Posts Tagged ‘possibility’


Philosophy Tuesday

September 19, 2017

There are two types of “learning” in the world.*

The first is the kind that things like mathematics fall into.  There is a definite set of processes, rules, procedures, and methods that produce a solid and individual answer.  2 + 2 = 4.  Physics is like this.  Chemistry is like this.  And, in many ways, most of our schooling is like this.  Even the bits that aren’t, the bits that would fall into the second type, are generally taught in the same manner.  Spelling, history/dates, geography/lines on a map, algebra:  all quantifiable and capable of a right/wrong ranking.  You either know it, or you don’t.  You either have it, or you don’t.  And to learn it means memorizing, logicizing, and proper reproducing.**

Which is all fine and good.  Informational learning is important, vital, and can help us do a lot of things.  We want the engineer designing and airplane to know their equations and figure things through.  The brain surgeon should know the structures of the brain and how to diagnose problems, and what remedies to apply.  Statisticians can help us make sense of large sets of data through rigorous procedures.  It’s all great.

At the same time, this early instruction can create a strong context, feeling, and view (read: reality) that this is how learning happens, and that everything in the world can, and/or should, be known in this way.  Outside->In, knowledge based, right/wrong result type learning.  A context which then limits our access to, and comfort with, the second type of learning.

This second type is the kind of learning that is intuitive, fluid, and arises mostly from immediate, visceral, self-discovery.  It is gotten, but it is not fixed; it lives in the present.  It often bypasses the traditional take on what “knowledge” is.  This is the domain of the arts, of all kinds, the broadest casting of arts, the arts beyond that of just aesthetic pursuits.  It is the art of relating to others, the art of living, the art of movement, the art of the cosmos, the art of “emotional intelligence”, the art of mindfulness, the art of expression.   They are the arts that form our experience of life.

These are very important arts.

They also cannot be “learned” like math;  knowledge and examples and techniques can only be lighthouses to guide us towards the moment of personal discovery that makes it ours.  Trying to stick to the rote routines gained by knowledge only leads to stilted outcomes. ***

It can be hard to do the second learning when you’ve walled it off, forgotten and unknown, and haven’t used it for a long time.  Or maybe not.  Maybe all it takes getting and transforming the contextual trap we’ve been in, opening up to the ability we’ve had all along.*****   Let it out, let it exercise, play, explore, and get stronger.

Opening us up to new abilities, greater wisdom, and a plethora of new possibilities for our lives.


* Of course, we could probably create many more than two categories, or possibly there’s even a third or fourth category equally large to these two , but for the moment and for this exploration, let’s keep it at two…

** In later schooling, this tends to break open a bit more, such as with essay questions in English class, where a good teacher will allow for many modes of answers to be graded well.  In the flipside, though, even the most open, such as art, drama, music, etc, can get bogged down under the need to rank things.  The technique gets graded – something that feels as though it can be “learned” and demonstrated in a very right/wrong, have it/don’t have it kind of way (and which has much less to do with actual artistic expression).  This further creates the context that can limit being able to be in and play around in the second kind of learning.

*** This post arose from something I’ve been noticing in my kung fu practice recently, which has blossomed into a meditation on the nature of the art part of the phrase “Martial Arts”.  Especially as you delve deeper and deeper into the art(s), and, for me, as I teach others.  Some of my students are caught in an, for lack of a better term, “engineer’s mindset”, a very strong adherence to the first type of learning.  They learn the outlines of the forms quickly, but their progress hits a wall as the detail work comes along.  Trying to do kung fu from the outside->in, coming from memory and reproducing all the correct angles and tensions and body linkages and movements and etc doesn’t work.  The brain isn’t wired to do so, there’s too much there to keep track of and try to figure out or reproduce in the moment.  That first way of learning doesn’t work here. ****

**** This is also starting to intrigue me and make me wonder about those who are “not good at sports” – could this “not good” be caused by the context of what learning is (ie, caught in the context of the first kind of learning)?  It would be a barrier to  being in their body and learning intrinsically… *****

***** Interestingly, it’s the way we all did when we learned to walk.  We didn’t have language then, and thus no contexts and thus no idea of what “learning” is supposed to be… so we had to learn intrinsically.

****** For all of this, BTW, I had to break out of my own type-1 learning context (that, of course, I didn’t even realize I had) (And I still need to practice my type-2 more and more).  My kung fu training accelerated by leaps and bounds once I started my journey into transformation, as that type-2 learning suddenly became available to me.


Wonder Wednesday

August 23, 2017

Playing for Change around the world with Stand by Me


Philosophy Tuesday

August 15, 2017

A couple of years ago, during a mindfulness and meditation panel I was co-leading, one of the participants raised their hand:

“If attachment, so suggests Buddhism, is the root of all dis-ease… well, how do you know when you are attached to something?”

Hmmm.  That was a good one.  It can be fabulous and very empowering in life to be committed to something, but at what point can we tell its crossed beyond a commitment into an attachment?

