Excellent talk by Jonathan Haidt on five basic moral dimensions, and how they are perceived by liberals and conservatives.
Here is a place to explore your morals.
And an article on our moral instinct by Steven Pinker.
I came across this mysticism scale which I believe is from some decades back. There are probably more updated ones out there.
Questionnaires are notoriously difficult to construct. They need to be clear, appropriate to the topic/culture, refined through studies and research, and even then, it is usually possible to interpret the questions in many different ways.
1. I have had an experience which was both timeless and spaceless.
Even such an apparently simple statement runs into problems quickly. Timeless and spaceless, yes, although a timelessness that allows for (the appearance of) time and a spacelessness that allows for (the appearance of) space. And is it really an experience? Isn’t it really what experiences happens within and as? And what about the “I”? Is there an “I” there that it happens “to”? Isn’t that “I” also content of experience? That which happens within the timeless/spaceless?
Inviting attention to stabilize is a potato among practices. It can be used for almost anything.
A more stable attention helps with other practices such as prayer, shikantaza/choiceless awareness, inquiry, self-inquiry, yoga, and service in the world.
And a more stable attention helps us with just about anything in daily life.
Already now, there is research on some of the effects of a more stable attention.
And I wouldn’t be surprised if that is not going to be a growing field of research in the future. Especially since a more stable attention can be invited in through very simple practices that just about anyone can do independent of age, religious background, education and so on. And since it – most likely – can support just about any aspect of our lives, and can be combined with just about any other tools and approaches.
For instance, what are the effects of a more stable attention on well-being, physical and mental health, learning, work life, adhd, athletic performance, addiction prevention and interventions, self-regulation, anger management, sleep problems, anxiety, relationships, experience of physical symptoms, and so on. The list is endless.
Maybe more importantly, what is the effect of a more stable attention on these things when it is combined with other – often more traditional – tools and approaches?
The more often Americans go to church, the more likely they are to support the torture of suspected terrorists, according to a new survey.
– Source: CNN
This is a small study so not much can be said based on the data, but it would be interesting if other studies looked into it further.
I wonder – based on my own prejudices – if not self-righteousness is related to support of torture. The more certain we are that we are right and others are wrong, or even worse, that we are good and others are bad/evil, the easier it is to dehumanize them in our own mind and justify torture. (And ignoring the obvious: Torture gets people to say what they think you want to hear, whatever it may be.)
The question with these things is always: How does this relate to me? How do I find it in myself and my own life?
When do I think I am right and others are wrong? What happens then? What am I afraid of would happen if I didn’t see myself as right and them as wrong?
I read a Discover article called could an inner zombie controlling the brain?
The topic is interesting, and the article also reminded me about a few things.
First, journalists don’t always trust that stories are interesting enough on their own, so they give them a helping hand. In this case, by pretending that something we all know from daily life is a new discovery, and by using metaphors more for attracting attention than accuracy. (Nothing wrong in that. It does attract readers, at least for a while, until they catch on and some chose to go to publications that treat their readers in a more fair way as more intelligent. But good to notice.)
The gist of the story is that we sometimes go on autopilot. When a task is familiar to us, and simple enough to go on autopilot, it often does, and that frees our attention to go elsewhere. At times, it may go into daydreaming or spacing off, but other times, it may go to something quite practical and functional.
We all know that from daily life, so that part is not new. But the research mentioned is interesting and sheds more light on it.
Then, a couple of other things. For instance, the word consciousness is used to mean content of experience, and in particular some of the workings of the psyche. This seems a little odd to me. It is unnecessary, for one, since we have perfectly good words for those dynamics. And also, it uses up the word for content of experience so it is not available for that which content of experience happens within and as.
And then another assumption: Autopilot means no free will (fair enough), and bringing attention to something means free will (hm…).
There is no denying that bringing attention to certain dynamics and workings of our mind can (apparently) lead to real life changes in how we chose and act. It has a very practical value.
I may notice I go to the fridge when I am stressed, and by noticing this, I can (apparently) chose another strategy to deal with that stress. I may go for a walk instead. Talk with a friend. Deal with a situation I have put off dealing with. Find a belief and inquire into it.
So there may be a sense of free will here. Attention is brought to a particular dynamic. There appears to be a choice between going on autopilot again, acting in familiar ways, or acting differently. Then choosing and acting on that choice. Or not.
But is there really a free will there?
When I look for myself, I find infinite (plausible) causes for any actions and choices, whether on autopilot or not, so no free will is needed. (This assumes causality, of course.)
Also, I find that it is all happening on its own, so again no free will. There seems to be no “one” needed with a free will.
And that the sense of a doer, which may seem so real and substantial, is a gestalt, a combination of sensations and images. That any connection between a choice or action and this doer is yet another image and story. And that any idea of causality is just that, an idea. I can find correlations, but no causality anywhere.
