it down to 100%. The reality is that most of the time, and even right now, there is a mix of happiness/contentment, sadness, and neutrality. I would perhaps say 40% happy, 50% content, 50% neutral, and 20% sad.

The questionnaire assume that they are mutually exclusive and asks what percentage of the time I experience one or the other. If I am honest, I would have to say I experience all three most of the time, perhaps 90-95% of the time. To me, it makes far more sense to ask what percentage of each I am experiencing right now.


Update Jan. 18, 2017

I decided to add a few more examples of how questionnaires appears to make assumptions not neccesarily shared by the person answering the questions. I realize this may be a bit pedantic…!

People should try to understand their dreams and be guided by or take warning from them.

I am answering “no” since I don’t think this applies to people in general. I definetely work with my own dreams – often using Jungian active imagination – but I wouldn’t prescribe it for people in general. They may not be interested or benefit from it.

If the question is really about how I see dreams then the question is misleading and my answer (“no”) will give a different impression than what’s true. Still, I can’t second guess the intention behind the questionnaire and answer “yes” since it’s not true for me.

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Magic tricks

 

Off and on since childhood, I have been fascinated by magic tricks and how they are done.

First, there is the enjoyment of being baffled. Then, of learning how it’s done. And with the best performances, the enjoyment of recognizing the skill with which it is done.

In addition to this, magic tricks tells us something about the mind.

Good magicians are experts on certain ways the mind works and they use this to entertain and fool us. And when the secrets behind the tricks are revealed, we also get some insights into how the mind works. (See, for instance, Teller’s Seven Ways to Fool the Brain.)

Mainly, the world of magic tricks shows us how our minds operates on expectations and assumptions about the world, and that these are not always accurate. Most of the time, they are accurate enough and very helpful to us, but sometimes these assumptions break down. Assumptions won’t always be accurate, and magicians take advantage of this and – if we allow it – reminds us the fallibility of our assumptions.

Some even think that magic tricks are “real” magic, and that too shows us something about the mind. It shows us how our hopes and fears can hijack a more rational and down-to-earth view, and what happens when we don’t do sufficient research and lack knowledge about a topic.

A few sources I have enjoyed:

Hiding the Elephant by Jim Stenmeyer.

Penn and Teller: Fool Us – in addition to some googling.

A range of YouTube videos explaining certain tricks.

And there is also an increase in psychology articles on the topic these days.

Ahead of our times

 

There has always been groups ahead of their times. I am obviously very biased, some of these seem pretty obvious, but here are some things I see as pointing forward in history.

A deeper respect for more of human diversity (ethnic, sexual etc.) and the unique gifts, insights and perspectives of each of these groups. This will be reflected more in media and storytelling. (Going far beyond what we see now.)

A deeper respect for all life. Including all life in the circles of “us”. A recognition that this deep respect for all life is essential for our own well being and survival. It’s good for us because it aligns with reality and what we already know.

A transformation in how we organize ourselves at all levels and areas of life. A deeper alignment with ecological realities in all areas including economy, production, architecture, engineering, transportation, education, energy use and more.

A deeper acknowledgment that we don’t know. A science that’s more integral, holistic, and inclusive. A science that has removed some of its current blinders.

A deeper sense of deep time, evolution, Big History, the Epic of Evolution, and what it means for all aspects of our lives.

A more integral and holistic approach to health. One that includes body, psyche, society, ecology, and spirituality.

A genuine and thorough scientific approach to what’s traditionally been the domain of spirituality.

A shift from policies that favor corporations and the few to policies that favor most people, ecological systems, and life.

Giving a voice and power to nonhuman species, ecosystems, and future generations. Giving a voice to the voiceless in politics and the legal system. Simply because it’s the right thing to do, and it ultimately benefits all of us.

A shift from religions to spirituality. Holding ideas and ideologies more lightly, recognizing and emphasizing the universal core of all religions, and focusing on the practical aspects of spirituality.

Regenerative design. Design of buildings, cities, regions etc. so that we support thriving ecological and social systems.

A shift from treating animals as a resource “owned” by humans to thinking, feeling, experiencing beings with value of their own. A shift from seeing ecosystems as a resource to living systems with value on their own. A shift to giving nonhuman species, ecosystems, and future nonhuman and human generations a real voice and say in our decision and policy making. (As best as we can.)

