I watched Matrix Reloaded today. The first movie intrigued me due to its clear parallels to Buddhism (waking up to the reality gives choice). The second one obviously needs to be finished by the third, although I do like its complexity, its lack of a clear resolution – just like life. Life is rarely black and white, resolutions are rarely complete. There is always more to work on. Life is dukha – something is always a little off. While Matrix I gave a glimpse of enlightenment, the second shows dukha.
I had a dream yesterday where one of my housemates, who I perceive as living a strongly intentional life, asked me about my intentions about an aspect of my life. I became uncomfortable, realizing that where I previously had strong intentions and awareness – it is now more in the background. The last several weeks weeks in particular has changed my focus from the big picture to the day-to-day, sometimes the hour-to-hour, details of my life. The big picture, and my intentions for my choices in that context, has been placed on the shelf. Now, in my first break in the architecure program I started in June, I have an opportunity to refresh my intentions.
Some of the online audio I currently listen to:
And what I read:
Google News – world news from a range of news sources (good opportunity to compare reporting)
The Guardian – British newspaper
BBC – World News
New York Times
NRK – Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation
Dagsavisen – Norwegian newspaper
BBC and NY Times both have a strong “modern” bias in the Cultural Creatives terminology: Belief in salvation through scientific progress, strongly supportive of neo-liberalism (and disparaging towards its critics) etc. BBC is sometimes surprisingly patronizing when reporting from former British colonies.
Some thoughts about our future:
1. Hope and Fear
Hope and fear reflect blind projections. We see in the future that which we are not fully aware of in ourselves – that which we are not fully familiar with or comfortable with. This takes our attention away from life manifesting right now – the only way it can manifest. Past and future do not exist apart from in our memory or ideas. There is only a continuously changing present.
Scenarios are nevertheless useful. They help us think about our choices right now, and what they may lead to further into the future. Which scenarios are my current choices consistent with? Which futures may they contribute to?
3. Current Trends
There seems to be a few current trends that will impact our future more than other. Of course, this is in flux and there will be strong trends in the future that are beyond our current horizon.
In the larger picture, our current blindly dualistic perceptions is a strong factor. We split and fragment the world, and see the fragments more than we see the whole they are embedded in.
We perceive certain characteristics in ourselves (our group) and not in others, and other characteristics in others (other groups) and not in ourselves. Seeing desirable characteristics in ourselves and undesirable characteristics in others, lead to aversion and dehumanization. Seeing undesirable characteristics in ourselves and desirable characteristics in others, lead to blind attractions. (What is seen as desirable and undesirable is mostly dictated by our culture and subculture.) These blind attractions and aversions lead to the actions that typically follows these (as we are all too familiar with), and finally to collective and individual suffering. On the other hand, when we recognize in ourselves what we see in others, we open up for compassion, recognition of our common humanity, and to clearer and more free choices. Attractions and aversions are the guideposts for us to become aware of projections, and recognize in our inner world what we see in the outer world.
Similarly, we fragment our world in an ecological sense. We see ourselves and human culture as mostly separate from the Earth. We have created and support an economical and industrial system that is based on an idea of unlimited resources. A system that does not take into account our intimate connection with ecosystems and their limited capacity. We spend most of our time indoors, and do not recognize how vital a daily connection with ecosystems is for our well being and health. We make daily life choices, and do not fully realize how they create our common future. We have one set of ethics for how we behave towards one species (the golden rule), and another set of ethics for how we behave towards most or all other species (dominance).
The dualistic phase of human evolution is still strong, although there is more and more recognition of what lies beyond – a more transdual view. It is possible that the evolution of mind goes from unaware oneness (plants), via half awake duality (most animals), to a more fully awake transdual experience (expressed by prophets and saints of many traditions). If humanity as a whole will ever go beyond mostly blind duality is an open question.
