Posts Tagged ‘transformation’

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Philosophy Tuesday

June 25, 2019

Every philosophical tradition begins with learning to be present.  Learning to be mindful of the current moment.

Even for the Jedi.  As Yoda said of Luke in The Empire Strikes Back:  “All his life has he looked away… to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing.”

Being present is learning to be with the way things are.  Truly are.  Learning to distinguish our thoughts and feelings and emotions about events, both now and past, from how the events actually are or were.  Without adding interpretation or story.  And this can be toughVery tough.  Because we are so accustomed to, so familiar with, so entrenched in our automatic assessments that we don’t even realize we are making assessments.  We instantly collapse our conclusions with that which is accurately in front of us in physical reality, and we so with such intensity that we then go through life relating to the conclusion as though it was reality.

We let those instant and automatic conclusions rule us.

Being present is learning to differentiate between what’s so (what’s brutally, actually so) and all our judgement, assessments, stories, and interpretations about what’s so.

Once we can stand there, we gain peace of mind.   Once we can stand there, we can then act from a place of choice and creation that arises from deep within our authentic selves.  Rather than being hemmed in and restricted by the frame of our views we explode the frame to open new realms of possibilities.  Transformation is now in reach.

Every philosophical tradition begins with learning to be present.

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Philosophy Tuesday

June 11, 2019

When we interact with someone, we often operate under the unspoken 50/50 rule:  “I’ll do my part, and you do your part.”  Which is also sometimes known as under the name of “It Takes Two To Tango.”

Which is great, right?  I mean, clearly there are (at least) two parties involved, so each should be doing their bit for things to work out.  Except – and you knew this was coming – there’s this thing we do.  Well, a couple of things, but the biggest of them to speak of tonight is the “integrity baseline syndrome.”  Which is fancy name for the effect where we start off in a relationship at 50/50… but then you don’t do/be/handle/etc this thing that I think you should have, so now I’m going to pull back a bit, so we’re at 45/50… which of course means then that you notice I’m not doing/being/handling/etc as much as I should, so you pull back, 45/40, so then I say you’re not efforting enough and pull back to 38/40, and then you… and I… and you… and I… and before you know it we’re both pretty much being 0% responsible for the way the relationship goes.  It’s all eggshells and accusations.

(Of course, not all or even most relationships go that way, but they likely end up with each of us cycling around 25% to 35% or so… which feels fine, normal, and even right because it’s what we’re used to, it’s how relationships always have gone… but it isn’t where it could be.)

The extra kicker about the IBS, which you may have already noticed, is that many of the “you didn’ts” are unspoken by us.  They are never communicated, created, nor checked in on.  So, the transgressions we use to cut our percentage are often involuntary, unexpected, and even unseen.  There’s no explanation for why the other person suddenly seems less invested or active or engaged.  Which both hurts, and then prompts the further pullback, leading to the downward spiral.

The hilarious* thing is that many of these standards and ideals are amazingly arbitrary and trivial.  No, this isn’t about if the person abuses or controls or takes advantage of you, but rather the expectations of what a “person with whom I’m in this kind of relationship with should do” kind of way.  Does it involve gifts?  A certain way they listen to you?  Scheduling?  Activities?  Certain statements they should reiterate with a particular frequency?  There are hundreds of these, and so many of these are deeply individual; we created the expectation of what’s right and proper based on what we saw modelled growing up, both live and in fiction.  We decided it all.

Turns out, the other person may not have decided the same things.  And they have equally weird and specific metrics they’re applying to you!

So here’s the crux:  It’s best to enter into and maintain relationships where each person takes on 100% ownership of how it goes.**  And since you can’t act for another person, it means taking on being 100% responsible for how all of the relationships in your life go.

There’s great joy and power in this.  Extra joy, really, for what’s available in a high-ownership relationship is amazing and so much above what we’re used to as we dabbled around our 25%ness.  And given that forming connections is one of the most meaningful and fulfilling things there are for us human beings, this is super important.