As someone said, the future will probably not be as bad as we fear and not as good as we hope. I think the areas above will continue to develop and gain momentum but I don’t expect all of these to become mainstream to the extent I imagine they can be. They will be strands in how we humans experience the world and among many other strands. I also know that the way we see these things now will continue to develop and that our terminology and ideas about many of these things will relatively quickly be seen as obsolete. I am also hesitant even writing this because it’s just about identical to what I said and wrote about in my teens, and that suggests that I haven’t matured or developed much since then! (Which in some ways is true.)

There are many more finely grained things that probably will happen, at least among some people. For instance, it’s pretty certain that psychology will finally catch up to more of what different spiritual traditions have known about, explored, and developed over centuries and even millennia. Different states of experience. Enlightenment in the sense of what we are – that which experience happens within and as – noticing itself. The effects of body centered/inclusive practices. The effects of inquiry, and what different forms of inquiry can tell us about how the mind works. The effects of some forms of prayer such as the heart prayer.

Any scenarios about the future reflects what’s here now. It reflects my own world as I experience it. It reflects my ideas about the past and present projected into the future.

Leaving no stone unturned

 

There is an important difference between mainstream psychology and inquiry: Mainstream psychology leaves many underlying assumptions unloved and unquestioned, and inquiry leaves no stone unturned.

Of course, it depends on the practitioner. I know psychologists who addresses even the most basic underlying assumptions and identities, and I am sure there are people using inquiry who don’t.

I assume that as inquiry and Buddhist practices keeps influencing psychology, there will be a change in how mainstream psychology operates. They may soon recognize the importance of identifying and questioning our more basic assumptions and identities.

What are some of these basic assumptions and identities?

I am X. (My name. Gender. Nationality. Occupation etc.)

I am X. (Personality traits.)

I am X. (Thoughts. Emotions. Awareness. Love.)

I am X. (A body.)

X is as I perceive it. X is findable. (The world. People. Objects.)

X is as I perceive it. X is findable. (Thoughts. Emotions. Sensations. Awareness. Love.)

X is as I perceive it. X is findable. (Space. Time. Past. Future. Present.)

There is a findable threat. There is a findable compulsion.

And more. Whatever we can name, which we usually don’t question.

Why is it important to leave no stone unturned? To leave no assumption unloved and unquestioned, even the most basic ones? It’s because these too are stressful beliefs and identifications. These too are limiting. These too are out of alignment with reality. These basic and underlying assumptions are what most or all of the other (stressful) assumptions and identities rest on.

Brain myths

 

I keep coming across brain myths, which is surprising since a simple Google search is enough to dispel them. And yet, it’s perhaps not so surprising.

For instance, “we only use 10% of our brain”(or another small percentage), implying that our brain has capacities we are not using. This is silly even on the surface. Why would evolution produce a brain that has capacities we don’t use? Evolution would only select for capacities we – the majority of us, and most of the time – are using. It’s true that we use our brain very effectively, which means that certain parts only “light up” when they are actually needed and in use. The rest of the time, they rest, which is what makes most sense. So we do use all of our brain, but not at the same time. (If we did, it would be called a seizure…!)

The left/right brain myth is also prevalent, and equally much a myth.

So why are these ideas perpetuated? I suspect because they do work as metaphors. There is a grain of truth in them. A metaphorical truth even if it’s not a literal truth.

We do indeed have capacities that most of us are not making use of. It has nothing to do with not using more of our brain, and everything to do with either (a) not having developed these capacities further, or (b) being distracted or having beliefs so they are not revealed to us. We may not have developed our critical thinking, or music skills, or dance abilities. And our attention may be caught up in beliefs and identifications, so we don’t notice that any sense of being a separate me comes from identification with thought. We don’t notice what we really are, which is what this field of experience – as it is here and now – happens within and as. (AKA awareness, love.)

It’s also obvious that we have a more creative and holistic way of experiencing and relating to the world, and a more linear and analytic one. We wouldn’t get very far if we didn’t have both. It has very little to do with brain hemispheres, but we still have these aspects of how we view and relate to the world. It’s a metaphorical truth, not a literal one.

Approaches to exploringing the mind

 

Here are some approaches to exploring the mind:

Content of thought, stories (i) – through talk therapy of various kinds.

Content of thought, stories (ii) – through subpersonalities and parts.

Relationships and groups – exploring ourselves in relationships and groups and through relationship and group dynamics.

Body connections – exploring the connections between body and mind, through movement, shaking and more.