Ecology is another strong factor, already mentioned above. Humanity has an ecological footprint larger than the Earth. (An ecological footprint is the area required of bioproductive land/sea to support our current lifestyle.) Living within our means is similar to living of the interests of an investment. This overshoot is similar to living off the principal – there is no obvious effect until we reach the bottom of the account. We know how to live within our means, while maintaining or possibly increasing our quality of life.
There are many reasons why we have not moved more strongly towards a more sustainable and rewarding way of organizing our lives. One of them is multinational corporations. These corporations, some with a cash flow larger than that of many countries, have one goal: maximizing profit for their shareholders. Everything else takes second place. These same corporations are in corporate conglomerates that include most of the mass media in the world, which means that the views of the corporations and the views of the media are mostly aligned. Stories and views that support the interests of corporations are likely to be promoted, and those conflicting with the interests of corporations sifted out. Corporations also control, or have a strong influence on, the political systems around the world. In the US, few politicians can hope to be elected, even on a local level, unless they are backed by corporations. Election to national office requires a politician to support policies that benefit corporations, and set aside policies that may hurt them. (It follows that the police and military are used to protect the interest of corporations.) This leads to a situation where multinational corporations, media and politicians share common interests and aligned views.
4. Possible Futures
It seems that the unraveling of ecosystems and dominance of corporations will continue for a while. It will lead to massive suffering around the world (natural disasters, famine, diseases, wars, mass migration) – even more than what we see today. It seems that it may lead to one of two different scenarios. One where our social system unravels with the ecological system (leading to a significantly reduced human population). Another that leads to an awakening and change of course. Maybe the most likely is an awakening that is just enough to help us keep going longer, but one that also will not respond fully to all of our challenges.
I have been listening to archived audio from NRK (Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation).
One of the statements that resonated with me was Anne-Cath. Vestly talking about one of her reasons for writing children’s books: Modelling interactions between adults and children that are primarily an interaction between human beings – where people do not fall into the predefined roles of “adult” and “child”.
It seems that this is good to keep in mind for all our human interactions. Do we interact as human beings – open for each other as we are – or do we fall into predefined roles?
After several years in Utah and Wisconsin, learning to live with long periods of warm temperatures (90-100 F, 30-40 C), I find it interesting to observe how Europeans are dealing with their current heat wave. For them, it is difficult to live with temperatures that people in other places around the world are used to and relatively comfortable with.
It is a reminder of how adaptable humans – and life – is.
We adapt biologically, mentally and with our behavior. In terms of heat, I noticed that during the summers in Utah where worked outside daily in temperatures up to 100F/40C, I adapted physiologically to the point where it seemed relatively comfortable. Being in a cooler space, especially air conditioned buildings, was very uncomfortable. This summer, I have spent much time in an air conditioned space (not my preference), and notice that I have not had an opportunity to adapt to even the low 90F (30-35C) temperatures we typically have here east of the Cascades.
There are also many behavioral tricks to deal with the heat: Getting up at or before sunrise and get most of the activities done by mid-day. Drink lots of water to prevent dehydration. Stay in the shade. Use a hat. Find a breezy spot or use a fan. Cool the house during the night by opening windows and doors, close everything during the day. Use external shading for windows. Build buildings that stay cool without air conditioning: external shade (deciduous trees, louvers), good insulation, designed for airflow (low – incoming cool air – and high – outgoing hot air – openings for cross ventilation), cooling towers, etc. Plant trees in the city to reduce the overall temperature (hard surfaces and lack of vegetation raises the temperature of cities 6-8F).
I had something very close to chronic fatigue syndrome for several years, and it finally cleared up after discovering NAET and going to a practitioner in Salt Lake City for some months. In addition to diet (I had strong food intolerances, and still have traces), I noticed that my mental state has a significant impact on how fatigued or energetic I feel. It seems that choices seems to be at the core – my relationship to the choices I make.