There’s a sort of unsettling, alien quality to their computers’ results. When the teams examine the ways that singular value decomposition is slotting movies into categories, sometimes it makes sense to them — as when the computer highlights what appears to be some essence of nerdiness in a bunch of sci-fi movies. But many categorizations are now so obscure that they cannot see the reasoning behind them. Possibly the algorithms are finding connections so deep and subconscious that customers themselves wouldn’t even recognize them. At one point, Chabbert showed me a list of movies that his algorithm had discovered share some ineffable similarity; it includes a historical movie, “Joan of Arc,” a wrestling video, “W.W.E.: SummerSlam 2004,” the comedy “It Had to Be You” and a version of Charles Dickens’ “Bleak House.” For the life of me, I can’t figure out what possible connection they have, but Chabbert assures me that this singular value decomposition scored 4 percent higher than Cinematch — so it must be doing something right. As Volinsky surmised, “They’re able to tease out all of these things that we would never, ever think of ourselves.” The machine may be understanding something about us that we do not understand ourselves.
From an interesting NY Times article on the quest to improve Netflix’ recommendation software.
A new study published in PLoS One today reveals that hatred isn’t the blind, irrational emotion it might seem. In fact, hate activates the brain regions associated with higher reason and the ability to predict what other people will do.
– Source: i09
Hate isn’t the same as anger, but may be close enough for what I’ll explore – briefly – here.
(When I look at it for myself, it seems that hate is just a particularly persistent and strong form of anger, one that is fueled and maintained by stories taken very much as true, and that the essence of it is anger.)
Academic psychology is still in its infancy, and is still exploring the basics, which is good. In many cases, research helps confirm and refine common perceptions, and it sometimes also come up with quite counter intuitive results – which is even more helpful.
In this case, the general findings seem quite close to how we – or at least I – experience anger.
It clears out the cobwebs. Brings clarity. Focus. Single pointed attention if needed. Energy. And a “get things done” impulse.
New research suggests that the type of television you watched as a child has a profound effect on the colour of your dreams.
While almost all under 25s dream in colour, thousands of over 55s, all of whom were brought up with black and white sets, often dream in monchrome – even now.
A cool study.
Another story from New York Times:
“There is but one truly serious philosophical problem,” Albert Camus wrote, “and that is suicide.” How to explain why, among the only species capable of pondering its own demise, whose desperate attempts to forestall mortality have spawned both armies and branches of medicine in a perpetual search for the Fountain of Youth, there are those who, by their own hand, would choose death over life? Our contradictory reactions to the act speak to the conflicted hold it has on our imaginations: revulsion mixed with fascination, scorn leavened with pity. It is a cardinal sin — but change the packaging a little, and suicide assumes the guise of heroism or high passion, the stuff of literature and art.
What makes us want to end our life, and in some cases actually do it?
As usual, the basic answer seems very simple, yet has a great deal of complexity in how it is expressed.
The simple answer is that a belief becomes more important than life itself. A belief that makes it seem hopeless to live on in the case of conventional suicides, and a belief that makes an imagined cause more important than life itself in the cases where people give up their life for a cause.
That may be why other animals don’t do it. They have the worldless level of mental field activity developed to a certain extent, the one guiding us in our daily life in the form of interpretations, wordless quesions, memories and scenarios. And it seems that they may believe these wordless mental activities or not. (Easy to notice if an animal has been traumatized.) But they don’t have the verbal version of thought, so they don’t elaborate it or get caught up in it the way we humans do.
And it is that elaboration, and getting caught up in it, that can lead to apparently “irrational” behavior such as suicide. (Although these behaviors make a lot of sense if we look at the stories leading to them, and what happens when we take them as absolutely true.)
When we take ourselves to be this human self, we inevitably have a quite limited and skewed self-image, and there is inevitably some attempts at compensation going on. We think we are missing something, and try to compensate for it by seeking it out there, seeking to gain and accumulate it here, and manipulating the image we present to others and ourselves.
And this is brought into our relationship with spiritual practice as well.
For instance, I have since childhood felt uncomfortably different and special, so my attempt at compensating for it is to try to be as ordinary and normal as possible. And that is a tendency I bring into the spiritual realm as well. I want it to be as ordinary and unremarkable as possible and tend to emphasize that aspect. It is helpful for me to notice this, and also consciously acknowledge the other side.
For others, it may be reverse. Or if they started out with balance in this area, a balance around this too.
So far, I notice a few different effects from exploring sense fields…
At the level of who I am (this human self), there is a release from being caught up in habitual patterns, and also a softening of the patterns themselves.
So in a purely psychological sense, it seems that exploring sense fields can be helpful in a range of different ways. There is a release from being caught up in habitual patterns, including taking stories as true and its effects such as reactiveness, compulsions and more. There is a release from being caught up in content of experience, including emotions and moods. And there is a release from being caught up in narrow identities, and its effects of being in struggle with oneself and life in general.
Especially noticing what is happening in sensations, how the mental field overlays interpretations and stories, and the difference between taking those gestalts as real and substantial, or seeing how they are made up of sensations and mental field activity, seems helpful.
When I take the sense field + mental field gestalts as real and substantial, I tend to get caught up in them and be identified with content of awareness. When they are seen as gestalts, and I notice what is happening within each field distinct from the other, there is a softening and release from being caught up in it, and identified with content of awareness.
(I am not the first person to notice that, which is why these types of practices are being used more in psychotherapy.)