Earth connections – exploring our connections to the Earth (worldviews, experiential).

The dynamics of thought itself – through cognitive therapy or inquiry (leaving no stone unturned, questioning even the most basic assumptions).

Love – finding love for what’s here…. emotions, thoughts, subpersonalities, emotional and physical pain, and more.

Awareness – recognizing the content of awareness, including thoughts, emotions and subpersonalities, as awareness itself.

Each of these has their place and role. I may be more interested in the inquiry and love approaches right now, since they are helpful for me in the phase I am now, and I may write about them more than the other approaches, but that doesn’t mean they are more important than any of the other approaches. And although most of us tend to focus on one or a few of these at a time, it doesn’t mean that our approach is linear. I explored awareness first, then content of thought, love, and Earth connections, then group dynamics, and then inquiry and body connections. Also, these approaches tend to be complementary and mutually supportive. One informs and supports another.

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Andrew Solomon: They came and their practice did not involve being outside in the sun where you begin to feel better

 

“We had a lot of trouble with western mental health workers who came here immediately after the genocide and we had to ask some of them to leave.

They came and their practice did not involve being outside in the sun where you begin to feel better. There was no music or drumming to get your blood flowing again. There was no sense that everyone had taken the day off so that the entire community could come together to try to lift you up and bring you back to joy. There was no acknowledgement of the depression as something invasive and external that could actually be cast out again.

Instead they would take people one at a time into these dingy little rooms and have them sit around for an hour or so and talk about bad things that had happened to them. We had to ask them to leave.”

~A Rwandan talking to a western writer, Andrew Solomon, about his experience with western mental health and depression.

From The Moth podcast, Notes on an Exorcism.

GGSC: How Self-Compassion Beats Rumination

 

A new study suggests that we were onto something. Natasha Odou and Jay Brinker at the Australian National University found that writing about a negative experience from a self-compassionate stance significantly improved mood by allowing people to process (rather than avoid) negative emotions. [….]

These findings contribute to the growing realization that self-compassion practices generate positive outcomes—more well-being in general, more life satisfaction, personal initiative and social connectedness—and protect us from negative experiences of rumination, self-criticism, shame, anxiety, and depression.

– from How Self-Compassion Beats Rumination, Greater Good Science Center

It’s good to see this entering mainstream science.

It’s what many ordinary people have observed over the millennia: the medicine we so often seek is our own kindness and love.

UFO Reflections II

 

Some reflections on UFOs and related phenomena.

See part one of this post for more. (I decided to split it since the first post became longer than expected.) This second part is started on May 18, 2016, although I back-dated it so it would show up next to the initial post.

Magic wand. If I could wave a magic wand, how would I like the UFO topic to be approached? Not so different from what most would like to see, I think. Taken seriously by scientists, media, and politicians. Approached in a sober way using scientific methods. Open minded.  Open to a wide range of possible answers and findings, and actively practicing generating and exploring multiple possibilities. Being comfortable with knowing we don’t know. (Until we do know more.) Studying the phenomenon from multiple angles and within and across multiple disciplines.

As it is now, the topic is taboo in mainstream science, media, and politics in many countries, perhaps especially the US.  That leaves a vacuum that’s filled by amateurs (which is OK since most professionals currently won’t touch it) and by people with a less than sober and scientific approach (which understandably tends to further scare off the mainstream).

It does seem odd that we (a) know something is out there we don’t understand (from a few seemingly good cases), and (b) the answers are possibly very important and may change our worldview dramatically. And at the same time, the field is shunned by most professionals. It’s a strange situation we find ourselves in.

Aliens that look like us. I was very interested in astronomy as a kid and also the possibility of alien life. I read a good deal of books on the topic (mostly by Carl Sagan) and watched sci-fi movies as I still like to do. Even early on, it didn’t make sense to me that aliens were depicted as very similar to us. Why would they be? Of course, in fiction it makes sense. As someone said, central casting is short on actual aliens so in older movies humans in costume had to do. We find it easier to relate to stories about humanoids not too different from us. And even alien infections, which requires them to be similar to us to be plausible, do make for good fiction stories (Andromeda Strain).

But outside of fiction, why would anyone think that aliens would be anything similar to us? It seems extremely improbable that they would be similar to us in real life. They developed in an environment that’s likely to be different from ours in significant ways. They developed among other creatures likely to be very different from the creates we co-developed with. The innumerable accidents of evolution, and their particular path of evolution, must have been quite different from ours. So why would they end up so similar? It really doesn’t make sense. And the possibility of being infected by their infections seems close to zero. Our biology would have to be extremely similar to that to be within the realm of the possible. (Even among closely related mammals, only some germs infect across species.)