An acquaintance once shared a story about their first Christmas with their, at the time, new boyfriend.  Starting in October they had been going out seeking the most amazing gifts they could think of and discover.  It was great, and they were super excited, hiding the gifts all over their shared place, all ready to surprise come the day of unwrapping.  Until they had a thought.  “Wait, if I’m using all the good hiding spots, where are they hiding their gifts?”  So they, as casually as they could, asked, “Hey, how is your Christmas shopping going?”  “Oh, I don’t buy things.”  And like that, an explosion.  Storming around the house, yelling “you’ve ruined our Christmas,” ready to throw them out, and lots of crying, especially from the boyfriend who wasn’t even sure where this was coming from.

Fortunately, mindfulness was present and so before too long my acquaintance caught then excused themselves for a moment as an interrupt, regained their centre, and returned to conversation.  Through talking, they learned that gift giving just wasn’t part of the boyfriend’s upbringing, both because they never had much money and moreover it wasn’t how they showed love to each other.  It wasn’t part of their world.  “I honestly don’t know how to do it,” he said.  “Would you like to learn?”  A pause to consider.  “Yes. I would.”

That Christmas was wonderful.  And in a delightful “be careful what you wish for” twist to the story, that boyfriend ended up being a MASTER at gift buying, so much so that my acquaintance’s mother prefers the gifts that the boyfriend buys to those from her own child.

100% ownership for how things go.  Disasters avoided, great enlivening relationships available, and the chance for things to be wondrously amazing.

 

* Hilarious in the “man aren’t we humans ever fascinating!” kind of way…

** Again, this is not control; see this post.***

*** Because if it doesn’t go as you’d like it to in order to maintain the relationship, you have the say in how it ends as well, whether it ends or not and whether it ends gracefully or in a train wreck.

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Philosophy Tuesday

May 21, 2019

“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be very careful what we pretend to be.”

— Kurt Vonnegut

 

(Or, to put it another way, we are who we, and our identity/identities, says we are.  Our views about ourself shapes us fully.  And so actively cultivating an identity that matches our authentic self is therefore very much of prime importance to living a great life…)

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Philosophy Tuesday

April 23, 2019

“It taught me – it gave me greater appreciation and understanding for the present moment. By that, I mean not being lost in thought, not being distracted, not being overwhelmed by difficult emotions but instead learning how to be in the here and now, how to be mindful, how to be present.

I think the present moment is so underrated. It sounds so ordinary. And yet, we spend so little time in the present moment that it’s anything but ordinary.

“I remember getting told off once at the monastery. So I was a very naughty monk.  I can’t even remember now why. I think I’d read a book or something in the library that I wasn’t supposed to read or something. And I was given a task to do, and it was to cut the grass. And it was to cut the grass with a pair of scissors. Now, at the time when I was doing it, at least for the first kind of hour or two of doing that, in my mind, I was just busy talking to myself. This is ridiculous. This is crazy… So stupid, la-la-la-la…

And really kind of just building up a lot of frustration and anger. It was entirely my own kind of doing, that stuff. And I was kind of creating this tension in the mind and in my body. And at some stage, I think I remember just kind of just laughing to myself at the absurdity of it. But through having let go of that storyline and having let go of that tension, all of a sudden, I was kind of released from that story.

And all of a sudden, it actually became quite a pleasant activity. So it’s a really good example of how, look, the activity is what it was. I got to define the experience of that activity by how I was relating to it with my mind. And so in the monastery, you’re constantly kind of challenged. You know, if you’re sweeping the floor are you sweeping the floor whilst thinking about something else that happened in the past or looking to the future, hoping something will happen in the future? Or are you simply present with the sound and the sensation of the broom?

And it’s such a simple idea. But if it’s done sort of repeatedly over time, then it has a really sort of transformative effect on the mind.”

—-

“And I sometimes think that, in our search for happiness, we make so much noise – if not externally, in our own mind – that actually we miss the very thing that we were looking for and we realized that, oh, actually it was here all along. So I sometimes worry about this kind of search for happiness or trying to be more happy. And that, for me – I can only speak from my own experience – but the framework of meditation was so useful where there isn’t really this idea of trying to be happy. It’s more simply creating a framework where we let go of all the things that bring us unhappiness.”

