Creating a bridge between our global challenges and how our body-mind works

Why do we seem unable to make the changes needed to deal with our ecological crisis? Why do we seem unable to profoundly transform our economy and other systems to take ecological realities into account?

I suspect it may be because of evolution1.

We didn’t evolve to take global issues seriously, and we didn’t evolve to think on the scale of centuries and millennia.

We evolved to take care of what’s immediate, tangible, and right in front of us.

That has served us well for millions of years.

And in our global crisis, created by a civilization that is out of alignment with reality, it does not serve us well. It may be what dooms us.

It’s important to correctly diagnose the cause of our ecological crisis and also the cause of our inability to make the necessary changes.

The cause of the problem is our general worldview (of separation) and our systems that assume nature is infinite.

If the cause of our inability is evolution, and we realize that, we may be able to make use of it.

We may be able to set things in place that help us make changes despite our evolutionary handicap. It’s a matter of making our crisis immediate, personal, and urgent. It already is, but many don’t experience it viscerally. How can we help more people get it viscerally?2

Evolution made us perfectly adapted to our way of life up until the modern age, and we are less equipped to deal with our modern life and our current ecocidal civilization. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, but it does mean we need to create a bridge between the global scale of our challenges and the way our bodymind works.

(1) Just like many misdiagnose the cause of the crisis, many misdiagnose our inability to effectively deal with it. Some think the crisis is created by greed, corporations, governments, and so on, while it in reality is created by systems that don’t take ecological realities into account. These systems were put in place at a time when we could afford to assume that nature is infinite, and now – with far more people and more powerful technology – those systems are ecocidal and suicidal. Some think the reasons we are unable to make the necessary changes are the same: greed, corporations, capitalism, and so on. In reality, the reason may be far more innocent and fundamental. It may be evolution.

(2) Of course, sooner or later – and I suspect sooner rather than later, it will be immediate, personal, and urgent for most of us. By then, we are far into the crisis and it will be more difficult to turn around.

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Patterns in misophonia & sound sensitivity: humans vs nature

Since I was little, I have had misophonia and sensitivity to sounds. The misophonia is mostly triggered by chewing and paper and plastic rustling, and the sound sensitivity mostly to loud sounds and noise.

GENERAL PATTERNS

I have noticed some general patterns.

My system is more sensitive when I am exhausted or stressed, and it’s much easier if I am rested and relaxed.

The misophonia and sound sensitivity is triggered more easily when the sound is ongoing. The reaction builds up over time.

And I get more stressed if I think I am unable to do something about it. If I cannot do anything about the source, if I don’t have anything to put in my ears (often tight earbuds with music), or if I cannot remove myself from the sound. (That’s why traveling with others in a car, bus, train, or plane can be stressful for me.)

If I am more resourced, the sound doesn’t last too long, and I can do something about it, it’s much easier to deal with.

THE SOURCE OF THE SOUND

And there is also a difference depending on the source of the sound.

If the source of the sound (for instance, chewing sound) is a non-human being or a baby, it’s usually completely fine with me. I may notice a small reaction far in the background, but it’s OK.

If the source is a human that’s not a baby, that’s when the misophonia is triggered.

And it’s the same with noise sensitivity. If the source is humans, it can feel overwhelming. If the source is nature, it’s typically fine.

For instance, I am currently in the countryside in the Andes mountains (El Caucho outside of Barichara). Yesterday, there was construction noise nearby which I noticed bothered me. This morning, a neighbor had the radio on loud, which bothered me. (Especially since it’s Sunday at 5:30 am), while the guacharacas loudly crowing much earlier didn’t bother me at all.

WHAT THIS SUGGESTS

This suggests that my reaction is mediated by my mental field.

If the source is “innocent” as my mind sees it, there is less reaction.

And if I have stressful thoughts about the source, the reaction is stronger. Some of the thoughts I have identified and explored are “they should know better”, “the sound is aggressive” and “this is a symptom of our destructive civilization” (loud machines, chain saws, leaf blowers), “he is inconsiderate”, and so on.

WHAT I CAN DO ABOUT IT

These patterns give me several cues for what I can do about it.

I can continue to support my system to rest and build up energy. (I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome so this is important for me in general.) I can make sure to get good sleep. Eat well. Rest before, during, and after any activity, and extra. Take my vitamins and herbs. (Vitamin D, Siberian Ginseng, and Echinacea seem especially helpful.) Receive energization with Vortex Healing. (Amazingly helpful.)

I can continue to find ways to manage the situation when it happens. I have earbuds with me. For longer travels, I bring noise-canceling earphones. If I am about to travel with people in a car, let them know in advance. If I am in a public space and people close to me are loud, I go somewhere else. And so on.

I have found it helpful to ask myself some questions. Is this too the voice of the divine? (I notice it directly so it’s not a “trick” and I’ll still do the other things.) How I would respond if the source was a baby or non-human being? Are not humans and human civilization also nature?

I can also explore mental representations triggered by these sounds, what they mean to me (underlying assumptions, associations), how I relate to them, and what’s more true for me. I have already done this with The Work of Byron Katie and the Kiloby Inuiries, and it has helped a lot, and there is more to discover.

WHAT’S THE CAUSE?

What’s the cause of misophonia and sound sensitivity?

I am not sure. It’s likely a combination of several things:

My stressful thoughts about the sounds and what they mean.

How resourced my system is.

We evolved in a generally much more quiet environment than many of us live in today, and this likely puts a lot of stress on our system. It’s not surprising if some of us are extra sensitive to sounds and noise.

And it doesn’t matter so much. I have some ways to work with it anyway.

Image by me and Midjourney. And, no, I won’t keep going on with black-and-white woodcuts forever! It’s just what I am drawn to right now.

How we relate to other species

A neighbor cat comes to stay with me most of the day and evening, although I don’t give him food and he has to go home to his family at night.

His family is home most of the time, so he is not here because they are gone. I suspect he comes because I give him attention, because I may be a novelty, and perhaps most of all because I treat him as an equal.

SEEING HIM AS EQUAL

I see him as consciousness, just like me, that just happens to operate through a slightly different body.

This consciousness here operates through this body, which happens to be human. And that consciousness there operates through that body, which happens to be a cat.

In the realm of stories, it’s similar. We are both expressions of life, existence, and the universe.

He is the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe, just like I am. He is the universe taking the form of a cat. I am the universe taking the form of a human.

And in terms of evolution, we are closely related. What we have in common is infinitely more than the little that differentiates us.

In all the ways that matter, we are equal. We are the same.

HOST, STEWARD, FRIEND

Just like I would with any visitor, I try to be a good host for him. I give him water. I let him out when he wants to go out if the door is closed.