Only a few answers make some sense to me. (a) The aliens visiting, if they exist, are created specifically to visit our planet and us. They are bio-engineered for that purpose. (b) There are so many different ones out there that some of them happen to look like us, and these are the only ones visiting us. (Seems very implausible.) (c) There is some galactic panspermia going on where the seeds of life are spread among planets in different solar systems. (Seems unlikely, and evolution is still likely to be very divergent.) Or (d) they are all created for us in some other way, which includes through human imagination.

To me, this is one of the big questions in ufology and one that’s not addressed nearly often or seriously enough. Among those who do address it is Richard Dolan who suggests the bio-engineering possibility, and Jaques Vallee who talks about it as possibly a display or performance created for us for an unknown reason. Of course, the easiest answer is that it’s all created by human imagination, but that doesn’t account for the stories that do seem to have some basis in reality.

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UFO reflections – long

 

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have been interested in UFOs off and on since my childhood. It’s part of my general curiosity about the world, and I like to take a mostly scientific approach to it. Here are some brief thoughts on the topic:

(a) There seems to be something going on that we cannot explain from our current mainstream worldview. Leslie Kean and others have documented several cases with multiple apparently reliable witnesses and multiple sources of data. It seems that some of these cannot very easily be explained away as something known, imaginations, hoaxes, or disinformation. (Although some of the apparently reliable cases very well may be.)

(b) Mainstream media and science tend to dismiss the topic without taking a closer look first. Especially in the US, and partly in Europe and perhaps other places too. This is a very unjournalistic and unscientific approach. Why does this happen?

(i) It may be due to an existing culture of dismissing and ridiculing this topic. Many journalists and scientists may buy into and accept this culture, without questioning it.

(ii) It may come from a fear of being associated with something that doesn’t fit into our current mainstream worldview. As we know, there is sometimes a cost to go outside of and question the mainstream views. It may lead to opposition and criticism, and possibly being seen or treated as an outcast. For scientists, it may reduce their funding opportunities.

That’s how it is, sometimes, even if we know the mainstream views are provisional. They will be replaced by other views. And any view is ultimately wrong. If there is one thing history – and common sense – tells us, it’s that our current worldview will be replaced with another, and will in the future be seen as limited and even misguided. We don’t know exactly how, but we know it will.

We also know that humanity – and our civilization and science – is still in its very early infancy. And what we don’t know is always and inevitably infinitely more than what we do know, and what we “know” is always and inevitably up for revision.

(iii) How was this culture of dismissing the topic created in the first place? Some say it was an intentional policy by the US government. Initially, in the 40s and partly the 50s, they – and the media – did take the topic seriously. Then, there was a shift towards dismissing and ridiculing it .This may have created a culture which has been continued and is partly self-perpetuating.

In any case, it’s often strange to see scientists taking the decidedly unscientific approach of dismissing the topic without first seriously looking into it.

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Psychology and sustainability

 

Some connections between psychology and sustainability:

Facilitating a sense of connection with nature, the universe, and past and future generations, and a sense of meaning and belonging. Example: Practices to Reconnect by Joanna Macy.

Revitalizing in nature, through connection with nature.

Identify and inquire into beliefs creating (a) fear and stress relating to ecosystem collapse etc., (b) actions not supporting life, future generations.

Ways to structure society so what’s easy and attractive to do also supports life (social systems, ecosystems, future generations).

Ways to support desired behavior change, individual level.

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Understanding spirituality from a psychological perspective

 

This is another thing I keep coming back to. It’s fully possible to understand basic spirituality from an intuitive and simple psychological framework. It’s all about discovering what’s already here in immediate awareness. Here are some of these basics:

(a) As mind is identified with images and thoughts, these seem real, true and substantial, and I see, feel and act as if they are true. This is uncomfortable, and also not aligned with reality. These images and thoughts include the basic ones of a human being, a being in the world, and I with others, time, space, and so on.

(b) Supported by inquiry, meditation, prayer, or happening “out of the blue” awareness may awaken to itself. It finds that what “I” am is awareness, and the whole field of experience is awareness – including any appearances of a me and an I, a world, time, space, etc.

