An accurate story about something is not the same as understanding or knowing it

An accurate story1 about something is not the same as knowing or understanding it. 

It’s just a guide, a question.

It has a practical use only. 

Even exploring something over a long time doesn’t mean we understand or know it.

What’s here is always mystery2

NOTES

(1) An accurate story about something is a story that serves as a good and practical guide for us. It seems to fit the data. Others may agree. We may not find anything that doesn’t fit our story about it, at least not for now.

(2) Why is it a mystery? Because a story, a mental representation, is different in kind from it. Reality is always more than and different from our stories about it. The world is a mystery to us. We are a mystery to ourselves.

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Three aspects of science

I posted an article on social media about the methods of science and the importance of using solid data and logic in our own lives. Predictably, one of the comments seemed skeptical about science.

For me, it’s important to differentiate between three aspects of science.

METHODS OF SCIENCE

One is the methods of science. These are mostly common sense put into a system.

They help us evaluate data and see how solid it is, and they help us evaluate the logic used to interpret and understand the data.

This is very useful for all of us, even in daily life.

CONTENT & WORLDVIEW OF SCIENCE

Another is the content of science and the worldview it operates within.

The content of science is always changing, as it should. It’s updated with new information. It reflects society and culture. What’s valid today may well be outdated tomorrow.

The worldview science operates within is also changing. The worldview used today (materialistic, often reductionistic etc.) may seem outdated in a few decades or centuries.

Realizing this helps us hold it all a little more lightly.

HOW SCIENCE IS USED AND MISUSED

Science lives within society and culture. It’s performed and used by people.

Sometimes, it’s used to genuinely help people.

Sometimes, this is mixed in with a profit motivation.

Sometimes, it’s misused in an even more obvious way. It’s used primarily for profit or power.

Sometimes, the name of science is used to promote something that’s not grounded in science at all, to achieve a goal someone sets higher than truth and reality.

This is not a problem with science. This is a problem with society, culture, and people.

SCIENCE SKEPTICISM IS OFTEN NOT ABOUT SCIENCE

When people express skepticism of science, they often seem to mix up two or all of these.

What they don’t like is human behavior. They are rightly skeptical about how some people use science or the name of science.

Science is essentially about methods, and those are generally very sound and helpful.

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Talking about myself in the third person

Just now, I was reminded of all the beautiful trees cut down in my neighborhood in Norway over the last couple of decades1. I noticed stress come up in me, and then the reminder that this belongs to this human self.

I said to myself: He is experiencing stress.

I find it helpful to sometimes talk about myself in the third person2. Mostly, I do it in my internal dialog, as a reminder that what’s coming up belongs to this human self. It creates a kind of distance and helps soften any identification. It also reminds me of, and is a pointer to, what I more fundamentally am. It helps me intentionally notice that I am what all of this happens within and as.

It’s also fun – and interesting and useful – to sometimes do the same with others as an intentional exploration.

NOTES

(1) When I grew up here, there were trees everywhere, especially tall birch trees. I loved sitting in the shade of the birches in the summer to read. Over the last two or three decades, there has been an obsession with cutting down all the trees here to “have more sun”. (My parents joined in and cut down their trees.) That has created a kind of desert where it’s impossible to sit outside on sunny days since there is no shade. To me, it seems a kind of insanity. It makes absolutely no sense. There was plenty of sun here even with the trees, they provided an important habitat for many animals and birds, and the shade is crucial if you want to sit outside in the summer. To me, nothing is more enjoyable and beautiful than to sit in the dappled shade of a birch tree.

(2) To be more accurate, it’s the human self that talks about itself in the third person. What I more fundamentally am is what forms itself into all of it and notices it all.

Aware of the field & that it’s already allowed

In daily life, one of the things I like to keep noticing is the field of experience and that it’s already allowed.

That noticing is already here, so a more intentional noticing brings it more into the foreground1 which seems helpful.

FIELD OF EXPERIENCE

What does “field of experience” refer to?

It refers to any content of experience. Anything that happens in the sense fields, which we can label sight, sound, smell, taste, sensation, and thought (mental images and words).

That means it refers to what conventionally is referred to as “outer” and “inner”, the wider world and what’s happening here which is “hidden” from others – the perceptions and thoughts of this human self.

This field is seamless and although what I am in a conventional sense (this human self) is found there, what I more fundamentally am to myself is not found there.

ALREADY ALLOWED

What’s happening in content of experience is already allowed. It’s allowed by space, mind, life, reality, existence, or whatever we want to call it.

If I try to allow it, it won’t work. My psyche won’t allow it since it’s often caught up in pushing and pulling with what’s here. It’s doomed to fail, which is very good since it’s a dead-end street anyway.

It’s much easier to notice it’s already allowed and align more consciously and intentionally with that allowing. It’s a relief. It’s like coming home.

SHIFTS THROUGH NOTICING

There are some shifts that happen from this intentional noticing. There is a kind of deepening and soaking in it.

When there is a noticing of the content of experience, there is a sense of distance to it and a softening of identification. This helps soften remaining habitual identification with certain stories and identities.

Parallel with this is my nature noticing itself. I find I more fundamentally am what it all happens within and as. Even more fundamentally, I am capacity for all of it – consciousness and what it forms itself into. That makes the noticing, and the sense of distance to whatever is here, easier.

The two are sides of the same coin.

BASIC MEDITATION

This noticing and allowing is the essence of basic meditation.

Formal meditation is a kind of laboratory to explore this intentionally without too many distractions.

As it becomes more of a habit, it’s easier to bring the noticing and allowing into daily life.

And even then, some meditation is helpful. It helps deepen the habit.

MY EXPERIENCE WITH THIS

As I mentioned first, this intentional noticing – of the field and that it’s already allowed – is something I do at different times throughout the day. It seems to bring some shifts.

When I was fifteen, there was a sudden and strong shift. The world seemed very far away, and that included anything that has to do with this human self. All of it was far away. This human self operated in the world far away. Later, I understood that this was a kind of observer-observed shift. It was as if identification went out of everything except the mental construct of an observer.

I assume that shift made it easier for me to notice the field as a field.

A year later, there was a shift into oneness. I assume this was a release out of identification with and as an imagined observer, and it was clear that there is no inner and outer.

It was also clear that everything is allowed by life and existence. It’s already allowed, and it lives its own life.

And it’s possible to intentionally notice and align more consciously with that allowing and invite this human self to reorganize within it.

NOTES

(1) This is like other things. There is an awareness of what’s here in my sense fields whether there is a conscious noticing of it or not. When there is a more conscious noticing of something, it goes more into the foreground of awareness. For instance, a few moments ago, there was not an intentional noticing of the music in this room, but there was a low-grade awareness of the music since it was happening within the field of experience. Now there is a more intentional noticing of the music, so it’s more in the foreground.

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Terrence McKenna: The apocalypse has arrived in major portions of the planet

Yes, the apocalypse is already happening for billions of beings around the world. It’s happening for most species. It’s happening for a huge number of individuals from most species. It’s happening for big portions of humanity, including all those with no clean water, not enough food, and limited resources to deal with increasingly extreme weather.

If the acopalypse seems in the future, it’s because of privilege and insulation.

So what’s the solution? What can I do?

I can open myself to what’s happening. I can allow myself to feel whatever comes up in me around it – which may first be a good deal of grief, anger, hopelessness and similar. What also comes up are visions of how it can be, and wanting to be engaged and be a part of creating the world I want to live in.

I can do simple things in my own life: Find likeminded people. Learn about the situations and the many solutions. Explore good examples of how we can live in a more life-centered way. See what I can do practically, maybe growing wildflowers, making a wild garden, eating local and organic, and so on.

I can realize that all of his is my world. The world as it appears to me is my world. How do I relate to it? How do I interpret it? How do I see myself in relation to it? What is more true for me? What are some more wise, kind, and helpful stories?

How is it to notice that the world, as it appears to me, is happening within my own sense fields? That it’s happening within and as the consciousness I am?

Jason Hickel: The “economy” is ultimately our material relationship with each other and with the rest of the world

Yes, it can be said that simply.

Our economic system is based on the assumption that nature is infinite, that it has infinite resources and an infinite capacity to absorb the waste of civilization.

That assumption made somewhat sense in the past when we were far fewer and had simpler technology.

Today, with a huge number of people and a much more efficient technology, it’s clearly ecocidal and suicidal. It will be our downfall unless we change it, and that change has to be thorough and profound.

Said another way, assuming an infinite Earth leads to an economy based on extraction and exploitation. What’s easy and attractive to do, for individuals and organizations, is also what’s destructive for nature, ourselves, and future generations.

Transforming our economy to take ecological realities into account leads to an economy based on reciprocity and care. We can create an economic system where what’s easy and attractive to do also supports life – nature, ourselves, and future generations.

It’s not only possible, it’s essential that we do it if we want to survive.

What happens as we die?

I have been reading about the recent research into how people experience death (see “The New Science of Death” from The Guardian), and this video with some of the highlights just showed up in my YouTube recommendations.

Their findings fit what has been previously reported, including from people who have had near-death experiences. People dying often report deep relaxation, light, a review of their life, a sense of coming home, and a few more things.

THE WORLDVIEW CURRENT SCIENCE OPERATES WITHIN

Our current science operates within a strictly materialistic worldview, so scientists are expected to interpret this as more or less random things that happen in the brain because of the dying process.

That’s understandable and it has some upsides. It’s grounded in verifiable data, which is important, and it’s a good starting point for exploring other possible explanations.

If these experiences are random results of a dying brain, I have to say that some of what people report seems surprisingly fitting and meaningful, including the life review and a sense of coming home.

THE POSSIBILITY OF CONTINUING BEYOND THIS LIFE

The findings from this research can also be understood within the context of other worldviews.

For instance, the consciousness we are may continue beyond this life.

Research into apparent past life memories is interesting and may be interpreted in that way, although other explanations also fit the data.

Some people seem to have memories from between lives. I am one of those. When I was little, I had vivid and visceral flashbacks to a time before this life: All was consciousness and golden light, and there was a profound sense of all-encompassing love and of being home. I had a longing back to that place throughout my childhood. This too fits with consciousness continuing, although it can be interpreted in other ways too.

CHANGING WORLDVIEWS

Does the consciousness we are continue beyond this life? For me, that’s a question for science, and it has mostly been taboo in Western science because it doesn’t fit the accepted worldview.

Worldviews change. The one we have now will be replaced by another that makes more sense to future generations, and may better fit the data.

It may well be with a future context of worldview for science is more open to the possibility of consciousness continuing beyond this life. It may be seen as one of several possible explanations, and perhaps one that fits the data well.

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Self & No-Self

Yesterday, I went to a Buddhist center in Oslo for meditation. The teacher mentioned something along the lines of there is no fixed thing that can be an I.

I thought I would look briefly at self and no-self again and what those words may point to.

HUMAN SELF

For me, I would say there is a self here. There is a human self here.

And yet, that’s not what I most fundamentally am. I find I am what this human self happens within and as. I am what a thought may call consciousness, and this human self and any other content of experience happens within and as what I am.

That’s something I can notice in immediacy and without mental representations.

There are also a couple of related things I can notice using mental representations.

All content of experience comes and goes, including anything I can take as an I, me, or self. It’s always changing. There is nothing fixed there, as the teacher mentioned. I can notice this by comparing mental representations of what’s here (what just passed) with what was a little longer ago. I compare mental representations of something placed on two or more locations on an imaginary timeline.

Also, this human self is a seamless part of a larger whole. He is the local and temporary eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe. (To paraphrase Carl Sagan.) Each choice and action of this human self has infinite causes, stretching back to the beginning of time (if there is any) and the widest extent of existence (if there is any). Existence is a seamless system.

NO-SELF

I find I fundamentally am what this human self, and anything else, happens within and as. I am what forms itself into the experience of this human self and anything else.

I find I even more fundamentally am capacity for all of this. What I am is capacity for consciousness and all of what it forms itself into to create an experience for itself.

SELF WITH CAPITAL S

If I want, I can also call what I am – consciousness, Big Mind, or whatever – Self with capital S.

I don’t find it so useful and it can easily be misunderstood (it can be taken to be a self within the content of experience, a self with an other), but it is possible to use language this way.

SELF AND NO-SELF

This all comes from direct noticing and it’s far less complicated than words make it sound.

