Life 101: Playing roles in life

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely Players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,

– From As You Like It by Shakespeare

One of the Life 101 topics is playing roles in life and what happens if we identify with these temporary roles.

TEMPORARY ROLES

We all play many roles in life, and different ones at different times and in different situations. The roles may be of a son, daughter, parent, friend, lover, employee, employer, student, teacher, and so on.

These roles are temporary and we go in and out of them depending on the situation, and this is one way we make society work.

MAKING AN IDENTITY OUT OF A ROLE

We can also identify with roles. We can create an identity out of a temporary role.

I not only take on the teacher role in the situation where I actually am in a teacher role. (When I work with students.) I take on the teacher role as an identity. It’s who I am, whether or not I am in that situation. I make my life into the stage where I am a teacher.

When this happens, it comes with several downsides. And it’s often a sign of trying to cover up or fulfilling a personal need. We use the identity to feel better about ourselves and feel safer.

RECENT EXPERIENCE

I was recently reminded of this. Someone I have known for many years has recently taken on the role of a spiritual teacher, guide, and therapist. And when she is in situations where that’s expected of her, that’s appropriate.

I also get the impression that she has generalized this to other situations. For instance, when we speak these days, she seems to take on the role of a spiritual teacher and guide and place me in the role of a student. She seems to have taken on these temporary and localized roles as a more general identity.

For me, this feels a bit uncomfortable. We have been friends for a long time. We have had very good conversations as equals and fellow explorers. And now, she seems to create a distance by playing the role of a spiritual teacher, placing me in the role of a student, and offering guidance I didn’t ask for.

I don’t have anything against being in the role of a student. If anything, it’s a role I have created a bit of identity out of. I expect to always be a student and learn more. But in this situation, we meet as friends and fellow humans and I prefer to not have other roles on top of it.

THE UPSIDES & DOWNSIDES OF MAKING A ROLE INTO AN IDENTITY

The upside of making an identity out of a role is that it can make us feel safer. We know who we are. We know what’s expected of us. (At least, we know what we expect from ourselves.) We can feel better about ourselves, at least if the role is one we like. We can use it to cover up a sense of lack.

Doing this is natural and understandable and we all do it to some extent and in some situations and areas of life. They are also band-aids and come with significant downsides.

What are some of these downsides?

It can be disappointing or annoying to others. They expect to meet us as fellow human beings. And instead, they meet someone who is identified with a role and who places them in a matching role. They meet a role instead of a human, and they get placed in a role they don’t necessarily want in that situation.

We get stuck. If we are identified with a role, we lose flexibility. We are unable to drop it when we are outside of the situation where it’s appropriate. And that means we are also less available to take on other roles when they are appropriate.

It can be distressing when life doesn’t match our expectations. We expect to live out the role we are identified with and find ourselves in a situation where that’s not possible or doesn’t work. We don’t know who we are anymore. We cannot live out the familiar role we are so used to and had learned to rely on. This happens, for instance, when someone is identified as the role of a parent and the children leave home or otherwise cannot or won’t play the matching role.

WHAT’S THE REMEDY?

So what’s the remedy?

The first step is to be aware of some of these dynamics.

Any role we take on is temporary and only relevant in a specific situation.

A role is really a verb. We are teaching. We are parenting. We are guiding. Our culture likes to make roles into nouns which encourages identity-making, and we can choose to not follow that. We can choose to say “I am teaching” and not “I am a teacher”. When we talk about roles as verbs, we are more honest and less likely to make them into identities. It becomes more clear that they are roles we take on for a while and in some specific situations, and then leave.

In general, we can intentionally go against the tendency to make the roles into an identity. We can talk about them as verbs and not something more solid. We can intentionally leave them behind when we leave the situation where we played them. We may even experiment with dropping the roles in situations where we are expected to play them, or we can experiment with playing them in a different and more human way. We can bring our humanity to the forefront and make the role more secondary. (The more comfortable we are with ourselves, the more we tend to do just that.)

If we notice an impulse to make a role into an identity, we can explore what’s going on. What do I hope to get out of it? What lack or need am I trying to fulfill? Does it really work? What are the consequences? What are the downsides? What’s more real?