(c) At some point, there may also be a noticing of capacity of all of this, eventually followed by a shift of the center of gravity here.

This can all be understood from a simple psychological perspective. No special assumptions need to be made.

It doesn’t take much to notice that my whole world of experience is awareness. My whole world of appearances is awareness, including any sense of a me and I, any identification and non- identification, and so on. Even what appears as most real and solid is awareness itself. Sense field inquiries may be especially helpful here.

From here, it’s not such a big leap to notice that “I” am this awareness. The center of gravity may shift here, first in glimpses and perhaps later more stably.

And any images and thoughts of a “me” here supporting or creating this awareness (materialistic explanation) and of a material world somehow translated into this field of experience are also recognized as innocent questions, as images and thoughts, and something I cannot know for certain.

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Working with dreams: depth psychology vs inquiry

 

In my teens and early twenties, I explored dreams through depth psychology, partly through active imagination (my favorite) and partly through more conventional interpretation. If I go back into the dream, recreate it for myself and interact with the different beings and situations, what do I find? What do they tell me? (Active imagination.) If I see all the different parts of the dream as parts of myself, and look at their characteristics, relationships and dynamics, what does it tell me about me?

Later, I explored dreams through Process Work, a more recent version of depth psychology.

And even more recently, I started exploring dreams through inquiry. What beliefs does the dream bring to the surface? What are my stressful stories about the situation, the different beings, and what has happened or may happen? What do I find when I inquire into these stories?

As I explore inquiry and dreams, I see it aligns with and complements the depth psychology approach.

Let’s take the dream of the old car as an example.

From a (very simple) depth psychology perspective, I see that the old car may represent how I see my body. It’s perhaps not very old, but it’s functioning as an old car, in my view, and it’s running on coal, a not very efficient energy source. Even worse, it’s running out of coal so there are only a few wood chips left for fuel. All of this shows me how I see my body now with health challenges such as the cf. In the dream, I am not in the driver’s seat, which also reflects my experience about the body. And I ask friends for more coal, but don’t wait for them. I sometimes don’t allow myself the help others can and would like to offer me. All of this makes sense, and it gives me some directions for my daily life. I can find ways to upgrade this car and it’s fuel source, to be more in the driver’s seat in terms of my health and body, and allow myself the support others are willing to give me.

From an inquiry perspective, some beliefs are right there in the dream: The driver wants us to move on before the coal arrives. The driver will be upset if I suggest we wait. It’s important we finish the race. This car is the only one available for us. In this example, these thoughts may seem a bit trivial and specific to the dream, and yet, my experience is that these types of thoughts show up in many situations in life. By finding clarity on them in this situation, something may shift in other areas of life.

Some beliefs also come out of the depth psychology view: My body is in charge. My body runs the show. My body is not functioning as I want. My body is not supporting me. My health prevents me from living a good life. My health is not good. People around me don’t want to help me. They see me as a burden. Life is a race. Life has a goal. 

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Fascination with scary stories

 

Why are we – some of us – fascinated by scary stories?

I find a few different ways of looking at it.

Evolution

In an evolutionary context, it makes sense that we are drawn to explore scary things through stories. It helps us mentally prepare for similar situations in our own life. We get more familiar with the possible situations and how we may react, we get a bit desensitized to these types of situations so we may be more calm if or when something similar happens in our own life, and we get a chance to mentally explore different ways of dealing with it.

Beliefs

When I take a story about something scary as true, my attention tends to be drawn to these beliefs and what they are about. Again, it’s an invitation to mentally explore these situations in a safe setting, and how I may deal with it if something similar should happen in the real world. It’s also an invitation to explore these beliefs in themselves. Are they realistic? What’s more realistic? What’s more true for me? 

An impulse to wholeness as who I am, this human self

What I see in the wider world is a reflection of what’s here. So far, I have found how each one of my stories of the wider world – including anything scary – equally well applies to me. As long as I think some human quality or characteristic is only out there in the world, or only in me, it’s painful and uncomfortable. When I find it both in the wider world and in me, there is a sense of coming home and it’s much more comfortable. In this sense, being drawn to scary stories in an invitation for me to use it as a mirror, to find in myself what I see out there in the world, and whether the scary story is from “real life” or made up doesn’t matter much.

Finding a characteristic both in the wider world and myself, I can also relate to it in a more relaxed and level-headed manner, so this impulse to find wholeness also makes sense in an evolutionary perspective.