At the level of what I am (that which experience happens within, to and as), exploring the sense fields helps what I am notice itself more clearly. For instance, I can explore impermanence in each sense field, see how it all is in flux, and that what I am is not in flux. Or I can notice that what happens in each sense field is awareness itself. Or that a sense of an I-Other, center-periphery, inner-outer, all comes from a mental field overlay on each of the fields.
And at the transition between taking myself as who and what I am (the shift from one to the other), I can explore impermanence in each sense field, and find that I am not content of experience. I can notice whatever is happening within each sense field as awareness itself. I can notice how the mental field creates an overlay of I-Other on each sense field, and see that too as content of awareness as anything else, and what I am is not quite that.
One of the many “open secrets” out there is that well-wishing for others tends to calm social anxiety.
If I am in a situation that triggers social anxiety in me – such as giving a talk or teach – and I take the time to find sincere well-wishing for others, the nervousness subsides.
And if I know in advance that I will be in such a situation, I take some time to find the well-wishing to others in general and specifically to the ones who will be there.
How do I do it? As it becomes more familiar, it is just a matter of shifting into it. But there are also tools for inviting in that shift, such as finding the sincerity in statements like “may all go well for them”, visualizing others as healthy and happy, or doing a practice such as tong-len.
I am not quite sure what mechanisms are at play, but I suspect it has something to do with the miracles of an open heart.
When my heart opens, it opens to whatever is happening. For instance, if it initially opens to my body – through the Inner Smile or some other pointer – it opens to the whole of me as a human being, to others, and to life as it is.
In this case, my heart initially opens to others… and then naturally to myself. There is a sense of coming home, of allowing all of who I am as it is, of the sense of drama falling away, and a softening of the sense of I and Other.
So even when stories about me come up – stories my personality doesn’t particularly like – the sting goes out of it.
In sincere well-wishing for myself, I take the information in those stories seriously and make use of them in whatever ways seem appropriate, but there is little or no sting there.
Yet, is it true that torture doesn’t work?
It seems that torture works well if what you want is that feeling of revenge and to vent frustration rather than useful information.
In the same way, the Iraq war is a success if the aim is to establish an US foothold in the middle east, and keep a large army there for a long time.
It can be helpful to look at politics and one’s own life in this way.
If there is support for a policy that doesn’t seem to work, in what way does it work? What do we get from supporting that policy?
Similarly, on a personal level, when I keep on doing something that doesn’t seem to work, in what ways does it work for me? What desirable results do I get? Maybe I can find another way to meet those needs?
It can help us understand the dynamics a little better, while keeping in mind that these are just assumptions. Questions rather than answers. A what if that may yield insights and suggest different strategies/solutions to try out.
It goes without saying that in conversation or public discourse, assigning views and motivations to others they themselves don’t admit to is a recipe for disaster. It too easily derails the discussion and fuels defensiveness.
Much better then to stay on topic, informed by the new perspectives we may have found through these explorations.
I took a Personal DNA test – which is about the personality and not DNA – and the result seems familiar enough. I am not quite sure what it is good for, apart from taking my strengths and weaknesses into consideration when I make decisions, and also bring some additional attention to the weak areas. The drawback is that it can reinforce identification with a self-image that leaves a great deal out.
This also reminded me of why I often find it difficult to take these tests.
They ask how I behave generally, but it varies a great deal with the situation.
They ask me to make an either/or choice between two characteristics that for me are both/and.
They ask me if I ever do something socially undesirable that everyone do. Are they testing if I am willing to admit to it, or whether I do it a lot or infrequently? In the first case, the answer is yes. In the second, it may be yes or no. (I answered yes because it happens now and then, and that may be why my answers rated high on openness.)
They ask me if I can tell what people feel even if they don’t tell me. Are they testing if I have relatively accurate hunches, or if I realize that I cannot know unless I ask? In the first case, I would say yes. In the second case, I would say no. (I can’t really know, even if I had the most accurate hunches in the world.) (I answered no because – even if others do say I have a pretty good sense of what is going on for them – I don’t like to make assumptions and I cannot really know. This may be why my answers rated less highly on empathy.)
The impostor syndrome is apparently quite common these days, and maybe for good reasons. After all, almost no matter which area we work in, most of us know only a fraction of the knowledge that is out there, and we know very well that even all current human knowledge is only a fraction of all possible knowledge. We are only scratching a surface that is only scratching yet another surface. It was simpler when most folks were farmers, fishermen and craftsmen.
We feel like an impostor, because it is true! No matter what we do, independent of culture and setting, it is true in several different ways. And it is a perceived problem only if it is not seen through, when it is only half explored.
So one way of working with it is to more thoroughly see how it is true, with specific examples. This takes out the stress of feeling that we have to defend against the story that we are an impostor.
Then, we can explore equally thoroughly how the reverse is true, in what ways are we not an impostor. And that takes out the stress of being stuck in just one of the permutations of the impostor story.
We are freed out of the dynamic through seeing that each permutation has some truth in it, and none is close to having the whole picture.
All the conventional ways of looking at archetypes (the Jungian ones) are of course valid and useful. Looking at them in an evolutionary/biological perspective, arising in stories of all types, shared among people from different cultures, and so on.
But there is also a way of exploring them as they arise here now, and this one has been alive for me since I started working with the sense fields, noticing each sense field for itself, and then how thoughts combine with the four others to create gestalts.