Just like I would with a child, I try to be a good steward of him while he is here. I rescued him when he fell down into the basement. (He fell into a ventilation shaft while exploring, and landed on a cardboard box and was unharmed.) I make sure he goes home at night to spend the night with his family.

And just like I would with a friend, I am attentive to his needs, wants, and moods. I try to be a good friend to him.

SEEING CATS AS CATS OR SOMETHING MORE FUNDAMENTAL

Many treat cats as… cats. They see them as mainly different from us, and they adopt a lot of the cultural baggage of how we in the West treat non-human species. Cats are generally OK with it, but it does create a sense of division. Humans see themselves as divided from cats, and cats sense and adapt to and respond to that.

I and others treat them as equals. We are all living beings. We are all fundamentally consciousness to ourselves. We are the universe taking these local and temporary forms. And cats respond to that as well. They seem to enjoy it. Just like us, they enjoy being related to as equals.

That may be one reason why cats seem to want to spend time with me. (And why I have a history of “stealing” cats in that way, which people tend to not like.)

BEYOND NEIGHBORS VISITING

This, of course, goes far beyond non-human neighbors visiting.

This has to do with how we relate to all of life – ecosystems, this living planet, and future generations.

Since I live in our current system, my life inevitably is mostly destructive to life. That’s how it is for just about all of us. For instance, I fly in commercial airplanes, and that contributes enormously to my ecological footprint.

I also try to help shift us all – and the system we have created for ourselves – in a more life-centered direction. I worked with sustainability for many years. (I was the coordinator of a local organization that helped individuals and groups make shifts in a more sustainable direction.) I have volunteered a lot. I write some about it here. I vote for the Green Party. I am creating a nature reserve in the Andes Mountains. And so on.

It’s a drop in the bucket, but many drops create an ocean. And I am a very small part of helping shift our current system into something that can be far more sustainable.

Photo: The photo above is from last night. He has been coming here for the last two weeks since I moved into my parent’s house to get it ready for sale. (My parents just moved somewhere else.)

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Why do we love our land? An evolutionary perspective on landscape

When it comes to understanding anything human, I often do a quick check-in with an evolutionary perspective. And the same obviously goes for understanding the behavior of any species.

My wife and I are stewards of beautiful land in the Andes mountains.

Why do we see it as so beautiful? Why do we feel so connected with it?

We fell in love with it within seconds of our first visit. And it feels as if the land chose us as much as we chose it.

OUR ANCESTRAL HOME

One answer, which came up in my environmental psychology classes at the University of Utah, is that humanity comes from the Great Rift Valley in Africa so we are naturally drawn to that type of landscape. It’s our ancestral home. We love open landscapes with trees and shade. It’s the environment we co-evolved with.

Our pre-human ancestors likely lived for innumerable generations in that landscape, and our first human-like ancestors lived there before they started migrating out to the rest of the world.

In this case, there is a clear similarity between this land and the landscape of the Great Rift Valley. (Not surprising since both are close to the equator and about the same elevation.)

Many if not most of the ancestors in me feel at home there.

BIOPHILIA

There is also a much deeper and general reason for our love – and sometimes fear – of nature.

We are nature. So we love, and sometimes fear, nature.

The universe is a seamless whole. It’s a holarchy, a whole with wholes within it.

It’s also an evolving system, expressed through and as – among everything else in the universe – our living and evolving planet and us as a species and individuals.

As Carl Sagan said, we are the universe bringing itself into consciousness. We are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe.

When we look into the universe, we are looking back at ourselves. When we experience nature, we are experiencing ourselves.

We co-evolved with all of it.

We find nature beautiful because we recognize ourselves in and as it, whether we are conscious of it or not.

THE LANDSCAPES WE ARE ATTRACTED TO

At a more conventional level, there are other reasons why we tend to find nature beautiful, and why we are especially drawn to certain landscapes.

Our ancestors lived with, from, and as nature, so it makes sense to be attracted to nature. It helped them survive. (Neutrality or aversion would not be so productive.)

It makes sense that we tend to be attracted to open landscapes. Having a view helped our ancestors to survive. They could see prey, friends, and enemies from far away and prepare accordingly.

It makes sense we tend to be attracted to green landscapes. For our ancestors, it made sense to be drawn to green landscapes since it means vegetation, and vegetation means shade, protection, and food.

It makes sense we tend to be attracted to moderate climates, for obvious reasons.

It makes sense that we are attracted to running water since it means fresh water for drinking, bathing, and cooking food.

Many love sitting by a bonfire or a fireplace, or even just a candle. For our ancestors, these types of smaller and controlled fires meant food, warmth, protection, and community.

The ones who were drawn to these features of nature were more likely to survive and they passed these inclinations on to their descendants, including us.

And it makes equal sense we are afraid of or slightly repulsed by certain things in nature. Most of us have some fear of heights, and this fear has helped our ancestors avoid dangerous situations. We tend to have some fear of snakes and some insects for the same reason. We avoid places that smell musty, moldy, or rotten.

Our ancestors who experienced some fear or repulsion to these things were more likely to survive, have children, and pass these tendencies on to us.

CULTURE AND ANYTHING HUMAN

Human culture and anything human – all our experiences, thoughts, and feelings – are obviously part of the seamless whole of existence. It’s all the evolution of the universe and this living planet expressing itself in these ways, through and as us and our experiences.

We obviously find a lot in humans and culture beautiful. But not always. Why is that?

Again, an evolutionary perspective can give us answers. If we see an open and infested wound, it makes sense to experience some repulsion since it can help us not get infected. If we meet someone who is chronically caught up in anger, blame, or similar, feeling less attracted to it can help us to avoid problems. If we see a building or village in disrepair, it may be best to find another place to go. And so on. (This is obviously a very simplified outline.)

On a more immediate level, what we find beautiful and not has to do with how we relate to our thoughts about it. If we believe our thoughts about something or someone, it will often create attraction or aversion.

HOLDING IT LIGHTLY

As usual, it makes sense to hold all of this lightly.

An evolutionary perspective on psychology and behavior helps us arrive at educated guesses at most. It’s not something we can verify once and for all.

Personally, I often use it to find more understanding and empathy for myself and others. I find a plausible explanation in an evolutionary context, and that helps me see that our experiences and behavior are not as personal as they first may seem. It all comes from somewhere else.

Note: The photo above is from our land in the Chicamocha Canyon.

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Genealogy and holarchies

A long time ago, in what feels like another life, I worked with translation, history, and genealogy.

I understand why people want to know more about their family history. It gives a context for one’s own life, and it’s interesting to know a bit about our ancestors, what they did, and where they lived.

For me, it’s also interesting with the two ways we have a family: Genetics and lived family life. Sometimes they are the same, and sometimes they are different. And sometimes, there are family secrets coming up through genetic testing, and people respond to it in all different ways.