For all practical purposes, there is a self here. It’s a human self with a passport, identities, hopes and fears, hangups, a life in the world, and so on.

That’s not what I more fundamentally am. I am what any content of experience – including anything making up the experience of this human self – happens within and as. I am the consciousness that forms itself into any and all experience it has.

Even more fundamentally, I am capacity for all of that – consciousness and what it forms itself into.

So yes, there is a self. There is also no self in that that self is not what I more fundamentally am. And what I more fundamentally am can be called, if you want, Self with capital S.

DIRECT NOTICING PUT INTO WORDS

When this is alive in direct noticing, it’s more simple than simple.

Putting it into words can be challenging, and there are many ways to do it. These words reflect direct noticing, and they may point to a direct noticing if we use it that way1.

NOTES

(1) If we come mainly from mental representations more than direct noticing, it’s easy to overly complicate it, and we may even go into simplistic and somewhat absurd either-or views. For instance, we may insist there is no self, and ignore that there is a human self here. When I see that, I see someone who is scared, uncomfortable with that fear, and tries to find safety by holding onto certain mental ideas as truth.

Image by me and Midjourney

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Israel & Trauma

Yes, in a sense, Hitler won. He and others traumatized the Jewish people so much that they now are doing to others what was done to them1. Hatred, revenge, violence, and human rights abuse won.

This is unfortunate in so many ways.

It hurts the people engaging in and acting on this hatred, revenge, and violence. They receive the effects of it the moment they fuel it psychologically, and even more so if they act on it in the world. They damage themselves. They create suffering for themselves.

It obviously hurts the ones receiving it in the world, in this case, the Palestinians.

The actions of Israel against the Palestinians – now and in the past – fuel hatred, revenge, and violence against Israel. They lose friends and create enemies.

They risk creating a massive war in the Middle East with horrific consequences for the people there, and it will have ripple effects far beyond this area.

As someone said: An eye for an eye will leave the whole world blind. (Attributed to Gandhi but not verified.) If we engage in that attitude, the only winners are anger, hatred, violence, and suffering.

NOTES

(1) I know it’s not that simple, but there is likely more than a grain of truth in it.

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Awake without knowing it

I was at a Buddhist center1 in Oslo yesterday for meditation. A couple of times, I looked at the energy field of some of the people there2.

The teacher’s system was somewhere between awake and not awake. There was a lot of awakeness around and near the body, and it faded out further away from the body3.

I also looked at the field of a young woman who happened to sit in front of me. Her energy field was much more mellow and the whole field, going far out from the body, was awake. It seemed to be awake without being consciously aware it was awake. She was new to meditation, as she said and as the mellowness showed. At the same time, there seemed to be a natural low-grade awakeness going infinitely far out.

I assume she may not be consciously aware of it as that or have a label for it. It may just be the water she swims in, and it’s likely also why she is drawn to meditation and Buddhism. It may be familiar to her since it’s about what she is already – to some extent – living4.

There is a caveat here and that is that it can be tricky to isolate the energy field of different people when there are several in the room (it is possible to focus on the energy field at particular locations in space, as we do with physical objects), and there is an enhancement of the energies from meditation.

NOTES

(1) It’s a new place for me and I love being a complete beginner there.

(2) Since my teens, I have – for whatever reason – been able to see and sense energies. What’s most easy for me to see is the degree of awakeness in a system.

I remember one time at the center in Oregon (CSS) where a student was promoted to teacher because he had an awakening shift. (That change in role is, in itself, questionable. It takes a lot more to be a good and responsible teacher.) I could see in his system that, yes, there had been an awakening glimpse or shift, but it was unstable and not very thorough. A few weeks later, the main teacher announced that this student would step back from a teaching role since the awakening wasn’t as stable as they had thought.

(3) The lack of awareness through her whole system doesn’t prevent her from being a good and capable teacher. She seemed to be doing a very good job.

(4) It’s the first time I have noticed this so it was new and also seemed very familiar to me. I wonder if more young people are like that today? Maybe not. In the past, she would likely “just” be seen as a kind-hearted person in the community. Today, with meditation being more available, she can more easily find a kind of fellowship. She may even develop it further if there is a drive to it, although if she doesn’t that’s fine too.

The notes are longer than the actual article today. It’s because I wanted to keep the main story simple, and also realized I wanted to add a few more details.

Image by me and Midjourney

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Free & not free

As long as we believe that we’re our bodies, we don’t have to know that we are infinite, our cells without limit, like music itself, free.

— Byron Katie

There are two sides to this.

FREEDOM THROUGH RECOGNIZING OUR NATURE

Yes, as what I am, as my more fundamental nature, I am – in a sense – free. I am what any experience happens within and as. I am what forms itself into any experience.

It’s a kind of freedom.

It’s a freedom from taking myself as fundamentally something within the content of experience, as a thing in a world of things.

When this recognition is more thorough and lived, there is a freedom to more fully and consciously allow what’s already allowed, which is the experience that’s already here no matter what it is, how it looks, and how my personality likes it.

That also opens for the freedom to be more honest about all of this, as it is.

FREEDOM THROUGH RECOGNIZING THE NATURE OF THOUGHTS

There is another freedom.

That’s the freedom that comes from recognizing the nature (and limitations) of thoughts in general, and especially through examining specific thoughts.

Here, there is freedom from holding the thought as true, there is freedom to recognize the limited validity in the thought, and there is freedom to more fluidly use a range of thoughts as pointers.

We are more free in our relationship with thoughts.

BOUND

We are also bound, in a sense.

This human self in the world has all kinds of limitations, although I don’t know exactly what those are or where any imagined boundary goes.

In my case, this human self lives with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). That puts a limit on my activity levels and what I can do. (I lived very differently when it was less strong.) I don’t know exactly the limits, they are to some extent stretchable, and all of it can change at any moment.

There are also the limits of physics and biology. I can’t fly unless I go in a machine that can fly. I can breathe underwater. I need air, water, food, and shelter to survive.

Society and culture also have limits, which again often are a bit fuzzy. I need money to survive unless I happen to find a situation where that’s less of an issue. If I break a law, I have to be ready to face the consequences.

There are also other kinds of limits, which all are a bit fuzzy. There is a kind of limit to the profound interconnectedness of all life. All of life supports me. Society and humanity support me. I wouldn’t be alive without it. I can’t thrive without it.

BOUND BY WHAT I FIND WHEN MY NATURE NOTICES ITSELF

As usual, there are a lot more wrinkles to it. Here is one:

The more I find and live from my nature, the less free I am, in a sense.

In my experience, I am more bound to living from what’s wise, kind, and sane. Of course, that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes, unresolved issues in me hijack my life and I act and live from reactivity. But, in general, that’s the tendency and movement.

The same goes for living from my inner guidance. The more my nature notices itself and lives from that context, the more I find I need to live from my inner guidance.

I also have a responsibility to life and the larger whole. That too limits my life to a great extent.

These are all limits that feel profoundly right and I love and seek to be more bound by. (There is still a long way to go.)

FREE & NOT FREE

So yes, there is a limited freedom in my nature noticing itself.

It’s a freedom from certain types of identifications, or at least a freedom from blindly believing them.

There is a freedom to allow the experience that’s here as it is, which includes my human self’s reactivity to it. At least, there is a freedom to notice that my nature allows it all freely..!

There are also many ways there is no or not much freedom, and that includes living from integrity, authenticity, inner guidance, responsibility to the larger whole, and so on. I don’t always live from it, and when I don’t, I notice the consequences in me and in my life.

Image by me and Midjourney

Kevin Fox: Before trusting an AI to tell you about stuff you don’t know, ask it to tell you about things you are an expert in

Several years ago, I listened to a few episodes of Stuff You Should Know. This is a podcast with two guys who spend a brief time learning about a topic before making an episode about it. I enjoyed it until I heard an episode on a topic I happen to know a lot about and realized how full it was of mistakes and misconceptions. They filled in the gaps with stories that seemed plausible to them. It was painful to listen to, and I unsubscribed to that podcast. If they got it so wrong on a topic I know about, they likely do the same with topics I know less about.

As a starting point, or out of curiosity, I do sometimes ask AI on a topic. If it’s important, I always check with other sources. Often, it is surprisingly good, and sometimes it’s way off.

I also often do what this quote suggests. I ask it questions on topics I know a lot about to see how well it does. When I started with ChatGPT, I asked it about topics I know a lot about, and I could see the misconceptions it had and how it would fill in gaps with plausible – and often completely wrong – information. For instance, I asked ChatGPT about the origin and history of Breema, and since there is little to no information about it online, it made up something that sounded plausible. That seems to be the nature of AI as it is right now.

Paul Hawken: What I see in the world are ordinary people willing to confront despair, power, and incalculable odds in order to restore grace, justice, and beauty to the world

Yes, I couldn’t agree more. Both are part of the bigger picture.

Also, if you want to find encouragement, I find that making changes in my own life helps me see that change is possible. Even small changes do that. And that’s much easier if I do it with others.

Rewild your garden. Plant wildflowers. Plant fruit trees and bushes. Buy second-hand clothes. Walk, bike, or use public transportation instead of a car. Buy less, local, and something that lasts and can be repaired. Downscale. Save money instead of spending it all so you can retire early. Volunteer. Find others to do all of this with for mutual support. There is a lot we can do in our own life and small changes help us viscerally get that change is possible.

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A “dangerous prayer”

Since my teens, I have explored and trained in a range of approaches to healing and transformation. (Tai chi, chigong, Buddhist practices, therapy, inquiry, somatic approaches, shamanic approaches, etc.)

I really wanted to go deep, especially in what I knew very well were unhealthy family dynamics, and although I could see and understand a lot of the dynamics, I never felt I was able to fully and viscerally dig into it.

At some point, maybe thirteen years ago, I wholeheartedly and sincerely asked the divine to “show me what’s left”.

A few days later, an immense and overwhelming amount of dread and terror came up. It filled my life for about nine months and then slowly diminished over the following years. During the most intense period, all I could do was walk in the forest and listen to talks and books by Adyashanti. I was unable to sleep or eat very much, and mostly unable to function.

Since then, whenever I do healing for myself or receive a session (Vortex Healing, craniosacral, TRE, or something else), it seems to easily bring up a lot. My system seems to use any opportunity to release as much as possible. Often, what comes up is a mix of fatigue, strong discomfort, and some combination of anxiety, anger, and grief. It’s been quite challenging and something I am still learning to navigate.

One obvious solution is to do it in very small portions at a time to not overwhelm my system. Slow is sometimes faster.

There aren’t really any insights here, apart from that our system seems to always want deeper healing and shifts into whatever can bring that about, whether we consciously feel we are ready for it or not. Also, be careful what you ask for because it may happen! I don’t regret that prayer, but if I was to do it again, I would probably ask for it to happen more gently and gradually.

Image by me and Midjourney. I went through some of my old images and felt that this one could work. Wrestling with trauma, primal fear, and anything else that’s surfacing can at times feel like wrestling with a whale.

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One or many consciousnesses?

Are we one or several consciousnesses?

SEVERAL

We can say we are several consciousnesses.

Each conscious being is, by necessity, consciousness to themselves.

That also means that, to them, the world happens within and as the consciousness they are.

Every conscious being is a consciousness full of the world.

ONE NATURE

The nature of the consciousness we are seems to be the same. If we want, we can say there is one consciousness in that consciousness is consciousness whether it happens here or there.

We have the same kind of nature, just like water is always water.

That doesn’t mean that the content of consciousness is shared or the same. That’s obviously not the case. Even if we listen to the same music or eat the same food or all feel joy, the experience of it is unique and individual.

ONE TO ME

There is another oneness of consciousness, and that’s how it appears in direct perception.

When I look, I find I am consciousness, and the world to me happens within and as the consciousness I am.1

This consciousness is seamless, it’s one.

So to me, the world appears as consciousness, and it appears as one.2

It has a dreamlike nature, and it’s seamless.

It appears that way because of my own inherent oneness.

ONE CONSCIOUSNESS CALLED SPIRIT?

It’s also possible that all that is – all of existence – is consciousness. Everything, this whole universe and everything else, happens within and as that consciousness.

If so, that’s what we would call God, the divine, Spirit, Brahman, or whatever label we would like to put on it.

ALL TOGETHER

To me, there is some validity to each of these views, and likely many more.

Just one or the other is too one-sided.