When the fields are each seen for itself, the thoughts component of archetypes becomes very clear and distinct. I see that the archetype is a gestalt, arising here now, and I also see (some of) the different components of the thought, and how and why it has the effects it has as a gestalt, when it appears solid and real.
And as with any other gestalt, when it is seen in this way, simply, clearly, there are no hooks in it anymore. The hooks are there only when I get absorbed into the gestalt, when it appears solid, real, substantial, when I don’t see it as a combination of simple sense fields.
Rationalization is one of those terms easily has a slightly suspicious, undesirable, even sinister tone to it. Something you certainly don’t want anything to do with yourself, and would protest to or be ashamed of being in the grips of.
But if we look closer, we see that it is (a) completely innocent, and (b) something that is an integral part of our daily life.
Byron Katie briefly mentioned the difference between personal boundaries and clarity during the workshop, and it is a topic that has been of interest to me for a while.
If I create and act from a sense of personal boundaries, there is a sense of something to protect, separation, precariousness, and fear.
If I act from clarity, there is a sense of intimacy, no separation, kindness, trust, peace.
The interesting thing is that my actions in the world don’t necessarily look so different in the two cases. I am in both cases more than capable of giving a clear yes or no, of taking care of myself, of being firm and even forceful when needed.
The difference is in my experience of it. In the first case, of coming from a sense of separation, precariousness, fear. And in the second case, from clarity, kindness, intimacy.
If I am clear, I don’t need to worry about boundaries. But if I am not, they are certainly useful. And the stress that goes with trying to create, maintain and live from personal boundaries may encourage me to find another way, for instance through inquiry and clarity.
Looking at knots is one way to show how psychology and spirituality are intertwined.
A knot is any hangup we have, and is a belief and its corresponding emotions and behavioral patterns.
It is usually experienced as stressful, as something being off, and gives a sense of separation. And it gives a sense of I and Other (which is what gives rise to the stress and a sense of something being off and separation), and distracts us from seeing what we really are.
So from the context of taking ourselves as this human self, it is uncomfortable and disatisfactory. And from the context of Big Mind, it distracts Big Mind from noticing itself.
A knot comes from an identification with a story, so we can work with it through releasing identification.
For instance, we can be with the experience of it, allowing it fully, in a wholehearted way. We allow whatever content of awareness, including the resistance to whatever comes up, so there is a release from identification with content in general.
We can explore the different voices or subpersonalities involved, and see that there is no “I” in any of them.
Or we can inquire into the belief itself and find the truth in each of its reversals, which released exclusive identification with any of them – the initial story and its reversals.
Disidentification with the knot complex allows us to find more peace with it at our human level, through seeing it more clearly – finding what is more true for us than our initial belief, and fully feeling whatever comes up in our experiences without getting caught up in resistance. And it also makes it easier for Big Mind to notice itself.
We can also work more actively with owning, at our human level, what is left out from the initial belief and identity.
Through Voice Dialog, or the Big Mind process, we can shift into whatever voices are disowned by the initial belief and identity. We can try it on, see how the world looks from that perspective, explore what the voice offers to our human self, how it would be to bring it into our life more, and so on. We can also explore our human self’s relationship to the voice, and how that relationship can shift to allow the voice in more.
And the same can happen through Process Work, and by bringing the turnarounds of The Work into our daily life.
Owning disowned parts of our human self makes it easier, and more fun, to be who we take ourselves to be. And when what we are awakens to itself, it allows this awakening to be expressed through our human self in a richer and more fluid way. In either case, there is a new richness and fluidity there, a wider terrain that is expressed fluidly in the daily life of this human self. It is more fully and richly human.
Actively owning disowned parts also allows for a shift of identification out of our human self. On the one hand, we are more free to shift into the different voices and actively use them in our daily life. And on the other hand, it releases identification out of our human self in general. Which, as before, makes it easier for Big Mind to notice itself.
These are just a couple of ways working on who and what we are are intertwined, and one invites and encourages the other, using just a few approaches as examples.
We can also bring in the soul level, this alive presence which is timeless yet also within time, spaceless yet also within space, impersonal yet also personal, rich and substantial yet also simple and emptiness itself. When we shift into, become more familiar with, and find ourselves as this alive presence, it allows our human self to reorganize within itself. Our human self heals, matures, finds itself more in the fullness of itself. And it shifts identification out of our human self, which makes it easier for Big Mind to notice itself.
Shifting into our soul level brings a sense of richness, fullness, nurturing, trust, and of being home, which helps our human self to relax, and again shift identification out of it. We are less caught up in the usual beliefs, identities, fears, hopes and so on of our human self.
When we find the grain of truth in reversals of our initial belief, it can look like rationalization. We are finding ways of looking at something that helps us find peace with it.
But is it really a rationalization? It seems that it could be, if we take one particular turnaround and put all truth into that one, clinging to it as the only perspective we consciously hold.
For instance, I may have the belief that he shouldn’t drink, so one of the turnarounds is he should drink, and I can find several reasons why. He does, so he obviously gets something out of it. It triggers beliefs in me, so I get to take a look at them. It may function as a safety valve for him, a temporary escape, which is something we all do.