To support all of this, we can make an inventory. Which roles do I play in life? Which roles would I be more likely to make into an identity? (Parent, work, etc.) And then we can pay extra attention to these roles.

If we want, we can also take this a step further. The roles we play are not only the ones of being a child, parent, student, teacher, plumber, and so on. They are also the roles of being the outgoing one, the peacemaker, the happy one, the sad one, the victim, the fixer, or whatever it may be. These are also roles we can, and often do, make identities out of.

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Chess as a metaphor for life

Just about anything can be a metaphor for life.

And so also chess.

I don’t play it myself, but I do follow the excellent live chess programs on NRK (Norwegian public TV) during the world championships. Right now, they send from the world championship in rapid and blitz chess.

Since my older brother is into chess, I tried to play it as a kid but I didn’t get very far. For whatever reason, perhaps because of what someone told me, I thought chess was about thinking ten or twenty moves ahead until chess mate. So I predictably fell short and gave up. It wasn’t possible for me.

Later, I realized that chess is not about an impossible detailed planning until the end of the game. That’s doomed to fail. (Unless we are well into the end-game.)

It’s about creating good positions. It’s about being flexible and responding to the current situation. It’s about improving your own position step by step. It’s about being on the lookout for new opportunities and making use of them.

And that’s the same with life. It’s not possible to plan it all out very far ahead. What we can do is find some flexibility. Respond to the situation we are in. Be on the lookout for opportunities. And take what we have and take steps to improve our position.

We sometimes create what we fear

This is a classic from literature and psychology: We sometimes create what we fear.

EXAMPLES

Here are a few examples:

We fear not being supported, so we push people away before they have a chance to support us. We expect them to not support us, so we get angry and push them away before they can disprove our story.

We fear and expect not to be understood. So we don’t put real effort into being understood, which increases the chances of people not understanding us. We give up sooner than we would have if we didn’t have that issue.

We fear not being accepted so we people-please. This may lead people to keep some distance from us since they notice we are not completely authentic. It makes us question if we are really accepted by others since we present a somewhat fake facade to them. People-pleasing also means we set aside our own needs, which means we won’t feel completely accepted since we don’t fully accept ourselves, we don’t accept and take our own needs seriously.

SELF-FULFILLING PROPHECY

When these dynamics happen, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We set the stage to prove to ourselves that what the issue is telling us is true. It maintains the issue. And it feels familiar and even safe to us because we stay in the same familiar loop.

We reduce the risk of having life disprove what the issue tells us, and get into unfamiliar identities.

WHY DOES IT HAPPEN?

It’s often a circular dynamic. We grew up with certain family dynamics, internalized these, act as if our fearful beliefs are true and our identity around it is who we are, set the stage to get our fears confirmed, and increase our chances for just that happening. We recreate the dynamics we are familiar with, even if they are painful.

Another side of this has to do with motivation and skills. If we are used to not being heard and understood, or not being taken seriously, we may feel hopeless about being heard and understood so we give up early in the process, and we may not develop the necessary skills to be properly heard and understood.

INVITATION FOR HEALING

There is a healing impulse in this, and an invitation for healing.

We get to face our fears more often. The invitation here is to get more familiar with it and perhaps see it’s not quite as terrible as our more catastrophic stories about it. We may even learn to navigate this particular terrain a bit better.

More importantly, we get to face our issue and how it plays out in our life. We are invited to identify and explore the issue and what’s behind it, and find a resolution for it. Life shows us what’s going on and we have an opportunity to do something about it.

OTHER WAYS IT PLAYS OUT IN THE WORLD…

The self-fulfilling dynamic is just one way these issues can play out.

For instance, we may have a fear of not being understood, so we go to great lengths to be understood. Here, we are setting the stage for another experience. We may still have the issue, but we act against it.

It’s healthier in some ways, although it does come with its own challenges. For instance, the stress of the issue is still there. Also, our behavior tends to have a compulsive quality which can lead to ill-considered actions and pushback from others.

AND EVEN THEN LIVING THIS PATTERN

Even here, we are actually living the self-fulfilling prophecy although in a less visible way.