If I pretend that I do not have, and do not make, choices, but still act as if I made the choice (which I obviously did), then I tend to experience fatigue. If I recognize the choices I make, and take full responsibility for them, I feel lighter and more energetic. To me, it seems that the difference is dramatic. One is a victim mode, the other is taking charge and seeing this aspect of our life more clearly. When I realize that I always make choices, I am able to make more conscious choices. When I realize that I do something because I want to do it (aware of which needs it meet), resistance drops away. It also seems to be an effective way of letting go of habitual patterns.
This is a useful technique for bringing awareness into our choices:
(a) Make a list of our ten least favorite activities (pay taxes, work, etc).
(b) Write down our habitual statement we make about them (“I have to … because…”).
(c) Turn each around to a choice statement (“I choose to … because”).
This exercise, if done sincerely, can have several consequences:
(i) We drop a certain action, because we realize we do not have to do it, and it does not meet our needs.
(ii) We change our attitude about the action by realizing why we do it and what needs of ours it meets (we drop our complaining or victim attitude).
(iii) We change the behavior to better meet our needs.
Not only is life stranger than fiction – it is more complex, grounded and often far more fascinating.
Two of my current media favorites are Found Magazine and This American Life). Found Magazine publishes found fragments from people’s lives – notes, photos – including the card above. This American Life uses brief radio documentaries – often with a similar “found” character.
I find these glimpses into people’s lives facinating. They gives us a sense of our common and shared humanity.
Sound was an issue at our house meeting (Walnut Street Co-op) last night. Some folks want music into common spaces in the house. I prefer not. I realize that it has many reasons:
(a) I enjoy music too much. It means too much for me to be random background sound.
(b) We have such dramatically varied music taste. While I enjoy exploring new music, I prefer smaller doses.
(c) I have an aversion to the dullness, lack of inventiveness, and lack of organic sense of sound in most popular music. The worst for me is constant and unchanging drum rhythms. They seem dead and devoid of an organic sense of music and sound. It lacks aliveness and spontaneity.
(d) I enjoy silence tremendously. There is so much in silence – all the small sounds created by life. It gives space for experience and intimacy with oneself and the situation. Constant music dulls my experience of the world.
Here are several log entries that got lost when I moved from one to several separate logs:
Mon Dec 09, 11:47:26 AM
Happiness & Choice
Happiness is a choice. Simple, but not easy…
Happiness comes from within, independent of external situations. It is chosen, or not. Of course, realizing it to the point where there is a real choice, takes skills and practice.
We are thoroughly trained, especially in our western culture, to experience our happiness as completely dependent on external situations. External situations “create” responses and feelings in us, just like a mathematical formula (2+2=4). Of course, this is not true, but it takes insight, practice and patience to turn this around.
Choosing happiness, independent on circumstances, can be learned, and the tools are there. I have found the most effective ones in the Tibetan mind-training (lo jong) teachings. (Lama Zopa’s “Transforming Suffering Into Happiness” is an excellent beginning).
Sun Dec 08, 07:35:25 PM
Dreams of Impermanence
I did a solo retreat this weekend, and had the following dream on the last day:
An experienced diver lead me through a series of underground caverns. They were filled with ice cold water and I wore a dry suit as protection. The opening to the first cavern was a small hole in the ground, and I experienced a surprising amount of apprehension before entering.
The cavern was dark and cold. We dove down, and the floor was lit up by our headlamps. I noticed that the rock looked volcanic and ancient.
The entrance to the second cavern was small, as the first one. The surface was some feet below, and we had to drop down. Diving down, we saw shapes in the rock resembling a petrified city. We saw people in cars, light rail, streets, buildings. It reminded me of cities I have lived in.
The entrance to the third cavern was small, and with a drop to the surface. There, on the floor of the cavern, we saw fossilized imprints of the Earth and many similar planets which had harbored life.
In the fourth cavern, we saw the imprints of a multitude of Universes.
Throughout, there was a strong sense of impermanence: Human civilization, planets and Universes exists only temporarily. Then, there will be no trace of them.
At the last opening, we left the series of caverns and entered a sunlit natural landscape full of life. My guide was exhilarated and joyful.