If it ended there, it may indeed be a rationalization, even if the turnaround itself and each of the truths in it are genuine to me. It is a rationalization because it leaves out a great deal of the picture, it leaves out the other reversals.
Together, all of the reversals gives a much fuller and richer picture. It helps us see a situation from several different angles, and the grain of truth in each one. It gives us the freedom to apply any one of those stories as a guideline for action, and then switch when the situation seems to call for it.
And that is not rationalization. That is owning the truth of each perspective, and freedom and fluidity of engagement.
I have read some of the reports in mainstream media on the recent sleep studies, finding a connection between lack of sleep and a wide range of medical problems and even mortality.
It is important research, especially since lack of sleep is chronic for many today.
But the studies, at least as reported, also leave out some even more interesting questions.
For instance, is the lack of sleep perceived as voluntary or not and what happens in either case? I can imagine that if it is perceived as involuntary, it can easily have detrimental effects in many areas. But if it is perceived as voluntary – as it was for me two days ago when I stayed up the whole night working on something I had a real interest in – it may be quite different. Maybe the lack of sleep itself is less important than how we perceive it. The stress we sometimes put on top of it may be as important as anything else.
There are also individual differences in our need for sleep. One study found that less than seven hours of sleep, on average, is associated with a range of health problems, but the individual differences were left out from the news reports. For some, five hours may be plenty. For others, nine hours may be necessary. And this changes over time too, with age and life circumstances.
And then the question of correlation and causality, which some news reports actually did include. There may be a correlation between too little/much sleep and health problems, but the causality within that correlation is maybe not so clear yet. Most likely, it varies a great deal from situation to situation.
There may be something going on which leads to lack of sleep in the short term and other health problems later on, such as overwork and stress. We may chose to get less sleep just to get more out of our days, and the lack of sleep alone can lead to health problems. There could be a hidden health problem which first gives insomnia and then manifests in other ways. There is probably a great variety of different connections, each showing up in different situations.
Another aspect which would be interesting to look at is how we process our dream world in daily life. For those of us who don’t process our dream world much in daily life, for whatever reason, a good night’s sleep with plenty of night dreaming may be more necessary. But if it is processed more actively in daily life – through art, music, dream work, a meditation practice, active imagination, process work, shamanic journeying or even daydreaming – we may get by with significantly less sleep and night dreaming.
And then other questions, such as taking a nap. For me, taking a nap during the day has a very noticeable benefit all around, and it is probably not so different for others. It helps reduce stress and catch up on our sleep, which should have noticeable effects on our body-mind health and well-being.
When I was a child, I had a Big Dream about a black panther, and I realize later that it was very similar to shamanic experiences and connections with a spirit animal. In the dream, there was a connection with the panther as long lost friend, and someone who had immense wisdom, insight and ability to guide me.
The world is a mirror of what is inside of ourselves, and animals can be especially helpful in mirroring and evoking certain qualities in us.
When we journey – whether in dreams, shamanic rituals, active imagination, through using the whole of us as in process work, or even through voice dialog – we are often guided to exactly those qualities that wants to come into our lives more fully. Those that may have been disowned, or just temporarily forgotten. There is an infinity of sources for reminders, including animals.
What comes up is what is needed here and now, so will change over time. But some may have to do with longer term processes, unfolding over decades, and the black panther for me seems to be one of these.
For me, the black panther evokes a beautiful combination of polarities, maybe especially a natural confidence and relaxation, and alertness and explosive activity, depending on what the situation calls for. It is firm and gentle, cute and vicious, and follows its path with receptivity yet in a non-nonsense way and undistractedly. Its velvety blackness reminds of the fertile blackness and awakening of the belly center, which nurtures each of the qualities listed above.
Shamanism is probably the earliest form for psychology, and from the little I know about it, it can be every bit as sophisticated as any contemporary western psychology. Judging from the earliest examples of rock art, it is a form of psychology that has been with us since before the dawn of civilization, which is humbling and also gives a sense of connection across time and universality.
I have worked with the black panther more lately, bringing its qualities into my daily life, and have found it a great support.I may find the black panther qualities in myself through images and movements, or just ask myself what would the black panther do?
Creation stories are projections in different ways…
They often describe a creation of something from nothing, mirroring what is happening here now… an awake nothingness within which something mysteriously happens, and it also happens as this awake nothingness.
There is also often an unfolding from simplicity to complexity, again reflecting what is happening here now. From simple stories, such as extent and continuity, unfolds a complexity of stories. A whole world is created from and within simplicity, and this world complexifies, matures, unfolds, evolves.
Similarly, there is often a process of unfolding from and within duality. Here now is awakeness, itself no thing, having no form, no extent, no beginning or end. And within and as this awakeness is the world of form. Awakeness and form is the basic polarity, within the context of both as awakeness. Also, as soon as there is an overlay of stories, the field of awakeness and form is split through boundaries and a world of polarities appears…. birth and death, mind and matter, nature and culture, right and wrong, I and you.
In a very basic way, there is also a projection of whatever is inside of a story. There is a story of a creation, and the content of this story is projected out there, onto the world in the past, and also present and future.
Beyond this, different creation stories can reflect specific processes of birth and renewal in a psychological sense, as studied by Jung and others.
Albert Ellis, one of the early (western, mainstream) cognitive therapists, died last week.