In the example above, we don’t fully understand ourselves. We haven’t completely understood the issue and what it’s about, so we are acting on our habitual way of relating to it.

Similarly, if our issue is to not be supported and we make sure we have plenty of support in our life, we are still living the self-fulfilling prophecy. We are not properly supporting ourselves. If we did, we wouldn’t need to compulsively seek support in the world. If we did, we would resolve the issue.

And as mentioned above, if our issue is not feeling seen, heard, and understood, we may make a great deal of effort in being seen, heard, and understood. This helps our life in the world, but we are not really hearing, seeing, and understanding ourselves. To do so would mean thoroughly exploring the issue and through that finding a resolution for it.

We give to ourselves what we are looking for in the world, and that’s the real medicine for healing.

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Psych 101: Feelings don’t tell the truth

Feelings don’t tell the truth.

They ultimately lie.

SENSATION AND STORY COMPONENT

What we call feelings typically have a sensation and story component.

We feel something.

This feeling has a sensation component. We can feel it in our physical body as sensations.

And there are story elements here too. These include stories telling us the name of the feeling and what it means.

THE STORY IS NOT TRUE

This story about what the feeling means is not true. It can have some validity, in a conventional sense, but is ultimately and in a more real sense out of alignment with reality.

We can identify and examine these stories. We can find the limited validity in them. We can find how they are not true. And we can find what’s more true for us.

I FEEL…

When we say “I feel X”, we are only talking about the feeling itself and the story connected with it.

It’s a kind of confession about what’s going on with us. And, other than that, it says nothing about reality.

EMOTIONAL REASONING

Emotional reasoning is when we feel something and assume that’s how reality is.

We believe the story component of the feeling without realizing it’s a story and without examining it and checking with reality.

EXPLORING FEELINGS

So how can we explore these feelings?

We can learn to differentiate the physical sensations and the stories connected with it. We can rest in noticing the physical sensations. And we can rest in noticing the mental images and words connected with it.

We can identify the meaning of the feeling, the story behind it, and examine it.

We can learn to say “I feel…” and recognize this as only saying something about the feeling itself and nothing else.

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Psych 101: We are more than and different from our labels

Here is another entry in the Psychology 101 (or Life 101) series.

We are more than and different from our labels.

LABELS AND US

Any label may be more or less accurate in a conventional sense. We can agree, or disagree, about how well any particular label fits a person.

If we look, we can usually find a genuine example of how the label fits us. When I apply a label to myself, there is usually a grain of truth in it, and it’s helpful for me to find it. It helps me see that I am in the same boat as others. It helps me be less defensive in response to the label.

And just like life, we are always more than and different from any label. By exploring what a wide range of labels and stories point to in ourselves, we can taste and get to know some of the immense richenss in all of us. Our richness goes far beyond even that, which we discover when we surprise ourselves and others. Any label is a mental construct and not what it points to. And we are ultimately a mystery even to ourselves.

LABELS CAN BE SEDUCTIVE

Since labels are mental constructs, it’s easy for us to mentally focus on a label. To our mind, they appear clear-cut, simple, mentally graspable, and tangible.

And it’s easy to mislead ourselves with labels for the same reason. We may assume a label is accurate when it’s not. We may assume it tells us more about a person than it does. We may assume it’s more or less the whole picture when it’s just a tiny part. We may assume that whatever context we use is the only one, while there are other contexts that make as much or more sense and will completely shift our view.

SOME REMEDIES

What’s the remedy for this bias?

One remedy is to remind ourselves of the times others have labeled us and it was not accurate, or they thought it said more about us than it did. If that happened to us, maybe we are doing the same when we label others?

Similarly, what are some examples of when I labeled others or a situation and it turned out to not be accurate, or it completely missed the bigger picture?

When I label myself or others, it’s helpful to remember that it’s a guess, it’s more or less accurate in a conventional sense, the person is more than and different from any label, and I may miss an important context and bigger picture completely.

AN EXAMPLE

Someone says I am stupid.

I can find examples of how that’s true.