Ultimately, we are all family. In the context of Earth life, all of us humans are relatively closely related. In the context of the universe, all Earth life is closely related. The history of humanity is our shared history. The history of the living evolving Earth is the shared history of Earth life. The history of the universe is the shared history of everything and everyone, including possible life in other places in the universe.

It’s all part of the same story. The story of the universe forming itself into all of this.

The story of existence forming itself into all of this.

And this story includes us and all of who we are and do and experience.

Seed: I was contacted by a family member passionate about genealogy.

Wanting to know how fiction ends

Why do we have an impulse to know how compelling fiction ends?

FICTION CAN GO IN ANY NUMBER OF DIRECTIONS

I have often thought it’s a bit silly.

The story is made up anyway. It can go in a number of widely different directions.

It’s easy to imagine alternate endings that the author plausibly could have chosen. The reason the author landed on a particular ending may be because ofpersonal fascination, wanting to subvert expectations, wanting to draw in an audience, wanting to highlight a particular feature of human life, setting it up for the next part, practical or resource reasons, or something else.

Sometimes, the ending we looked forward to can even be disappointing, as we have seen in a recent TV series (GoT) and final movie trilogy (SW).

If this was the whole picture, there would be little or no reason to want to know how a story ends. So there must be something more going on.

EVOLUTIONARY IMPULSE TO TAKE IN STORIES

One answer may be in evolution. We have likely evolved to be fascinated by stories since these told our ancestors something important about themselves, their community, and their world. Stories gave them a survival advantage.

It’s easy to see how this is the case with stories from real life. The way the story is told reflects community values and orientations, so the listener gets to absorb these. And the content can offer practical information about social interactions, interactions with nature and wildlife, how to deal with unusual events that may return, and so on.

To some extent, fiction – mythology, fairy tales, tall tales – did the same. Fiction also conveyed cultural values and orientations. It gave people insights into interactions within the community and with outsiders and the natural world, and so on.

And it’s easy to see that the ending is an important part of the value of all of these stories.

Taking in compelling stories, from beginning to end, gave our ancestors a survival advantage.

GOOD FICTION REFLECTS DEEPER TRUTHS

There is an obvious value in stories from real life. We learn through the experience of others and how they chose to tell the stories.

And compelling fiction does the same, in a heightened form. Good fiction distills the essence out of real-life stories and reflects universal human truths. They are a way for us to learn something essential about ourselves, others, and the world.

NO CLEAR LINE BETWEEN STORIES FROM REAL LIFE AND FICTION

There is a fuzzy boundary between stories from real life and fiction.

When we tell stories from real life, we inevitably interpret, filter, highlight, leave out, and get things wrong. The story reflects us and what we find important, our worldview and values, our hangups and limitations, and so on. As we know, these stories are often told quite differently by others.

And compelling fiction reflects universal human dynamics and insights and has a deeper truth.

There is always an element of fiction in stories from real life, and elements of real life in fiction.

WHY DO WE WANT TO KNOW THE ENDING?

So why do we want to know the ending of fiction? Even if it’s obviously silly since the story is made up anyway?

One answer may be evolution. It gave our ancestors a survival advantage to take in stories, told by others in their community, from beginning to end.

P.S. Sorry for the lack of simplicity and clarity here. I have had a quite strong brain fog for a few weeks, and it makes it difficult to write with flow and clarity. Hopefully, I can return and clean this up a bit.

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Thoughts as an evolutionary experiment

We can see our human ability for elaborate abstract thought as an evolutionary experiment.

Thoughts as tools

Thoughts are tools. They help us orient and navigate in the world.

They provide us with mental maps of the world. They give us images of the past, present, and possible futures. They provide us with the opportunity to mentally test out actions before we make them.

All of this makes it possible for us to function in the world.

Thoughts mimic senses & language

Thoughts seem to mimic our physical senses and, in our case, language.

In our case, we have thoughts mimicking sight, sounds, sensations, movement, and words (mental images and sounds).

Other species may have thoughts mimicking their own senses, whatever these are.

A helpful way of using this tool

What’s the optimal way to use this tool of thought?

It seems that the best way to use this particular tool is to recognize thoughts as thoughts. They are questions about the world. They help us orient and navigate. They provide maps about the world. They have a very important practical function. They are provisional. They are not what they appear to refer to. And none of them hold any final or absolute truth.

When we recognize this, we can hold them more lightly. We can find the validity in them, question them, find the validity in their reversals and other views, and use them more consciously as a tool. We recognize their value and their inherent limitations.

Misuse of the tool of thoughts

How can this tool be misused?

The easiest is to hold a thought as true. When we do, we identify with the viewpoint with the thought. We take ourselves as the viewpoint of the thought, make it into an identity for ourselves, create a sense of I and other, and feel a need to prop it up, elaborate on it, and defend it if it’s threatened.

When we hold a thought as true – either consciously or a part of us holds it as true – we perceive and live as if it’s true. We get out of alignment with reality since no thought can hold any final or absolute truth, and a thought and its reversals all hold some validity.

This is how a huge amount of human suffering is created, and it’s also how we create a good deal of problems for ourselves and others.

Thoughts as an evolutionary experiment

I assume many types of animals have some form of thought.

Specifically, they may have thoughts mimicking their senses. They may have mental maps of their surroundings. Mental representations of friends and foes. Mental representations of however they communicate. And so on. In most cases, these may not be conscious thoughts.

Human thought has gone a couple of steps further into abstraction. We have developed complex language and mental representations of this language, and that allows us to imagine and explore a wide range of things in our minds. Our minds are immensely creative.

This form of more abstract and elaborate thought is, in a sense, an evolutionary experiment. It’s as if nature said to itself: let’s see what happens with this species if they have this ability. Let’s see how they use it, and whether it aids their survival or becomes their undoing.

We can see how it has indeed aided our survival and made us into a powerful species. And we can also see how it has brought about conflicts, war, and immense suffering, and brought the ecosystems we are dependent on for our own survival to the brink of ecological collapse.

Abstract and complex thought as a new evolutionary experiment

This more elaborate form of abstract thought is a relatively new evolutionary experiment. It may have evolved over just a few hundred thousand years.

In an evolutionary sense, this is a very new tool for us. We are still learning how to use it.

We are systematically misusing it by assuming thoughts can do more for us than they can. They are powerful, and they have helped us create this civilization, technology, culture and so on. At the same time, they have their limits. They can’t hold any final or absolute truth, and we often perceive and live as if they can.

I assume that if we survive long enough, we may also learn to relate to thoughts more consciously. We may learn to recognize what they can and cannot do for us, and their inherent limitations. If this ever happens on a collective scale, it will mean a revolution in human evolution and history.

How we can explore this for ourselves

We can explore many aspects of this for ourselves.

