TV: Replicating Milgram


A French TV documentary features people in a spoof game show administering what they are told are near lethal electric shocks to rival contestants….

Although unaware that the contestants were actors and there was no electrical current, 82% of participants in the Game of Death agreed to pull the lever.

Programme makers say they wanted to expose the dangers of reality TV shows.

They say the documentary shows how many participants in the setting of a TV show will agree to act against their own principles or moral codes when ordered to do something extreme.

Source: BBC – French TV contestants made to inflict ‘torture’

As the article points out, this is a replication of the famous Milgram experiment from the 60s: when ordered to inflict pain on others, most people will do so even if it causes them considerable distress.

There are many ways of explaining this.

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Research: Meaningful conversations make people happier


Would you be happier if you spent more time discussing the state of the world and the meaning of life — and less time talking about the weather?

It may sound counterintuitive, but people who spend more of their day having deep discussions and less time engaging in small talk seem to be happier, said Matthias Mehl, a psychologist at the University of Arizona who published a study on the subject….

But, he proposed, substantive conversation seemed to hold the key to happiness for two main reasons: both because human beings are driven to find and create meaning in their lives, and because we are social animals who want and need to connect with other people…..

Next, Dr. Mehl wants to see if people can actually make themselves happier by having more substantive conversations.

“It’s not that easy, like taking a pill once a day,” Dr. Mehl said. “But this has always intrigued me. Can we make people happier by asking them, for the next five days, to have one extra substantive conversation every day?”

– NY Times blog, Talk Deeply, Be Happy?

It may be that happiness prompts us to deeper and more meaningful conversations. Or, as the researcher suggests, that deep conversations leads to happiness. They help us find meaning in our life, and connect with others in a more meaningful and intimate way.

And it may well be that this is another tool for happiness: A prescription of one more meaningful conversation in a day.

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Why does attention go to what bothers us?


When I get a small rock in my shoe, attention goes there allowing me to notice it and do something about it.

And that is an example of a much more general pattern. Attention goes to what bothers me, so I can notice it and do something about it.

Sometimes, I do something about it in the world, like removing a pebble from my shoe. Other times, I notice and inquire into a belief. Or there is a combination.

So why does attention to go what bothers us?

In an immediate sense, it is easily explained. Something feels off, so attention goes there so we can do something about it. If it is resolved, attention moves on. If it is not resolved in a satisfying way, attention will tend to return.

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Brain and boundaries


By observing brain cancer patients before and after brain surgery, researchers in Italy have found that damage to the posterior part of the brain, specifically in an area called the parietal cortex, can increase patients’ feelings of “self transcendence,” or feeling at one with the universe. The parietal cortex is the region that is is usually involved in maintaining a sense of self, for example by helping you keep track of your body parts. It has also been linked to prayer and meditation.
Discover Magazine blog

Its a rich and interesting field, finding physiological correlates to whatever goes under the “spiritual” umbrella: A sense of awe, gratitude, compassion. A widened sense of “us”. A stronger and more mature sense of ethics. A reduced sense of boundaries, or recognition of boundaries as imagined. Effects of meditation or prayer practice, such as a more stable attention, improved self-regulation, and recognition of thoughts as thoughts. States of various kinds. And much more. Each of these are most likely related to short- and long-term changes in different and specific brain regions, and also the endocrine system, immune system, cellular function, and so on.

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Research on The Work


The Work shares much with cognitive therapy, and has also many similarities with forms of inquiry found in Buddhist and Advaita traditions. In some ways, The Work is a Buddhist flavored form of cognitive therapy, or a cognitive therapy flavored form of Buddhism.

There is a great deal of research on cognitive therapy, of course. And also on Buddhist forms of meditation. There is very little, or perhaps no, research on inquiry as found in Buddhism or Advaita.

And there is nearly or actually no research on The Work. A quick Google Scholar search only turned up a general overview.

Why do research on The Work? There are many reasons. It would make it interesting to more therapists. It would gain sufficient support so it can be included in interventions, including large scale interventions to increase health and well-being and prevent illness. It would give it a foothold in the academic world, opening up for further research into The Work and similar approaches.

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Mysticism Scale


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?

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Stable attention


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?

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Support of torture among the faithful


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?

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Aware = free will?


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.

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Deep patterns in movie preferences


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. 

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The qualities of hate


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.

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Beliefs more important than life itself


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.)

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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.

Sense fields at the levels of who and what we are


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.
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Well-wishing and social anxiety


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.

Torture doesn’t work?


It is well known that torture doesn’t work. All it does is breed resentment and make people say whatever they think you want to hear.

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.

“Personal DNA” entertainment


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.)

[My personalDNA Report]

Impostor syndrome


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.

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Archetypes here now


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.

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Boundaries vs. clarity


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.

Psychology & spirituality intertwined


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.

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Rationalization and reversals


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.

Spirit animal



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 and projections



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 and the magic line



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.