I can find it in a universal sense. What I know and understand is very limited and only a fraction of all there is to understand. The wisdom and kindness I live from is a drop in the ocean compared to the potential we have. That’s how it is for all of us.

And I can find it specifically for me. (1) Yesterday morning, my wife wanted to talk with me about something important for her, and I didn’t take it seriously and didn’t address her concerns. My response was stupid. I was in an issue, and it’s not how I wish to respond. (2) I have made decisions in life I can call stupid, especially around relationships (not exploring the ones I am drawn to, staying too long in the ones that don’t feel right) and career. (3) When I think someone is stupid (for instance, Putin, conspiracy folks), I am acting in a somewhat stupid way. I make myself more stupid than I am. I know better.

At the same time, I know it’s a somewhat stupid (!) label since it’s not very specific or helpful. There are many times and areas of life where I am not so stupid – for instance when I engage in healing and taking responsibility for my own life and behavior. I am much more than what that label points to. Any label is a mental construct and not what it points to. And ultimately, I am a mystery to myself.

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Psych 101: Differentiating feelings and thoughts

One of the basics of practical daily-life psychology is to differentiate feelings and thoughts.

BASIC EMOTION CATEGORIES

In our culture, we tend to differentiate emotions into sadness, anger, joy, grief, and so on. And there may be variations of these like frustration which can be seen as a form of anger.

Anything beyond that is a story. It may be a story about why we feel the way we do, what it means, and so on.

DIFFERENTIATING EMOTIONS AND STORIES

If we say “I feel you don’t love me anymore” or “I feel you did this to damage our relationship”, then we mix up feelings and stories. Yes, there is probably a feeling there. And no, we don’t feel this. We have a story saying this.

By mixing them up, we muddle the situation. And by learning to differentiate the two, we can more easily deal with what’s happening. We may notice a thought that the other person doesn’t love us anymore. We may notice sadness and fear coming from that thought. We may notice it’s more of a question than a statement. We may realize there may be other things going on. (For instance, the other may react to their own fearful stories, or it may be they don’t love some of our words and actions and it’s not that they don’t love us.) And we can more easily explore what’s going on with the other.

It’s more helpful to differentiate emotions and stories. We can say “I feel sad and I have a story that…”. It’s more close to reality, and it opens our mind up to hold the stories a little more lightly and explore them with more receptivity.

EMOTIONAL REASONING

This is closely related to emotional reasoning.

We feel something, it’s mixed up with a story, and the emotions make the story seem more true.

I feel it’s true so it must be true.

What we overlook here is that an emotion in itself is simple and doesn’t mean anything. It’s the stories we attach to it that gives it meaning. And these stories may not be true in the way we take them to be.

EVEN THE BASIC EMOTIONS HAVE A STORY COMPONENT

We may notice that what goes into the emotion category is somewhat arbitrary. We can differentiate five or ten or fifty different emotions.

From here, we may look a bit more closely and find that even conventional emotion labels like sadness, anger, joy, and so on have a story component. They are sensations that our thoughts put a label and story on.

PARTS LANGUAGE

Personally, I find parts language helpful.

If I say “I am sad”, there is a tendency to identify with the emotions. I take myself to be the emotion, at least for a while. This comes with a tendency to act on or react to the emotion. (And, really, I identify with certain stories connected to the emotion and the way these stories view the world.)

If I instead say “a part of me feels sad” there is a bit more space around it and it’s easier for me to see it as something that happens in my experience and is passing through. It’s not what I am. It’s something I experience. It’s a guest. It’s easier to relate to it more intentionally.

STORIES CREATING EMOTIONS

We may also find that stories we hold as true create emotions.

If we hold a stressful story as true, it tends to create corresponding emotions. And our mind may then take these emotions as a confirmation that the story is true. I feel that it’s true so it must be true.

Here, it’s helpful to take a step back, identify with story or stories behind the emotion, and examine these to see how they fit with what’s more honestly true for us.

DIFFERENTIATING EMOTIONS AND THOUGHTS

All of this is about differentiating emotions and thoughts, and exploring their relationship.

We can differentiate basic emotions and any stories we have related to what they are about, what they mean, and so on.