In a Buddhist/Adveita/nondual perspective, he was right on in realizing that our “personal philosophy contains beliefs that lead to
his [our] own emotional pain”.
It is also funny, and telling, how he drew a magic line for what to question. Anything that has to do with how our particular identity is made up and fleshed out is questioned, and rightly so. A lot of stress and suffering comes from these types of beliefs.
But the core beliefs, that of being a separate self, and taking ourselves to be this human self, were not questioned by him. These beliefs went unnoticed. They were taken as so obviously true that they were granted asylum from examination.
These too are personal, or rather cultural, beliefs that lead to our own emotional pain. In fact, they are at the core of our experience of stress, discomfort and suffering. Everything else, all the beliefs that has to do with our fleshed-out identity, are only flavors and enhancements of this one essential suffering.
Of course, all these secondary beliefs prop up the core belief in an I with an Other, so questioning the core beliefs directly does usually not have the immediate effect of all of them falling away. (Although it can, in some circumstances.) Usually, we have to question both types, over and over, for some time, unraveling one thread at a time in the tapestry of beliefs until the whole thing comes undone.
A recent study has found that a drug can help change the emotional components of a memory. A memory is recalled, the emotional component is different than before, and this helps change the emotional association next time the memory is recalled. (If I interpret the study correctly.)
This is a similar process as other approaches, only that the strategy is slightly different. This time using a combination of psychology (simple recall) and biochemistry (the pill).
Just to go through the processes I usually tend to write about here:
The Work does something similar, first by changing our relationship with the stories around something stressful, which in turn changes how emotions are triggered, both in type and intensity. And then also by visualizing the trigger situation, but now with different emotions associated with it.
It happens at each step in the process. For instance, at question four: who would you be without the story? Here, we recall or image the situation (past or future), but this time without the story, and so without (or with less of) the emotions triggered by the story. So next time the story is triggered, the habitual emotional component is reduced in intensity, or sometimes not even there. The turnarounds allows the truth in new stories to be seen, so the initial story no longer seem so solid, which means the emotions associated with the initial story are not triggered in the same way.
In both of these cases, the situation is recalled with a different relationship to the story, which means the emotions are not triggered in the same way as before. So when the story comes up in the future, there is likely to be a different relationship to it again, changing the way the emotions are triggered.
And also, the triggering situation is now associated with a different emotional component, so when it comes up again, either in real life or by going to it in a thought, the new association is more likely to come up. New habitual patterns are formed.
Being with whatever comes up also does something similar. By fully allowing whatever comes up and being with it in an heartfelt way, there is a reduced grasping on resistance to it. And this allows the emotions to arise in a different way. With resistance, they seem very solid, and maybe also fixed and persistent. Allowing resistance to go, they are revealed as they are without the resistance… in a more fluid form, and for instance more as a sweet fullness. So here too, the emotional component associated with a memory is changed. The next time it is triggered, something will be different in how we relate to it. We may remember to be with it again, and the emotion itself may have a different quality and seem less solid.
Choiceless awareness is another example. Here, we differentiate between pure perception and the overlay of thoughts, and realize that what appears as a solid unit of emotion is really just a perception (sensation) and an overlay of stories. Seeing clearly that the two are two different things creating the appearance of emotion, there is no emotion anymore, just sensation + a story. The experience of it is quite different, and the label is quite different as well. And this too, inevitably, changes the emotional component triggered by certain stories.
The Work explores the initial story triggering the emotion. Being with it allows the emotion to reveal itself as it is prior to and absent of resistance. And Choiceless Awareness (labeling practice) allows the components of emotion to reveal itself, and the gestalt (emotion) to fall into its components and appear much less real and solid.
In each case, all we are doing is just seeing more clearly what is already there. No manipulation of content is needed apart from that.
We see what is already more true for us than the initial story. We allow emotions to reveal themselves as they are prior to and without resistance to them. And we notice the components of emotions, which makes the gestalt of emotions seem far less solid and real.
In terms of exploring ourselves as Big Mind, there is a nice alignment of psychology and spirituality.
We find ourselves as awareness, and any content of awareness as awareness itself. (Content of awareness includes this human self and anything associated with it.)
Even in conventional psychology, that is how it is already seen. We find ourselves as awareness, and whatever is the content of awareness (perceptions, thoughts) is also awareness. It can be no other way. That is how it is, in our own immediate experience. We can explore how sensory inputs are processed and channeled to the brain, and then arises in awareness, but that does not touch how it is in our own immediate experience: it all as awareness and awareness taking always fluid forms as its own content.
So even if we have strong beliefs in the views of conventional psychology, and a separate I as this human self, we can still find and explore ourselves as Big Mind. We can allow ourselves to explore what is alive in immediate awareness, and be naive as a very young child. What remains, is an idea of this human self experiencing itself as awareness, and the whole world as awareness and the content of awareness.
From here, there is a small step into noticing that this too is a story. This whole sense of a separate self too is content of awareness, and comes only from a story. When this is seen, there is an inevitable slipping more fully into ourselves as Big Mind, as this awakeness inherently absent of I and Other, arising as whatever is arising to this human self.