We can explore our sense fields – sight, sound, smell, taste, sensations, and mental representations – and see how mental representations combine with the other sense fields to create our experience of the world.

We may recognize how our mind associates certain thoughts with certain sensations, so the sensations lend a sense of substance and reality to the thoughts, and the thoughts give a sense of meaning to the sensations. (Traditional Buddhist inquiry, Living Inquiries.)

We can examine any thought we hold as true and find what’s more true for us. (The Work of Byron Katie.)

We can use basic meditation to notice and allow our experience as it is. This helps us notice and allow thoughts, recognize that they live their own life, and perhaps soften identification with them and hold them a bit more lightly.

In a sense, through examining our thoughts and our relationship with thoughts, and learning to relate to them more consciously, we take the next evolutionary step in our own life. We find a more sane and healthy relationship with thoughts, and that is one of the things that can most help humanity today.

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What’s the purpose of trauma?

What’s the purpose of trauma?

There are several answers to this question, partly because meaning is something we create and add to life.

Creation & Maintenance of Trauma

What’s the purpose of the creation and maintenance of trauma?

At an individual level, the main purpose of trauma may be protection. The pain of trauma is an incentive to avoid situations similar to the one initially creating the trauma.

At a collective human level, it’s probably the same. Traumas serve a survival function for our species. When a situation is overwhelming and we feel we can’t cope with it, we create trauma and the pain of the trauma helps us avoid similar situations.

Healing from Trauma

What’s the purpose we find through healing from trauma?

At an individual level, we may get a lot out of exploring and finding healing for our traumas. We obviously learn from the process, we learn how to heal from trauma and perhaps emotional issues in general. We may find we are more mature and humanized. We may be more raw and honest with ourselves and others. We may find ourselves as more real, authentic, and perhaps in integrity. We may have reprioritized and found what’s genuinely important in our life. We may discover the universality of human life and that – even with our individual differences – we are all in the same boat. We may have found a different and more meaningful life path. Our life, in general, may be more meaningful to us. We may have found a deep, raw, and real fellowship with others on a healing path. We may have learned to be more vulnerable with ourselves and others. We may have discovered how the path of healing from traumas fuels, leads into, and perhaps is an integral part of an awakening path. We may discover the deep capacity for healing inherent in ourselves, humans, and life in general.

At a collective level, it’s similar only scaled up and with the extra illumination and richness that comes from the interactions of people with different backgrounds, viewpoints, and experiences. Collectively, we learn about and from healing from trauma. We realize the universality of it, and of our profound capacity for healing. We see that healing from trauma is something we do together and not just individually. We discover that much of what we thought were individual traumas are actually more universal and collective traumas. We discover that culture is not only what gives us much of what we love about human life, but the painful unquestioned assumptions inherent in our culture is what creates much if not most of our pain.

Bigger Picture

What’s the purpose of the experience of trauma in the bigger picture?

If we assume there is something like rebirth or reincarnation, then the experience of trauma provides food for our healing, maturing, and eventually awakening. It’s the One locally and temporarily taking itself to be a separate being going through a reincarnation process and through that healing, maturing, and eventually awakening to itself as the One. The One the adventure always happened within and as.

Traumas seems an important part of the dialectical evolutionary process of humanity as a species and – by extension – of Earth as a whole. The aspects mentioned above and much more go into this.

And it’s part of the play of life or the universe or the divine. It’s lila. It’s life exploring, expressing, and experiencing itself in always new ways. It’s part of the One temporarily and locally experiencing itself as separate.

Note

When I use the word trauma, I mean the traditional one-time-dramatic-event trauma, and perhaps, more importantly, the developmental trauma that most of have from growing up in slightly – or very – dysfunctional families, communities, and cultures.

In a wider sense, any emotional issue, any painful belief, any identification, is a form of trauma and comes from and creates trauma. It’s the trauma inherent in the One temporarily and locally taking itself to fundamentally be a separate being.

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Does God evolve?

Does God evolve?

If all is God, and the universe evolves, the answer clearly is yes.

It seems obvious from this view. (We could call it a panentheistic or even nondual view informed by modern science.) And yet, I realize it’s perhaps not so obvious if we are used to a theistic view that sees God as somehow separate from creation.

What doesn’t evolve is the basic – and useful although thought-created – distinction between who and what we are. As who we are, we develop and change and we are an intrinsic part of an evolving living planet and an evolving universe. And we find that who we are and the world we experience, as any content of experience, happens within and as what we are. No matter how much or in what ways creation evolves, it still happens within and as what we are.

And what does evolve is anything in form, the whole universe, and even the world of subtle energies if that’s part of our worldview. This means that the way we come into awakening may slightly change and evolve over historic time. (As is a common view in some forms of modern spirituality.) The content of awakening, meaning what’s noticed and lived from, may also slightly change.

And yet, the essence of awakening remains the same and is timeless. It’s still the divine awakening to itself as all there is and all of it as the play of the divine. The divine expresses, explores, and experiences itself as all of existence including this evolving universe, this living planet, and each and all apparently separate beings. Sometimes, it temporarily and locally takes itself to be a separate being. And sometimes, it wakes up to itself as what all of this happens within and as.

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The upside of discomfort

Physical discomfort has obvious upsides and evolutionary reasons for being here. It motivates us to make changes that helps our body, whether it’s standing up to walk when we have sat for a long period, drinking water when thirsty, or seeking out a doctor when we have a persistent physical pain or problem.

It’s the same with mind discomfort. That too has evolutionary reasons for being here. That too motivates us to create change and get things done.

And, for those weird like me, it also points to what’s left. It helps us notice remaining beliefs, identifications, hangups, wounds, and trauma. And it motivates us to do something about it – to find healing in how we relate to it and the world, to examine and find clarity around beliefs and identifications, to invite release for our wounds and traumas.

In the bigger picture, discomfort motivates us – in the best case – to align more consciously with reality.

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Civilization and its discontents

A friend of mine’s profile picture on Facebook is of her snuggling with her cat. It’s very cute. And, knowing something about her background, it also reminded me of our human situation.

We have created a civilization that harms us and the Earth in some significant ways. It harms all life. And because of it, we seek comfort and healing in myriad of ways. My friend does it, partly, through reconnecting with nature and animals.

There is a lot more to say about this topic. But the main thing that struck me was just the image of her snuggling with her cat. And how that, in some ways, is such a good image of the trauma we have created for ourselves through our civilization and how we all seek comfort and healing from it in different ways.

Our civilization is partly built on an imagined disconnect from nature. That hurts us and all life. And we try to compensate for that hurt in so many ways, including seeking love, acceptance, money, power, healing, awakening, connection, and a great deal more that we see all around us and in ourselves. From our experience of disconnection comes a sense of lack and something missing, and we try to fill that hole in many different ways.