We can explore how our stories, when held as true, create certain emotions.

We can explore the story component of even basic emotions. What do we find? Physical sensations with a label attached to it calling it anger, sadness, or something else?

We can use parts language to help us relate to emotions more intentionally.

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Psych 101: Assigning unconscious motivation to others

I thought I would write a few posts on more practical daily-life psychology. In this case, about assigning unconscious motivations to others.

ASSIGNING UNCONSCIOUS MOTIVATIONS TO OTHERS

If we know a little about psychology, it may be tempting to sometimes assign unconscious motivations to others. You did Y, and it’s because you subconsciously want to X.

As usual, a little knowledge can be dangerous. And there are some inherent problems in this no matter how experienced we are with exploring the human psyche.

HOW IT MAY BE HELPFUL

In rare situations, guessing about unconscious motivations can be helpful.

Especially, if we ask for it, and it’s framed as a gently held question.

For instance, in a therapy session, there is a chance these guesses can read to useful explorations and insights. And sometimes, the insight may be that we cannot know, or that something else seems more plausible.

WHEN IT’S NOT HELPFUL

But if we don’t ask for it. If there are far more obvious and simple explanations. And if it’s framed as a statement and not a question. Then it’s not very helpful.

It’s typically not helpful any time we are outside of a therapy session, and sometimes it’s not even helpful within a therapy setting.

Why? Because we cannot know for certain. We are guessing and our guess is colored by our worldview, how we see humans, and whatever psychological tradition we are familiar with. It can often distract from a more simple, pragmatic, and effective approach. And it can bring people to doubt and second-guess themselves in a way that’s not so helpful.

HOW IT’S MORE LIKELY TO BE HELPFUL

There is one way these assumptions can be made helpful, and that is to see what’s going on and use it as a mirror for ourselves.

We can recognize it as a guess, a story, and something that happens in our mental field. It’s here to help us orient and explore something. It may have limited validity and reality is always more and different. What our story tells us is not inherent in reality or the other person.

We can use it as a mirror. If I turn this story to myself, what do I find? Can I find specific examples of when and how it was true?

We can notice how we are capacity for this story, as we are capacity for any experience. And how it happens within and as what we are, as every experience of anything does.

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The “I can if I want” test

I love Life 101 topics. The ones that are simple, practical, and can change your life.

This is one for when I notice a should. When I feel I should do something and notice tension or stress.


The original thought may be: I should go to the presentation.

Change it: I can go to the presentation if I want.

Check it (a): I can go to the presentation if I want, and I want to. Notice how it feels in the body.

Check it (b): I can go to the presentation if I want, and I don’t want to. Notice how it feels in the body.

Which one allows the body to relax? Which one is true for me?


This is a very good little exercise: It’s simple. It can be done in a few seconds in just about any situation. It shifts our thinking from a should to a can and a want. And we check in with our body to see what’s true for us.

The body relaxes when we find what’s true for us. It can breathe. Release. Let go.

This is a form of inquiry, and I think it’s from cognitive therapy and/or ACT. It’s also similar to the I should -> I want to because inquiry where we list reasons and see if they hold up. They are both useful although I like this one since it makes use of checking in with the body and learning to trust the body. There is a part of our mind that knows what’s true for us and this is reflected in the body.

Life 101

Most of what I write about here is Life 101.

It’s simple, and – for me — essential.

And that’s why I write about it.

I wish to contribute, in a very small way, to a society where (some of) these things are seen as basic and essential.

It may be helpful to some of the people reading it. (For me, it’s always helpful to be reminded of the basics. And I know it’s helpful to me to find others with similar experiences and interests as myself.)

And, in the best case, it’s helpful to me when I write. It allows me to explore, clarify, and remind myself. The more sincere I am, and the closer to immediate experience, the more I benefit and the more likely I am to be surprised by what I discover.

The scientific method is universally useful – and science content always changes

I have written a few Life 101 posts, and this one is about the scientific method and science content.

The scientific method

The scientific method is, in many ways, common-sense set in system. It is a formalized version of a grounded, pragmatic, and common sense approach to life and exploring and learning more about anything in life. It’s just about universally useful, any time we wish to explore and learn about something.