I was left with a strong sense of the impermanence of everything. Of the importance of making the most out of what we experience at the moment, and the pointlessness of seeking fame and wealth, as there will be no trace left. Most of all, I was left with a sense of urgency in engaging fully in my spiritual practice.
Thu Dec 05, 12:38:21 PM
I had food poisoning over the weekend (from a gift of smoked salmon).
It was an excellent lesson in just being with what is occuring. With no separation, without adding anything. Letting any thoughts (of self-pity, past, future, cause) pass. Holding on to them only added suffering to discomfort.
Extreme situations are often our best teachers, magnifying the patterns of our mind and their effects.
Fri Nov 29, 09:57:05 AM
I have practiced visualizations regularly for about a year now. I was initially skeptical, but have found it a valuable practice, and sometimes remarkably effective. It seems to work in setting a clear direction and purpose, which in turn gives guidelines for choices and actions.
I tend to visualize what I would like in my life, in long and short term.
For health, I visualize general good health, and the healing of specific ailments (e.g. scoliosis, food allergies). For my scoliosis, I visualize a smooth and supple spine, and it has encouraged me to seek out practices and therapies that may bring that about, such as yoga and therapeutic massage. The scoliosis has improved markedly over the months I have engaged in visualization. For my food allergies, it has helped me choose food that is good for me and does not give me reactions.
For relationships, I visualize clear communication, a good connection, and smooth cooperation. I use it with people I interact with regularly, as well as before meetings and other situations where I will interact with new people.
For work, I use it for ease, effectiveness, and efficiency. It has even proved valuable for nitty-gritty tasks such as computer programming. If I get stuck, I go for a walk, clear my mind, and visualize finding the solution with ease. It sometimes works!
In my dream, a drug addict came into our house on my invitation. I noticed he seemed very weak. It turned out that he took something and later sold it. I was ambivalent as I wanted to help (although was not clear/firm in my resolve) and also did not want to encourage him expressing/meeting his needs in a concealed way. He came into the house a second time, I pinned him down under a boxlike piece of furniture, and called for assistance. After a short time, I saw blood coming out. I assumed he had committed suicide.
Taking the dream literally, it seems to connect with this issue: How do I use my privileged situation? How does it benefit others? I want to ask more consistently: “How am I in a privileged situation right now, in terms of knowledge/information, experience, resources?” “How can I use it in a way that benefits life?” This also has to do with letting go of false pride and humility, seeing our gifts for what they are, and how they can be used to benefit life.
How we relate to the world is reflected in how we relate to the outer world (people, ecosystems) and our inner world (thoughts, emotions, characteristics). How I relate to people in my life, to the Earth community, and to figures in my dreams, reflect how I relate to similar parts of myself. Less literally, the dream may have to do with how I relate to the weaker parts of myself. I exerience sympathy towards them but do not clearly choose to (a) accept them fully as they are, or (b) assist them in becoming healthier and stronger.
Maybe most of all, the dream reminds me about choices. I always make choices, and by bringing my choices more into awareness, I can make choices more aligned with my values, and take more full responsibility for my choices (less complaining).
Here is one way of bringing choices into awareness: (i) Look at what I do and how I talk to myself about it (“I pay taxes because the government says I have to”). (ii) Rephrase it into a choice and real reason (“I choose to pay taxes because I want to support society, and do not want to go to jail.”). (iii) Change action or our attitude towards the action (“I choose to not pay taxes because they are not used in a life serving way, and I take full responsibility for the consequences”, or “I am OK with paying taxes because they serve society and I do not put myself in risk at going to jail.”)
I have long known that only a daily spiritual practice (both on and off the cushion) gives me a sense of deep meaning in my life. To have all the outer signs of success – a happy relationship, good education, rewarding work, house etc. – are all good, but not quite sufficient. My stays at Kanzeon Zen Center, and now most recently Zen River in The Netherlands, confirms that realization.