Together, they can better hint at the richness of life.

A NOTE ON THE CARTOON

Although the quote may be a little simplistic, I like the cartoon.

Yes, religion can create a quite small space for us. Religions often include beliefs and shoulds which have their place and also confine us.

Spirituality is a little more open, although also often comes with shoulds, beliefs, and identification.

Consciousness is what it all happens within and as. It has no inherent boundaries, and it contains and makes itself into the boundaries of religion, spirituality, and anything else.

NOTES

(1) As mentioned above, I assume it’s like that for any “conscious being”: They are consciousness to themselves, and to them, the world happens within and as the consciousness they are.

(2) A layer of mental representations put on top of it can make it appear differently. Mental dividing lines can appear real and true and inherent in the world, which will distract attention from the inherent oneness of our experience. These mental overlays can also make the dreamlike experience appear more solid and substantial.

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Dream: In charge of a hospital/rehabilitation center

I am newly in charge of a hospital and rehabilitation center. I used to favor activity and short stays for the patients. Now, I want to modernize and encourage deep and long rest, and then activities only after people are thoroughly rested and recovered. A nurse who is deeply into this way is on my side. I ask her to help me, teach me, and be in charge of the transition. An older doctor is of the old school and we talk about how to make the transition easier for him. The nurse is kind, wise, intelligent, and one hundred percent dedicated. I am deeply grateful we are working on this together.

As I woke up, I knew this dream was about the radical rest approach to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. The night before, I had talked with a friend of mine about it and how something in me is deeply drawn to it. I told her I am dreaming about it (in the sense of waking dreaming). Now, I also have night dreams about it.

Apparently, I have a metaphorical nurse in me who is deeply into and loves this approach to recovery, and who is wise, kind, and dedicated. We are a team, and I have put her in charge of the transition since she knows more about it than I do.

The old doctor is my own old mindset about this. I used to rest to recover after an activity and then immediately get back into activities and spend the little energy that was saved up. I still notice this tendency in me. This is part of the before, during, and after rest, which I am quite familiar with and is essential. Now, I want to engage much more in the “extra” rest and allow my body to have resources for deeper healing.

I am newly in charge of this hospital and rehabilitation center. I am definitely newly in charge in that I want to transition from the old mindset (spend energy as soon as it’s here) to the new and modern one of resting extra so the body has enough resources to actually heal.

The dream was all in Norwegian. Likely because I am in Norway now, and maybe also because Norwegian is my first language and more intimate and close to me. It’s more close to the center of who I am. It was also in Norway that the CFS initially started, in my teens, so maybe it’s fitting that I am working on how to better relate to it here.

Image by me and Midjourney

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The Heart Sutra and the dreamlike quality of reality

Form is emptiness, emptiness is form.

This is one of the lines from the heart sutra.

INITIAL ONENESS SHIFT

When the initial oneness shift happened in my teens, all was revealed as the divine. Everything that is, without exception, is the divine. The divine takes the form of all that’s here and all that is, including this human self and the consciousness it all happens within and as. The divine is also what temporarily and locally takes itself to be this human self, or not.

Today, it would say that it’s all happening within and as the consciousness I am.

Waking life is dreamlike because it happens within and as the consciousness I am, just like a night dream.

FINDING OTHERS

When this shift happened, this human self was an atheist with an interest in research into parapsychology, quantum physics, and systems theories. (Fritjof Capra and others.)

This was before the World Wide Web, and I lived in a small town outside of Oslo in Norway, so it wasn’t easy to find anyone who could relate to this.

I loved Jung but he talked more about finding wholeness as a human being. I also found and loved the writings of Jes Bertelsen (Danish Jungian analyst and spiritual teacher) and Ken Wilber (No Boundaries).

In my late teens, I met a couple of people (BH and HB…!) who recognized the oneness shift in me from their own experience. Before even talking, there was a mutual recognition and joy in that recognition.1

I had hoped to find the same mutual recognition with teachers at the local Tibetan Buddhist center, but I didn’t find it there. (Although I did start the practice, which only brought me “up” and not “down” into the body and embodiment that I deeply felt I needed.)

In general, it was difficult to find anyone who expressed it clearly and directly. Even when there seemed to be a similar noticing, it was often veiled in cultural differences and the language of different traditions.

THE HEART SUTRA

I may have first encountered the Heart Sutra at the Zen Center in Salt Lake City. It was included in the daily chants there.

When I first heard it, it was clear that it was a direct pointer. It’s not philosophical. It’s not something to dissect. (Although we can do it.) It just describes a direct noticing2.

It seems to point to the dreamlike quality of reality that initially had revealed itself to itself in my mid-teens.

THE DREAMLIKE QUALITY OF REALITY

Waking life is like a dream. It happens within and as what I am, just like night dreams.

The consciousness I am forms itself into waking life as it appears here and now.

That is emptiness. It’s empty of substance. It’s like a dream in that way in that it’s made up of the consciouness I am. Even what appears as solid & substantial is not really. It’s the mind telling itself it’s solid that creates the appearance of solidity3.

At the same time, it’s form. What I am forms itself into his experience of waking life as it is here now. The consciousness I am forms itself into all the forms here and now – this computer, these hands, the sensations of the fingers on the keyboard, the sound of the wind, the table, the light, and so on.

DIRECT NOTICING PUT INTO WORDS

It’s simpler than simple. And it easily sounds complicated when I try to put words on it.

I am sure there are more philosophical ways to understand it as well, but mental gymnastics are not needed. Just a noticing of what’s already here.

Of course, this is just my experience of it. I am sure I am missing out on a lot.

NOTES

(1) There is a lot more to say about this period, and I have elaborated a bit in one or two other articles. I have included just a few highlights here.

(2) I think this must have been one of the first times I found something that so clearly and simply expressed what had been revealed when I was sixteen.

(3) The mind takes appearances in the sense fields, ties them together with mental representations, and adds mental representations saying this is solid, this is substantial, and so on.

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The stories we put on weird experiences

What stories do we put on weird1 experiences?

What do those stories say about me and my worldview? How do they impact my life? How can I find more kind, accurate, and useful stories?

In many ways, those questions are as or more important than the “truth” about these experiences, and what we can find through regular scientific research into them.

I have experienced and gone through a number of states that can be called spiritual. If I took these as some kind of goal or place to get back into, I would create a lot of problems for myself. I would be on a wild goose chase. Instead, I chose to see them as highlighting aspects of what I am, aspects of my nature. I ask myself if I can find the essence of it here and now. That seems more kind, wise, and useful, and I am sure there are other ways to look at it that may seem even more insightful and useful.

I have periods with frequent and amazing synchronicities. I can try to figure what they mean as if there is some meaning inherent in them waiting to be found. That seems stressful since I can never know if I have found it, and it also looks like a wild goose chase. Instead, it seems to point to me being in a kind of flow state and following my inner guidance. I can see if that seems accurate. I can also see it as a question about reality: Perhaps all is connected in a far deeper way than it looks? Perhaps all these surface expressions are movements within a seamless whole? I can also take it as a reminder that the universe seems like a seamless system.

As a kid, I had what seemed like flashbacks to between lives. I shifted into a state of disembodiment and all as consciousness and love. I was profoundly at home, beyond anything I can imagine in this life. It brought up longing and some grief in me. I can try to figure out if this is how it really is between lives. I can try to tell myself I know this is how it is between lives. Again, that’s futile since I cannot know any of that for certain, and somewhere in me I know that. I cannot successfully deceive myself even if I try. Again, it seem more wise, kind, and useful to use it as a pointer for what’s here now. Can I find it here and now? (The answer is yes, I can find it here and now. The essence is the same although it doesn’t look exactly the same, and it’s generally much easier to find it than it has been at some points.)

I seem to be able to sense to some extent what’s going on in the system of others and invite in healing at a distance. Again, I could try to tell myself I know that this is how it is and perhaps even how it works. And again, that’s futile since I know I cannot know for certain. It’s far more comfortable for me to hold the questions and keep exploring. The sensing and healing seem to work, so why not keep exploring it?

I have precognitions, either through dreams or in waking life. Many of these seem accurate. I dreamt I would live in Oregon fifteen years before it happened2. I dreamt I would live in a neighborhood with a very particular schoolhouse in South America, and that happened roughly thirty-five years later3. I also often have a sense of how situations will unfold, and when that sense has a certain quiet solid feel to it, it often turns out to be correct. (Hopes and fears can muddle it, of course.) I find it useful to see these as questions more than anything else.

My nature seems to be able to recognize itself and this whole field of experience as happening within itself. I could tell myself stories about how this is awakening or enlightenment, or that it’s a full awakening, or that it’s some kind of endpoint. It’s the same with this as with the other examples. It seems obviously not true. Those are stories and I cannot know any of it for certain. On the contrary, it seems that this is an ongoing process of exploration, clarification, deepening, maturing, healing, and so on. I cannot find any finishing line. That’s far more comfortable and it seems more aligned with reality.

I seem to have what could be called insights. I could tell myself these reflect some final, full, absolute truth. That seems stressful and it would require a lot of work to try to talk myself into it. The reality is that I cannot know. They seem provisional and more like questions about the world than anything else. I am sure there are other ways to looking at it that would make more sense to me now or will in the future. Taking it that way is far more comfortable for me. It seems more aligned with reality. (And that too is provisional and a question.)

To me, waking life seems like a dream. It’s all happening within the consciousness I am, just like night dreams. The consciousness I am forms itself into all of it. These too are questions more than anything else. If I got caught up in the mental mirroring (representations) of it and told myself that’s how it is, it would distract from the actual alive noticing. Holding those stories as questions frees up attention to actually noticing.

I could tell myself that having weird experiences with the “spiritual” label on it makes me special. That too seems stressful because it’s not true. Many if not most people have unusual experiences once or several times. Many have had far more experiences than me. (It’s not a competition.) I didn’t choose or create any of these experiences, they just happened. I cannot keep them or make them come back. They live their own life. At most, some of them are pointers for aspects of what I am and what I can find here and now.

I have had ghost and UFO experiences. Again, I could make up stories about these and tell myself I know how things are. I don’t. I can explore and have questions about it, and that’s about it. That’s more interesting and aligned with reality, and allows me to keep exploring.

With the things that relate to something “out there” – ghosts, UFOs, synchronicities, and so on– I take it as only “out there” in the world. That way, I would miss out on the richness of also seeing it in here. I can notice that it all happens within and as my sense fields, and that my sense fields happen within and as the consciousness I am. I can identify my stories about them, turn these stories to myself, and find genuine and specific examples of how it’s true.

These are all provisional stories, and I keep exploring to see if something else may seem more useful for me. Of course, to be useful, they also need to be as sincere, honest, and true as possible – in a conventional sense and in my experience.

NOTES

(1) When I say “weird” it means weird as seen in our mainstream culture. Something that doesn’t fit the mainstream materialistic worldview and the views of our current science. In some subcultures and in most other cultures, it will not be seen as weird. It fits their worldview. (For a couple of hundred years, our culture has worked to shed superstitions, and that’s good. Now, it may be time to include some of it again, and to do so in a more grounded and science-based way.)

(2) I was a teenager and lived in Norway at the time, and had absolutely no intention to go to the US. I didn’t like much about the US so it was very far down the list of places I wanted to visit and even less live in. Through a set of circumstances, I did eventually find myself in Oregon and in the setting described in the dream.

(3) I almost fell out of the car when I saw that schoolhouse while we were in the process of buying the land. At some point, we had given up since it seemed impossible – there was no road access – but the dream suggested that it would happen. Now, I can see that school from our tiny house.

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When things are what I am

This quote describes what seems common when our nature starts recognizing itself.

The consciousness we are is used to taking itself to be something small within its own content and then starts to intuit or glimpse that it’s all happening within and as itself.

I haven’t heard this interview, so will just write a few things that come up for me.

WHO AND WHAT I AM

As I often say, it’s not wrong that I am this human self in the world. For most practical purposes, it’s true enough. In my experience, this human self is mostly here (apart from in some dreams and visions) so it makes sense to make that assumption. It’s an assumption that works relatively well in daily life. It’s also an assumption that creates stress since it’s out of alignment with what’s more true.

More fundamentally, I find I am what the whole field of experience happens within and as. To myself, I am what a thought may label consciousness, and any experience – of the wider world, of this human self –happens within and as the consciousness I am.