I paused for a moment to let this percolate.

“I’d say that… if you find yourself righteously hot, fixated, uncontrollably going on about something, and you’re gripped by it… then it’s probably an attachment.  There’s a visceral component to it, one of those ones that defies neat and accurate description but if you let yourself be sensitive to it you get to know that grip.  Actually, you can probably think back to a time when something was said or done or you learned that just had you react with such recoil and fury that seemed to come out of nowhere… well, bingo, that’s the feeling, that visceral reaction.  There’s something there beyond just a commitment.

And this is really good to notice, not only because attachments can cause us such distress, but because it robs us of our freedom and, perhaps counter-intuitively, kills our performance and our power.  It also means that maybe we should check that commitment, because I’ll bet ya if we have that reaction we’re actually attached to something other than what we’re saying we are committed to.  And if our authentic self wants us to embrace that commitment, authentically, then we’re going to want to deal with that inauthentic hidden attachment.

Once we’re out of the grip of attachment, we are free to play and be who we truly want to be.”

A great question that had me distinguish something for myself that day.


Philosophy Tuesday

August 8, 2017

One of the greatest things to learn as a human being,

I assert,

is the ability to be with yourself.

And to that I mean really just be with yourself.


And your internal state.

No music.

No movies.

No conversation.

No email.

No task or goal or game.

No distractions.

No interruptions.

Maybe walking alone, maybe sitting, maybe lying down in bed,

But just you, walking with, sitting with, lying with, whatever comes up for you.

It isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do;

And it is, very much, something that needs to be learned.

(And the earlier you are fortunate to have the opportunity to learn it,

the better,

Because if not, woah.

It’s like learning to walk when your thirty.

Every fall is going to hurt so much more,

And the discouragement will be so much worse.)

But it is vital.

Because in that space,



learn to,

be still

to observe

to listen

to know ourselves

and therefore to know others

to open up

to connect

to feel all our feels

to be at one with ourselves

and at one with the world around us

and to live in all of these worlds


From that space,

comes birthed,




emotional integrity

we learn to hear our authentic selves

and we learn to let go our inauthentic narration.

It is from here,

that we construct ourselves

design who we will be in the world

give voice to our genuine character

and step out into the world

well adjusted

well equipped

with peace of mind

and a full heart.

When we,


can be with yourself,

you can be with whatever life brings

when it life’s all over you.

You can be,

just be,

no matter the circumstances.

And in every moment,

you get to be,


and who,

you want to be.


Philosophy Tuesday

August 1, 2017

Back in June, while I was in Los Angles, I took a visit to the Annenberg Space for Photography and saw the show “Generation Wealth” by Lauren Greenfield.  The show examines the influence of affluence, both locally and how it has influenced (and maybe we could say has even been exported to) other countries around the world.  The idea wasn’t to simply look or catalogue the so-called “lifestyles of the rich and famous”, but more so to examine and highlight the pervasive desire for more.

It was a good show (and it will be going on until Aug 13th if you can visit before then), and there was a lot to take in.  There was one particular caption for a photo, however, that really stuck with me.  To paraphrase:

“Girls at a young age learn that their body has currency.”

“… has currency.”  That strikes me as a really interesting concept, and I think there’s juice there, well worth looking into.  So this post will be just that – I don’t have a particular ending point or great conclusion I’m driving towards.  I just want to explore it and see what might open up.

Currency.  Noun.  Something that is used as a medium of exchange.  If you have currency, you can spend that currency as capital to get something else.

Homer: Oh, twenty dollars. I wanted a peanut.

Homer’s Brain: Twenty dollars can buy many peanuts.

Homer: Explain how.

Homer’s Brain: Money can be exchanged for goods and services.

Homer: Woo-hoo!

I’d surmise that most of the time when we think about currency, we only think about the “paper” kind: money.  But if we step back for a second and look, there’s really a lot of things that we can (and do) use as currency.  Things we attain, culture, try to make grow, and even horde, so that we can use them in some way to get something else.  Yet they’re such a part of the fabric of the/our culture that we don’t even notice that or when we’re doing it.

We are social creatures.  In the same way we’ve declared and agreed that a particular piece of paper is worth “10 dollars”, we’ve also placed values on all sorts of intangible things.  And we’re exchanging those things all the time to get other things.

If we go from there… “ok then, what do we value and consider as currency in our society?”

Bodies.  A particular style/type of body.  Access to bodies.  Certain clothes.  A style.  Type of language.  The way we act:  macho, sultry, partier, etc.  Fan of a particular thing/team/singer/etc.  Likes and shares online.  Followers.  Goods of a certain calibre, or brand.  Connections or people we know.  Favours, of all types.  Philanthropy.  Notoriety or infamy.*

What’s the price to pay (pun semi-intended), though, when they become wrapped up in the same contexts we have in our head for currency/economy/exchange?  Because we can get decidedly weird and act very bizarrely around money… So too then will we around anything that fits in our minds as a currency.  Often including actions and decisions that don’t always turn out to be in our best self-interest.