And that includes when we want to discover who and what we are, our true nature, and how to live from noticing our true nature. We can follow pointers and practices, notice what happens, notice what we find, invite our human self to be transformed from the practices and the noticing, and so on. We may share it with others. They see that they find and report that. And there is a dialog. We learn from each other and inevitably are our own final authority.

Science content

The content of science is different. This is the product of the scientific method. It’s what we discover, and how we think and talk about what we discover.

In conventional science, this is less universal. How we understand things in the world varies across time and cultures. Often, we refine smaller things within the bigger worldview. And sometimes, even our bigger worldview changes.

If we explore what we are and our true nature, what we find seems a bit more universal and it tends to be described similarly across times and cultures. And here too, people perceive and express it through the lens of their own time, culture, and personal background and inclinations, and we may focus on and emphasize different facets.

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Life 101: Notice + allow

I sometimes write about a basic form of mindfulness which can be translated into notice + allow.

Notice what’s here in the sense fields, allow it to be, and perhaps notice it’s already allowed to be here.

In daily life, there is an additional emphasis I find very helpful. And that is to notice sensations, and especially those sensations that fuel and give substance to stressful thoughts and identities.

When these sensations happen outside of conscious awareness, the thoughts they lend their apparent solidity to tend to seem real, solid, and true. And when they are brought into conscious awareness, and the way they combine with certain thoughts and identities to lend them a sense of solidity is brought into conscious awareness, it’s as if we peek behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz and the illusion falls apart.

It’s easiest to discover this through inquiry, and especially the Living Inquiries. And then notice it while taking some time out and having space and time to notice. And then, after a while, we can bring it into daily life.

For me, this is one of my favorite explorations these days. I notice my mind is caught up in stressful thoughts or identities. (I notice the typical symptoms like stress, tension, blame, mental complaining, feeling like a victim, feeling I need to protect something, a compulsion etc.) I bring attention to the sensations in the body and allow them to be as they are. And I specifically look for and give attention to the sensations giving the stressful thoughts a sense of solidity, reality, and truth.

And that tends to break the spell. It creates space to notice and allow it all, and not be so caught up in it. It shifts the mind out of identifying with the stressful thoughts and identities, and into that which allows and is it all.

And that gives space for relating to what comes up in me more intentionally, and the triggering situation in life more intentionally. It opens for a slightly more mature and kind way of being.

It is fascinating how such as simple mechanism creates our stressful beliefs and hangups. We have thoughts which, in themselves, are innocent questions about the world. The mind then associates these with certain sensations in the body, and may even tense up muscles to create sensations it can associate the thoughts with. The sensations then gives a sense of solidity, reality, and truth to the thoughts. And the thoughts give a sense of meaning to the sensations.

As long as this happens outside of our conscious awareness, the thoughts seem solid and true, and we perceive, act, and live in the world as if they are true. As soon as we “peek behind the curtain”, the illusion falls apart, it loses it’s grip, and we can relate to it more intentionally.

In my imagination, in a future society that’s a little more mature, this is Life 101. This is what children learn along with riding a bike, reading, writing, and singing songs.

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Life 101: How we think about the world (philosophy of science)

There are some essential Life 101 topics. Things that are fundamental to being human and can serve us for a lifetime.

One of these is learning how to think about the world, also known – when more formalized – as philosophy of science.

It’s something we all can explore for ourselves. And, as I see it, it’s a bit shocking it’s not included in a more systematic way at all levels of formal education – adapted to each age level and made fun, relevant, and with the ordinariness of it emphasized.

It’s what we already know, this is just a way to bring more awareness into it and investigate it more consciously.

Here are some ideas of what could be included in formal education.

When it comes to exploring the world, there is the basic approach of observation, hypothesis, testing, revising, testing by others, etc. And how each step is influenced by our underlying assumptions and worldviews. What are some examples of how we use these steps, often without thinking about it, in our own life? What are some examples in our history? What do we find if we apply this approach to an area of our own life?

Equally or more important is how we more broadly think about the world and our understanding of it.