THE EXPERIENCE IN EACH CASE

The consciousness I am can create the temporary experience for itself of fundamentally being this human self. Here, “it” is not “me”. A tree is not me, it’s a tree over there.

This is true in a conventional sense no matter what, and it can feel deeply and obviously true if the consciousness we are is fundamentally identified as this human self.

The consciousness I am can also recognize itself, and that it forms itself into any experience. It’s all happening within and as what I am. The consciousness I am forms itself into (the experience of) a tree, this human self, stars, and anything else.

Here too, we can differentiate between a tree there and this human self here, and it’s all recognized as happening within and as what we are.

THE SHIFT

The shift itself can be gradual or sudden.

GRADUAL

The shift can be gradual, as it seems was the case for the person quoted.

The consciousness we are takes itself to fundamentally be this human self. There is a transition where there is a sense that something else may be more true. And then there is a more clear recognition of its nature and everything happening within itself.

In the middle phase, a lot of things can happen, including what’s described in the quote. There is a sense that the tree over there is me2. That it’s enveloped in love. That there is no difference. And so on.

It may happen in daily life, in meditation or during a spiritual retreat, it may happen in a psychedelic vision, it can happen in a dream, and in any other situation.

This transition can happen through intuitions, glimpses, having a sense of it, and more.

First, the center of gravity stays in the assumption of fundamentally being this human self while something else breaks through and in. Then, the center of gravity shifts into our nature recognizing itself. It happens through seeing it all as within itself. Finding love for it all within the context of oneness, a love independent of fleeting feelings and states. And our human self and psyche reorganizing itself within this context and getting it more viscerally.

SUDDEN

The shift can also be sudden, as it was for me. See below for more details.

When the shift is sudden, it doesn’t mean that it necessarily is as clear and thorough as it can be. It can always be more clear. More stable. More lived. More thorough in terms of the reorganization of the human self and the psyche. And so on.

MY EXPERIENCE

For me, this shift happened in my teens.

THE WORLD WENT DISTANT

On January 1st when I was fifteen, it was as if the world went very far away1. I still remember it. I was outside my parents’ house, talking with some friends. It happened over just some seconds or perhaps minutes. The world – wider world, this human self, thoughts, emotions – all seemed very distant.

This was profoundly disturbing to this human self, and the doctors couldn’t find an explanation. Later, I understood that this was a kind of observer-observed split. Identification went into the observer construct, and everything else seemed very distant. There was a disidentification with everything except the observer construct.

In a way, this is the reverse of what the quote above describes.

ALL AS THE DIVINE

One year later, there was another shift, this time into oneness. I walked along the dirt path to the house in the dark, with a big wind going through the landscape and the sky full of stars. This was between Christmas and New Year. I looked up at the stars and felt the extra expansiveness from the wind going through it all. Suddenly, there was a shift. All was revealed as God. Everything, without exception, is God. Nothing was left out.

This was home. This is home in the most profound sense. It’s more than familiar. At the same time, although very much secondary, it was a shock and surprise to this human self. He was an atheist, and then this? And it’s what always is here and just wasn’t noticed?

In my case, all was revealed as God, as the divine, as Spirit. There wasn’t so much the interpretation that “that is me”, although that is included in it. (The “that is me” idea still assumes that the idea of me and it has some substance and reality to it, which it doesn’t really.)

NOTES

(1) The Chronic Fatigue Syndrome started at the same time, somehow the two seem intertwined although I am not sure exactly how. My human self was under a lot of stress at the time, so it may be that the observer-observes split became a safety value, and the CFS may also have been a safety valve.

(2) For whatever reason, a lot of people use a tree as an example for this. Maybe that’s how it often starts for people? Is it because trees are quite noticeable, stand still, and are alive, and that makes the shift easier?

The image is created by me and Midjourney

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A shift in identity

I saw the thumbnail for a video from Adyashanti called The shift in identity1.

Is awakening a shift in identity?

As usual, the answer for me is yes and no and it depends.

SHIFT OUT OF IDENTITY

The simple answer is that awakening is a shift out of identity. It’s a shift from identifying with and as mental field representations (thoughts) and into our nature recognizing itself. The consciousness we are recognizes itself and shifts out of identification with and as ideas. It shifts out of identification with and as parts of its content, and into the field it already is which allows and is all of its changing content.

In that way, it’s not really a shift in identity, it’s a shift out of identity.

A KIND OF SHIFT IN IDENTITY

Of course, you can say that it’s a shift in identity, in a more loose and approximate sense. It’s just that the identity it shifts into is of a different kind. It’s not an identity that’s created by the mental field. It’s more a visceral conscious being of what we already are.

Of course, this can be reflected in ideas in the mental field, which makes it possible for us to communicate with ourselves and others about it. (A side note: The consciousness we are can then take another step and identify with that idea. It can make it into a mental identity for itself, a kind of head on top of the head as they say in Zen.)

For me, this is more of a shift in our center of gravity. I wouldn’t really say it’s a shift in identity since it can easily be misunderstood.

YES & NO & IT DEPENDS

So, yes, in a loose sense OR if you take consciously being what we already are as a kind of visceral identity independent of ideas.

No, since it’s a shift out of identifications.

And as with most things, it depends on how you want to talk about it.

MY EXPERIENCE WITH THIS

In the oneness shift in my teens, this was all in the foreground, and recognizing it was unavoidable. What I am what any content of experience – this human self, the world, any ideas about any of it, any identification with any of it – happens within and as.

That continued. At the same time, this psyche and system has some of its old dynamics and habits. Parts of my psyche still operate from separation consciousness. These parts identify with ideas and identities. And that will color perception, choices, and the life of this human self in the world. It seems inevitable.

That’s why I have continued to explore all of this through meditation and different forms of structured and organic inquiry. It’s a process of inviting more parts of me more deeply and viscerally onboard with the general and “global” recognition of this.

CAVEAT

I haven’t watched Adya’s video so don’t know how he talks about it. From what I know about him, I suspect the essence is similar although a lot more clear and insightful than this! As I have mentioned in other articles, I haven’t been able to take in much in terms of teachings for about fifteen years now. That’s partly because I was full, similar to having eaten too much food. Mainly, it’s because CFS and brain fog make it difficult to take in any information that requires more than minimum processing. The upside is that I am brought more fully back to myself, my own noticing, and what’s live for me here and now.

NOTES

(1) Sorry, embedding of that video is disabled from YouTube’s side.

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Daily life decision-making

It’s Wednesday morning. In Norway, they have movies at half price in the early afternoon on Wednesdays1, and I did consider going today. It’s only a five-minute walk.

How do I decide whether to go or not?

If there is a movie I really want to see and I have the schedule open, I usually go. An easy decision was, for instance, Asteroid City last summer.

This time, I checked the movies with the pendulum last night. (I just use my fingers as if I hold a pendulum.) The five movies all got between six and seven out of ten. Usually, I don’t do something unless it’s eight or higher.

This morning, I still wasn’t quite sure so I used another test. I tell myself: I can do it if I want, and I want to do it. And then: I can do it if I want and I don’t want to do it. For each of these, I check in with the response in my body. My body felt alive and excited with the second, and less so with the first.

The combined pendulum and the “I can do it if I want” test made the decision easy. I decided not to go. So far, I am content with the decision. The upside is that I get to do a few more things at home and my body gets more rest so it can recharge more.

Of course, this is a trivial example. It likely doesn’t matter much whether I go or not. But it is an example of decision-making, and that’s important.

NOTES

(1) It’s mainly for retired people although it’s open to anyone. It’s the only time I go to see movies in the movie theater since most of the people going are older and quiet. Other times, there is often too much talking and noisy eating of popcorn and sweets. The distractions make it not worth it.

The image is from Asteroid City

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Dream: I am a young black man at university

I am a young black student at a university in the US. I get the sense it’s the 1950s. In a math class in the first semester, I do far better on the exams than the white teachers expect. They are convinced I cheated but can’t prove it, so they make me take the class again. Again, I do very well and they assume I cheated. They consider their options, which is to make me take it for the third time or expel me from the university. I beg them to sit down to me, ask me to explain how I would solve the different types of math questions, and see me work it out. That way, they can easily see that I can do it. It will give them peace of mind, and it will allow me to move on.

I seem to be able to remember dreams again.

SHIFTING SURFACE IDENTITIES

In this dream, I am someone different from my identity in waking life. That, in itself, is a reminder of my more fundamental nature. To myself, I am not fundamentally this particular human self with these particular identities. The surface identities are more fluid than that, and I can be any number of other people and beings in my dreams, and during visions. (In this dream, and in some visions, my waking life identity is completely gone.) More fundamentally, I am something else. I am what it all happens within and as.

WAKING LIFE

In terms of waking life, it reflects a recurrent theme: Someone assumes something (wrong) about me, and whatever I say or do doesn’t help. It happened several times in school when other kids would tell the teachers I did something I hadn’t done, I got called into the principal’s office, and I didn’t even know what he was talking about. My brother did the same with my parents, who believed him and not me. And it has happened several times since then too, with other people.

In some cases, I contribute to the situation by not telling people something relevant about me in advance, and also not doing much if anything to clear up the misunderstanding. If someone misunderstands something about me, I typically – at least in the past – don’t say much if anything to correct it. (For instance, when I joined a nondual spiritual group in Oregon, I didn’t tell them anything about my background. They assumed I was a novice, and kept assuming it while I was active with them. When I shared a link to this blog with a teacher I met with regularly, he seemed upset and assumed I had taken the content from somewhere else.)

Why haven’t I spoken up? A few things come up. There is a part of me that enjoys seeing how the minds of others work, and they seem invested in a certain story for whatever reason. I also don’t like to appear to want to present myself in a good light, even if it involves correcting a misconception. In my childhood, it happened several times people had strong ideas about me based on what someone else had said, and whatever I said to correct it didn’t work. (My brother and his friends would blame me, much younger than them, for what they had done, and my parents believed them and not me. Students at school would blame something on me, and I got called into the principal’s office for something I hadn’t even heard about.) My experience is that it doesn’t work.

More to the point, all of this is in me. These dynamics happen in me. How do I not listen to myself? When don’t I trust and believe in myself? I can find many examples of that. I remember several times when my inner guidance was clear, and I chose to do something else – usually out of fear of losing the love and approval of others. I didn’t listen to myself and lived the consequences. (Some examples: Moving to Wisconsin after my initial marriage and leaving my graduate studies, my Zen community, my friends, and a place I deeply loved and felt at home. Not telling my partner I have studied architecture at a graduate level so she dismissed my design proposal for our tiny house.)

In the dream, I do speak up. I am standing up to myself, eventually. I propose a solution that may work for everyone.

ALL PARTS OF THE DREAM MIRROR SOMETHING IN ME

All parts of the dream mirror something in me. It all comes out of and happens within and as the consciousness I am. Also, everything in the world in general mirrors something in me.

The young black man faces discrimination, just like my system (it’s more than just my psyche) discriminates against parts of me. He represents parts of my shadow, and he is brilliant and goes to university. By not including that part of me, and other parts in the shadow, I miss out on a lot of brilliance. More to the point, I miss out on being more real, authentic, and human, and on the rich diversity in me. I miss out on experiencing the fullness of me. I miss out on perspectives that can help me understand myself and others.

I am spending time with my birth family these days, and there are dynamics there I assume are partly in my shadow. There are things my personality doesn’t particularly like, I see it more in them than in myself, and there is a richness there if I can embrace it more in myself. If I can find more peace with it, and also acknowledge it in myself.

What does he represent, more specifically? I am not quite sure. He is someone who is brilliant, and his brilliance is not recognized because it’s not in the form that’s expected and approved by mainstream white society. My mainstream orientation doesn’t approve of or recognize the brilliance of something in me because it’s not in the expected or desired form. I’ll have to be with that for a while to see what comes up.

THE ESSENCE

What’s the essence here? I can find a few:

One is to speak up for myself. In what situations do I not do it? How can I do it more?

Another is to listen to and believe in myself, which in this case means my inner guidance.

And yet another is to keep an eye out for parts of me I disown, dismiss, and overlook, and see how it is to include it more fully. What do I see in others, that’s not in the package my personality prefers, that’s secretly brilliant and I can find in myself? Right now, what do I see in my birth family?

Stand up for myself. Listen to my inner guidance. What’s brilliant in others, in a form I don’t like, and how can I embrace it in myself and them?