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The social and cultural benefits of genetic ancestry testing

I received my 23andme results a few weeks back and it has reminded me of a few things about genetic testing. Depending on how it’s used, it can definitely have some drawbacks. But it can also have many personal and social / cultural benefits.

Here are some of the possible social and cultural benefits that come to mind.

We are reminded that we are all overwhelmingly alike. Only about 0.5% of our genetic material has to do with our particular geographic or ethnic history. We are overwhelmingly alike as human beings, and as Earthlings we are also overwhelmingly alike. As human beings, we share almost all our history and ancestors, and as Earthlings we share a great deal of our history and ancestors.

Many of us, and especially in North America, have a far more mixed ancestry than we may expect. For instance, some who identify as “white” may have Asian, North-American, or African ancestry mixed in.

Same or similar genetic sequence-patterns are found in most or all human populations. So when the different companies assign an ethnic group based on particular patterns, they do it based on statistics and probably. Any particular pattern may be more prevalent in some groups but are found in other groups as well. So the analysis is not always accurate. Again, it’s a reminder of how similar we are.

Our official family history isn’t always the same as the genetic one. We have an official set of ancestors. We have a genetic set of ancestors. And the two are not always the same. This may help us hold our identity more lightly. We can (learn to) embrace and appreciate both.

This all makes it more difficult to justify or hold onto racism. (Although I am sure some will be able to if they really want to.) We are all Africans. We share almost all of our DNA. Many of us are more mixed than we think. Any differences are, in the big picture, very superficial.

As genetic testing becomes more common and our understanding improves, it may well have an impact on culture. And, if we want, it may help us see how closely we all are related. It may widen and deepen our sense of “us” as human beings and even as part of the Earth community.

As mentioned, there are also possible drawbacks. For instance, it’s easy to misinterpret or hold certain interpretations as more solid than they are. And some may get stressed out by certain interpretations of their health or ancestry data. They may realize one or both of their parents (or grandparents) are not the ones they thought they were. Or they may mistakenly think that’s the case based on misguided interpretation of the data. Or they may think that a slight statistical increase in likelihood of a certain illness means they are actually likely to get it (which may not be the case at all). With all of this, it’s important to be informed before jumping to conclusions, and in any case take it with a big grain of salt.

I guess there is also some risk that employees or governments can use certain data in unfortunate ways. (I don’t think it’s happening much or at all now, but there is always the risk.)

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Thoughts: a risky evolutionary experiment

Thoughts is one of life’s risky experiments.

It seems to work pretty well for non-human species. I assume many non-human species too have thoughts that mimic the senses. Imagined sensory information that helps them remember the past, plan for the future, and function in the present.

We humans have gone one step further. We have created language out of a combination of images and sounds. That’s another level of abstraction, and one that is both powerful and dangerous.

It’s powerful since it allows us to explore the world in the abstract. It allows us to take what’s already there in less abstract thought, and create everything human civilization has created – from agriculture and cities to science, art, and technology.

It’s dangerous. When we take our thoughts to be real and true, it creates suffering for ourselves and can easily do so for others as well. And that happens at social (war, religion, oppression) and individual levels.

And it’s a risky experiment from life’s side. It may not work out for very long. We may self-destruct because of our inability to use thoughts in the most beneficial way. And we may take some ecosystems and other species with us. Of course, it’s not really that risky since everything dies anyway – species, ecosystems, living planets, solar systems, and the universe as a whole. It may just speed up the death of some species. And as we know from Earth’s history, mass extinctions create room for new species, ecosystems, and life innovations. (It’s also not “risky” since it’s not a planned evolutionary step, it just happened because it happened to give our species a survival advantage.)

Thoughts can be a very useful tool. As mentioned above, it seems to work pretty well in its less abstract version, prior to more complex language. And even with higher levels of abstraction, it can work well. We can recognize thoughts as a tool of limited value. They are very valuable in helping us orient and function in the world. And yet, they can’t do anything more. They are questions about the world. They have no absolute or final truth to them.

Who knows, perhaps humans will eventually evolve so a majority of us inherently know that thoughts are tools only. If so, humanity may have a long lifespan.

From a Darwinist point of view, this will require those who are less inclined to believe thoughts to have a survival advantage and produce more offspring. On the surface, that may not seem to be happening. Although who knows. If we are around for long enough, we – as a species – will see.

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Making use of how people already are

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Co-sleeping and evolution

I often use an evolutionary perspective to check how I live my life.

For instance, from an evolutionary perspective, it makes sense to eat mostly less processed food, locally and with the seasons, low on the food chain, and varied foods (mainly vegetables with some fish and meat, and not the same every day). In terms of exercise, it makes sense with variation (walking, running, lifting, swimming), and to vary moderate activity with briefer periods of more explosive and intense activity. It also makes sense to bring it into everyday activities as much as possible. And in terms of child rearing, it makes sense to seek out a community (extended family, if possible) and also to carry the baby on the body and to sleep in the same bed as the baby. All of these things are how humans have done it for millennia and how our evolutionary ancestors have done it for millions of years. If there is a discrepancy between what experts recommend, and what makes sense from an evolutionary perspective, I tend to choose the latter. (For instance, eating butter, eggs, and salt, all of which feel really good for my body in moderate amounts.)

I talked with a friend a couple of weeks ago about her new baby. She sleeps in the same bed as the baby (the baby usually on top of her), and it makes feeding natural and effortless for both of them. The baby stirs gently, she wakes and feeds the baby with just a few adjustments of her body, and they both fall back to sleep. It’s effortless, natural, and minimally disruptive to sleep.

In contrast, if we believe what someone came up with intellectually, we may choose to have the baby sleep separately which means the baby needs to make more sound to wake the mother (be more desperate), the mother needs to get up to feed the baby, the baby needs to be lifted, and it’s all far more disruptive and stressful. It can even be somewhat traumatizing to both of them, and especially to the baby. In an evolutionary perspective, sleeping alone and having to cry loudly to be fed is a signal it is not safe. And when that happens consistently, I imagine it has an impact on the child’s trust and sense of safety, and it’s something they may carry with them through childhood and into adulthood.

I know this is a bit simplistic. For instance, our ancestors’ lives varied over generations and was adapted to geography and climate. And I still find it a very helpful guideline.

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It’s not easy to believe a thought

It’s not easy to believe a thought.

It takes a lot of effort.

It’s stressful.

It needs to be maintained here and now.

And more than that….

 It needs to be elaborated upon. If it’s true, other stories follow from it, and these needs to be taken as true as well, and maintained as true.

It’s underlying assumptions must be reaffirmed and supported.

We need to filter our experience of the world through it.

We need to defend the truth of the story, since it is or will be out of alignment with aspects of reality. We need to defend it against other stories which may invalidate it.