We don’t know anything for certain. This goes for us as humanity, as a culture, and in our own life. Our statements or assumptions are practical guidelines for orienting and functioning in the world. They are questions. They are not the final word. What is an example of an assumption we made – about the world, ourselves, others, a situation – that we were convinced was true, and then it turned out it was not? What are some examples from history and science?

Our understanding of specific things in life changes over time. Our collective understanding changes, and our personal understanding changes. Over time, all of it may change. What are some examples of you seeing something a certain way, and then change your view? What are some examples from history?

Our worldview and most basic assumptions about the world change over time. What are some examples of worldviews changing over time? What are some examples of different worldviews from different cultures? What are the most basic assumptions about the world in our culture? Could these change in the future?

There are other understandings and other worldviews that may fit our experience (data) equally well as the ones we are familiar with, and some may even fit them better.

Our worldview and most basic assumptions about ourselves and the world is the water we swim in. It’s hard for us to notice these. And if we do, it’s often hard for us to question them. What are some basic assumptions we – in our society and culture – have about the world? What are some examples of assumptions that we usually wouldn’t even think of questioning? Are there taboos around questioning some of them?

Our background colors our understandings, values, and worldview. Our background – – as a species, culture, and individual – color what we see as important, what we see as right and wrong, and our assumptions about the world and ourselves. What are some examples of how our background influences how we see something? What are some examples of cultural differences? Imagine an intelligent species very different from us (bird, reptilian, fish, etc.). How would their perceptions, inclinations, and perhaps values differ from ours?

What is cognitive bias? What are the most typical cognitive biases? Take one and see how it plays a role in your own life. Is there a time you realized you made a wrong assumption because of bias? Which cognitive biases do we most see in our society? How can I be more aware of these? How can I counteract them? What may happen if I don’t notice or question my biases? And what are the benefits of noticing and questioning them?

How do we discuss well? Do we go into a conversation with the intention to learn from the other? Or do we just want to keep our initial ideas unchanged? (If so, what’s behind it?) What is the outcome of one and the other? Roleplay both and see how each one feels.

What are some common logical fallacies? What are some examples of logical fallacies in public discourse? And in our own life? How can we notice and counteract them in ourselves? How can we – with kindness and effectively – point it out when someone else uses a logical fallacy? When is it appropriate to do so?

This ties into trauma education since traumas often influence our perception, ideas about the world, and how we hold onto them (often for dear life when traumas are involved).

It would be a fun challenge to adapt this to each age level, and also develop (potentially) engaging, fun, and illuminating exercises and activities for each of the areas listed above. (And other areas I inevitably have left out.) Of course, it’s even better when the kids/teens develop this on their own.

And it is important to show that this is a fundamental part of being human. It’s something we already know and apply, at least to some extent. This is just a more organized exploration and application of it.

I personally learned some of these in school. Some on my own in my teens through reading books about science (especially the Fritjof Capra books). And some at university. (Philosophy of science courses are mandatory at universities in Norway, although why not at earlier levels?)

I am a bit surprised that this is not a more integral part of education at all levels. It’s useful in all areas of life and throughout life. Essential for nurturing a more well-functioning society. And today, with the internet echo-chambers, it’s more important than ever.

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Bliss addiction

This is another 101 topic I have written about before and thought I would briefly revisit.

We can be addicted to bliss, especially during a certain phase of the spiritual path.

Here is what often happens:

We get a taste of bliss.

We want it again.

We try different strategies to get it again.

We try strategies to get it to stay.

And eventually, we discover that we seek a transitory state and an experience, and that’s ultimately futile.

As far as I can tell, this bliss-seeking compulsion has a few different functions.

It’s a carrot on the path. It keeps us going so our seeking and practices become more established and more of a stable habit. Especially as it tends to happen early on the intentional path.

It can bring a certain healing. It can make us feel loved. It can help us trust life more.

It’s a lesson in the difference between states and what we are. It helps us differentiate the two.

It’s an invitation to explore what in us drives the compulsion and find healing for it.

As experiences come and go, we will eventually notice that what we are is what experiences happen within and as. And that that’s what it really is about, at least as we mature a bit. Seeking and losing and refinding and relosing bliss is a strong invitation to notice this.