The two first are ongoing for me, so I may spend more time with the third right now.

EXPLORING DREAMS

When I explore my dreams, I usually do it in a few different ways.

I look at what it mirrors in my waking life. I look at all elements of the dream as reflecting parts of me. I look for any other insights or dynamics that can be interesting. (In this case, a different surface identity points to what I more fundamentally am.)

I sense into it. I look at what I felt as I woke up and what associations I had. I may dialog with elements or beings in the dream. I may take on their role and see what comes up.

I find the essence of it for me, expressed in a simple sentence as a reminder, and see how it is to bring that into daily life.

In general, I like to sense and feel into it and approach it viscerally although it’s obviously interpreted and expressed in words here.

UPDATE: THE BRILLIANCE IN TRAUMA

I have spent some time with: What’s brilliant in my birth family that my personality doesn’t particularly like? And how can I embrace it in myself and them?

What I see is that even their hangups – their issues and traumas – are brilliant. They were formed early in life to deal with a difficult life situation. They have kindness and intelligence in them. (Even if they now bring suffering.) How is it to viscerally get it?

That’s beautiful to notice. It’s beautiful because it’s true, and it heals something to recognize it. It shifts how I relate to it in myself and them.

I have seen and felt this when I have explored my own issues and traumas. They are here to protect me. Their essence is love and a kind of wisdom. They were the best my system could come up with at the time and in the situation when they were created. There is innocence and even beauty in it, even as they also create suffering. There is beauty and wisdom in the suffering too. It’s the motivation to later examine the issues, invite them to unwind, and find another way that works better now.

How is it to not only see and feel that with my own issues and traumas, but also theirs? How is it to stay with it, let it work on me, and transform something in me?

Image by me and Midjourney

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What gives me energy

Since I live with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), I am on a journey to explore how to recover, maintain, and boost energy.

The most important is to regulate my activity level. As much as possible, I rest before, during, and after any activity, and also extra. (The extra rest gives the body energy for healing.) This helps me avoid crashes and it gives my body a chance to stabilize and heal.

Sun and warm temperatures help me a lot. As does eating fresh, seasonal, and ideally local food low on the food chain, and avoiding foods that don’t work well for me (dairy, sugar, processed food).

Receiving Vortex Healing energization helps me greatly. Right now, compressed chi and optimizing the mitochondria seem to work especially well. (I was also apparently able to get rid of a chronic low-grade Epstein-Barr infection with Vortex Healing. This chronic infection prevented my body from healing.)

I take capsules with Siberian ginseng (eleuther) and echinacea.

I drink Stangeland’s herbal tea (Stangelands urtete).

I make and drink bone broth. I cook it for around three days and then freeze it in portions.

I take some vitamin and mineral supplements. In the winter in cold climates, I take cod liver oil daily. I also take vitamin D and B12 and sometimes magnesium.

Electrolytes come from food, although I sometimes take them as a supplement, especially when it’s warm.

In periods, I take ginger powder, usually in a cup of hot water, sometimes with raw cacao powder. It helps my digestion (provides metaphorical fire for the digestion), which helps my energy. Cayenne helps me too, in food.

I seem to do the teas and herbs mainly when I am in colder climates, although often in warmer weather as well depending on what I feel I need. I tend to do each one in phases, and if I take more than one on the same day, I usually space them out.

There is a mind side to this too, of course. The more relaxed I am, the better my energy level is. (It takes energy to create stress.) The more I feel safe, at home, and nourished, and the more I experience a sense of meaning, the better it is.

The image is created by me and Midjourney

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Dreams: Japanese CEO & Chinese Herbalist

I start work with a small Japanese company. As I arrive, the owner greets me, introduces me to the others there, and tells everyone I will take his position and run the company from now on. I tell him I lack experience and he says that’s perfect – I am perfect for the job and he has full confidence in me.

– dream yesterday

I have known an old Chinese herbalist for a while. At some point, he gives me a tincture. It’s a kind of ceremony and a group of people who knows us both are watching. Most don’t like the tincture but it was fine for me. After I drink it, there is a big shift into a psychedelic experience. His face is suddenly close, he sings an intense song with a very strange voice. It’s the beginning of a healing journey to heal from the CFS and feeling so profoundly off track in life.

– dream this morning

Since the Amma experience in November, I have only remembered a handful of dreams which is very unusual for me. I had these two dreams in a row, so maybe something is shifting again there.

What’s the first dream about? What may it reflect in my waking life? I am in charge (co-charge) of the land in the Andes, and have people doing different types of projects there. In a way, I am the leader (co-leader) of that project. Similarly, in Norway, I am in charge of a project there. What may it reflect in my inner life? Maybe I am becoming slightly more comfortable taking the lead, including in my own life?

What’s the second dream about? I suspect that the CFS is related to feeling profoundly off track in life. It came when I was fifteen, after a period of feeling very lost. It returned several years into a marriage where I similarly felt very lost. I have tried many things to find healing for both and find a way to feel more on track again, as I did for several years. I had hoped I would feel more deeply on track again with the regeneration project in the Andes, which I do, but the situation is a little too unsettled so far. I am now back in Norway and have a taste of feeling on track here, although I will only be here for a few months. Was the dream triggered by being here and tasting feeling on track again? Does it reflect a deeper process in me, independent of Norway and perhaps even the project in the Andes?

These are things for me to continue to explore – being the daily leader of my life, finding a deeper healing for my health, and finding a way to feel more deeply on track.

Emptiness

I have written about the Buddhist emptiness before and thought I would see what comes up for me now.

EMPTY OF SUBSTANCE AND SOLIDITY

The world to me, appears as consciousness. All content of experience is similar to a night dream. It’s empty of substance. It’s ephemeral. (To myself, I am consciousness, and the world to me happens within and as the consciousness I am, so the world inevitably appears as consciousness.)

EMPTY OF A FUNDAMENTAL SELF

Then, there is a noticing that comes from comparing images of what’s here to images of what was or could be. This is a mental comparison. Here, I notice that this content of experience is empty of a separate self. This field of experience happens within and as what I am. Anything that could be taken as a self – this human self and ideas of being a victim, a doer, an observer, and so on – all happens within and as what I am. All of it comes and goes. None of it is a fundamental self. The content of experience is empty of a fundamental self.

EMPTY OF WHAT MY IDEAS TELL ME ABOUT IT

There is another noticing that could be called emptiness. The world is inherently free of what my ideas tell me about it. It’s not touched by it. It cannot be captured by it. It’s different from and more than any idea I have about it, and also less.

Of course, in a conventional sense, a thought can be more or less accurate, and it’s important to use the more accurate ideas as a guide. Still, a thought cannot capture any final, full, or absolute truth. They are questions about the world.

A NAIVE APPROACH

This is just what comes up for me from that one word. It’s a naive approach and likely has little to do with how Buddhist teachings and teachers see emptiness. (Naive is not bad, it helps me notice what’s here for me instead of what “should” be according to some ideas about it.)

The image is created by me and Midjourney

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Inter-species communication

I have been fascinated by inter-species communication since childhood and early teens and have followed the research into dolphin and parrot communication. (For instance, Irene Pepperberg and the parrot Alex.)

COMMUNICATING WITH BUTTONS

I love the more recent approach of using talking buttons, developed by Christina Hunger and her dog Stella.

Having watched these videos over several years, it seems clear that our non-human friends function much as we do, and they find ways to use the buttons and a limited vocabulary to express what they wish to communicate.

HOW WE RELATE TO OTHER SPECIES

For centuries and millennia, we have trained ourselves to see ourselves separate from nature. We are somehow special, better, different in kind, and so on. We have also developed many justifications for how we treat other species, ecosystems, and nature.

One of these justifications is telling ourselves that other species are mute and dumb, inferior in every way, and even that they don’t have emotions or experience pain. This goes against basic common sense, but we needed this justification to treat them in the terrible ways we have done and still do.

This idea of separation has led to the ecological crisis we now find ourselves in.

Button communication is one piece of the puzzle in transforming how we see – and treat – other species and the natural world. And that will also change how we see and treat ourselves.

HOW WE SEE AND TREAT OURSELVES

How will it change how we see and treat ourselves?

It will help us see ourselves as part of the natural world and not apart from it. It will help us find a deeper sense of fellowship with all beings. We are no longer as alone here as we may have thought.

We may lose a sense of superiority (which was hollow and based on nothing real anyway) and find a deeper sense of belonging and community.

HOW WE SEE AND TREAT OTHER SPECIES AND THE NATURAL WORLD

It will, by necessity, change how we treat other species and nature.

If other beings have their own rich interior life, as we do, we’ll need to treat them with more respect.

We can no longer justify exploiting them for our own purposes as if their life and how they experience the world don’t matter.

They deserve a good life, just as we do, no matter where they are, whether they live with us or in the wild.

SEEING AND TREATING OURSELVES AS NATURE

In a deeper sense, finding more respect for other species and nature in general will help us find more respect for the nature we are.

It will help us see and relate to ourselves as nature, which can help us relate to ourselves with a little more understanding, kindness, and perhaps even wisdom.

We are learning to rewild ourselves.

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When no-self comes into the foreground

About twenty years ago, there was a shift1 where no-self2 came very strongly into the foreground.

The noticing of no-self has been here since the shift in my teens, and this new shift turned the volume way up on that aspect of what I am. It was so strongly in the foreground that it was inevitable and noticed all the time.

While it happened, this human psyche didn’t know if it was a new deepening into reality which would stay, or if it was a state that would come and go.

It turned out to be kind of both.

The noticing is there, although the volume is not turned up so high. In that way, it wasn’t a state. The notice seems more inevitable and effortless than before.

At the same time, having it so strongly in the foreground was a state which lasted about six months.

Why do these shifts happen? I see it as life showing itself aspects of itself. It’s so clear and so strongly in the foreground that it cannot be missed or overlooked. We get used to it, and it’s easier to notice even after the state goes away.

NOTES

(1) It followed a period of deepening in meditation. There was a deepening that “I” didn’t do but happened by itself. This particular shift was triggered by doing one of the Headless experiments. (The “invisible crash helmet” experiment if I remember the name correctly. It’s where you cut out a circular hole in a piece of paper, notice the hole is full of the world – that you can see through the hole – and also empty. It’s nothing full of the world. Then, you bring the hole up to your face and eyes, and notice you are that nothing full of the world.)

(2) What does “no-self” mean? It’s a label like anything else, and I use it because I cannot think of another label that’s better right now. It just means that what I more fundamentally am is what any and all experience happens within and as. To me, the wider world and anything related to this human self happens within and as what I am. I am not most fundamentally this human self or any other kind of self. (Victim, doer, observer, etc.)

Image by me and Midjourney

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More real than waking life

It was/is more real than waking life. It’s not uncommon to hear people say that when there has been or is a glimpse into our nature.

That makes sense.

THE DREAMLIKE CONTENT OF EXPERIENCE

The content of my experience is real enough2. At the same time, it’s like a dream. It’s always changing and what’s here now becomes a mental image. It happens within and as the consciousness I am. Waking life is the same as a night dream in that sense.

WHAT I MORE FUNDAMENTALLY AM

What I more fundamentally am – what this field of experience happens within and as – is always here.

It’s all I have ever known, even when it takes the form of this always-changing content of experience.

When my nature recognizes itself, there is a profound sense of coming home.

It’s profoundly familiar, even if it’s also new and sometimes disorienting to the psyche and conditioning of this human self.

MORE REAL THAN WAKING LIFE

When my nature notices itself, it’s more real than any of the dreamlike content of experience.

NOTES

(1) If my nature notices itself, and identification goes back into thought, it can become primarily a memory and an experience in time, even if it’s still what I more fundamentally am.

(2) It’s real to me since it’s here in the field of experience. It’s also a kind of virtual reality created by the mind. It’s a combination of interpretations of sensory input and mental field representations. It’s far from an accurate representation of some external world as it is.

The image is created by me and Midjourney

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Do what’s important and not just what’s urgent

I just read Yeon Sik Hong’s Uncomfortably Happily and thought this was a good pointer.

What’s important to me? How can I do more of it? What does it look like if I prioritize it?