A recent New York Times article, This is Your Life (and How You Tell It) on narrative psychology, which, in its essence, says the stories we tell about ourselves, others and the world, influence how we see these (in past, future, present) and our actions.
Psychologists have shown just how interpretations of memories can alter future behavior. In an experiment published in 2005, researchers had college students who described themselves as socially awkward in high school recall one of their most embarrassing moments. Half of the students reimagined the humiliation in the first person, and the other half pictured it in the third person.
Two clear differences emerged. Those who replayed the scene in the third person rated themselves as having changed significantly since high school â€” much more so than the first-person group did. The third-person perspective allowed people to reflect on the meaning of their social miscues, the authors suggest, and thus to perceive more psychological growth.
And their behavior changed, too. […]
The recordings showed that members of the third-person group were much more sociable than the others. â€œThey were more likely to initiate a conversation, after having perceived themselves as more changed,â€ said Lisa Libby, the lead author and a psychologist at Ohio State University. She added, â€œWe think that feeling you have changed frees you up to behave as if you have; you think, â€˜Wow, Iâ€™ve really made some progressâ€™ and it gives you some real momentum.â€
Several things come to mind here:
In terms of research, it seems that it would be good to explore the effects of (a) the type of stories used, and (b) the degree of belief in these stories. Are they taken as gospel truth, at all levels, included supported by society? Are they consciously not believed in, but believed in at deeper levels? Is there a release from them at more levels of being (emotional, behavioral)? What happens then?
In terms of therapy and practice, it is probably a good thing to include both the rewrite and disengagement aspects, especially as they mutually influence each other.
When there is a rewriting of our stories about ourselves and the world, for instance through finding the genuine, and relative, truths in each of their turnarounds, there is also an easier disengagement from them.
(The rewrite can happen in many ways, but the easiest, for me at least, is to fully acknowledge the limited truth in the initial story, and even the gifts in it, and also the limited truth in each of its turnarounds. Instead of denying the truth in one story and trying to hold onto another as true, there is more of a wide embrace and a wide open field this way. Denial brings a sense of struggle and precariousness, and a wide embrace a sense of ease and no truths or identities to protect.)
And conversely, when there is a disengagement from these stories, even temporarily, it is easier to rewrite them.
The New York Times Story is also a reminder of modern academic psychology still being in its infancy, which means that a large portion of it still is an examination, refinement or rediscovery of what is already known, even by regular laypeople. It is a necessary phase, and valuable in itself as it helps refine and clarify processes and mechanisms… and also sift out what is valid and what is not among what laypeople assume is so!
When this initial phase is more fleshed out, and the insights from many contemplative and body-oriented traditions are explored in a more modern (post modern, post-post modern) context, there is a great potential for a far more finely-tuned and practical insights into the mind, as the aqal map is only the initial – and very general – taste of.
I can’t remember if I have mentioned it here, but I have noticed for some time the relationship between energetic holes, physical problems, psychological tendencies, and now also the three soul centers.
For me, the main one is in the hara.
Since the initial awakening in my teens, I have been aware of an energetic hole in my navel area, specifically located at and near my spine. At the same area, I had a noticeable physical deformity as well, an odd stacking of the vertebrae diagnosed as scoliosis.
At the time, I did a lot of Tai Chi and Chi Gong, both because I wanted more grounding and embodiment, and also to fill up this region.
A couple of years ago, I found Breema which also specifically works with the Hara region, and I have experienced a great deal of fullness, warmth and nurturing in the belly from Breema. Slowly over these couple of years, the energetic hole has filled up, and the spine has reorganized so there is only a slight stacking oddity now (helped along with massage in that area).
With the more recent belly awakening, the endarkenment, there is a sense of a deep luminous velvety blackness and also a new level of nurturing, and a new feeling of everything as Spirit.
This feeling of everything as Spirit, and the reorganizing of the emotional level within the context of all as Spirit, was exactly what was missing in the initial awakening. The head and heart centers were awakened, but not (yet) the belly one. So although I saw, and even loved, all as Spirit, I didn’t feel all as Spirit. The emotions lived their own life, and there was a good deal of turmoil there, partly as a consequence of the intensity of the awakening and its implications.
So there was an energetic hole in the hara region, a physical deformity in the spine at the level just below the navel, and a lack of grounding and emotional turmoil.
This energetic hole then gradually filled in, the physical deformity reduced greatly, and then there was a sudden shift into endarkenment, an early belly awakening into feeling all as Spirit, allowing the emotions to reorganize to all as Spirit, and a new sense of deep nurturing and being held by the velvety luminous blackness.
It is also interesting to note that Hameed Ali (A. H. Almaas) writes about these things in ways very close to my own experiences (although from far more experience and with more precision.)
I haven’t seen it yet, but I can still explore some things that come up for me around the general topic of the law of attraction. (Slightly one-sided.)
Drawback one: relative truth only
The first drawback is an obvious one: the law of attraction only serves as one of many tools to get what our personality wants, such as comfort, money, career, a partner, and so on. Instead of money to buy it, we use the law of attraction. It is at best good for our human self, yet does not give ultimate satisfaction, contentment or happiness.
So it is of course fine to use the law of attraction to get things, just as we use money, attractiveness, status, power and whatever else we have available to get our way. The only problem comes when we think this will actually give us anything more than temporary satisfaction.