We need to contract muscles to create persistent sensations which can support taking the thought as true, through lending the thought charge, and a sense of solidity and reality.

That’s why there is often a deep sense of relief when any particular belief is seen through and – even in temporarily – falls away. And it’s why there is even more of a deep relief when beliefs in general fall away, even if temporarily and in a glimpse or for a period of time.

From this perspective, the primary question isn’t why is it so difficult to awaken? (Although that’s a valid question.) It’s more, how come we go through all this effort to stay in our own dream world, specially considering it’s often painful? 

I don’t really have the answers to that. Although I suspect part of the answer is a combination of two quite simple things.

We do it because that’s what those around us do. As babies, we look to the adults in our life for cues about how to live here, so we follow them. In Rome, do as Romans do. It’s very innocent and understandable.

Also, intentional thought is a relatively new tool in our evolution. We are still grappling with how to use it effectively. We still stumble in how we use it. We take our own thoughts as real and true, even if they are simply thoughts and are better used as practical tools for navigating the world. This too is innocent and understandable.

Identification = worried love

Why is there suffering?

That’s an old questions for us humans. (I realize that the real question, the one behind this one, is what can we do about it? That’s a topic for other posts.)

One answer is perhaps equally old: Suffering comes from beliefs. Identification with certain thoughts. Velcro. Mistaken identity.

These point to the same thing: Mind takes certain thoughts, certain images and thoughts, as real and true. It identifies with these thoughts. It takes their viewpoint. It sees the world from their perspective, and holds onto it as true. And it does that through associating these images and words with certain sensations (often different depending on the thought), and these sensations seem – to the mind – to lend solidity and reality to the thoughts.

Why does the mind do this?

It may be because we observe those around us doing it, as kids and later as adults. It seems to be what people do here. So we do it too. And we pass it on.

It may have an evolutionary function. Perhaps the stress created an extra urgency that somehow has offered a survival advantage for our ancestors. An advantage that outweighed the drawbacks of stress, struggle, and conflict.

It may also be a quirk of evolution. We evolved that way, to be inclined to identify with thoughts rather than recognizing them as thoughts, through a coincidence. Perhaps it could have gone a different direction. (I am not so sure about that, but it’s possible.)

It may also be that since thoughts – abstract representations using words and images – is a relatively new phenomenon in our evolution, we still haven’t quite figured out how to relate to it well. We are still novices when it comes to using this tool called thought. So we stumble. It’s still messy. And perhaps sometime in the future, we as a species will relate to it with more clarity.

In any case, it’s innocent.

And it’s Lila. The universe expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself. The dance of life. Divine play.

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Life’s purpose

What’s the purpose of life, life with capital L, also known as reality, the universe, God?

In a way, it’s a silly question since “purpose” is only created in thought. It’s not inherent in reality.

And yet, some stories can be helpful as a way of balancing a habitual view. For instance, the purpose of life is for life to experience itself in always new ways. That fits with what we see and observe, and it gives a sense of the creativity and openness we see in life. It’s aligned with what we already see, which is that life allows what’s here in it’s infinite variety. It also fits with the idea of evolution.

If that’s a very basic purpose, there are also other layers of purpose. For instance, a though may say that the purpose of life, and specifically the life we know, is to bring what’s here into awareness. For life to discover and become conscious of what’s really here. And that happens through curiosity, sometimes combined with guidelines and tools such as meditation and inquiry. This pointer helps us release possibly stressful ideas of what the purpose may be, such as be happy, or successful, or being a good person, or maturing, or awakening, or something even more abstract. Just noticing what’s here, with some curiosity and sincerity, is much more concrete and manageable.

So here we have three facets of this question. (1) It’s a meaningless question since purpose can only be found in a thought. It’s not inherent in reality. (2) A very basic purpose of life is to experience itself in always new ways, and in it’s infinite variety and inherent creativity. (3) Another layer of purpose, perhaps more specific to our human life, is for life to bring itself into awareness, for life as it’s happening here to bring itself into awareness. What’s really here? What do I find when I look? What’s more real for me than my initial images and thoughts about what’s here?

Glitch in the brain

One part of our brains – the limbic system – generates a challenging emotion for us to feel. Another part of our brain – called either primitive or reptilian – considers that emotion as life-threatening and blocks it at all cost. This battle between the two parts of our brain leaves us cross-wired and stuck.

Raphael Cushnir sometimes talks about a glitch in the brain, and that is of course a valid and helpful perspective. It’s how it looks from the perspective of biology and evolution, and it helps us see it’s not personal.

Another perspective, which I tend to gravitate towards, is seeing this in terms of beliefs.

The limbic system here becomes a metaphor for or a pointer to beliefs creating reactive emotions – sadness, anger, grief etc. And the reptilian part of the brain becomes a metaphor for or pointer to beliefs about these emotions and what they mean.

For instance, I believe that he is disrespectful towards me and this trigger anger. Using Cushnir’s metaphor, this is the limbic system in action.

I have another set of beliefs about anger – anger is bad, anger means something terrible has happened, anger means I will go out of control, anger means people won’t like me – so I push aside this anger, I stuff it, I tighten muscles and breathe more shallowly, I try to not feel it.  In Cushnir’s metaphor, this is the primitve or reptilian brain. (Although some of these beliefs, some of the beliefs that causes me to stuff the anger, are certainly not reptilian. They are more mammalian and social.)

The benefit of looking at it through the lens of beliefs is that it gives me something to explore, both in terms of what triggers reactive emotions and how I relate to them. I can inquire into my beliefs, and find what’s more true for me.

And these two perspectives can easily co-exist and mutually enhance and support each other. One shows me it’s not personal, and makes it feel more scientific. The other helps me identify and inquire into my beliefs relating to emotions.

Evolution of the spirit

The idea of an evolution of the Spirit is of course just that, an idea.

The image of Spiritual evolution, stages, phases, changing characteristics, data, people supporting and talking about it, are all images happening within and as the mental field. Any sense it’s real and true happens because the thought that’s it’s true is taken as true. Any idea of it being inherent in reality is just that, an idea and an image. If I take the thought of spiritual evolution as true, I’ll perceive, feel and live as if it’s true.

When this idea is examined more closely, it’s freed from being taken as true, and can still be quite helpful in some situations. It can be inspiring and interesting for some, it may serve as a hook or a first step into own exploration, it may offer a temporary sense of knowing or safety – along with some stress (!).

Spirit (reality, God, Big Mind) can be talked about has having several facets. One is capacity for awareness and it’s contents (aka Godhead). Another is as awareness and any experience happening within and as awareness. And yet another is the world of experiences and form. Even within the context of those distinctions, they are the same. (It’s the play of Spirit as capacity, as a seamless whole of awareness and it’s contents, appearing to itself in these three ways when filtered through an image of these three ways.) And I can only find those distinctions within my images, within my mental field overlay.