Andy Puddicombe (emphasis mine)

 

(Lots of great stuff, and I especially like that last bit – searching for happiness or trying to force happiness is often not particularly all that useful or productive.  It’s throwing happiness icing on top of a mud pie.  There’s still so much mud there, that it’s nothing but a fragile veneer (that, probably, creates more mud of resentment that lies on top of the icing).  What mindfulness, being present, and ontological inquiry and discovery allows is to recognize and let go of that which is making the mud within us.  To get rid of the mud.  Clear the plate, and allow the happiness (and joy, fulfilment, etc) to rise up naturally – and authentically – from our own self-expression.

Also, I very much like and it totally deserves being doubly highlighted: “And yet, we spend so little time in the present moment that it’s anything but ordinary.”)

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Philosophy Tuesday

April 16, 2019

When being present to your Calculating Self, versus that of your Authentic Self, it is important to know and remember one thing:  The calculating self does not care about your happiness.

Not one bit.  It only cares about survival.  Not whether you like it.  Or are happy.  Or fulfilled.  Or energized.   Or empowered.  Doesn’t care.  It only cares about continuation of one thing: its own.  It will fight tooth and nail to stay intact, to keep its world views and patterns unchanged.

It has survived this situation once, why would it do something different?  Just do the same thing again, and you will make it out the other side.  Your experience of life suck?  Your authentic self doesn’t like it?  It doesn’t care!  This is the sure thing.  It knows that you will survive.  So it pushes you to do it again.

Thrive in life?  Feh, it doesn’t care.  Just survive.  Trapped in a rut you don’t want?  Doesn’t care, just survive.  Do things that are unproductive?  Doesn’t care, just do same thing again, it knows the outcome, you will survive.  Want to walk down sunnier roads?  NOPE!  Going to resist, that’s dangerous territory.  Stay the course, you will survive.

The calculating self is great for, well, calculating things.  It can warn us and aid us and oh yes, help us survive.  But it’s one-dimensional.  It doesn’t have a care for the wholistic being we are.  And there are times where it’s directions will not help us get what or where we want.

The more we are present, the more in tune we become with our Central/Authentic selves, and the more we cease to cede complete control to our Calculating selves, the more we gain freedom to walk the paths of our own choosing, paths towards countless new possibilities for both us and all those around us.

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Philosophy Tuesday

April 9, 2019

Let’s talk about shame.

Always a great conversation starter, I know!  But it’s important.  Because I think we’ve been misapplying shame, both towards ourselves and, more critically, towards others.

Firstly, in the collapse between shame and guilt.  For they are not the same.  To use Brené Brown’s succinct description: “Shame is a focus on self, guilt is a focus on behavior. Shame is “I am bad.” Guilt is “I did something bad.” How many of you, if you did something that was hurtful to me, would be willing to say, “I’m sorry. I made a mistake?” How many of you would be willing to say that? Guilt: I’m sorry. I made a mistake. Shame: I’m sorry. I am a mistake.” *

Quite the difference there.  Guilt is I did something bad.  Shame is I am bad.  And if we are bad, as in intrinsically, inherently, certifiably, bad, then… what else can we expect to do?  Of course we’ll do bad things.  We’re bad.  We have evidence of it.  There’s not even any point in trying to change either, or if we do try, it’s going to be hard because changing who we are is hard, right?

Shame does not make us better.  It may make us reflect, but it gives us no path: “Shame is highly, highly correlated with addiction, depression, violence, aggression, bullying, suicide, eating disorders.

[But] Here’s what you even need to know more: Guilt is inversely correlated with those things. The ability to hold something we’ve done, or failed to do, up against who we want to be is incredibly adaptive. It’s uncomfortable, but it’s adaptive.”

Shame drives disconnection.  It only serves to turn us into little bags of bad, trying our best to hide that badness from the world until it becomes to great a burden and we lash out.