An impulse to clarity as what I am 

There is also an invitation to find clarity here. When I take a story as true, it’s uncomfortable. And finding more clarity on the story, it’s more comfortable. So when I am drawn to what I think of as scary stories, there is an invitation for me to identify and investigate any stressful belief that may come up. Through this, what I am – clarity and love, that which any experience and image happens within and as – notices itself more easily.

I also see that when I take a story as true I tend to get caught up in reactive emotions and one-sided views, and finding more clarity helps me function in a more healthy, kind and informed way in the world.

Summary: Evolution, and who and what I am

It makes evolutionary sense for me to be drawn to scary stories in all of these ways. (a) I become more familiar with the different scenarios of what may happen and how I desensitize to scary situations to some extent, so I can be more calm if or when something similar happens in my own life. I get to mentally explore different ways of dealing with it, in a safe setting and before it happens. (b) I am invited to investigate my beliefs about it and find what’s more realistic and true for me. (c) I am invited to find in myself what I see in the wider world, which helps me relate to it in a more relaxed and level-headed manner. (d) And there is no end to the stories I can investigate, including my most basic assumptions about myself and the world, which helps me function in the world from more clarity, kindness and wisdom. Each of these support my survival and ability to reproduce and raise offspring.

All of these also make psychological sense. It helps me function in the world, and find a sense of wholeness as who I am.

It all makes spiritual sense. It helps this human self – the infinite experiencing itself as finite – survive and function in the world. It’s an invitation for what I am to more easily notice itself.

And all of these perspectives – evolution, psychology and spirituality – converge in one sense, and are the same in another.

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Projections

 

What comes up for me around the word projection?

The simplest is that my images and thoughts about the world is an overlay on simple perceptions. There are sensations, sights, sounds, taste and smell, and then an overlay of images and thoughts creating labels, boundaries, interpretations and stories.

These are, in a sense, projections. It’s all happening within and as my world of experience, within and as awareness. And I have an image of a car, and imagine it’s out there in the world. I have an image of a situation, and imagine it’s in my past or a future. I have an image of me and I, and imagine what these images refer to is here.

Sometimes, these images and thoughts are recognized as just that, as an overlay, as an innocent question about the world, and temporary and practical guidelines at most. And sometimes, they are taken as true, solid, and real, as inherent in the world, something I can’t – at the time – even imagine question. (Until I do.)

So the simplest and most basic way of looking as projections is this overlay of images and thoughts, essential for functioning in the world. And the next layer is whether it’s recognized as just that – in view and also emotionally, energetically and in behavior. Or taken as real and seen, felt and/or lived as real.

The way the word projection is often used is in the last way, when these images and thoughts are taken as real. That’s when I see something out there – in others, in the world, in the past or future, and not (also) here in me now. And that’s really just one subset.

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Study: Psychological Trauma & Whiplash

 

According to a new study, PTSD can aggravate the damage from the whiplash and further increase the pain. ”We have found that PTSD leads to an increased bodily awareness and a fear of movement,” says psychologist Tonny Elmose Andersen, of the Department of Psychology at the University of Southern Denmark. “This is why PTSD patients tend to feel stronger pain than they otherwise would.”
Psychological traumas intensify whiplash in Science Nordic.

They listed a few possible connection between psychological trauma and whiplash. Here are a few that comes up for me:

  1. Psychological trauma (triggered beliefs) create muscle tension, which can further injure already injured tissue and also prevent it from healing (reduced blood flow etc.)
  2. Psychological trauma creates a heightened state of alertness and tension which may fuel beliefs about the injury: What it means (I won’t be able to work, I won’t get better, I will stay in pain, I will suffer), how it will unfold in the future, and even what it is (it’s pain, it’s an injury). All of these may intensify the experience of pain, and may not support healing.

I see the researchers made a connection from #2 to immobility, which in turn is less-than-ideal for healing. That’s probably true as well. It may be they included #1 in their original research article (although it was left out in this news reporting).

Seems that a combination of traditional therapy (massage, acupuncture tc.) and TRE (to release tension and trauma) may be helpful here, starting gently and early after injury. As usual with TRE, it’s helpful to be gentle and progress slowly, and, in this case, perhaps focus the tremors to the hip and leg area for a while to keep the neck comfortable.

And if this (massage, TRE, releasing tension, supporting healthy muscles) is done before any injuries, then even better.

BBC Witness: Dissidents declared mad

 

I listened to a podcast from BBC Witness on dissidents declared mad in the Soviet Union.