Drawback two: something is wrong!
Underlying the interest in the law of attraction is the belief that something is wrong: something is wrong with me, you, the world and/or God.
So if we use the law of attraction to set something right, according to our personality, we act from and reinforce this sense of wrongness. We deepen the groove of wrongness, the sense that something is wrong – with me, you, the world, God.
And with it, we fuel a basic distrust in the world as it shows up, as it is.
As usual, there is no lack of supporting beliefs for the core one of something is wrong. (A good one is God needs me to tell him/her/it how things should be.)
Drawback three: preferences from limited view
Another drawback, for me, is that I wouldn’t know what to ask for or set out to attract.
Whatever I set out to attract is what my personality wants. It comes out of a very limited view and understanding. And, yes, out of a basic mistrust in the world as it shows up on its own.
(More precisely, what I want and desire all comes out of beliefs. These beliefs that makes up my limited – and ultimately false – identity and large portions of this personality. Beliefs that, as we discover pretty quickly by inquire into them, have no basis in reality. A set of random and conditioned beliefs are identified with and taken as I, and then used as a guide for how to operate in life.)
The preferences of my personality is a poor guide for what to attract, which is clear even from the perspective of these preferences themselves.
My life is full of examples of things happening that my personality initially didn’t like at all. Yet these situations later appeared as exactly what I needed, as a great gift. And there are as many examples of getting what this personality wanted, which later appeared – to the same personality, as a misfortune.
It is difficult to know in advance what is fortune and misfortune. The same situation can appear either way, at any time, and it can change over time. It really just depends on the view.
Drawback four: my will be done
Reality, or God, is what serves up this human life. Who am I, as identified with the preferences of this personality, to think I know better?
Put another way, the law of attraction is another form of my will be done. But can I know more than God?
It is of course fine to live from my will be done. It is what we do when there are beliefs and an identification with our personality. It is just more of the same.
Drawback five: fear and the shadow
Another thing that can happen is that we become paranoid about what thoughts arise and which ones we put energy into.
As we discover quickly through meditation, if not much sooner, thoughts happen. They live their own life. They come out of the blue and vanish back into open space. They are a surprise guest or visitor, entering and then equally surprising leaving again. There is no way to hold thoughts back. They come on their own accord, and trying to filter them is a futile, and quite stressful and energy consuming, endeavor.
There may be the appearance of choosing which thoughts to fuel and which not, but that too really happens on its own.
So depending on how we are put together, if there is an attachment to the idea of the law of attraction, there may be a good deal of frustration and fear coming up as well. Oh, I thought about a car accident: that means I will get in one! I can’t think about anything dark, because it means it is more likely to happen, but these thoughts still seem to come in even if I fight them! Those people always talk about negative things, so those thoughts enter my mind as well, and will attract it to my life!
Sounds stressful to me. As soon as we go into these dynamics, what we feared has already happened…! I got into the law of attraction to find happiness and avoid unpleasantness, but it only gives me the unpleasantness that I tried to avoid, even before anything has been manifested.
If anything, what happens is that our shadow only fills up with more and more stuff, and become denser as well, less explored and invited into awareness.
The grain of truth: seeking those and that which agrees with me
What seems accurate about the law of attraction is that I have a set of beliefs, and then seek out people that agree with me and situations that confirms what I already know (that align with these beliefs).
So, as I did during some years in childhood, I believe I am unlikeable, and seek out people who agree – and don’t like me! They may not like me, but they at least agree with me – they don’t upset my worldview, and that is more important.
I believe I don’t deserve money, so act accordingly to make sure I don’t get too much of it. I believe I deserve abundance, so act in ways that brings money into my life.
I believe people are mean, treat them from suspicion, and then respond by withdrawing and acting in ways I interpret as mean. I believe people are friendly, act in a friendly way towards them, and receive friendly responses.
Our belief system permeates our whole life: it forms our outlook and worldview, it informs what we notice and don’t notice, it fuels emotions and behaviors. We act as if our beliefs are true, which makes them appear true to us. We look for and collect evidence for these beliefs. We interpret what happens according to these beliefs. And we act in ways that makes them appear to come true, including in the ways listed above.
So in that sense, there is a “law of attraction”, but there is nothing mysterious about it. It is commonplace, what we notice and live from daily. This form of law of attraction is simply that we live as if our beliefs are true and we live to make them appear true, so it tends to be a self-fulfilling prophesy. This is also widely known from mainstream psychology.
This garden variety form of self-fulfilling prophesy already permeates our lives, so there is no need to make it into anything more weird. At the same time, it seems that weird explanations for simple things helps people bring attention to it, so in that way it may be helpful for them.
If people become aware of and start question their beliefs, even if they do so from an unusual starting point, then why not?
Integration: intention and surrender
There is also a possibility for an integration here, which is what I tend to do in my own life.
I may set an intention, and even visualize for something to occur, yet within a context of Thy will be done, a context of surrendering to what happens as the will of God, of reality.
Also, as beliefs are questioned there is a natural shift from my will be done to Thy will be done.
The preferences of this personality becomes less important. Thoughts are revealed as just thoughts, questions more than statements about the world. Whatever happens is OK, and then more than OK.