Shame drives unproductive behaviours.  We get trapped in our realms of badness and act accordingly.  We know ourselves and the world as a pile of not worthy, and get hijacked by little or large actions trying to regain status, agency, or some sort of high ground.

Shame begets shame.  We harden ourselves and begin to see threats all around.  We are not free to invent or to create as we try to make up for, hide, avoid, or justify that for which we feel shame.  Our minds are not clear, peaceful.

Going back to what Brené asked, “if you did something that was…” and fill in the blank there.  Because we’ve all done hundreds if not thousands of things that, in hindsight, we wouldn’t have wanted to do.  Knew we shouldn’t have done.  That are not the behaviour we want to engage in, not the actions we want to do, not who we – the true, central, authentic self we – want to be.  Be it incidents of major import or small moments of interaction with a stranger, we’ve got them in our past.

And when we can look upon those thousands and bring guilt to the situations, then we gain access to moving forward.  We gain the freedom to make amends, apologize, look deep within, and step into possibilities.  To become who we authentically wish to be.

That’s big for us, as individuals.

The issue is that we peddle in shame.  We weaponize it.  We point it at others and launch it, with “Name and shame” being the tactic of the day.  “Nuke them from orbit… it’s the only way to be sure.”

Besides being a diversion tactic** it is immensely unproductive.  Turning people willy-nilly into bad people does no one any favours.  It elicits defensiveness, fosters rancor, and demeans and devalues. It does nothing but foist onto others the very straitjacket we’ve been talking about above.

If the intent truly is to bring accountability through shaming, it is completely ineffective.

Pointing out bad behaviour through guilt, though, is fine.  It can work.  Guilt is adaptive.  It leaves room for growth.  And as we learn to shift ourselves to bring guilt and ownership into our personal lives we also begin to learn how to bring guilt and accountability towards others.  We learn how to speak to unsavoury, unethical, and unscrupulous actions and behaviours such that guilt, and not shame, is what arises.

And while it may seem strange to try to make people feel guilty, it is a far cry less strange than shame-throwing.  The less we bury ourselves under piles of shame, the less alone we feel, the less hostile things become, and there even grows an invitation to apologize (which is what we all want, really), to transform (which we also all want), to own up and make things right (also something we all want), and ultimately to move forward towards a more perfect future.

 

* She also provides two additional definitions for Embarrassment and Humiliation.  Humiliation is a kind of proto-shame where you don’t feel you deserve the shame/humiliation.  Embarrassment is usually fleeting, and can be funny.  Unlike shame, it is characterized by a feeling of not being alone, and that it doesn’t need to define us.  If you can tell others about it, it’s likely embarrassment.

**  And it very much is used a smokescreen: “If I get everyone else in a shame mode, no one will see my flaws!”   This fear of “being found out” is 100% the definition of having shame.

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Philosophy Tuesday

March 26, 2019

There is a difference

Between being a possibility

And being a position

~ ~ ~ ~

A possibility is an intention

It grows towards the future

Seeks an outcome

Speaks to universal desires

Open to invention

It discovers, it learns, it develops

It may even change

The path we take to get there

Is rarely the one we thought we’d need

And doubly rarely the one we start down

Yet we arrive

~ ~ ~ ~

A position is fixed

It begins from a supposed truth

And it ends at an envisioned result

It is impervious

It does not dance as it moves along

Steamrolling all before it

Forcing its will upon the world, upon others

Outcomes along the way be dammed

Why should it listen?

It is right

So everyone, and everything else

Is clearly wrong

It is committed only to win

Even if the victory rings hollow

Pyrrhic on all sides

Nothing fulfilled

~ ~ ~ ~

When we aim to open new realms

For ourselves and for others

On our journeys towards more perfect

The worlds of possibility

Bear far more fruit

In leading towards our shared intentions

And towards fulfilling our shared desires and needs

Glorious outcomes

By the bucket

~ ~ ~ ~

(And if they’re not glorious

We get back to work

Realign ourselves

Restate our intentions

Begin down the path anew

Towards a new

more perfect

glorious outcome)