SIDETRACKED BY DAILY LIFE’S URGENT SMALLER TASKS

It’s easy to get caught up in the urgency of everyday tasks and projects and lose track of the bigger picture. What are my real priorities? What’s really important to me? At the end of my life, when I look back at my life, how would I have liked to live it? What would I have liked to bring into life?

TWO KINDS OF PRIORITIES: REVEALED BY MY LIFE & WHAT’S MORE IMPORTANT TO ME

When I look at my priorities, I find they come in two kinds.

One is revealed in my daily life. What do I spend time and energy on? My life reveals the priorities I live by. It can be sobering to look at this, and it’s important.

Another kind is revealed by exploring my dreams and wishes, what I genuinely value, my inner guidance, and so on. What’s more important to me than what I spend time on in daily life? How would my life be if I spent more time on what I really value? How can I bring it into my life, even in small ways?

SUPPORTING THE PROCESS

Several things can support this process: Examine the gap between these two kinds of priorities and bring it into awareness. Clarify my more real priorities. Finding an accountability buddy I can share daily updates with. Make small changes and make them into a new habit. Examine my fears and stressful beliefs that keep me to the first kind and away from the second.

FINDING THE ESSENTIALS

One of the ways to explore this is an inquiry from Adyashanti.

I take anything I am drawn to or want in my life, even if it’s something as simple as eating ice cream.

What do I hope to get out of that? I keep asking that question of what comes up until I find the most essential. What I find is something universal and simple. For instance, love, safety, being seen and understood, and so on.

What are some ways I can bring that more into my life?

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I was a student of Odd Nerdum in the ’90s

In the early 1990s, I was an apprentice of the painter Odd Nerdrum.

In general, I am interested in how it was to be an apprentice of well-known artists. That information is often lost, so I thought I would do those who may be interested a favor and give a brief account of my experience.

THE STUDIO

At the time Nerdrum had a house in Frogner in Oslo, and his studio was in another house (in Kristinelundveien) near Frognerparken in Oslo.

The studio had a large central space two levels high with large windows towards the north or northwest1. The walls were painted dark brown since it’s a good background for looking at paintings. The window had lamps to compensate for the fading sunlight on dark days or late afternoon and to give light at night.

He had a vintage couch there, one or two of his early and especially inspired paintings on the wall, and Persian rugs on the couch and nearby floor. He also had a good stereo where he would often play Arvo Pärt, Philip Glass, and similar kinds of music2.

Off that room was a smaller area where we students had our own space with easels and so on. There was a small bathroom there, and stairs up to a balcony around parts of the large space. Downstairs was a kitchen, the main bathroom, and a couple of bedrooms. He often used one, likely because he was in a divorce process at the time. Another was used by a friend of mine, who had been a student of Nerdum before me, and introduced me to him.

NERDRUM IN THE STUDIO

Nerdum would come in the morning, although the exact time would vary. He painted through the day, with brief breaks for food. He was there more regularly and for longer than most of his students.

He painted quickly and would put up the first layer in one or two hours. Most artists today would probably have been happy with that first layer, but he continued. I assume he used roughly a month on each painting, with variations depending on the size of the painting, and with most of the work on the details and texture.

He would work on more than one painting at a time, perhaps two or three, and sometimes also a charcoal drawing or study for a future painting.

He would use beautiful clear colors while painting, and cover it up with a brown varnish at the end. I assume he did it to mimic old paintings, and it was heartwrenching for me.

While painting, he would have conversations with the model and/or students or guests. The conversation was mostly about art, artists, music, or philosophy.

Sometimes, well-known people would come by – art historians, philosophers, TV personalities, adventurers, and so on. David Bowie came by one day to buy one of his paintings. (Unfortunately, I missed it!)

NERDRUM AS A PERSON

How was he as a person?

He was simultaneously an ordinary human being and larger than life.

He was deeply passionate about his art and art in general. I don’t hesitate in calling him a genius in painting and charcoal drawings. He was knowledgeable and unafraid to speak his mind.

He was socially smart and also unafraid of offending people.

He was happy to talk about the art of others, and he did talk about the aesthetic and visual aspects of his own paintings. One thing I never heard him talk about was the symbolism of his paintings. That was likely very intentional. He wanted to leave it open and available to the rich imagination of the audience. (I think he may have mentioned something about that, not sure.)

THE APPRENTICE SITUATION

When I was there, he had about five apprentices3 in the studio. The number was naturally limited by the space available, and he may not have wanted more anyway.

In my case, I was a model for one painting, I mixed his white paint, and I transferred a charcoal study for a painting onto a large canvas (using grid lines) so he had an outline to follow while painting.

My impression is that most students were models for one or more paintings, and they also did other tasks, likely depending on what Nerdum felt they would be good at or happy with doing.

There was no formal teaching. We were there to learn through observation, immersion, and conversations with him and the other students.

I assume most students came through either writing him directly or because they knew someone already a student. In my case, I had a meeting with Nerdum where I showed him some of my work. I also got the impression that he wanted me as a model.

We would occasionally do things as a group with Nerdum. For instance, we went to see a Spanish movie together at the local movie theater. I also went with him to Kjeller where they work with radiation (!). He was interested in knowing if radiation could help some of his paintings where the paint sagged over time.

NERDRUM, MODERNISM & NORWAY

Nerdrum received a lot of resistance to his approach to painting and drawing from the beginning.

His response was to develop an apparently deep-seated aversion to modernism and much of the art community in Norway.

His response is understandable. It’s a response to hurt. And yet, the whole dynamic was and is somewhat baffling to me. Why did he meet so much resistance just because he painted in a more figurative style? Why did he respond by rejecting their approach? Life and art is rich, that’s the beauty of it. It’s very possible to love or appreciate a wide range of approaches to art and anything else.

Appreciating one doesn’t mean you have to reject something else. It’s not a zero-sum game unless you make it so. This is not kindergarten.

MY SITUATION

I had been passionate about learning to draw and paint in a soulful traditional style since my mid-teens, especially the style of Rembrandt, Caravaggio, and other Baroque artists. It wasn’t until high school that I discovered the art of Nerdrum.

I went to art school for a couple of years after high school, got to know another student there who was also a student of Nerdrum, and she introduced me to him.

I was an apprentice for about a year (?), and during this time, I started studying at the university. First, art history and then psychology.

THE LIMITS OF MEMORY

I only knew him during this period, so other students at other times will likely have a different experience.

Also, this is the memory of one person, and it’s a memory – which is notoriously unreliable. Over time, some things fade and some things stay, and what stays is filtered by how we see the world in general.

Still, I think most of this is pretty accurate.

NOTES

(1) The light from the north is best for a studio since it’s more stable and you avoid direct sunlight.

(2) I happened to have a very similar taste in music as him, and a very similar taste in art in general.

(3) We were apprentices in the old-fashioned sense, more than students. When some talk about the “Nerdrum School”, they refer to younger artists inspired by his style, of which many were his apprentice at some point.

The painting is the one I transferred from a drawing to canvas so he had an outline to work with to begin the painting.

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How we notice change

How do we notice change?

By comparing our mental images of what thoughts label “now” with our mental images of what thoughts label “past” whether it’s a recent or more distant past.

Without mental representations, there would be no idea of change, and no idea of past, future, and present.

HOW HAVE I EXPLORED THIS?

It was one of the things that was revealed when my nature initially recognized itself.

There have also been shifts in meditation where the mental functions that create and tie together ideas of now and past seemed to not function anymore, and there is only now. One time, I was listening to music, and it was not music anymore because nothing was able to tie the sounds happening now with the memory of sounds that just passed.

I have also explored it through different forms of inquiry, including The Work of Byron Katie and especially the Kiloby Inquiries (a modern variation of traditional Buddhist sense field inquiry).

WHY DO I WRITE ABOUT THIS NOW?

I saw a post from an awakening teacher saying that Buddhism sees realizing impermanence as a result of awakening. She then criticized that straw man argument for more or less the reason I outlined above.

That’s misguided since it’s a misrepresentation of Buddhism, and it’s easy to see it as unethical for the same reason. She didn’t do her homework, which would have taken long.

Buddhist teachings and teachers use impermanence to help our nature notice itself, it’s a teaching and inquiry tool. It makes use of how consciousness works when it doesn’t notice its nature, to help it notice its nature.

For instance, we may notice that everything within our field of experience changes. In basic meditation, that’s one of the things we notice over time. The question then is, if everything within the content of experience changes, can any of it be what I more fundamentally am? If the experience of this human self comes and goes, if the mental representation of a doer or observer comes and goes, can any of it be what I more fundamentally am? Can it be what I more fundamentally am in my own first-person experience? This is a visceral noticing and inquiry that deepens over time in basic meditation, perhaps even without being consciously noticed.

Image by me and Midjourney

Nothings

Is this how awakening is?

Not really, but there is a grain of truth in it.

Awakening shifts our relationships with identities – as a human, a self, a man or woman, a victim, a doer, an observer, and so on. It helps us see that these are roles our human self sometimes plays. It’s not what we more fundamentally are. It helps us release, soften, or at least question our identification with all of these identities. We find ourselves as what we more fundamentally are, which is what all of this and everything else in our world happens within and as.

We realize we are inherently empty of any identification, which is what allows the appearance of any identification, and it allows us to take on and play roles for a while.

We are fundamentally nothing full of everything, full of the whole world, sometimes full of this particular human self.

In that way, we are inherently nothing. Although that realization can be a bit shocking to our human self and our habitual patterns, it doesn’t necessarily look like the cartoon above…! In my case, it was immensely familiar. It was like coming home. It was revealed as all I had ever known, without realizing it. My human self and psyche had reactions to it, and it was somewhat disorienting to my psyche, but not like in that cartoon.

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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome & two types of rest

In the CFS world, some talk about two forms of rest. Or, more accurately, two phases of rest.

TWO TYPES OF REST

REST FOR RESTITUTION

The first type of rest is for restitution. We spend energy through activity and then rest to recover that energy. In the best case, our body returns to where it was before the activity. In my experience, if I am in a CFS crash or an especially bad period, this phase can take a long time, maybe days or weeks, or even months or years. In a better period, it can take a day or so.

REST FOR HEALING

The second is healing rest. This is what happens when we rest beyond restitution and don’t spend that energy on activities. Here, the body can use the extra energy for actual healing, for improving beyond just recovering from daily activities.

TWO PHASES

As mentioned, these are two phases of rest. First, the body’s priority is restitution. When that’s accomplished, and there is no need to spend the energy on activities, the body’s priority is healing.

THREE WAYS TO APPROACH REST

There are a few general ways to work with these two types of rest.

MINIMAL RECOVERY AND ROLLERCOASTERING

The first is what many do at the beginning of living with CFS. We spend energy as soon as we have it. There is so much we want to do, so when there is metaphorical money in the bank, we spend it. This leads to a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs, crashes and recovery. In the worst case, we can crash hard which leads to a worsening of the condition that can last for months or years.

STABILIZING AND FUNCTIONING AT A SLIGHTLY IMPROVED LEVEL

The second is to take enough time for restitution rest and some healing rest to stabilize. This, in itself, is an improvement in our condition, and it can lead to functioning at a slightly better level. Since we still don’t allow for regular healing rest, there isn’t too much further improvement.

SCHEDULING ONGOING HEALING REST

The third is to schedule healing rest consistently and regularly, ideally daily. In theory, this will lead to continued improvement since the body has the energy to continue healing. It’s a form of extreme rest, and I assume it takes a certain amount of readiness and intention to do it. The readiness likely comes from living with the first two approaches for a while and seeing that they ultimately are not satisfying.

MONEY METAPHOR

A money metaphor can be useful here. Our body’s energy is like money in the bank.

We can spend it as soon as it comes into our account, and sometimes more than what comes in. We can learn to have a bit in the account and not spend more than what comes in. And we can regularly spend less than what comes in so it accumulates over time.

The first is a precarious situation. The second is OK but not as good as it could be. And the third is the wise choice over time, and what many of us find we genuinely want after experiencing the two first for a while.

REST BEFORE, DURING, AFTER & EXTRA

All of this goes back to a simple guideline for CFS: Rest before, during, after, and extra.

Resing before any activity saves up energy so we have some to spend.

Resting during an activity helps us reduce the impact.

Resting after allows for restitution.

Resting extra allows for healing.

WILL IT WORK FOR EVERYONE?

Will scheduling in healing rest bring about improvement in the condition of everyone?