Evolves and doesn’t

As capacity and awareness, it’s easy to assume it stays the same. As form, it – according to the story of the universe from current western science – it evolves over time, from energy to simple hydrogen atoms to heavier elements to the earth coming into life to ecosystems, species, humans, culture, technology, science and everything happening within and through us humans. So in that sense, Spirit evolves. It evolves as form. It doesn’t evolve and it does, and that’s happening as images within the mental field.

Types of evolution

What are some of the types and mechanisms of this evolution? It’s a while since I explored this, so will just mention it briefly here.

As mentioned above, the universe seems to evolve over time from simplicity to complexity, from energy to matter to life. This form of evolution may be best explained through systems theories.

It may also happen through the mechanisms of biological/Darwinian evolution: variation, selection, reproduction etc. This has brought us humans to where we are today, with out biological possibilities and limitations. One interesting question here is the relationship between clarity on thoughts and evolution. Is there a biological tendency in us to take thoughts as true, or is it just learned and from culture? If there is this biological tendency, how did it come about? Has it been selected because it aids survival? To me, it seems that being more clear on thoughts aids healthy functioning and survival. It may be more likely that (a) too few people found this clarity to have an impact, (b) the selection pressure hasn’t been strong enough to select it out on a larger scale, and/or (c) although clarity on thoughts aids an healthy functioning, this may not translate into more children. Still, it’s possible that our biological evolution moves us in this direction, from a tendency to taking thoughts as true to a tendency to be more clear on thoughts. Or not.

It may happen through evolution of culture. Looking at the changes in human culture over time, from neolithic to today, we see different phases and stages. This can be seen as a meme evolution, driven by material, cultural and psychological factors.

Each of these maps of different types of evolution are from current western science. These maps and the data supporting them are images within my world of images. Recognizing that, through inquiry, they can be very helpful practical guidelines in some situations. Taking them as true, they become – among other things – a burden for me, a source of stress.

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Fascination with scary stories

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

I find a few different ways of looking at it.

Evolution

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

Beliefs

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

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

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

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

An impulse to clarity as what I am 

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

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

Summary: Evolution, and who and what I am

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

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

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

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

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Evolution and inquiry

I often have an evolutionary perspective in the back of my mind when I explore something in my own life or on this blog, and yet don’t mention it so often.

So what are some of the connection between evolution and inquiry?

One basic connection is how evolution sets us with certain impulses and inclinations, and these may be supported by or clash with beliefs.

For instance, we have an innate impulse to survive and reproduce, which may be joined or supported by beliefs such as: I need to survive. It’s terrible to die young. I need a partner. I need sex. I need to have children. I need food. 

Some beliefs that may clash with our biological impulses or inclinations: I should eat less sugar. I shouldn’t be addicted. 

Many or most of these are beliefs held by our parents, teachers, friends and so on. They are in our culture, they are transmitted to us, and there are social dynamics at work to encourage us to adopt them (shame, guilt, pride, ridicule, rejection, acceptance, admiration), which means that many of these beliefs are really about others. For instance, if I am fat/unfit, people will judge me.

And then there are more basic beliefs: I am this body. It’s my body. It’s my thoughts. It’s my experience. It’s a body. It’s a thought. It’s an experience. It’s life. It’s death. It’s an impulse. It’s a drive. It’s from evolution. 

Universe fascinated by itself

The universe is fascinated by itself.

And in our case, the universe is fascinated by itself as an individual, a culture and a civilization, in all the ways we are fascinated by anything at all. At this level, there is no reason for it and it doesn’t need a reason.

In an evolutionary perspective, there is of course a reason. It makes good sense to be fascinated, to explore, experience, learn and so on. It aids survival to be interested in life, in our surroundings, in each other, in ourselves, in anything at all.

Today, this fascination is perhaps most obvious in our fascination in all forms of media – TV, internet, movies, podcast, music, performances, newspapers, magazines and so on. It’s an endless fascination where we absorb, experience, learn about ourselves, each other, the world,  and life.

It’s the fascination of the universe of itself, in all of these ways. It’s the universe evolved into a planet, and into a species for whom it makes evolutionary sense to be curious and interested in the world.

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Abstract thinking in evolutionary perspective

I am reminded of this again:

Abstract thinking, especially in it’s verbal form, is relatively new for humanity and for life in general. (I imagine the image form of abstract thinking is much older and shared with many other animals.)

And that’s perhaps we are having trouble with it. Why so many of us seem predisposed to believe our thoughts, and why we often are unable to take the long and big perspective even when it benefits us. Abstract thinking is a new tool for us. We are still trying to figure out how to use it, and how to relate to it in a more mature way.

It seems that reasonable that seeing thoughts as thoughts, not believing them, has an evolutionary advantage. When I believe a thought, it creates stress, drama and false perceptions. When there is more clarity around a thought, I can relate to it as a thought. I can use it as a tool if that seems helpful, and let it pass otherwise.

So humanity may, in time, evolve to not so easily believe thoughts.

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More evolved vs. better

It insists that ‘more developed’ is not ‘better’
– Joe Perez on the integral worldview in Infant Research….

Take an earth worm and a giraffe, or helium and carbon.

One is clearly more evolved than the other. There is increased complexity, it occurs later in the evolutionary process.

Also, one is clearly not inherently better or worse than the other. Without helium, no carbon (helium is required for stars to produce carbon). Earth worms and giraffes both serve important ecological functions.

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Picky eaters

Scientists at Duke University in North Carolina are compiling the first global registry of “picky eaters” in the hope of discovering why some people have trouble with food. They believe it may help find a genetic reason for some eaters’ intense dislike of certain foods, like broccoli, or beans with a “fuzzy” texture. They note some eaters’ pickiness is so deep-seated it interferes with their jobs, their relationships and their social lives. – Hate fish? Can’t eat veg? Doctors study picky eaters from BBC.

Empathy through evolutionary psychology: Picky eaters may survive better in some circumstances and omnivores in other, which is why we as humans have both possibilities, and why we as individuals are genetically predisposed to one or the other, and our environment brings one or the other out more prominently. It’s all natural.

Quantum physics and evolution as pointers

The scientific approach in general is a good guideline and pointer for our own “spiritual” explorations.

And within science itself, it seems that the study of the very small and the very large both are fertile ground for pointers and guidelines for exploration.

Science in general helps us recognize that we don’t know. We operate from our own world of images and this is just a map. It may be very helpful in a practical sense in everyday life but there is no “truth” in it. Examples from quantum physics, the study of the very small, helps bring this home.