And then things can get even more entwined when we spend actual currency to bolster and increase these “virtual” currencies…  (Which, again, in reality, are just as much of a fiat currency as is the “real” currency of money.)

It is that craziness wrapped up in the way we operate around money that has me so intrigued about this distinction and calling out of the other things we traffic in as currency.  Why I think it’s valuable.  Especially since so much of it we just inherit from our surrounding culture and society.  There’s nothing necessarily good or bad in any of the things we might hold as a currency, it’s just how we might be impacted when they get caught up in the notions of an economy.  We can form barriers that limit us from being and acting in ways that are expressed, fulfilling, creative, related.  Something that is authentic for us can instead get hijacked by our subconscious machinations around money.

Like anything, taken too far to one side or the other it can become destructive.  There’s what we hoard, the inappropriate and inaccurate meaning we can place on it, the judgments, the pathological pursuit of it, the crushing despair of not having it, the dying a thousand deaths if what we put so much of our energy into begins to slip away and we realize we are bankrupt (in many metaphorical ways)…. Likewise too there’s what we spend it on, how we spend it, and the misguided ways we try to spend it, perhaps attempting to gain companionship, attention, agency (ie the feeling of power), self esteem, all things that too easily also flit away.

Perhaps above all this is also just the basic, absolute, deadening of anything that gets reduced to a mundane transaction, a footnote in a ledger, all forced into perfectly equal rectangles and an eye on zero-sum games.

And if things we cherish and derive genuine self-actualization from gets supplanted by that kind of everyday mundane monetary economic context, then that is an unfortunate thing indeed.

Creating a window that allows us to see what would otherwise be hidden is always a first step in not getting trapped.  That little caption is opening up a whole new realm for me to check out and examine.  A brilliant little distinction by Lauren.

What do you see?  What else do we/you use as currency?  Or spend it on?  How might it be acting as a straightjacket?  If you have any insights or thoughts, please share…  I’d love to explore this more.


* Another photo by Lauren noted the rise of some celebrities who are famous almost entirely and only for being famous.  They gained their fame through a sex tape or other item that went viral, and rather than being a scarlet letter it instead became the foundation of their fame.  A fame that becomes capital to be spent… acquiring more fame and capital, and so on.


Philosophy Tuesday

July 18, 2017

This is a philosophical statement.  It is intended to spark thinking and examining.  Tonight, a quote:


The majority of what exists is arbitrary…

Neither inevitable nor right…

Simply the result of muddle and happenstance.


The School of Life


Philosophy Tuesday

July 11, 2017

This is a philosophical statement. It is intended to spark thinking and examining.

Our brains have a pretty darn strong us/them detector.  And it’s a fast one too, as in tenth of a second fast.  See someone, or an image of someone, and boom, before we even register there’s a face there that part of our brain has slapped a label on it.  Recent neuroscience research is even able to watch this happen in real time.  Show test subjects a face, see their brain reaction.

Ok, that we split people into us/them groups is not all that surprising.  What might be, though, is that WHAT is pegged as different and other is completely arbitrary.  More than that even;  in fact highly malleable.

Take those same images, the ones shown to the test subjects where their minds were observed categorizing the people in the photos as in/out, us/them, kin/other, and show them a second time, this time with many of the people in the photos wearing a baseball cap of the local popular sports team.  That “other” response… goes away.  Just doesn’t arise.  The first time through:  person gets flagged as other.  Second time through with the hat:  nope, part of my tribe.

That’s fascinating.

Even crazier, the research found that the sensitivity of the detector (ie, make our brains ping “other” more often) can be heightened by simply placing someone in a room with a foul odour in the background.

So easily malleable.

Our brains “otherize” people based on all sorts of things:  skin colour, hair length, gender, body proportions, accents, perceived upbringing, fashion sense, music tastes, choice of operating systems, the list goes on.  And there’s nothing inherent, or even correct about any of it.  So much can set it off.

Which means we can adjust it.  We’re not locked into anything.  No one is.  Baseball caps can change the detector’s response (for or against – put on your rival’s team and watch it swing wildly);  with mindfulness and choice we can do the same.  That to which we do or do not recoil from is under our control.

And even when our detector pings based on one of those hundreds of hidden variables, it’s still just a ping.  It’s no different than the feeling you have right now of a thousand cockroaches and ants crawling all over you and up your arms and into your hair and along the soles of your feet, just from reading this sentence.*  Feelings can be great indicators of something, and so is this.  But they are not a determiner.  That meaning is all up to us.

Our brains continue to hand us these us/them judgments, all the time.  But that is no straightjacket.  It does not doom us to certain actions and reactions.  Rather, we are getting a signal:  to be present, to be mindful, to look around, and to be curious.  There can be gold on them thar other hills.


* Sorry for that sensation…