I don’t know. What I know is that it likely won’t hurt. It’s giving our body its best chance of recovery, which is always worth it.

I suspect it will help everyone to some extent. It may lead to a dramatic improvement over time for some. And it may lead to a more moderate improvement, or perhaps just stabilization, for others .

It may depend on the cause of the CFS. The CFS label is likely used for a range of conditions caused by a range of different things.1

It would be very interesting to do a study on this. Of a group of people diagnosed with CFS, how many improve through some months of extreme rest, and in what ways and how much? How many stabilize? How many experience an actual improvement in their ability to function? Is there a difference depending on the particular form of CFS and what likely caused it in each case?

IN MY CASE

I am very familiar with the first approach to rest. It’s what I did when I initially got CFS in my teens, and also during one phase when it returned in my 30s.

I am also familiar with the second. It’s what I have been doing over the last several years.

The third is more unfamiliar to me, and something I notice I am fascinated by. My system seems to crave it. (I am strongly drawn to be in a quiet place in nature for a long time, resting). I want to bring it into my life, and it’s all about priorities and making space for it. (I do have some practical things to take care of, with a timeline set by circumstances and others, so it may be that I’ll go between number two and three for a while until I am in a situation where I can rest more fully and consistently. Although I know this is ultimately a matter of priorities. What’s most important to me?)

A FEW MORE WORDS

As usual, there is a lot more to say about it.

Our culture tends to value productivity highly. We gain value through being active and producing something. Many of us have our identity and self-worth wrapped around activity. That’s one reason it’s often difficult to rest beyond restitution. It feels wrong somehow. It’s good to be aware of this, question these assumptions, find our genuine value independent of our activities, and perhaps even redefine productivity.

For instance, just like a baby and any life, I have value independent of any activities or ability to produce. Also, if I have CFS, one of the most valuable and ultimately productive things I can do is to schedule regular extra and healing rest. It’s what gives my body a chance to stabilize and perhaps even recover and heal. Nothing is more important than that.

The rest during an activity can happen in two ways. One is to take breaks. The other is to do things slowly and avoid stress. I schedule in plenty to time. I do it slowly with slow movements. I take breaks. And so on. Also, if there is a rush, or I feel pressure or a push to do something, I typically choose to not do it if I can. It’s not worth it.

I find it helpful to minimize or avoid anything that masks the natural signs from my body. I want to be open to and in tune with any signs of having done too much, or being at the edge of doing too much. That’s why I generally avoid caffeine, and I also find it helpful to avoid too much sugar. (Not always successful in the latter but working on it. For me, it’s a matter of noticing the discomfort sugar leads to in my body.)

It’s also important to be aware that the more activities we rest from, the deeper the rest tends to be. Even listening to an audiobook takes energy. It may be fine, but silence can give an even deeper rest.

Over time, we can also do things to deepen our rest. Rest means rest from stress. The more we can minimize stress in our life, the deeper and more fully we can rest.

Stress is ultimately created by our stressful thoughts and it sits in our body. We can release some of this stress through cognitive therapy or inquiry. We can also release stress from our body through gentle movement (yoga, tai chi, Breema, etc.) and neurogenic tremors (Tension & Trauma Release Exercises).

A NORWEGIAN ARTICLE AND BOOK

Here is an excellent Norwegian article on the two types of rest. The website is for the book Aktivitetsapassing which goes in depth into this and more.

NOTES
(1) In my case, I have the classic CFS that followed mononucleosis (Epstein-Barr virus), I assume combined with other stressors including mold and life stress.

The image is created by me and Midjourney

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The timing of drinking and eating

For me, the timing of drinking and eating seems to make a big difference.

I drink a lot of water – usually in the form of herbal and spice infusions – in the morning and early afternoon, and then taper off. I usually don’t drink much in the evening. This helps me avoid waking up to have to go to the bathroom. My general aim is to have pale to clear urine, which is an indication that I have been drinking enough. (I notice I feel and function much better when I have enough to drink.)

Similarly, I mostly eat during the third of the day between morning and mid to late afternoon. When I wake up, I usually have herbal infusion first and maybe some fruit, followed by breakfast one or two hours later. The main meal is around mid-day or early afternoon. I may have something light later in the afternoon. And that’s about it. That feels natural and in rhythm with my body. It means that I don’t eat, or occasionally eat something small like a fruit, around two-thirds of the time.

Of course, none of this is fixed. It depends on what my body seems to need and the situation, but this is how it generally looks.

I know a lot of people and traditions have ideas about this. For me, it’s more important to explore, see how my system responds, go with what seems to work the best and keep exploring since that may and will change with situations and over time.

I can add a few things: If I don’t drink enough water, my system feels contracted and can get grumpy. I usually eat low on the food chain since that feels better in my body. (Even as a child, I generally didn’t like meat very much.) I mix up and vary the herbal teas I drink so it’s not the same all the time. When it comes to food, I don’t eat more than I need and try to leave 1/4 to 1/3 space in my stomach. Although all of this is how it generally looks, I also don’t follow any fixed rules. I follow what my body seems to need in the moment and what makes sense in the situation. Sometimes, it’s also good to go against the common pattern.

Image by me and Midjourney. I like those teacups even if they are not the types I usually use!

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René Magritte: People who look for symbolic meanings fail to grasp the inherent poetry and mystery of the image

People who look for symbolic meanings fail to grasp the inherent poetry and mystery of the image. No doubt they sense this mystery, but they wish to get rid of it. They are afraid. By asking what does this mean?’ they express a wish that everything be understandable. But if one does not reject the mystery, one has quite a different response. One asks other things.

– René Magritte

That’s how it is in life as well. A part of us wishes to eliminate mystery by telling ourselves we understand, we know what’s going on.

Why? Likely in the hope of finding safety. We think telling ourselves we understand makes us safe.

If we don’t reject mystery, we have a different response. We ask other things.

We know we don’t know. We cannot fully know. We live in and as mystery.

We can still use stories. We can still understand in a conventional sense. We may even be an “expert” on something in a conventional sense. And yet, we don’t know any of it for certain. We know the limits of stories. We rest in and as mystery.

This is not just about our conscious view. Many parts of us hold stories as true even if we consciously tell ourselves we don’t. That’s where inquiry comes in. It can help us identify and examine these stories parts of us still hold as true.

Image created by me and Midjourney

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The beauty and madness of civilization: Thoughts as tools vs thoughts as truth

This civilization is immensely beautiful and immensely mad, like many civilizations I imagine.

It’s beautiful because we make use of thoughts to imagine and create things.

It’s mad because we hold thoughts as true.

BEAUTY FROM IMAGINING AND CREATING

Every piece of our civilization was once imagined by someone, and others then reimagined it a little differently.

It has created the immense beauty we see in art, music, dance, technology, science, and much more.

Thoughts – in the form of mental images and words – made it all possible.

MADNESS FROM HOLDING THOUGHTS AS TRUE

This civilization is also immensely mad. It has fueled immense suffering through ideas of power-over, separation, different worth based on changing characteristics, privilege, racism, sexism, anthropocentrism, a remote sky god, nature as infinite, nature as here for us, I am right and you are wrong, you are not quite human, I am unlovable, and so on. Worse than that, it’s ecocidal and suicidal. It has an economics that operates on the idea of nature as infinite, which has led to global ecological overshoot. Ecocide means suicide, so it’s also inherently suicidal.

Thoughts created all this too. Thoughts held as true instead of as questions.

THE NATURE OF THOUGHTS

We are a young species and a young civilization.

We make use of thoughts, we believe thoughts, and we rarely examine thoughts or our relationship with thoughts or find their nature. We rarely consistently make conscious and wise use of thoughts.

Collectively, we have yet to learn to wisely and consciously make use of thoughts as the tool it is.

What’s the nature of thoughts?

They are imaginations. They are different in nature and content from what they point to. They cannot hold any full, final, or absolute truth. That’s not their nature or purpose. They are questions about the world. They are here to help us orient and function in the world. That’s it.

A DIFFERENT CIVILIZATION

I imagine a different civilization, one that has a more mature relationship with thought.

Here, children learn to relate more consciously with thought.

They learn to choose as guide thoughts supported by good data and avoid logical fallacies. They learn to find practically useful and grounded thoughts as guides.

They learn to identify the thoughts they operate on. They learn to examine and question them.

They learn to find what’s more true for them, which is that thoughts – even the ones that may seem the most true – are questions about the world. They are practical tools only.

The world is always more than and different from any thought about it.

They learn to hold thoughts lightly. They learn to use thoughts as tools to orient and navigate, and recognize their limits.

They learn to live in and as a deeper mystery.

Will this prevent the inherent problems of civilization? Not likely, but it will make life easier for many individuals, and it may make it easier for us collectively to identify essential problems and make changes.

THE BIGGER PICTURE

All this is literally stardust reorganizing itself.

It’s the universe locally forming itself into all of it – consciousness, us, feelings, thoughts, experiences, civilization, art, technology, suffering, inequality, wars, and so on.

There is an immense beauty in that too.

There is an immense beauty in the messy complexity and awesomeness of it all.

NOTE

There is another way we can see the madness of our civilization, and that it comes from thoughts. Our civilization likes abstractions. It likes things to be easily understood intellectually, and abstractions is a good way to do that. The only problem is, life is not like that.

This is reflected in how we treat nature. Here in Norway, people want manicured and sterile gardens. They remove trees, bushes, and previously wild areas of the garden, and replace it with a sterile lawn with a few exotic ornamental plants. This provides a habitat for almost no animal, bird, or insect. We grow food through monoculture. All of this is easy for our thoughts. It gives the illusion of control.

In contrast, nature is wildly diverse, that diversity provides a rich habitat for a range of beings, and it also balances the ecosystem. For instance, it prevents any one species – insect, plant, animal – from multiplying so much that it’s detrimental to the ecosystem. It’s far more life-supporting and wise than a monoculture.

The image is created by me and Midjourney

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Paul Bowles: Because we don’t know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens only a certain number of times

Because we don’t know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens only a certain number of times, and a very small number really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, an afternoon that is so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four, five times more, perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps 20. And yet it all seems limitless.

– Paul Bowles, The Sheltering Sky

In a conventional sense, everything in our life will happen only a certain number of times, and the number is often very small.

In a more real sense, what’s here is even more precious. What’s here now is the only that’s here, it’s all that is for us. Anything else exists as a thought, a dream, an image of the past or future.

Language, woke, pandemics & ecology: Snapshots vs the long view

Even if our culture often invites a snapshot view of things, a longer view can be far more informative.

LANGUAGE AND THE LONG VIEW

I remember my uncle would complain about changes to the language at family dinners.

Even as a teenager, it didn’t make sense to me. Language changes. It changes with each generation, and even decade by decade and year by year.

He has a snapshot view of language based on what he learned and was used to when he grew up. The generations that came before him would see his language as different and perhaps judge it as bad and wrong. And the generations after him will likely view his language as old-fashioned. That’s just how it is.

Our language today is the product of a language that has changed for not only centuries and millennia but over hundreds of thousands of years. I imagine even the ones who first used what we would think of as language were judged by the older generations. Why do they use these weird cryptic sounds instead of grunts and body language?

So when my uncle judged the language of young people today, and incremental changes to sounds and grammar, what would he use as a standard? What was, in his view, the correct language? Was it the one he grew up with, just because he happened to grow up with it? Does the world revolve around him and his generation? Or was it ten generations ago? A hundred? Did he want to return to a time before verbal language, when we used body language and other kinds of sounds?

For me, a long view makes more sense. It helps me be a little more informed, see things in perspective, and realize that language is supposed to change. People younger than me use a different language than me. Some would even pronounce my last name differently from how I do it. And that’s OK. It’s more than OK. That’s the nature of language. That’s how we have the language we have today. That’s how we have language in the first place.

WOKE AND THE LONG VIEW

I love woke. Why?

Because the intention behind woke – the wish for kindness and inclusivity – is remarkable in a historical context.

Many if not most cultures have not been that inclusive. Often, certain people are excluded or oppressed for things they cannot change: their ethnicity, color of skin, sexual orientation, caste or socioeconomic status, and so on. Woke seeks inclusivity and that’s remarkable and something to be applauded.

Of course, woke can take somewhat immature forms. That’s the same with everything and it doesn’t disqualify it as something remarkable and something to applaud and support.

So why do I love woke?