I attended a concert of Turkish music at Fools’ Paradise with Mahmut Genceli tonight. The music was beautiful, touching and varied. It also brought up something that has been in my mind for quite a while as it points to a gap between my views and actions.
I asked him if he had a CD with his music, upon which he reminded me that canned music is similar to canned food, or photography. It is all dead representations of what was an alive moment. An attempt to hold onto something that is no longer. A symptom of a culture of alienation, where we value the canned representations of interactions among people, and often do not engage in those interactions ourselves.
As he said, “the map is not the terrain”.
Books I have read recently:
Ecoregion-Based Design for Sustainability – Robert Bailey
Ecoregions: The ecosystem geography of the oceans and continents – Robert Bailey
Self-Made Tapestry: Pattern formation in nature – Philip Ball
Patterns in Nature – Peter Stevens
Gaia: The practice of planetary medicine – James Lovelock
A Whack on the Side of the Head – Roger von Oech
A Kick in the Seats of your Pants – Roger von Oech
Rebel Code: Linux and the Open Source revolution – Glyn Moody
Embracing Your Inner Critic: Turning self-criticism into a creative asset – Hal & Sidra Stone (Voice Dialogue)
The Tao of Democracy – Tom Atlee
Nonviolent Communication: A language of compassion – Marshal Rosenberg
I attended the first day of the HOPES Ecological Design Conference at UO, and it renewed my exitement about ecological design and the wider culture change. At the dinner, I shared table with Stuart Cowan, Toby Hemenway, Jair, and at the end Mark Lakeman of City Repair.
These are all amazing people who’s work is profoundly inspiring and exiting to me. They are among those who see and are manifesting the initial phases of a deep cultural shift that integrates ecological sustainability, social equity, a consistent partnership approach (no enemies), arts, open source ethics (freely sharing information), and fun!
While in Madison last week, I had a dream where I died. Life and sensory experiences faded out, and there was nothing there. It was quite comforting, in an odd way. Of course, what will actually happen belongs to the (my) future.
Update, April 13. Dream: A Chinese astrologer said I would die in the next few days. I am processing my own death these days (with Bruce, Iraq and more). And I may also be in for a change.
One of my dear friends from Kanzeon Zen Center, Bruce Waldrop, died this week. We both came to Kanzeon about the same time, and he was a senior monk as of last year. Spending time with him was one of the things I looked forward to the most when I visited Kanzeon.
I will miss his friendship, humour, our walks and conversations, his daily yoga classes, vulnerability, deep commitment to a spiritual life, occasional acerbic comments, and most of all his deep humanity… He did everything fully – including exploring any aspect of the human and spiritual life.
Roshi and Sensei would often mention that we should not take our time at the zen center for granted, nor having access to a good teacher. It is so easy to forget the preciousness of what we have (good friends, health, a spiritual teacher and community), and so important to make the most out of it when it is there. To appreciate our lives.
Processes unfold more freely when there is active and deep listening – to oneself, others, nature. And listening is about letting go – of ideas, thoughts and insights coming up. Which in turn require trust. Trust that it is OK to let go. That it will come back if need be, and that it is OK if it does not.
I am finding myself appreciating and seeking unexpected resolutions more, rather than the fixed and expected, and I am exploring processes that can lead to those unexpected resolutions.
These approaches have several factors in common: They embody a realization that processes can be supported in certain ways to allow surprising and life-enhancing solutions to emerge. They are ways of working with situations, allowing them to unfold, rather than working against them. They allow for a dance between the ordered (ground rules) and the unexpected (resolutions).
The approaches I am currently actively exploring are Compassionate Communication, Citizen Dialogue, and Permaculture. In the past, I have actively been involved in Process Work, and intent to deepen my involvement with that approach.
This has been a day of unsticking.
I committed early on in my life to not become stuck: To recognize the signals of when I may be stuck (when I automatically reject something that may be a good idea), and to learn how to unstick myself.
I am still too young to have encountered my stuckness in very obvious ways (to me!), but the Universe is now offering me many new opportunities to unstick – all challenging and also attractive.