Apparently, dissidents were routinely diagnosed with sluggish schizophrenia and placed in mental hospitals. The main symptoms? Criticism of the government and interest in political reforms.

What may seem most shocking is that the majority of Soviet psychiatrists apparently believed sluggish schizophrenia to be a real mental illness.

It shows how easy it is to accept the majority view. As a fish in water, we may not even notice it. (It’s always seemed unlikely to me that fish don’t notice the water, but that’s another topic.)

How do we – and I – do the same? Where do we take commonly accepted beliefs on board, sometimes with equally (apparently) severe consequences?

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Using levels and types as pointers

 

The two most obvious ways of using levels and types:

They can be used in the conventional way, where a person is located within a certain level or as a certain type. This can be helpful to some extent, although there are also obvious limitations. People will be at different levels, and appear as different types, at different times and in different contexts. For instance, different areas of life and different relationships may evoke behaviors and experiences that fits into different levels and types. And characteristics of several levels and types may be present at any one time.

Another, often complementary way, is to use levels and types as pointers. For each level, and each type, where do I find what’s described in my own life? What’s some examples of where my behavior and experience fit? (Make a list.)

In the more conventional approach, the levels and types will tend to fit my conscious view of myself and my conscious identity. In the second approach, it may be helpful to spend more time on the levels and types that appears to not as well match my conscious view of myself. (Revealing shadow or blind spots). What’s another specific and concrete example from my life? And another?

Ideologies in therapy

 

This came up in a conversation with an inquiry-friend, and also reflects what I have noticed for myself.

Ideologies in counseling or therapy may serve as a pointer to where the therapist/client may get “stuck”.  Of course, the client – or therapist – may at any point move beyond it.

For instance, a therapist may have an ideology (belief) that the client is a victim and in no way is responsible for a traumatic episode. And yet, taking responsibility for our own part is often essential for healing and resolution.

I may have the belief that “he did it to me”. As long as that belief is there, I am “stuck” in the situation because it’s not quite true. It’s not aligned with reality. Through inquiry, I may find “I did it to me” with specific examples: I didn’t stop it or leave the situation. I have replayed it in my mind many times after it happened, so continue to do it to me. And all of it – all images, all stories – happens now in my own world of images. Recognizing this is a big relief for me. It’s more aligned with my truth. (And as Katie so often points out, this is in no way condoning what happened or abuse in general. If anything, it frees me up to prevent it from happening again.)

 

Shrink

 

 shrink/SHriNGk/

Verb: Become or make smaller in size or amount; contract or cause to contract.

Noun: A clinical psychologist, psychiatrist, or psychotherapist.

I assume the second use of the term refers to psychologists or psychiatrists who reduce the richness of their client to fit their own theories and expectations. They take the richness and mystery of the human experience and makes it small, confined and a bit boring.

And that I do as well as soon as I believe a thought. I shrink the infinite richness and mystery of reality into something that appears to fit a story.

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The Work and Cognitive Therapy

 

The Work is quite similar to cognitive therapy. In each case, we identify and inquire into stressful thoughts.

In The Work, thoughts are starting points for inquiry. It’s meditation.

And no story is left out of inquiry. Not even the most basic ones such as “I”, “I am”, “I am a man”, “I am Norwegian” and so on.

Cognitive therapy can of course be used in a similar manner. It’s all up to who’s using it.

 

John Welwood: Human Nature, Buddha Nature

 

Modern culture and child raising leave most people suffering from symptoms of insecure attachment: self-hatred, disembodiment, lack of grounding, ongoing insecurity and anxiety, overactive minds, inability to deeply trust, and a deep sense of inner deficiency. So most of us suffer from an extreme degree of alienation and disconnection that was unknown in earlier times—from society, community, family, older generations, nature, religion, tradition, our body, our feelings, and our humanity itself. [….]

Yet to grow into a healthy human being, we need a base of secure attachment in the positive, psychological sense, meaning: close emotional ties to other people that promote connectedness, grounded embodiment, and well-being. As John Muir the naturalist wrote: “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find that it is bound fast by a thousand invisible cords that cannot be broken, to everything in the universe.” Similarly, the hand cannot function unless it is attached to the arm—that’s attachment in the positive sense.  We’re interconnected, interwoven, and interdependent with everything in the universe. On the human level we can’t help feeling somewhat attached to people we are close to. [….]

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