It’s not because of the more immature expressions of woke. I am happy to speak up against those and encourage more balanced approaches.

It’s because I take a long view. I know how unusual and remarkable woke is. Strong forces want to suppress it, now and historically. Many with privilege, including white privilege, feel threatened by such inclusivity.

It’s because I know that inclusivity helps all of us. It creates a more vibrant society and culture. It allows me to be more who I am, since I too am outside the norm in different ways. (As we all are.) It helps me be more myself and embrace more of myself.

Also, it’s because I know that the anti-woke attitudes and orientation originate on the far right, even if it’s sometimes adopted – somewhat naively and misguidedly in my view – by some of the left. Why do some on the left adopt those views? Is it because they don’t have a long perspective?

PANDEMICS AND THE LONG VIEW

When the pandemic happened, I was not surprised. I knew that another pandemic was due any time since they tend to come about once a century. (That may change now with continued human incursion into previously mostly intact ecosystems and changing climate. The first brings more human exposure to diseases previously limited to other species. A warming climate spreads previously tropical diseases to new areas.)

I was also not surprised by the pandemic measures implemented by governments around the world. Since I am familiar with epidemiology, I know what’s considered best practices in a pandemic: quarantine, limiting contact and exposure, vaccines, and so on. These are measures that have been shown to work historically. (Some went a little too far, like the Chinese government, and some didn’t do quite enough, like Trump and Bolsonaro.)

I was not surprised by the backlash to these from some. There will always be a backlash when the government implements restrictions, even if these are temporary and based on epidemiology. There are innumerable restrictions in our society that most people accept. (Laws against theft, killing, driving too fast, and so on.) Why do we accept these restrictions? Because most of them make sense and help society function better. When some reacted to the pandemic restrictions, I suspect it was largely because the restrictions were new. Many also seemed unfamiliar with epidemiology and common and effective responses to pandemics. They didn’t have the long view.

I was not surprised by the conspiracy theories that flourished in some subcultures. History shows that conspiracy theories flourish during any pandemic in just about any time and culture. That’s how people work. I assume it’s a way to deal with fear. Through conspiracy theories, some feel they have some kind of control, if only imaginary. (In reality, conspiracy theories distract from far more serious and urgent big-picture issues that we all know are happening, including global ecological overshoot.)

When it comes to vaccines, I also take a big picture and long view. We know from history and epidemiology that vaccines have had a huge and beneficial impact on our collective health in general. We also know that at an individual level, they occasionally lead to serious health problems and even death. That’s the case with all modern pharmaceutical medications. In rare cases, some individuals experience a strong reaction to a certain vaccine or medication. That’s to be expected and it’s widely known. That’s why I support vaccines in general, and why I am very selective in which ones I personally take and (often) don’t take. (Some anti-vaxxers seem to think – or pretend? – that this information is somehow hidden or not included in the equation when health authorities decide to approve or recommend certain vaccines or medications.)

ECOLOGY AND THE LONG VIEW

With nature, we also often operate on snapshots. This is called the shifting baseline syndrome.

We grow up with our ecosystem looking and functioning a certain way, and that becomes the baseline for us. We may not be aware of how much this ecosystem has changed due to human impact, and how far it is from a state not impacted by human activity.

For instance, as a kid I loved being in the forest near our house. To me, it was nature, it was wild. Later, I realized that it’s cut down regularly and the trees are replanted. That’s why the trees are all the same size. That’s why there is not more diversity and life there. This forest, like most forests in the world today, is very different from a more untouched old-growth forest. It’s close to a monoculture.

I remember the garden from childhood full of insects of all types. Badgers and hedgehogs. Swallows and many types of birds. Today, it’s very different. They’re is almost no life here. I imagine many young people don’t realize the change that happened over two or three decades. They see the absence of life as normal.

This is why it’s important to learn about how nature has changed over time, where we are, and in other places. Visualizing how it used to be and comparing it to how it is now can be a shock, and it’s a useful shock. It can encourage us to support or work on regeneration and rewilding, which benefits not only the wider ecosystem but also humanity and ourselves as individuals.

I make a practice out of imagining how nature used to be where I am (approximately), and also visualizing how it can be with some efforts into regeneration and rewilding. I do this in nature and rural areas, and also in towns and cities.

BENEFITS OF THE LONG VIEW

In all of these cases and many more, the long view helps me find a more sober, informed, and kind view.

In addition to the examples above, there is one that’s even closer to home. When I look at my own behavior, trauma, and so on, it helps to see it in terms of culture and evolution.

My trauma is not (just) mine. It comes from my parents. Much of it has likely been passed on through generations, in variations of the same essence. It’s shared, not just in my family but likely among many in my culture. The essence of it is likely shared by many around the world.

When I look at behavior patterns I may not be completely happy about, for instance the tendency for comfort eating, that’s not just from culture and family. The stage was set by evolution. I am biologically predisposed to like fatty and sweet food. In an environment where that was scarce, the ones who craved it were a little more likely to survive and have surviving offspring.

“Read more” to see what ChatGPT has to say about some of these topics.

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Reflections on society, politics and nature – vol. 70

This is one in a series of posts with brief notes on society, politics, and nature. I sometimes include short personal notes as well. Click “read more” to see all the entries.

MOSKOW VS WASHINGTON DC, 1434

I saw this meme with an image of Moskow and Washington DC in the early 1400s. Moskow has churches and big buildings. Washington, D.C. has native American tents. There is no commentary, but I suspect the idea is to show that Russia had civilization back then and North America did not.

That’s misguided at so many levels.

NORTH AMERICA AND RUSSIA ARE BOTH EUROPEAN CIVILIZATIONS

The current North American civilization and Russia are both European civilizations.

What we see in North America today is not the civilization of the indigenous people. (Some of us wish it were.)

NATIVE AMERICAN CIVILIZATIONS

The image combination may suggest that the Native American civilization was somehow primitive or inferior to the Russian civilization at the time.

If so, that’s a questionable view.

The indigenous people in the Americas had their own civilizations.

Even from a conventional European view, many of these were sophisticated and advanced. For example, we can find democracy, equality between the genders, sustainable agriculture, sophisticated architecture, advanced languages and mathematics, large buildings and cities, and so on.

INDIGENOUS CULTURES CAN BE SEEN AS MORE ADVANCED

If we want to compare civilizations, the way we do it obviously depends on our own views and what we value. If we use the filter of traditional European values, then the European civilization will necessarily appear superior. But those are not the only valid and valuable views and values. Other values may be more essential and important, especially today.

European culture and civilization is, in many ways, unhealthy and damaging to nature and people. It sees humans as separate from the rest of nature. It has an idea of a remote sky-god. It sees nature as infinite and here for humans. It sees humans as superior to other beings. It values intellect over heart and the wisdom of the body. It’s traditionally racist and sexist. It has often been colonialist. It has an extractive mindset.

In contrast, many indigenous cultures see humans as part of the web of life. The divine is right here in and around us, which is more conducive to reverence for life. They often have a more ecological mindset and a more ecologically sustainable way of life.

The first is ecocidal and suicidal. The second is more life-centered.

Of course, is not always that simple. There is much value in European culture, and many indigenous cultures have views and habits that most of us wouldn’t like to be exposed to. But in general, European culture is profoundly misguided on some essential and basic things, and many indigenous cultures were and are not.

NOT MEANT TO BE SCRUTINIZED

I understand that these memes are not meant to be scrutinized like this. The people posting them do it for emotional reasons. In this case, the meme only works if you don’t think about it and follow racist logic.

Some pro-Russian propaganda can be surprisingly naive. Still, it’s sometimes adopted by some Western folks on the left.

Why? It’s likely because Putin and some Westerners on the left both like to criticise the US and Western Europe for their policies and how they sometimes treat the rest of the world. They use a “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” logic.

I am also no fan of much of what the US and Western Europe have done and are doing. That doesn’t mean I leave my brain at the door and adopt the views of Russian propaganda.

A MORE SANE VIEW

For me, there is a more grounded and sane approach.

European culture – whether it’s in the US or Russia or anywhere else – is profoundly misguided on several essentials. It has a power-over orientation, an extractive mindset, it sees nature as infinite and primarily existing for human use, the sacred is separate and “out there” somewhere, and so on. That’s found equally in the US and in Russia, and it’s ecocidal and ultimately suicidal.

Indigenous cultures often have views and orientations that are more sane and ecological. These are one piece of the puzzle in transforming into a more ecologically sustainable civilization.

That’s far more fundamental and essential than any US vs Russia debate. And if I wanted to go into that particular discussion, I would certainly not adopt a “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” orientation.

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Allan Lichtman vs polls: Indicators for US presidential elections

The media loves to try to predict who will be the next US president.

WHY NOT JUST WAIT AND SEE?

The main question is: Why? Why not just wait and see? The outcome will reveal itself when it’s time.

That would be a sane and sober approach, and it doesn’t fit the needs of most media.

Most media thrive on news and drama. That’s how they get readers and viewers. One way to generate news and drama is by trying to predict who the next president will be.

Many of us buy into it. If the media is focused on something, we do too. The media largely sets the topics for our public, and sometimes private, discourse.

GROUNDED IN SOCIAL & ECONOMIC FACTORS VS POLLS

So let’s look at indicators for who may get elected.

There are two main types of indicators: One is grounded in what’s happening in society and the world, and the other is polling. The first tends to be more stable over time. The second changes between pollsters and from week to week. The first may be more reliable, and the second needs a lot of analysis and interpretation to give useful results. (538 and Nate Silver were usually very good at it.1)

ALLAN LICTHMAN’S KEYS TO THE WHITE HOUSE

Among those in the first category, Allan Lichtman seems to have a pretty reliable system.

He is a historian who developed and tested his model – Keys to the White House – on historical data. The indicators are based on social and economic factors and events that influence or reflect who people actually vote for. He uses a mix of objective and somewhat subjective factors, which I think provides a good balance. Who people vote for is largely based on impressions, and subjective factors can catch some of that. How is the economy going? Who is the incumbent? How are the wars going? What was the tendency in the recent mid-term election? How charismatic is the candidate? And so on.

The model also has predictive value. Since he started applying it in the early 1980s, it’s been accurate2,3.

So why don’t the media go with his system? Why are they so focused on the always-changing polls?

The answer is likely the same: They need news and drama, and the polls provide that.

Allan Lichtman’s system may be more accurate, but it’s not news. It’s enough to interview him once or twice and that’s it. It’s not so good for the media, apart from spicing it up a little now and then.

WHAT DOES HIS SYSTEM SAY ABOUT THE 2024 ELECTION

His system shows that if the presidential election was today, Biden would likely win.

Between now and the election this fall, a lot has to go wrong for him to lose the election according to the Keys to the White House. What can go wrong includes wars abroad, the economy, and so on.

A WORD ABOUT PREDICTIONS IN GENERAL

These models are based on indicators and they just need to be largely accurate to be useful, and Lichtman’s system clearly is.

It’s natural to be focused on the current prediction and whether or not it turns out to be accurate. To me, the model itself is more interesting, along with how accurate it is over time and many instances.

WHAT THE INDICATORS SAY ABOUT SOCIETY & APPLYING THE SYSTEM TO OTHER SITUATIONS

I also find it interesting what Lichtman’s indicators say about society. It tells us something about what’s actually important to people, and how we arrive at collective decisions.

As far as I know, he hasn’t applied his system to other types of elections or other types or collective decision-making. I am also not aware of his system being adopted and applied to other countries. All of that would be very interesting and tell us more about how societies and collective decision-making work.

NOTES

(1) In 2016, Allan Lichtman predicted Trump as the winner based on his system. 538 and Nate Silver said there was a one-in-four chance Trump would win. (Whenever the polls looked the way they did, Trump would win one of four times.) I followed both before the election, which is why I wasn’t too surprised when Trump won. (I happened to be in Rockridge at the time, at the edge of Oakland, and heard the riots in the distance!)

(2) One exception was Al Gore, although the outcome of that election was ultimately decided by a court.

(3) The predictions may have been accurate not just because of his system. It may also be because of him and what he brings to it when he evaluates which direction each of the keys is going. Someone else would likely view the keys differently and their predictions would be different. That’s why I used his name in the title and not the name of his system.

Here are two recent interviews with Allan Lichtman from Times Radio: Biden can absolutely win the election | Biden to defeat Trump in election 2024

Image by me and Midjourney

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