Through this, we notice that we may assume that there is an objective world “out there”, and it is helpful to act in daily life as if it is so, but this too is just an image. As is the images of a me and I (doer, observer). As we notice these images as images, as content of experience, there is an invitation for identification to release out of these images. We can still use any and all of them in a practical and pragmatic way, to help us function and orient in the world, but they are recognized as images, helpful tools only, and not any absolute truth. And we can notice what happens when there is identification with the viewpoints of some of these images, including the images of a me and I, and what happens when there is a softening or release of this identification and we are more free to play with and make use of these images while recognizing them as images only.

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Podcast: Written in code

Genes – what are they good for? Absolutely… something. But not everything. Your “genius” genes need to be turned on – and your environment determines that. Find out how to unleash your inner-Einstein, and what scientists learned from studying the famous physicist’s brain.

Also, the bizarre notion that your children inherit not just your genes, but also the consequences of your habits – smoking, stress, diet, and other behaviors that turn the genes on.

Plus Francis Collins on affordable personal genomes, and a man who decoded his own DNA in under a week.

Written in Code, the most recent podcast from Are We Alone? Science radio for thinking species, is excellent, as always. The segment on epigenetics is especially interesting.

Evolutionary dead ends and failed experiments

I find it amusing when people talk about evolutionary dead ends and failed experiments.

It all depends on our perspective, from when we look in time and the time span we use.

If we look exclusively from our vantage point in time, and at a human time span, then – yes – it may appear that some species were evolutionary dead ends and failed experiments, and whichever species are alive today “made it”. But that is obviously a very myopic view, and not aligned with the vast time spans of evolution.

All species are born and die, this earth was born and will die, this universe was born and will die (heat death or big crunch). So in that sense, all species – including humans – are evolutionary “dead ends”.

Or we can say that all species are wonderful and awe-inspiring expressions of the amazing creativity of the Earth and this universe.

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Cooking as a force of evolution

Cooking is something we all take for granted but a new theory suggests that if we had not learned to cook food, not only would we still look like chimps but, like them, we would also be compelled to spend most of the day chewing…..

Cooking food breaks down its cells, meaning that our stomachs need to do less work to liberate the nutrients our bodies need. This, says Wheeler, “freed up energy which could then be used to power a larger brain. The increase in brain-size mirrors the reduction in the size of the gut.” Significantly Wheeler and Aiello found that the reduction in the size of our digestive system was exactly the same amount that our brains grew by – 20%. Professor Stephen Secor at the University of Alabama found that not only does cooked food release more energy, but the body uses less energy in digesting it. As a consequence, more time was available for social structure to develop.
– from BBC, Learning to Cook Produced Bigger Brains

Changing food habits is a good example of how we shape our own evolution.

Our evolved biology makes our behavior and culture possible. Our behavior and culture changes, and this allows us to make use of our evolved potential in new ways. Both of these changes our selection pressures. Which in turn changes us biologically as a species. And this changes what is possible for us as individuals and as a culture.

We have evolved so it is possible for us to use tools and cook food. Cooking food allows us to make better use of food nutrients, which in turn allows us to make different and new use of our evolved potential. Both of these changes our circumstances and selection pressures, so different characteristics are selected for. This changes us biologically as a species. And this opens new options for us as a species and a culture.

Nowadays, our own culture is perhaps the most significant source of our own evolutionary change, as it has been for tens or hundreds of thousands of years. Through culture, we change our social and ecological environments, which in turn changes the selection pressures, which in turn changes who we are.

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PBS: The Human Spark

alan-alda-human-spark

For a good introduction to what sets humans apart from other animals, you can’t do much better than Alan Alda’s three-part series The Human Spark.

It is easy to think that since the lives of humans are so different from the lives of other animals, there must be big differences in how we are put together.

But is that the case? Are humans very different from other animals? No. We share almost everything with at least some, and often many, other species.

It is the small differences – often in degree – that sets us apart. As we know from the butterfly effect, in a complex system, small differences in the initial conditions can lead to big differences in how it all unfolds over time. In this case, small differences in biology leads to big differences in how we live our lives.

It is these small differences that leads to what we see as uniquely human such as relatively advanced culture, technology, and social organization.

Small differences can have big consequences.

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Justice and the brain

The human brain is a big believer in equality — and a team of scientists from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, has become the first to gather the images to prove it.

Specifically, the team found that the reward centers in the human brain respond more strongly when a poor person receives a financial reward than when a rich person does. The surprising thing? This activity pattern holds true even if the brain being looked at is in the rich person’s head, rather than the poor person’s.
– from Science Daily

From an evolutionary perspective, it is not surprising that we may be predisposed for justice. We are social animals, and in many cases, justice benefits the group as a whole.

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Evolution, biology and environment

There is a shared view among all human sciences:

Our biology makes everything we know possible: metabolism, walking, digesting, feeling, thinking, anger, joy, sadness, culture, technology, imagination, creativity, compassion, ethics, a sense of meaning, and anything that is part of our individual and collective lives.

Some of it is shared among all Earth life. Much of it is shared among all animals. A great deal of shared among all mammals. Even more is shared among all humans. And some is differently emphasized among humans.

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Evolution and a more pragmatic relationship to stories

Slightly revised, and from a previous post I just finished:

It is easy for us to recognize physical tools as tools only, and to use these with a measure of pragmatic wisdom.

And yet, it is so difficult for us to do the same with stories. At least for many of us.

Why is it so?

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Stories as tools

tool_box_piano_repair

Staying with the simple and obvious, here is a reminder about stories as tools:

First, let’s look at what we know about tools such as a hammer or a shovel.

We know that each useful in some circumstances and for some tasks. If we use the wrong tool for a task, it usually doesn’t work so well.

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Brain and boundaries

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

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

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Creating our own dilemma

turkanaboy

Its a common dilemma: We imagine a boundary, elevate our side and devalue what is on the other side, and make it difficult for ourselves to recognize it as an imagined boundary.

It is easy to see among some Christian fundamentalists. In their own minds, they elevate humans as being made in God’s image, and devalue non-humans as a lesser category of beings. From within such a mindset, removing the boundary means that humans ends up in the same group as beasts, and it is not a very attractive proposition.

The solution is of course to elevate non-human species and gain a more realistic view of humans. We can recognize the immense beauty of the natural world. The intelligence, caring and fit to their environment of all species, come about through millions of years of evolution. Our shared ancestors and close kinship with all life. How we are all expressions of a seamless process of evolution of this planet. The ways our evolutionary past is played out in our daily life, and how a recognition of this can be a great help to us.

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Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow: The Big Integrity Model of Evolutionary Spirituality

Michal Dowd and Connie Barlow have a new podcast on the Big Integrity model. As always, well worth listening to.

A quick comment about something Connie Barlow mentions early in the podcast:

She says that in eastern models, consciousness is primary and the universe comes later. In her understanding, based on western science, consciousness is born out of the universe. And those two don’t fit well together.

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