And what drives this compulsion to find bliss, or really any compulsion? It’s often a sense of lack, a sense of not being good enough, and wanting to escape uncomfortable identifications and feelings.

So there is nothing wrong in seeking bliss. It’s natural. It’s quite common. It has several functions. And it leads us to a slightly more mature phase of the path.

Note: What strategies do we use to seek and maintain bliss? Most often, it’s a combination of meditation practices, prayer, and yogic or energetic practices. And for some, it’s psychoactive drugs.

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Getting to know those you dislike

This is another one of the things that parents, in the best case, tell their children.

If I enter a room or a group I’ll spend some time in, my mind tends to quickly sort people into “like” and “dislike” – at least as an initial map.

I have made it a practice to get to know those I have put in the “dislike” category. To get to know them a bit as humans and some of their back story.

It helps me to see them as humans rather than cardboard cutouts. It humanizes them in my mind. I may end up liking them or not, but that’s secondary.

And, of course, they are “me over there”. This is just me as this human being getting to know me as that human over there. And it reflects how I approach and relate to parts of myself and my own experience I dislike. Do I agree with the initial dislike and try to avoid it? Or do I know it’s worth getting to know it?

So if my mind tells itself “I don’t like that person” that’s a signal to get to know that person, at least a bit.

Note: This happend in the most recent Vortex Healing course I attended. My mind immediately disliked a person there, and just by circumstances I ended up talking with her for a while, seeing her as a real human being, and finding sympathy for her. She is still not someone I would actively pursue a friendship with but my experience of her has changed.

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Not knowing what we’ll find

A part of Life 101 is having an open mind.

We don’t know what we’ll find in any exploration of life, whether it’s through science, psychological or spiritual explorations, or just through living our daily lives.

We honestly don’t know, apart from that it – most likely – will be different from what we think, expect, envision, hope, or fear. And when we admit to ourselves, and remind ourselves, that we don’t know, it helps us stay honest with ourselves and the process and notice what’s actually here.

It’s easier said than done. Our minds are typically experts at getting themselves caught up in hopes, fears, and expectations. Our hopes and fears have a charge, and that charge makes them irresistible to the mind. (Of course, the mind creates all this itself, but that’s for other posts.)

What can we do? We can notice. Allow. See it’s the play of the mind. Notice the specific fears and hopes. Meet them with kindness and respect. Inquire into the fears and hopes and see what we find. All of that helps the mind soften and release it’s tendency to get caught in its own creations of hopes and fears.

It can also help to see that this is universal. It’s an universal human experience. And it’s here for a good reason. Having hopes and fears, giving them a charge, and even for the mind getting caught in them, all helped our ancestors survive. We wouldn’t be here without it. At the same time, it’s not conducive to more rational big picture or long-term decisions on behalf of ourselves and humanity, or even for our individual contentment (if that’s what we seek).

Note: I mentioned charge above, and have written about it in other posts. The charge comes from thoughts – mental words and images, being associated with bodily sensations. Sensations lend a sense of reality and solidity to the thoughts and make them seem true, and thoughts lend a sense of meaning to the sensations. For instance, a set of sensation is taken by the mind to mean that I am this body, and that same idea is given a sense of substance and truth by the same sensations.

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Life 101

So much of what I write here is Life 101.

It’s very basic. Simple. Even written so it’s easier to understand.

And yet, it’s not so obvious in the context of our contemporary culture.

Perhaps it will be more obvious and mainstream in the future?

And perhaps it will be included more often in a Life 101 track through school.

It seems as important as the other basics already included in most schools: language, maths, history, sports, religions, and social studies.

Here are some ideas for what could be included in a Life 101 track:

Communication skills.

Relationship skills.

Media literacy.

Critical thinking. Rational thinking.

Training of a more stable attention. (Helpful for anything.)

And perhaps, for the especially interested:

Mind-body practices. (Yoga, tai chi, chigong.)

Basic forms of meditation.

Basic inquiry.

Parts work (subpersonalities).

And even, in some schools, basic universal spirituality. (What it’s about, typical process etc.)

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