I am beginning a class in dynamic systems theories from ProtoTista, and may get involved in other ways too. I have explored systems theories and their implications since my teens, but this opens up the possibility of deepening my involvement in how to apply the lessons from systems theories in my life and work. It also opens up for the possibility of helping create multimedia to convey the lessons from these fields.
Earlier today, I had a conversation about new ways of looking at social/cultural change and information, taking my own ideas quite a bit further. I am committed to exploring it further, including the use of Open Source tools in social/cultural change, and how the Open Source view can inform social organization.
This evening, I had dinner with the folks at Walnut Street Co-op today, including Tom and Adin from the Co-Intelligence Institute. This was followed by a meeting with local faciliators. I will help organize one or more citizen’s councils/jurys with the two groups.
I may also do a dynamic facilitation training in March.
Tomorrow night is my first evening in a course in compassionate communication, another area I have explored on my own up until now.
All this is aligned with my deeper worldview and interests, but also takes me into partly uncharted territory.
I have found that my life takes on wholly new characteristics each time I move. In Norway it was art and spirituality. In Utah psychology, Zen practice and living in an intentional community. In Madison sustainability and grassroots organizing. In Eugene, it is still working itself out. For now, it is a combination of collaborative approaches to culture change, with aspects from group deliberation facilitation, communication techniques, ecological design, permaculture, complexity theories, spiritual practice, and more.
In any case, the new situation helps me unstick and flow…
Our lives are abundant with distractions. Food, news, movies, books, gossip. All this takes our attention away from our own lives. From how we really live our lives, how we spend our time, and how meaningful our choices are. I notice this especially strongly when I go away for a retreat – without many opportunities for distractions. It is only me, my life, and my choices. It is very simple. But not always easy.
Living at Kanzeon Zen Center in Salt Lake City also gave me the same focus on my life. Engaging in sitting meditation for a few hours each day gave me no option but to face my life as it is. And make choices out of more awareness.
In my mid-teens, I had a recurrent strong dream that still is vivid to me. I saw myself somewhere between one and two decades into the future, living in a particular region of North-America, in an ecologically and spiritually oriented community. The dream had a numinous quality – related to the community.
The dream was very strong, and I still have flashbacks – small events that brings back the particular numinous quality from the dream. I had a clear visual impression of which area it was from, and an atlas confirmed that it was in the Pacific Northwest of the US.
At the time, I had no intention of ever visiting or moving to North-America. I did, and still do, have an unfavorable impression of the US culture and politics. Yet, circumstances and coincidences brought me here some years back to study psychology, and I am still here. Last summer, I moved to the Pacific Northwest. My impression of US culture and politics is unchanged, although I experience a strong connection to the land – especially in the West – and have found many good people and friends here.
The dream? For me, the dream is a sign of what I should look for to be fulfilled. I have explored the various elements at different phases of my life since then. Art and spirituality in Oslo. Living in a spiritual community in Salt Lake City. Sustainability and community in Madison, Wisconsin.
It seems that I am about ready to find a more integral approach.
I have scoliosis. It has never caused discomfort but may in the future, so I have over the last year or so visualized my spine smoothing out.
Last night, Jen used a massage tool to work the ligaments between the spinous processes. I went into a fully lucid altered state, which occasionally happens during massage when we tap into something that has to do with more than muscles and ligaments. I had a very clear image of Native Americans, and the word “culture” came up strongly. As she worked up along the spine, and to an area higher than the scoliosis, the images went away. She touched the scoliosis area again a few times later, and the images immediately came back. It clearly happened outside of my conscious initiation. My sense is that there is an emotional component to my scoliosis, and it seems to go far back in my life. It may have to do with personally experiencing a culture clash similar to that between Europeans and Native Americans.
It may seem woo woo, but if it has to do with my health, I take it seriously. I sometimes use active imagination to explore my night dreams, and may use it on the images that came up last night.